The Natchez and the French
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But alas for the poor Natchez! An evil day brought the pale-faces among them in the year 1716, who built the Fort Rosalie among them and in it garrisoned, as a matter of course, a body of soldiers as a protection in their intended aggressions upon and usurpations of the Indians rights; and from that day the sun of the Natchez’s happiness began to wane, but to speedily set forever in the oblivion of utter extermination. As an introduction, Cadillac, on his way up the Mississippi river to search for gold and silver, stopped at Natchez. As soon as the Indian chiefs learned of his approach they marched out in state to meet him, and according to their custom, presented the calumet of peace to him in token of their desired friendship with him. Cadillac became greatly offended at what he regarded as presumption of the Indians in supposing that he would contaminate his pure patrician lips with the touch of their vile pipe. He accordingly treated the peace desiring Indians as uncouth animals thrusting themselves into his august presence; and un ceremoniously departing without having consented to smoke with them, he impressed the Natchez who could not comprehend his rough manners toward them, or understand the nature of his pride, with the belief that he meditated war upon their tribe and was secretly preparing to make an at tack upon them; and finding a few French strolling about in their village after the departing of Cadillac, and regarding them as spies, they killed them. Hence the origin of the first misunderstanding between the Natchez and the French.”
Then following in the wake of Cadillac, came Bienville on the 24th of April, with a company of soldiers and en camped on an island, situated in the Mississippi river, opposite a village of the Tunica Indians, fifty miles from the Natchez. Without delay he sent a Tunica warrior to the Natchez with the information that he was coming to establish a trading post among them, to exchange with them English goods for their furs. Bienville had been informed that the Natchez were ignorant of the fact, that he knew of their killing the Frenchmen a short time before, therefore he assumed to have come to them as a friend and would be benefactor, that he might the better accomplish his pre-concerted, nefarious designs against them. Gayarre, in his history of Louisiana, Vol. I. p. 140, says: “Three Natchez, as delegates representing their tribe, came to Bienville on the 27th of April, 1716, and tendered to him the calumet, as the ensign of peace.” But Bienville refused to smoke with them, and pretended to consider himself as not being treated with that respect to which he was entitled, since their great chief had not come in person to welcome him, the chief of the French. “I see,” said he, “that your people are not pleased with the idea of my forming a settlement in their territory, for the purpose of “Trading with them. Otherwise they would have expressed their satisfaction in a more becoming manner. Be it so. If the Natchez are so thankless for what I meant to be a favor, I will alter my de termination, and give my preference to the Tunicas, who have always shown themselves such great friends to the French.” What an artful dissembler!
After this speech, to hide his treachery the more successfully, Bienville caused the three envoys to be feasted and treated with the greatest hospitality and respect ; and on their return to their, villages sent a Frenchman with them with instructions to extend an invitation to the Natchez chiefs to a conference on the island on which he was en camped. This greatly embarrassed the Natchez since they were at a loss as to the best course to be pursued. Some were of the opinion that it would be imprudent for their chiefs, to thus place themselves in the hands of the French, who might have heard of the killing of the Frenchmen, and had now come under the assumed garb of peace and friend ship to entrap their chiefs and wreak vengeance upon them. Others on the other hand argued that, from the fact of the French having-come in such a small number, was sufficient proof that they were still ignorant of the death of their countrymen, and did not intend to act as enemies. Furthermore, that the chiefs, by refusing to accept Bienville’s invitation, would incur his displeasure, and he would establish a trading post among the Tunicas, and thus enrich their rivals, to the great injury of the Natchez. This argument prevailed, and in an evil hour for the Natchez chiefs, their visit to Bienville’s camp was resolved upon, and too late they learned, even as all their race have learned from that day to this, that for hypocrisy and treachery the pale-faces cannot be surpassed, and from that hour a system of oppression was inaugurated by the French against the Natchez to ex terminate them, unequaled only by that adopted and practiced by the Americans for the effectual destruction of the entire Indian race upon the North American continent, prosecuted with unrelenting vigor to the present day upon the still surviving little remnant, with an assumed Christian zeal for their civilization and happiness that is truly astonishing since so utterly void of reality.
In 1725 a son of one of the Natchez chiefs was murdered by a French sergeant which caused the Indians to kill a Frenchman named M. Guenot, in retaliation, a reconciliation, however, was soon made, but was not satisfactory to Bienville. He therefore hastened from New Orleans with 500 men, attacked the Natchez wherever met, burned their towns and destroyed their fields, upon which a war was inaugurated, resulting in the defeat of the Indians, who sued for peace. This was granted on their giving up one of their chiefs to be executed, who was accused by the French of being the chief instigator of the war. He was at once slain, and thus closed the second war of the French with the Natchez. In 1726 Bienville returned to France, and Perier succeeded him as governor in 1727. Bienville, by his cruelty and oppression, had entailed the hatred of the Natchez upon all Frenchmen; in this they were encouraged by the Chickasaws who, it has been said, had also projected a general confederation of all Indian tribes to drive the French from their territories.
