In a class of languages, where the personification of ideas, or

sentiments, frequently compensates for the paucity of expression, it

could hardly be expected that death should be omitted. The soul, or

spirit, deemed to be an invisible essence, is denominated Ochichaug;

this is the term translators employ for the Holy Ghost. There is

believed to be the spirit of a vital and personal animus, distinct from

this, to which they apply the term Jeebi or Ghost. Death, or the

mythos of the condition of the human frame, deprived of even the

semblance of blood, and muscle, and life, is represented by the word

Pauguk. Pauguk is a horrible phantom of human bones, without muscular

tissue or voice, the appearance of which presages speedy dissolution.

Of all the myths of the Indians, this is the most gloomy and fearful.

In strict accordance, however, with aboriginal tastes and notions,

Pauguk is represented as a hunter. He is armed with a bow and arrows,

or a pug-gamagan, or war-club. Instead of objects of the chase, men,

women, and children are substituted as the objects of pursuit. To see

him is indicative of death. Some accounts represent him as covered with

a thin transparent skin, with the sockets of his eyes filled with balls

of fire.

Pauguk never speaks. Unlike the Jeebi or ghost, his limbs never

assume the rotundity of life. Neither is he confounded in form with the

numerous class of Monedoes, or of demons. He does not possess the power

of metamorphosis, or of transforming himself into the shapes of

animals. Unvaried in repulsiveness, he is ever an object of fear; but

unlike every other kind or class of creation of the Indian mind, Pauguk

never disguises himself, or affects the cunning of concealment--never

effects to be what he is not.

Manabozho alone had power to invoke him unharmed. When he had expended

all his arts to overcome Paup-Puk-Keewiss, who could at will transform

himself, directly or indirectly, into any class or species of the

animal creation, going often, as he did, as a jeebi, from one carcass

into another, at last, at the final conflict at the rock, he dispatched

him with the real power of death, after summoning the elements of

thunder and lightning to his aid. And when thus deprived of all

sublunary power, the enraged Great Hare, Manito (such seems the meaning

of Manabozho), changed the dead carcass of his enemy into the great

caniew, or war eagle. Nothing had given Manabozho half the trouble

and vexation of the flighty, defying, changeable and mischievous

Paup-Puk-Keewiss, who eluded him by jumping from one end of the

continent to the other. He had killed the great power of evil in the

prince of serpents, who had destroyed Chebizbos his grandson--he had

survived the flood produced by the great Serpent, and overcome, in

combat, the mysterious power held by the Pearl, or sea shell Feather,

and the Mishemokwa, or great Bear with the wampum necklace, but

Paup-Puk-Keewiss put him to the exercise of his reserved powers of

death and annihilation. And it is by this act that we perceive that

Hiawatha, or Manabozho, was a divinity. Manabozho had been a hunter, a

fisherman, a warrior, a suppliant, a poor man, a starveling, a laughing

stock and a mere beggar; he now shows himself a god, and as such we

must regard him as the prime Indian myth.

This myth, the more it is examined, the more extensive does it appear

to be incorporated in some shape in the Indian mythology. If

interpreted agreeably to the metaphysical symbols of the old world, it

would appear to be distilled from the same oriental symbolical

crucible, which produced an Osiris and a Typhon--for the American

Typhon is represented by the Mishikinabik, or serpent, and the American

Osiris by a Hiawatha, Manabozho, Micabo, or great Hare-God, or Ghost.

This myth, as it is recognized under the name of Hiawatha by the

Iroquois, is without the misadventures over which, in the person of

Manabozho, the Algonquins laugh so heartily, and the particular

recitals of which, as given in prior pages, afford so much amusement to

their lodge circles. According to the Iroquois version, Tarenyawagon

was deputed by the Master of Life, who is also called the Holder of

Heaven, to the earth, the better to prepare it for the residence of

man, and to teach the tribes the knowledge necessary to their

condition, as well as to rid the land of giants and monsters. Having

accomplished this benevolent labor, he laid aside his heavenly

character and name, assuming that of Hiawatha; took a wife, and settled

in a beautiful part of the country. Hiawatha having set himself down to

live as one of them, it was his care to hold up, at all times, the best

examples of prudential wisdom. All things, hard or wondrous, were

possible for him to do, as in the case of the hero of the Algonquin

legend, and he had, like him, a magic canoe to sail up and down the

waters wherever he wished.

Hiawatha, after he had performed the higher functions appertaining to

his character, settled down in the Iroquois country, and was

universally regarded as a sage. He instructed the tribes how to repel

savage invaders, who were in the habit of scourging the country, and

was ever ready to give them wise counsels. The chief things of these

good counsels to the tribes were to attend to their proper vocation, as

hunters and fishermen, to cultivate corn, and to cease dissensions and

bickerings among themselves. He finally instructed them to form a

general league and confederacy against their common enemies. These

maxims were enforced at a general council of the Iroquois tribe, held

at Onondaga, which place became the seat of their council fire, and

first government. This normal council of Iroquois sages resulted in

placing the tribes in their assembled, not tribal capacity, under the

care of a moderator, or chief magistrate of the assembled cantons,

called Atatarho.[72]

Tradition recites many particulars of the acts of Hiawatha. It is

preserved in their recitals, that after his mission was virtually

ended, or, rather, drawing to a close, how he proceeded, in great

state, to the council, in his magic canoe, taking with him his favorite

daughter. With her he landed on the shore of the lake of Onondaga, and

was proceeding to the elevated grounds appointed for the council, when

a remarkable phenomenon appeared in the heavens, which seemed, in its

symbolical import, to say to Hiawatha: "Thy work is near its close." A

white bird, the bird of Heaven, appeared to come as a special messenger

to him and to his daughter, appearing as a small speck high in the

higher atmosphere. As it descended and revealed its character, its

flight was attended with the greatest swiftness and force, and with no

little of the impetuosity of a stroke of lightning. To the dismay of

all, it struck the daughter of Hiawatha with such force as to drive her

remains into the earth, completely annihilating her. The bird itself

was annihilated in annihilating Hiawatha's daughter. All that remained

of it were its scattered white plumes, purely white as silver clouds,

and these plumes the warriors eagerly gathered as the chief tokens, to

be worn on their heads as symbols of their bravery in war--a custom

maintained to this day. Hiawatha stood aghast. He did not know how to

interpret the terrible token. He deeply mourned his daughter's fate;

for a long time he was inconsolable, and sat with his head down. But,

in the end, and by persuasion, he roused himself from his reverie. His

thoughts revolved on his original mission to the Indian tribes. The

Great Spirit perhaps tells me, he said to himself, that my work here

below is finished, and I must return to him. For a while, he had not

heeded the invitations to attend the largely gathered council which

waited for him, but as soon as his grief would enable him to attend, he

roused himself for the task. After tasting food, he assumed his usual

manly dignity of character, and assumed the oratorical attitude.

Waiting till the other speakers had finished, he addressed his last

counsels to the listening tribes. By his wisdom and eloquent appeal, he

entranced them. By this valedictory address, replete with political

wisdom, he closed his career. Having done this, he announced the

termination of his mission; then, entering his magic canoe, he began to

rise in the air--sweet strains of music were heard to arise as he

mounted, and these could be heard till he was carried up beyond human


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