List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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thank him for the grapes.

The mischievous creature was highly diverted with the circumstance,
and laughed immoderately.

"Snow-storm," said he, "Mrs. Moodie and the children are obliged to
you for your kindness in bringing them the grapes; but how came you
to tie them up in a dirty shirt?"

"Dirty!" cried the old man, astonished that we should object to the
fruit on that score. "It ought to be clean; it has been washed often
enough. Owgh! You see, Moodie," he continued, "I have no hat--never
wear hat--want no shade to my eyes--love the sun--see all around
me--up and down--much better widout hat. Could not put grapes in
hat--blanket-coat too large, crush fruit, juice run out. I had
noting but my shirt, so I takes off shirt, and brings grape safe
over the water on my back. Papouse no care for dirty shirt; their
lee-tel bellies have no eyes."

In spite of this eloquent harangue, I could not bring myself to use
the grapes, ripe and tempting as they looked, or give them to the
children. Mr. W--- and his wife happening to step in at that moment,
fell into such an ecstasy at the sight of the grapes, that, as they
were perfectly unacquainted with the circumstance of the shirt, I
very generously gratified their wishes by presenting them with the
contents of the large dish; and they never ate a bit less sweet for
the novel mode in which they were conveyed to me!

The Indians, under their quiet exterior, possess a deal of humour.
They have significant names for everything, and a nickname for every
one, and some of the latter are laughably appropriate. A fat,
pompous, ostentatious settler in our neighbourhood they called
Muckakee, "the bull frog." Another, rather a fine young man, but
with a very red face, they named Segoskee, "the rising sun." Mr.
Wood, who had a farm above ours, was a remarkably slender young man,
and to him they gave the appellation of Metiz, "thin stick." A
woman, that occasionally worked for me, had a disagreeable squint;
she was known in Indian by the name of Sachabo, "cross eye." A
gentleman with a very large nose was Choojas, "big, or ugly nose."
My little Addie, who was a fair, lovely creature, they viewed with
great approbation, and called Anoonk, "a star;" while the rosy Katie
was Nogesigook, "the northern lights." As to me, I was Nonocosiqui,
a "humming-bird;" a ridiculous name for a tall woman, but it had
reference to the delight I took in painting birds. My friend,
Emilia, was "blue cloud;" my little Donald, "frozen face;" young
C---, "the red-headed woodpecker," from the colour of his hair; my
brother, Chippewa, and "the bald-headed eagle." He was an especial
favourite among them.

The Indians are often made a prey of and cheated by the unprincipled
settlers, who think it no crime to overreach a red-skin. One
anecdote will fully illustrate this fact. A young squaw, who was
near becoming a mother, stopped at a Smith-town settler's house to
rest herself. The woman of the house, who was Irish, was peeling for
dinner some large white turnips, which her husband had grown in
their garden. The Indian had never seen a turnip before, and the
appearance of the firm, white, juicy root gave her such a keen
craving to taste it that she very earnestly begged for a small piece
to eat. She had purchased at Peterborough a large stone-china bowl,
of a very handsome pattern (or, perhaps, got it at the store in
exchange for BASKET), the worth of which might be half-a-dollar.
If the poor squaw longed for the turnip, the value of which could
scarcely reach a copper, the covetous European had fixed as longing
a glance upon the china bowl, and she was determined to gratify her
avaricious desire and obtain it on the most easy terms. She told the
squaw, with some disdain, that her man did not grow turnips to give
away to "Injuns," but she would sell her one. The squaw offered her
four coppers, all the change she had about her. This the woman
refused with contempt. She then proffered a basket; but that was
not sufficient; nothing would satisfy her but the bowl. The Indian
demurred; but opposition had only increased her craving for the
turnip in a tenfold degree; and, after a short mental struggle,
in which the animal propensity overcame the warnings of prudence,
the squaw gave up the bowl, and received in return one turnip!
The daughter of this woman told me this anecdote of her mother as
a very clever thing. What ideas some people have of moral justice!

