Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

country in Canada, he insisted on three things—a church, a school-house, and a flour-mill. He made great exertions, at different times, to prevail on missionaries to labour among his people. In short, his house was always the missionaries' home when in his neighbourhood; and every preacher who called upon him was sure of kind and respectful treatment. He continued to be a professor of religion till his death ; and was considered by those about him as dying in the faith and hope of the gospel.

With regard to Red-Jacket every thing was painfully the reverse. He was warmly opposed to the Christian religion, and wished to banish all knowledge of it, and of its ministers from his people. He was at the head of the “ Pagan party" in his tribe, and wherever he went declaimed against the gospel and its professors. He was strongly opposed to the civilization of the Indians, and, if it had been possible, would have cut off his people from all communication with the Anglo-Saxon race. His language was that the Great Spirit had formed the red and the white men altogether distinct; that there was no more reason why the two races should profess the same religious creed than that they should be of the same colour. The Indians he held, could not be civilized; and he became more and more anxious not only to resist all farther innovations on their manners, but also that their ancient customs should be restored. These opinions he appears to have held and acted on to the close of life. In his last illness indeed, two days before his death, he expressed a desire to see the missionary who was ministering in his neighbourhood to the “ Christian party” of his people. That interview, from the occurrence of peculiar circumstances, was never obtained. But from the language in which his desire was expressed, there seems no good reason to believe that it was dictated by any serious change of mind.

This remarkable man, a number of years before his death, gradually fell into habits of intemperance, and, toward the close of life, became a confirmed and abandoned sot. This degrading habit at length prostrated his bodily vigour, and weakened and clouded the faculties of his mighty mind. Of this he was painfully aware ; and often spoke of his situation and weakness as a wreck of his former self. For some months previous to his death, time had made such ravages on his constitution as to render him deeply sensible of his approaching dissolution. He visited

successively all his most intimate friends at their cabins, and conversed with them upon the condition of their nation, in the most impressive and affecting manner. He told them that he was passing away, and that his counsels would be heard no more. He ran over the history of his people from the most remote period to which his knowledge extended ; and pointed out, as few were able to do, the wrongs, the privations, and the loss of character, which constituted the greater part of their history. “I am about to leave you," said he, “and when I am gone, and my warnings shall be no longer heard or regarded, the craft and avarice of the white man will prevail. Many winters have I breasted the storm ; but I am an aged tree and can stand no longer. My leaves are fallen; my branches are withered ; and I am shaken by every breeze. Soon my aged truuk will be prostrate, and the foot of the exulting foe of the Indian may be placed upon it in safety. Think not that I mourn for myself. I go to join the spirits of my fathers, where age cannot come: but my heart fails me when I think of my people who are so soon to be scattered and forgotten.”.

p. 391.

The following graphic communication from the pen of the late Reverend and deeply lamented Dr. John Breckinridge, describing Red-Jacket, as he appeared in the course of repeated interviews, will be read, we are persuaded, with much interest. It was written in New Orleans, a few brief months before his own death, and when he was himself sinking under the pressure of a fatal disease. It is, probably,—with the exception of a few brief letters to anxious inquiring relatives the last product of his pen.

“REV. DR. BRECKINRIDGE TO THE AUTHOR." “ The first opportunity I ever enjoyed of seeing that deservedly celebrated Indian chief Red-Jacket, was in the year 1821, at the residence of General Peter B. PORTER, Black Rock, New-York. Being on a visit to the General and his family, it seemed a peculiarly fit occasion to become acquainted with the great Seneca orator, whose tribe resided within a few miles of Black Rock. General Porter embraced the Indian warriors who fought with us on that line, during the late war with Great Britain, in his command. From this cause; from his high character ; his intimate acquaintance with the chiefs ; and his known attachment to these interesting people, he had great influence over them ;—and his lamented lady, who it is not indelicate for me to say was my sister, had by her kindness won the rugged hearts of all their leading men. So that their united influence, and my near relationship to them, secured to me at once access to the chiefs, and their entire confidence.

“ I had not only a great desire to see Red-Jacket, but also to use this important opportunity to correct some of his false impressions in regard to Christianly and the missionaries established in his tribe. To this end it was agreed to

[ocr errors][merged small]

invite Red-Jacket and the other chiefs of the Senecas, to visit Co-na-shus-tah,* and meet his brother at his house. The invitation was accordingly given, and very promptly and respectfully accepted.

