Thwaites’ Preface to CXCVII:
p. 15 This is a letter from Rale to his brother (dated October 12, 1723), giving a sketch of his missionary life in New France. He describes the cabins, clothing, adornment, occupations, and canoes of the Abenakis. In living among them, Rale was at first most annoyed by their mode of eating; "nothing could be more revolting." But his host says: "Thou must conquer thyself; is that a very difficult thing for a Patriarch, who thoroughly understands how to pray? We ourselves overcome much, in order to believe that which we do not see," - an unanswerable argument. Rale, like his predecessors, finds the Indian languages exceedingly difficult, either to understand or to learn. He describes those of the Abenakis and the Hurons, and gives specimens of these, and of other tongues. After spending nearly two years among the Abenakis, Rale is assigned to the Illinois p. 16 mission. After a journey full of danger and privation, he reaches Mackinac too late in the season to proceed farther; he accordingly spends the winter there, and labors in that mission. He gives a curious account of the legends current among the Ottawas regarding their origin and the creation of the world, and of their superstitious belief in manitous In the spring of 1692, Rale proceeds to his field. He describes the great Illinois village, the feast with which those savages greeted him, and their eloquence; their dress, occupations, and dances: their weapons and hunting, and the abundance of game in their country - especially the buffalo, of which animals they kill over 2,000 every year. Rale describes the methods of war pursued by these savages, and the cruel torments inflicted upon their captives. After two years' stay with the Illinois, Rale is recalled to Quebec (1694), in order to undertake the Abenaki mission in Maine, which he has since that time served. The piety of these savages is a source of great joy to their missionary. Most of them "preserve the innocence that they received at baptism;" and, in the confessional, "it is often with difficulty that I can find anything that requires absolution." In 1697, envoys from a neighboring tribe come to Rale's village, to offer their sympathy for the death of a prominent chief. The missionary harangues them, to induce them to embrace the Christian religion. Several months later, Rale visits this tribe, and baptizes all its members. He discusses the relations between these Indians and the English; the heretics have never been able to secure any foothold among these zealous Christian p. 17 savages. A conference between them and the English has no result; and, war occurring soon afterward between France and England, the Abenakis ravage the New England frontiers, and seize more than six hundred English as captives. Peace being restored in Europe, the English governor of Boston has another conference with the Abenakis, and announces the peace to them; so they consent to throw away the hatchet. They then undertake to rebuild their church, which was destroyed in a raid by the English. The governor of Boston proposes to erect it for them, and give them an English missionary, if they will send Rale back to Quebec, - and offer which they indignantly reject; the French governor then has it rebuilt.
"Our savages have so destroyed the game of their country that for ten years they have no longer found either elks or deer." Accordingly, they are obliged to resort to the seashore twice a year, in order to procure food. They are even often glad to eat acorns, - Rale, as well as the Indians. He goes with them on these journeys, and describes the care with which he provides for their religious instruction on such occasions - especially in the portable chapel which he always has them erect, and which he adorns as richly as possible. The savages are devoted to him, and would give their own lives for his safety; he relates several instances of their affection and care for him.
This is a letter from Rale to his brother (dated October 12, 1723), giving a sketch of his missionary life in New France. He describes the cabins, clothing, adornment, occupations, and canoes of the Abenakis. In living among them, Rale was at first most annoyed by their mode of eating; "nothing could be more revolting." But his host says: "Thou must conquer thyself; is that a very difficult thing for a Patriarch, who thoroughly understands how to pray? We ourselves overcome much, in order to believe that which we do not see," - an unanswerable argument.
Rale, like his predecessors, finds the Indian languages exceedingly difficult, either to understand or to learn. He describes those of the Abenakis and the Hurons, and gives specimens of these, and of other tongues. After spending nearly two years among the Abenakis, Rale is assigned to the Illinois
mission. After a journey full of danger and privation, he reaches Mackinac too late in the season to proceed farther; he accordingly spends the winter there, and labors in that mission. He gives a curious account of the legends current among the Ottawas regarding their origin and the creation of the world, and of their superstitious belief in manitous.
In the spring of 1692, Rale proceeds to his field. He describes the great Illinois village, the feast with which those savages greeted him, and their eloquence; their dress, occupations, and dances: their weapons and hunting, and the abundance of game in their country - especially the buffalo, of which animals they kill over 2,000 every year. Rale describes the methods of war pursued by these savages, and the cruel torments inflicted upon their captives. After two years' stay with the Illinois, Rale is recalled to Quebec (1694), in order to undertake the Abenaki mission in Maine, which he has since that time served.