In 1729 an officer by the name of Chopart was commander of the French settlement. Chopart was naturally of a haughty and tyrannical disposition a fit subject to lord it over a helpless people. But his oppressive tyranny became so great that it could not be longer endured with any degree of patience by the colony; therefore, complaint was made to Governor Perier at New Orleans who summoned Chopart into his presence. He was tried and found guilty of great abuse of power, and would have been justly punished but for the interference of influential friends (always found by such characters even at the present day) who secured his pardon from the governor. The pardoned tyrant returned, of course, to his colony, and in as much as he then acted with justice and humanity toward the French who had resources to a higher authority, the more did he oppress and abuse the Indians who had no higher power to which they could appeal. At this time the Indian company gave instructions to Governor Perier to induce the Indians to remove to a greater distance from the French colony, assigning as a reason, that further collisions with the Whites might thus be obviated. But why not induce the intruding French to remove to a greater distance to obviate further collisions with the Indians? Yes, why? What a system of injustice! Yet practiced to the letter from that day to this by the Whites against all Indians.
Chopart, exulting in the prospects of being able to avenge his wounded pride upon some one, now emptied the, bottles of his long smothered wrath upon the devoted heads of the unfortunate Natchez, treating them with every insolence he could devise, and heaping upon them every outrage and insult that he could suggest, hoping thus to force them to leave their country and homes to the quiet possession of the French, a successful plan of robbery adopted to get possession of the Indians lands. One day he summoned the Great Sun to his presence, and, with a haughty contemptuous demeanor, informed him that he had been instructed by Governor Perier to take possession of the White Apple, one of their most beautiful towns, situated five or six miles from Fort Rosalie; and for them to re move somewhere else out of the way of the plans of the French, at the same time, giving the command in the most insolent and authoritative tone of voice. The chief turned his eyes full upon Chopart with a calm but inquisitive gaze of astonishment, and said: “My white brother cannot be in earnest, but only desires to try the temper of the Indians. Is my white brother ignorant of the fact that the Natchez built that village many thousand moons ago, and have lived there ever since”? “Insolent barbarian”! exclaimed Chopart, in utter contempt. “Call me not brother. Between thy race and mine there are no kindred ties; nor do I parley with any of your race. Let it suffice you, that when I command, you must obey.” The noble chief, concealing his emotions, with a calm manly voice, replied: “Brother such language was never before addressed to me; nor have your people ever before, taken our property from us by force. What they wished of ours, we freely gave or they purchased!. We prefer peace. to war with your nation. There are other lands of ours which we ca h spare to your people; take them! What more can we do? In the center of the White Apple is our temple, in which the bones of our ancestors have reposed since we came from the far west to live on the banks of the Great River, and it is dear to our hearts.
“No more of your foolish talk to me,” replied the insolent Chopart. “Soon a vessel,” he continued, “from our great town down the river will arrive, and if the village of White Apple is not given into my possession by the time the vessel arrives, I will send you bound in chains to our, great chief. I have no more to say. Go.” ‘Tis well,” responded the Indian; “and I go to my people and speak the words before their old and wise men in council.” The command of their mighty chief to convene in council was hastily obeyed; and when he laid before them the insolent and outrageous demands of Chopart, the greatest indignation was-manifest upon every face, though no outward expression of words portrayed the slumbering hatred that now rankled in, their, breasts against their insolent, domineering and oppressive intruders. What was the result of the, council? . A resolution was unanimously passed to invite the Yazoos, Choctaws, Chickasaws and other contiguous tribes, who had also experienced the insolence and oppression of the pale faces, to bury their former animosities for the sake of the common good, and unite in one grand alliance and great brotherhood against their common foe, and by one united effort free their country from the oppressive yoke and cruel tyranny of the pale-face strangers.
