George Copway.

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mDIAN LIFE



AND



INDIAN HISTORY



BY AN INDIAN AUTHOR.

EMBRACING THE

TRADITIONS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS REGARDING

THEMSELVES, PARTICULARLY OF THAT MOST

IMPORTANT OF ALL THE TRIBES,

THE OJIBWAYS-



BY THE CELEBRATED KAH-GE-GA-GAH-BOWH,

Chief of the Ojibway Nation;

KNOWN ALSO BY THE ENGLISH NAME OF

J

GEORGE COPWAY.



BOSTON:

ALBERT COLBY AND COMPANY,

20 Washington Street.
1860.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 185t(, by

ALBERT COLBY,

In the Clerk's OfBce of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.



rfcC



<6^



EI. F.rTROTYI'En AT THK
BOSTON » T E K t O T V r K F O I' N li k T.






1



TO AMOS LAWRENCE, ESQ.,

®f 33o0ton, iWaBB.

THIS VOLUME,
WITH FEELINGS OF DEEP GRATITUDB,

AND SENTBIENTS OF THE HIGHEST RESPECT,

IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED
BY

KAlf-UE-OA-OAir-UOAVH.



CONTENTS



Page
IXDIAN COrXTRY, LAKES, RIVERS, MOUNTAINS, &c., . 13

ORIGIN, ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN TRADITIONS, . . 28

WILD GAME &c., 33

AMUSEMENTS 49

THEIR WARS, 61

LEGENDARY STORIES AND TRADITIONAL TALES, ... 97
THEIR CURIOUS WRITINGS, ORIGINAL ALPHABET, LAN-
GUAGE, 8:c., 122

FORM OF GOVERNMENT, 13?

THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEF, MANNER OF LIVING, IM-
PROVEMENTS AND FUTURE PROSPECTS, . . 14? to 2GG



PREFACE.

In compliance with the oft-repeated request of a
number of literary friends I present this volume to
the public. In doing so there is another motive that
has influenced me, and I may be pardoned, if here, at
the commencement of my task, I briefly record it.

In thus giving a sketch of my nation's history, de-
scribing its home, its country and its peculiarities and
in narrating its traditionary legends I may awaken in
the iVmerican heart a deeper feeling for the race of red-
men and induce the pale- face to use greater effort to
effect an improvement in their social and political re-
lations.

You must know that my advantages have not been
very great for the attairwnent of knowledge ; that, in
common with my forest brethren I have, as the saying
is, " been brought up in the woods." I feel incompe-



7111 PREFACE.

tent for my work, but, am impelled forward by the
though: that the nation w^ioso history 1 here feebly
sketch seems passing away and that unless a work
like this is sent forth, much, very much that is inter-
esting and instructive in that nations actions will
with it pass away.

Though I cannot wield the pen of a Macaulay or
the graceful wand of an Irving with which to delin-
eate an Indian's life, yet I move a pen guided by an
intimate knowledge of the subject it traces out, the
joys and the sorrows it records.

It is not many years since I laid aside my bow and
arrows, and the love for the wild forest, born with me,
I yet retain. Twenty months passed in a school in
Illinois has been the sum-total of my schooling, save
that I have received in the wide world. During my
residence of six years among the pale-faces I have
acquired a knowledge of men and things, much, very
much more I have yet to learn, and it is my desire
that my brethren in the far west may share with me
my crust of information ; for this end I have labored
and do labor, and will continue to labor, till success
crowns my efforts or my voice and hand are silent in
the home of the departed.

To the Christian and the Philanthropist, I present



T'RKl ACE. ^ IX

in these pages an account of the rise and progress of
events which have greatly advanced the moral eleva-
tion of my nation. Should they see in it anything to
stimulate them to greater action, now is the time, the
hour to act. It can be proved that the introduction
of Christianity into the Indian tribes has been produc-
tive of immense good. It has changed customs as old
as any on the earth. It has dethroned error, and has
enthroned truth. This fact is enough to convince any
one of the unjustness and falsity of the common say-
ing, that, " the Indian will be Indian still."

Education and Christianity are to the Indian what
wings are to the eagle that soar above his home.
They elevate him ; and these given to him by men of
right views of existence enable him to rise above the
soil of degradation and hover about the high mounts
of wisdom and truth.

To the man of letters I would say, that in compli-
ance with your request I am aware how far short I
have fallen from satisfying you with a recital of the
Ojib ways' history.