The piety of these savages is a source of great joy to their missionary. Most of them "preserve the innocence that they received at baptism;" and, in the confessional, "it is often with difficulty that I can find anything that requires absolution." In 1697, envoys from a neighboring tribe come to Rale's village, to offer their sympathy for the death of a prominent chief. The missionary harangues them, to induce them to embrace the Christian religion. Several months later, Rale visits this tribe, and baptizes all its members.
He discusses the relations between these Indians and the English; the heretics have never been able to secure any foothold among these zealous Christian
savages. A conference between them and the English has no result; and, war occurring soon afterward between France and England, the Abenakis ravage the New England frontiers, and seize more than six hundred English as captives. Peace being restored in Europe, the English governor of Boston has another conference with the Abenakis, and announces the peace to them; so they consent to throw away the hatchet. They then undertake to rebuild their church, which was destroyed in a raid by the English. The governor of Boston proposes to erect it for them, and give them an English missionary, if they will send Rale back to Quebec, - and offer which they indignantly reject; the French governor then has it rebuilt. "Our savages have so destroyed the game of their country that for ten years they have no longer found either elks or deer." Accordingly, they are obliged to resort to the seashore twice a year, in order to procure food. They are even often glad to eat acorns, - Rale, as well as the Indians. He goes with them on these journeys, and describes the care with which he provides for their religious instruction on such occasions - especially in the portable chapel which he always has them erect, and which he adorns as richly as possible. The savages are devoted to him, and would give their own lives for his safety; he relates several instances of their affection and care for him.
this 12th of October,1723.
MONSIEUR AND VERY DEAR BROTHER,
I can no longer refuse the affectionate entreaties which you have made, in all your letters, that I would inform you somewhat in detail of my occupations, and of the character of the Savage Tribes in the midst of which Providence has placed me for so many years. I do it the more gladly because, in complying with such earnest desires on your part, I satisfy even more your affection than your curiosity.
It was the 23rd of July in the year 1689, when I set sail from la Rochelle; and, after a fairly prosperous voyage of three months, I arrived at Quebec on the 13th of October in the same year. I devoted myself at first to learning the language of our Savages. This language is very difficult; for it is not sufficient to study its terms and their signification, and to acquire a supply of words and phrases, - it is further necessary to know the turn and arrangement that the Savages give them, which can hardly ever be caught except by familiar and frequent intercourse with these tribes. I then went to dwell in a Village of the Abnakis
Tribe which is situated in a forest, and only three leagues from Quebec. This village was inhabited by two hundred Savages, nearly all of whom were Christians. Their cabins were ranged almost like houses in cities; an enclosure of high and closely - set stakes formed a sort of wall, which protected them from the incursions of their enemies.
Their cabins are very quickly set up; they plant their poles, which are joined at the top, and cover them with large sheets of bark. The fire is made in the middle of the cabin; they spread all around it mats of rushes, upon which they sit during the day and take their rest during the night.
The clothing of the men consists of a loose coat of skin, or perhaps a piece of red or blue cloth. That of the women is a covering which extends from the neck to the middle of the leg, and which they adjust very decently. They put on the head another covering which descends as far as the feet, and serves them as a cloak. Their leggings reach from the knee only to the ankle. Socks made of elk-skin, and lined inside with hair or with wool, take the place of shoes. This foot-gear is absolutely necessary for the purpose of adjusting their snowshoes, by means of which they easily walk on the snow. These snowshoes, made in lozenge shape, are more than two feet long and a foot and a half broad. I did not believe that I could ever walk with such appliances; but when I made a trial of them, I suddenly found myself so skillful that the Savages could not believe that that was the first time when I had used them.
The invention of these snowshoes has been of great use to the Savages, not only for traveling over
the snow, - with which the ground is covered during a great part of the year, - but also for hunting wild beasts, and especially the elk. These animals, larger than the largest oxen of France, walk only with difficulty on the snow; therefore it is easy for the Savages to overtake them, and often with an ordinary knife fastened to the end of a stick they kill them, and live upon their flesh. After having dressed the skins, in which the Savages are skillful, they sell them to the French and the English, - who give them in exchange loose coats, blankets, large kettles, guns, hatchets, and knives.
