21 October 2013
The Print of Thy Moccasins
TO JOHN THOREAU (AT TAUNTON).
(Written as from one Indian to another.)
MUSKETAQUID, 202 Summers, two Moons, eleven Suns, since the coming of the Pale Faces.
(November 11, 1837.)
TAHATAWAN, Sachimaussan, to his brother sachem, Hopeful of Hope well, hoping that he is well :
Brother : It is many suns that I have not seen the print of thy moccasins by our council-fire; the Great Spirit has blown more leaves from the trees, and many clouds from the land of snows have visited our lodge ; the earth has become hard, like a frozen buffalo-skin, so that the trampling of many herds is like the Great Spirit's thunder; the grass on the great fields is like the old man of many winters, and the small song-sparrow prepares for his flight to the land whence the summer comes.
Brother : I write these things because I know that thou lovest the Great Spirit s creatures, and wast wont to sit at thy lodge-door, when the maize was green, to hear the bluebird s song. So shalt thou, in the land of spirits, not only find good hunting grounds and sharp arrow heads, but much music of birds.
Brother : I have been thinking how the Pale Faces have taken away our lands, and was a woman. You are fortunate to have pitched your wigwam nearer to the great salt lake, where the Pale Face can never plant corn.
Brother : I need not tell thee how we hunted on the lands of the Dundees, a great war-chief never forgets the bitter taunts of his enemies. Our young men called for strong water; they painted their faces and dug up the hatchet. But their enemies, the Dundees, were women; they hastened to cover their hatchets with wampum. Our braves are not many; our enemies took a few strings from the heap their fathers left them, and our hatchets are buried. But not Tahatawan's; his heart is of rock when the Dundees sing, his hatchet cuts deep into the Dundee braves.
Brother : There is dust on my moccasins; I have journeyed to the White Lake, in the coun try of the Ninares.* The Long-knife has been there, like a woman I paddled his war-canoe. But the spirits of my fathers were angered; the waters were ruffled, and the Bad Spirit troubled the air. The hearts of the Lee-vites are gladdened; the young Peacock has returned to his lodge at Naushawtuck. He is the Medicine of his tribe, but his heart is like the dry leaves when the whirlwind breathes. He has come to help choose new chiefs for the tribe, in the great Council-house, when two suns are past. There is no seat for Tahatawan in the council-house. He lets the squaws talk, his voice is heard above the warwhoop of his tribe, piercing the hearts of his foes; his legs are stiff, he cannot sit.
Brother : Art thou waiting for the spring, that the geese may fly low over thy wigwam? Thy arrows are sharp, thy bow is strong. Has Anawan killed all the eagles ? The crows fear not the winter. Tahatawan's eyes are sharp he can track a snake in the grass, he knows a friend from a foe; he welcomes a friend to his lodge though the ravens croak.
Brother : Hast thou studied much in the medicine-books of the Pale-Faces? Dost thou understand the long talk of the Medicine whose words are like the music of the mocking-bird ? But our chiefs have not ears to hear him; they listen like squaws to the council of old men, they understand not his words. But, Brother, he never danced the war-dance, nor heard the warwhoop of his enemies. He was a squaw; he stayed by the wigwam when the braves were out, and tended the tame buffaloes.
Fear not; the Dundees have faint hearts and much wampum. When the grass is green on the great fields, and the small titmouse returns again, we will hunt the buffalo together.
Our old men say they will send the young chief of the Karlisles, who lives in the green wigwam and is a great Medicine, that his word may be heard in the long talk which the wise men are going to hold at Shawmut, by the salt lake. He is a great talk, and will not forget the enemies of his tribe.
14th Sun. The fire has gone out in the council-house. The words of our old men have been like the vaunts of the Dundees. The Eagle-Beak was moved to talk like a silly Pale-Face, and not as becomes a great war-chief in a council of braves. The young Peacock is a woman among braves; he heard not the words of the old men, like a squaw he looked at his medicine-paper. The young chief of the green wigwam has hung up his moccasins; he will not leave his tribe till after the buffalo have come down on to the plains.
Brother : This is a long talk, but there is much meaning to my words; they are not like the thunder of canes when the lightning smites them. Brother, I have just heard thy talk and am well pleased; thou art getting to be a great Medicine. The Great Spirit confound the enemies of thy tribe.
His mark (a bow and arrow).
*White Pond, in the district called "Nine-Acre Corner," is here meant; the "Lee-vites" were a family then living on Lee's Hill. Naushawtuck is another name for this hill, where the old Tahatawan lived at times, before the English settled in Concord in September, 1635. The real date of this letter is November 11-14, 1837, and between its two dates the Massachusetts state election was held. The "great council-house " was the Boston State House, to which the Concord people were electing deputies; the "Eagle-Beak" named below was doubtless Samuel Hoar, the first citizen of the town, and for a time Member of Congress from Middlesex County. He was the father of Rockwood and Frisbie Hoar, afterwards judge and senator respectively.