Much has been lost to the world, through a neglect

of educating the red-men who have lived and died in

the midst of eduoationary privileges but have not been

allowed to enjoy them. They hold a key which will
1*



PREFACE.



unlock a library of information, the like of which is
not. It is for the present generation to say, whether
the last remnants of a powerful people shall perish
through neglect and as they depart bear with them
that key.

Give the Indian the means of education and he will
avail himself of them. Keep them from him and let
me tell you he is not the only loser.

The Indians at present mingle with the whites.
The intercourse they have had together has not in all
instances elevated the character of the former. The
many hundreds of rude careless, fearless whites who
have taken up their abode in frontier regions have in-
duced the red-men to associate and unite with them
in practices of dissipation. To the Americans at home
I look for an antidote for this evil, which they as well
as myself must most sincerely regret.

Friends. Christians, your love for mankind extends
beyond the border. Your love for mankind has pene-
trated the forests, and is to-day shedding its holy influ-
ence on many a happy group assembled around a
birchen fire. May you not tire or grow faint.

The history of the Ojibways like that of other In-
lian tribes is treasured up in traditionary lore. It has
Dcen passed dcnvn from age to ago on the tido of soiig,



PREFACE. XI

for there is much poetry in the narrative of the old
sage as he dispenses his facts and fancies to the listen-
ing group that throng around him.

x\s the first volume of Indian history written by an
Indian, with a hope that it may in some degree bene-
fit his nation, and be the means of awakening an inter-
est for the red-men of America in those whose homes
are where they once lived and loved, this work is sent
forth tremblingly, yet with hope by its Author.

KAH-GE-GA-GAH.BOWH,



CHAPTER I.



THEIR COUNTRY.



The extent of territory occupied by the Ojibway
nation, is the largest of any Indian possessions of which
there is any definite knowledge.

Wlien the Champlain traders met them in 1610, its
eastern boundary was marked by the waters of Lakes
Huron and Michigan. The mountain ridge, lying
between Lake Superior and the frozen Bay, was its
northern barrier. On the west, a forest, beyond which
an almost boundless prairie. On the south, a valley,
by Lake Superior, thence to the southern part of
Michigan. The land within these boundaries has
always been known as the country of the Ojibways.
It comprises some of the most romantic and beautiful
scenery. There are crystal waters flowing over rocky
beds, reflecting the mighty trees that for centuries
have reared their stout branches above them. There
are dense forests which no man has entered, which
have never waked an echo to the woodman's axe, or



14 TRADITIUNAL HISTORY OF

.sounded with the sharp report of a sportsiTiairs rifle.
Here are miles of wild flowers whose sweet fragrance,
is borne on every southern breeze, and which form a
carpet of colors as bright and beautiful as the rainbow
that arches Niagara.

The woodland is composed of a great variety of trees,
mostly pine, hemlock, oak, cedar, and maple. As the
traveller approaches the north, he will meet birch
tamarach, spruce, and evergreen.

In going from east to west, along the borders of the
lakes, the scenery is so changing and of such kaleide-
scope variety and beauty that description is impossible.
There is room and opportunity for adventure among
the bold, broken, rugged rocks, piled up one upon
another in " charming confusion," on the shores, along
the borders of the silent waters, or beneath the solid
cliffs against which the waters of Superior break with
a force which has polished their rocky surface.

The mountains, rivers, lakes, cliffs, and caverns of
the Ojibway country, impress one with the thought
that Nature has there built a home for Nature's
children.

THEIR LAKES.

It is unnecessary for me to describe minutely every
lake that exists in the Ojibway territory. I- will men-
tion those of greatest note, and which the traveller as



THE OJTRWAY NATIO>f. J 5

he stood upon the shore has viewed with an admiration
bordering on idolatry ; for, surely, were there anything
besides the Creator worthy of worship it would be His
works.

At one time the easternmost lake of the Ojibways
was Huron. But they have, by their prowess, gained
the waters of Ontario and Erie.

Lake Huron is of great depth. Its waters are known
by their beautiful clearness, and by the fact of their
rise and fall once in every seven years. Its shores
were lined with their canoes at a period shortly subse-
quent to the introduction of fire arms into their midst.
Rock abounds in great quantities, and the wood con-
sists mainly of cedar, hemlock, pine, and tamarach.
The hills rising in the south and in the north-east,
present to the observer a very imposing appearance.

