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قراءة كتاب Great Indian Chief of the West; Or, Life and Adventures of Black Hawk

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Great Indian Chief of the West; Or, Life and Adventures of Black Hawk

Great Indian Chief of the West; Or, Life and Adventures of Black Hawk

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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a war with the allied nations of the Sauks and Reynards, which has been the cause of the almost entire destruction of the former nations."

The death of Pontiac may have been the immediate exciting cause of the war, but it is more than probable that the love of conquest and the hope of obtaining a more fruitful and genial country, than is to be found upon the shore of the lakes, were the principal reasons which impelled the northern confederacy to the subjugation of the Illini.

The principal village of the Sacs and Foxes, for a long period of time, was on the north side of Rock river, near its junction with the Mississippi. It contained at one time upwards of sixty lodges, and was among the largest and most populous Indian villages on the continent. The country around it is fertile and picturesque, finely watered, and studded with groves and prairies. It is described in the following graphic manner, by a gentleman[3] who travelled over it in 1829.

"The Mississippi, which below its junction with the Missouri, is a troubled stream, meandering through low grounds, and margined by muddy banks, is here a clear and rapid river, flowing over beds of rock and gravel, and bordered by the most lovely shores. Nothing of the kind can be more attractive, than the scenery at the upper rapids. On the western shore, a series of slopes are seen, commencing at the gravelly margin of the water, and rising one above another, with a barely perceptible acclivity, for a considerable distance, until the back ground is terminated by a chain of beautifully rounded hills, over which trees are thinly scattered, as if planted to embellish the scene. This is the singular charm of prairie scenery. Although it is a wilderness, just as nature made it, the verdant carpet, the gracefully waving outline of the surface, the clumps and groves and scattered trees, give it the appearance of a noble park, boundless in extent, and adorned with exquisite taste. It is a wild but not a savage wild, that awes by its gloom. It is a gay and cheerful wilderness, winning by its social aspect as well as its variety and intrinsic gracefulness. The eastern shore is not less beautiful: a broad flat plain of rich alluvion, extending from the water's edge, is terminated by a range of wooded hills. A small collection of the lodges of the Saukies and Foxes stood on this plain when the writer last saw it, but their chief village was about three miles distant. In the front of the landscape, and presenting its most prominent feature, is Rock Island, on the southern point of which, elevated upon a parapet of rock, is Fort Armstrong. The region around is healthy and amazingly fruitful. The grape, the plum, the gooseberry and various other native fruits abound,—the wild honeysuckle gives its perfume to the air, and a thousand indigenous flowers mingle their diversified hues with the verdure of the plain. But all this fertility of soil and scenic beauty has produced no ameliorating effect upon the savages. The Sauks of Illinois, when first visited by the French missionaries were as they are now. They are still savages, as much so as the Osages, Comanches and Seminoles, and not superior to the wandering Chippeways."

The civil polity of these two tribes bears much resemblance to that of the north western Indians generally. The peace chiefs are partly elective and partly hereditary. The son succeeds the father by the assent of the tribe, if worthy of the office, and if not, a successor, of a more meritorious character, is chosen by them from some collateral branch of the family. There is a legend among them relating to the relative rank of their chiefs, which, although perhaps purely figurative, may not be uninteresting to the reader. They say that a great while ago, their fathers had a long lodge, in the centre of which were ranged four fires. By the first fire stood two chiefs, one on the right, who was called the great Bear, and one on the left, called the little Bear: these were the village or peace chiefs: they were the rulers of the band, and held the authority corresponding to that of the chief magistrate. At the second fire stood two chiefs: one on the right, called the great Fox, and one on the left, called the little Fox: these were the war chiefs or generals. At the third fire stood two warriors, who were called respectively the Wolf and the Owl. And at the other fire, two others who were the Eagle and the Tortoise. These four last named were not chiefs but braves of distinction, who held honorable places in the council, and were persons of influence in peace and in war. This lodge of four fires may have existed among these tribes. It is true that their chiefs remain as described in the legend.

The peace chief or head-man presides in council, and all important public acts are done in his name; but unless he be a man of popular talents and great energy of character his place confers more of honor than power. If a weak or irresolute man, although he nominally retain his authority, the war chiefs actually exercise it. It is very seldom that he acquires property, for he is expected to make feasts and presents, and is compelled to be hospitable and liberal as a means of sustaining his power among his people.

The office of war chief is never hereditary, but results from skill and intrepidity in battle, and is held so long as those qualities are successfully retained. It may readily be conceived that among such a race the war chiefs, having the braves and young men of the nation under their command, would generally maintain a controlling influence. The leading war chief is always better known than the principal peace chief, is often confounded with him, and still oftener exercises his authority.

The Sauks are, at the present time, divided into twelve families, and the Foxes into eight, each known by the name of some animal. Among the Sauks there is another division peculiar to it. The males are all classed in two parties or bands—one called Kish-ko-guis, or long hairs; the other Osh-cushis or braves, the former being considered something more than brave. In 1819 each party numbered about four hundred members, and in 1826, the number was increased to five hundred in each. The standard of the Kish-ko-guis or long hairs, is red, and that of the Osh-cushis or braves, blue. Every male child, soon after its birth, is marked with white or black paint, and is classed in one of these two parties, the mother being careful to apply the two colors alternately, so that if the number of males in a family be even, each band will receive an equal number of members, and the whole nation will thus be nearly equally divided into the two colors of black and white. These distinctive marks are permanently retained through life, and in painting themselves for any ceremonies or public occasions, those of one party use white, the others black paint, in addition to other colors which may suit their fancy. The reason of this singular custom is for the purpose of creating and keeping alive a spirit of emulation in the tribe. In their games, sham-battles and other pastimes, the whites and blacks are opposed to each other; and in war, each party is ambitious of bringing home a greater number of scalps than the other.

The chiefs have the management of public affairs, but as we have already seen are more or less influenced, especially in matters of war or peace, by the braves. In their councils, questions are not considered, generally, as decided, unless there be unanimity of opinion. Their laws are few and simple. Debts are but seldom contracted by them, and there is no mode of enforcing

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