INDIAN MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEF'S
"In the golden hued Wa-za-pe-wee-----the moon when the wild rice is gathered; When the leaves on the tall sugar-tree are as red as the breast of the robin, And the red-oaks that border the lea are aflame with the fire of the sunset, From the wide-waving fields of wild-rice, from the meadows of Pain-ta-wak-pa-dan, Where the geese and mallards rejoice, and grow fat on the bountiful harvest, Came the hunters with saddles of moose and the flesh of the bear and the bison, Came the women in birchen canoes well laden with rice from the meadows"."Tell me what a man eats and I will tell you his manners", may be an outgrown proverb, but ethnologists, with the history of the Indian race before them, claim that the water-grown foods of the Michigan Pottawatomies had much to do with their quiet dispositions. The Pottawatomies were rice eaters. If they gathered more rice than they needed they stored it for the time of need, and "when the hungry primitive man began storing away food for future use, he took a highly important step in civilization."
The fertile land cultivated by the St. Joseph county Indians, produced many vegetables unknown to the white man's table, but the Indians were not limited to garden grown delicacies. Many of his most highly prized dishes came from the rivers and lakes. One of them is described by Peter Schall, son of Charles Schall, a pioneer from Northhumberland county, Pennsylvania, in the early "thirties". Mr. Schall tells of the "pond-lily" ovens found on his father's farm when they cleared the land located on the oxbow of the St. Joseph river in Constantine township, not far from Mottville. The ovens were usually found by the point of the plow or by the stumbling of a horse as he crashed through the top. The pond-lily ovens were about twenty-two inches in diameter and sixteen or eighteen inches deep. They were made by excavating a small hole in the ground which was then lined with stones and clay. In this were placed the pond-lily roots which had been covered with clay. When they were baked they were considered a great delicacy. The ovens were sometimes also used for corn and for the cooking of water fowl and prairie chickens.
INDIAN MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS
Wild rice was not so much a delicacy as it was a necessity. The United States Bureau of Ethnology gives an excellent description of the harvesting of the wild rice and gives an excellent description of the harvesting of the wild rice and gives something, also, of its effect as a food. It states:
"The Pottawatomies have a moon called 'manominikegises' (the moon-to-gather-the-wild-rice). It is the full October moon when the annual rice harvest takes place.
"In the St. Joseph river valley, with its fresh water streams and small alluvial lakes, there grew the wild-rice. Wherever the last glacier left little mud-bottomed, waterfilled hollows, there wild-rice established itself. Water-fowl had sown the rice in flight and the Indian had carried it to his favorite lakes and streams. Indian tradition first tells of the rice as being found in the Menominee river which flows between the states of Michigan and Wisconsin".
"The Pottawatomies gathered the grain by pushing the boat into the thick rice, bent the tops over the boat and pounded out the grains with a 'rawagikan', a stick made for the purpose. They sometimes pounded it in a sack, sometimes in a skin lined hole in the earth.
Carver wrote: "After the grain was cured, the Indians, wearing moccasins, trod off the hull. Wooden troughs, blankets, mats, woven bark, all were used to hold the grain. The birch bark boxes sewed togerher with 'bast' (the bark of the basswood) were called mococks and were the most ornamental, though smallest of the containers."
In gathering the rice, women did most of the work. They united and gathered it by groups. Chief Pokagon wrote: "Our people always divide everything when want comes. Each family, however, controls a certain amount if they have complied with a few requirements." Pokagon also stated: "Indians eat when hungry and trade at harvest time. A few save a little wild rice to eat in the spring with maple sugar." Early writers always spoke of the superior physical manhood of the Indians in Southern Michigan, as well as of their peaceful dispositions. Doubtless both, in no small measure, were due to food, to the rice and fish to be had in abundance. "The river influence in general tended toward peaceful living. It furnished quick, permanent and easy means of travel". "Out of kinship of the tribe grew patriotism for their home land which was very noticeable when the Indians pleaded that the government let them remain at Nottawa Seepe, the "land of their sugar orchards, their rice fields, and the graves of their fathers".
