Henry David Thoreau.

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off up the river for moose at dark, before we arrived at
their camp. This Indian camp was a slight, patched-
up affair, which had stood there several weeks, built
shed-fashion, open to the fire on the west. If the wind
changed, they could turn it round. It was formed by two
forked stakes and a cross-bar, with rafters slanted from
this to the ground. The covering was partly an old sail,
partly birch-bark, quite imperfect, but securely tied on,
and coming down to the ground on the sides. A large
log was rolled up at the back side for a headboard, and


two or three moose-hides were spread on the ground
with the hair up. Various articles of their wardrobe were
tucked around the sides and corners, or under the roof.
They were smoking moose meat on just such a crate as is
represented by With, in De Bry's " Collectio Peregrina-
tionum," published in 1588, and which the natives of
Brazil called boucan (whence buccaneer) , on which were
frequently shown pieces of human flesh drying along
with the rest. It was erected in front of the camp over
the usual large fire, in the form of an oblong square.
Two stout forked stakes, four or five feet apart and five
feet high, were driven into the ground at each end, and
then two poles ten feet long were stretched across over
the fire, and smaller ones laid transversely on these a foot
apart. On the last hung large, thin slices of moose meat
smoking and drying, a space being left open over the
centre of the fire. There was the whole heart, black as a
thirty-two pound ball, hanging at one corner. They said
that it took three or four days to cure this meat, and it
would keep a year or more. Refuse pieces lay about on
the ground in different stages of decay, and some pieces
also in the fire, half buried and sizzling in the ashes,
as black and dirty as an old shoe. These last I at first
thought were thrown away, but afterwards found that
they were being cooked. Also a tremendous rib-piece
was roasting before the fire, being impaled on an up
right stake forced in and out between the ribs. There
was a moose-hide stretched and curing on poles like ours,
and quite a pile of cured skins close by. They had killed
twenty-two moose within two months, but, as they
could use but very little of the meat, they left the car-


cases on the ground. Altogether it was about as savage
a sight as was ever witnessed, and I was carried back at
once three hundred years. There were many torches of
birch-bark, shaped like straight tin horns, lying ready
for use on a stump outside.

For fear of dirt, we spread our blankets over their
hides, so as not to touch them anywhere. The St.
Francis Indian and Joe alone were there at first, and we
lay on our backs talking with them till midnight. They
were very sociable, and, when they did not talk with us,
kept up a steady chatting in their own language. We
heard a small bird just after dark, which, Joe said,
sang at a certain hour in the night, at ten o'clock,
he believed. We also heard the hylodes and tree-toads,
and the lumberers singing in their camp a quarter of a
mile off. I told them that I had seen pictured in old
books pieces of human flesh drying on these crates;
whereupon they repeated some tradition about the
Mohawks eating human flesh, what parts they pre
ferred, etc., and also of a battle with the Mohawks near
Moosehead, in which many of the latter were killed ; but
I found that they knew but little of the history of their
race, and could be entertained by stories about their
ancestors as readily as any way. At first I was nearly
roasted out, for I lay against one side of the camp,
and felt the heat reflected not only from the birch-bark
above, but from the side; and again I remembered the
sufferings of the Jesuit missionaries, and what extremes
of heat and cold the Indians were said to endure. I strug
gled long between my desire to remain and talk with
them and my impulse to rush out and stretch myself on


the cool grass; and when I was about to take the last
step, Joe, hearing my murmurs, or else being uncom
fortable himself, got up and partially dispersed the fire.
I suppose that that is Indian manners, to defend

While lying there listening to the Indians, I amused
myself with trying to guess at their subject by their ges
tures, or some proper name introduced. There can be
no more startling evidence of their being a distinct and
comparatively aboriginal race than to hear this unaltered
Indian language, which the white man cannot speak nor
understand. We may suspect change and deterioration
in almost every other particular but the language which
is so wholly unintelligible to us. It took me by surprise,
though I had found so many arrowheads, and convinced
me that the Indian was not the invention of historians
and poets. It was a purely wild and primitive Ameri
can sound, as much as the barking of a chickaree, and
I could not understand a syllable of it; but Paugus,
had he been there, would have understood it. These
Abenakis gossiped, laughed, and jested, in the language
in which Eliot's Indian Bible is written, the language
which has been spoken in New England who shall say
how long ? These were the sounds that issued from the
wigwams of this country before Columbus was born;
they have not yet died away; and, with remarkably few
exceptions, the language of their forefathers is still
copious enough for them. I felt that I stood, or rather
lay, as near to the primitive man of America, that night,
as any of its discoverers ever did.