Without delay ambassadors were sent to all the surrounding tribes to lay their proposition before their wise men convened in solemn council. The ambassadors carried little bundles of an equal number of sticks, and to each tribe, who should adopt the resolution, a bundle of the sticks was given with instructions to withdraw a stick from the bundle daily, and the last stick was to designate the day that the combined attack upon the French was to be made through out their entire country. This manner of keeping” any appointed day was anciently practiced by all the southern Indians. In a few days the ambassadors returned with the in formation that not a single tribe to which they had been sent had refused to accept the proposition, and all would make the attack on the day appointed. Unfortunately for the Natchez the uncommon movements and unusual activity of their warriors aroused the curiosity of the women. Unfortunately, also, for the Natchez the mother of the then ruling Great Sun cherished an uncommon friendship for the French, and her curiosity had become greatly excited by the frequent secret meetings of all the wise men of the Nation and also by the going and coming of the embassies who had departed in and: returned from all directions, and she had determined to solve the mystery; and in the accomplishment of her resolution she proved herself a successful Delilah. Alas, who can outwit a woman’s excited curiosity for this Indian queen mother so artfully wrought upon her kingly son that he disclosed the whole plot, even the most important secret for the successful accomplishment of her treasonable de signs, where, in the Great Temple was concealed the chronometer of the Natchez, the bundle of sticks, her knowledge of which proved the successful overthrow of her chieftain son, as the secret obtained by Delilah, that of Samson.
To conceal her feelings from her unsuspecting son, she, of course, readily and easily assumed to enter heartily into the plot, though she had determined to warn the French of their impending danger, if it could be done without the betrayal of her. More than once she shrewdly managed to get word to Chopart of the threatened storm, but he regard ed the admonitions as idle stories purposely circulated by the Indians to drive them from the resolution of seizing their village, the White Apple. The French manifested by their conduct no knowledge of their fast approaching doom, not withstanding her warnings sent them, the queen-mother, unrelenting in her efforts to save them, secretly entered the temple and withdrew several of the sticks from the bundle, and thus destroyed the concert of action agreed upon among the tribes, by bringing on the attack of the Natchez at an earlier day. The traitoress hoped by this means that a few French might escape and warn the rest of the colony. But in spite of all the warnings received by Chopart, he still adhered to the same fatal incredulity, applying the insulting epithet of cowardice to those who spoke to him of the rumors that were afloat.
The next day after the convening of the grand council of the Natchez, the Great Sun presented himself at Fort Rosalie, and expressed a willingness to Chopart to comply with his order to evacuate the village of the white people; but humbly requesting a little more time to select a place to which they might transport their effects; to which Chopart acceded, allowing him until the latter part of December, but with this proviso, that the Natchez should pay to him (Chopart), during the interval, one barrel of corn, a certain number of fowls, a certain quantity of furs and bears oil for each cabin of the White Apple village. The Great Sun and Chopart then parted; the one elated with his prospect of gain, the other with his prospect of revenge. But the fatal day, the 29th of November 1716, came, and ere the sun had reached the meridian, the French were involved in one common destruction; in one short hour the work was complete; and with the loss of only twelve warriors, the Natchez slew two hundred and fifty of their merciless French intruders and haughty oppressors. Chopart, the last to receive his just reward, fled to his garden hoping there to conceal himself; but he was found, dragged forth and handed, over to the lowest class of the Natchez warriors, who beat him to death with their war clubs, the highest taking no part in his death, as they considered it dishonorable to imbue, their hands in the blood of so contemptible a wretch. Two men only were spared, one a tailor, and the other a wagoner and three hundred women and children. The Natchez, still ignorant of the queen-mother s theft of the sticks, and that, their attack was premature, and believing that the other tribes had acted in concert with them, consequently the French throughout their entire country were cut off, gave themselves up to feasting and dancing.
In the wide extended arrangement of the plot to destroy, the French, the destruction of New Orleans had been as signed to the Choctaws, and the destruction of the little French forts, scattered here and there over the country, had been assigned to the weaker tribes. Thus the extermination of the French would have been complete but for the concert of action being destroyed by the stolen sticks from, the chronometer of the Natchez.
A few days after the destruction of the French at White Apple the Choctaws sent an embassy to the Natchez to learn the cause of the premature attack upon the French, thus causing a failure of concerted, action against their common foe. When they arrived at the White Apple they angrily demanded of the Natchez an explanation of their strange and incomprehensible conduct and breach of faith. To which the Natchez replied that they had made the attack on, the very day indicated by the last stick, and that if any one had violated their word it was the Choctaws in not making the attack also at the time they themselves had made it; at the same time intimating- cowardice on the part of the Choctaws as a reason for their failure. To which insinuation the Choctaw deputation took great offense, and at once departed, telling the Natchez that henceforward and forever they would have no further alliance with them, but ever consider them as unworthy of trust, while the Natchez hurled back upon them the accusations of perfidy and cowardice.