To have an idea of a Savage, picture to yourself a tall, strong man, agile, of a swarthy complexion, without a beard, with black hair, and with teeth whiter than ivory. If you wish to see him in fine array, you will find his only ornaments to be what are called "rassades;" these are a sort of shell-work, or sometimes of stone, fashioned in the form of small beads, some white, some black, - which are strung in such a way that they represent different and very exact figures, which have their own charm. It is with these strings of beads that our Savages tie and braid their hair, above the ears and behind; they make of them earrings, necklaces, garters, and belts, five or six inches broad; and with this sort of finery they value themselves much more than does a European with all his gold and precious stones.
The occupation of the men is hunting or war. That of the women is to remain in the village, and with bark fashion baskets, pouches, boxes, bowls, dishes, etc. They sew the bark with roots, and with it make various articles, very neatly wrought.
The canoes are also made of a single sheet of bark, but the largest can scarcely hold more than six or seven persons.
It is in these canoes made of bark - which has scarcely the thickness of an écu - that they cross the arms of the sea, and sail on the most dangerous rivers, and on lakes from four to five hundred leagues in circumference. In this manner I have made many voyages, without having run any risk. Only it once happened to me, in crossing the river saint Lawrence, that I suddenly found myself surrounded by masses of ice of an enormous size; the canoe was cracked by them. The two Savages who were piloting me immediately cried out: "We are dead men; all is over; we must perish!" Notwithstanding, they made an effort, and jumped upon one of those floating cakes of ice. I did likewise; and, after having drawn the canoe out of the water, we carried it to the very edge of the ice. There we were obliged again to enter the canoe, in order to reach another cake of ice; and thus by jumping from cake to cake we at last came to the bank of the river, without other inconvenience than being very wet and benumbed with cold.
There is nothing equal to the affection of the Savages for their children. As soon as they are born, they put them on a little piece of board covered with cloth and with a small bearskin, in which they are wrapped, and this is their cradle. The mothers carry them on their backs in a manner easy for the children and for themselves.
No sooner do the boys begin to walk than they practice drawing the bow; they become so adroit in this that at the age of ten or twelve years they do
not fail to kill the bird at which they shoot. I have been surprised at it, and I would scarcely believe it if I had not witnessed it.
The thing which most shocked me when I began to live among the Savages, was being obliged to take my meals with them; for nothing could be more revolting. When they have filled their kettle with meat, they boil it, at most, three-quarters of an hour, - after which they take it off the fire, serve it in basins of bark, and distribute it among all the people who are in their cabin. Each one bites into this meat as one would into a piece of bread. This spectacle did not give me much appetite, and they very soon perceived my repugnance. Why doss thou not eat? said they. I answered that I was not accustomed to eat meat in this manner, without adding to it a little bread. Thou must conquer thyself, they replied; is that a very difficult thing for a Patriarch who thoroughly understands how to pray? We ourselves overcome much, in order to believe that which we do not see. Then it was no longer a time to deliberate; we must indeed conform to their manners and customs, so as to deserve their confidence and win them to Jesus Christ.
There meals are not regular, as in Europe; they live from day to day. While they have any good food they use it, without being troubled as to whether they will have any at all for following days.
They are devoted to tobacco; men, women, and girls, all smoke the greater part of the time. To give them a piece of tobacco pleases them more than to give them their weight in gold.
In the beginning of June, or when the snow is
almost wholly melted, they plant skamounar; this is what we call "Turkey wheat" or "Indian corn." Their manner of planting it is to make with the finger, or with a little stick, separate holes in the ground, and to drop into each one eight or nine grains which they cover with the same soil that had been taken out to make the hole. Their harvest is made at the end of August.
It was in the midst of these Tribes, which are considered the least rude of all our Savages, that I served my Missionary apprenticeship. My chief occupation was the study of their language; it is very difficult to learn, especially when one has no other masters than Savages. They have several sounds which are uttered only by the throat, without making any motion of the lips; ou, for instance, is of this number, and that is why in writing we indicate it by the figure ?, in order to distinguish it from other letters. I spent part of the day in their cabins, hearing them talk. I was obliged to give the utmost attention, in order to connect what they said, and to conjecture its meaning; sometimes I caught it exactly, but more often I was deceived, - because, not being accustomed to the trick of their guttural sounds, I repeated only half the word, and thereby gave them cause for laughter.
