Lawson, Part Four
It is epidemical, visiting these Parts of America, which is often occasion'd thro' the immoderate drinking of Rum, by those that commonly drink Water at other Times, cold Nights Lodging, and bad open Houses, and more chiefly by often wetting the Feet, and eating such Quantities of Pork as they do, which is a gross Food, and a great Propagator of such Juices as it often meets withal in human Bodies, once tainted with this Malady; which may differently (in some Respects) act its Tragedy; the Change being occasion'd by the Difference of Climates and Bodies, as in Europe. We being well enough assur'd that the Pox had its first Rise (known to us) in this new World, it being caught of the Indian Women, by the Spanish Soldiers that follow'd Columbus in one of his Expeditions to America; who after their Arrival in Old Spain, were hasten'd to the Relief of Naples, at that Time besieg'd by the French. Provisions growing scarce, the useless People were turn'd out of the City, to lessen the Mouths; amongst these, the Curtesans were one Part, who had frequently embrac'd the Spaniards, being well fraught with Riches by their new Discovery. The Leager Ladies had no sooner lost their Spanish Dons, but found themselves as well entertain'd by the French, whose Camp they traded in, giving the Mounsieurs as large a Share of the pocky Spoils within their own Lines, as the Spaniards had, who took the Pains to bring it in their Breeches as far as from America; the large Supplies of Swines Flesh, which that Army was chiefly victuall'd withal, made it rage. The Siege was rais'd; the French and Spaniards retreating to Flanders, which was a Parrade of all Nations; by which Means, this filthy Distemper crowded it self into most Nations of the known World.
Now to return to our Doctor, who in the Time of his Affliction withdrew himself (with one that labour'd under the same Distemper) into the Woods. These two perfected their Cures by proper Vegitables, &c. of which they have Plenty, and are well acquainted with their specifick Virtue.
I have seen such admirable Cures perform'd by these Savages, which would puzzle a great many graduate Practitioners to trace their Steps in Healing, with the same Expedition, Ease, and Success; using no racking Instruments in their Chirurgery, nor nice Rules of Diet and Physick, to verify the Saying, `qui Medice vivit, misere vivit'. In Wounds which penetrate deep, and seem mortal, they order a spare Diet, with drinking Fountain-water; if they perceive a white Matter, or Pus to arise, they let the Patient more at large, and presently cure him.
After these two had perform'd their Cures at no easier Rate than the Expence of both their Noses, coming again amongst their old Acquaintance so disfigur'd, the Indians admir'd to see them metamorphos'd after that manner; enquir'd of them where they had been all that Time, and what were become of their Noses? They made Answer, That they had been conversing with the white Man above, (meaning God Almighty) how they were very kindly entertain'd by that Great Being; he being much pleas'd with their Ways, and had promis'd to make their Capacities equal with the white People in making Guns, Ammunition, &c. in Retalliation of which, they had given him their Noses. The Verity of which, they yet hold, the Indians being an easy, credulous People, and most notoriously cheated by their Priests and Conjurers, both Trades meeting ever in one Person, and most commonly a Spice of Quackship added to the other two Ingredients, which renders that cunning Knave the Impostor to be more rely'd upon; thence a fitter Instrument to cheat these ignorant People; the Priest and Conjurers being never admitted to their Practice, 'till Years and the Experience of repeated Services hath wrought their Esteem amongst the Nations they belong to.
The Santee King, who was in Company with this No-nos'd Doctor, is the most absolute Indian Ruler in these Parts, although he is Head but of a small People, in Respect to some other Nations of Indians, that I have seen: He can put any of his People to Death that hath committed any Fault which he judges worthy of so great a Punishment. This Authority is rarely found amongst these Savages, for they act not (commonly) by a determinative Voice in their Laws, towards any one that hath committed Murder, or such other great Crime, but take this Method; him to whom the Injury was done, or if dead, the nearest of his Kindred prosecutes by Way of an actual Revenge, being himself, if Opportunity serves his Intent, both Judge and Executioner, performing so much Mischief on the Offender, or his nearest Relation, until such Time that he is fully satisfy'd: Yet this Revenge is not so infallible, but it may be bought off with Beads, Tobacco, and such like Commodities that are useful amongst them, though it were the most sable Villany that could be acted by Mankind.
Some that attended the King, presented me with an odoriferous, balsamick Root, of a fragrant Smell and Taste, the Name I know not; they chew it in the Mouth, and by that simple Application, heal desperate Wounds both green and old; that small Quantity I had, was given inwardly to those troubl'd with the Belly-ach, which Remedy fail'd not to give present Help, the Pain leaving the Patient soon after they had taken the Root.
Near to these Cabins are several Tombs made after the manner of these Indians; the largest and the chiefest of them was the Sepulchre of the late Indian King of the Santees, a Man of great Power, not only amongst his own Subjects, but dreaded by the neighbouring Nations for his great Valour and Conduct, having as large a Prerogative in his Way of Ruling, as the present King I now spoke of.
