IN the month of June, during the
summer of 1846, about two hundred Choctaw immigrants arrived within the
bounds of the Indian territory, from the old nation in the state of Mississippi,
and camped about five miles from the school where the writer
was then located, in the northeast part
of the Choctaw nation. The pupils of the institution had several times
intimated their desire to see their strange brethren, when the writer and
his colleague set out on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with about fortyfive
Choctaw boys, on our way to the camp. It was one of those calm, hot days,
which, in that region of country, continue, with little variation, for
four or five months each year; and which render the climate so oppressive
to a person from a northern country.
After traveling some four miles, we reached
a branch of pure water. Here the boys, in accordance with the Indian custom
under such circumstances, strung themselves along the meandering rivulet,
as their own singular fancy might dictate,
and went through a bathing process. This
consisted of repeated applications of water to the face, head, neck, and
arms, until they were thoroughly cooled.
On reaching the camp, we found, with very
few exceptions, the squaws busily engaged. Some were beating corn for tomfuller,
(a kind of hommony [sic],) some in plaiting baskets of cane, and others
in cooking. While the men were loitering around. Some grazing their
ponies; one was making a rude attempt to extort music from an old violin;
but as the day was
exceedingly hot, most of them were extended
upon the green grass beneath the shadowy boughs of the tall forest trees.
Among them were some peculiarly striking,
which attracted my attention, and excited inquiry. This was conducted by
the aid of my school interpreter, John. One of these was an aged
female. The coarse hair of her uncovered head was white as wool, her face
was deeply furrowed over with age, and her eyesight was entirely gone.
Her age she could not tell; but she could relate, with an agitated voice,
circumstances of her early life.
Another object which attracted my attention,
was a very odd being, and rude in appearance, but it was human. It was
apparently young, but very bulky; unable to walk, or even to move
the slightest distance; deprived of the use of its puny arms; deaf,
dumb, and almost blind; and apparently destitute of the least particle
of human understanding. It was emphatically
the most pitiable object upon which the
writer has ever been called to look. But the circumstance which rendered
the scene most striking was the fact that invalids of this class are rarely,
ever, found among the Indians in their
native state. Parents destroy their children early if they are likely
never to be able to pursue their roving habits of life without becoming
an encumbrance. But in this case the glorious light of Revelation had dawned
upon the minds of the parents, the effect of which, in all cases, is the
relief of suffering humanity. And however
imperfectly it was understood in this
case, it had impressed the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."
A third object must become, on account
of his superior claims and the length of the present article, the subject
of my next; so, gentle reader, adieu for the present.