At last, after five months of continual application, I succeeded in understanding all their terms; but that did not enable me to express myself to their satisfaction. I had still much progress to make before catching the form of expression and the spirit of the language, which are entirely different from the spirit and form of our European languages. In order to shorten the time, and thus enable me
sooner to perform my duties, I selected a few Savages who had most intelligence, and who used the best language. I repeated to them in a clumsy manner some passages from the catechism, and they gave them to me again, with all the nicety of their language; I immediately wrote these down; and, by this means, in a reasonably short time I had made a dictionary, and also a Catechism which contained the precepts and Mysteries of Religion. (27)
It cannot be denied that the language of the Savages has real beauties; and there is an indescribable force in their style and manner of expression. I am going to quote you an example. If I should ask you why God created you, you would answer me that it was for the purpose of knowing him, loving him, and serving him, and by this means to merit eternal glory. If I should put the same question to a Savage, he would answer thus, in the style of his own language: "The great Spirit has thought of us: 'Let them know me, let them love me, let them honor me, and let them obey me; for then I will make them enter my glorious happiness.'" If I desired to tell you in their style that you would have much difficulty in learning the Savage language, I would express myself in this way: "I think of you, my dear brother, that he will have difficulty in learning the Savage language."
The Huron language is the chief language of the Savages, and, when a person is master of that, he can in less than three months make himself understood by the five Iroquois tribes. It is the most majestic, and at the same time the most difficult, of all the Savage tongues. This difficulty does not come alone from the guttural sounds, but still more
from the diversity of accents; for often two words composed of the same letters have totally different significations. Father Chaumont, who lived fifty years among the Hurons, composed a Grammar of that language which is very helpful to those who come without experience to that Mission. Nevertheless a Missionary is fortunate if he can, even with this aid, express himself elegantly in that language after ten years of constant study.
Each Savage Tribe has its own special tongue; thus the Abnakis, the Hurons, the Iroquois, the Algonkins, the Illinois, the Miamis, and others, have each their own language. There are no books to. teach these languages, and even though we had them, they would be quite useless; practice is the only master that is able to teach us. As I have labored in four different Missions of the Savages, - to wit, among the Abnakis, the Algonkins, the Hurons, and the Illinois, - and as I have been obliged to learn these different languages, I will give you a specimen of each, so that you may perceive how little resemblance there is between them. I choose a stanza from a hymn to the blessed Sacrament, which is usually sung during Mass at the elevation of the blessed Host, and which begins with these words: O salutaris Hostia. The following is the translation, in verse, of this stanza into the four languages of these different Tribes.In the Abnakis Tongue.
p. 147In the Algonkin tongue.
This signifies in French: "O saving Victim, who art continually sacrificed, and who givest life, thou by whom we enter into Heaven, we are all tempted; do thou strengthen us."
When I had remained nearly two years among the Abnakis, I was recalled by my Superiors; they had assigned me to the Mission of the Illinois, who had just lost their Missionary. I then went to Quebec, whence, after I had devoted three months to studying the Algonkin language, I set out on the 13th of August in a canoe for the land of the Illinois; their Country is more than eight hundred leagues distant from Quebec. You may well believe that so long a journey in these uncivilized regions cannot be made without running great risks, and without suffering many inconveniences. I had to cross lakes of an immense extent, on which storms are as frequent
as on the Sea. It is true that we had the advantage of landing every night; but we were happy if we found some flat rock on which we could pass the night. When it rained, the only way of protecting ourselves was to keep under the overturned canoe.
We ran still greater hazards on the rivers, especially in the places where they flow with extreme rapidity. Then the canoe flies like an arrow; and, if it happen to touch any of the rocks, which are very numerous there, it is broken into a thousand pieces. That misfortune befell some of the people who were accompanying me in other canoes; and it was by a special protection of divine goodness that I did not meet the same fate, for my canoe several times went up on those rocks, but without receiving the least injury.
Finally one risks suffering the most cruel torture from hunger, for the length and difficulty of this sort of journey permits him to carry only a bag of Indian corn. It is supposed that hunting will supply food on the way; but, if there be a lack of game, one runs the risk of fasting many days. Then the only resource is to seek a sort of leaf which the Savages call Kenghessanach, and the French Tripes de roches. You would take them for chervil, of which they have the shape, except that they are much larger. They are served either boiled or roasted; in this latter manner I have eaten them, and they are less distasteful than in the former.
I had not suffered much from hunger when I reached Lake Huron; but the case was different with my fellow-travelers, the bad weather having scattered their canoes, they were not able to join
me. I arrived first at Missilimakinak, whence I sent them provisions without which they would have died from hunger. They had passed seven days without any other food than the flesh of a crow, which they had killed rather by chance than by skill, for they had not strength to stand upright.
