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Lawson, Part Seven

These Indians are of an extraordinary Stature, and call'd by their Neighbours flat Heads, which seems a very suitable Name for them. In their Infancy, their Nurses lay the Back-part of their Children's Heads on a Bag of Sand, (such as Engravers use to rest their Plates upon.) They use a Roll, which is placed upon the Babe's Forehead, it being laid with its Back on a flat Board, and swaddled hard down thereon, from one End of this Engine, to the other. This Method makes the Child's Body and Limbs as straight as an Arrow. There being some young Indians that are perhaps crookedly inclin'd, at their first coming into the World, who are made perfectly straight by this Method. I never saw an Indian of a mature Age, that was any ways crooked, except by Accident, and that way seldom, for they cure and prevent Deformities of the Limbs, and Body, very exactly. The Instrument I spoke of before, being a sort of a Press, that is let out and in, more or less, according to the Discretion of the Nurse, in which they make the Child's Head flat, it makes the Eyes stand a prodigious Way asunder, and the Hair hang over the Forehead like the Eves of a House, which seems very frightful: They being ask'd the Reason why they practis'd this Method, reply'd, the Indian's Sight was much strengthened and quicker, thereby, to discern the Game in hunting at larger Distance, and so never miss'd of becoming expert Hunters, the Perfection of which they all aim at, as we do to become experienced Soldiers, learned School-Men, or Artists in Mechanicks: He that is a good Hunter never misses of being a Favourite amongst the Women; the prettiest Girls being always bestow'd upon the chiefest Sports-Men, and those of a grosser Mould, upon the useless Lubbers. Thus they have a Graduation amongst them, as well as other Nations. As for the Solemnity of Marriages amongst them, kept with so much Ceremony as divers Authors affirm, it never appear'd amongst those many Nations I have been withal, any otherwise than in the Manner I have mention'd hereafter.

The Girls at 12 or 13 Years of Age, as soon as Nature prompts them, freely bestow their Maidenheads on some Youth about the same Age, continuing her Favours on whom she most affects, changing her Mate very often, few or none of them being constant to one, till a greater Number of Years has made her capable of managing domestick Affairs, and she hath try'd the Vigour of most of the Nation she belongs to; Multiplicity of Gallants never being a Stain to a Female's Reputation, or the least Hindrance of her Advancement, but the more Whorish, the more Honourable, and they of all most coveted, by those of the first Rank, to make a Wife of. The `Flos Virginis', so much coveted by the Europeans, is never valued by these Savages. When a Man and Woman have gone through their Degrees, (there being a certain Graduation amongst them) and are allow'd to be House-Keepers, which is not till they arrive at such an Age, and have past the Ceremonies practis'd by their Nation, almost all Kingdoms differing in the Progress thereof, then it is that the Man makes his Addresses to some one of these thorough-paced Girls, or other, whom he likes best. When she is won, the Parents of both Parties, (with Advice of the King) agree about the Matter, making a Promise of their Daughter, to the Man, that requires her, it often happening that they converse and travel together, for several Moons before the Marriage is publish'd openly; After this, at the least Dislike the Man may turn her away, and take another; or if she disapproves of his Company, a Price is set upon her, and if the Man that seeks to get her, will pay the Fine to her Husband, she becomes free from Him: Likewise some of their War Captains, and great Men, very often will retain 3 or 4 Girls at a time for their own Use, when at the same time, he is so impotent and old, as to be incapable of making Use of one of them; so that he seldom misses of wearing greater Horns than the Game he kills. The Husband is never so enrag'd as to put his Adulteress to Death; if she is caught in the Fact, the Rival becomes Debtor to the cornuted Husband, in a certain Quantity of Trifles valuable amongst them, which he pays as soon as discharg'd, and then all Animosity is laid aside betwixt the Husband, and his Wife's Gallant. The Man proves often so good humour'd as to please his Neighbour and gratify his Wife's Inclinations, by letting her out for a Night or two, to the Embraces of some other, which perhaps she has a greater Liking to, tho' this is not commonly practis'd.

They set apart the youngest and prettiest Faces for trading Girls; these are remarkable by their Hair, having a particular Tonsure by which they are known, and distinguish'd from those engag'd to Husbands. They are mercenary, and whoever makes Use of them, first hires them, the greatest Share of the Gain going to the King's Purse, who is the chief Bawd, exercising his Perogative over all the Stews of his Nation, and his own Cabin (very often) being the chiefest Brothel-House. As they grow in Years, the hot Assaults of Love grow cooler; and then they commonly are so staid, as to engage themselves with more Constancy to each other. I have seen several Couples amongst them, that have been so reserv'd, as to live together for many Years, faithful to each other, admitting none to their Beds but such as they own'd for their Wife or Husband: So continuing to their Life's end.