In a few days after the departure of the first Chickasaw embassy another, one came from a different district of the Choctaw Nation, and were as much dissatisfied in their interview with the Natchez, regarding the explanation of their premature attack upon the French as the former. But learning that the Natchez contemplated killing the two men and the three hundred women and children whom they still held as prisoners, the Choctaw embassy boldly marched in a body to the public square and struck the red post a challenge of defiance among all Indians boldly declaring that the Choctaws would no longer be the allies of the Natchez, but would henceforward be the allies of the French, and if they dared kill a single one of the French prisoners then in their hands, every warrior of their great Nation would come in a body against them. This defiant threat brought the Natchez to due reflection and the two men and three hundred w r omen and children were saved. Having given this salutary advice to the Natchez, the Choctaws departed, leaving the seemingly unfortunate Natchez in a state of great perplexity as to the proper step they should take in so dubious a state of affairs.
When Governor Perier learned of the destruction of the French at Fort Rosalie he immediately sent a courier to the Choctaws with instructions to inform them that Governor Perier desired to have a talk with them. The Choctaws at that time were the most powerful of all the tribes, and great doubts were entertained by them in their then critical state of affairs, as to the course the Choctaws would pursue, and it was highly important that their friendship should be se cured. The destruction of Fort Rosalie by the Natchez had thrown the French into great excitement, consternation and dread, filling their minds with fear as rumor whispered to their excited imaginations the uprising of the Indians in one grand concert of action against them. And Governor Perier states: “So great was the fear that the Chauaches, a little tribe of only thirty warriors, dwelling a few miles above New Orleans, were even a subject of dread to the French.. This induced me to have them destroyed by our Negroes, who executed the mission with great promptness and secrecy, setting an example before the small tribes higher up the river that held them in check. If I had been so disposed I could have destroyed all those nations, which are no service to us, by the Negroes; but who, on the other hand, may influence our blacks to revolt.” But he might the more truth fully have said that he caused the innocent and harmless. Chauaches to be murdered by the Negroes, that he might, create an enmity between the Negro and Indian race, as he no doubt had misapprehensions as to the Negroes remaining quiet in the then excited state of affairs, and not attempt, by joining the Indians, to assert their rights to freedom. What a volume of oppression, wrong and cruelty towards the North Americans, from first to last, might be written from the sentiment expressed in Governor Perier’s, “which are no service to us!”
On the 16th of January 1717, Perier’s fears and anxieties were greatly quieted when he was informed that Le Sueur, a French officer, with seven hundred Choctaw warriors, was on his march against the Natchez. Alas, for the. Natchez! Dame fortune seemed to frown upon them from every side, and to have consigned them to a speedy destruction, for they seemed unable to resist the temptation of enjoying the rich booty taken from the French, though apprehensive of the storm that was gathering around them, and whose muttering thunders in the distance might have been audible had not every sense been swallowed up in the indulgence of feasting and dancing, oblivious to all else. Alas, how quickly does sorrow oft tread upon the heels of joy. Unfortunate and inconsiderate Natchez! On the 27th of January, 1730, while indulging in feasting and dancing; on the banks of a small creek, in thoughtless security, Le Sueur with his seven hundred Choctaws broke suddenly and unexpectedly upon them and turned their merriment into wailing by killing sixty, taking captive twenty and rescuing fifty four French women and children ere they could rally and re treat to two forts they had erected in expectation of a storm which they felt would, sooner or later, burst with great fury upon them. But this was only the prelude to what the Natchez least expected would follow.
On the 8th of February, part of the French forces, rendezvousing among the Tunicas, arrived at Natchez under the command of Loubois and united with the Choctaw under LeSueur, followed by the remainder on the next day. Or the 14th, the united forces of the Choctaws and French made an assault upon the two forts, which were bravely de fended by the Natchez. The French brought four pieces of artillery to bear upon the two little forts, which they had succeeded in planting on an eminence five hundred yard distant, and for six consecutive hours hurled their balls against the two forts with no effect whatever, the Natchez responding with two pieces of artillery, taken in the capture of Fort Rosalie, with like effect. The total failure of the French to produce any effect upon the forts was humiliating to the French commander, but a source of amusement to the Choctaws; as he had promised them that he would knock down the two forts over the heads of the Natchez in two hours. The ineffectual cannonading was kept up seven days; the Choctaws, in the meantime, laughing and deriding the in-competency of the tanapoh chitoh (big guns); becoming wearied at noise without effect, the Choctaws threatened, on the morning of the 23d, to return home if the affairs of the siege were not prosecuted in a better manner. This threat of the Choctaws had the desired effect; and on the 24th, the four pieces of artillery were brought to bear upon the two little forts at a distance of three hundred yards, and then the Natchez were told that it was determined to blow them up, even at the sacrifice of the French captives in their possession.
