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A Visit to the Camanches
From the Tennessee Bapist newspaper, 1849
By H. F. Buckner
      As little is known concerning the wild Indians who live West of the Creeks and Cherokees, I have thought that whatever information might be given concerning them, be it ever so scant, would not be altogether uninteresting.

      A party of sixteen, consisting mostly of Creeks and Cherokees, have just returned from a trading excursion, and from Unus Mcintosh their leader, I have obtained the following:- "We proceeded," says he, "in a direction South of West from the Creek Agency. Each of us had a rifle and such other weapons as we could carry conveniently about our person's [sic]. Our mules were laden with tobacco, vermilian, &c. &c., which we expected to barter with the Camanches for mules, intending to supply the emigrants to California with those animals. The country over which we travelled was mostly prairie, with here and there a skirt of scrubby oaks. We had for our interpreter a Kickapoo, who had spent some time with the Camanches, and who could speak a little broken English. After travelling about 200 miles in the same direction without seeing or hearing any thing worth relating, we came in sight of the tents where the Camanches were whiling away the months of spring. I confess that our hearts began to fail us when we came in sight of tents extending farther than our eyes could see en an open prairie and filled with wild and savage Indians, who in all probability, would I regard us as enemies. Our guide had us all to alight, examine our rifles and to see that they were well primed. - He then addressed us as follows: "Me friends; may be so we all find an grave to day, all go one way; Camanch may be so fight, and may be so be friendly; we must no run nor be fraid. Sometime I fight Camanch wid only tree or four; but we sixteen, and all hab plenty guns! We heap! we no run!" His little son then came running up to him, and asked him to load his pistol, [he was only eight years old.] The old man looked at his boy with an expression of [2 words blurred] loaded his pistol, and turning to us said: "My boy may be so belter man than me; he no scare; may be so me little scare in here, (placing his hand on his breast and smiling.) We must no let Camanch see us fraid." There was one white man in company, and on this occasion he looked rather paler than his race. - Our guide, on perceiving this, painted 'brother Jonathan's' face all over with vermilian, lest his countenance should betray the state of his mind. We then remounted and proceeded in the direction of the tents. Presently six old men, mounted on mules came meeting us. We were going to shake hands with them according to the custom of civilized life, when one of them made signs for us to stop, which we did. He then inquired of us the object of our visit, and to what nation we belonged. Being answered that some of us were Creeks, some Camanches and one Kickapoo, and that we had come to buy mules, he requested us to separate in parties according to our different tribes, which we did, (brother Johnatan identifying himself with the Cherokees.) He then proceeded to shake our hands according to the customs of their nation, which indeed, were very singular. Causing us to stand with our right side fronting him, and to hold our right arm in the same position that a tailor would it he was going to measure the length of our coat-sleeve; he caught us with both his hands just above the waist, then waiving our arm up and down as we would a pump handle, he looked us steadily in the eye. He first shook the hands of the Creeks, then of the Cherokees, and lastly of the Kickapoo. After shaking the hand of each individual he placed his own over the reign of his stomach (as a token of love) bowed himself to the earth, and after pronouncing the name of the tribe to which the individual belonged, added 'chartar,' which in their language, signifies good. Having concluded this ceremony, they invited us to accompany them to their tents, and after our arrival showed us where to erect ours. - One of them then ted forward a mule laden with raw buffalo meat and invited us to eat, telling us at the same time that the meat on the right side of the mule was for the Creeks, while that on the left side was for the Cherokees and Kickapoo. We invited their chiefs to eat with us, setting before them cooked meat, bread, sugar, coffee. They ate very heartily, dipping their hands into the bowl and eating the sugar alone, and then drinking the coffee. I will only have time and room to add the following items in unconnected sentences. Their young men appear to be vain and fond of dress; which consists of a light shirt made of checked linen, a beaded gown made of dressed buck skin, beaded mockasins and wrappers. They have a small mirror suspended constantly to their wrist, which they consult on all occasions when they wish to appear in company. The men wear very long hair, but the women keep theirs closely trimmed. The former appear to be spirited and independent; the latter, as among all Savages, mean and careless about their dress.

      There were about 5000 encamped at that place, and being asked the number of their tribe, said: "as the band is to the length of the whole arm, so are we to the whole number of our tribe." When talking they keep their hands and arms in constant motion. They express all their verbs and prepositions in this [6 words blurred] press the manner and qualify of things. They have many Mexican and Spanish prisoners, whom they use as servants, and whom they sell on the same terms that they do their mules. They claim all the land from the salt plains to the rocky mountains inclusive. - They move twice in the year, and are governed in this by the movements of the buffalo. They eat nothing but raw meat steeped in pepper-water. Some of them have light hair and blue eyes, but it is thought that this class is of Spanish extraction. They say that they are the most powerful nation on earth, and to prevent their people from thinking differently the chiefs had those of their tribe put to death whom Gen. Butler had taken to Washington city. I was not able to learn anything of their religion or laws. They will meet in council next spring at the salt plains to which they have invited their neighboring tribes. They have never heard the Gospel. Who will be the first to preach unto them Jesus and the resurrection.


[From the Tennessee Baptist, September 13, 1849, p. 3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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