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AN INDIAN TRADITION,
CONCERNING THE ORIGIN OF THE FIVE NATIONS.
The following is the account given by old Cannassatego, of the manner in which his country was made and peopled.
“When our good Manitta raised Akanishionegy* out of the great waters, he said to his brethren, how fine a country is this! I will make Redt men, the best of men, to enjoy it. Then with five handfuls of red seeds, like the eggs of flies, did he strow the fertile fields of Onondago. Little worms came out of the seeds, and penetrated the earth, when the spirits, who had never yet seen the light, entered into and united with them. Manitta watered the earth with his rain, the sun warmed it, the worms, with the spirits in them, grew, putting forth little arms and legs, and moved the light earth that covered them. After nine moons they came forth perfect boys and girls. Manitta covered them with his mantle of warm, purple cloud, and nourished them with milk from his fingers ends. Nine summers did he nurse them, and nine summers more did he instruct them how to live. In the mean time he had made for their use, trees, plants, and animals, of various kinds. Akanishionegy was covered with woods and filled with creatures. Then he assembled his children together and said, “ Ye are Five Nations, for ye sprang each from a different handful of the seed I sowed; but ye are all brethren; and I am your father, for I made ye all; I have nursed and brought you up: Mohocks, I have made you bold and valiant, and see, I give you corn for your food: Oneidas, I have made you patient of pain and of hunger, the nuts and fruits of the trees are yours. Senekas, I have made you industrious and active, beans do I give you for nourishment: Cayugas, I have made you strong, friendly and generous, ground nuts and every root shall refresh you: Onondagos, I have made you wise, just and eloquent; squashes and grapes have I given you to eat, and tobacco to smoke in Council. The beasts, birds and fishes have I given to you all, in common. As I have loved and taken care of you all, so do you love and take care of one another. Communicate freely to each other the good things I have given you, and learn to imitate each other's virtues. I have made you the best people in the world, and I give you the best country. You will defend it from the invasions of other nations, from the children of other Manittas, and keep possession of it for yourselves, while the sun and moon give light, and the waters run in the rivers. This you shall do if you observe my words. Spirits, I am now about to leave you. The bodies I have given you will in time grow old, and wear out, so that you will be weary of them; or from various accidents they may become unfit for your habitation, and you will leave them. I cannot remain here always to give you new ones.
* The country of the Five Nations.
+ They thus distinguished themselves from white men and black men. But their complexion is not properly red. It is rather the color of copper, or mahogany.
I have great affairs to mind, in distant places, and I cannot again attend so long to the nursing of children. I have enabled you therefore among yourselves to produce new bodies, to supply the place of old ones, that every one of you, when he parts with his old habitation, may in due time find a new one, and never wander longer than he chose under the earth, deprived of the light of the sun. Nourish and instruct your children, as I have nourished and instructed you. Be just to all men and kind to strangers, that come among you. So shall you be happy and be loved by all: and I myself will sometimes visit and assist you.” “Saying this, he wrapped himself in a bright cloud and went like a swift arrow to the sun, where his brethren rejoiced at his return. From thence he often looked at Akanishionegy, and pointing, showed with pleasure, to his brothers, the country he had formed, and the nations he had produced to inhabit it.”
Is it not beautiful? And does it not in some degree warrant the opinion I have suggested, that the Onondagos were regarded as the wisest, perhaps, the Sacred Nation?"
Massawamees of Wyoming-Senecas and Oneidas—Indian Fortifications—Medal of
George 1.—Burying Places-Exhumation of an Indian King-Probable likeness of
These previously related facts make sufficiently plain the extent and spirit of dominion claimed and exercised in the eastern and northern portions of the Continent by this tremendously formidable power. We now turn to the southern Province, west of the Delaware, east of the Alleghany mountains; and southerly from the head waters of the Susquehanna, administered by the Senecas and Oneidas: and as in this territory Wyoming is included, we hope to throw more incident into our narrative, and impart greater interest to the subject.
Mr. Jefferson, after describing the numerous tribes in lower Virginia, in which the Powhattan confederacy is estimated at 8000, says: “ Westward of all these tribes, beyond the mountains, and extending to the great lakes, were the Massawamees, a most powerful confederacy, who harrassed unremittingly the Powhattans, and Manahoacs. These were probably the ancestors of tribes known at present as the Six Nations." I am strongly of opinion that, at an early period, Wyoming was the head quarters of one or two of those nations, though not the scite of their great Council fire ;—that was at Onondago. They were then known by the name of Massawamees. Is not the inference fair that the name they then bore was derived from these extensive plains ? The reader will bear in mind that Indian names are not arbitrary selections of fancy, but uniformly are given as descriptive of the thing named.
