Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1829
Some of our friends who exchange papers with us have lately informed us that they do not receive the Phoenix. We think it due to such, and to ourselves, to say that there has been heretofore a remissness in this matter, but that proper attention will in future be paid to those who favor us with their valuable papers.
Mr. William Horn has been compelled to close his School for want of sufficient number of scholars. He has taught two months. On last Friday evening we attended and heard a number of his Scholars exercised in parsing, and repeating the English Grammar, who had received instruction, according to a new plan, in the short time of twenty four evenings. For the time they were engaged in learning it, we thought some of them did remarkably well. For expedition, we consider Mr. Horn's plan superior to the common method. Mr. Horn intends to go from here to Huntsville, Alabama. We recommend him as a man of steady and moral habits.
'Virgil' might reasonably entertain one cheering consideration, and that is, the gradual diminution of such practices as described by him in his communication.- If he had visited this Nation thirty years ago, and witnessed the practices of the inhabitants in their full extent, his tears would have flowed more freely, and the consideration of their wretchedness would have been without a redeeming thought.- At that period the Cherokees resided in villages, in each of which was a 'Town house the headquarter of frivolity. Here were assembled almost every night (we are told, we speak from hearsay for we were born under an era of reformation,) men and women, old and young, to dance their bear dance, buffalo dance, eagle dance, green-corn dance, 'c. 'c. 'c. and when the day appeared, instead of going to their farms, and laboring for the support of their families, the young and middle aged of the males were seen to leave their houses, their faces fantastically painted, and their heads decorated with feathers, and step off with a merry whoop, which indicated that they were real men (Cherokee word inserted here), to a ball play, or a meeting of similar nature. Such in a word was the life of a Cherokee in those days during spring ' summer seasons. In the Fall and Winter seasons they were gone to follow the chase, which occupation enabled them to purchase of the traders a few articles of clothing, sufficient to last perhaps until the next hunting time. From the soil they derived a scanty supply of corn, barely enough to furnish them with gah-no-ha-nah [Cherokee word here] and this was obtained by the labor of women and grey headed men, for custom would have it that it was disgraceful for a young man to be seen with a hoe in his hand except on particular occasions.
In those days of ignorance and heathenism, prejudices against the customs of the whites were inveterate, so much so that white men, who came among the Cherokees, had to throw away their costume and adopt the leggings. In a moral and intellectual point of view the scenery was dark ' gloomy, nevertheless it has not been impenetrable. The introduction of light and intelligence has struck a mortal blow to the superstitious practices of the Cherokees, and by the aid of that light, a new order of things is introduced, and it is to be hoped will now eradicate the vestiges of older days.
A circumstance lately happened in Chickamauga District, a full account of which is related in a Cherokee letter published in another part of our paper. It appears that three persons went in quest of squirrels with bows and arrows. While they were in pursuit of one, a boy of about nine years of age was accidently shot. The arrow, after being shot into the air, in its descent struck the top of his head, and penetrated his scull three inches. The boy survived but three days and died. Arrows are now very seldom used by the Cherokees. It is not recollected that a similar accident ever happened when they were more common.
A woman in High Tower was a few weeks since dreadfully burnt.- Her clothes caught fire while in a state of intoxication and the greater part of them were consumed before they could be extinguished. Her recovery was considered hopeless. Another victim to intemperance.
About the same time, and in the same neighborhood, an attempt was made, by one Joseph Crittenton to kill another person while riding in the night, side by side. He fired his gun and wounded the unsuspecting person in the arm.
On an evening not long since, I set out, and after going a few miles, I arrived at a place, selected for an Indian dance. This was not only a new, but a curious scene to me, as it was the first I had seen. At my arrival, I saw a number of the natives of both sexes, gathered around two large fires, which they had built a few paces from the dancing ground. It was now, not long till one of the elderly appeared and gave a short address to the surrounding company; the intention of which I could not easily guess, but having an interpreter at hand, I learnt that it was the manager giving the orders of procedure.
Immediately after which, a lighted torch was placed in the centre [sic] of the dancing ground, ' aroused by this they all followed their leader, singing and dancing, as they marched in a kind of circus.
They also had a peculiar kind of music, made by a parcel of small gravels being put into some tarrapin [sic] shells, which some of the females wore on their legs. These, it may be relied upon, made no little racket. I could not, however, help noticing a parcel of kegs which were collected together not far from one of the fires, over which a watchman was placed to prohibit them from intoxication, until after the dance; when I expected there would be a general welcome to the kegs. But during the little while I stayed, I was no little surprised to see so much order preserved. Another circumstance; however, equally drew my attention, which was a number of aged, who were unable to partake in the dance, sitting round, and looking on, with as much concern, as if it had been a matter of the utmost importance. That a part of the human family, who are equally interested in the blood of a Saviour [sic], should be given to a savage life, whilst another is enjoying the comforts of religion and the pleasures of refinement, is, to a reflecting mind, a matter of no small interest. Is it not a pity, that so many may yet be found, in this enlightened day, ' that too in a land of boasted liberty, who have not even been taught the first principles of morality?
'Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night,' for the savage children of the forest!
But perhaps it may be asked, why I should be found at a place of this description? To this I would answer that it was not mere curiosity, but a desire to obtain a knowledge of the manners and customs, of those unfortunate children of nature. For what purpose did the traveller visit the famous idol of Juggernaut, and that too when thousands of pilgrims were offering up their sacrifices. Was it to partake of their crimes by paying adorations to that idol also? or was it to obtain some useful information, by which future generations might be profited? I presume the latter was his chief object.
Volume 1, RGIL.