The near proximity of the artillery, together with that of the threat, so intimidated the Natchez that they sent a female captive to make propositions of peace, who remained, without any response being returned to the Natchez. On the 25th a flag was hoisted by the Natchez as a token of peace. Upon seeing this, a Choctaw chief went near to one of the forts, and cried out to the Natchez. Who ever knew before that the Choctaws encamped around the fort of an enemy for many weeks? Learn from this how great is the friendship of the Choctaws for the French. It is folly for you who are so much less in numbers than the Choctaws to still refuse to give up to the French their women and children. I and my warriors have determined to stay here and keep you in those two forts until you perish by hunger.” Upon hearing this the Natchez promised to deliver all their French prisoners to the Choctaws, on the condition that the French would remove to the bank of the river with their artillery. The French assenting to this proposition, the following stipulations were agreed upon by the two belligerent parties: That the French were to with draw to the banks of the river; the Natchez to deliver their French captives to the Choctaws, and be allowed to remain in quiet and peaceable possession of their country and homes. All of which was agreed upon on the 26th, and thus terminated the siege, the French having lost fifteen men in the affair.
Still the French commander, not regarding himself in honor bound to the adherence of his word, like thousands at the present day, when given to an Indian, had determined, as soon as he had released the French captives in the hands of the Natchez, to recommence hostilities against the Natchez to their utter extermination.
But the Natchez, having learned by sad experience to rely no more upon the promises of the French, had determined to retreat. On the morning of the 27th they handed over all the French women and children to the Choctaws, who, in turn, delivered them to the French, and on the same day the Choctaws departed for their homes. But on the 29th, when the French commander again appeared before the two forts to execute his infamous determination against the Natchez, he found them empty, and their former occupants flown.
Thus was finished this expedition against the unfortunate Natchez, for the successful and speedy termination of which the honor (if honor there be) is due to the Choctaws; for they alone influenced the Natchez to yield; and to the Choctaws only would the Natchez consent to deliver their French -prisoners, and then made good their retreat with honor to themselves and without loss; bidding an eternal adieu to their native hills and ancient possessions to seek a place of rest they knew not where, and leaving their abandoned homes to the possession of the French.
The different tribes, acting in the beginning of the war as allies to the Natchez, returned to their former allegiance with the French, and assisted them in destroying the Natchez wherever found. “Since their flight,” said Perier, I have had fifty of them killed or taken prisoners. I buried here six of them, four men and two women.”
At this exhibition the whites seemed as proud of the, horrid scene, as the ancient Romans were of the mutilation of human beings by wild beasts in the arena, above which sat civilization in the shape of Governor Perier, proving human nature to be the same at bottom, however modified at the surface, whether it remains in the original naked ness of barbarism, or conceals itself under the varied garments of civilization, as is so well established in the oppression and cruelty perpetrated by the American people of the 19th century upon the Red Race of this continent.
Was not this savage act of cruelty, perpetrated by those who assumed to be Christians, regarded by the Indians as an approval of their custom?
Soon after this act of the French, a band of Tunica warriors brought to New Orleans a poor Natchez woman whom they had captured while lingering amid the scenes of her youth, that called up in memory the loved ones then scattered to be united no more, and Governor Perier had her burned to death on a high platform erected especially for the ceremony, and to witness which all New Orleans again turned out in state. While slowly being consumed and suffering tortures most intense, that forlorn Natchez woman far away from kindred and friends- and alone, shed not a tear nor uttered a groan, but bore her tortures with Indian fortitude; yet reproached her captors, the Tunicas, who stood around in bitter epithets declaring the speedy destruction of their people. The dying woman s prediction proved true; for the Tunicas returned home but to be surprised by a band of the homeless Natchez and their nation in turn nearly exterminated.
To what a state of utter desperation must the Natchez have been reduced, to perform such deeds of daring, and to manifest such a thirst for revenge! But for what else had they to live? Their country gone, kindred ties severed never to be reunited, their people scattered as autumn leaves be fore the gale. But why thus? The pale-face saw their Eden, coveted it; and because they dared fight for their God inherited right as God approved heroes, they must abide the decree extermination.
