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Chapter VIII

On Their Mode of Life and Occupation

Among the natural inclinations with which man is endowed, is that of defending, and preserving his own individual person. For this reason, he feels it his duty to consider how, and in what manner, he is to live, and how to procure the necessary means of sustenance. Necessity, "the mother of invention," has therefore revealed to him how to arrange the rustic implements, used for securing his food. No doubt these Indians passed a miserable life, ever idle, and more like the brutes, than rational beings. They neither cultivated the ground, nor planted any kind of grain; but lived upon the wild seeds of the field, the fruits of the forest, and upon the abundance of game. It is really surprising, that during a lapse of many ages, with their reason and experience, they had not advanced one iota in improving the things that would have been useful and convenient for them; for instance, in agriculture; in planting and cultivating those seeds which were most appreciated-also trees around their dwellings, bearing such fruit as they were obliged to bring from a great distance. But no! nothing of the kind; and in no part of the province was to be found aught but the common, spontaneous, productions of the earth.

It cannot be denied, that these Indians, like all the human race, are the descendants of Adam; endowed with reason, or in other words, with a soul. When we read of the ancients--of their having transplanted trees which were wild, thus increasing their abundance, and quality, and of

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their planting seeds, which improved by cultivation, we cannot but wonder that a knowledge so important was unknown here until the missionary fathers came amongst them, and introduced the planting of wheat, corn, beans, and other grains, that are now so abundant every where. I consider these Indians, in their endowments, like the soul of an infant, which is merely a will, accompanied with passions--an understanding not exercised, or without use; and for this reason, they did not comprehend the virtue of prudence, which is the result of time and reason--of the former, by experience, and the latter, by dissertation. Although ripe in years, they had no more experience than when in childhood--no reasoning powers, and therefore followed blindly in the footsteps of their predecessors.

Their occupation consisted in the construction of the bow and arrow, in hunting for deer, rabbits;, squirrels, rats, &c., which not only provided them with food, but clothing, if so it can be called. Their usual style of dress, was a small skin thrown over the shoulders, leaving the remaining portion of their person unprotected; but the females formed a kind of cloak out of the skins of rabbits, which were put together after this manner. They twisted them into a kind of rope, that was sewed together, so as to conform to the size of the person, for whom it was intended, and the front was adorned with a kind of fringe, composed of grass, which reached down to the knees; around the collar it was adorned with beads, and other ornaments, prized by the Indians.

They passed their time in plays, and roaming about from house to house, dancing and sleeping; and this was their only occupation, and the mode of life most common amongst them from day to day. The old men, and the poorer class, devoted a portion of the day to constructing house utensils, their bows and arrows, and the several instruments used in making their baskets; also nets of various dimensions, which were used for sundry purposes, such as for catching fish and wild fowl, and for carrying heavy burdens on their backs, fastened by a strap passed across the forehead. In like manner, the females used them for carrying their infants.

The women were obliged to gather seeds in the fields, prepare them for cooking, and to perform all the meanest offices, as well as the most laborious. It was painful in the extreme, to behold them, with their

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infants hanging upon their shoulders, groping about in search of herbs or seed, and exposed as they frequently were to the inclemency of the weather. Often it was the case that they returned home severely fatigued, and hungry, to cook the fruits of their toil, but, perhaps, there would be no wood, the fire extinguished, and their lazy husband either at play or sleeping, so that again they would be obliged to go out into the cold for fuel. When the brutal husband came home, or awoke from his sluggishness, he expected his meal, and if not prepared at the moment, invectives and ill treatment were the universal consequence. Poor creatures! more unfortunate than slaves! They were in such subjection, that for the most trifling offence, punishment was the result, and oftentimes death; but, thank Heaven! since the introduction of the Christian religion among this unhappy race, the females have received more liberty and better treatment. The most wonderful of God's blessings enjoyed among them, was the great facility with which they underwent their accouchement, when it would seem as if they endured no suffering.

Next: Chapter IX. On Their Principal Feasts and Dances