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Their children are not obstinate, since they give them
everything they ask for, without ever letting them cry for
that which they want. The greatest persons give way to the
little ones. The father and the mother draw the morsel from
the mouth if the child asks for it. They love their children
greatly. They are never afraid of having too many, for they
are their wealth. The boys aid the father, going on the
hunt, and help in the support of the family. The girls work,
aiding the mother; they go for the wood, for the water, and
to find the animal in the woods. After the latter is killed
they carry it to the wigwam. There is always some old woman
with the girls to conduct them and show them the way, for
often these animals which it is necessary to go and find are
killed at five or six leagues from the wigwam, and there are
no beaten roads.
will tell only the distance of the road, the woods that must be passed, the
mountains, rivers, brooks, and meadows, if there are any on the route, and
will specify the spot where the animal will be, and where he will have
broken off three or four branches of trees to mark the place. This is enough
to enable them to find it, to such a degree that they never fail, and they
bring it back. Sometimes they camp where the animal is. They make broiled
steaks and return next day.
have lived for some time in one place, which they have beaten for game all
around their camp, they go and camp fifteen or twenty leagues away. Then the
women and girls must carry the wigwam, their dishes, their bags, their skins,
their robes, and everything they can take, for the men and the boys carry
nothing, a practice they follow still at the present time.
arrived at the place where they wish to remain, the women must build the
camp. Each one does that which is her duty. One goes to find poles in the
woods; another goes to break off branches of Fir, which the little girls
carry. The woman who is mistress, that is, she who has borne the first boy,
takes command, and does not go to the woods for anything. Everything is
brought to her. She fits the poles to make the wigwam, and arranges the Fir
to make the place on which each one disposes himself. This is their carpet
and the feathers of their bed. If the family is a large one they make it (the
wigwam) long enough for two fires; otherwise they make it round, just like
military tents, with only this difference that in place of canvas they are of
barks of Birch. These are so well fitted that it never rains into their
wigwams. The round kind holds ten to twelve persons, the long twice as many.
The fires are made in the middle
round kind, and at the two ends of the long sort.
these barks, they select all the biggest Birches they are able to find, and
these are the thickness of a hogshead. They cut the bark all around the tree
as high up as they can with their stone axes; then they cut it low down, also
all around; after that they split it from above downwards, and with their
knives of bone they separate it all around the tree which ought to be in sap
to loosen readily. When they have enough of it, they sew it edge
four pieces together or five together, Their thread is made from root of Fir,
which they split in three, the same as the Osier with which the hoops of
barrels are tied. They make it as fine as they wish.
needles are of bone, and they make them pointed as awls by dint of sharpening
them. They pierce the barks and pass this root from hole to hole for the
breadth of the barks. This being finished they roll them as tightly as they
can that they may be the easier to carry. When they strip them off the wigwam
to carry them to another place, since they are dried from the fire which had
been made there, they heat them again to make them more supple. In
proportion as they heat, they are rolled up; otherwise they would break
through being too dry.
present time they still do it in the same way, but they have good axes,
knives more convenient for their work, and kettles easy to carry. This is a
great convenience for them, as they are not obliged to go to the places where
were their kettles of wood, of which one never sees any at present, as they
have entirely abandoned the use of them.
their marriage, in old times a boy who wished
to have a
girl was obliged to serve the father several years according to an agreement.
His duty was to go a hunting, to show
that he was a good hunter capable of supporting well his wife and family. He
had to make bows, arrows, the frame of snowshoes, even a canoe-that is to
say, to do the work of men.
Everything that he did during his time went to the father of the girl, but
nevertheless he had use of it himself in case of need.
corded the snowshoes, made his clothes, his moccasins and his stockings, as
evidence that she was clever in work. The father, the mother, the daughter, and
the suitor all slept in the same wigwam, the daughter near her mother, and the
suitor on the other side, always with
between them. The other women and the children also slept there. There never
occurred the least disorder. The girls were very modest at that time, always
clothed with a well-dressed Moose skin which descended below the knees. They
made their stockings and their shoes from the
of skin for the summer. In winter they made robes of Beaver. The modesty of
the girls was such in those old times that they would often hold their water
twenty-four hours rather than let themselves be seen in this action by a boy.
being expired, it was time to speak of the marriage. The relatives of the boy
came to visit those of the girl, and asked them if it were pleasing to them.
