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The employments of the men were principally hunting, fishing, and war. The women dressed the food ; took charge of the domestic concerns; tilled Their narrow and scanty fields : and performed almost all the drudgery connected with their household affairs.
The amusements of the men were principally leaping, shooting at marks, dancing, gaming, and hunting, in all of which they made the most
violent exer, tions. Their dances were usually performed round a large fire. In their war dances they sung, or recited the feats which they or their ancestors had achieved; represented the manner in which they were pers formed, and wrought themselves up to an expressible degree of martial enthusiasm. The females occasionally joined in some of these sports, but had none peculiar to themselves.
Their dress was various. In summer, they wore little besides a covering about the waist; but in winter, they clothed themselves in the skins of wild beasts. They were exceedingly fond of ornaments. On days of show and festivity, their sachems wore mantles of deer skin, embroidered with white beads. or copper, or they were painted with various devices, Hediousness was the object aimed at in painting themselves. A chain of fishbones about the neck, or the skin of a wildcat, was a sign of royalty.
For habitations the Indians had weekwams, or wigwams as pronounced by the English. These originally consisted of a strong pole erected in the centre, around which, at the distance of ten or twelve feet, other poles were driven obliquely into the ground, and lastened to the centre pole at the top. Their coverings were of mats, or barks of trees, so. well adjusted as to render them dry and comfortable
Their domestic utensils extended not beyond a hatchet or stone, a few shells and sharp stones, which they used for knives : stone mortars for pounding corn, and sonje mats and skins upon which they slept. They sat, and ate, and lodged on the ground. With shells and stones they scalped their enemies, dressed their game, cut their hair, &c. They made nets of thread, twisted from the bark of Indian hemp, or, of the sinews of the mouse and deer. For fishhooks they used bones which were bent.
Their food was of the coarsest and simplest kind the flesh, and even the entrails of all kinds of wild beasts and birds; and in their proper season, green corn, beans, peas, &c. &c., which they cultivated, and other fruits which the country spontaneously produced. Flesh and fish they roasted on a stick, or broiled on the fire. In some instances they boiled their meat and corn by putting hot stones in water. Corn they parched, especially in winter, and upon this they lived in the absence of other food.
The money of the Indians called wampum, consist. ed of small beads wrought from shells and strung on belts, and in chains. The wampum of the New England Indians was black, blue, and white. That of the Six Nations was of a purple colour. Six of the white beads and three of the black, or blue, became of the value of ia penny. A belt of wampum was given as a token of friendship, or as a seal or confirmation of a treaty.
There was little among them that could be called society. Except when roused by some strong excitement, the men were generally indolent, taciturn, and unsocial. The women were too degraded and oppressed to think of much besides their tools. Removing too, as the seasons changed, or as the game grew scarce, or as danger from a stronger tribe threatened, there was little opportunity for forming those local attachments, and those social ties, which spring from a long residence in a particular spot.
Their language, also, though energetic, was too barren to serve the purposes of familiar conversation. In order to be understood and lelt, it required the aid of strong and animated gesticulation, which could take place only when great occasions excited them. It seems, therefore, that they drew no considerable part of their enjoyments from intercourse with one another. Female beauty had little power over the men, and all other pleasures gave way to the strong impulses of public festivity, or burning çaptives, or
seeking murderous revenge, or the chase, or war, or glory.
War was the favourite employment of the savages of North America. It roused them from the lethargy into which they sell, when they ceased from the chase, and furnished them an opportunity to distinguish themselves to achieve deeds of glory, and taste the sweets of revenge. Their weapons were bows and arrows, headed with fint or other hard stones, which they discharged with great precision and force. The southern Indians used targets made of bark; the Mohawks clothed themselves with skins, as a defence against the arrows of their enemies.
