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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Anecdotes of the Natives

By William Wood (fl. 1629–1635)

[From New-England’s Prospect. 1635.]

SUCH is the wisdom and policy of these poor men, that they will be sure to keep correspondence with our English magistrates; expressing their love in the execution of any service they command them, so far as lies in their power, as may appear in one particular. A certain man having laid himself open to the king’s laws, fearing attachment, conviction, and consequently execution, sequestered himself from the honest society of his neighbors, betaking himself to the obscure thickets of the wilderness, where he lived for a time undiscovered, till the Indians, who leave no place unsearched for deer, found out his haunt, and having taken notice by divers discourses concerning him, how that it was the Governor’s desire to know where he was; they thought it a part of their service to certify him where he kept his rendezvous; who thereupon desired if they could to direct men to him for his attachment, but he had shifted his dwelling, and could not be found for the present; yet he was after seen by other Indians, but being double pistoled, and well sworded, they feared to approach so near him as to grapple with him; wherefore they let him alone till his own necessary business cast him upon them; for having occasion to cross over a river, he came to the side thereof, where was an Indian canoe, in which the Indians were to cross the river themselves; he vauntingly commanded passage, which they willingly granted, but withal plotting how they might take him prisoner; which they thus effected: having placed him in the midship of their ticklish wherry, they launched forth into the deep, causing the capering canoe to cast out her cumbersome ballast into the liquid water, which swam like a stone; and now the water having dank’d his pistols, and lost his Spanish progge at the bottom, the Indian swam him out by the chin to the shore, where having dropped a little dry, he began to bluster out a storm of rebellious resistance, till they becalmed his pelting chafe with their pelting pebbles at him, afterwards leading him as they list to the Governor.

Such is the mild temper of their spirits that they can not endure objurgations, or scoldings. An Indian sagamore once hearing an English woman scold with her husband, her quick utterance exceeding his apprehension, her active lungs thundering in his ears, expelled him the house, from whence he went to the next neighbor, where he related the unseemliness of her behavior; her language being strange to him, he expressed it as strangely, telling them how she cried “Nannana Nannana Nannana Nan,” saying he was a great fool to give her the audience, and no correction for usurping his charter, and abusing him by her tongue. I have been amongst divers of them, yet did I never see any falling out amongst them, not so much as cross words, or reviling speeches, which might provoke to blows.


Their Powows betaking themselves to their exorcisms, and necromantic charms, by which they bring to pass strange things, if we may believe the Indians, who report of one Pissacannawa, that he can make the water burn, the rocks move, the trees dance, metamorphize himself into a flaming man. But it may be objected this is but deceptio visus. He will therefore do more, for in winter, when there is no green leaves to be got, he will burn an old one to ashes, and putting these into the water, produce a new green loaf, which you shall not only see, but substantially handle and carry away; and make a dead snake’s skin a living snake, both to be seen, felt, and heard.

This I write but upon the report of the Indians, who confidently assert stranger things. But to make manifest that by God’s permission, thro’ the devil’s help, their charms are of force to produce effects of wonderment.

An honest gentleman related a story to me, being an eye-witness of the same: A Powow having a patient, with the stump of a small tree run through his foot, being past the cure of his ordinary surgery, betook himself to his charms, and being willing to show his miracle before the English stranger, he wrapped a piece of cloth about the foot of the lame man; upon that wrapping a beaver skin, thro’ which he laying his mouth to the beaver skin, by his sucking charms, brought out the stump, which he spat in a tray of water, returning the foot as whole as its fellow in a short time. The manner of their action in their conjuration is thus: The parties that are sick or lame are brought before them, the Powow sitting down, the rest of the Indians give attentive audience to his imprecations and invocations, and after the violent expression of many a hideous bellowing and groaning, he makes a stop, and then all the auditors with one voice utter a short canto; which done, the Powow still proceeds in his invocations, sometimes roaring like a bear, other times groaning like a dying horse, foaming at the mouth like a chased boar, smiting on his naked breast and thighs, with such violence as if he were mad. Thus will he continue sometimes half a day, spending his lungs, sweating out his fat, and tormenting his body in this diabolical worship. Sometimes the devil, for requital of their worship, recovers the party, to nuzzle them up in their devilish religion.