* On the appointed day they made their appearance in due form, headed by Red-Jacket, to the number of perhaps eight or ten, besides himself

. RedJacket was dressed with much taste, in the Indian costume throughout. He wore a blue dress, the upper garment cut after the fashion of a hunting-shirt, with blue leggings, very neat moccasins, a red jacket, and a girdle of red about his waist. I have seldom seen a more dignified or noble looking body of men than the entire group. It seems,—though no such impression was designed to be made by the terms of the invitation,—that some indefinite expectation had been excited in their minds of meeting an official agent on important business. And they have been so unworthily tampered with, and so badly treated by us, as a people, and many of their most important treaties have been so much the result of private and corrupting appeals, that they very naturally look for some evil design in every approach to them,-however open and simple it may be. So it was on this occasion. As soon as the ceremonies of introduction had passed, with the civilities growing out of it, the old orator seated himself in the midst of the circle of chiefs, and after a word with them, followed by a general assent, he proceeded in a very serious and commanding manner,always speaking in his own nervous tongue, through an interpreter, to address me in substance as follows:

** We have had a call from our good friends, (pointing to the general and his lady,) to come down to Black Rock to meet their brother. We are glad to break bread and to drink the cup of friendship with them. They are great friends to our people, and we love them much. Co-na-shus-tah is a great man. His woman has none like her. We often come to their house. We thank them for telling us to come to-day. But as all the chiefs were asked we expected some important talk. Now, here we are :- What is your business ?'”

"This as may be readily supposed, was an embarrassing position to a young man just out of college. I paused. Every countenance was fixed upon me, while Red-Jacket in particular seemed to search me with his arrowy eye, and to feel that the private and informal nature of the meeting, and the extreme youth of the man, were hardly in keeping with the character and number of the guests invited ;-and his whole manner implied, that but for the sake of the general and his good viands, I should have waited for you to come to us.' With these impressions of his feelings, I proceeded to say in reply:

“ • That I should have thought it very presumptuous in me. to send for him alone,—and still more for all the chiefs of his tribe, to come so far to see me;that my intention had been to visit him and the other chiefs at 'his town;but the general and his lady could not go with me to introduce me. Nor were we at all certain that we should find him and the other chiefs at home; and at any rate the general's house was more convenient. He intended, when he asked them, to keep them as long as they could stay, and to invite them to break his bred and drink his cup, and smoke his pipe ;—that his woman, and he as well as I, desired to see them at their house ;--that as to myself, I was a young man, and had no business with them, except that I had heard a great deal of Red-Jacket, and wished to see him and hear him talk;—and also that I had some things to say to him when we were better acquainted, which, though not business, were important to his people ;—and I thought it would be interesting to him, as I knew he loved his people much ;—and finally that I would return his visit, and show him that it was not out of disrespect, but out of great regard for him, and great desire to see him, that we had sent for him,-this being the way that white men honour one another.'

* The name given to General Porter by Red-Jacket.

“ Mrs. Porter immediately confirmed what I had said, and gave special point to the hospitality of the house, and the great desire I had to see Red-Jacket. Her appeal, added to the reply, relaxed the rigour of his manner and that of the other chiefs, while it relieved our interview of all painful feelings.

“After this general letting down of the scene, Red-Jacket_turned to me familiarly and asked :

—What are you? You say you are not a government agent,--are you a gambler ?* or a black-coat? or what are you? I answered: I am yet too young a man to engage in any profession ; but I hope some of these days to be a black-coat.' He lifted up his hands accompanied by his eyes, in a most expressive way, and though not a word was uttered, every one fully understood that he very distinctly expressed the sentiment, •What a fool! I had too often been called to bear from those reputed "great and wise' among white men, the shame of the cross, to be surprised by his manner; and I was too anxious to conciliate his good feelings to attempt any retort, — so that I commanded my countenance, and seeming not to have observed him, I proceeded to tell him something of our colleges, &c., &c. That gradually led his mind away from the ideas with which it was filled and excited when be arrived.

“A good deal of general conversation ensued, --addressed to one and another of the chiefs,—and we were just arriving at the hour of dinner, when our conference was suddenly broken up by the arrival of a breathless messenger, saying that an old chief, whose name I forget, had just died, and the other chiefs were immediately needed, to attend his burial. One of the chiefs shed tears at the news ;-all seemed serious; but the others suppressed their feelings and spent a few moments in a very earnest conversation, the result of which Red-Jacket announced to us. They had determined to return at once to their village; but consented to leave Red-jacket and his interpreter. In vain were they urged to wait until after dinner, or to refresh themselves with something eaten by the way. With hurried farewell and quick steps they left the house, and by the nearest foot-path returned home.

“ This occurrence relieved me of one difficulty. It enabled me to see RedJacket at leisure, and alone. It seemed also to soften his feelings, and make him more affable and kind.