At our Waxsaw Landlord's Cabin, was a Woman employ'd in no other Business than Cookery; it being a House of great Resort. The Fire was surrounded with Roast-meat, or Barbakues, and the Pots continually boiling full of Meat, from Morning till Night. This She-Cook was the cleanliest I ever saw amongst the Heathens of America, washing her Hands before she undertook to do any Cookery; and repeated this unusual Decency very often in a day. She made us as White-Bread as any English could have done, and was full as neat, and expeditious, in her Affairs. It happen'd to be one of their great Feasts, when we were there: The first day that we came amongst them, arriv'd an Ambassador from the King of Sapona, to treat with these Indians about some important Affairs. He was painted with Vermillion all over his Face, having a very large Cutlass stuck in his Girdle, and a Fusee in his Hand. At Night, the Revels began where this Foreign Indian was admitted; the King, and War Captain, inviting us to see their Masquerade: This Feast was held in Commemoration of the plentiful Harvest of Corn they had reap'd the Summer before, with an united Supplication for the like plentiful Produce the Year ensuing. These Revels are carried on in a House made for that purpose, it being done round with white Benches of fine Canes, joining along the Wall; and a place for the Door being left, which is so low, that a Man must stoop very much to enter therein. This Edifice resembles a large Hay-Rick; its Top being Pyramidal, and much bigger than their other Dwellings, and at the Building whereof, every one assists till it is finish'd. All their Dwelling-Houses are cover'd with Bark, but this differs very much; for, it is very artificially thatch'd with Sedge and Rushes: As soon as finish'd, they place some one of their chiefest Men to dwell therein, charging him with the diligent Preservation thereof, as a Prince commits the Charge and Government of a Fort or Castle, to some Subject he thinks worthy of that Trust. In these State-Houses is transacted all Publick and Private Business, relating to the Affairs of the Government, as the Audience of Foreign Ambassadors from other Indian Rulers, Consultation of waging and making War, Proposals of their Trade with neighbouring Indians, or the English, who happen to come amongst them. In this Theater, the most Aged and Wisest meet, determining what to Act, and what may be most convenient to Omit, Old Age being held in as great Veneration amongst these Heathens, as amongst any People you shall meet withal in any Part of the World.

Whensoever an Aged Man is speaking, none ever interrupts him, (the contrary Practice the English, and other Europeans, too much use) the Company yielding a great deal of Attention to his Tale, with a continued Silence, and an exact Demeanour, during the Oration. Indeed, the Indians are a People that never interrupt one another in their Discourse; no Man so much as offering to open his Mouth, till the Speaker has utter'd his Intent: When an English-Man comes amongst them, perhaps every one is acquainted with him, yet, first, the King bids him Welcome, after him the War-Captain, so on gradually from High to Low; not one of all these speaking to the White Guest, till his Superiour has ended his Salutation. Amongst Women, it seems impossible to find a Scold; if they are provok'd, or affronted, by their Husbands, or some other, they resent the Indignity offer'd them in silent Tears, or by refusing their Meat. Would some of our European Daughters of Thunder set these Indians for a Pattern, there might be more quiet Families found amongst them, occasion'd by that unruly Member, the Tongue.

Festination proceeds from the Devil, (says a Learned Doctor) a Passion the Indians seem wholly free from; they determining no Business of Moment, without a great deal of Deliberation and Wariness. None of their Affairs appear to be attended with Impetuosity, or Haste, being more content with the common Accidents incident to humane Nature, (as Losses, contrary Winds, bad Weather, and Poverty) than those of more civilized Countries.

Now, to return to our State-House, whither we were invited by the Grandees: As soon as we came into it, they plac'd our Englishmen near the King; it being my Fortune to sit next him, having his great General, or War-Captain, on my other Hand. The House is as dark as a Dungeon, and as hot as one of the Dutch-Stoves in Holland. They had made a circular Fire of split Canes in the middle of the House. It was one Man's Employment to add more split Reeds to the one end as it consum'd at the other, there being a small Vacancy left to supply it with Fewel. They brought in great store of Loblolly, and other Medleys, made of Indian Grain, stewed Peaches, Bear-Venison, &c. every one bringing some Offering to enlarge the Banquet, according to his Degree and Quality. When all the Viands were brought in, the first Figure began with kicking out the Dogs, which are seemingly Wolves, made tame with starving and beating; they being the worst Dog-Masters in the World; so that it is an infallible Cure for Sore-Eyes, ever to see an Indian's Dog fat. They are of a quite contrary Disposition to Horses; some of their Kings having gotten, by great chance, a Jade, stolen by some neighbouring Indian, and transported farther into the Country, and sold; or bought sometimes of a Christian, that trades amongst them. These Creatures they continually cram, and feed with Maiz, and what the Horse will eat, till he is as fat as a Hog; never making any farther use of him than to fetch a Deer home, that is killed somewhere near the Indian's Plantation.