In the midst of their conversation, Joe suddenly


appealed to me to know how long Moosehead Lake

Meanwhile, as we lay there, Joe was making and
trying his horn, to be ready for hunting after midnight.
The St. Francis Indian also amused himself with sound
ing it, or rather calling through it; for the sound is made
with the voice, and not by blowing through the horn.
The latter appeared to be a speculator in moose-hides.
He bought my companion's for two dollars and a quar
ter, green. Joe said that it was worth two and a half at
Oldtown. Its chief use is for moccasins. One or two of
these Indians wore them. I was told that, by a recent
law of Maine, foreigners are not allowed to kill moose
there at any season ; white Americans can kill them only
at a particular season, but the Indians of Maine at all
seasons. The St. Francis Indian accordingly asked my
companion for a wighiggin, or bill, to show, since he was
a foreigner. He lived near Sorel. I found that he could
write his name very well, Tahmunt Swasen. One Ellis,
an old white man of Guilford, a town through which
we passed, not far from the south end of Moosehead.
was the most celebrated moose-hunter of those parts.
Indians and whites spoke with equal respect of him.
Tahmunt said that there were more moose here than
in the Adirondack country in New York, where he had
hunted; that three years before there were a great many
about, and there were a great many now in the woods,
but they did not come out to the water. It was of no use
to hunt them at midnight, they would not come out
then. I asked Sabattis, after he came home, if the moose
never attacked him. He answered that you must not


fire many times, so as to mad him. " I fire once and hit
him in the right place, and in the morning I find him.
He won't go far. But if you keep firing, you mad him.
I fired once five bullets, every one through the heart,
and he did not mind 'em at all ; it only made him more
mad." I asked him if they did not hunt them with dogs.
He said that they did so in winter, but never in the sum
mer, for then it was of no use; they would run right off
straight and swiftly a hundred miles.

Another Indian said that the moose, once scared,
would run all day. A dog will hang to their lips, and be
carried along till he is swung against a tree and drops
off. They cannot run on a "glaze," though they can
run in snow four feet deep ; but the caribou can run on
ice. They commonly find two or three moose together.
They cover themselves with water, all but their noses,
to escape flies. He had the horns of what he called " the
black moose that goes in low lands." These spread three
or four feet. The "red moose" was another kind,
" running on mountains," and had horns which spread
six feet. Such were his distinctions. Both can move their
horns. The broad flat blades are covered with hair,
and are so soft, when the animal is alive, that you can
run a knife through them. They regard it as a good or
bad sign, if the horns turn this way or that. His caribou
horns had been gnawed by mice in his wigwam, but he
thought that the horns neither of the moose nor of the
caribou were ever gnawed while the creature was alive,
as some have asserted. An Indian, whom I met after this
at Oldtown, who had carried about a bear and other
animals of Maine to exhibit, told me that thirty years


ago there were not so many moose in Maine as now;
also, that the moose were very easily tamed, and would
come back when once fed, and so would deer, but not
caribou. The Indians of this neighborhood are about
as familiar with the moose as we are with the ox, having
associated with them for so many generations. Father
Rasles, in his Dictionary of the Abenaki Language,
gives not only a word for the male moose (aianbe), and
another for the female (herar), but for the bone which is
in the middle of the heart of the moose (!), and for his
left hind leg.

There were none of the small deer up there ; they are
more common about the settlements. One ran into the
city of Bangor two years before, and jumped through
a window of costly plate glass, and then into a mirror,
where it thought it recognized one of its kind, and out
again, and so on, leaping over the heads of the crowd,
until it was captured. This the inhabitants speak of
as the deer that went a-shopping. The last-mentioned
Indian spoke of the lunxus or Indian devil (which I take
to be the cougar, and not the Gulo luscus), as the only
animal in Maine which man need fear; it would follow a
man, and did not mind a fire. He also said that bea
vers were getting to be pretty numerous again, where we
went, but their skins brought so little now that it was not
profitable to hunt them.