In Blair's Indian Tribes of the Great Lakes, we read: "It is to be remembered that the Pottawatomies or Potawattomii (Potewa ronik) are members of the great Algonquin
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stock which divided into three divisions at Sault-Ste-Marie. The present Potta-wat-um-ees or "Those-who-make-a-fire" came southward along Green Bay and Lake Michigan. In 1658 they reported at the head of Green Bay and were called Oupouteouatamik, numbering about 3000, which included 100 of the Petum (tobacco) tribes. Marquette's map of 1673 places the 'Pstestame', as he called them, on the shores of Green Bay. At this time they were noted traders and were the middle-men between the Indians farther inland and the French. Their trading instinct probably explains their following the French into St. Joseph county.
Hoffman, the traveler through Michigan in the "thirties", translated the word Pottawatomie as "We are making fire". He also classified the tribe as belonging to the numerous nations of the Algonquin origin. J. W. Powell, of the Bureau of Ethnology explains that the Algonquin family was the most extensive of all the linguistic stock. "Their territory reached from Labrador to the Rocky mountain and from Hudson Bay to Carolinas. Their related tribes were at the height of their power between 1500 and 1800". Hoffman writes that the Pottawatomies were rather a placid nation, not driven by the feverish activity of the Iroquois, though fleet and agile when necessity compelled. "Before the coming of the missionary, they believed in the existence of one God, whom they termed the Kasha Maneto. Kasha was never applied to any but the Supreme Being." He is the Kitchi Manitou of later authorities.
At heart the American Indian seems essentially religious. His sacrifices, his fasts, his ceremonies, most rigidly adhered to, take percedence over all else. This is especially true of the Pottawatomies of the St. Joseph valley.
Rev. William Metsdorf, in an address before the Michigan Pioneer Association stated:
"They believe in Kitchi Manito, the creator and benefactor of all mankind: they honor and adore Him as the sun, of moon. They express their worship by dances, which are to them devout religious ceremonies. They have three great dances, each one lasting from two to three weeks: First, the 'green bean' dance in early summer when the bean is first ready to be eaten; second, and the most elaborate, the 'green corn' dance, when the corn is first ripe. Later in the season is the third, a powwow, a celebration, which like our Thanksgiving day, includes a turkey in its ritual. However, they place their turkey in the center of the dancing ground, which to them is a sacred place.
"All of these feasts include speeches, singing and smoking. The latter being done with one pipe for the entire crowd of a hundred or more. During the powwow, they thank the sun for the crops which he has given them, and the weather which has given aid.
"On the last day of the powwow, there is a special ceremony over a sacred dog which has been killed and cooked. Loudly singing their songs, they circle in a dance around the skull of the dog. The dance ends with a final jump on the skull. The dog takes something of the place of the scape goat of Old Testament ritual. At this ceremony outlaws of the tribe, if penitent, may receive pardon by the chief and be reinstated in tribal membership.
"The Pottawatomies placed their dead seated in a shallow grave, and leaning against a tree, with a dog tied to a nearby tree as watchman. When the dog got loose and returned to the Indian village it was a sign that the spirit of teh dead Indian was safe in the happy hunting ground." Reverend Metsdorf wrote: "Several times I made both the watch dog and the Indian village happy by surreptitiously releasing the dog."
Among the many special feasts which the Pottawatomies observed was the ceremony at the naming of the children. It consisted of a feast prepared by young, unmarried men, in a tepee especially erected for that purpose. After the feast, an old man, because of his wisdom, delivered an oration, and announced the name of the child. The name given at birth was changed at critical periods of life: puberty; the first bird or animal slain; first war expedition; elevation to a chieftainship, finally, when retiring from active life, he adopted the name of his son. Each Indian, however, had a name which he jealously guarded. It was one which he received or took after much prayer and fasting. It was considered identical with his most secret, innermost self and if anyone ever did find out, it was an unpardonable offense to call the person by it. It was the name by which he was personally known to the Great Spirit.
Rev. Metsdorf tells us:
"The Pottawatomies seldom quarrel in their homes. They are never cruel to their children. Their patience with children is astonishing. If a married pair have differences, are angered one of the two goes to stay with some neighbor until the other one in the quarrel asks him or her to return.