The Tunicas were destroyed by a brave and resolute band of the Natchez, who had found a temporary asylum among the generous Chickasaws, though the exterminating French believed that all the Natchez had sought refuge west of the Mississippi river. But this heroic and indomitable people, scattered in detached bands here and there, did not fail to continually give satisfactory notice to the French that they were not all exterminated. Therefore, Governor Perier resolved that they should be; and in accordance with that resolution he, on the 4th of January, 1731, personally took command of his army, which had been instructed to rendezvous at the mouth of Red River. But where to find, the place where the Natchez had concealed themselves was a problem, which presented itself before him not easy of solution. As delay would accomplish nothing towards gratifying his thirst for Indian blood, he immediately ascended the Red river; thence into Black River; thence into a stream then known as Silver River; thence into a small lake, near which he had heard the Natchez were concealed, where he arrived on January 19th. Again, fortune frowned upon the poor persecuted Natchez, for on the next day a Natchez boy, wandering- too far in his eager pursuit of the chase, fell into the hands of his merciless foes, and, under the fear of terrible threats, betrayed the retreat of his people; and on the 21st the unfortunate Natchez found themselves completely surrounded; and on the 24th, fearing the little fort which they had constructed, and in which their women and children were placed would be stormed, and in that case they would be left to the mercies of a brutal soldiery, made overtures of peace, to which Perier replied, “That he would hold no parley with them, unless they would first give up the Negro slaves they had in their possession, and their chiefs would then come out half way between the fort and the French to have an interview with him.”
Twenty Negroes were at once given up. After much hesitation, and how well founded the sequel will show, the Great Sun, the Little Sun, and a subordinate chief came out of their little fort, at 4 p.m. and advanced to the half-way ground and there met Perier with whom to have a consultation. After a few words had been exchanged, a rain commenced falling; upon which the perfidious Perier suggested the propriety of entering a vacant cabin, near by, to which they readily consented but the moment they entered they were made prisoners by a company of soldiers concealed therein. As night came on the rain increased, and during the night became a fearful tempest; during which the subordinate made good his escape. On the next day (25th) forty-five men and four hundred and fifty women and children surrendered to the mercies of their foes during the day. But the night following being again dark and rainy, the rest about two hundred, fortunately made their escape. Perier began his return on the 28th.; and in his dispatches, as our great Indian butchering generals, the u heroic” Sheridan and Sherman, did not forget the indispensable “Too much praise cannot be awarded the officers and men for their gallant conduct against fearful odds and under adverse circumstances”; but forgot to mention, even as his “gallant” counterparts of the present era, the base treachery he adopted to get the Indian chiefs into his hands. When he returned to New Orleans, he took his Natchez prisoners with him numbering forty-five men and four hundred and fifty women and children, besides the Great Sun and Little Sun, whom he so treacherously got into his hands, and then sent every one of them to St. Domingo, and there sold them as slaves, thus executing his threat against them. Extermination, because they had the manly courage to resist oppression, and fight to the death against merciless tyrants.
The little remnant of Natchez left, though in the last stage of hopeless despair, instead of yielding, nobly and bravely nerved themselves to desperate deeds of revenge, for they still could call into the field about three hundred warriors. But they were at last defeated, then all hope fled, and the few scattered remnants, in three different bands, sought safety where best they could find it; one sought refuge among the Christian hearted Chickasaws, who generously gave them a home and protection. But even there they were not idle, for they sought every opportunity to avenge the destruction of their Nation and people, by attacking the French whenever and wherever found.
In 1733 a few still survived and still fought; for Bienville, being at that time reappointed to the governorship in the place of Perier, said, in a dispatch written on the 15th of May, 1733, “That the Tunicas had assured him that the Natchez were not destroyed, but were composed of three bands; the smallest had fled north some distance from their ancient villages; the next was on the banks of the Mississippi river, opposite the Yazoo river, and the third and largest had been received among the Chickasaws who had given them land on which to live.” He closed by saying: “I shall use every effort to constantly harass them.”
The two bands that still clung near their old homes, and seemed so reluctant to leave forever the banks of that noble river, the Mississippi, became so constantly harassed by the French that they were finally driven to seek a safer place of refuge; therefore, they also retreated to the Chickasaws and joined the band that had preceded them and found shelter and protection among that magnanimous people.
Their nation had perished; the remaining little remnant of survivors went west, and was dispersed among the various Indian tribes of that then little known country to the white race, and was lost as a distinct people. However, it has been stated through the medium of the press that a small tribe of Indians have been discovered in southern Arizona who are Idolaters; that they are in reality sun worshipers, but make small images out of clay with faces sup posed to represent the sun, although bearing little if any resemblance to it; that they do not associate with other tribes and are very seldom seen by white men. In this respect at least they may be regarded as being extremely fortunate. That the idols have large, round bodies and heads, with eyes and mouth and ears beams radiating from the eyes over the face. These Indians keep these idols in rude houses or wigwams, and at certain seasons of the year they hold a sun dance, which is with them a religious ceremony. They have no other form of worship, although a few of them were at one time induced to abandon their idols by the Jesuit priests. If the story be true, there is a good reason to believe that they are the descendants of the few Natchez who fled west in 1733, at the destruction of their nation by the French.
