« ElőzőTovább »
REMARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES OF'
NORTH-AMERICA, AVAGES we call them, because their manners D differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs.
Perhaps, if we could examine the manners of different nations with impartiality, we should find no people so rude as to be without any rules of politeness; nor any so polite as not to have some remains of rudeness.
The Indian men, when young, are hunters and warriors; when old, counsellors ; for all their government is by the counsel or advice of sages ; there is no force, there are no prisons, no officers to compel obedience, or inflict punishment. Hence they generally study oratory ; the best speaker having the most influence. The Indian women till the ground, dress the food, nurse and bring up the children, and preserve and hand down to posterity the memory of public transactions. These employments of men and wo. men are accounted natural and honorable. Having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement by conversation. Our laborious manner of life, compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base ; and the learning on which we value ourselves they regard as frivolous and useless. An instance of this occurred at the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the government of Virginia and the Six Nations. After the principal business was settled, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburg a college, with a fund, for educating Indian youth, and that if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college, the government would take care that they should be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people. It is one of the Indian rules of polite
ness not to answer a public proposition the same day that it is made ; they think it would be treating it as a light matter; and they shew it respect by taking time to consider it, as of a matter important. They there. fore deferred their answer till the day following ; when their speaker began, by expressing their deep sense of the kindness of the Virginia government, in making them that offer ; “ for we know (says he) that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those coileges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you mean to do us good by your proposal, and we thank you heartily. But you who are wise, must know, that different nations have different conceptions of things ; and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it ; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces ; they were instructed in all your sciences ; but when they came back to us, they were bad runners ; ignorant of every means of living in the woods ; unable to bear either cold or hunger; knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy ; spoke our language imperfectly ; were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, or counsellors ; they were totally good for nothing. We are however, not the less obliged by your kind offer, tho' we decline accepting it: and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.”
Having frequent occasions to hold public councils, they have acquired greatorder and decency in conducting them. The old men sit in the foremost ranks, the warriors in the next, and the women and children in the hindmost. The business of the wo
men is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it in their memories, for they have no writing, and communicate it to their children. They are the records of the council, and they preserve tradition of the stipu. Jations in treaties a hundred years back ; which, when we compare with our writings, we always find exact. He that would speak, rises. The rest observe a pro. found silence. When he has finished and sits down, they leave him five or six minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted any thing he intended to say, or has any thing to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common conversation, is reckoned highly indecent. How different this is from the conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion, that makes the speaker hoarse in calling to order; and how different from the mode of conversation in many polite companies of Europe, where, if you do not deliver your sentence with great rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffered to finish it!
The politeness of these savages in conversation, is, indeed, carried to excess ; since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of what is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid disputes ; but then it becomes difficult to know their minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries who have attempted to convert them to christianity, all complain of this as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the gospel explained to them, and give their usual tokens of assent and approbation ; you would think they were convinced. No such matter. It is mere civility.
A Swedish minister having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded ; such as the fall of our
first parents by eating an apple; the coming of Christ to repair the mischief; his miracles and sufferings, &c. When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him. “ What you have told us,” says he, " is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far to tell us those things which you have heard from your mothers. In return, I will tell you some of those we have heard from oul's. : “In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on; and if their hunting was unsuccessful, they were starving. Two of our young hunters having killed a deer, made a fire in the woods to broil some parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger, they beheld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds, and seat herself on that hill which you see yonder among the Blue Moun. tains. They said to each other, it is a spirit that per. haps has smelt our broiling venison, and wishes to eat 'ofil ; let us offer some to her. They presented her with the tongue : she was pleased with the taste of it, and said, “ Your kindness shall be rewarded. Come to this place after thirteen moons, and you shall find something that will be of great benefit in nourishing you and your children to the latest generations." They did so, and to their surprise, found plants they had never seen before ; but which, from that ancient time, have been constantly cultivated among us, to our great advantage. Where her right hand had touched the ground, they found maize ; where her left hand had touched it, they found kidney beans; and where her backside had sat on it, tobacco." The good missionary, disgusted with this idle tale, said, " What I delivered to you were sacred truths ; but what you tell me is mere fable, fiction and falsehood.”
The Indian, offended, replied, “ My brother, it seems your friends have not done you justice in your educa
tion; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You saw that we, who understand and practise those rules, believed all your stories, why do you refuse to believe ours ?”
When any of them come into our towns, our people are apt to crowd round them, gaze upon them, and incommode them where they desire to be private : this they esteem great rudeness, and the effect of the want of instruction in the rules of civilty and good manners. “ We have,” say they, “as much curiosity as you, and when you come into our towns, we wish for opportunities of looking at you ; but for this purpose we hide ourselves behind bushes where you are to pass, and never intrude ourselves into your company."
Their manner of entering one another's villages has likewise its rules. It is reckoned uncivil in travelling strangers to enter a village abruptly, without giving notice of their approach. Therefore, as soon as they arrive within hearing, they stop and hollow, remaining there till invited to enter. Two old men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in every village a vacant dwelling, called the stranger's house, Here they are placed, while the old men so round from hut to hut, acquainting the inhabitants that stran. gers are arrived, who are probably hungry and weary ; and every one sends them what he can spare of victuals, and skins to repose on. When the strangers are refreshed, pipes and tobacco are brought ; and theng but not before, conversation begins, with enquiries who they are; whither bound, what news, &c. and it usually ends with offers of service ; if the strangers have oc. casion for guides, or any necessaries for continuing their journey ; and nothing is exacted for the enter-tainment.
The same hospitality, esteemed among them as a principal virtue, is practised by private persons; of which Conrad Weiser, our interpreter, gave me the following instance. He had been naturalized among