After the Dogs had fled the Room, the Company was summon'd by Beat of Drum; the Musick being made of a dress'd Deer's Skin, tied hard upon an Earthen Porridge-Pot. Presently in came fine Men dress'd up with Feathers, their Faces being covered with Vizards made of Gourds; round their Ancles and Knees, were hung Bells of several sorts, having Wooden Falchions in their Hands, (such as Stage-Fencers commonly use;) in this Dress they danced about an Hour, shewing many strange Gestures, and brandishing their Wooden Weapons, as if they were going to fight each other; oftentimes walking very nimbly round the Room, without making the least Noise with their Bells, (a thing I much admired at;) again, turning their Bodies, Arms and Legs, into such frightful Postures, that you would have guess'd they had been quite raving mad: At last, they cut two or three high Capers, and left the Room. In their stead, came in a parcel of Women and Girls, to the Number of Thirty odd; every one taking place according to her Degree of Stature, the tallest leading the Dance, and the least of all being plac'd last; with these they made a circular Dance, like a Ring, representing the Shape of the Fire they danced about: Many of these had great Horse-Bells about their Legs, and small Hawk's Bells about their Necks. They had Musicians, who were two Old Men, one of whom beat a Drum, while the other rattled with a Gourd, that had Corn in it, to make a Noise withal: To these Instruments, they both sung a mournful Ditty; the Burthen of their Song was, in Remembrance of their former Greatness, and Numbers of their Nation, the famous Exploits of their Renowned Ancestors, and all Actions of Moment that had (in former Days) been perform'd by their Forefathers. At these Festivals it is, that they give a Traditional Relation of what hath pass'd amongst them, to the younger Fry. These verbal Deliveries being always publish'd in their most Publick Assemblies, serve instead of our Traditional Notes, by the use of Letters. Some Indians, that I have met withal, have given me a very curious Description of the great Deluge, the Immortality of the Soul, with a pithy Account of the Reward of good and wicked Deeds in the Life to come; having found, amongst some of them, great Observers of Moral Rules, and the Law of Nature; indeed, a worthy Foundation to build Christianity upon, were a true Method found out, and practis'd, for the Performance thereof.

Their way of Dancing, is nothing but a sort of stamping Motion, much like the treading upon Founders Bellows. This Female-Gang held their Dance for above six Hours, being all of them of a white Lather, like a Running Horse that has just come in from his Race. My Landlady was the Ring-leader of the Amazons, who, when in her own House, behav'd herself very discreetly, and warily, in her Domestick Affairs; yet, Custom had so infatuated her, as to almost break her Heart with Dancing amongst such a confused Rabble. During this Dancing, the Spectators do not neglect their Business, in working the Loblolly-Pots, and the other Meat that was brought thither; more or less of them being continually Eating, whilst the others were Dancing. When the Dancing was ended, every Youth that was so disposed, catch'd hold of the Girl he liked best, and took her that Night for his Bed-Fellow, making as short Courtship and expeditious Weddings, as the Foot-Guards us'd to do with the Trulls in Salisbury-Court.

Next we shall treat of the Land hereabouts, which is a Marl as red as Blood, and will lather like Soap. The Town stands on this Land, which holds considerably farther in the Country, and is in my Opinion, so durable that no Labour of Man, in one or two Ages, could make it poor. I have formerly seen the like in Leicestershire, bordering upon Rutland. Here were Corn-Stalks in their Fields as thick as the Small of a Man's Leg, and they are ordinarily to be seen.

We lay with these Indians one Night, there being by my Bed-side one of the largest Iron Pots I had ever seen in America, which I much wondred at, because I thought there might be no navigable Stream near that Place. I ask'd them, where they got that Pot? They laugh'd at my Demand, and would give me no Answer, which makes me guess it came from some Wreck, and that we were nearer the Ocean, or some great River, than I thought.

{Monday.} The next day about Noon, we accidentally met with a Southward Indian, amongst those that us'd to trade backwards and forwards, and spoke a little English, whom we hir'd to go with us to the Esaw Indians, a very large Nation containing many thousand People. In the Afternoon we set forward, taking our Leaves of the Wisack Indians, and leaving them some Trifles. On our Way, we met with several Towns of Indians, each Town having its Theater or State House, such Houses being found all along the Road, till you come to Sapona, and then no more of those Buildings, it being about 170 Miles. We reach'd 10 Miles this day, lying at another Town of the Wisacks. The Man of the House offer'd us Skins to sell, but they were too heavy Burdens for our long Voyage.

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