Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

rated. In the middle of the night a cabin took fire, in which two Indian women, each with an infant, were asleep. One of the two escaped with her child, the other was almost suffocated, and so scorched, that she became insensible, and dropped her infant among the flames. On the first alarm, Le Clercq, with some other persons, flew to the place; and found the woman among the burning ruins, in a state of utter despair. They were obliged to force her from the spot; and Le Clercq, rushing through the smoke, brought away the child, but in so scorched a state that it immediately died. It was impossible, he adds, to describe the grief and despair into which the mother was thrown, when informed of the death of her infant. Overwhelmed with anguish, she continued to refuse all consolation : and in her frantic agony, scraped among the ashes in search of her child. It was with difficulty they prevented her from putting an end to her miserable existence; every care was taken of her, but she died in a few weeks. Some hours after her interment, her husband, ignorant of what had occurred, returned from a hunting excursion. Bitterly did the Indian lament the loss of his wife and his child. He often visited their graves; and, upon one of these occasions, he was heard, in the depth of his sorrow, to utter aloud : "O Great Spirit, who governest the Sun and the Moon, who created the elk, the otter, and the

[ocr errors]

beaver, be appeased, and do not any longer continue enraged against me. Be content with the misfortunes I have suffered. I had a wife-thou hast taken her from me. I had a child, whom I loved as myself-it is gone, for so was thy pleasure. Is that not enough? Bestow on me henceforward as much good as I now experience evil; or, if thou art not satisfied with what I now suffer, make me die, for in this state I can live no longer

And yet does the Count de Buffon, among his other rash and unfounded assertions respecting the Indians of the American continent, declare that "they are but slightly attached to their parents and children ; and that among them the ties usually the strongest of any, those of family connexion, are always weak and feeble.” But had Buffon consulted with impartiality the works of many of his own countrymen, and of others whose long residence in North America enabled them to furnish authentic information, he would have discovered his error with respect to the alleged indifference of the Indians to their aged parents. “ The Indians, says Lafitau, “ entertain a high regard for the aged;" and as to their offspring, Charlevoix observes, that " the care taken by the Indian mothers of their children is beyond expression, and shews very sensibly that we often spoil all by the refinements

[ocr errors]

* Relation de la Gaspesie, ch. 12.

و

which we add to what nature dictates. They never quit their children, carrying them always with them; and when they appear to be sinking under the weight usually assigned to them, the cradle of their child counts for nothing, and one would even think that the additional burden is an alleviation to

them."*

In Captain Franklin's interesting narrative of his late journey to the shores of the Polar Sea, are to be found several affecting instances of parental regard among the Indians. He mentions the case of a poor Indian, who came (in January, 1820,) to one of the most remote British trading posts, carrying his only child in his arms, and followed by his starving wife. They had separated from the rest of their band, and been unsuccessful in the chase. Whilst in this state of want, they were attacked by the measles and hooping cough, which raged at that time throughout the country. "An Indian,” says Captain Franklin, “is accustomed to starve, and it is not easy to elicit from him an account of his sufferings. This poor man's story was very brief: As soon as the fever abated, he set out with his wife to Cumberlandhouse, having been previously reduced to feed on the bits of skin and offal which remained about their encampment. Even this miserable fare was exhausted, and they walked several days without

* Père de Charlevoix, Journal Historique, Lett. 22.

eating, yet exerting themselves far beyond their strength, that they might save the life of the infant. It died almost within sight of the house. Mr. Connolly, who was then in charge of the post, received them with the utmost humanity, and instantly placed food before them; but no language can describe the manner in which the miserable father dashed the morsel from his lips, and deplored the loss of his child."*

In a subsequent part of his work, Captain Franklin observes, “We found several of the Indian families in great affliction for the loss of their relatives ; who had been drowned in the August preceding, by the upsetting of a canoe near to Fort Enterprise. They bewailed the melancholy accident every morning and evening, by repeating the names of the persons in a loud singing tone, which was frequently interrupted by bursts of tears. One woman was so affected by the loss of her only son, that she seemed deprived of reason, and wandered about the tents the whole day, crying and singing out his name." +

In Mr. Tudor's Letters on the Eastern States of North America, he mentions the case of an Indian, who, in consequence of his good conduct, had received a grant of land in the state of Maine. It

• Captain Franklin's Narrative, ch. iii. p. 60.
+ Ibid. p. 472.

was situated in one of the new townships, where a number of white settlers had established themselves. Although not ill-treated by these settlers, it appears that the common prejudice against his race prevented them from feeling any sympathy with this Indian. His only child. died, but none of the inhabitants came to condole with him on his loss. He soon afterwards went to some of his neighbours, and thus addressed them : " When the white man's child dies, Indian man is sorry : he helps to bury him. When my child dies, no one speaks to me: I make his grave alone. I cannot live here.”—He gave up his farm, dug up the body of his child, and carried it away with himn two hundred miles through the forests, and joined the Indians of Canada.*

To this instance of want of sympathy on the part of his white brethren, the following anecdote affords a striking contrast in favour of the Indian. The occurrence took place soon after the commencement of the colony of Pennsylvania, and in a remote and unsettled part of it “ Abraham and Joseph Chapman, when boys nine or ten years old, going out one evening to seek their cattle in the woods, met an Indian, who told them to go back, else they would be lost. Soon after, they took his advice, and went back; but it was night before they got home, where they found

* Tudor's Letters on the Eastern States, Lett. 12. Boston.

« AnteriorContinuar »