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invoke him who is the master of the rest ?? This reasoning disconcerted the juggler, but produced no other effect; for they continued no less attached than before to their ridiculous superstition.”
After these extracts no doubt remains upon our mind of the idolatrous character of the Indian religious practices. We are accustomed indeed to hear and to read of the Great Spirit, and attempts have been made to prove that the red wanderer in our deserts was a pure Theist, and one who, if he worshipped at all, adored God, who is a spirit, in spirit and in truth. We have here adduced but a few particular facts; were they all that we possessed, our conclusion would be too extensive for our premises, and our deduction would be of course unwarranted because unsustained; but these few are only a specimen of many analogous accounts which make the foundation sufficiently large to uphold our superstructure. They exhibit adoration paid to created beings, whether the plumage or skin, or the genius which animated the creature whose spoils were thus held sacred, matters little, and they who paid this homage, were thereby withdrawn from the adoration of the true and only God, the creator of angels, of men and of beasts, and this was perfect idolatry. If each Manitou was the giver of life and death, each had the attribute which is essentially that of the divinity, and we disa oover not only idolatry but polytheism to be fairly chargeable upon the aborigines of our states.
This position is confirmed by the relation of another occurrence. An epidemic having broken out amongst the Indians, their jugglers zealously endeavoured to appease their deity.
“ Meantime the jugglers removed to a short distance from the fort to offer a grand sacrifice to their Manitou. They immolated as many as forty dogs, which they placed on the ends of poles, singing and dancing, and making a thousand extravagant postures. Notwithstanding this the mortality did not cease. The principal juggler took up the notion that their Manitou being more feeble than the Manitou of the French, was obliged to yield to him. Under this impression, he made several circuits round the fort, crying with all his might, We are dead: sweetly, Manitou of the French strike us lightly, do not kill us all.' Then addressing the missionary, “Stop, good Manitou, permit us to live, you have life and death in your chest, let death remain there, give out life.'
The best evidence of adoration is the offering of sacrifice, which is the highest act of religion. The best evidence of polytheism is the undetermined contest between deities, or the victory of one over the other. They who believe in such a contest or such a victory must be polytheists.
Amongst the letters which enter most into detail upon the subject of the belief and ceremonial of the Indians, we may place one written at New-Orleans on the 12th of July, 1730, by Father Petit, one of the missionaries, to Father d'Avangour, Procurator of the Missions of North-America. He states that the tribe of the Natchez, though at that period considerably reduced, was one of the most powerful on the banks of the Mississippi. We shall give in another place, a description of their temple and ceremonial ; we desire at present only to remark his testimony of their adoration of the sun, and of a great number of idols which they had in temples; together with their preservation of a perpetual fire, and their carrying the idols with them to war, together with several superstitious rites upon various occasions.
One remark as to the probable origin of this people : Father Du Poisson, a Jesuit Missionary amongst the Akensas, now Arkansas, Indians on the banks of the river which we denominate Arkansas, who writes from a town of that name on the 3d of October, 1727, gives a most amusing description of his voyage up the Mississippi : he embarked on board a pirogue on the 25th of May, accompauied by two other missionaries, Father Souel for the Yatous or Yazoos, and Father Dumas for the Illinois : they were to be followed immediately by Father de Guienne for the Alibamons, and Father Petit for the hunting grounds. Though we have already made several digressions, we hope to be excused for giving a few stages of the progress of the letter writer, that a comparison might be thus made between what is now done upon that river with what was a grand effort a century ago. Soon after losing sight of NewOrleans, they were nearly wrecked by a snag, and had to remain at Chapitulas with M. Dubriel, a Parisian, who had taken up a concession on the father of rivers ; this delayed them till the 29th, on which day they advanced two leagues, and partook of a carp which weighed over thirty pounds; heavy and reiterated charges are made against mosquitoes, gallinippers, and every other species of fly; the good father doubts whether Pharaoh was more afflicted by omne genus muscarum. Gad-flies and wasps appear to have been more formidable to the
voyagers Don Cossacks and Kalmuc Tartars were to the good people of Paris in 1815. On the night of June 2d, they got beds at the concession of the Messrs. Paris at Bayagoulas: on the 4th, they lodged at Baton Rouge, so called from a post painted red, which divided the hunting grounds of the upper and lower Indians: on the 7th, at Point Coupée: on the 13th, they arrived at Natchez, and were entertained by Father Philibert, a Capuchin Friar, who was the
Parish Priest. It was in this place. Father Du Poisson learned the fact to which we desire to draw the attention of our readers, namely, the custom amongst the Natchez, which has been also testified by several other missionaries, that upon the death of their chief a considerable number of male and female attendants are willingly immolated for the purpose of attending him in the next world. The French settlers vainly endeavoured to put a stop to the practice. The Natchez state that their great ancestors came over the seas to this continent; and Father du Poisson informs us that persons better acquainted than he was with their customs and usages give them a Chinese origin. We have to repeat our regret that the special grounds of these opinions have not reached us.
Leaving Natchez on the 17th of June, our travellers arrived at the mouth of the Yazoo river on the 28d, which was nearly a month from the day of their departure; here Father Souel remained, and on the 26th, Father du Poisson departed for his station and arrived at the lower branch of the Arkansas river on the 7th of July.
