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Beyond Penn's Treaty

Sketch of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Government of the Seneca Indians in 1800

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He then addresses the people, advising them how they ought to con-
duct, and pointing out some of the prominent evils which they ought to
avoid; one of the greatest of these is stealing, and another is, for the
husband to desert and separate himself from his wife during pregnancy;
but taking the life of another is not considered a crime so capital, as
they are left at liberty to revenge it, by taking the life of the murder-
er. This may be done with impunity by the nearest relative of the
deceased, and they then consider the cries of blood to be done away.
Preparatory to these sacrifices they are careful to procure a sufficien-
cy of provisions.

This is done by deputing a certain number of their warriors to hunt,
who encircle a large space of hunting ground, and all the game taken
thereon is devoted to this feast. Previously to that which was held in
the summer of 1799, thirty men were sent out, who returned the day
following with seventeen deer. Great attention is paid to the cooking,
and certain places are appointed where the entertainment shall be
given. Spirituous liquors are not allowed on these occasions, although
near the conclusion there are instances, at times, of some of them get-
ting intoxicated.

Their stated time, according to ancient custom, for holding these sa-
crifices, is four days at a time, twice in the year; but they frequently
continue their feasting and dancing at intervals and by companies, for
eight or ten days; and, after the last day being spent in playing at
games of chance, they generally conclude by the firing of guns.

Their reason for performing these ceremonious rites, at these two
seasons of the year, they say, is to return thanks to the Great Spirit,
for sending them plenty of bread and meat - that it was the way their
forefathers had taught them, and they knew of no better; and although
the feast is conducted with considerable noise, and apparent confusion,
it is also attended at intervals with much solemnity, and on the part of
many of them, purely on a religious ground, and from sincere and good
motives. But, at the same time, they are willing to acknowledge that
their worship was not performed with so much solemnity as their fore-
fathers practised.

Besides their public devotional feasts and sacrifices, the Indians ex-
ercise a kind of family worship, at times, when they are sitting together,
particularly in the evening. If one of the heads of the family feels an
impulse to address the Great Spirit, he, or she, yields to it with an au-
dible voice, and this, among the more serious class, is frequently per-
formed, though not on any stated days or times. They are sometimes
exercised in this way when their friends are with them, and the subject
of aspiration is a thanksgiving for the preservation of their particular
family or tribe, and for supplying the varied necessaries and comforts