From the main there juts forth a point of land, on
one side of which is Greorgian Bay or Owen's Sound
and the lake. The ledge of rocks near this has the
appearance, at a distance, of a fortification. When the
waters are calm and clear these rocks can be seen in
huge fragments beneath their surface as if thrown
there by some giant in other days.

The great depth of the water of this lake has in-
duced the belief amonof the Indians that it has a con-
nection with other lakes, and possibly with the sea,
and it has been supposed that* such is the cause of its
rise and fall once in a certain number of years.



16 TRADITIONAL HISTORY OF

Many stories are iold of monsters who are said to
inhabit these waters and of the cause of the flowing
of the water in the channel of the Manettoo Islands on
the coast.

As before stated the water of this lake is very clear^
In the year 1834 while journeying upon its northern
borders I dropped a small silver coin. It rapidly de-
scended till it was lodged upon a rock. I could see it
very distinctly. I attached a cord to an axe and low-
ered it till it touched the rock on which the money lay.
On drawing it up and measuring the length of the
cord I found, to my surprise, that the coin which I
could see so distinctly was at a distance of seventy
three feet from the surface of the water and about
seventy five or eighty feet from where I stood.

The bays near this lake are the Pantonogoshene,
(Falling-Sand Bay,) and the Thunder Bay, The
islands are numerous, and a three days' journey among
them would convince any one that they are numbered
by thousands. They are very similar to those in the
St. Lawrence, known as " the thousand islands,"
masses of rock, as if thrown up by some mighty
convulsion of nature. Many, however, are covered
with low cedars, imparting to them a somewhat lovely
and attractive appearance.

The north-west and easterly winds cause an ebb and
flow of water in the lake. 'J'he wind passes to ono
side of the chain of islands, which runs in a line



THE OJTBAVAY NATION. 17

parallel with the north shore. It then rushes to and
from the other extremity of« these islands, and thus
causing a continual current. But other causes than
this, effect the rise and fall, on return of seven years.
These have been differently defined by different indi-
viduals. The cause assigned by H. R. Schoolcraft,
Esq., has been most generally received as the true
one. I am not prepared to state here in full my own
reasons for this singular fact, but I am in hopes to
give them before long.

On the shores of Huron have been fought some of
the most severe battles between the Chippewas and
the Iroquois. French River, Saganaw Bay, and
Sagueeng, have been the scenes of these bloody and
disastrous conflicts.

Lake Superior, or, as it is named in the Ojibway
language, Ke-che-gumme, is situated in the centre of
the nation, and is not only the largest of its lakes, but
the largest lake of water in the world. It has been
called the " Great Lake of the Ojibways."

This is the most remarkable of all lakes, not merely
on account of its size, but on account of the pic-
turesque scenery around it, and the almost innumera-
ble traditions related of it and its borders. Every
point of land, every bay of water has its legendary
story to tell, and it is this that renders Lake Superior
superior to all others in point of interest. This lake
extends abrtut five hundred miles from east to west :



IS TRADITIoXAl- HISTdRV OF

the distance around is about fourteen hundred miles.
The immense body of water within these limits are
at times cahn and placid ; at others, furious and
foaming, and as the waves lash the shores, the thunder
of their voice echoes and re-echoes amid the rocky
caverns which their constant action has made.

From the highlands of " (ir^nd Cape*' or "Frog
Hills" can be obtained one of the grandest views to be
had on the lakes. Twenty-three miles from these are
the celebrated " Falls of St. Mary's." Many, whose
love of adventure has surmounted their fear of danger,
have gone up in canoes above these falls, and from the
summit of these hills have been doubly paid for their
journey by the wide-extended view of the broad lake
spread out before them.

The sandy beach extends from " White Fish Point"
southerly towards the Pictured Rocks, a distance of
upwards of one hundred and fifty miles. At the upper
end of this beach are the Sand Hills rising abruptly
from the waters edge to a height of over three hundred
feet. Next to these in point of interest are seen " the
Pictured Rocks " which extend fourteen miles beyond
the sandy l)each.

All of the southern shore pres'^nts ahold and rugged
appf;arance; and the northern is for the most part of
the sam(i character.

The tow(;ring dills t.liat border the lake, appear like
giant sentinels; particularly at night, when the bright



THK O JIB WAY NATION. 19

light of the rising moon causes them to cast their sha-
dows, do they thus appear, standing in bold relief with
trees upon their sides, whose waving branches seem
to give life to the tall-guards.

