From the Missionary Herald.
Upper Red Cedar Lake
July 10, 1832_ reached upper Red Cedar, or Cassina Lake. This latter name it receives from Governor Cass who visited it in 1820. Two branches of the Mississippi enters into this lake. The Indians residing here, being aware of our approach came to meet us, firing salutes of musketry. Their summer village, they informed us, was on an island, about ten miles distant.
As we approached this island from the northeast, which over looks the lake by high bluff, rising some sixty or more feet above the water, almost the first object that I saw, was a fine field of corn, potatoes, and squashes, growing luxuriantly. The next I knew was a discharge of muskets from amid the sanding corn. We were directed to make the west side of the island where we should find a good landing and a place for encampment. In the meantime one continual hooting, yelling, and firing was kept behind the bushes which lined the shore. On disembarking I found a musket in the hands of almost every little Indian boy, many of whom followed the example of their fathers, came forward and took us by the hand. All bid us welcome, and seem overjoyed that their father has come to see his children.
Evening- While our canoes were unloading, tent, erecting, 'c. I took a walk to see the field of corn in the northern extremity of the island, which we passed. But ere I had reached it, I passed no less than two or three other little fields, all of which remind me of New England, where I never saw better corn, squashes or potatoes, than I find here with Indian culture. The growth of wood and timber on this part of the island is entirely destroyed, save here and there a large oak or maple.- All the high land is covered with rank grass and sumac, except the plats here and there under cultivation.
The soil is easy to work with a hoe, the only tool with which the squaw makes her garden. I say squaw, from the fact that she always makes the garden, in as much as the Indian deems it degrading to himself to use the hoe or axe. I next visited the lodges which were about half a mile south of our encampment. Here I found another piece of corn, potatoes, and squashes. While our party were procuring some small canoes suitable for our route to Elk Lake, I went into one of the lodges, read several portions of Scripture, among others the ten commandments, and sung several Indian hymns. All listened with apparent interest and surprise. As I had not an interpreter, I was unable to communicate much more than to read such portions of Scripture and hymns as were familiar to me. In the lodge, directly before me were suspended three human scalps. These were the trophies of victory with which they have just returned from the Sioux. Several of the warriors of this band joined the Leech Lake Band in the recent excursion and the Indian who was killed belonged here.
Before I had returned to our tent, which is pitched but a few yards from two graves, the greater part of the Indians had here collected and begun the scalp dance. It was led by three squaws, each bearing in her hand one of the recent scalps. Two or three men sat beating drums and singing while old and young male and female, all joined them in the song. Occasionally all would become so animated, that there would be one general hop, and all at the same time throwing their heads back, would raise a most horrid yell, clapping the mouth with the hand to render, if possible, more terrific. Here were seen little boys and girls, not six years old, all looking on with the most intense interest, imitating their fathers and mothers, and participating in their brutal joy. Thus early do they learn by precept and example to imbibe the spirit of revenge and war, which is fostered in their bosoms, and in after life stimulates to go and perform some deed of daring and blood, which shall gain for themselves the like applause
A circumstance which rendered the scene not a little appalling, as it was performed around the graves of the dead. At the head of one of the graves hangs an old scalp some ten feet above the ground, which the winds have almost divested of its ornaments and its hair. The grass and turf for several yards around are literally destroyed, and I presume, by their frequent dancing. One of the scalps I examined. The flesh side had apparently been smoked and rubbed with some material till it was pliant, after which it was painted with vermilion. A piece of wood is turned in the form of a horse-shoe, into which the scalp is sewed the threads passing around the wood, which keeps it tight. Narrow pieces of cloth and ribands of various colors, attached to the bow, were ornamented with beads and feathers. A small stick, which serves for a handle to shake it in the air when they dance, was attached to the top of the bow by a string. While examining it, a lock of hair fell from it, which the Indian gave me, and which I still preserve.
Return to Upper Red Cedar Lake
Most of the party remaining at the Indian village on the island in Upper Red Cedar Lake, Mr. Boutwell proceeded with Mr. S. and others up one of the streams that empty into the lake, as before stated, to Elk Lake; and thence he crossed by portage to another stream; also emptying into Upper Red Cedar Lake,and descended to that lake again.
15. Sabbath.- Reached the island early this morning having marched all night. Find all our men well and much recruited by resting four days during our absence. The party that had accompanied us are so fatigued by our tour to Elk Lake, that it is thought best to defer our service in English, while I devote what time and strength I have to the Indians. Retired in the morning with the three pious soldiers and spent an hour in prayer and conversation. I find them all much depressed. I read to some of the Indians who came to our tent this forenoon. In the afternoon collected seventy Indians or more, all of whom listened with apparent interest and god attention to the word of God, and most of them for the first time. Our place of assembling was near the graves, before mentioned, on the ground where the horrid scalp dance is often exhibited. Never did I witness a more interesting, respectful and attentive Indian audience. Mr. J. read to them the account of the creation and the flood, after which I read the ten commandments from which I made some remarks, and informed them of the object of my visit. The inquiry was put to the principal man, the chief being absent, 'Would you like a missionary to come and live with you, instruct your children, and tell you about God?' To which he replied, 'Neither myself nor any one present can answer the inquiry, as the chief is absent, and many of the young men are very vicious.'
As we assembled for our worship, five or six Indians were sitting near, in a game of platter which was soon left. Not long after our meeting closed, the dance began and continued without cessation till eleven o'clock. I learn from some of the men who remained, that the Indians danced almost day and night during our absence. I am also informed that three canoes from Leech Lake passed here yesterday on their way to Red Lake, to carry the wampum and the pipe to invite that band to join them in another war party to revenge the death of the Indian who was killed in their late excursion.
I much regret that I must leave this people without seeing the chief. The land is capable of raising corn, ' I presume, wheat, barley and rye. The first is already cultivated to a considerable extent. This band is far removed from all Catholic influence, and there is no very distinguished 'medicine man' or conjurer among them, whose influence is much to be feared. One would think, in looking at their growing corn, potatoes, 'c., that they are already far advanced in the arts of civilized life. One requested a few beans to plant next year. Another asked for a little salt, and in return brought us very fine potatoes which were not merely a rarity to us, but a curiosity here at this advanced season. They obtained the corn which they have cultivated here many years from Red River. The island is large and in the form of a cross. The lake is a large body of water and affords many fish. Much wild rice is gathered in the vicinity. The only water communication is with the Mississippi River. The distance to Dandy Lake is 350 or 400 miles; and to the Falls of St. Anthony the distance is from 650 to 800 miles. Wild rice is an important article of food among the Indians in this quarter. The kernel is long, slender and of a dark color, but a taste much like common rice.