« VorigeDoorgaan »
the good of the red man, and seeing in him one who had a soul, reason, and characteristics of a fellow-being. The critic is understood to have been a very distinguished agent of the Government, one very familiar with Indians, as they are seen at the councils to treat for the sale of their lands, where little or none of their domestic qualities come into play, and where, indeed, their evil passions are known to have the fullest scope. As just would it be to draw conclusions of the general state of American society from the scenes of the capital, as to suppose that the negotiating of one of these treaties is a fair picture of Indian life.28
Cooper, believing, then, that Heckewelder was the most reliable historian of the Indians of his time, used his Indian Nations in assembling material for his early Indian tales, The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans. Having adopted Heckewelder's pronounced views of the superiority of the Delawares and the inferiority of the Iroquois in these early tales of the Leather-Stocking series, he was forced to keep these views in the later novels, The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer. The following discussion will show that he followed Heckewelder closely and that his impression of the Delawares and Iroquois Indians gained from Heckewelder is consistent from The Pioneers of 1823 to The Deerslayer of 1841. All of Cooper's references to the Indians in The Pioneers (1823) correspond to the traditional and historical facts given in Heckewelder's Indian Nations, as outlined above. At the beginning of Chapter VII of The Pioneers appears a clear account of the history of the Delawares, which includes the following subjects: the differences between the two original Indian nations in that section of America now comprising the Eastern States; the organization of the Six Nations; the tribes included in the Lenni Lenape; the New England Indian Wars; the treaty with William Penn, or Miquon; the treaty by which the Delaware Indians were made. women by the Iroquois; the part that the Delawares took during the Revolution. Throughout the book there are scattered references to the enmity between the Delawares and the Iroquois and to other Delaware traditions.
There is only one Indian character in the book, the Delaware chief, Chingachgook. It is significant that this name is from
28" Preface to the Leather-Stocking Tales," The Deerslayer, pp. viii-ix. The edition of Cooper's novels used is the Globe edition; Boston, Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1876. This edition contains the Introductions written by Susan Fenimore Cooper.
Heckewelder, who gives it as "Chingachgook, a large snake." 29 Chingachgook is an old Delaware chief who has been christianized by the Moravians-a fact which Leather-Stocking mentions in three instances.
The material for the incident in which Chingachgook shows his skill as an Indian physician is evidently taken from chapters XXX and XXXI of Heckewelder's Indian Nations, where the same distinction is made between the reputable "physicians and surgeons" and the quack "doctors or jugglers," that Cooper makes.30
The Last of the Mohicans, however, contains more of the facts from Heckewelder and more of the spirit of his glorification of the Delaware Indians than any other of the Indian tales. The theme of regret for the decline of a noble, primitive race, which merely appears in The Pioneers, is dominant in The Last of the Mohicans. In this book, as in the other Leather-Stocking Tales, the idealization of the Delawares leads to a corresponding disparagement of the Iroquois and other Indian nations.
The splendid Delawares, Chingachgook and Uncas, are engaged as scouts by the English against the French in the French and Indian War. In the last chapters a band of Delawares is placed in contrast with the savage and inhuman Hurons. As in The Pioneers, Cooper includes many references to the traditions of the Delawares. Chingachgook says:
We came from the place where the sun is hid at night, over great plains where the buffaloes live, until we reached the big river. There we fought the Alligewi, till the ground was wet with their blood. . . We drove the Maquas into the woods with the bears. . . . The Dutch landed and gave my people firewater. . . . Then they parted with their land. Foot by foot they were driven back from the shores, until I, that am a chief and a Sagamore, have never seen the sun shine but through the trees, and have never visited the graves of my fathers.31
In a conversation with Heyward about the hated Delaware treaty, by which the Delawares had been made women, the scout calls shame upon the Hollanders and the Iroquois, who had "circumvented the Delawares." 32
*Correspondence Respecting the Indian Language, p. 431. 30 The Pioneers, p. 400.
31 The Last of the Mohicans, p. 27.
22 Ibid., p. 50.
In Chapter XXVIII Cooper introduces the Delaware sage Tamenund, who, as indicated above, occupies an important place in Heckewelder's book. In a dramatic scene he comes from his tent, leaning on the shoulders of two aged companions, and receiving the worship of his followers. This century-old chief is dressed in barbaric splendor. His robe is of the finest skins; his breast is covered with glittering medals; his head is encircled with a sparkling diadem ornamented with ostrich feathers; and the handles of the tomahawk and knife are silver and gold. Most reverently the Delawares, and even the Huron Maqua, listen to the words of this oracle as he recites the history of his people and laments the decline of his race.
Among the prisoners who are brought before Tamenund is Uncas, whose identity is unknown at this time. He is condemned to death by fire, and is bound to the stake. When his breast is bared, the awe-struck Indians discover with astonishment the tattooed figure of a small tortoise, which indicates that he is of their kindred and of the highest rank.