“Soon after the departure of the chiefs, we were ushered to dinner. RedJacket behaved with great propriety, in all respects; his interpreter, Major Berry, though half a white man and perhaps a chief, like a true savage. After a few awkward attempts at the knife and fork, he found himself falling behind, and repeating the old adage which is often quoted to cover the same style among our white urchins of picking a chicken-bone, that fingers were made before knives and forks,' he proceeded with real gusto, and much good humour, to make up his lost time upon all parts of the dinner. It being over, I invited Red-Jacket into the general's office, where we had for four hours a most interesting conversation on a variety of topics, but chiefly connected with Christianity; the government of the United States ; the missionaries; and his loved lands.

“So great a length of time has passed since that interview that there must be supposed to be a failure in the attempt perfectly to report what was said. I am well assured I cannot do justice to his language, even as diluted by the ignorant interpreter ; and his manner cannot be described. But it was so impressive a conversation, and I have so often been called on to repeat it, that the substance of his remarks has been faithfully retained by my memory. It is only attempted here to recite a small part of what was then said, and that with particular reference to the illustration of his character, mind and opinions.

By the term “ gambler,” Red-Jacket meant a land speculator, and by the way not a bad definition,-especially of those base men who have so long conspired to cheat the poor Indians out of their little remaining lands.

" It has already been mentioned and is largely known, that Red-Jacket cherished the most violent antipathy toward the American missionaries who had been located among his people. This led to very strenuous resistance of their influence, and to hatred of their religion, but of the true character of which he was totally ignorant. His deep attachment to his people, and his great principle that their national glory and even existence depended upon keeping themselves distinct from white men, lay at the foundation of his aversion to Christianity. Though a pagan, yet his opposition was political, and he cared very little for any religion except so far as it seemed to advance or endanger the glory and safety of his tribe.

“He had unfortunately been led by designing and corrupt white men, who were interested in the result, falsely to associate the labours of the missionaries with designs against his nation; and those who wished the Senecas removed from their lands that they might profit by the purchase,—and who saw in the success of the mission the chief danger to their plans, artfully enlisted the pagan party, of which Red-Jacket was the leader, to oppose the missionaries, and thus effectually led to the final frustration of Red-Jacket's policy,-in and by the defeat of the missionary enterprise. But as this question is discussed in the sequel, I will not anticipate. Thus much it was necessary to premise, in order to explain the nature and ends of my interview with Red-Jacket.

My object was to explain the true state of the case to him, and after this to recommend the doctrine of Christ to his understanding and heart. My first step, therefore, was to ask him why he so strongly opposed the settlement and labours of the missionaries? He replied, because they are the enemies of the Indians, and under the cloak of doing them good are trying to cheat them out of their lands. I asked him what proof he had of this. He said he had been told so by s'me of his wise and good friends among the white men, and he observed that the missionaries were constantly wanting more land,—and that by little and little, for themselves, or tho who hired them to do it, they would take away all their lands, and drive them off.

" I asked him if he knew that there was a body of white men who had already bought the exclusive right to buy their lands from the government of New York, and that therefore the missionaries could not hold the lands given or sold then by the Indians a moment after the latter left the lands and went away. He seemed to be startled by the statement, but said nothing. I proceeded to tell him that the true effect of the missionary influence on the tribe was to secure to them the possession of their lands, by civilizing them and making them quit the chase for the cultivation of the soil, building good houses, educating their children, and making them permanent citizens and good men. This was what the speculators did not wish. Therefore they hated the missionaries. He acknowledged that the Christian party among the Indians did as I said; but that was not the way for an Indian to do. Hunting, war, and manly pursuits, were best fitted to them. But, said I, your reservation of land is too little for that purpose. It is surrounded by the white people like a small island by the sea; the deer, the buffalo and bear have all gone. This wont do. If you intend to live so much longer, you will have to go to the great western wilderness where there is plenty of game, and no white men to trouble you. But he said, we wish to keep our lands, and to be buried by our fathers. I know it,--and therefore I say that the missionaries are your best friends; for if you follow the ways they teach you can still hold your lands,—though you cannot have hunting grounds; and therefore you must either do like white men, or remove from your lands,-very soon. Your plan of keeping the Indians distinct from the white people is begun too late. If you would do it and have large grounds, and would let the missionaries teach you Christianity far from the bad habits and big farms of the white people, it would then be well; it would keep your people from being corrupted and swallowed up by our people who grow so fast around you, and VOL. XIV. KO. II.

25

« ÎnapoiContinuați »