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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Good and Evil

Editor's Note:

Rev. Marsh was at Rock Island, preparing for his return journey to the Fox Valley.

Pike: In the summer of 1805, Maj. Zebulon Pike (1779-1813) was ordered to explore the upper Mississippi River, where English fur traders from Canada were reported to be working illegally on American soil. He headed north on August 9, 1805, in a seventy-foot keelboat, and on September 23 reached modern Minneapolis. After wintering further upriver, raising the American flag over the British fort, and meeting with the Dakota Indians, his expedition returned to St. Louis on April 30, 1806. His Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, and Through the Western Parts of Louisiana...(Philadelphia, 1810) was widely read, and is available online in our American Journeys digital collection. On pages 12-23 of his book Pike describes the Wisconsin portion of the trip upriver; on pages 99-101 he describes his return visit to Prairie du Chien; the "Appendix to Part 1" includes his descriptions of Wisconsin Indians.

[Sept] 4th Thurs

Many of the Fox Indns here to day and yesterday - about all have left. Amongst the rest was Pow-we-sheak who appeared very friendly, and I had considerable of conversation with him during his stay but did not refer to the past.

As I stood conversing with a Clerk of the F.C. [fur co.?], Mr McPherson, this morn[ing], a young brave very finely dressed came along and said he was poor and had no gun to hunt with. Mr McP. immediately informed me that he [had] had a fine rifle worth 25 doll[ar]s and sold it for five bottles of whiskey to a white man down the river.

Spent the day principally in writing. At an interview with Mr. D. he said it was a rule with Indns. to find fault with another for what he does, but to support him if his friend thinks it right, although he does not think so himself.

Their ideas of Good and Evil:

They blieve, says mr. Smith, and Pike also, in a Good & Bad Spirit. If, however, any calamity befalls them, they think the Gr. Sp. is angry with them and is thus punishing them. Or if, in a scarce time of provision, one man of the village is too sparing of his provisions and does not make as many feasts as he ought, provided he meets with any loss of sickness of death, they say the Gr. Sp. is angry because he is so stingy.

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