American History Stories—Volume I - Mara L. Pratt

[Illustration] from American History Stories - I by Mara L. Pratt


Long Ago

Many, many years ago, O, so many that I fear you could not count them even, this country in which we live was one vast expanse of woodland and fields, mountains and swamps.

There were no cities, no villages, not even a single house to break the view across the wild fields.

The whole country looked as it does now in those places which have not yet been built up.

Did you ever stand on a high hill and look off across the country where not one house was to be seen? How broad the fields looked and how strange it was to see the sky dipping down and seeming to rest upon the hills and trees away off at the horizon line! Well, that is the way it looked to the little boys and girls here so many years before the white people came to this country.

We do not know very much about these little boys and girls, and their fathers and mothers; for they knew nothing about writing, and so left no books to tell us about themselves.

We know that they used to live in tents, which they called wigwams; that they called the women squaws, and the baby boys and girls papooses; and that they were all called Indians by the white men.

These Indian people, according to our ideas, were very rude and wild. The fathers spent their time in hunting and fishing. The mothers stayed about the tents, kept the fires going, tilled the ground, raised the corn, cooked the food, such as it was, and loved their children just as mothers do the world over.

The little boys and girls had no schools, no books, no toys to keep them busy; so they spent their time playing about the tent or learning to fish and hunt and build canoes.

Perhaps you think they had lovely times with nothing to do; but I am afraid they sometimes had very hard times too.

If I were to tell you the way the tribes of Indians used to pounce down upon their homes, and slay the fathers, burn the mothers, and steal the children; and the way the children used to huddle into their tents during the cold, cold winters, I think you would not envy them at all.