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They have some kind of Elegancy in varying and compounding their Words, to which, not many of themselves attain, and this principally distinguishes their best Speakers. I have endeavoured to get some Account of this, as a Thing that might be acceptable to the Curious; but, as I have not met with any one Person who understands their Language, and also knows any Thing of Grammar, or of the learned Languages, I have not been able to attain the least Satisfaction. Their present Minister tells me, that their Verbs are varied, but in a Manner so dif. ferent from the Greek or Latin, that he cannot difcover by what Rule it was done, and even suspects, that every Verb has a peculiar Mode: They have but few radical Words, but they compound their Words without End ; by this their Language becomes fufficiently copious, and leaves Room for a good Deal of Art to please a delicate Ear. Sometimes one Word among them includes an entire Definition of the Thing; for Example, they call Wine Onebar radeseboengtser agherie, as much as to say, a Liquor made of the Juice of the Grape. The Words expressing Things lately come to their knowledge are all Compounds: They have no Labeals in their Language, nor can they pronounce perfectly any Word wherein there is a Labeal ; and when one endeavours to teach them to pronounce these Words, they tell one, they think it ridiculous that they must shut their Lips to speak. Their Language abounds with Gutturals and strong Aspirations, these make it very fonorous and bold; and their Speeches abound with Metaphors, after the Manner of the Eastern Nations, as will best appear by the Speeches that I have copied.
As to what religions Notions they have, it is difficult to judge of them; because the Indians, that . fpeak any English, and live near us, have learned many Things of us; and it is not easy to distinguish the Notions they had originally among themselves,
from those they have learned of the Christians. It is certain they have no Kind of publick Worship, and I am told that they have no radical Word to express God, but use a compound Word, fignifying the Preserver, Sustainer, or Master of the Universe; neither could I ever learn what Sentiments they have of a future Existence. Their funeral Rites seem to be formed upon a Notion of some kind of Existence after Death: They make a large round Hole, in which the Body can be placed upright, or upon its Haunches, which after the Body is placed in it, is covered with Timber, to support the Earth which they lay over, and thereby keep the Body free from being pressed; they then raise the Earth in a round Hill over it. They always dress the Corps in all its Finery, and put Wampum and other Things into the Grave with it ; and the Relations suffer not Grass or any Weed to grow on the Grave, and frequently visit it with Lamentations : But whether these Things be done only as Marks of Respect to the Deceased, or from a Notion of some kind of Existence after Death, must be left to the Judgment of the Reader.
They are very superstitious in observing Omens and Dreams; I have observed them fhew a fuperftitious Awe of the Owl, and be highly displeased with some that mimicked the Cry of that Bird in the Night. An Officer of the regular Troops has informed me also; that while he had the Command of the Garrison at Oswego, a Boy of one of the far Westward Nations died there, the Parents made a regular Pile of split Wood, laid the Corps upon it, and burnt it; while the Pile was burning, they stood gravely looking on, without any Lamentation, but when it was burnt down, they gathered up the Bones with many Tears, put them into a Box, and carried them away with them; and this Inclination, which all ignorant People have to Superstition and amusing Ceremonies, gives the Popish Priests a great Advan
tage in recommending their Religion, beyond what the Regularity of the Protestant Doctrine allows of.
Queen Anne fent over a Missionary to reside among the Mohawks, and allowed him a sufficient Subsistence from the privy Purse ; she sent Furniture for a Chappel, and a valuable set of Plate for the Communion Table ; and (if I am not mistaken) the like Furniture ánd Plate for each of the other Nations, though that of the Mohawks was only applied to the Use defigned. The common Prayer, or at least a confiderable Part of it, was translated also into their Lan-, guage and printed; some other Pieces were likewise translated for the Minister's Use, viz. An Exposition of the Creed, Decalogue, Lord's Prayer, and Church Catechism, and a Discourse on the Sacraments. But as that Minister was never able to attain any tolerable Knowledge of their Language, and was naturally a heavy Man, he had but small Success; and his Allowance failing, by the Queen's Death, he left them. These Nations had no Teacher, from that Time, till within these few Years, that a young Gentleman, out of pious Zeal, went voluntarily among the Mohawks. He was at first intirely ignorant of their Language, and had no Interpreter, except one of the Indians, who underftood a little English, and had, in the late Missionary's Time, learn'd to read and write in his own Language. He learned from him how to pronounce the Words in the Translations, which had been made for the late Missionary's Use. He set up a School, to teach their Children to read and write their own Language ; and they made surprizing Proficiency, confidering their Malter did not understand their Lan-, guage. I happened to be in the Mohawk Country, and saw several of their Performances ; I was present at their Worship, where they went through some Part of the Common Prayer with great Decency, I was likewise present, feveral Times, at their private Devotions, which some of them performed duly,
Morning and Evening. I had also many Opportunities of observing the great Regard they had for this young Man ; so far, that the Fear of his leaving them made the greatest Restraint on them, with which he threatened them, after they had been guil. ty of any Offence. Soon after that Time, this Gentleman went to England, received Orders, and was sent by the Society, Missionary to Albany, with Liberty to spend some part of his Time among the Mabawks,
I had lately a Letter from him, dated the seventh of December, 1641, in which he writes as follows: « Drunkenness was so common among them, that I “ doubt, whether there was one grown Person of is either Sex free from it; feldom a Day pasted,
without fome, and very often forty or fifty being “ drunk at a Time. But I found they were very fond
of keeping me among them, and afraid I should " leave them, which I made Use of to good Pur" pose ; daily threatning them with my Departure, « in Case they did not forsake that Vice, and fre: “quently requiring a particular Promise from them
singly; by which Means (through God's Blessing) " there was a gradual Reformation ; and I know « not that I have seen above ten or twelve Persons “ drunk among them this Summer. The Women : “ are almost all entirely reformed, and the Men
very much. They have intirely left off Divorces, « and are legally married. They are very constant
and devout at church and Family Devotions. “ They have not been known to exereise Cruelty to “ Prisoners, and have, in a great Measure, left off « going a fighting, which I find the inost difficult, “ of all Things, to dissuade them from. They seem “ also persuaded of the Truths of Christianity. The “ greatest Inconveniency I labour under, is the Want « of an Interpreter, which could I obtain, for two " or three Years, I should hope to be tolerably
" Master of their Language, and be able to render ." it easier to my Succeffor."
This Gentleman's uncommon Zeal deserves, I think, , this publick Testimony, that it may be a Means of his receiving such Encouragement, as may enable him to pursue the pious Purposes he has in View.
The Mohawks, were they civilized, may be useful to us many ways, and, on many Occasions, more than any of our own People can be ; and this well deserves to be considered.
There is one Custom their Men constantly observe, which I must not forget to mention; That if they be sent with any Message, though it demand the greatest Dispatch, or though they bring Intelligence of any imminent Danger, they never tell it at their first Approach; but lit down for a Minute or two, at least, in Silence, to recollect themselves, before they speak, that they may not shew any Degree of Fear or Surprize, by an indecent Expression: Every sudden Repartee, in a publick Treaty, leaves with them an Impression of a light inconfiderate Mind ; but, in private Conversation, they use, and are delighted with brisk witty Answers, as we can be. By this they shew the great Difference they place between the Conversations of Man and Man, and of Nation and Nation ; and in this, and a thoufand other
Things, might well be an Example to the European Nations.