The manner of their Interment, is thus: A Mole or Pyramid of Earth is rais'd, the Mould thereof being work'd very smooth and even, sometimes higher or lower, according to the Dignity of the Person whose Monument it is. On the Top thereof is an Umbrella, made Ridge-ways, like the Roof of an House; this is supported by nine Stakes, or small Posts, the Grave being about six or eight Foot in Length, and four Foot in Breadth; about it is hung Gourds, Feathers, and other such like Trophies, plac'd there by the dead Man's Relations, in Respect to him in the Grave. The other Part of the Funeral-Rites are thus, As soon as the Party is dead, they lay the Corps upon a Piece of Bark in the Sun, seasoning or embalming it with a small Root beaten to Powder, which looks as red as Vermilion; the same is mix'd with Bear's Oil, to beautify the Hair, and preserve their Heads from being lousy, it growing plentifully in these Parts of America. After the Carcass has laid a Day or two in the Sun, they remove and lay it upon Crotches cut on purpose for the Support thereof from the Earth; then they anoint it all over with the fore-mention'd Ingredients of the Powder of this Root, and Bear's Oil. When it is so done, they cover it very exactly over with Bark of the Pine or Cyprus Tree, to prevent any Rain to fall upon it, sweeping the Ground very clean all about it. Some of his nearest of Kin brings all the temporal Estate he was possess'd of at his Death, as Guns, Bows, and Arrows, Beads, Feathers, Match-coat, &c. This Relation is the chief Mourner, being clad in Moss, and a Stick in his Hand, keeping a mournful Ditty for three or four Days, his Face being black with the Smoak of Pitch, Pine, mingl'd with Bear's Oil. All the while he tells the dead Man's Relations, and the rest of the Spectators, who that dead Person was, and of the great Feats perform'd in his Life-time; all what he speaks, tending to the Praise of the Defunct. As soon as the Flesh grows mellow, and will cleave from the Bone, they get it off, and burn it, making all the Bones very clean, then anoint them with the Ingredients aforesaid, wrapping up the Skull (very carefully) in a Cloath artificially woven of Possums Hair. (These Indians make Girdles, Sashes, Garters, &c. after the same Manner.) The Bones they carefully preserve in a wooden Box, every Year oiling and cleansing them: By these Means preserve them for many Ages, that you may see an Indian in Possession of the Bones of his Grand-father, or some of his Relations of a larger Antiquity. They have other Sorts of Tombs; as where an Indian is slain, in that very Place they make a Heap of Stones, (or Sticks, where Stones are not to be found;) to this Memorial, every Indian that passes by, adds a Stone, to augment the Heap, in Respect to the deceas'd Hero.
We had a very large Swamp to pass over near the House, and would have hir'd our Landlord to have been our Guide, but he seem'd unwilling; so we press'd him no farther about it. He was the tallest Indian I ever saw, being seven Foot high, and a very strait compleat Person, esteem'd on by the King for his great Art in Hunting, always carrying with him an artificial Head to hunt withal: They are made of the Head of a Buck, the back Part of the Horns being scrapt and hollow, for Lightness of Carriage. The Skin is left to the setting on of the Shoulders, which is lin'd all round with small Hoops, and flat Sort of Laths, to hold it open for the Arm to go in. They have a Way to preserve the Eyes, as if living. The Hunter puts on a Match-coat made of Deer's Skin, with the Hair on, and a Piece of the white Part of a Deer's Skin, that grows on the Breast, which is fasten'd to the Neck-End of this stalking Head, so hangs down. In these Habiliments an Indian will go as near a Deer as he pleases, the exact Motions and Behaviour of a Deer being so well counterfeited by 'em, that several Times it hath been known for two Hunters to come up with a stalking Head together, and unknown to each other, so that they have kill'd an Indian instead of a Deer, which hath happen'd sometimes to be a Brother, or some dear Friend; for which Reason they allow not of that Sort of Practice, where the Nation is populous.
Within half a Mile of the House, we pass'd over a prodigious wide and deep Swamp, being forc'd to strip stark-naked, and much a-do to save our selves from drowning in this Fatiegue. We, with much a-do, got thro', going that Day about five Miles farther, and came to three more Indian Cabins, call'd in the Indian Tongue, Hickerau, by the English Traders, the black House, being pleasantly seated on a high Bank, by a Branch of Santee-River. One of our Company, that had traded amongst these Indians, told us, That one of the Cabins was his Father's-in-Law; he call'd him so, by Reason the old Man had given him a young Indian Girl, that was his Daughter, to lie with him, make Bread, and to be necessary in what she was capable to assist him in, during his Abode amongst them.
When we came thither first, there was no Body at Home, so the Son made bold to search his Father's Granary for Corn, and other Provisions. He brought us some Indian Maiz and Peas, which are of a reddish Colour, and eat well, yet colour the Liquor they are boil'd in, as if it were a Lixivium of red Tartar. After we had been about an Hour in the House, where was Millions of Fleas, the Indian Cabins being often fuller of such Vermin, than any Dog-Kennel, the old Man came in to us, and seem'd very glad to see his Son-in-Law.