George Copway.

Life, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. online

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disposal, 1 shall be obliged to endeavor to interest the
American people during this summer. Having re-
ceived assurances of kindness from the various depart-
ments of government I am led to hope that at the next
Session of Congress I shall secure its aid.

My next will be a notice of the noble deeds of Poca-
hontas, the daughter of the renowned Powhatan, the
pride and glory of the American Indians.
I am, sir.

Yours, &c.




Chesapeake Bay, July 15, 1849.

james river smith and pocahontas.

Dear Sir :

The noble river which has its name from the
first adventurer in that part of our country now known
as Virginia, flows amid scenes of picturesque beauty.
It is swollen by a number of smaller streams that emp-
ty into it. I never gazed on any object in my life more
attentively than I did on that river when for the first
time I passed over its surface. I gazed thoughtfully on
either side, and fancied a bold, untutored Indian bound-
ing among its shaded coverts before the pale face came
among his tribe with those elements of sin which have
caused the downfall and almost entire extinction of his

About noon quite a stir was seen among the passen-
gers of the 'Curtis Peck,' as we passed down the river.
Many eyes were directed towards a point on our left,
and some one said, 'We shall soon see old Jamestown.'
It was at this place that the first settlement was made
by Smith and his comrades in the year 1607. Virgin-
ia can boast of the many sons she has produced to fill
the presidential chair of our nation, and of many daugh-
ters who signalized themselves by acts of bravery in
the struggle for freedom. Of these last, none exceeds
m point of disinterested benevolence, Pocahontas, the
daughter of Powhatan, the then ruling chief of that
vast area of country. Smith was taken by a party of
the warriors of Powhatan some distance from his own


residence, and after bein^r led about from village to vil-
lage as an object of wonder, escorted by a party of war-
riors dressed in skins of wild beasts, and their heads
decorated very fantastically with feathers, was led to
Werowocomoco, on the north side of the Fork River,
at that time the residence of Powhatan.

Word had previously been sent to the chief that the
pale stranger had been taken, and no doubt his plea-
sure was asked respecting the disposal of him. Smith
was taken by a guard to the door of Powhatan's lodge,
and he was not mistaken in his suppostion that he was
to be presented to that renowned prince. Around
were the wigwams of the warriors, and he was obliged
to withstand the inquisitive gaze of the people. He
says, in his narrative, that when he entered the lodge,
Powhatan sat on his throne at the upper part of the en-
closure, with a majesty he had never before seen in
Christian or pagan lands. The lofty and'bold demean-
or of the prince gave Smith a very favorable opinion
of him. His family and friends were around him, and
his couch was hung with rich furs.

A consultation was held to decide as to what should
be done. Meanwhile, he was treated as a distinguish-
ed warrior of their nation. The queen herself brought
the water that he used in washing. She placed food
before him and desired him to eat, but the anxiety he
felt as to his late prevented him from partaking. It
was at leufrth decided that he should die at their hands,
as he was at the head of the band of strangers that had
come among them, and they knew not but that his in-
tentions were evil.

Preparations for his execution were quickly made —
the song and the dance begun. All gazed at the vie-


tim with wild intensity. The woman brought their
young to look at the pale stranger. Young and old
pitied his fate, but, according to the custom of the peo-
ple, remained silent, and looked on the fulfillment of
the decrees of the agad.

The warriors were commanded by Powhatan to
bring a stone from the side of the river. AH being ar-
ranged, the victim was seized by two warriors, and led
to the place of execution. Smith showed not the least
sign of fear, but calmly laid himself down as if to
sleep, upon the spot from which he never expected to
rise. The warriors stood with their heavy clubs rais-
ed, which, at the beck of Powhatan, would fall upon
the bold adventurer. iVlen, women and children sur-
rounded the spot, and it was at this time that they
sympathized with the ill-fated man.

