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Stories of New Jersey

158 pages
Library of Alexandria
THE STORY OF THE DISCOVERY OF SCHEYICHBI. The North American Indians, the earliest inhabitants of this country of whom we know anything definite, were great story-tellers; and their histories consist entirely of stories handed down from parents to children, or, more likely, from grandparents to grandchildren, for grandfathers and grandmothers are generally more willing to tell stories than fathers or mothers. And so these traditions, probably a good deal brightened by being passed along century after century, came down to the Indians who were first met by white people, and thus we have heard many of them. The stories told by the Indians inhabiting the country which is now the Middle States, all agree that their remote forefathers came from some region beyond the Mississippi River. Like the traditions of most nations, these go so very far back that they are vague and misty; but, as this gave the Indians a great opportunity for their imaginations, it is not wonderful that they improved it. These Indians believed that in the very earliest stages of their existence they were all animals, and lived in caves under the earth. They were hunters; but their game consisted of mice, and creatures of that sort. One of them accidentally discovered a hole by which he got out on the surface of the ground; and, finding it so exceedingly pleasant, it was not long before the whole of his tribe came out, and began life in the light of day. It may be supposed that these animals gradually changed to human beings, and built villages, and planted corn; but in one respect they did not change, nor have they changed at this present day. Many of them still call themselves after the names of animals; and now the greater part of the noted Indians of our country have such names as "Sitting Bull," "Black Bear," and "Red Horse." But the stories say that all of the animals did not come out of their underground homes. Among these were the hedgehog and the rabbit; and so some of the tribes will not eat these animals, because in so doing they may be eating their family connections. Gradually the ancestors of the Indians who told their stories to the first settlers, and who afterwards called themselves the Lenni-Lenape, moved eastward, and after many years they reached the Mississippi River. By this time they had become a powerful body. But in the course of their journeys they discovered that they were not the earliest emigrants in this direction, for they met with a great tribe called the Mengwe, later known as the Iroquois, who had come from a country west of the Mississippi, but farther north than that of our Indians