But the beneficent God of man’s creation be praised that
There is a world, where souls are free,
Where tyrants taint not Natures bliss;
If death that world s bright opening be.
Oh! Who would live a slave in this?”
Noble race! Unaccustomed to crouch under oppression, and when the evils of submission became greater than those of resistance, how could it but beget a convulsive burst of indignation and courage, supported by the hope of success fully driving back the merciless invaders of their country and homes!
But how vain the struggle against the irresistible power of superior intelligence, crazed to become rich, and the strength of civilization without mercy, honor or truth, a power without morality, unscrupulous and unprincipled, which came among them to wring from them their country, upon which to build its own greatness, though at the cost of the utter annihilation of its primitive inhabitants; a power from the Alpha to the Omega, which placed the administration of justice, when dealing with the Indians, in the hands of its highest functionary Avarice, and there left it; thus it came a war of helpless sheep against ravenous wolves, untutored men against demons, to whom dissimulation, dishonesty and avarice were as paws to the hungry tiger. Endless promises, false excuses, elaborate tissues of circumstantial falsehoods, unblushing chicanery, and exterminating war, untempered with mercy in regard to age or sex, innocent or guilty, were the weapons adopted and practiced, in the successful and speedy accomplishment of their determination to destroy and exterminate the North American Indian race; therefore they went implacable in enmity and void of pity; and the pertinacity with which they have adhered to their purpose needs no further confirmation.
The historic Indian is with the past, and his bones are resting in the grave with his prehistoric ancestry; while his surviving descendant, shorn of all his former chivalry and independence, is left alone to battle with the prejudice of the exterminators of his race, who for 200 years have been pressing it toward that period of evolution we call civilization, but in reality extermination.
But alas, as a falling star tumbling from its primitive place near the gates of heaven, bathed in primitive glory, so has been the falling of the North American Red Race, that noble, brave and wonderful people, into the dark clouds of misfortune and woe, tracking their lone and sorrowful course down through the deep midnight of despair to helpless ex termination and hopeless oblivion; and though their spring freshness and summer bloom have forever faded away, leaving no hope of a returning morn, still their silent, yet dignified despair, impresses an involuntary respect and admiration even as a fine nature becomes by the sorrows that blight and the misfortunes that mildew and destroy. But will that time never come when that spirit of love that seeks the good of the poor, unfortunate Indian will be truly felt and acted upon, and that spirit which is wise in mercy and has no element of vengeance, shall speak in the actions of our congress, sounded in sermons from our pulpits and pleaded in our prayers at the throne of grace.
Truly the life of the North American Indian of the present day is, and long has been, a strange comedy to all who observe, and a fearful tragedy to those who reflect. But have they not endured enough? Can they endure more and still exist? Nay verily. Already have they turned their gaze to the skirmishers that line the other shore, as they sadly and hopelessly, yet silently and heroically move for ward in their uncomplaining (since unavailing) wretchedness?
The North Americans everywhere were quick to ob serve; prone to meditate on all they observed, and possessed an imagination fertile, expansive and daring; they imbibed with eagerness and retained in a tenacious memory; and be fore their prospects, under the sustaining and fostering care of the loving and loved white missionary, were destroyed and their hopes forever blighted by ruthless hands, their lives were like an April day. True, they had experienced reverses, but as the sun of their lives sank in the west the rainbow of the white man s promise awhile bent beautifully above them; but, alas, only to be driven back from their hopes by realizing the utter falsity of that promise. Ah, suspense and hope deferred! These are the two emotions, which serve to kill the human heart, to darken and blight human existence. Therefore, soon in their faces, where never before seen, were visible strength and weakness, man hood and helplessness.
It is attested by thousands of Christian witnesses now living who personally know, and thousands of Christian witnesses long- since dead, who left their testimony behind them in their writing s down the revolving years back to over two centuries ago, that the North American Indians every where welcomed the religion of Jesus Christ; that they ad mired the civilization of the White Race, and delighted to be taught in the useful arts and sciences, while they abhorred and dreaded the accompanying vices attending- that civilization, as exhibited before them by the lawless, who ever followed close on the heels of the servants of God.