These heights are connected with many traditionary
stories ; and, according to the superstition of our fore-
fathers, the heroes of many romances loiter upon their
sides.

Red Lake, Leach Lake, Mill Lake and Lake AYin-
nipeg are in the North.

Leach Lake is noted as being the resort of wild
fowl. They are there found in great numbers, being
attracted to the spot by the wild rice which is there
met with in vast quantities.

The waters of Mill Lake flow into the Mississippi
River. It is about sixty miles in circumference. Its
shores abound with valuable cornelian stones, and its
adjacent woods with a great variety of game.



THEIR RIVERS.

Their Rivers are the largest in the world. First in
importance and magnitude is the Mississippi, on whose
banks for two thousand miles can be seen the most
enchanting scenery. The St. Lawrence flowing from
the source of the St. Louis River, at the head of Lake
Superior, from lake to lake, till the vast body precipi-
tates itself over the Falls of Niagara, and sweeping by



20 TRADITION AT. HISTORY OF

"the Thoiisand lylanJs " and over the Lachiene Ra-
pids, mingles with that of the Gulf of St Lawrence,
Another stream flows from near the head of the Missis-
sippi. Red River flows from the edge of the Prairie,
first westward, but soon clianges its course, and passes
in a northerly direction till the frozen regions stay its
farther progress.

These mentioned, are the principal rivers from
which they drank in that happy time when they knew
not of that insidious foe, — " the fire water."

In addition to these there are a number of rivers,
which, in any other country would be considered
" great." Those flowing into the Mississippi are the
Crow-wing, St. Croix, Chippeway, and Wisconsin.
Those flowing into the St. Lawrence are the Montreal
and Burnt-VvT)od. I speak of those in the Ojibway
country. Near Haron are the Mohawk, Sagianaw,
Tranti, and others running their waters into the Lakes.
When 1 look upon the land of the Ojibways 1 can-
not but be convinced of the fact that in no other por-
tion of the world can there be a territory more favored
by Heaven. The waters are abundant and good; the
air bracing and healthy; and the soil admiringly adapt-
ed for agricultural purposes. It is not much to be
wondered at that in such a climate, such a strong, ath-
letic and hardy race of men should exist, as the Ojib-
ways are generally acknowledged to be. In fact, they
could scared v be otherwise. There is as much diifer-



THE OJlliWAY iNATlUiN. 21

ence between them and many tribes of tbc South as
there is between the strong wind and gentle zephyr.



THEIR MOUx\TlANS.

The mountains are few. There are, however, quite
a number of eminences, not exactly to be rated under
the name of mountains and I am sure cannot be called
level earth. There are many heights along the south-
ern shore of Lake Superior and some in the north to
Vv-hicH the title of mountains is applied. There are
numerous lofty peaks of granite, a short distance back
from the shore of Lake Huron and the northern shore
of Lake Ontario. I have walked over that part of the
country for many days in succession and have seen
nothing but these granite hills, most of which are des-
titute of wood. There was a time when they were
well covered with trees that took root in the clefts,
but they were all destroyed by fire and the peaks to-
day present a very barren and inattractive appear-
ance.

The Porcupine Mountains near La Point, can be
seen, in a clear day, at a distance of eighty miles from
their base. One of the grandest sights I have ever
witnessed, was a view of this range of mountains, at a
distance, when the morning sun was rising above their



22 TRADITIONAL III^^^OKY OF

summits, and a fog from the lake enveloped their tops.
It was indeed worth the night's journey to behold.

The Missawbay Heights are formed of ledges of rock,
piled one upon another, and lie in a line parallel with
the north-west shore. There are numerous mountains
and hills on the northern shore of Lake Superior. The
elevation known as "the Thunder Mountains." have
the singular appearance of a lion crouching for its prey.
A curious legend is told of this range, which will be
related in a subsequent chapter.

The Caraboo Heights, below the Thunder Mountains,
are deserving of mention. They are viewed with admi-
ration by all tourists who approach them. Upon these
heights are to be seen figures, claiming the attention
of those curious in ancient lore, which, if rightly inter-
preted, might possibly furnish a clue to the origin of
the Chi ppe ways.

There is another mountain, the only one in fact,
that is visible from the lake at a great distance. Adja-
cent to the mountains are numerous hills, thickly
wooded and carpeted with rich moss, soft as velvet and
of beautiful variegated colors.