"They dislike water even for hygienic purposes and their passion for strong drink has become proverbial. "The Pottawatomie man has a peculiar abhorrence for sickness. If a member of his family became sick, he left the house to stay with a neighbor, sending the neighbor's wife to take care of his sick wife or child."
The Pottawatomies excelled in dice games, tops and
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archery. The Chippewas, who were a more active people, played the stick games, archery, hoop and pole, racket, snowsnake, shinny, hand and foot ball and also the dice games. Of the games of chance, Pugasaing is the principal game played among all nothern tribes. It is a dice game and is played with thirteen pieces, cut neatly from bone. The pieces are shaken in a wooden bowl, called onagun. Two of the pieces are called ininewug or men. They are wedge shaped so that in throwing them they may stand on end. Two are called gitshee kenabik, or great serpent-one of them fintailed. They stand lengthwise on their wedgeshaped bases when thrown. Another piece is the war club; another is the keego or fish. There are four circular pieces of brass, slightly concave, with a flat surface on the apex-these are the ozawabiks, and lastly three bird shaped pieces called sheshebwug, or ducks. One side of all of the pieces is polished and one side painted red, with the exception of the brass pieces which are painted black on the reverse side.
In playing, if one of the ininewugs stands upright on the bright side of a brass piece it counts 158. When all pieces fall red side up and the gitshee kenebik with the tail stands on bright side of brass piece, it counts 138. When all turn up red it counts 38. When the two gitshee kenebik and the two ininewugs turn up white and the other pieces red, irrispective of the brasses, it counts 38. When all pieces turn up white it counts 38. When one of the ininewugs stands up it counts 50. When either of the gitshee bakenabiks stands up it counts 40. When all are white except on duck (sheshemug) and that is red, it wins 5. The game is won by the red pieces and goes to the first person winning 500 points.
Charlevoix, in describing the Pottawatomie Indians, told of their games; and explained in detail the game of straws which was usually played in the hut of a chief. The straws were the size of wheat straw, about two inches in length and a bundle contained 201. With many contortions and incantations to the spirits, the Indians seperated the straws into bundles of ten, using a thorn or sharpened bit of bone. The stakes were their clothing.
The game of moccasin was their most universal gambling game. Each player removed a moccasin and they were places in a row. The player skillfully placed a counter-usually a small, polished bit of bone-in one of the moccasins. The other players used two sticks or wands. The light colored one was used to touch the moccasin in which he thought the counter was hidden, with the dark wand he touched the moccasins which he believed did not contain it. Intense in everything he does, the Indian loves gambling next to whiskey and
INDIAN MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS
it brought so much hardship to the losers that the government prohibited moccasin among the western tribes.
As a game of dexterity, archery included many forms. The target was, of course, an important feature. The Pottawatomies had a game in which they buried their bark target. The Indians on the old reservations called it ta-te-wan. Four Indians, each with a bow and two arrows, play partners. Two strips of bark about four inches wide are placed in mounds of earth, the mounds about 200 feet apart. One player of each side takes his place near a mound, A and C at one mound, B and D at the other. If A strikes near the target but misses with both arrows and C fails to strike nearer than A, it counts A one. If C strikes nearer it scores C one. If either arrow strikes the target it counts him five. If both arrows of either A or C strike the target the game is won (ten being out). If both A and C, hit the target neither counts and the arrows are returned by B and D.
Women And Children's Games
Much is written about the drudgery of the Indian women but they also had pastimes and games, which included hand ball, throwing sticks, hidden ball and different forms of the snow-snake. The latter was played on the snow or ice and the only thing necessary was a hard wooden stick, five feet long, with one end rounded. The player stooped toward the ground, held the snake horizontally from right to left and forced it towards the rounded end, skimming along rapidly. A bank of snow slightly inclined away from the player gave the snake and upward curve as it lift the hands, thus propelling it a considerable distance in the air before touching the ice. The snow bank corresponded, womewhat, to the tee in golf. Women sometimes played the snow-snake by using an animal rib, to one end of which two feathers had been attached. It was thrown as a glider.