The season was too far advanced for continuing my journey to the Illinois, from whom I was still distant about four hundred leagues. Thus I was obliged to remain at Missilimakinak,, where there were two of our Missionaries - one among the Hurons, and the other with the Outaouacks. These latter are very superstitious, and much attached to the juggleries of their charlatans. They assume for themselves an origin as senseless as it is ridiculous.' They declare that they have come from three families, and each family is composed of five hundred persons.
Some are of the family of Michabou, - that is to say, of "the Great Hare." They affirm that this Great Hare was a man of prodigious height; that he spread nets in water eighteen brasses deep, and that the water scarcely came to his armpits. They say that one day, during the deluge, he sent out the Beaver to discover land; then, as that animal did not return, he despatched the Otter, which brought back a little soil covered with foam. He then proceeded to the place in the Lake where this soil was found, which made a little island; he walked all around it in the water, and this island became extraordinarily large. Therefore, they attribute to him the creation of the world. They add that, after having finished this work, he flew away to the Sky, which is his usual dwelling-place; but before quitting the earth
he directed that, when his descendants should die, their bodies should be burned, and their ashes scattered to the winds, so that they might be able to rise more easily to the Sky. But he warned them that, should they fail to do this, snow would not cease to cover the earth, and their Lakes and Rivers would remain frozen; and, as thus they could not catch fish, which is their ordinary food, they would all die in the spring-time.
Indeed, when, a few years ago, the winter had lasted much longer than usual, there was general consternation among the Savages of the Great Hare family. They resorted to their customary juggleries; they held several assemblies in order to deliberate upon means of dissipating this unfriendly snow, which was persistently remaining on the ground; when an old woman, approaching them, said: "My children, you have no sense. You know the commands that the Great Hare left with us, to burn dead bodies, and scatter their ashes to the winds, so that they might more quickly return to the Sky, their own country; but you have neglected those commands by leaving, at a few days' journey from here, a dead man without burning him, as if he did not belong to the family of the Great Hare. Repair your fault at once; be careful to burn him, if you wish that the snow should disappear." "Thou art right, our Mother," they answered, "thou hast more sense than we; and the counsel thou hast given us restores us to life." Immediately they sent twenty- five men to go to burn this body; about fifteen days were consumed in this journey, during which time the thaw came, and the snow disappeared. Praises and presents were heaped upon the old woman who
had given the advice; and this occurrence, wholly natural as it was, greatly served to uphold them in their foolish and superstitious belief. (28)
The second family of the Outaouacks maintain that they have sprung from Namepich, - that is to say, from the Carp. They say that the carp having deposited its eggs upon the bank of a river, and the sun having shed its rays upon them, there was formed a woman from whom they are descended; thus they are called "the family of the Carp." The third family of the Outaouacks attributes its origin to the paw of a Machoua, - that is to say, of a Bear; and they are called "the family of the Bear," but without explaining in what way they issued from it. When they kill one of these animals, they make it a feast of its own Flesh; they talk to it, they harangue it, they say: "Do not have an evil thought against us, because we have killed thee. Thou hast intelligence, thou seest that our children are suffering from hunger. They love thee, and wish thee to enter into their bodies; is it not a glorious thing for thee to be eaten by the children of Captains? (29)
It is only the family of the Great Hare that burns dead bodies; the two other families bury them. When a great Captain has died, an immense coffin is prepared; after having laid therein the body, clothed in the man's handsomest garments, they put in it with him his blanket, his gun, his store of powder and lead, his bow, his arrows, his kettle, his dish, his provisions, his war-club, his calumet, his box of vermilion, his looking-glass, his porcelain collars, and all the presents which were made at his death, according to custom. They fancy that with this
equipment he will make his journey to the other world more successfully, and will be better received by the great Captains of the Tribe, who will lead him with them into a place of delights.
While they are arranging everything in the coffin, the relatives of the dead man are present at the ceremony, weeping after their manner, - that is to say, chanting in a mournful tone, and swinging in harmony a rod to which they have attached several little bells.
Where the superstition of these tribes appears the most extravagant is in the worship that they pay to what they call their Manitou; as they know hardly anything but the animals with which they live in the forests, they imagine that there is in these animals, - or, rather, in their skins, or in their plumage, - a sort of spirit who rules all things, and who is the master of life and of death. According to them, there are Manitous common to the whole Tribe, and there are special ones for each person. Oussakita, they say, is the great Manitou of all the animals that move on the earth or fly in the air. He it is who rules them; therefore, when they go to the hunt, they offer to him tobacco, powder, and lead, and also well-prepared skins. These articles they fasten to the end of a pole, and, raising it on high, they say to him: "Oussakita, we give thee something to smoke, we offer thee something for killing animals. Deign to accept these presents, and do not permit the animals to escape our arrows; grant that we may kill the fattest ones, and in great number, so that our children may not lack clothing or food."