As it is very probable that the aboriginal inhabitants of both our continents had a common ancestry, it will be as well that we should now extend our view to the south, as we have gone over a portion of the north. Our object shall be in the first instance to examine the nature and number of deities worshipped, next the rites used in that worship, especially on public occasions, and then the other practices of superstition. Before entering upon our examination we cannot avoid remarking a singular discovery which was made about the year 1731, near the mouth of the river Ouya poc in French Guiana ; in digging for the foundations of the first church which was to be built in that place and which was erected and dedicated in 1733, there was found in the soil at the depth of four or five feet, a small medal greatly rusted, which when cleaned exhibited an image of St. Peter the Apostle. Father Lombard the superior of the Jesuit missions amongst the Indians of Guiana mentions the fact in a letter from Kourou in that province, on the 11th of April 1733, to Father Neuville of the same society, procurator of those missions in France, and offers to send the medal if it should be considered worth inspection by any of the learned antiquarians of that country; he also remarks upon the extraordinary character of the fact, since the Indians had neither money nor medals, and the piece appeared to himn to be of the earliest ages of Christianity, nor was it known that any Christian had ever lived in that country.Another statement in a letter of Father Jerom Herran a Spanish Jesuit and procurator of the missions of Paraguay might
perhaps be placed in juxta position with this; Father Herran's letter is compiled from a memoir drawn up in Spanish by Father John Patrick Fernandez of the same society, and presented to the Prince of Asturias in 1726, in which describing the religion of some of the Indians he gives it as his opinion that in the midst of their gross fables and superstitions might be discerned many traces of the Christian religion said to have been practised to their ancestors by St. Thomas or some of his disciples, We shall not here enter into an examination of the probability of this continent having been peopled from Asia, though long before the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese; and of the migrations having been from that part of India where the Portuguese discovered the Jacobites, called latterly “Christians of St.
Thomas," and that this medal and some of those customs which Father Fernandez describes might have thus found their way to South America; we shall see abundant evidence of many religious ceremonies similar to those of Persia and India having been in existence amongst our tribes. Father Fauque however one of the French missionary Jesuits in Guiana, conjectures from a variety of their customs that they are of Jewish descent; and he relates one fact upon the statement of which he takes occasion to mention his opinion. The Palikours of whom he writes were a tribe on the borders of the river Ouyapoc; and the Galibis were upon the same river but at some distance.
Having gone into a high hut which in the Galibi we call soura, I at once perceived a cadaverous smell; and as I mentioned my surprise, I found that persons were disinterring the bones of one who was dead and which they were to carry to another country, and at the same time shewed me a sort of urn which contained the remains. I recollected that about three or four years previously, I had seen in this same place two Palikours who had come to seek the bones of one of their deceased relatives: as I then omitted questioning them upon the subject, I now did, and the Indians told me that it was the custom of their nation to remove the bones of the dead to the place of their birth, because they looked
upon it to be their true and only country. This usage is in perfect conformity with the conduct of Joseph respecting his father Jacob: and I will say, by the way, that we remark amongst these nations so many customs of the Jewish people, that one cannot avoid believing them to be their descendants.'
We regret much that the good father did not prefer giving an enumeration of facts to mere general opinion, for we must confess, that as yet we feel much less disposed to come into his conclusion, than if we saw more substantial grounds upon which it might rest. We are quite prepared to receive his testimony as respects facts observed by himself, but we must be excused
from adopting his opinions merely because he says there is good reason for their support. We have other, and what appears to us better testimony to maintain their Chinese descent. And if we were to hazard a conjecture upon what we have seen of the Asiatic and American researches, we should feel greatly disposed to believe with Sir William Jones that they are of Hindoostan origin, perhaps after an intermediate residence in China. This would be in a great measure supported by the statement of Father Du Poisson as referred to above.
We now proceed to inquire concerning the religious practices of the South American Indians, &c.
One of the best remarks that we recollect to have met with in these letters on the subject of our present inquiry is contained in one written by Father Cat a Jesuit Missionary from Buenos Ayres on the 18th of May, 1729.
“ To undertake painting for you manners which would equally characterise all the savage people of India would be to attempt an impossibility. You conceive that usages and customs vary to infinity, I shall therefore content myself with giving you what appears to me the most universally established amongst them.”
He then draws a line of distinction between tribes perfectly barbarian, and nations considerably advanced in civilization.He shews that Mexico and Peru appear to have been already civilized, and therefore the accounts given of them by Las Casas, exhibit a mild and amiable race of men, whilst the savage of Paraguay was debauched, dissolute, ungovernable and negligent. After extending those remarks, and exemplifying his positions he proceeds to give a general idea of their religion:
“ The Roman orator has said that in no part of the world does there exist a people that does not recognize a Supreme Being and pay to him homage. This is perfectly verified amongst certain tribes of Paraguay; a stupid and barbarous race, some of whom in truth do not pay any homage to God, yet are persuaded of his existence and fear him
greatly. They are equally convinced that the soul does not perish with the body, at least I judge so from the care with which they bury their dead. They place near them provisions, a bow, arrows and a club, so that in the next world they might be able to procure subsistence, and not be induced through hunger to return to this world to torment the living. This principle, universally received amongst the Indians is of great use to lead them to the knowledge of God. In other respects, there are but few of them who care much what will happen to the souls after death."
“ The Indians give to the moon the title of mother, and pay to her due honor as such; when she is eclipsed, you might see them come in crowds from their huts yelling and shouting dreadfully and shooting a vast VOL. II. NO. 4.