It is a truth, though known to few, that the problems which the North American Indians have presented, ever since their first introduction to the White Race, and still present to this generation in the little remnant, still surviving, are worthy the consideration and study of even the most learned; and that the events which have formed their known history during the last two centuries are worthy to take rank among- the marvels of history. Nor do multiplied thousands have the least conception of the changes which that peculiar, but none the less worthy, people have experienced and the effect they have had upon them. Truly the one stands to the other in the relation of cause to effect. But what the future has in store for them may closely be guessed by their present condition in their transition from the old to the new order of things under the weight of the hand of merciless coercion; yet what many tribes have been enabled to accomplish for the intellectual, moral and material improvement, amid all their vicissitudes, wrongs and sufferings, few, very few, also know; therefore, millions, without any investigation whatever, but upon vague rumor alone, believe that no Indian is or can be fitted to enjoy the blessings of Christianity, though the belief is as faulty as its premises are absolutely false.
May a just and merciful God grant that others shall rise up in the defense of this part of His fearfully persecuted race of mankind, whose pens more efficient than mine shall relate to future generations it s wrongs and sufferings; its love of country and freedom; its heroic defense of both; its patience and silence in misfortunes unparalleled in the history of mankind; its calm resignation in humiliation, after prodigies of justifiable resistance against over whelming numbers, while laboring under the most adverse surroundings ever known in the history of man fighting for country, freedom, justice and truth.
And though here, as in the middle watches of the night, I close my labors, yet I must leave the reader in great doubt of a fairer morn ever dawning upon the Red Race of the United States, as such a morn can scarcely be expected, or even hoped for, in an age abounding more with vice than virtue, as this hitherto has abounded and still abounds, with fair prospects of indefinite continuance; since the manifested desire and unyielding determination of the government and people of the whole country have long been, still are and will ever be, to exterminate their Indian wards forever blot out their institutions and every vestige of their entire race; but hoping and believing that in its oblivion would also be forgotten the means adopted for the accomplishment of the result; therefore, thousands still mock at and deride this people, while others oppress, persecute and slander.
But in this account of the true Native Americans, this peculiar and, in many respects, wonderful part of God’s created races of man, I regret not that I have wandered far from the old and beaten track in which former writers have walked in their accounts given of that people known as the Red Race of North America; and truly believe that I have thereby escaped many of the ruts into which they have, with here and there an exception, alike and invariably fallen; though in passing through the shadowy lands of legend and myth, where many of the pen pictures are, to an un justifiable and inexcusable extent, imaginary, I deny not but here and there a slender web of fiction, but, free of in tended or known falsehood, may be found upon its pages; as I have sought from many sources, whatever hues and colors which were considered best adapted to and interest and variety to its pages; and if it only tends to bring others into sympathy for the Indian race of this continent, one of its principal missions will be accomplished.
True, I have rejected much, which might have been written, for which, perhaps, many may think that fact de serves more praise than to be pardoned for that, which has been published. Be it as it may; I murmur not at the verdict of the reader; nor make any appeal to posterity. I sought not for human adulation, that ephemeral thing so difficult to obtain and so worthless when obtained; therefore, if it quickly dies, amen! As, in so doing, it will save trouble for those who are inclined to injure from any attempt to kill that which will inevitably soon perish of its own self.
But let this be added, the subject matter of this narrative was begun and ended with a full knowledge of the task that lay before me: and so involved was it in uncertainty, and so tinged with romance and fiction, that had not the interest of and justice to the North American Indians, demanded, at least, that an attempt should be made to shed a ray of true light upon their history, I would not indeed have ventured to attempt to lift the veil and bid a thoughtless world look in again upon that mystic people, and thereby ex pose them once more to its idle and heartless gaze, chilled with the frosts of incredulity.
I have endeavored to draw a true picture of the representative type of southern Indians and their wrongs, as found in the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Muscogee now Creek) and Seminole, as they appeared in the four epochs of their known history; from the time of De Solos invasion into their territories; during the period of the establishment of the French colonies among them; during the transition period following the advent of the Protestant missionaries to them, and their final banishment to the then inhospitable and little known “Wild West,” and as they appear, and are today, as a civilized and Christian people.
Hoping my labors will not be viewed in a wrong light, yet ready at all times to defend my position as the abiding friend of the true native North American race, I here bid the reader a kind adieu, as my narrative is finished; my man hood’s years far behind, with life s declining sun lingering upon its western sky; the years of the past hold the native Americans wrongs, and time will tell the rest in the years to come.
Noble race! I honor you and I love you. We’ve been friends together through the years of the Long Ago, enough for us to know. We’ll not be so still in all our years to come; nor time nor distance, though our paths of life diverge, shall ever efface from our memory a page those words, of truth.