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Dahcotah - Life and Legends of the Sioux Around Fort Snelling

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368 pages
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dahcotah, by Mary EastmanThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: Dahcotah Life and Legends of the Sioux Around Fort SnellingAuthor: Mary EastmanRelease Date: January 22, 2004 [EBook #10794]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DAHCOTAH ***Produced by Lee Dawei, Charlie Kirschner and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team from images generouslymade available by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.DAHCOTAH;OR,LIFE AND LEGENDS OF THE SIOUXAROUND FORT SNELLING.BY MRS. MARY EASTMAN,WITHPREFACE BY MRS. C. M. KIRKLAND.ILLUSTRATED FROM DRAWINGS BY CAPTAIN EASTMAN.TO HENRY SIBLEY, ESQ.,HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.It was my purpose to dedicate, exclusively, these pages to my beloved parents. What correctness of sentiment appearsin this book is mainly ascribable to a principle they endeavored to instil into the minds of their children, that purity of heartand intellectual attainment are never more appropriately exercised than in promoting the good of our fellow-creatures.Yet the sincere sentiments of respect and regard that I entertain for you, the remembrance of the many acts of friendshipreceived from you during my residence at Fort Snelling, and the assurance that you are ...
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dahcotah, by
Mary Eastman
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at
no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.
You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the
terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
Title: Dahcotah Life and Legends of the Sioux
Around Fort Snelling
Author: Mary Eastman
Release Date: January 22, 2004 [EBook #10794]
Language: English
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG
EBOOK DAHCOTAH ***
Produced by Lee Dawei, Charlie Kirschner and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team from images
generously made available by the Canadian
Institute for Historical Microreproductions.DAHCOTAH;
OR,
LIFE AND LEGENDS OF THE SIOUX
AROUND FORT SNELLING.
BY MRS. MARY EASTMAN,
WITH
PREFACE BY MRS. C. M. KIRKLAND.
ILLUSTRATED FROM DRAWINGS BY
CAPTAIN EASTMAN.
TO HENRY SIBLEY, ESQ.,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.It was my purpose to dedicate, exclusively, these
pages to my beloved parents. What correctness of
sentiment appears in this book is mainly ascribable
to a principle they endeavored to instil into the
minds of their children, that purity of heart and
intellectual attainment are never more
appropriately exercised than in promoting the good
of our fellow-creatures.
Yet the sincere sentiments of respect and regard
that I entertain for you, the remembrance of the
many acts of friendship received from you during
my residence at Fort Snelling, and the assurance
that you are ever prompt to assist and protect the
Indian, induce me to unite your name with those
most dear to me in this dedication.
An additional inducement is, that no one knows
better than yourself the opportunities that
presented themselves to collect materials for these
legends, and with what interest these occasions
were improved. With whatever favor this little work
may be received it is a most pleasing reflection to
me, that the object in publishing it being to excite
attention to the moral wants of the Dahcotahs, will
be kindly appreciated by the friends of humanity,
and by none more readily than yourself.
Very truly yours,
MARY H. EASTMAN.
New London, March lst, 1849.PREFACE.
My only title to the office of editor in the present
case is some practice in such matters, with a very
warm interest in all, whether relating to past or
present, that concerns our western country. Mrs.
Eastman,—wife of Captain Eastman, and daughter
of Dr. Henderson, both of the U. S. army,—is
thoroughly acquainted with the customs,
superstitions, and leading ideas of the Dahcotahs,
whose vicinity to Fort Snelling, and frequent
intercourse with its inmates, have brought them
much under the notice of the officers and ladies of
the garrison. She has no occasion to present the
Indian in a theatrical garb—a mere thing of paint
and feathers, less like the original than his own
rude delineation on birch-bark or deer-skin. The
reader will find in the following pages living men
and women, whose feelings are in many respects
like his own, and whose motives of action are very
similar to those of the rest of the world, though far
less artfully covered up and disguised under
pleasant names. "Envy, hatred and malice, and all
uncharitableness," stand out, unblushing, in Indian
life. The first is not called emulation, nor the
second just indignation or merited contempt, nor
the third zeal for truth, nor the fourth keen
discernment of character. Anger and revenge are
carried out honestly to their natural fruit—injury to
others. Among the Indians this takes the form of
murder, while with us it is obliged to content itself
with slander, or cunning depreciation. In short, thestudy of Indian character is the study of the
unregenerate human heart; and the writer of these
sketches of the Dahcotahs presents it as such,
with express and solemn reference to the duty of
those who have "the words of eternal life" to apply
them to the wretched condition of the red man,
who is, perhaps, with all his ignorance, quite as
well prepared to receive them as many of those
who are already wise in their own eyes. The very
degradation and misery in which he lives, and of
which he is not unable to perceive some of the
causes, prepare him to welcome the instruction
which promises better things. Evils which are
covered up under the smoothness of civilization,
stand out in all their horrible deformity in the
abandon of savage life; the Indian cannot get even
one gleam of light, without instantly perceiving the
darkness around him. Here, then, is
encouragement to paint him as he is, that the
hearts of the good may be moved at his destitute
and unhappy state; to set forth his wants and his
claims, that ignorance may no longer be pleaded
as an excuse for withholding, from the original
proprietor of the soil, the compensation or
atonement which is demanded at once by justice,
honor, and humanity.
