“A book about Indians!”—who cares anything about them?
This will probably be the exclamation of many who glance on my little page. To those who know nothing concerning them, a whole book about Indians will seem a very prosy affair, to whom I can answer nothing, for they will not proceed as far as my Preface to see what reasons I can render for the seeming folly.
But to those who are willing to listen, I can say that the Indians are a very interesting people, whether I have made an interesting book about them or not.
The Antiquarian, the Historian, and the Scholar, have been a long time studying Indian character, and have given plenty of information concerning the Indian, but it is all in ponderous volumes for State and College libraries, and quite inaccessible to the multitude—those who only take up such book as may be held in the hand, sitting by the fire,—still remain very ignorant of the Children of Nature who inhabited the forests before the Saxon set his foot upon our shores.
There is also a great deal of prejudice, the consequence of this ignorance, and the consequence of the representations of your forefathers who were brought into contact with the Indians, under circumstances that made it impossible to judge impartially and correctly.
The Histories which are in the schools, and from which the first impressions are obtained, are still very deficient in what they relate of Indian History, and most of them are still filling the minds of children and youth, with imperfect ideas. I have read many of the Histories, and have longed to see refuted the slanders, and blot out the dark pictures which the historians have wont to spread abroad concerning us. May I live to see the day when it may be done, for most deeply have I learned to blush for my people.
I thought, at first, of only giving a series of Indian Biographies, but without some knowledge of the government and religion of the Iroquois, the character of the Indians could not be understood or appreciated.
I enter upon the task with much distrust. It is a difficult task at all times to speak and to write in foreign language, and I fear I shall not succeed to the satisfaction of myself, or to my readers.
My title will not be so attractive to the American ears, as if it related to any other unknown people. A tour in Arabia, or Spain, or in India, or some other foreign country, with far less important and interesting material, would secure a greater number of readers, as we are always more curious about things afar off.
I might have covered many pages with “Indian Atrocities,” but these have been detailed in other histories, till they are familiar to every ear, and I had neither room nor inclination for even a glance at war and its dark records.