A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison
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His enemies fell at his feet! He was brave and courageous in war! As the fawn he was harmless: his friendship was ardent: his temper was gentle: his pity was great! Our brother, our brother, alas! But why do we grieve for his loss? In the strength of a warrior, undaunted he left us, to fight by the side of the Chiefs! His war-whoop was shrill! His rifle well aimed laid his enemies low: his tomahawk drank of their blood: and his knife flayed their scalps while yet covered with gore! And why do we mourn? Though he fell on the field of the slain, with glory he fell, and his spirit went up to the land of his fathers in war!
Then why do we mourn? With transports of joy they received him, and fed him, and clothed him, and welcomed him there! Oh friends, he is happy; then dry up your tears! His spirit has seen our distress, and sent us a helper whom with pleasure we greet. Dickewamis has come: then let us receive her with joy! She is handsome and pleasant! In the place of our brother she stands in our tribe. With care we will guard her from trouble; and may she be happy till her spirit shall leave us.
In the course of that ceremony, from mourning they became serene—joy sparkled in their countenances, and they seemed to rejoice over me as over a long-lost child. I was made welcome amongst them as a sister to the two squaws before mentioned, and was called Dickewamis; which being interpreted, signifies a pretty girl, a handsome girl, or a pleasant, good thing. That is the name by which I have ever since been called by the Indians. I afterwards learned that the ceremony I at that time passed through, was that of adoption.
The two squaws had lost a brother in Washington's war, sometime in the year before, and in consequence of his death went up to Fort Pitt, on the day on which I arrived there, in order to receive a prisoner or oil enemy's scalp, to supply their loss. It is a custom of the Indians, when one of their number is slain or taken prisoner in battle, to give to the nearest relative to the dead or absent, a prisoner, if they have chanced to take one, and if not, to give him the scalp of an enemy.
On the return of the Indians from conquest, which is always announced by peculiar shoutings, demonstrations of joy, and the exhibition of some trophy of victory, the mourners come forward and make their claims. If they receive a prisoner, it is at their option either to satiate their vengeance by taking his life in the most cruel manner they can conceive of; or, to receive and adopt him into the family, in the place of him whom they have lost.
All the prisoners that are taken in battle and carried to the encampment or town by the Indians, are given to the bereaved families, till their number is made good. And unless the mourners have but just received the news of their bereavement, and are under the operation of a paroxysm of grief, anger and revenge; or, unless the prisoner is very old, sickly, or homely, they generally save him, and treat him kindly. But if their mental wound is fresh, their loss so great that they deem it irreparable, or if their prisoner or prisoners do not meet their approbation, no torture, let it be ever so cruel, seems sufficient to make them satisfaction.
It is family, and not national, sacrifices amongst the Indians, that has given them an indelible stamp as barbarians, and identified their character with the idea which is generally formed of unfeeling ferocity, and the most abandoned cruelty.
It was my happy lot to be accepted for adoption: and at the time of the ceremony I was received by the two squaws, to supply tile place of their mother in the family; and I was ever considered and treated by them as a real sister, the same as though I had been horn of their mother. We lived three summers at Wiishto, and spent each winter on the Sciota. The first summer of our living at Wiishto, a party of Delaware Indians came up the river, took up their residence, and lived in common with us. I have forgotten the names of all of them except one, which was Priscilla Ramsay.
A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison by James E. Seaver
She was a very handsome, good natured girl, and was married soon after she came to Wiishto to Capt. Little Billy's uncle, 52 who went with her on a visit to her friends in the states. She, after his death, married a white man by the name of Nettles, and now lives with him if she is living on Grand Riv- er, Upper Canada.
Not long after the Delawares came to live with us, at Wiishto, my sisters told me that I must go and live with one of them, 54 whose name was She- nin-jee. Not daring to cross them, or disobey their commands, with a great degree of reluctance I went; and Sheninjee and I were married 55 according to Indian custom. He supported a degree of dignity far above his rank, and merited and received the confidence and friendship of all the tribes with whom he was acquainted. Yet, Sheninjee was an Indian. The idea of spending my days with him, at first seemed perfectly irreconcilable to my feel- ings: but his good nature, generosity, tenderness, and friendship towards me, soon gained my affec- tion; and, strange as it may seem, I loved him!
To me he was ever kind in sickness, and always treated me with gentleness; in fact, he was an agreeable husband, and a comfortable companion.
In the second summer of my living at Wiishto, I had a child 58 at the time that the kernels of corn first appeared on the cob. When I was taken sick, Sheninjee was absent, and I was sent to a small shed, on the bank of the river, which was made of boughs, where I was obliged to stay till my husband returned. My two sisters, who were my only com- panions, attended me, and on the second day of my confinement my child was born; but it lived only two days. It was a girl: and notwithstanding the shortness of the time that I possessed it, it was a great grief to me to lose it.
After the birth of my child, I was very sick, but was not allowed to go into the house for two weeks; 59 when, to my great joy, Sheninjee returned, and I was taken in and as comfortably provided for as our situation would admit of. My disease contin- ued to increase for a number of days; and I became so far reduced that my recovery was despaired of by my friends, and I concluded that my troubles would soon be finished. At length, however, my complaint took a favorable turn, and by the time that the corn was ri'pe I was able to get about. I continued to gain my health, and in the fall was able to go to our winter quarters, on the Sciota, with the Indians.
To commemorate the name of my much lamented father, I called my son Thomas Jemison. She leaves Wiishto for Fort Pitt, in company with her Husband.
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Occurrences at that place. IN the spring, when Thomas was three or four moons [months] old, we returned from Sciota to Wiishto, 61 and soon after set out to go to Fort Pitt, to dispose of our fur and skins, that we had taken in the winter, and procure some necessary articles for the use of our family. I had then been with the Indians four summers and four winters, and had become so far accustom- ed to their mode of living, habits and dispositions, that my anxiety to get away, to be set at liberty, and leave them, had almost subsided.
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With them was my home; my family was there, and there I had many friends to whom I was warmly attached in consideration of the favors, affection and friend- ship with which they had uniformly treated me, from the time of my adoption. We had no ploughs on the Ohio; but performed the whole process of plant- ing and hoeing with a small tool that resembled, in some respects, a hoe with a very short handle. Our cooking consisted in pounding our corn into samp or hommany, 62 boiling the hommany, making now and then a cake and baking it in the ashes, and in boiling or roasting our venison.
As our cooking and eating utensils consisted of a hommany block and pestle, a small kettle, a knife or two, and a few vessels of bark or wood, it required but little time to keep them in order for use. Spinning, weaving, sewing, stocking knitting, and the like, are arts which have never been prac- tised in the Indian tribes generally. After the re- volutionary war, I learned to sew, so that I could make my own clothing after a poor fashion; but f the other domestic arts I have been wholly igno- rant of the application of, since my captivity. Our clothing was fastened together with strings of deer skin, and tied on with the same.
In that manner we lived, without any of those jealousies, quarrels, and revengeful battles between families and individuals, which have been com- mon in the Indian tribes since the introduction of ardent spirits amongst them. The use of ardent spirits amongst the Indians, and the attempts which have been made to civilize and christianize them by the white people, has constantly made them worse and worse; in- creased their vices, and robbed them of many of their virtues; and will ultimately produce their extermination.
I have seen, in a number of in- stances, the effects of education upon some of our Indians, who were taken when young, from their families, and placed at school before they had had an opportunity to contract many Indian habits, and there kept till they arrived to manhood; but I have never seen one of those but what wac an Indian in every respect after he returned.