When they fought in the open field, they rushed to the attack with incredible fury, and, at the same time uttered their appalling war whoop. 'Those whom they had captured they often toriured with every, variety of cruelty, and to their dying agonies added every species of insult. If peace was conclu. ded on, the chiefs of the hostile iribes ratified the treaty by smoking in succession the same pipe, called the calumet, or pipe of peace,
The government of the Indians in general was an absolute monarchy : though it differed in different tribes. The will of the sachem was law. In matters of moment, he consulted, however, his counsellors but his decisions were final. War and peace among some tribes, seem to have been determined on in a council of old men, distinguished by their exploits. When in council they spoke at pleasure, and always listened to the speaker with profound and respectful silence.
When propositions for war or peace were made, or treaties proposed to them, by the colonial gover. nors, they met the ambassadors in council, and at the end of each paragraph, or proposition, the principal sachem delivered a short stick to one of his council, intimating that it was his peculiar duty to remember that paragraph. This was repeated till every proposal was finished; they then retired to deliberate among themselves. After their deliberations were ended, the sachem, or some counsellors to whom he had delegated this office, replied to every paragraph in its turn, with an exactness scarcely
exceeded in the written correspondence of civilized powers. Each man actually remembered what was committed to him, and with his assistance the person who replied remembered the whole.
The religious notions of the natives consisted of traditions, mingled with many superstitions. Like the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Hindoos, &c. they believed in the existence of two gods, the one good, who was the superior, and whom they styled ine Great, or Good Spirit; the other evil. They worshipped both; and of both formed images of stone, to which they paid religious homage. Besides these, they worshipped various other deities such as fire, water, thunder-any thing which they conceived to be superior to themselves, and capable of doing them injury. The manner of worship was to sing and dance round large fires. Besides dancing, they offered prayers, and sometimes sweet scented powder. In Virginia, the Indians offered blood, deer's suet, and tobacco. Of the creation and the deluge they had distinct traditions.
Marriage among them was generally a temporary contract. The men chose their wives agreeable 10 jancy, and put them away at pleasure. Marriage was celebrated, however, with some ceremony, and, in many instances was observed with fidelity ; not unfrequently it was as lasting as life. Polygamy was common among them.
Their treatment of females was cruel and oppressive. They were considered by the men as slaves, and treated as such. Those forms of decorum be. tween the sexes, which lay the foundation for the respect and gallant courtesy with which women are treated in civilized society, were unknown among them. Of course, females were not only required to perform severe labour, but often felt the full weight of the passion and caprices of the men.
Their skill in medicine was conficed to a few simple prescriptions and operations. Both the cold and warm bath were often applied, and a considerable number of plants were used with success. diseases they knew no remedy, in which case they resorted to their Powow, or priest, whu undertook the removal of the disease by means of sorcery.
It may be remarked, however, that the diseases to which the Indians were liable, were few, compared with those which prevail in civilized society.
The rites of burial among the Indians varied but little throughout the continent. They generally dug holes in the ground with sharpened stakes. In the bottom of the grave were laid sticks, upon which the corpse, wrapped in skins and mats, was deposited. The arms, utensils, paints, and ornaments of the deceased were buried with him, and a mound of earth raised over his grave. Among some tribes in New England, and among the Five Nations, the dead were buried in a sitting posture, with their faces towards the east. During the burial, they uttered the most lamenta ble cries, and continued their moaning for several days.
The origin of the Indians, inhabiting, the country, on the arrival of the English colonists, is involved in much obscurity, and several different answers have been given by learned men to the inquiry, whence did they come to America ? The opinion best sup. ported is, that they originated in Asia, and that at some former period, not now to be ascertained, they emigrated from that country to America, over which, in succeeding years, their descendants spread. This opinion is rendered the more proba ble by the fact, that the figure, complexion, dress, manners, customs, &c. of the nations of both continents are strikingly similar. That they might have emigrated from the eastern continent is evident, since the distance between the East Cape of Asia, and Cape Prince of Wales in America, across the streights ol Behring, is only about forty niiles, a much shorter distance than sa vages frequently sail in their canves. Besides this, the streight is sometimes frozen over.