Many particulars respecting the Natives
Interest as well as curiosity invited an acquaintance with our new neighbors. They were called in their language Delawares. They were tall, bodies well proportioned, strait limbs, complexion's of a brownish hue, broad cheek bones, black wild rolling eyes, & hair black & course. To strangers they were hospitable, true to their engagements, ardent in their friendship, but to enemies implacable cruel & barbarous in the extreme. Innumerable hoards of this description of people were scattered over an extensive country, who gained their living by hunting the elk, the dear, & a great variety of other wild animals, by fishing & fowling & by raising corn, beans & squashes. Shooting the arrow slinging stones, wrestling, jumping, hoping & running were their principal amusements, & prizes would often be staked as a reward to the conqueror. Their clothing consisted of skins dressed with the hair on, but in warm weather, only the middle part of their bodies were incumbered with any covering. The one half of the head of the men was shaved & painted with red, & the one half of the face was painted with black. The head was adorned with feathers of various kinds, & their ears & noses were ornamented with rings, formed from the sinews of certain animals, on which were suspended smooth stones of different colors. Thus clothed, thus painted, thus ornamented the Delawares made a most terrific appearance. They held festivals at stated times, which varied in the manner of conducting them, according to the object they had in view. At one of their annual festivals their ceremonies were peculiarly singular & different from any that were ever practised by any nation. Here a description would give us some idea of their religion & would gratify the curiosity of an ingenious mind.
When the time arrives, which is in September, the whole tribe assemble. They are dressed & ornamented in the highest fashion. The women in particular have their garments & heads so adorned with feathers shells & wampum that they make a very brilliant & grotesque appearance. They form a circle, their countenances are solemn. A Speaker mounts a stage in the midst. At this moment two Black Dogs led by two boys, & two White Dogs led by two young damsels enter the circle and are tied together. The Speaker then extended his hands & spoke: "Hail ye favorite children of the great & good Spirit, who resides in the sun, who is the father of all living creatures & whose arms encircle us all around, who defends us from the malicious designs of that great malignant Spirit that pours upon us all the evils we endure he gives us all our meat & our fish, & causes the corn & the fruits to spring up & makes us to rejoice in his goodness. He hath prepared a delightful country to receive us, if we are valiant in battle or are benevolent & good. There we can pick all kinds of delicious fruit & have game & fish in abundance, & our women being improved in beauty & sprightliness will cause our hearts to dance with delight. But woe unto you wicked malicious, mischievous mortals, your lot will be cast in a dark mirky swamp, where the malignant Spirit will torment you with mosquitoes, & serpents, & will give you nothing to eat but toads, frogs, & snails. But Oh my dear friends -- all hail -- here is a custom which is sanctioned by time immemorial. Look steadfastly on the black dogs & let not your eyes be turned away, when they are thrown on the sacred pile & the flames are furiously consuming their bodies, then let your earnest prayers ascend for pardon & your transgressions will flee away like shadows, & your sins will be carried by the smoke into the shadows of oblivion. When this solemn expiatory sacrifice is ended then prepare your souls to partake of the holy festival. Each one will receive a precious morsel from these immaculate snow colored dogs in token that your offences have all evaporated in the smoke of the holy sacrifice, & that you are thankful to the benevolent Spirit for the abundance of good things that you enjoy, & that you humbly anticipate the continuance of his blessings, & that he will defend you against the evil designs of that malignant Spirit, who gives gawl & wormwood, & fills our bosoms with pain & our eyes with tears." He then proclaimed, "let the sacred pile be erected & the solemn sacrifice performed." Instantly about one hundred men came forward with small dry wood & bundles of dry sticks & having thrown them in one pile within the circle, they sat the pile on fire. The black dogs were knocked on the head & thrown on the top, in a moment all was in a blaze & the flame ascended in curls to heaven. The whole company assumed the most devout attitude & muttered in sounds almost inarticulate their humble confessions & earnest requests.
When the dogs were consumed & the fire nearly extinguished, the ceremonies of their sacred festival began, the white dogs which were very plump & fat, were knocked on the head & their throats cut. Their hair was then singed off, having first their entrails taken out, & being suspended by the nose before a hot fire they were soon roasted, thrown upon a long table & dissected into as many pieces as there were persons to swallow them. The company immediately formed a procession, one rank of men, the other of women. The men marching to the left & the women to the right of the table each one took a piece & devoured it with as good a * * * * as if it had been the most delicious morsel. Having completed these sacred ceremonies with great solemnity, the whole company formed themselves into a compact circle round the stage, ten musicians immediately mounted & at once, the multitude on every side sang a song. The tune & the musical voices of the singers pleased the ear, whilst the imagination was delighted with the poetic ingenuity of the composition. The multitude all joined in the chorus, with voices so loud & multifarious that the atmosphere quaked with terror, & the neighboring hills [sent back] by way of mockery, sent back the sound of their voices improved by tenfold confusions. Perhaps, reader, you have the curiosity to hear the song. I can give you only the last stanza & the chorus.
For us the sun emits it's rays
The moon shines forth for our delight
The stars extol our heroes praise
And warriors flee before our fight.
Delawan to chakee poloo
Manegango farwah teloo
Chanepauh, lawango chapah
Quinebogan hamboo gowah.
The solemnities are ended & in their opinion their poor souls are completely whitewashed, & every stain entirely effaced. A little diversion will now dissipate the solemnity & inspire them with cheerfulness & merriment.
The whole tribe repair to the top of an hill, at one place their is a gradual slope a small distance & then it descends about twenty five feet in an almost perpendicular direction, at the bottom of which is a quagmire, which is about ten feet in length & the soft mud is about three feet deep, at each end the ground is soft but not miry. Down this declivity twenty pair of very supple & sprightly young men & women are to descend. If by their agility & dexterity they escape the quagmire, a piece of wampum will be the reward of each fortunate champion, but if they plunge in, their, their recompense will be the ridicule & laughter of the multitude.
In making this decent, six young women & five young men by a surprising dexterity in whirling their bodies as they descended cleared themselves from the quagmire. The rest as their turns came plunged in & came out most woefully mudded to the great diversion of the spectators. The incident which excited the most merriment happened when the last party descended. by an unlucky spring to clear himself from the quagmire he brought his body along side of the declivity & rolled his whole length into the midst of the quagmire where he lay [his whole length in an horizontal position on his back], neither heels up or head up, but horizontally, soft & easy, but alas when one unlucky event happens another follows close on the heels. The fair, [plump] corpulent damsel, his affectionate sweetheart came instantly, sliding with great velocity. She saw the woeful position of her beloved. She wished him no harm. She raised her feet this brought the center of gravity directly over the center of his head, here she rested a moment, his head sunk, she sunk after him his heels kicked against the wind like Ieshuran waked fat, but not a word from his lips, but his ideas came in quick succession. Thought he, "what a disgrace to die here in the mud under the pressure of my sweet heart," however his time for such reflections, were short. The tender hearted maid collecting all her agility in one effort dismounted and found herself on dry land in an instant, not a moment to be lost; she seized her lover by one leg & dragged him from the mud, a curious figure, extending about six feet six inches on the ground, all besmeared from head to foot, spiting, puffing, panting & struggling for breath. Poor man, the whole multitude laughing at thy calamity, shouting, ridiculing, none to give thee consolation but thy loving & sympathetic partner [in misfortune. "Upon my soul," exclaims droll Tom, stem foremost, "that bouncing lass ought to have the highest prize for dragging her ship from the mud."] She was cleaning the filth from his face.