I had put the ears of our moose, which were ten inches
long, to dry along with the moose meat over the fire,
wishing to preserve them; but Sabattis told me that I
must skin and cure them, else the hair would all come
off. He observed that they made tobacco pouches of the


skins of their ears, putting the two together inside to
inside. I asked him how he got fire; and he produced
a little cylindrical box of friction matches. He also had
flints and steel, and some punk, which was not dry; I
think it was from the yellow birch. " But suppose you
upset, and all these and your powder get wet." " Then,"
said he, "we wait till we get to where there is some
fire." I produced from my pocket a little vial, contain
ing matches, stoppled water-tight, and told him, that,
though we were upset, we should still have some dry
matches; at which he stared without saying a word.

We lay awake thus a long while talking, and they
gave us the meaning of many Indian names of lakes and
streams in the vicinity, especially Tahmunt. I asked
the Indian name of Moosehead Lake. Joe answered
Sebamook; Tahmunt pronounced it Sebemook. When I
asked what it meant, they answered, Moosehead Lake.
At length, getting my meaning, they alternately repeated
the word over to themselves, as a philologist might,
Sebamook, Sebamook, now and then comparing
notes in Indian ; for there was a slight difference in their
dialects; and finally Tahmunt said, " Ugh! I know,"
and he rose up partly on the moose-hide, " like as
here is a place, and there is a place," pointing to different
parts of the hide, " and you take water from there and
fill this, and it stays here; that is Sebamook." I under
stood him to mean that it was a reservoir of water which
did not run away, the river coming in on one side and
passing out again near the same place, leaving a per
manent bay. Another Indian said, that it meant Large
Bay Lake, and that Sebago and Sebec, the names of


other lakes, were kindred words, meaning large open
water. Joe said that Seboois meant Little River. I
observed their inability, often described, to convey an
abstract idea. Having got the idea, though indistinctly,
they groped about in vain for words with which to
express it. Tahmunt thought that the whites called it
Moosehead Lake, because Mount Kineo, which com
mands it, is shaped like a moose's head, and that Moose
River was so called " because the mountain points right
across the lake to its mouth." John Josselyn, writing
about 1673, says, " Twelve miles from Casco Bay, and
passable for men and horses, is a lake, called by the In
dians Sebug. On the brink thereof, at one end, is the
famous rock, shaped like a moose deer or helk, diapha
nous, and called the Moose Rock." He appears to have
confounded Sebamook with Sebago, which is nearer,
but has no " diaphanous " rock on its shore.

I give more of their definitions, for what they are
worth, partly because they differ sometimes from the
commonly received ones. They never analyzed these
words before. After long deliberation and repeating of
the word, for it gave much trouble, Tahmunt said
that Chesuncook meant a place where many streams
emptied in ( ?), and he enumerated them, Penobscot,
Umbazookskus, Cusabesex, Red Brook, etc. " Caucom-
gomoc, what does that mean ? " " What are those
large white birds?" he asked. " Gulls," said I. "Ugh!
Gull Lake." Pammadumcook, Joe thought, meant the
Lake with Gravelly Bottom or Bed. Kenduskeag,
Tahmunt concluded at last, after asking if birches went
up it, for he said that he was not much acquainted


with it, meant something like this : " You go up
Penobscot till you come to Kenduskeag, and you go by,
you don't turn up there. That is Kenduskeag." (?)
Another Indian, however, who knew the river better,
told us afterward that it meant Little Eel River. Mat-
tawamkeag was a place where two rivers meet. (?)
Penobscot was Rocky River. One writer says that this
was " originally the name of only a section of the main
channel, from the head of the tide-water to a short dis
tance above Oldtown."

A very intelligent Indian, whom we afterward met,
son-in-law of Neptune, gave us also these other defini
tions: Umbazookskus, Meadow Stream; Millinoket,
Place of Islands; Aboljacarmegus, Smooth-Ledge Falls
(and Deadwater) ; Aboljacarmeguscook, the stream
emptying in (the last was the word he gave when I
asked about Aboljacknagesic, which he did not recog
nize); Mattahumkeag, Sand-Creek Pond; Piscataquis,
Branch of a River.