Massachusetts was thus called from the blue hills, says Roger Williams. The Rev. John Cotton defines Massachusetts, in his vocabulary of Indian words, “An hill in the form of an arrow head." The name of the terrible foes of the Powhattans, then, was formed of the two words, Massa-Hills—Waughmees, plains-meaning A
people among the hills, seated upon extensive plains—an exact description of Wyoming.
I have purposely left a notice of Indian fortifications, found in the valley, for this connexion, because the aspect they present strengthens the conclusion, that Wyoming was the residence of several chiefs and tribes of this gigantic empire. Mr. Chapman has given a clear description of the fort remaining on the west, or Kingston side of the river.
“ In the valley of Wyoming, there exists some remains of ancient fortifications, which appear to have been constructed by a race of people very different in their habits from those who occupied the place when first discovered by the whites. Most of these ruins have been so much obliterated by the operations of agriculture, that their forms cannot now be distinctly ascertained. That which remains the most entire, was examined by the writer during the summer of 1817, and its dimensions carefully ascertained ; although from frequent ploughing, its form had become almost destroyed. It is situated in the township of Kingston, upon a level plain on the north side of Toby's creek, about one hundred and fifty feet from its bank, and about half a mile from its confluence with the Susquehanna. It is of an oval or elliptical form, having its longest diameter from the northwest to the southeast, at right angles to the creek, three hundred and thirty-seven feet, and its shortest diameter from the northeast to the southwest, two hundred and seventy-two feet. On the southwest side, appears to have been a gateway about twelve feet wide, opening toward the great eddy of the river, into which the creek falls. From present appearances, it consisted, probably, of only one mound or rampart, which, in height and thickness, appears to have been the same on all sides, and was constructed of earth; the plain on which it stands, not abounding in stone. On the outside of the rampart, is an entrenchment or ditch formed, probably, by removing the earth of which it is composed, and which appears never to have been walled. The creek, on which it stands, is bounded by a high steep bank on that side, and at ordinary times, is sufficiently deep to admit canoes to ascend from the river to the fortification. When the first settlers came to Wyoming, this plain was covered with its native forests, consisting principally of oak and yellow pine; and the trees which grew in the rampart and in the entrenchment, are said to have been as large as those in any other part of the valley; one large oak particularly, upon being cut down, was ascertained to be seven hundred years old. The Indians had no tradition concerning
these fortifications, neither did they appear to have any knowledge of the purposes for which they were constructed. They were, perhaps, erected about the same time with those upon the waters of the Ohio, and, probably by a simliar people, and for similar purposes."
I am happy to be able to add some very interesting facts to this description of my lamented friend. Another fortification existed on Jacob's Plains, or the upper flats, in Wilkesbarre. Its situation is the highest part of the low grounds, so that only in extraordinary floods, is the spot covered with water. Looking over the flats, in ordinarily high freshes, the site of the fort presents to the eye an, island in the vast sea of waters. The eastern extremity is near the line dividing the farms of Mr. John Searle and Mr. James Hancock, where, from its safety from inundation, a fence has long since been placed; and to this circumstance is to be attributed the preservation of the embankment and ditch. In the open field, so entirely is the work levelled, that the eye cannot trace it; but the extent west, is known, “ for it reached through the meadow lot of Capt. Gore,” (said Cornelius Courtright, Esq., to me, when visiting the ground several years ago) “and came on to my lot one or two rods." The lot of Capt. Gore was seventeen perches in width. Taking then these two hundred and eighty feet, add the distance it extended eastwardly on the Searle lot, and the extension, westerly, on the lot of Esq. Courtright, we have the length of that measured by Mr. Chapman, so very nearly, as to render the inference almost certain, that both were of the same size and dimensions. Huge trees were growing out of the embankment when the white people began to clear the flats for cultivation. This, too, in Wilkesbarre, is oval, as is still manifest from the segment exhibited on the upper part, formed by the remaining rampart and fosse, the chord of the arc being the division fence. A circle is easily made ; the elliptical form much more difficult for an untutored mind to trace. Trifling as these circumstances may appear, the exact coincidence in size and shape, and that shape difficult to form, they appeared to me worthy of a distinct notice. The Wilkesbarre fortification is about eighty rods from the river, towards which a gate opened, and the ancient people concur in stating that a well existed in the interior, near the southern line. On the bank of the river there is an Indian burying place, not a barrow or hill, such as is described by Mr. Jefferson, but where graves have been dug, and the deceased laid, horizontally, in regular rows. In excavating the canal, cutting through the bank that borders the flats, perhaps thirty rods south from the fort, was another