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CHAPTER VI.

Numbers, condition, language, rights, &c. of the Indians in New

England. The history of Roger Williams becomes, from this point, so closely connected with that of the Indians, as to make it necessary to present a brief sketch of their situation and character. We must confine our view to those who inhabited New-England. Mr. Williams himself has furnished us with valuable aid in this review. His Key to the Indian Languages, though its chief object was philology, presents many interesting details respecting the habits and general character of the aborigines.

The territory now comprehended within the limits of New-England was inhabited by various tribes, the principal of which were the following:

1. The Pawtuckets, whose territory extended from Salem, (Mass.) to Portsmouth, (N. H.,) being bounded by the ocean on the east, and by the Nipmuck country on the west.

2. The Massachusetts, who dwelt chiefly about the Bay, which bears their name.

3. The Pokanokets, who inhabited the territory of the old colony of Plymouth. This tribe included several subordinate tribes, among whom were the Wampanoags, the particular tribe of Massassoit and Philip.

4. The Narragansets, who inhabited nearly all the territory which afterwards formed the colony of Rhode Island, including the islands in the Bay, Block-Island, and a part of Long Island.

5. The Pequods, who inhabited the southern part of the present State of Connecticut. The Mohegans have been considered as a part of this tribe, inhabiting the western and northern parts of Connecticut.

These principal nations included many subordinate and tributary tribes, among whom may be mentioned the Nipmucks, who were scattered over the western parts of Massachusetts.

but a

At a period not long preceding the arrival of the English, a pestilence prevailed among the natives, to so frightful an extent, that some of the tribes became nearly extinct. The Pawtuckets, who could previously raise three thousand fighting men, were almost exterminated. The Massachusetts, who were equally numerous, were so reduced, that they could not, probably, in 1630, have raised a hundred men. The Pokanokets were diminished to about five hundred warriors.* The Narragansets suffered little, and the Pequods were uninjured by the pestilence. Each of these tribes could raise four thousand fighting men.t The Pequods were the most fierce and warlike, and the Narragansets the most civilized, of the New-England savages. The Indians, when most numerous,

could

оссиру small portion of the territory. They subsisted chiefly by hunting, a mode of life which is impracticable except where extensive tracts remain in the wildness of nature. Their dwellings were usually built in small villages, rudely constructed of skins or bark, and easily removed, as their caprice or necessities required. The lands claimed by each tribe were held in common. Each member roamed over it at his pleasure, and took the game wherever he could find it. Their agriculture was limited to the cultivation of Indian corn, tobacco, and a few esculent vegetables, such as beans and squashes. The agricultural labor was performed by the women, with little skill, and rude implements. The product must consequently have been small. Game was not always plentiful, or was consumed with the improvident voracity of savages. They did not understand the art of salting provisions for future use. They often suffered from hunger, especially during the winter. They knew little of the medical art, and their diseases, though few, were fatal. Their wars were frequent and sanguinary. Their mode of life was unfavorable to the rearing of children. For these and other reasons, the native tribes could never have been very numerous; and if the Europeans had not landed here, the country over which our free and flourishing States have spread themselves would, it is probable, have been, at this

* Baylies' History of Plymouth, vol. i. chap. 4.
+ 2 His. Col. vol. ix. pp. 235, 236.

hour, a wilderness, the hunting ground of tribes not less savage, and, perhaps, little more numerous, than those whom our fathers found here.

The origin of the Indians is involved in impenetrable mystery. Their own traditions shed no light on the subject, and nothing has been found, in their customs or languages, which could lead to a satisfactory conclusion. Imagination has been active in tracing their connection with different nations. The favorite theory of many writers has been, that they are the descendants of the ten Jewish tribes; but this opinion is founded on the slight ground of a few coincidences between the customs of the Jews and those of the Indians, and fancied resemblances in some of their words to terms in the Hebrew language. Roger Williams wisely refrains from expressing any opinion on the subject, except by stating his confidence that the Indians have sprung

from Adam and Noah. He mentions several Indian customs, which resemble Jewish rites, and says, “others (and myself) have conceived some of their words to hold affinity with the Hebrew.” But he adds, “I have found a greater affinity of their language with the Greek tongue." The natives themselves believed, that their great god Cautantowit made a man and woman of a stone, but disliking them, he broke them in pieces, and made another man and woman of a tree, from whom all mankind have descended.t The mounds and other monuments found in the western States, have been considered as evidences, that some people, superior to the Indians, once inhabited that part of the country. But who they were, and why they disappeared, we shall probably never know. The probability seems to be, that America was first inhabited by emigrants from Asia, who crossed from the one continent to the other, at some point near the northwestern extremity of America. But conjecture is useless. That the Indians have descended from Adam, no one who reverences the Bible will doubt. That they are of a kindred nature with other men is proved, both by their virtues and their vices. Their minds are acknowledged, by all who have known them well, to be fully equal in strength and acuteness to those of civilized men. That they are capable of

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becoming pious Christians, has happily been demonstrated by many cheering examples.