"Men of the Lenni Lenape!" he said, "my race upholds the earth! Your feeble tribe stands on my shell! What fire that a Delaware can light would burn the child of my fathers: the blood that came from such a stock would smother the flames! My race is of the grandfather of nations! "
"Who art thou?" demanded Tamenund.
Uncas, the son of Chingachgook, ... a son of the great Unâmis " [Turtle].33
Of the three remaining Leather-Stocking Tales, The Prairie (1827) contains no Delaware Indians, for the scenes are laid on the plains west of the Mississippi. In the character of Hard-Heart, however, Cooper represents a noble Indian, one of the type pictured by Heckewelder. He belongs to the Pawnees, the Delawares of the West because they accepted readily the white man's teachings. Furthermore, old Leather-Stocking makes frequent references to the Delawares, praising them for their superior qualities and virtues.
In writing The Pathfinder (1840) Cooper retained the same
33 Ibid., p. 369. The idea of "a sparkling diadem ornamented with ostrich feathers" is not from Heckewelder. Cooper has adopted the conventional representation of a savage in his splendor.
conceptions of the Delawares which he had obtained from Heckewelder and which he had employed in the earlier tales of his literary youth. In The Pathfinder, as also in The Deerslayer (1841), the Delawares are represented as noble, superior Indians, and all others are "Mingoes," treacherous, savage, often cowardly, and inferior in wisdom or prowess. In The Pathfinder Chingachgook has the same noble character that he has previously exhibited. In contrast with him is Arrowhead, a treacherous miscreant, who belongs to the Tuscaroras, of the Six Nations. Leather-Stocking makes many long explanations of the peculiar "gifts" of Chingachgook as a mighty representative of the noble Delawares. Besides the frequent references to the comparative merits of the Delawares and the Iroquois, this tale contains several allusions to the myths and traditions of the Delawares, and one instance of the author's reference to the Moravians when he represents Leather-Stocking as saying, "I have not been Christianized by the Moravians, like so many of the Delawares." 34
In The Deerslayer (1841) both Deerslayer and Chingachgook have recently come from the Moravian settlements, and Hurry Harry March shows by his remarks that he is familiar with the Moravian teachings. In one conversation Deerslayer quotes the Moravian missionary teachings regarding Christian conduct, and Hurry Harry snaps his fingers in derision at that Moravian doctrine which would prevent his killing Indians for their scalps.
In this last tale of the Leather-Stocking series, occur the usual frequent references to the excellencies of the Delawares, under the wise chief Tamenund, and to the vices of the enemy Mingoes. In this book, furthermore, the Delawares are idealized to the highest degree.
Heckewelder's Indian Nations contains certain obscurities and contradictions which Cooper obviously noticed and which he attempted to clarify by explanations and simplifications. For example, Heckwelder did not distinguish between the "Mahican" Indians and the "Mohegan " Indians, which were separate, distinct tribes living in different regions. According to Hodge,35 the "Mahicans were a tribe which occupied both banks of the
84 The Pathfinder, p. 100.
35 Op. cit., 1, 786, 789, 926, 927.
Hudson River and extended north almost to Lake Champlain. The Dutch called them the "River Indians "; the French grouped them with the Munsee and Delawares under the name of "Loups "; many other names were given to them. The "Mohegans," on the other hand, were a branch of the Pequots, a savage tribe which brought the New Englanders much trouble. Led by the famous chief Uncas, a portion of them separated from the Pequots and settled in the valley of the Thames River in Connecticut, where they strengthened their position by friendly alliances with the white settlers. After the defeat of the hostile Pequots by the whites, and the death of King Philip in 1676, the Mohegans gained more power and territory. In later years, after they had sold most of their lands to the whites, some migrated to Stockbridge, Massachusetts; some to central New York; others joined the Delawares in Pennsylvania, while a few remained on a reservation on the Thames River in Connecticut.
Heckewelder seems to be ignorant of the existence of the Mahican Indians. He makes no distinction between the tribe living along the Hudson and the related tribe in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He calls all "Mahicans," or "Mahicanni," or "Mohicans." His confusion is shown in the following sentence: "The Mahicanni have been called by so many different names, that I was at a loss which to adopt, so that the reader might know what people were meant."
Although Heckewelder distinguishes between the Delawares and the Mahicanni, Cooper makes no distinction between Delawares, Mahicans, and Mohegans, but considers them all as joined in a united, amalgamated tribe. He applies indiscriminately the terms "Delaware," "Mohican," and "Mohegan" to Chingachgook and Uncas. This is a simplification which the unobserving reader accepts without question, but which the student of Indian history finds very confusing. In referring to the title, The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper says that the term
has undergone the changes of Mahicanni, Mohicans, and Mohegans; the latter being the word commonly used by the whites. When it is remembered that the Dutch (who first settled New York), the English and the French all gave appellations to the tribes that dwelt within the country
36 Indian Nations, p. xli.