Authentic pictures of Indian life have another and a
different value, in a literary point of view. In the
history and character of the aborigines is
enveloped all the distinct and characteristic poetic
material to which we, as Americans, have an
unquestioned right. Here is a peculiar race, of most
unfathomable origin, possessed of the qualitieswhich have always prompted poetry, and living
lives which are to us as shadowy as those of the
Ossianic heroes; our own, and passing away—
while we take no pains to arrest their fleeting traits
or to record their picturesque traditions. Yet we
love poetry; are ambitious of a literature of our
own, and sink back dejected when we are
convicted of imitation. Why is it that we lack
interest in things at home? Sismondi has a
passage to this effect:—
"The literature of other countries has been
frequently adopted by a young nation with a sort of
fanatical admiration. The genius of those countries
having been so often placed before it as the
perfect model of all greatness and all beauty, every
spontaneous movement has been repressed, in
order to make room for the most servile imitation;
and every national attempt to develop an original
character has been sacrificed to the reproduction
of something conformable to the model which has
been always before its eyes."
This is certainly true of us, since we not only adopt
the English view of everything, but confine
ourselves to the very subjects and imagery which
have become consecrated to us by love and habit.
Not to enter into the general subject of our
disposition to parrotism, our neglect of Indian
material in particular may be in part accounted for,
by our having become acquainted with the
aborigines after the most unpoetical fashion, in
trying to cheat them out of their lands, or shooting
them when they declined being cheated; they, intheir turn, driven to the resource of the weak and
the ignorant, counterplotting us, and taking, by
means of blood and fire, what we would not give
them in fair compensation. This has made our
business relations very unpleasant; and everybody
knows that when this becomes the case, it is hard
for parties to do justice to each other's good or
available qualities. If we had only read about the
Indians, as a people living in the mountain-
fastnesses of Greece, or the, broad plains of
Transylvania, we should without difficulty have
discovered the romantic elements of their
character. But as the effect of remoteness is
produced by time as well as distance, it is surely
worth while to treasure up their legends for our
posterity, who will justly consider us very selfish, if
we throw away what will be a treasure to them,
merely because we cannot or will not use it
ourselves.
A prominent ground of the slight regard in which
the English hold American literature, or at least one
of the most plausible reasons given for it, is our
want of originality, particularly in point of subject
matter. It is said that our imitativeness is so servile,
that for the sake of following English models, at an
immeasurable distance, we neglect the new and
grand material which lies all around us, in the
sublime features of our country, in our new and
striking circumstances, in our peculiar history and
splendid prospects, and, above all, in the
character, superstitions, and legends of our
aborigines, who, to eyes across the water, look like
poetical beings. We are continually reproached byBritish writers for the obtuse carelessness with
which we are allowing these people, with so much
of the heroic element in their lives, and so much of
the mysterious in their origin, to go into the
annihilation which seems their inevitable fate as
civilization advances, without an effort to secure
and record all that they are able to communicate
respecting themselves.
And the reproach is just. In our hurry of utilitarian
progress, we have either forgotten the Indian
altogether, or looked upon him only in a business
point of view, as we do almost everything else; as
a thriftless, treacherous, drunken fellow, who
knows just enough to be troublesome, and who
must be cajoled or forced into leaving his hunting-
grounds for the occupation of very orderly and
virtuous white people, who sell him gunpowder and
whiskey, but send him now and then a missionary
to teach him that it is wrong to get drunk and
murder his neighbor. To look upon the Indian with
much regard, even in the light of literary material,
would be inconvenient; for the moment we
recognize in him a mind, a heart, a soul,—the
recollection of the position in which we stand
towards him becomes thorny, and we begin dimly
to remember certain duties belonging to our
Christian profession, which we have sadly
neglected with regard to the sons of the forest,
whom we have driven before us just as fast as we
have required or desired their lands. A few efforts
have been made, not only to bring the poetry of
their history into notice, but to do them substantial
good; the public heart, however, has never