I asked our hosts what Musketaquid, the Indian name
of Concord, Massachusetts, meant; but they changed it
to Musketicook, and repeated that, and Tahmunt said
that it meant Dead Stream, which is probably true,
Cook appears to mean stream, and perhaps quid sig
nifies the place or ground. When I asked the meaning
of the names of two of our hills, they answered that they
were another language. As Tahmunt said that he traded
at Quebec, my companion inquired the meaning of the
word Quebec, about which there has been so much
question. He did not know, but began to conjecture.
He asked what those great ships were called that carried


soldiers. " Men-of-war," we answered. " Well," he said,
"when the English ships came up the river, they could
not go any farther, it was so narrow there ; they must go
back, go-back, that 's Que-bec." I mention this
to show the value of his authority in the other cases.

Late at night the other two Indians came home from
moose-hunting, not having been successful, aroused the
fire again, lighted their pipes, smoked awhile, took
something strong to drink, and ate some moose meat,
and, finding what room they could, lay down on the
moose-hides; and thus we passed the night, two white
men and four Indians, side by side.

When I awoke in the morning the weather was driz
zling. One of the Indians was lying outside, rolled in
his blanket, on the opposite side of the fire, for want of
room. Joe had neglected to awake my companion, and
he had done no hunting that night. Tahmunt was mak
ing a cross-bar for his canoe with a singularly shaped
knife, such as I have since seen other Indians using.
The blade was thin, about three quarters of an inch
wide, and eight or nine inches long, but curved out of
its plane into a hook, which he said made it more con
venient to shave with. As the Indians very far north and
northwest use the same kind of knife, I suspect that
it was made according to an aboriginal pattern, though
some white artisans may use a similar one. The Indians
baked a loaf of flour bread in a spider on its edge before
the fire for their breakfast; and while my companion
was making tea, I caught a dozen sizable fishes in the
Penobscot, two kinds of sucker and one trout. After we
had breakfasted by ourselves, one of our bed-fellows,


who had also breakfasted, came along, and, being
invited, took a cup of tea, and finally, taking up the
common platter, licked it clean. But he was nothing to
a white fellow, a lumberer, who was continually stuffing
himself with the Indians' moose meat, and was the butt
of his companions accordingly. He seems to have
thought that it was a feast " to eat all." It is commonly
said that the white man finally surpasses the Indian on
his own ground, and it was proved true in this case. I
cannot swear to his employment during the hours of
darkness, but I saw him at it again as soon as it was
light, though he came a quarter of a mile to his work.

The rain prevented our continuing any longer in the
woods; so, giving some of our provisions and utensils
to the Indians, we took leave of them. This being the
steamer's day, I set out for the lake at once.

I walked over the carry alone and waited at the head
of the lake. An eagle, or some other large bird, flew
screaming away from its perch by the shore at my
approach. For an hour after I reached the shore there
was not a human being to be seen, and I had all that
wide prospect to myself. I thought that I heard the
sound of the steamer before she came .in sight on the
open lake. I noticed at the landing, when the steamer
came in, one of our bed-fellows, who had been a-moose-
hunting the night before, now very sprucely dressed in
a clean white shirt and fine black pants, a true Indian
dandy, who had evidently come over the carry to show
himself to any arrivers on the north shore of Moosehead
Lake, just as New York dandies take a turn up Broad
way and stand on the steps of a hotel.


Midway the lake we took on board two manly-looking
middle-aged men, with their batteau, who had been ex
ploring for six weeks as far as the Canada line, and had
let their beards grow. They had the skin of a beaver,
which they had recently caught, stretched on an oval
hoop, though the fur was not good at that season. I
talked with one of them, telling him that I had come
all this distance partly to see where the white pine, the
Eastern stuff of which our houses are built, grew, but
that on this and a previous excursion into another part
of Maine I had found it a scarce tree ; and I asked him
where I must look for it. With a smile, he answered
that he could hardly tell me. However, he said that he
had found enough to employ two teams the next win
ter in a place where there was thought to be none left.
What was considered a "tip-top" tree now was not
looked at twenty years ago, when he first went into the
business; but they succeeded very well now with what
was considered quite inferior timber then. The explorer
used to cut into a tree higher and higher up, to see if it
was false-hearted, and if there was a rotten heart as big
as his arm, he let it alone ; but now they cut such a tree
and sawed it all around the rot, and it made the very
best of boards, for in such a case they were never shaky.

