A Murderer


If one Indian steals from another, the loser may take his property wherever he can find it; and if he can get hold of the property of the thief, he may take as much as will remunerate him for his loss and trouble. Theft, however, is but little known amongst them, except that committed by the profligate and abandoned to dissipation. I was told by Honnes, that after the war with the Six Nations, the Wyandott nation was ruined. Before that time, it was seldom known for one Indian to steal from another; but after that war, they used to commit murder at their hunting camps, and plunder the skins and furs whenever they thought they would not be detected; and murder and robbery were carried on to an alarming ex tent. The nation, in council, decreed to put to death every such murderer. The trial and execution were as follows: When any person was found murdered, it was the duty of those finding him to bring him to the nearest town or village. Then runners were sent to summon the whole nation; and if any refused to come, they were suspected and brought by force. The dead body was


placed in the middle of the council, and all the assembly was seated round it. Then there were examiners appointed to call on each person to give an account of himself, and to communicate any suspicions or circumstances, that might bring the murderer to light. All who could not clearly show that no suspicion lay against them, were placed in the middle. Then a second examination took place of the suspicious ones, and the offender exhorted to confess his crime; for if an innocent person should suffer in his place, his guilt would be double. By this method they found out the offender. When the sentence of guilt was passed, the body of the murdered person was taken and placed on a smooth piece of bark, supported by a scaffold of forks and poles, two or three feet from the ground, and so fixed that all the matter from the putrefying carcass should drop from a certain place. The murderer was then tied, and so firmly pinioned to the ground by tugs and stakes, as not to be able to move in the least. A gag was then put into his mouth, so as to keep it open, which was so placed as to receive the drops from the putrefying body. In this position he lay, without one moment’s respite, until death came to his relief; and this, the chief said, would be from ten to fifteen days. A few were put to death in this way, which so effectually broke up the practice of killing and robbing, that it is hardly ever known for an Indian to touch the property of another, even in the woods, unless hunger compels him to take some meat to subsist upon.


Finley, Rev. James Bradley. History of the Wyandott Mission, At Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Under the Direction of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Cincinnati: E. P. Thompson, 1840. Print.

Comments are closed.