I have said before that the Indian never forgets a kindness. We
had a thousand proofs of this, when overtaken by misfortune, and
withering beneath the iron grasp of poverty, we could scarcely
obtain bread for ourselves and our little ones; then it was that
the truth of the eastern proverb was brought home to our hearts,
and the goodness of God fully manifested towards us, "Cast thy
bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days."
During better times we had treated these poor savages with
kindness and liberality, and when dearer friends looked coldly upon
us they never forsook us. For many a good meal I have been indebted
to them, when I had nothing to give in return, when the pantry was
empty, and "the hearthstone growing cold," as they term the want of
provisions to cook at it. And their delicacy in conferring these
favours was not the least admirable part of their conduct. John
Nogan, who was much attached to us, would bring a fine bunch of
ducks, and drop them at my feet "for the papouse," or leave a large
muskinonge on the sill of the door, or place a quarter of venison
just within it, and slip away without saying a word, thinking that
receiving a present from a poor Indian might hurt our feelings, and
he would spare us the mortification of returning thanks.

Often have I grieved that people with such generous impulses should
be degraded and corrupted by civilised men; that a mysterious
destiny involves and hangs over them, pressing them back into the
wilderness, and slowly and surely sweeping them from the earth.

Their ideas of Christianity appeared to me vague and unsatisfactory.
They will tell you that Christ died for men, and that He is the
Saviour of the World, but they do not seem to comprehend the
spiritual character of Christianity, nor the full extent of the
requirements and application of the law of Christian love. These
imperfect views may not be entertained by all Christian Indians, but
they were very common amongst those with whom I conversed. Their
ignorance upon theological, as well as upon other subjects, is, of
course, extreme. One Indian asked me very innocently if I came from
the land where Christ was born, and if I had ever seen Jesus. They
always mention the name of the Persons in the Trinity with great

They are a highly imaginative people. The practical meaning of their
names, and their intense admiration for the beauties of Nature, are
proof of this. Nothing escapes their observing eyes. There is not a
flower that blooms in the wilderness, a bird that cuts the air with
its wings, a beast that roams the wood, a fish that stems the water,
or the most minute insect that sports in the sunbeams, but it has an
Indian name to illustrate its peculiar habits and qualities. Some of
their words convey the direct meaning of the thing implied--thus,
che-charm, "to sneeze," is the very sound of that act; too-me-duh,
"to churn," gives the noise made by the dashing of the cream from
side to side; and many others.

They believe in supernatural appearances--in spirits of the earth,
the air, the waters. The latter they consider evil, and propitiate
before undertaking a long voyage, by throwing small portions of
bread, meat, tobacco, and gunpowder into the water.

When an Indian loses one of his children, he must keep a strict fast
for three days, abstaining from food of any kind. A hunter, of the
name of Young, told me a curious story of their rigid observance of
this strange rite.

"They had a chief," he said, "a few years ago, whom they called
'Handsome Jack'--whether in derision, I cannot tell, for he was one
of the ugliest Indians I ever saw. The scarlet fever got into the
camp--a terrible disease in this country, and doubly terrible to
those poor creatures who don't know how to treat it. His eldest
daughter died. The chief had fasted two days when I met him in the
bush. I did not know what had happened, but I opened my wallet, for
I was on a hunting expedition, and offered him some bread and dried
venison. He looked at me reproachfully.

"'Do white men eat bread the first night their papouse is laid in
the earth?'

"I then knew the cause of his depression, and left him."

On the night of the second day of his fast another child died of
the fever. He had now to accomplish three more days without tasting
food. It was too much even for an Indian. On the evening of the
fourth, he was so pressed by ravenous hunger, that he stole into
the woods, caught a bull-frog, and devoured it alive. He imagined
himself alone; but one of his people, suspecting his intention,
had followed him, unperceived, to the bush. The act he had just
committed was a hideous crime in their eyes, and in a few minutes
the camp was in an uproar. The chief fled for protection to Young's
house. When the hunter demanded the cause of his alarm, he gave for
answer, "There are plenty of flies at my house. To avoid their
stings I came to you."

It required all the eloquence of Mr. Young, who enjoyed much
popularity among them, to reconcile the rebellious tribe to their

They are very skilful in their treatment of wounds, and many
diseases. Their knowledge of the medicinal qualities of their plants
and herbs is very great. They make excellent poultices from the bark
of the bass and the slippery elm. They use several native plants in
their dyeing of baskets and porcupine quills. The inner bark of the
swamp-alder, simply boiled in water, makes a beautiful red. From the
root of the black briony they obtain a fine salve for sores, and
extract a rich yellow dye. The inner bark of the root of the sumach,
roasted, and reduced to powder, is a good remedy for the ague; a
teaspoonful given between the hot and cold fit. They scrape the fine
white powder from the large fungus that grows upon the bark of the
pine into whiskey, and take it for violent pains in the stomach.
The taste of this powder strongly reminded me of quinine.