One connected with lumbering operations at Bangor
told me that the largest pine belonging to his firm, cut
the previous winter, " scaled " in the woods four thou
sand five hundred feet, and was worth ninety dollars in
the log at the Bangor boom in Oldtown. They cut a
road three and a half miles long for this tree alone. He
thought that the principal locality for the white pine


that came down the Penobscot now was at the head
of the East Branch and the Allegash, about Webster
Stream and Eagle and Chamberlain lakes. Much timber
has been stolen from the public lands. (Pray, what kind
of forest-warden is the Public itself?) I heard of one
man who, having discovered some particularly fine trees
just within the boundaries of the public lands, and not
daring to employ an accomplice, cut them down, and by
means of block and tackle, without cattle, tumbled them
into a stream, and so succeeded in getting off with them
without the least assistance. Surely, stealing pine trees
in this way is not so mean as robbing hen-roosts.

We reached Monson that night, and the next day rode
to Barigor, all the way in the rain again, varying our
route a little. Some of the taverns on this road, which
were particularly dirty, were plainly in a transition state
from the camp to the house.

The next forenoon we went to Oldtown. One slender
old Indian on the Oldtown shore, who recognized my
companion, was full of mirth and gestures, like a French
man. A Catholic priest crossed to the island in the same
batteau with us. The Indian houses are framed, mostly
of one story, and in rows one behind another, at the
south end of the island, with a few scattered ones. I
counted about forty, not including the church and what
my companion called the council-house. The last,
which I suppose is their town-house, was regularly
framed and shingled like the rest. There were several
of two stories, quite neat, with front yards inclosed, and
one at least had green blinds. Here and there were


moose-hides stretched and drying about them. There
were no cart-paths, nor tracks of horses, but footpaths ;
very little land cultivated, but an abundance of weeds,
indigenous and naturalized; more introduced weeds
than useful vegetables, as the Indian is said to cultivate
the vices rather than the virtues of the white man. Yet
this village was cleaner than I expected, far cleaner than
such Irish villages as I have seen. The children were not
particularly ragged nor dirty. The little boys met us
with bow in hand and arrow on string, and cried, " Put
up a cent." Verily, the Indian has but a feeble hold
on his bow now ; but the curiosity of the white man is
insatiable, and from the first he has been eager to witness
this forest accomplishment. That elastic piece of wood
with its feathered dart, so sure to be unstrung by con
tact with civilization, will serve for the type, the coat-of-
arms of the savage. Alas for the Hunter Race ! the white
man has driven off their game, and substituted a cent in
its place. I saw an Indian woman washing at the water's
edge. She stood on a rock, and, after dipping the clothes
in the stream, laid them on the rock, and beat them with
a short club. In the graveyard, which was crowded with
graves, and overrun with weeds, I noticed an inscription
in Indian, painted on a wooden grave-board. There was
a large wooden cross on the island.

Since my companion knew him, we called on Gov
ernor Neptune, who lived in a little " ten-footer," one
of the humblest of them all. Personalities are allowable
in speaking of public men, therefore I will give the par
ticulars of our visit. He was abed. When we entered
the room, which was one half of the house, he was sitting


on the side of the bed. There was a clock hanging in one
corner. He had on a black frock coat, and black pants,
much worn, white cotton shirt, socks, a red silk hand
kerchief about his neck, and a straw hat. His black hair
was only slightly grayed. He had very broad cheeks, and
his features were decidedly and refreshingly different
from those of any of the upstart Native American party
whom I have seen. He was no darker than many old
white men. He told me that he was eighty-nine; but he
was going a-moose-hunting that fall, as he had been the
previous one. Probably his companions did the hunting.
We saw various squaws dodging about. One sat on the

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