A little girl was now seen whispering in the ears of
Powhatan. Her simple and childlike actions betrayed
the feelings of a heart which pitied Smith. She spake
earnestly, and held on his arms, as if she would not be
denied her request. The chief advanced. One motion
from him, and all would be over. A shout pierced the
air, and Powhatan gave the word. As soon as given,
Pocahontas flew from beside her father, and flung her-
self between Smith and the uplifted club of the warrior,
and gazed with imploring look and eyes bathed in
tears, upon her father. O what a lovely picture ! — ■
how godlike ! how noble ! Hard-hearted must that
man be who could not be moved by such an exhibition
The warrior's arms hung down ; the fiery flash of Pow •
hatan's eye disappeared, as he bade his warriors desist.
Pocahontas having done her work, ran among the crowd,


to escape the gaze of the people. Smith was liberated,
and by special favor became an inmate of the chief's

Pocahontas was but ten or eleven years old when
this occurred, and how romantic must have been the
scene ! Heroic was the deed which has immortalized
her name ! Keader, she was a savage! And it has
been said of her race, that they are withont tears, un-
feeling, cold, cruel, revengeful ', but show me, if you
can, in American hisory a parallel.

A few words more. First, historians have disagreed
as to the motive that influenced her in the matter.
Some say that Pocahontas loved Smith. I cannot find
anything in the history of those times that leads me to
suppose that the love she had for him was any greater
than that she had for all her fellow-creatures. Smith
has been charged with ingratitude on account of his
not reciprocating the love which some have supposed
the Indian girl bestowed upon him. 1, for one, admire
the deed of Pocahontas, and have have always regar-
ded Smith as a worthy man in every particular. As a
warrior, bold — in his schemes, fearless — in danger,
calm — and in misfortune, never despairing. Notwith-
standing all these traits of character, I still must cen-
sure his after conduct. When Pocahontas was in
England, he did not notice her, nor even acknowledge
her as a benefactor, although by periling her life she
had saved his own. Such conduct on his part stamps
his character with a foul blot, which his deeds of bra-
very can never conceal.

Second, her name which must have been given her
after her rescue of Smith — indicates that her nation


looked on her with some suspieion — Pah-ka-07i-tis. In
this, she suffered wrongfully. Partially disowned by
her nation, the neglect she received in England at the
hands of Smith while in England, was more than her
spirit could bear, and after receiving Christian bap-
tism, she died at Gravesend, England in the year

Pocahontas ! No marble would long enough endure,
to hand down the record of her noble deeds to all who
should listen to the story of her heroism. You will
not wonder that I admire her character, or think her
name merits a place among the great of earth.
I am yours, etc.,

Kah-ge-ga-gah bowh,

P. S. I leave soon for the West. You will next hear
from me at Niagara; then from the Falls of St. Marie
— Lake Superior — Falls of St Anthony, and the Rocky

(For the Chicago Tribune.)


" He sucks intelligence in every clime,
And spreads the honey of his deep research,
At his return — a rich repast for me."

The many sources of recreation and amusement which
a traveller finds along bis way in the West, are varied
and interesting, and seem to me a world of successive
glowing scenes. My memory still burns with the heat
of excitement, caused by the animating objects of inter-
est with which 1 have often been surrounded. The wide
spread Prairies — the gardens of Nature — the streams of
crystal waters which roll their tides over the pebbled
course of vales, singing their music to the sides — the
bluffs towering on each side of the 'Father of the Waters,'
as it seeks its level in the Ocean, far off in the sunny
South — the mounds which often, one after the other, in
chains, skirt their way through woodlands and then on
the Prairies — the relics, or rather the tomb-stones of by-
gone generations now resting in their silence — the wav-
ing grass over the rolling Prairie by gentle winds, and
the thousand wild flowers which often makes the very
air sweet with their fragrance. O, the West, the West,
the mighty West for me ! — where groves wave their
tops to the sweet air, wholesome, fresh and pure ; and
where game roams with the child of the forest, from brook


to brook, and quaffs wholesome waters as they gush
from the side of hills.

During the past season, wandering over the great West,
I found much pleasure, perhaps more, where few would
feel interested. The same things may not excite in the
minds of many, while, from my own nature, and the early
associations of childhood, they seem natural.