A child was given a tiny bow and arrow just as soon as he could walk. The children had a great variety of amusements, -top spinning, mimic fights and sports, imitative of their elders. The men and boys, women and maidens had innumerable games which they played at fixed seasons as an accompaniment to festivals and religious rites. The Walter Culin report in the 24th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology records hundreds of interesting games played by the Indian of the United States. Among all the games and sports recorded none were more highly enjoyed than swimming and the water sports. "A strong and vigorous Indian mother bearing her papoose upon her back, could tread water, standing almost erect, without distrubing the sleeping child with
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even a drop of water. The little children swam like so many minnows.
Myths and Legends
Among the myths recorded in the Jesuit Relations, is a story of Manabozho, a mighty manito, who gave the gift of immortality to an Indian. The gift was tied in a bundle and Manabozho enjoined the Indian never to open it. The Indian's wife, however, impelled by curiosity, cut the string and the percious gift flew out so the Indians ever since have been subject to death. "The Pottawatomies believed that Death was the wife of Satan and that she wore a robe made of the hair of her victims. It was she whom they sought to frighten away by drumming and stamping and shouting beside the sick bed.
Just as the lovely old German legend of the "Marianzwirn'-the thread from the Mother Mary's robe-is the story of the gossamer cobweb which, in the hazy October air, floats invisibly and brushing across the face, blesses him whom it touches; so, in the Indian legend, the cobweb was believed to be a hair from "Deaths" robe, and it betokened that the spirit of a friend had broken away from his captor, Death, and was safely arrived in the realm of Kitchi Manito.
Quite illogically the student of Indian literature and speech is surprised at the beauty and imagery of the Indian race, which, vitally dependent on nature, "sees God in the clouds and hears him in the wind".
Lew Sarett, the poet, a student of Indian life and speech, has sought to bring to us something of the Indian imagery. To give us examples of the naivete of speech-the simplicity, the broad but subtle humor, the tragedy, the wild crude beauty, which he tells us has been lost from Indian literature by the translators' sacifice of metaphor for rhetorical elegance.
Sacrett gives us "The Indian Sleep-song" for the little brown chief as he brings the sleepy wind to rock the bough of the willow and croon to the little brown leaf on the bough:
"Hush.................hush, hush! My little brown fawn, The now-flakes are falling------ The winter-men yawn; They cover with white Their children to-night,----- O little brown fawn, Hush............hush, hush!" The characteristic note of sadness is noted in an Indian Love Song which closes with: "Shivering wolf and lonely loon Cry my sorrow to the moon------- O gone heart, O stone!"INDIAN MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS
The following, given in broken English, pictures the spirit of the snow: "Sh......sh...sh!.....Look, my frien'-------somebody's dere' Ain't? .....over dere? He's come from Land----of Winter! Wit' quilt he's cover-um up dose baby mink, Dose cub, dose wild arbutus, dose jump-up-Johnny...... He's keep hees chil'ens warm for long, long winter..... Sh.....sh.....sh! Sombody's dere on de white savanne! Somebody's dere! He's walk-um in de timber...... He's cover-um up hees chil'ens, soft.......soft......"Many of the Indian myths and legends told beside the lodge-fires on the reservations, were really nature stories. The story of the Fever-manito and the princess, modernized a bit, is a charming Pottawatomie myth of the marshland, of its flowers and of the miasma from the stagnant waters.
Once upon a time when all the world was new, the Fevermanito lay sleeping in his wigwam in the deep hot shade beside the stagnant waters of the marshland. Beside his doorway grew the largest of all the pitcher plants, for the Fever-manito was always thirsty and teh pitcher plants, unless touched by mortal hands, were always filled with a deeply intoxicating beverage.
It so happened one day that a Pottawatomie princess, who worshipped Kitchi Manito, having placed her prayer sticks in order, chanted a prayer and went gaily forth, along the trail, that followed the shore of the Sau-gan-seepe. Spying the deep red blossoms of the pitcher plant growing in the marshland, she left the trail-though she had been warned that the pitcher plant was taboo-and began to pick the blossoms. Then the princess heard a terrifying voice and saw, coming towards her, the dreaded Fever-manito. His blanket was miry, his eyes were bloodshot, his breath was like the scorching, blazing prairie fire, misery followed in all of his steps. The princess dropped her blossoms and fled swiftly towards the Indian village. As she ran she breathed a prayer to Kitchi Manito for help. After her stamped the angry fever god. Faster and faster ran the princess, faster and faster came the Fever-manito. Again she prayed her prayer for help and Kitchi Manito, having just returned from a far journey, granted her prayer by blessing the little moccasins on her flying feet.
