Columbus Landing on Hispaniola

The Discovery Of This Continent, it’s Results To The Natives


As aids to memory they used various devices, among which belts of wampum were the chiefs. Wampum was truly the archives of the tribe among all North American Indians. It was made of dressed deer skin, soft and pliable as cloth, and interwoven with various shells cut into uniform size, carefully polished, strung together and painted in different colors, all of which were significant; white being the emblem of peace and friendship; red, the symbol of hostility and war. As the colors of the wampum were significant, so also were the length and breadth of these belts, and also the peculiar arrangements of the differently painted strings attached, each and all fully understood by the Indians alone. A belt of wampum was presented to one tribe by another as a remembrance token of any important event that was communicated. They had many and various kinds of wampum; some in the form of belts of different breadth and length; some in strings of various width and length, all reaching back in regular order to centuries of the remote past, with an accuracy incredible to the White Race.

The wampum was the Indians history the chronicles of the past; and the readers of each clan of the tribe, from one generation to another, was carefully and thoroughly instructed by their predecessors for that particular business and were held in the highest esteem by all Indians everywhere.

Bundles of small round sticks were also used to assist them in accurately keeping the number of days that would intervene between the day agreed upon that anything should be done, and the day upon which the bundle had been presented, one stick being drawn from the bundle at the termination of each day and thrown away; which duty was never forgotten nor neglected to be done by him to whom it was en trusted. A long string was also used, having as many knots tied in it as the number of days that were desired to be remembered; at the close of each day, as the withdrawing of a stick from the bundle, so a knot was untied. This custom of using a string was also practiced, it is said, by the ancient Persians, which is confirmed by Herodotus in his statement, that “Darius gave to his allies a string with sixty knots tied in it, and told them to untie one knot at the close of each day; and, if he had not returned by the time the last one was un tied, they could go home.”

Pictures, rudely carved on rocks and trees, were used to convey information, each figure being a true symbol under stood and fully comprehended by the Indians wherever seen.

The Indians regarded their majestic forest trees with emotional pride; and, as they reclined under their broad expanding shades, they listened to their solemn whispers as possessing a mysterious connection with themselves, and as sharing with them their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, and they grieved to see them fall before the ax of civilization; since, between the Native American and the White Race, who only saw lumber in the forest tree and money in the lumber, there is the same difference existing that there is between the man who hears the most refined music only as a senseless noise and him who hears it in messages of divine import to his soul; thus it is that Nature bestows on man only that which he is able to receive from her; to one lumber and the jingle of money; to the other beauty and harmony. Oft have I been an eye witness to the sensibility of this people to the charms of natural objects, though accused of its utter want and with emotions of pleasure listened to their expressive words of delight in admiration of the grand and beautiful in nature, as they pointed the finger of un-assumed pride to their magnificent forests, and the majestic appearance of the old patriarchs of their woods seeming to be charmed with their grand forests, the beauty of their flower bedecked prairies, the purity of their streams, the brightness of their skies and the salubrity” of their climate. To the peculiarly fascinating charms of which, as they appeared to my admiring gaze seventy years ago in the ancient domains of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, east of the Mississippi river, I can testify from personal observation, as it also was the home of my birth; nor can time nor distance ever erase from memory their grandeur and beauty; and, today, their seeming power is exercised over me in calling up the reveries and picturing of the past clothing reality with the illusions of the memory and imagination. But to many, nature, in her primitive grandeur, is but an indifferent beauty, though she stops to smile, to caress and entertain with exhaustless diversion her admiring and loving wooer.

So to the Indian also, the grandeur and beauty of his ancient forests left a memory which abides as a constant source of gratification, as he reflects upon their natural beauty upon which his eyes so oft had rested, and from which his soul had gathered a noble conception of the symphonies from which it drew its pure aspirations; and truly, no one who has any conception of the grand and beautiful, could have gazed upon the outstretched panorama of their forests as presented in their ancient domains, without being lastingly impressed with the marvelous picture, in which there stood forth most striking beauties in the form of majestic trees and green swards, on whose bosoms rested, in gentle touch, most inviting shades free of all under-growth of bushes but covered with luxuriant grass interspersed with innumerable flowers of great variety, rivaling the most beautiful flower garden of art. Never have I witnessed any thing more grand and impressive than the Mississippi forests presented when left by the Choctaws and Chickasaws as an inheritance to the Whites. Then and there nature, in all % her diversified phases, from the finite to the in finite, and from the infinitesimal to the grand aggregate of knowledge, was full of instruction; by which she would teach man his duty to his God, to his fellow man and to him self. But alas, how few ever heed the symbolic whispers of her low, sweet voice!

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

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