In ascending the waters of the Mississippi, I found
many things which gave me pleasure. The towering
naked bluffs on the banks are imposingly grand at times.
They appear like giant sentinels watching with vigilence
th€! silent waters of the river below. In the morning
they appear to blaze forth in the air, when the sun arose
with an unclouded sky.

It was just evening, when the boat, which carried a
full freight of merchandise and passengers, neared the
"mountain in the water," about 90 miles above the
town of Prairie du Chien. We had been puffing and
puffing all the day long, and <»urboat was still heading
up stream. On our right, was a vast wilderness, and
on our left was to be seen the naked peaks of the bluffs,
as though in the act of falling on the waters, as they
dimly appeared, while the rays of the sun rapidly dis-
appeared from the waters of the great river. Between
these is the noted mountain called the 'mountain in the
water,' because it is surrounded at its base with the
waters of the river. When we were nearly ten miles
from it we could discover the woods which skirted the
edge — the lone pine and cedar trees which deck its
brow. The sun no longer reflected on the waters, nor
its rays lighted the lillies of the vale, but, the mountain
in the water assumed one of the grandest scenes I ever



beheld. There il was in full view, clothed in ah the
princely array of nature. The shadows of the bluffs
from the western banks began to creep up to its heights,
slowly ascending to its top. All around in nature's
own garb and in nature's own fires glowed with its
splendor. The wild water fowl in flocks ascended, and
in descending lit on the surface of the water, and the
surrounding shore was echoing with our boat's hoarse
puff, which seemed animated with the pleasing view.
The top of the mountain was in a blaze — the red sky
of the west reflected in the waters, and the sun's rays
began to disrobe the mountain; "five minutes more,"
said 1, as I held the watch in my hand, "and then the
sun will sink," and as the last rays of the sun disap-
peared, the shades of night began to creep from the
waters below, until they covered the whole from view.
The mountain and light reminded me of the death of
the virtuous, dying in full hope of immortality disrobed
of their cares ; and to slumber in submission to the will
of a propitious God.

The next morning, at sunrise, we were just entering
the lake called 'Lake Pepin.' The river here widens,
and the bluffs can be seen unobscured on each shore.
The pebbly beach is full of cornelians, which are found
along its shore. One of those bluffs is noted for being
the place where a Sioux damsel, some eighty years
ago, made a fatal leap on account of disappointed love.

The numerous things of interest which 1 found in
the Upper Mississippi-, I cannot now speak of; but my
visit to the Government offices of the Territory, and
to the American Fur Co., having been satisfactory, as
well as to the Indians, whom I had seen, in pursuance



of the great object of concentrating the North- West
Indian tribes, which every where met with favor.

I had two days of hunting to my satisfaction, which
will last me until next summer. One was to hunt with
the gun j and having secured a brace of pigeons and
about a dozen of wild ducks, I returned that day satis-
fied J but the following, at the crystal waters of St.
Croix, was worth all the shooting, when with my ang-
ling rod I caught over three dozen of the very best of
speckled trout. My hands twitch at th,e recollection
of that day's sport, I cannot write intelligibly, and will
finish in my next the ramble I made in the valley.

I remain,

Yours, &c.

or, G. CopwAY, Ojibway Nation.
Chicago, III, Oct. IQth, 1849.






On the subject of Concentrating the Indians of the
North- West, upon Territory, to be set apart by the
General Government.

Last evening the celebrated Ojibvvay Chief, Kah-ge-
GA-GAH-BOWH, or Geo. Copway, lecturcd in the City
Saloon, upon the above subject, to a large and highly
gratified audience. The lecturer commenced by refer-
ing to the present condition of the Indians — the calamit-
ous effects of the policy pursued towards them by the
U. S. Government — the causes which have heretofore
operated to check their progess in civilization, and to
thwart the efforts constantly being made by philanthro-
pists who have gone among them for that purpose — all
going to show that the inevitable destiny of the Indian
race, is a yet deeper condition of degredation, of ignor-
ance of, barbarism, and final extirpation, unless some
scheme be devised for the amelioration of their condi-