In and out among the wigwams ran the princess, and in and out among the wigwams followed the Fever-manito. Suddenly from the low growing green herbs, crushed by the
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Fever-manito, there rose a pungent ordor which became a vapor. It enveloped the princess and encircled the village. It suffocated the Fever-manito and, as he swooning fell, Kitchi Manito, in the form of a great white stag, rolled the Fever-manito up on a river mist and bore him swiftly to the marshland where the tall pitcher plants grew.
In appreciation of her rescue, the princess hung her little magic moccsins on a slender plant and to this day wherever the pitcher plant grows there may be found the mocasin plant with its lovely bolssoms as a reminder of Kitchi Manito's care. And the crushed leaves of the low growing herb of the peppermint even now vanquishes the marshland's dreaded fever god.
The Indian story tellers taught by parables. The following story told in many versions by different tribes conveys its own warning.
There was a time when the valley of the Sau-gan-seepe was a level prairie land. In all its length and breadth there were neither rocks nor stones to obstruct the pathway of the hunters. The whole valley was a mass of flowers. One day a bit of the prairie land hearing much talk of his beauty, raised himself on his elbow that he might see himself in the mirror of the lake. This obstructed the view of hunters so they could not see the game and a quarrel ensued. A feud resulted and the hill, which had risen higher and higher to see himself, called a magician to turn him into something which would permanently hinder the hunters from seeing their game and would protect his friends, and deer.
The magician turned the hill into a steep stone mountain, but warned him never to feel angry. If he did find himself growing angry, instantly he was to make a wish. Moons passed by and all was peaceful along the Sau-gan-seepe. One day the stone mountain saw hunters coming, they were as fleet as the deer and were slaying them. Angered at the slaughter, the mountain cried: "I wish I could crush them!" Instantly he blew up. Far and wide flew his pieces and that is the way it happened that there are boulders, field stones and rocky places all over Michigan which form steep places where game may hide from the fleet footed hunters.
Ethnologists tell us that the literature of all nations, preserves in some versions a story of the flood. The Pottawatomie version is recorded in the Jesuit Relations.
All Algonquin nations believed in Manabozho, the Great Hare, who was king of all the animals and possessed a marvelous court of quadrupeds.
He was believed to be a son of the West-wind and of the great-granddaughter of the Moon. It was he who restored the world after it had been submerged in a deluge. Because Manabozho had killed a serpent, the lesser manitos, in rage, had , in the form of serpents, caused the waters of a lake to rise until all the world was submerged. Manabozho climbed a tree which, in answer to his prayer, grew as the floods rose around it and thus saved him.
Submerged to the neck, he looked abroad and spied the loon to whom he appealed for aid in restoring the world. The loon dived in search of a little mud but could not reach bottom. A muskrat made the attempt by reappeared, floating as if dead. Manabozho, however, discovered between the muskrat's paws, a particle of mud. This added to the body of the loon, was the material with which he recreated the world.
The specific words in which the Indian myths are given are often few, crude and inadequate but they represent keen observation and vivid imagination. The following is the Myth of Falling Star retold with the imagery unchanged from the ten or twelve words of the original story.
In the high, high heavens there lived a lonely star who, when the hush of night brought friendly eyes looking earthward, found her own image glowing brightly in the heart of a quiet lake. He lay sleeping where giant pines stand sentinal. Quickly the star sped to the Council Grove of Kitchi Manito for permission to wed the quiet lake. But Kitchi Manito did not approve, would not listen. Pale and dim grew the star with weeping. Then one day, in sudden anger at her persistance, Kitchi Manito dropped her, as a falling star into the arms of her lover, the lake, and now when the fragrant breath of summer steals over woodland and water, the lake and his bride may be recognized, for Kitchi Manito turned the pale little star into the wax-white water lily.
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