The mountainous edge, near the source of Lake Supe-
rior on one side, and the Mississippi River on the other,
is quite high. It commences on the south shore of
Lake Superior, and runs in a westerly direction, to tho
head of the river St. Croix.

I have now given an imperfect outline of the lakes,



THE OJIBWAY NATION. 23

rivers, and mountains of the country occupied by the
Ojibways. It is in the midst of such that they now
and have for years lived. There they roamed to the
chase and hastened to the field of combat. Their
canoes floated by the shores of those mighty lakes, or
glided smoothly down the stream. On those waters
they departed at early dawn, and returned at dusk
with loads of venison.

The war-cry resounded among those cliffs and rocky
passes, and the merry shout and song of children glad-
dened the old chieftain's heart.

In 1610, from each of those thousand islands the
smoke arose from the wigwams of a numerous tribe.

That was the day of their glory and prosperity.
Then their shouts of triumph were answered from peak
to peak, for a distance of two thousand miles west,
and four hundred north.

Review what has been said. Look at their country
and say has any nation possessed a better. The
mountains of the north covered with evergreens, shad-
ing the wide lakes. The high hills on the south, rising
cliff upon cliff, till the uppermost is concealed by the
clouds. The Missaw Bay Heights on the west, stand-
ing like towers in naked grandeur, looking down with
contempt, as it were, on the hundred streams whose
roar rises with the mist which envelops their summits.
Deep ravines, through which the streams as they
pass sing the songs of nature in soft strains, till gath-



24 TRADITIONAL HISTORV OF

eriiig strength, the waters dash over rocks in deep
caverns, and thunder forth in heavier tones.

I have stood on one of the mountain peaks and seen
a column of snow descending upon the icy waters of
Lake Superior, a distance of fifty miles, and it has
taken one day and a-half to reach the edge of the lake
which lay at the base of the mountain.

The sun rises and sets with beautiful effect. Its
rays resting upon the clouds and reflected from them,
clothe the whole extent in robes of fire ; every hill
seems blazing with the glory of the sun. In every ray
is seen the spirit of poetry.

Suppose yourself standing at a distance, and behold
ing one of the nation going up the mountain's side
near him the waters of Superior —

" Lay weary and still after storm."

Over his head the forest trees w^aved their heavy
branches. Behold him ! he stands there ruler of the
forest world. One of Nature's sons standing in her
own battlements. His erect and manly form, his easy,
graceful motion, are true indications of the exalted soul
that lives its active life vrithin. Living as he does,
amid the happiest creations of the Great Creator, he
cannot but adore and worship Him. His devotion is
pure. He

•' Sees God in storms and hoars Wim in the wind."



THE OJIBWAY NATION. 25

Nature points him up to Nature's God. I love my
country ; and will any of my readers condemn a child
of the forest for loving his country and his nation?

" Land of the forest and the rock —

Of dark-blue lake and mighty river —
Of mountains reared aloft to mock
The storm's career, the lightning's shock —
My own green land forever!"

I cannot better close this chapter than by subjoining
the following graphic description of " The Pictured
Rocks," given by G-eneral Lewis Cass :

"Upon the southern coast of Lake Superior, about
fifty miles from the Falls of St. Mary, are immense,
precipitous cliffs, called by the voyageur Le Fottrail,
the Pictured Rocks. This name has been given them
in consequence of the different appearances which they
present to the traveler, as he passes their base in his
canoe. It requires little aid from the imagination to
discern in them the castellated tower and lofty dome,
and every sublime, grotesque, or fantastic shape, which
the genins of architecture ever invented. These cliffs
are an unbroken mass of rocks, rising to the elevation
ot three hundred feet above the level of the lake, and
stretching along the coast for fifteen miles.

" The voyagers never pass this coast except in the
most profound calm; and the Indians, before they
make the attempt, offer their accustomed oblation, to



26 TRADITIONAT- HI>;T0RY OF

propitiate the favor of their Monitas. The eye instantly
searches along the eternal rampart, for a single place
of security ; but the search is vain. With an impas-
sable barrier of rocks on one side, and an interminable
expanse of water on the other, a sudden storm upon
the lake would as inevitably assure destruction of the
passenger in his frail canoe, as if he were on the brink
of the cataract of Niagara.

*' The rock itself is a sand-stone, which is disinte-


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