Mr. Copway, after having obtained his education, at
the hands of some benevolent gentlemen of this State,
during the years 1838-9, returned to his nation, fired
with the noble impulse of expending his energies in la-
bors for the elevation of his people. For years he toiled
and planned in this behalf, established schools and mis-
eions — instructed his people in the art of Agriculture —


endeavored to teach them the true principles of govern-
ment, and all other things calculated to advance them in
civilization and individual happiness. These labors gave
evidence of abundant fruit; but it was only for a day.
A stroke of policy on the part of the General Govern-
ment — the purchase of lands owned by the tribe — their
removal to another territory — the influences under
which this removal was affected — the duplicity of agents
— the cupidity of contractors and traders — the malign
influences and corrupting examples daily around and
before them — these obliterated all traces of past labors
— destroyed in a day the work of years and laid prostrate
the hopes that had animated the hearts of the laborers.

Mr. Copway had thus become fully convinced that
under existing circumstances the cause of his brethren
must ever remain hopeless, unless something be done
to place them in a position entirely removed from the
causes which have heretofore barred their progress in
civilization. Impressed with this belief he had devo-
ted much serious reflection to the subject, the result
of which is embodied in the following scheme :

The Indians of the Norlh-west consisting of about
100,000 souls, to be concentrated upon Territory to be
set apart to their use in perpetuity, by the Government
of the U. S. one hundred miles north of Council Bluffs,
on the east bank of the Missouri river. The territory
thus given to be one hundred and fifty miles square.
A government to be at once organized, by the appoint-
ment of a Governor (who shall be a white man) Lieut.
Governor and Secretary of State, by the President of
the U. S. A Territorial Council to be elected by the


different tribes, in proportion to their population, which
council shall pass all laws needfull for the government
of the whole people, subject to the veto of the Governor.
The lands to be distributed, free of cost, to the people,
subject to such regulations of transfer and limitation as
the council shall establish. One of which, however,
must be that it shall never be transferred to white men.
Common schools and higher seminaries of learning to
be established throughout the the territory, a leading
branch in all of which shall be the science and practice
of Agriculture. White resident? to be excluded except
such as shall be employed by the U. S. and Territo-
rial Governments. For the present the Territory to
be represented at Washington by Commisioners to
be appointed by the Council. Enjoying these facilities
for civilization — from the necessity of things becom-
ing confirmed in local habits, and compelled to the
pursuits which elevate and refine — having become fa-
miliarized with our instiiutions and prepared to ap-
preciate, love and live under them — in process of time
the Indian Territory to apply for admission into the
Union as a State, and become an integral part of the
great confederacy.

Such is a meagre outline of Mr. Copway's plan. The
arguments by which he supported it were plausible
and forcible. His audience were carried along with
him, and by loud and repeated applause testified to the
reasonableness and justice of his arguments and con-
clulsions. We regret that our limits prevent us from
giving a more complete synopsis of the address, which
occupied near two hours in the delivery. Mr. Copway
is a forcible speaker — at times witty, convulsing his au-


dience with laughter, and now thrilling them with bursts
of lofty eloquence, and now convincing them by co-
gent logic. The perioration of Mr. C.'s speech was
touching and impressive in the highest degi'ee. No one
that heard it will readily forget it, or easily loose the im-
pressions made by it.

We may add in conclusion, that whatever may be said
in regard to the plausibility of Mr. Copway's scheme, all
must admit that this much and more he may in all justice
claim from us for his people. He, as representative of
those who once owned the entire continent from sea to
sea, without a rival to dispute their claims, may well
demand of us who by the law of might have forcibly
taken posession of their fair heritage, so small a boon
as the one he now craves from the American peoplew


