Imágenes de páginas

publick is extracted out of the journal I kept, wherein I set down things as they appeared to me. 'Tis true, I am sometimes obliged to take things upon trust, because I could not be always with M. La Salle, but I am so fully convinced of the probity and honesty of those upon whose evidence I have advanced any thing, that I may answer as well for their observations as for my own. The reader must not therefore expect here noble and pompous descriptions, such as authors use to adorn their works with, but a natúral simplicity, and a rigid fidelity. If my stile seems harsh and unpolite, I have no other apology for it, but that I may have contracted some thing from the commerce of the savages of America, with whom I have so long conversed.

Whosoever considers this enterprize in itself, the difficulties it was attended with, and the advantages that Europe may reap from the discovery of those vast countries, which are above eighteen hundred leagues north and south, will; I hope, agree, that an exact account thereof is worthy of the curiosity of the reader.

That large country is now called by the name of Louisiana, since the French took possession thereof in the name of Lewis the Great. The soil is, generally speaking, so fertile, that it produces naturally without any culture, those fruits that nature and art together have much ado to bring forth in Europe: they have two crops every year without any great fatigue; the vines bring extraordinary grapes, without the care of the husbandmen; and the fruit-trees need no gardiners to look after them; the air is every where temperate; the country is watered with navigable rivers, and delicious brooks and rivulets, and diversified with forests and meadows; it is stockt with all sorts of beasts, as bulls, orignac's, wolves, lines, wild asșes, stags,


goats, sheep, foxes, hares, beavers, otters, dogs, and all sorts of fowls, which afford a plentiful game for the inhabitants. They have discovered inines of lead and iron, and 'tis not doubted but there are also mines of gold and silver, if they would give themselves the trouble to look for them; but the inhabitants of those countries valuing things only as far as they are necessary for life, are yet unacquainted with the fanciful value we put upon those metals, and have not dig'd up the earth to look for them.

Those inhabitants have nothing of man but the shape and the name; they live without any laws, religion, superiority, or subordination, independency and liberty being their summum bonum, or the ultimate end they propose to themselves. Their life is always wandering, having no settled possessions; they take several wives, if they please, whom they quit when they will, and leave them to others, just as they do their habitations, for after having for some time cultivated a piece of ground, they quit it without any occasion to cultivate another, and the first comer takes possession thereof, so that they are perpetually changing their habitations, and by this continual motion, every thing becomes in a manner common amongst them: they know no superiority, and think the world is made only for them.

I said they have no religion, tho' it seems they have an obscure idea of God, because they live as if they thought there was none. They believe in general that there is a God, but who does not concern himself in what they do. Some worship the sun, and others fancy that the world is full of certain spirits, who preside over their actions, and they are so extravagant as to believe, that every thing in the world has a spirit, and that they are good or hurtful according to the caprice of that spirit. "I'is upon this principle that are grounded all the foolish superstitions of their jugglers or moni tous, who are their priests or magicians.

I don't believe that they have carried their reflections so far, as to think on the nature of their souls, tho''tis true, they seem to believe their immortality, and a kind of metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls; but they have so many extravagant fancies upon this subject, that it is in a manner impossible to discover their true opinion. I may say in general, that they are so stupid in matters of religion, that they are not convinced of their own belief, nor of what others believe, and therefore laugh at the instructions of our missionaries.

However, notwithstanding that brutish temper, they have as good a sense as the rest of mankind, to know their true interests, and therefore are capable of negotiations, commerce, and counsel. They know how to weigh and consider the consequences of an enterprize, and take just measures to compass it. When they meet together to consult about some great design, they sit in a private place, in a profound silence, smoking tobacco, and every one speaks gravely in bis turn. It is to be observed by the by, that they never make any treaty, convention, or agreement with any body, till they have first of all, mutually exchanged presents. They give commonly collars as the symbol of union; they have a particular kettle for peace, , and another for war. They proclaim peace with

. the calumet, and war by great outcries, or rather dreadful howlings.

They know likewise how to incamp, and fortifie their camps with intrenchments and pallisadoes. They observe also some order in their attacks.

This soil produces indifferently all sorts of corn and plants, but as they have observed, that some among them are more proper for their nourishment


[ocr errors]

than others, they take care to sow and cultivate them, and therefore they have great crops of Indian corn, of which they make a sort of very delicious and nourishing pap. They cultivate also what they call touquo, of which they make their cassave, and turneps, wherewith they make cassamite. These are their own terms, which are not to be translated. There are in their country several sorts of trees, from which an excellent balsam drops, the use whereof the savages know very well, as also of several plants against wounds, and the venomous bitings or stinging of serpents and other creatures.

Their knowledge is not circumscribed within those narrow bounds; they carry it as far as Heaven, and have obtained a sufficient knowledge of the course of the sun, moon, and planets, and pretend thereby to foretel the changes of the weather, winds, storms, and other things of this nature.

Besides those qualities already mentioned, they have a wonderful dexterity at several beautiful and useful works; some of them make extraordinary fine mats for their coverings, and adorning their cibins; others have found the way to dress leather to make wastecoats and shoes; but their greatest dexterity appears, in my opinion, in the structure of their canoos which can never sink. They make them with the barks of elm, walnuttrees, or elder-trees, about 10 or 12 foot long, the side being a little turned inward as gondolas. Instead of oars they make use of two pieces of wood, like two bakers peals, and term swimming what we call rowing. As their canoos draw very littles water, because of their lightness, the savages swim with an extraordinary swiftness, even against the stream of rivers, and undertake very long voyages without fearing rocks or storms,

Tho' there are neither road nor path in that country, they travel through these vast forests and wildernesses, with the help of certain marks they make upon the rind of trees from place to place; and by these means, the women and children are able to find the men when they go a hunting, or upon any expedition. They very seldome bring home what they kill, and it is the office of their wives to fetch it and dress it.

I think fit to add, in this place, a short account of their cabins, houshold goods, and the like. Many of them are wandring in woods, where they lie upon the ground as beasts; but such who live together, make cabins, or huts, with branches of trees driven into the ground, interlaced with others, and joined at the top as close as possible, and covered with reeds, or large leaves of trees. The inside looks somewhat better, it is well-enough matted, and most of them have à sort of curious floor.

Their bedsteads are made up with some pieces of wood, upon which they lay skins full of wool or straw; but for their covering, they use the finest sort of skins, or else mats finely wrought.

They have cellars, or rather holes, to preserve their corn, their wood, and other provisions; but all their kitchen utensils consists in some few pieces of earthen-ware, which they make with clay, and harden it with the dung of bulls. They have no sorts of mills, but instead thereof, use to grind their corn between two stones, with a great deal of trouble. - They make use of a sort of sharp stones instead of knives; but this must be understood of such savages, who never had any cominerce with Europeans.

They use bows and arrows with great dexterity, and the extremity of their arrow is arm’d, instead of iron, with a sharp stone, or the tooth of some

« AnteriorContinuar »