If the father of the girl was favourable to it, it was then necessary to learn
from the two parties concerned if they were content therewith; and if one of
the two did not wish the marriage, nothing further was done. They were never
compelled. But if all were in agreement, a day was chosen for making a
banquet; in the meantime the boy went a hunting, and did his very best to
treat the entire assembly as well to roast as to boiled meat, and to have
especially an abundance of soup, good and fat.
The day having arrived, all the relatives
and guests assembled, and everything being ready the men and older boys all
entered the wigwam, the old men at the upper end near the father and mother. The
upper end is the left in entering the wigwam, and a circuit is made passing to
the right. No other woman entered save the mother of the boy. Each one having
taken his place, all seated themselves upon their buttocks, like Apes, for that
is their posture. The bridegroom brought in the meat in a huge bark dish,
divided it, and placed it on as many plates as there were persons, as much as
they could hold. There was in each plate enough meat for a dozen persons. He
gave each one his plate, and they devoted themselves to eating. The bridegroom
was there also with a great dish of soup, which he gave to the first one that he
might drink his fill. He, having sufficiently quenched his thirst, passed the
dish to his neighbour, who did the same. When it was empty it was filled again.
Then having drunk and feasted well, they took a (comfortable) posture. The
oldest of them made a speech in praise of the bridegroom, and gave an account of
his genealogy, in which he was always found descended from some great chief ten
or twelve generations back. He exaggerated everything good that they had done,
as well in hunting, the spirit they showed, the good counsel they had given, and
everything of consequence they had done in their lives. He commenced with the
most ancient, and, descending from generation to generation
he came to a conclusion with the father of the bridegroom.
exhorted the bridegroom not to degenerate from the worth of his ancestors.
Having finished his speech, all the company made two or three cries, saying
hau, hau, hau. After this the bridegroom thanked them,
promising as much as, and more than, his ancestors; then the assembly gave
again the same cry. Then the bridegroom set about dancing; he chanted war
songs which he composed on the spot and which exalted his courage and his
worth, the number of animals he had killed, and everything that he aspired to
do. In dancing he took in his hands a bow, arrows, and a great shaft in which
is set a bone of a Moose, sharply pointed, with which they kill animals in
winter when there is a great
snow. This sort of thing (they did) one after another, each having his song,
during which he would work himself into a fury, and seemed as if he wished to
kill everybody. Having finished, the entire assembly recommenced their hau,
hau, hau, which signifies joy and contentment.
they commenced again to eat and drink until they were full. Then they called
their wives and children who were not far off; these came and each one gave
them his plate from which they proceeded to eat in their turn.
were any women or girls who had their monthlies, she had to retire apart, and
the others brought to each one her portion. In those (old) times they never
ate except alone by themselves; they did no work, and did not dare touch
anything, especially anything to be eaten. It was necessary they should be
always in retirement.
thus developed into a custom the recital of their genealogies, both in the
speeches they make at marriages, and also at funerals. This is in order to
keep alive the memory, and to preserve by tradition from father to son, the
history of their ancestors, and the example of their fine actions and of their
greatest qualities, something which would otherwise be lost to them, and would
deprive them of a knowledge of their relationships, which they preserve by
this means; and it serves to transmit their (family) alliances to posterity.
On these matters they are very inquisitive, especially those descended from
the ancient chiefs; this they sometimes claim for more than twenty
generations, something which makes them more honoured by all the others.
certain degrees of relationship among them which prevents
their marrying together. This is never done by brother to sister, by
nephew to niece, or cousin to cousin that is to say, so far
as the second degree, for beyond that they can do it. If a young married woman has no children by
her husband at the end of two or three years, he can divorce her and turn her out to take another.