They call the Manitou of waters and fishes Michibichi;
and they offer him a somewhat similar sacrifice when they go to fish, or undertake a voyage. This sacrifice consists of throwing into the water tobacco, provisions, and kettles; and in asking him that the water of the river may flow more slowly, that the rocks may not break their canoes, and that he will grant them an abundant catch.
Besides these common Manitous, each person has his own special one, which is a bear, a beaver, a bustard, or some similar animal. They carry the skin of this animal to war, to the hunt, and on their journeys, - fully persuaded that it will preserve them from every danger, and that it will cause them to succeed in all their undertakings.
When a Savage wishes to take to himself a Manitou the first animal that appears to his imagination during sleep is generally the one upon which his choice falls. He kills an animal of this kind, and puts its skin - or its feathers, if it be a bird - in the most conspicuous part of his cabin; he makes a feast in its honor, during which he addresses it in the most respectful terms; and thereafter this is recognized as his Manitou.
As soon as I saw the coming of spring I left Missilimakinak, that I might go the country of the Illinois. I found on my way many Savage Tribes, among them the Maskoutings, the Sakis, the Omikoues, the Ouinipegouans, the Outagamis, and others. All these Tribes have their own peculiar language; but, in all other respects, they do not differ in the least from the Outaouacks. A Missionary who lives at the bay des Puants, makes excursions, from time to time, to the homes of these Savages, in order to instruct them in the truths of Religion.
After forty days of travel I entered the river of the Illinois, and, after voyaging fifty leagues, I came to their first Village, which had three hundred cabins, all of them with four or five fires, One fire is always for two families. They have eleven Villages belonging to their Tribe. On the day after my arrival, I was invited by the principal Chief to a grand repast, which he was giving to the most important men of the Tribe. He had ordered several dogs to be killed; such a feast is considered among the Savages a magnificent feast; therefore, it is called "the feast of the Captains." The ceremonies that are observed are the same among all these Tribes. It is usual at this sort of feast for the Savages to deliberate upon their most important affairs, - as, for instance, when there is question either of undertaking war against their neighbors, or of terminating it by propositions of peace.
When all the guests had arrived they took their places all about the cabin, seating themselves either on the bare ground or on the mats. Then the Chief arose and began his address. I confess to you that I admired his flow of language, the justness and force of the arguments that he presented, the eloquent turn he gave to them, and the choice and nicety of the expressions with which he adorned his speech. I fully believe that, if I had written down what this Savage said to us, offhand and without preparation, you would readily acknowledge that the most able Europeans could scarcely, after much thought and study, compose an address that would be more forcible and better arranged.
When the speech was finished, two Savages, who performed the duty of stewards, distributed dishes
to the whole company, and each dish served for two guests; while eating, they conversed together on indifferent matters; and when they had finished their repast they withdrew, - carrying away according to their custom, what remained on their dishes.
The Illinois do not give those feasts that are customary among many other Savage Tribes, at which a person is obliged to eat all that has been given him, even should he burst. When any one is present at such a feast and is unable to observe this ridiculous rule, he applies to one of the guests whom he knows to have a better appetite, and says to him: "My brother, take pity on me; I am a dead man if thou do not give me life. Eat what I have left, and I will make thee a present of something." This is their only way out of their perplexity.
The Illinois are covered only around the waist, otherwise they go entirely nude; many panels with all sorts of figures, which they mark upon the body in an ineffaceable manner, take with them the place of garments. It is only when they make visits, or when they are present at Church, that they wrap themselves in a cloak of dressed skin in the summer-time, and in the winter season in a dressed skin with the hair left on, that they may keep warm. They adorn the head with feathers of many colors, of which they make garlands and crowns which they arrange very becomingly; above all things, they are careful to paint the face with different colors, but especially with vermilion. They wear collars and earrings made of little stones, which they cut like precious stones; some are blue, some red, and Some white as alabaster; to these must be added a flat piece of porcelain which finishes the collar. The Illinois are
persuaded that these grotesque Ornaments add grace to their appearance, and win for them respect.
