Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
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Tame Indians

Tame Indians
Sarah O. Jewett.
     Transcription of the Manuscript at the Houghton Library, Harvard University

     Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909. Compositions and other papers: Guide. (bMS Am 1743.2-1743.27 ) (7) Tame Indians. A.MS.(unsigned); [n.p., n.d.]. 3s. (12p.). The manuscript material appears here by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
     Following is the transcribers' best guess at the text Jewett considered final when she completed this manuscript. Comparing this text with the text that appeared in The Independent (27:26) April 1, 1875, shows that Jewett revised it extensively before publication. The purpose of this version is to provide an easily readable text of the early draft represented in this manuscript.
     Jewett's paragraphing is hinted at in the manuscript with larger than normal periods. We have attempted to follow these in order to indicate her probable paragraph divisions in the manuscript.
     Brackets in the text indicate places where we are aware of guessing at Jewett's intentions.
 


     Tame Indians

      I was visiting a friend of mine in Boston not long ago, and one Sunday afternoon her younger brother and sister asked me to tell them a story. Now it was very easy to say 'tell me a story' but I couldn't think of any but the ones they knew as well as I.

     Can't you tell us about something that happened to you? asked Bessie, while Jack said no, don't read a story -- and then I puzzled myself awhile and finally said, Did I ever tell you about my going to an Indian church once out West? 'No?' Then we will all go and sit in the bay window and I will begin.

      "It was out in Wisconsin about three hundred miles north of Chicago, on the shore of Green Bay and I had said once or twice how much I liked to see Indians walking about the streets, when someone said wouldn't you like to go out to the Oneida settlement to service some Sunday? I was delighted you may be sure for the only Indians I had ever seen were the forlorn creatures who live at watering-places in the summer and who sell baskets.

     And I had been reading [an] interesting book of Mr. Francis Parkmans which tells a great deal about the old Indian tribes. You must read it when you grow older.

     Does it tell about fights and splendid Indians that went hunting asked Jack. Perhaps I should like to read it now. But Bessie said 'go on.'

     There were some young ladies besides myself and we had a man to drive [with] two strong horses[.] It was a dreary drive enough. It was November weather and the day before had been rainy so the roads were frightfully bad and we had nearly a dozen miles to drive out through the forest, or what had been a forest before those awful prairie fires of 1871 had swept through it. It was the most dismal place I ever saw. The green ferns and bushes which had made it look less desolate in the summer, had all been killed by the frost. There were half-frozen pools of water everywhere and the charred and blackened trunks of the pine trees stood straight all around and it seemed to me as if the long miles never would come to an end and as if we never should come out of those forlorn woods and see the fields again. But by and by we heard a church bell ringing and soon after we saw the church itself still a mile or two off and the driver whipped up his horses and on we went in a hurry but were late, after all.

     I was disappointed the settlement did not look at all as if Indians lived there. There were some comfortable looking farm houses and plenty of log cabins. And the church looked like any little country church.

     Oh what a pity said Jack. I should have been so sorry!

     There were horses fastened to the fence about the church and a great many dogs -- some standing in the church door with [them] and we left ours and went in.

     I wish you had seen the congregation! If the houses had looked like ordinary houses their owners certainly did not look like ordinary people for they were such unmistakeable Indians that I thought at once of the braves in my picture books and half expected to be scalped and tomahawked on the spot. They seemed very peaceable and said their prayers devoutly. The church was filled all except the strangers pew.

     What kind of a church was it said Bessie.

     Episcopal said I, and it was so strange that the Sunday before I should have been at Grace church, in New York where everything is so beautiful and the people so elegantly dressed, and then one week afterward here I was at the Oneida Mission, myself and my friends and the clergyman the only white people in the congregation.

     I was so sorry that I was just too late to hear them say the creed but I heard the responses of course and they sang two hymns in their own language. One was "My soul be on thy guard." They do not have all the usual Church service but a much shorter and simpler one. They seemed to know it all by heart, and their singing interested me more than anything. Their voices are so different from ours, and the tune sounded so familiar and the words so strange.

     Do you remember any of the words said Jack.

     Not one. I'm so sorry! They had some music. There was a melodeon or cabinet organ played by a young man who had been away to school or college and who looked very intelligent. When the sermon began the clergyman didn't preach in Indian but in English, and at the side of the desk close by the chancel rail was a place like a small old fashioned square pew where stood an old Indian who listened to the English sentence and then repeated it in his own language. He had a fine voice and a grave earnest manner and used many gestures, so it reminded me of the speeches one reads of that used to be made round the old council fires.

     Was it like the ones we have Sundays? asked Bessie.

     Yes only shorter and very simple -- just such a sermon as would be preached to little children and they listened and behaved much better than we do.

     But were they dressed just like other people said Jack. I suppose they wouldn't have feathers in their hair for church, anyway.

     The men wore rough plain clothes like other men but the squaws were very droll. They had no bonnets on though some had felt hats and the rest wore gay colored cotton handkerchiefs folded once cornerwise and tied over their heads and under their chins. They had on very bright calico dresses and dazzling woolen shawls. They had dark complexions and very black eyes.

     They looked heavy stupid and lazy but good-humored as if they never heard of going on the warpath or of burning peoples houses and murdering them in the night, or of carrying them off captive through the woods. They were not your favorite kind of red men Jack. I'm afraid you would have been disappointed.

     After service was over we watched the people go away and laughed to see all the papooses ride off in triumph on their mothers' backs, rolled up comfortably in the bright shawls.

     Oh you didn't tell me about the papooses, said Bessie eagerly. Were there papooses and did they come to church?

     Why certainly said I, and they behaved well only sometimes they would be a little noisy but if they cried too loud the squaws would take them out and walk about with them a while. One solemn baby sat in the next pew to me and stared hard at me with his little black eyes.

     After the people had gone away, I found one of my friends was talking with the missionary who had just come out of the church. He had a sweet, kind face and I had a nice talk with him. He told me the Indians were perfect children but were well-behaved and [seemed] to do the best they could. They were very constant at church and were going to begin a new stone church for which they had been getting ready for a long time. They were lazy he said and would not work steadily and rarely saved any money for themselves. So when they grew ill and old they were pitiful enough.

     The clergyman had lived there in that lonely place for twenty years. We went into his house which was very pleasant and he showed us bead work and deer skin moccasins some of them beautifully embroidered. Then we said good bye to him and came away.

     It was so long a drive that we had brought a lunch in a basket and we ate this on the way home, and had a very merry time. We passed several [Oneida] families on their way home and they never walked side by side but in true Indian file children and all, and the papooses peeping out from the [shawls]. It was such a wonder to me that they didn't slip down to the ground.

      Suppose we try with Tatters? There's Mamma's shawl in the hall said Jack, who is fond of experiments. But the little dog was nowhere to be found and his master came back to ask if there was any more of the story.

      No there is not, said my friend his elder sister, who had come down stairs. But we are going for a walk and to see the sunset and you and Bessie may come with us if you like.
 
 

[Jewett's notes

Apparently on the last page of the manuscript, Jewett has written notes that may suggest revisions she was considering. She has written her title twice on the page in what appears to be her handwriting, whereas the title that appears at the beginning of the manuscript may not be in her hand.]
 

     Tame Indians

     Jack asks if I saw any --

     If there were any some old wigwams

     Tell him about the Indians being moved away from their old homes

     Tame Indians
 
 


Transcribed by Terry and Linda  Heller, Coe College
 

Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
Main Contents
Tame Indians