Thomas Morton, Description of the Indians in New England (1637)

Of their Houses and Habitations

The Natives of New England are accustomed to build them houses much like the wild Irish; they gather Poles in the woodes and put the great end of them in the ground, placing them in forme of a circle or circumference, and, bendinge the topps of them in forme of an Arch, they bind them together with the Barke of Walnut trees, which is wondrous tough, so that they make the same round on the Topp for the smoke of their fire to ascend and pass through; . . . The fire is alwayes made in the midst of the house, with winde falls commonly: yet some times they fell a tree that groweth near the house, and, by drawing in the end thereof, maintaine the fire on both sides, burning the tree by Degrees shorter and shorter, untill it be all consumed; for it burneth night and day. Their lodging is made in three places of the house about the fire; they Iie upon plankes, commonly about a foote or 18 inches above the ground, raised upon railes that are borne up upon forks; they lay mats under them, and Coats of Deares skinnes, otters, beavers, Racoons, and of Beares hides, all which they have dressed and converted into good leather, with the haire on, for their coverings: and in this manner they liee as warme as they desire. . . . for they are willing that any shall eat with them. Nay, if any one that shall come into their houses and there fall a sleepe, when they see him disposed to lie downe, they will spread a matt for him of their owne accord, and lay a roll of skinnes for a boulster, and let him lie. If he sleepe untill their meate be dished up, they will set a wooden bowl of meate by him that sleepeth, and wake him saying, Cattup keene Meckin: That is, If you be hungry, there is meat for you, where if you will eat you may. Such is their Humanity.

 

Likewise, when they are minded to remove, they carry away the mats with them; other materials the place adjoining will yield. They use not to winter and surnmer in one.place, for that would be a reason to make fuel scarce; but, after the manner of the gentry of Civilized natives, remove for their pleasures; some times to their hunting places, where they remaine keeping good hospitality for that season; and sometimes to their fishing places, where they abide for that season likewise; and at the spring, when fish comes in plentifully, they have meetinges from severall places, where they exercise themselves in gaming and playing of jugling trickes and all manner of Revelles, which they are delighted in; [so] that it is admirable to behold what pastime they use of severall kindes; every one striving to surpass each other. After this manner they spend their time. . . .

 

Of Their Admirable Perfection in the Use of the Senses

This is a thing not only observed by me and divers of the savages of New England, but, also, by the French of New France, and therefore I am the more encouraged to publish in this treatise my observation of them in the use of their senses; which is a thing that I should not easily have been induced to believe, if I myself had not been an eyewitness of what I shall relate. I have observed that the savages have the sense of seeing so far beyond any of our nation, that one would almost believe they had intelligence of the devil sometimes, when they have told us of a ship at sea, which they have seen sooner by one hour, yes, two hours earlier, than any Englishman that stood by of purpose to look out, their sight is so excellent. Their eyes indeed are black as jet; and that color is accounted the strongest for sight. And as they excel us in this particular so much noted, so I think they excel us in all the rest.

 

This I am sure I have well observed, that in the sense of smelling they have very great perfection; which is confirmed by the opinion of the French that are planted about Canada, who have made relation that they are so perfect in the use of that sense, that they will distinguish between a Spaniard and a Frenchman by the scent of the hand only. And I am persuaded that the author of this relation has seen very probable reasons that have induced him to be of that opinion; and I am the more willing to give credit thereunto, because I have observed in them so much as that comes to. I have seen a deer pass by me upon a neck of land, and a savage that has pursued him by the view. I have accompanied him in this pursuit; and the savage, tracking the deer, comes where he finds the view of two deers together, leading several ways. One, he was sure, was fresh, but which (by the sense of seeing) he could not judge; therefore, with his knife, he digs up the earth of one; and by smelling, says, that was not of the fresh deer; then digs he up the other; and viewing and smelling to that, concludes it to be the view of the fresh deer, which he had pursued; and thereby follows the chase, and kills that deer, and I did eat part of it with him; such is their perfection in these two senses.