He is not held to service as in the case of the first; he simply makes
presents of robes, skins, or wampum. I shall tell in its proper place what
this wampum is. He is obliged to make a feast for the father of the girl, but
not so impressive a one as on the first occasion. If she becomes pregnant he
gives a great feast to his relatives; otherwise he drives her out like the
first, and marries another. This wife being pregnant, he sees her no more. As
to these matters, they take as many women as they please provided that they
are good hunters, and not lazy. Otherwise the girls will not accept them. One
sees Indians who have two or three wives pregnant at the same time; it is
their greatest joy to have a large number of children.
these festivities of weddings and feasts they adorn themselves with their most
beautiful clothes. In summer the men have robes of Moose skin, well dressed,
white, ornamented with embroidery two fingers' breadth wide from top to
bottom, both close and open work. Others have three rows at the bottom, some
lengthwise, and others across, others in broken chevrons, or studded with
figures of animals, according to the fancy of the workman.
all these fashions in colours of red, violet, and blue, applied on the skin
with some isinglass. They had bones fashioned in different ways which they
passed quite hot over the colours, in a manner somewhat like that in which one
gilds the covers of books. When these colours are once applied, they do not
come off with water.
their skins, these are soaked and stretched in the sun, and are well-heated on
the skin side for pulling out the hair. Then they stretch them and pullout the
hair with bone instruments made on purpose, somewhat as do those who prepare a
skin for conversion into parchment. Then they rub it with bird's liver and a
little oil. Next, having rubbed it
well between the hands, they dress it over a piece of polished wood made
shelving on both sides just as is done to dress the skins for making gloves
upon an iron. They rub it until it becomes supple and manageable. Then they
wash it and twist it with sticks many times, until it leaves the water clean.
Then they spread it to dry.
For the skins
dressed with the hair, these are only treated with the livers, with which they
are well rubbed by hand; they are passed repeatedly over the sticks to dress
them well. If they are not then soft enough, more of the
added and they are once more rubbed until they are pliable; then they are
dried. All of those robes, whether for men or for women, are made like a
blanket. The men wear them upon their shoulders, tying the two ends with
strings of leather under the chin, while all the remainder is not closed up.
They show the whole body with the exception of their privy parts, which are
hidden by means of a very supple and very thin skin. This passes between their
legs and is attached at the two ends to a girdle of leather which they have
around them; and it is called a truss (brayer).
wear this robe in Bohemian fashion. The opening is on one side. They attach it
with cords in two places, some distance apart, in such a way that the head can
pass through the middle and the arms on the two sides. Then they double the
two ends one above the other, and over it they place a girdle which they tie
very tightly, in such manner that it cannot falloff. In this way they are
entirely covered. They have sleeves of skin which are attached together
behind. They have also leggings of skin, like stirrup stockings,
without feet; the men wear these likewise.
They also make moccasins of their old robes
of Moose skin, which are greasy and better than new. Their moccasins are
rounded in front, and the sewing redoubles on the end of the foot, and is
puckered as finely as a chemise. It is done very neatly; the girls make them
for themselves embellished with colours, the seams being ornamented with
quills of Porcupine, which they dye red and violet.
some very beautiful colours, especially their flame-colour, which surpasses
all that we see in this country of this nature. It is made from a little root
as thick as a thread.1 As for the leaf, they are not willing
to show it, something which is unusual with them. Such were approximately
their summer clothes. During the winter their robes are of Beaver, of Otter,
of Marten, of Lynx, or of Squirrel, always martachees, that is
to say, painted.
faces, when they go to ceremonies with their fine clothes, are painted in red
or violet; or else they make long and short rays of colour, according to
fancy, on the nose, over the eyes, and along the cheeks, and they grease the
hair with oil to make it shine. Those who are finest among them look like a
masquerade. Such are their fineries on their days of holiday-making.
1. This plant was without doubt the small
bedstraw, the variety called in the older, and as well in the newest, works
Galium tinctorium. Its identity is made certain by Slafter,
in the Otis-Slafter
Champlain (111.14,15), who cites Kalm as stating that the Indians used the
roots of this plant to dye their porcupine quills red, and that the colour
stood the weather well.