Their government was very simple. A wild freedom prevailed among them, and their roving habits did not permit much control. They needed, however, some rulers in peace, and leaders in war.

Each tribe had one or more chiefs, called sachems, who were, at first, chosen by the tribe, or who gained the ascendency, by superior wisdom or courage. Some of these sachems inherited and transmitted their power, by hereditary right; but it is probable, that the incumbent owed his authority more to his personal qualities than to his birth.* The sachems held nominally the supreme power, and received tribute, but they were controlled by the wisdom of the aged men, and by the fierce energy of the young warriors.

“ The sachems," says Roger Williams,t “ although they have an absolute monarchy over the people, yet they will not conclude of aught that concerns all, either laws, or subsidies, or wars, unto which the people are averse, and by gentle persuasion cannot be brought.” There were subordinate chiefs, sometimes called sagamores, who held a limited authority over portions of the tribes. All important questions were discussed in councils, where eloquence was as fervid and efficacious, probably, as in the more polished assemblies of Greece.

The physical characteristics of the Indians were common to all the tribes,-a bronze or copper color; straight, coarse, black hair, hazel eyes, high cheek bones, and an erect form. They possessed firm, well compacted bodies, capable of enduring the greatest hardships and fatigues, and regardless of cold, while travelling in the severity of winter. They were very active, and could run vast distances with astonishing speed and endurance.ll They could subsist for

* The remark of Tacitus, respecting the German tribes, is true of the Indians : “Reges ex nobilitate, Duces ex virtute sumunt. Nec Regibus infinita aut libera potestas, et Duces exemplo potius quam imperio; si prompti, si conspicui, si ante aciem agant, admiratione præsunt.” De Mor. Ger. c. vii. + Key, ch. 22.

# Encyclopædia Americana, art. Indians. ş Hutchinson, vol. i. p. 411.

|| Roger Williams says, “I have known many çf them run be. tween fourscore or an hundred miles in a summer's day, and back in two days.” Key, ch. 11.

many days on a little parched corn, pounded into meal. This,” says Roger Williams, “is a very wholesome food, which they eat with a little water, hot or cold. I have travelled with near two hundred of them at once, near one hundred miles through the woods, each man carrying a little basket of this at his back, and sometimes in a hollow leather girdle about his middle, sufficient for a man for three or four days. With this ready provision, and their bow and arrow, are they ready for war and travel at a moment's warning. With a spoonful of this meal and a spoonful of water from the brook, have I made many a good dinner and supper."'* When they had leisure, however, and a plentiful supply of food, they would compensate themselves for their abstinence, by eating enormous quantities. Their cookery was simple, their meat or fish being boiled or roasted, and eaten without salt' or bread. Indian corn, boiled, either whole or when ground, was a common dish.† Their only drink was water,

until Europeans introduced among them the devouring curse of spirituous liquors. Tobacco was in general use, as a remedy for the toothache, and as a stimulant, of which they were as fond as their civilized successors.

Their diseases were few, but neglect or injudicious treatment made them very destructive. The chief remedy was sweating, in a cave or cell, made hot 'with heated stones. In this cell the patient remained an hour or more, and then plunged into a river. Roger Williams expended much time and money in administering to the sick among the Indians, and he expressed his confidence, that millions of the natives had perished for want of suitable aid. Infectious diseases sometimes seized them, and made terrific ravages. The living fled, and whole towns were deserted. The powaws, or priests, pretended to much skill in curing diseases; but their medical practice consisted mainly of hideous bellowings, incantations, and other fantastic ceremonies.

Key, ch. 2. + When boiled whole it was called msickquatash, and it is still eaten in New-England, under the name of suckatash. The ground corn, when boiled, was called Nasaump. “From this,” says Roger Williams, “ the English call their samp, which is the Indian corn, beaten and boiled, and eaten hot or cold with milk or butter, which are mercies beyond the natives' plain water, and which is a dish exceeding wholesome for the English bodies.” Key, ch. 2.

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