When the Illinois are not engaged in war or in hunting, their time is spent either in games, or at feasts, or in dancing. They have two kinds of dances; some are a sign of rejoicing, and to these they invite the most distinguished women and young girls; others are a token of their sadness at the death of the most important men of their Tribe. It is by these dances that they profess to honor the deceased, and to wipe away the tears of his relatives. All of them are entitled to have the death of their near relatives bewailed in this manner, provided that they make presents for, this purpose. The dances last a longer or shorter time according to the price and value of the presents, - which, at the end of the dance, are distributed to the dancers. It is not their custom to bury the dead; they wrap them in skins, and hang them by the feet and head to the tops of trees.
When the men are not at games, feasts, or dances, they remain quiet on their mats, and spend their time either in sleeping or in making bows, arrows, calumets, and other articles of that sort. As for the women, they work from morning until evening like slaves. It is they who cultivate the land and plant the Indian corn, in summer; and, as soon as winter begins, they are employed in making mats, dressing skins, and in many other kinds of work, - for their first care is to supply the cabin with everything that is necessary.
Among all the Tribes of Canada, there is not one that lives in so great abundance of everything as do the Illinois. Their rivers are covered with swans
bustards, ducks, and teal. We can hardly travel a league without meeting a prodigious multitude of Turkeys, which go in troops, sometimes to the number of 200, They are larger than those that are seen in France. I had the curiosity to weigh one of them, and it weighed thirty-six livres. They have a sort of hairy beard at the neck, which is half a foot long.
Bears and deer are found there in great numbers; there are also found countless numbers of oxen and of roebucks; there is no year when they do not kill more than a thousand roebucks, and more than two thousand oxen; as far as the eye can reach, are seen from four to five thousand oxen grazing on the prairies. They have a hump on the back, and the head is extremely large. Their hair, except that on the head, is curly and soft, like wool; their flesh is strong in its natural state, and is so light that, even if it be eaten wholly raw, it causes no indigestion. When they have killed an ox that seems to them too lean, they are satisfied to take its tongue and go in search of one that is more fat.
Arrows are the principal weapons that they use in war and in hunting. These arrows are barbed at the tip with a stone, sharpened and cut in the shape of a serpent's tongue; if knives are lacking, they use arrows also for flaying the animals which they kill. They are so adroit in bending the bow that they scarcely ever miss their aim; and they do this with such quickness that they will have discharged a hundred arrows sooner than another person can reload his gun.
They take little trouble to make nets suitable for catching fish in the rivers, bemuse the abundance
of all kinds of animals which they find for their subsistence renders them somewhat indifferent to fish. However, when they take a fancy to have some, they enter a canoe with their bows and arrows; they stand up that they may better discover the fish, and as soon as they see one they pierce it with an arrow.
Among the Illinois the only way of acquiring public esteem and regard is, as among other Savages, to gain the reputation of a skillful hunter, and, still further, of a good warrior; it is chiefly in this latter that they make their merit consist, and it is this which they call being truly a man. They are so eager for this glory that we see them undertake journeys of four hundred leagues through the midst of forests in order to capture a slave, or to take off the scalp of a man whom they have killed. They count as nothing the hardships and the long fasting that they must undergo, especially when they are drawing near the country of the enemy; for then they no longer dare to hunt, for fear that the animals, being only wounded, may escape with the arrow in the body, and warn their enemy to put himself in a posture of defense. For their manner of making war, as among all the Savages, is to surprise their enemies; therefore they send out scouts to observe the number and movements of the enemy, and to see if they are on their guard. According to the report that is brought to them, they either lie in ambush, or make a foray on the cabins, war-club in hand; and they are sure to kill some of their foes before the latter can even think of defending themselves.
The war-club is made of a deer's horn or of wood,
shaped like a cutlass, with a large ball at the end. They hold the war-club in one hand, and a knife in the other. As soon as they have dealt a blow at the head of their enemy, they make on it a circular cut with a knife, and take off the scalp with surprising quickness. When a Savage returns to his own country laden with many scalps, he is received with great honor; but he is at the height of his glory when he takes prisoners and brings them home alive. As soon as he arrives, all the people of the village meet together, and range themselves on both sides of the way where the prisoners must pass. This reception is very cruel; some tear out the prisoners' nails, others cut off their fingers or ears; still others load them with blows from clubs.
After this first welcome, the old men assemble in order to consider whether they shall grant life to their prisoners, or give orders for their death. When there is any dead man to be resuscitated, that is to say, if any one of their warriors has been killed, and they think it a duty to replace him in his cabin, - they give to this cabin one of their prisoners, who takes the place of the deceased; and this is what they call "resuscitating the dead."
