I Have Something to Say

I Have Something to Say

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Size  26 3/4 x 21 1/2

$150 Signed and Numbered, Edition size 950

$195 Artist Proof, Edition size 125

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The Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands held the spoken word in very high esteem. It was the spoken word that communicated traditions and held their culture together. The history and spiritual beliefs of a nation were preserved from generation to generation by stories. From a very early age native children were taught to listen carefully and remember until they could recount the stories exactly as they heard them. Young men who showed promise as speakers were allowed to observe the councils of the nations. Within their society, to be a skilled orator was considered a very high achievement.

    Whether addressing a grand council of many hundreds or conveying a message to only a few, the speaker was given the complete respect and attention of everyone present. The very best of these speakers rose to great prominence within the tribe. Many became Sachems or Chiefs. These Sachems were responsible for the political relations of the nation. With the coming of the Europeans and the necessity for treaties the orators took on an even more important role. When in council with white representatives their ability to argue and persuade often meant the continued survival of their people.

    After his ceremony of adoption James Smith was given a new suit of Indian clothes and led to a council house. His account of the ensuing council gives us a rare glimpse of the native orator. Smith describes " the Indians came in dressed and painted in their grandest manner. As they came in they took their seats and for a considerable time there was a profound silence, every one was smoking-but not a word was spoken among them. At length one of the chiefs made a speech, which was delivered to me by an interpreter, and was as follows: "My son, you are now flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone. By the ceremony that was performed this day, every drop of white blood was washed out of your veins; you are taken into the Caughnewago nation..."

    Traders, blacksmiths, hunters and a variety of other whites frequently lived among the natives and became familiar with their language and customs. Many of these Europeans were often very impressed with the native orator's abilities and eloquence. Rev. John Heckewelder was a long time missionary among the natives and spoke many native tongues fluently. In his book History Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations Heckewelder remarks," The eloquence of the Indians is natural and simple; they speak what their feelings dictate without art and without rule; their speeches are forcible and impressive; their arguments few and pointed, and when they mean to persuade as well as convince, they take the shortest way to reach the heart." Heckewelder goes on to say that within the Lenape or Delaware nation the speaker would often begin with the phrase "N'petalogalgun" or in English "I Have Something To Say".