Yesterday afternoon, amidst the celebration of the sol-
emnities of religion that took place in this City of Chur-
ches, few perhaps could have produced more interest
than the sermon of the Rev. Mr. Copway, otherwise
known as the Indian Chief, Kak-ge-ga-gah-bowh. It
was delivered before a large congregation in the church
at the corner of Tillory and Lawrence Sts. The sub-
ject of the lecture was principally confined to the influ-
ence of Christianity with all its sublime influences among
the untutored children of the West— the remnants of
those who w'ere once possessors of this soil. The ad-


vance of the pioneer white man, as he bore his fire-water
and the worst passions of the white man, with tribes
whose habits taught them to be contented with that which
nature in all its abundance had produced, were the sub-
jects upon which he dilated. If the people of this coun-
try would send such men as William Penn among them,
they would be able to reciprocate the kindness of their
white brethern. But alas ! on account of the want of
schools amidst the Indians, may be caused that subser-
viency to their customs, that makes them resort again to
the blanket and the wigwam. Their training not being
attended to according to the persuasion of the Christian
religion he must go back instead of going forward. The
things which are best adapted to advance the natives of
the West, are not those that have been the best adapted
to their customs. Education in a different form is ne-
cessary. The doctrine to love one another by binding
the good fellowship of all nations, is the one that should
be inculcated to them.

Human nature is the same everywhere, and the same
feelings actuate the hearts of the Christian.

The Rev. Gentle-man attributed to these as well as
other causes, the interception of the advance of civiliza-
tion amongst the children of the West. There are other
reasons that he said might be given, that retarded their
improvement. This was the introduction of the disease
called the small pox, and others that were disposed
among them, which their knowledge of medicine was
unable to control.

The second is the introduction of fire-arms from the
han^ls of the French, Spanish and English, which has
thinned their ranks. The bravery of the Indian has caused


him to be placed in the front ranks ', and soon his tribe
became depopulated. The happiness that reigned
around the fire-side of the Indian's domestic circle, has
been dashed to the ground before these influences ; and
the introduction of intoxicating liquors, that deprave the
moral pulsations of the heart, and send him to an un-
timely grave.

It was this that destroyed the brigtest virtues of a
noble people. The tide of avarice and thirst of gold
runs on and brings to the trader profit, at the expense
of demoralization and death. It causes them to covet
an enormous territory that is not cultivated, because
it is so good — that roads and farms and house should
spring up within it, and cities become populated. The
natural consequence that will ensue, is that resistance
will follow, and the boom of the cann( m, and the roll of
the warriors gun, will sound the last requiem of a de-
parted race.

The Rev. Gentleman then concluded by stating that
such horrors would be averted by selecting a home
that would afford them a resting place, in the Mines-
otta territory, on the banks of the Mississippi, until in
the course of time, they would learn the arts and scien-
ces, and become attached to the place of their concen-

The above is but a slight sketch of the remarks that
were delivered ; remarks which lead many to hope
that the time may yet come when the aborigines of a
new world — which has afforded a resting place to the
tribes that were persecuted by the old, when new ideas
had dawned upon them, and made them seek these
shores to acquire a liberty that was denied them at home


— will finally become a portion of civilized humanity,
and worthy associates with their pale brethren, both in
this world and the next.


This celebrated chief of the Ojibways, after a laborious
tour South, has returned to our city. He is engaged to
deliver lectures in Boston and vicinity the coming two
weeks. His lectures on the Manners and Customs of
his people are very interesting. The one delivered not
long since in this City upon the " Romance and Poetry
of the Indians" was an interesting and beautiful produc-

We purpose in this notice, however, to mention only
his lectures on Temperance, hoping to answer the many
queries made to us on this subject by friends from va-
rious parts of New England. To this end we extract
from the Charleston Courier, a notice of one of his lec-
tures in that City, which comes so near the point, that
we give it preference to any thing we can write.

"A crowded house assembled to listen to Mr. Cop-
way, the Indian Chief and orator. He argued the
cause of Temperance in every variety of manner, in-
sisting mainly, as was to be expected, on its profound
and even awful relations to the Red nations of the


West. Shouting aloud in clear tones, he exclaimed
with true Indian enthusiasm, in reference to that cause,
"//orezV!" Then, with manner more subdued, he
dwelt, on the reasons why he loved it. He demonstra-
ted successively that it was favorable to humanity,
favorable to morality, and favorable to religion. With
burning indignation he depicted the wrongs that had

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Online LibraryGeorge CopwayLife, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. → online text (page 14 of 15)