I have read much of the excellence of Indian cookery, but I never
could bring myself to taste anything prepared in their dirty
wigwams. I remember being highly amused in watching the preparation
of a mess, which might have been called the Indian hotch-potch. It
consisted of a strange mixture of fish, flesh, and fowl, all boiled
together in the same vessel. Ducks, partridges, muskinonge, venison,
and muskrats, formed a part of this delectable compound. These were
literally smothered in onions, potatoes, and turnips, which they had
procured from me. They very hospitably offered me a dishful of the
odious mixture, which the odour of the muskrats rendered everything
but savoury; but I declined, simply stating that I was not hungry.
My little boy tasted it, but quickly left the camp to conceal the
effect it produced upon him.

Their method of broiling fish, however, is excellent. They take
a fish, just fresh out of the water, cut out the entrails, and,
without removing the scales, wash it clean, dry it in a cloth, or
in grass, and cover it all over with clear hot ashes. When the
flesh will part from the bone, they draw it out of the ashes, strip
off the skin, and it is fit for the table of the most fastidious

The deplorable want of chastity that exists among the Indian
women of this tribe seems to have been more the result of their
intercourse with the settlers in the country than from any previous
disposition to this vice. The jealousy of their husbands has often
been exercised in a terrible manner against the offending squaws;
but this has not happened of late years. The men wink at these
derelictions in their wives, and share with them the price of
their shame.

The mixture of European blood adds greatly to the physical beauty
of the half-race, but produces a sad falling-off from the original
integrity of the Indian character. The half-caste is generally a
lying, vicious rogue, possessing the worst qualities of both parents
in an eminent degree. We have many of these half-Indians in the
penitentiary, for crimes of the blackest dye.

The skill of the Indian in procuring his game, either by land or
water, has been too well described by better writers than I could
ever hope to be to need any illustration from my pen, and I will
close this long chapter with a droll anecdote which is told of a
gentleman in this neighbourhood.

The early loss of his hair obliged Mr. --- to procure the substitute
of a wig. This was such a good imitation of nature, that none but
his intimate friends and neighbours were aware of the fact.

It happened that he had had some quarrel with an Indian, which had
to be settled in one of the petty courts. The case was decided in
favour of Mr. ---, which so aggrieved the savage, who considered
himself the injured party, that he sprang upon him with a furious
yell, tomahawk in hand, with the intention of depriving him of his
scalp. He twisted his hand in the looks which adorned the cranium of
his adversary, when--horror of horrors!--the treacherous wig came
off in his hand, "Owgh! owgh!" exclaimed the affrighted savage,
flinging it from him, and rushing from the court as if he had been
bitten by a rattlesnake. His sudden exit was followed by peals of
laughter from the crowd, while Mr. --- coolly picked up his wig,
and drily remarked that it had saved his head.


  The air is still, the night is dark,
    No ripple breaks the dusky tide;
  From isle to isle the fisher's bark
    Like fairy meteor seems to glide;
  Now lost in shade--now flashing bright
    On sleeping wave and forest tree;
  We hail with joy the ruddy light,
  Which far into the darksome night
    Shines red and cheerily!

  With spear high poised, and steady hand,
    The centre of that fiery ray,
  Behold the Indian fisher stand
    Prepared to strike the finny prey;
  Hurrah! the shaft has sped below--
    Transfix'd the shining prize I see;
  On swiftly darts the birch canoe;
  Yon black rock shrouding from my view
    Its red light gleaming cheerily!

  Around yon bluff, whose pine crest hides
    The noisy rapids from our sight,
  Another bark--another glides--
    Red meteors of the murky night.
  The bosom of the silent stream
    With mimic stars is dotted free;
  The waves reflect the double gleam,
  The tall woods lighten in the beam,
    Through darkness shining cheerily!



  There is a hollow roaring in the air--
  The hideous hissing of ten thousand flames,
  That from the centre of yon sable cloud
  Leap madly up, like serpents in the dark,
  Shaking their arrowy tongues at Nature's heart.

It is not my intention to give a regular history of our residence

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