When the prisoner has been condemned to death, they immediately set up in the ground a large stake, to which they fasten him by both hands; they cause the death song to be chanted, and - all the Savages being seated around the stake, at the distance of a few steps - there is kindled a large fire, in which they make their hatchets, gun-barrels, and other iron tools red hot, Then they come, one after another, and apply these red-hot irons to the different parts
of his body; some of them burn him with live brands; some mangle the body with their knives; others cut off a piece of the flesh already roasted, and eat it in his presence; some are seen filling his wounds with powder and rubbing it over his whole body, after which they set it on fire. In time, each one torments him according to his own caprice; and this continues for four or five hours, and sometimes even during two or three days. The more sharp and piercing are the cries which the violence of these torments make him utter, so much the more is the spectacle pleasing and diverting to these barbarians. It was the Iroquois who invented this frightful manner of death, and it is only by the law of retaliation that the Illinois, in their turn, treat these Iroquois prisoners with an equal cruelty.
What we understand by the word Christianity is known among the Savages only by the name of Prayer. Thus, when I tell you in the continuation of this letter that such a savage Tribe has embraced Prayer, you must understand that it has become Christian, or that it is about to become so. There would be much less difficulty in converting the Illinois, if Prayer permitted them to practice Polygamy; they acknowledge that prayer is good, and they are delighted to have it taught to their wives and children; but, when we speak of it to them for themselves, we realize how difficult it is to fix their natural inconstancy, and to persuade them to have only one wife and to have her always.
At the hour when we assemble, morning and evening, to pray, all persons repair to the Chapel, Even the greatest Jugglers - that is to say, the greatest enemies to Religion - send their children
to be instructed and baptized. This is the greatest advantage that we have at first among the Savages, and of which we are most certain, - for, of the great number of children whom we baptize, no year passes that many do not die before they have attained the use of reason; and, as for the adults, the greater part are so devoted and attached to Prayer that they would suffer the most cruel death rather than abandon it.
It is fortunate for the Illinois that they are very far distant from Quebec; for brandy cannot be taken to them, as is done elsewhere. Among the Savages this liquor is the greatest obstacle to Christianity, and is the source of countless numbers of the most enormous crimes. It is known that they buy it only in order to Plunge themselves into the most furious intoxication; the disturbances and the melancholy deaths which are witnessed every day ought indeed to outweigh the profit that is made in the trade of so fatal a liquor.
I had remained two years with the Illinois, when I was recalled, that I might devote the remainder of my days to the Abnakis Tribe. This was the first Mission to which I had been appointed on my arrival in Canada, and apparently it is the one in which I shall finish my life. I was then obliged to return to Quebec, in order to set out from there to rejoin my dear Savages. I have already told you of the length and hardships of that journey; therefore I shall speak to you only of a very cheering incident which befell me about 40 leagues from Quebec.
I believe, my dearest Brother, that I have satisfied your desires by the details that I have just given you of the nature of this Country, of the character of our Savages, of my occupations, of my labors, and of the dangers to which I am exposed. Doubtless you will judge that I have the most to fear from the English Gentlemen of our neighborhood. It is true that they long ago resolved upon my death; but neither their ill will toward me, nor the death with which they threaten me, can ever separate me from my old flock; I commend them to your devout prayers, and I am with the tenderest affection, etc.
NOTES TO VOL. LXVII. (Figures in parentheses, following the number of note, refer to p.s of English text.)
(27) (p. 145). -In the winter of 1721-22, a party of English troops, commanded by Col. Thomas Westbrook, was sent to Norridgewock in order to capture, if possible, the Jesuit Rale. They failed to do
so, the alarm of their approach having been given by some savages; but they seized a box in which Rale kept his most valuable Papers, among which was his MS. dictionary of the Abenaki language - the product of his studies during thirty years. The box is now in the possession of the Maine Historical Society; an engraving of it appears in Baxter's New France in New England, p. 124; cf. U.S. Cath. Hist. Mag., vol. iv., p. 223. The MS. dictionary, after passing through several hands, finally became the property of Harvard University in whose library it is preserved. This valuable document was published (1833) by John Pickering in Amer. Acad. of Arts and Science Memoirs, new series, vol. i., pp. 375-574), with linguistic annotations and numerous typographical aids to its use.
(28) (p. 157). - See Allouez's account of this belief, in vol. li., p. 33. cf. vol. xx., note 11.
(29) (p. 157). - Regarding the Algonkin clans, see vol. lxiv., note 11, and other notes therein cited. For citations regarding Michabou (Maoabozho), see vol. v., note 41; vol. xii., notes 3. 4.