Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

which signifies in French : 'O saving sacrifice who art continually offered, and who givest life; thou by whom we enter heaven, we are continually assaulted; come strengthen us.'

“ It was nearly two years that I lived with the Abnakis, when I was recalled by my superiors; they destined me to the mission of the Illinois, who had lost their missionary. I went then to Quebec, where, after having employed three months in studying the Algonkin tongue, I embarked the 13th. of August in a canoe, to go to the Illinois ; their country is distant from Quebec more than eight hundred leagues. You may well judge that so long a voyage in these barbarous lands cannot be made without running great risks, and without suffering great inconvenience. I had to traverse lakes of immense extent, and where storms are as frequent as on the sea. It is true that one has the advantage of setting foot on land every night; but one is fortunate when one finds some fat rock where one may pass the night. When the rain falls, the only means of protection is to place oneself beneath the turned over canoe.

“One runs still greater dangers on the rivers, principally in places where they flow with extreme rapidity. Then the canoe flies like an arrow, and if it comes in contact with rocks, which one finds there

in abundance, it breaks into a thousand pieces. This · misfortune happened to some of those who accompanied me in other canoes, and it is by a singular protection of divine goodness that I did not suffer the same fate; because my canoe struck several times against the rocks, without receiving the least damage. In fine, one risks suffering from hun. ger that which is most cruel. The length and the difficulty of these kinds of voyages only permits bringing with one a sack of Indian corn. One would suppose that the chase would furnish on the route something to live upon ; but if the game fails, one finds oneself exposed to many days of fasting. Then all the resource which one has is to search for a kind of leaves, which the savages call Kingnessanach, and the French tripes de roches. One would take them for Cerfeuil, of which they have the shape, if they were not much larger; they serve them either boiled or roasted; those which I have eaten are not so bad.

“I did not suffer much from hunger as far as the lake of the Hurons, but it was not the same with the companions of my voyage; the bad weather having

* Literally rock tripe. A bitter and purgative fungus found growing on rocks, and used extensively by the inhabitants of the far north for food.

scattered their canoes, they could not join me: I arrived the first at Missilimakinak, from whence I sent them food, without which they would have died of hunger. They had passed seven days without any nourishment but that of a crow, which they had killed rather by chance than by skill, for they had not strength to support themselves.

“The season was too far advanced to continue my route as far as to the Illinois, from whence I was yet distant about four hundred leagues. Thus it was necessary for me to remain at Missilimakinak, where there were two of our missionaries, one among the Hurons, and the other with the Outaouacks. The latter are very superstitious and much attached to the jugleries of their medicine men. They attribute to themselves an origin as senseless as ridiculous. They pretend to spring from families, and each family is composed of five hundred persons.

“Some are of the family of Michabou, that is to say of the great hare. They pretend that this great hare was a man of prodigious size, that he could spread nets in the water at eighteen feet in depth, and that the water came hardly to his armpits; that one day, during the deluge, he sent the beaver to discover the land; but as this animal did not return he sent out the otter, who brought back a little earth

[ocr errors][merged small]

covered with foam ; that he repaired to the place in the lake where he found this earth, which formed a little isle; all around which he walked in the water, and that this island became extraordinarily large. This is why is attributed to him the creation of the earth. They add that after having accomplished this work he flew up to heaven, which is his ordinary abode, but before quitting the earth, when his descendants came to die, that they should burn their bodies and throw their ashes into the air, so that they should more easily raise themselves towards heaven; that if they should fail in this, the snow would cease to cover the earth, that their lakes and their rivers would remain frozen, and that, not being able to angle for fish, which is their common food, they would all die in the spring.

“In fact, a few years ago, the winter having continued longer than ordinary, there was a general consternation among the savages of the family of the great hare. They had recourse to their accustomed jugleries; they assembled many times in order to advise on the means of dissipating this snow enemy who seemed obstinate to remain upon the earth; when an old woman approached them. “My children,' said she, you have no wit, you know the orders that the great hare has left to burn the bodies of the

dead and to throw their ashes to the wind, to the end that they should return more promptly to heaven, their country; and you have neglected his orders by leaving some days journey from here a dead man without burning, as if he was not of the family of the great hare. Repair forthwith your fault, take care to burn him if you wish that the snow should disappear. You are right our mother' replied they, thou hast more wit than we and the council which thou givest us restores life to us. They immediately deputed twenty-five men to go and burn this body. They employed about fifteen days in this journey. During that time the thaw came and the snow melted. They loaded with praises and presents the old woman who had given the advice; and this event, quite natural as it was, served much to confirm them in their folly and superstitious credulity.

"The second family of the Outaouacks pretend to have sprung from the Namepick, that is to say from the carp. They say that a carp having laid his eggs upon the bank of the river, and the Sun having darted its rays there, he formed a woman from them from whom they are descended. Thus they call themselves of the family of the carp.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »