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Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by  Edward Eggleston


 

 

WILLIAM PENN AND THE INDIANS

THE King of England gave all the land in Pennsylvania to William Penn. The King made Penn a kind of king over Pennsylvania. Penn could make the laws of this new country. But he let the people make their own laws.

Penn wanted to be friendly with the Indians. He paid them for all the land his people wanted to live on. Before he went to Pennsylvania he wrote a letter to the Indians. He told them in this letter that he would not let any of his people do any harm to the Indians. He said he would punish anybody that did any wrong to an Indian. This letter was read to the Indians in their own language.

Soon after this Penn got into a ship and sailed from England. He sailed to Pennsylvania. When he came there, he sent word to the tribes of Indians to come to meet him.

[18] The Indians met under a great elm tree on the bank of the river. Indians like to hold their solemn meetings out of doors. They sit on the ground. They say that the earth is the Indian's mother.

When Penn came to the place of meeting, he found the woods full of Indians. As far as he could see, there were crowds of Indians. Penn's friends were few. They had no guns.

Penn had a bright blue sash round his waist. One of the Indian chiefs, who was the great chief, put on a kind of cap or crown. In the middle of this was a small horn. The head chief wore this only at such great meetings as this one.

When the great chief had put on his horn, all the other chiefs and great men of the Indians put down their guns. Then they sat down in front of Penn in the form of a half-moon. Then the great chief told Penn that the Indians were ready to hear what he had to say.

Penn had a large paper in which he had written all the things that he and his friends had promised to the Indians. He had written all the promises that the Indians were to make to the white people. This was to make them friends. When Penn had read this to them, it was explained to them in their own lan-guage. Penn told them that they might stay in the country that they had sold to the white [19] people. The land would belong to both the Indians and the white people.

Then Penn laid the large paper down on the ground. That was to show them, he said, that the ground was to belong to the Indians and the white people together.

He said that there might be quarrels between some of the white people and some of the Indians. But they would settle any quarrels without fighting. Whenever there should be a quarrel, the Indians were to pick out six Indians. The white people should also pick out six of their men. These were to meet, and settle the quarrel.

Penn said, "I will not call you my children, because fathers sometimes whip their children. I will not call you brothers, because brothers sometimes fall out. But I will call you the same person as the white people. We are the two parts of the same body."

The Indians could not write. But they had their way of putting down things that they wished to have remembered. They gave Penn a belt of shell beads. These beads are called wampum. Some wampum is white. Some is purple.

They made this belt for Penn of white beads. In the middle of the belt they made a picture of purple beads. It is a picture of a white man [20] and an Indian. They have hold of each other's hands. When they gave this belt to Penn, they said, "We will live with William Penn and his children as long as the sun and moon shall last."


[Illustration]

Penn jumping with the Indians

Penn took up the great paper from the ground. He handed it to the great chief that wore the horn on his head. He told the Indians to keep it and hand it to their children's children, that they might know what he had said. Then he gave them many presents of such things as they liked.

[21] They gave Penn a name in their own language. They named him "Onas." That was their word for a feather. As the white people used a pen made out of a quill or feather, they called a pen "onas." That is why they called William Penn "Brother Onas."

Penn sometimes went to see the Indians. He talked to them, and gave them friendly advice. Once he saw some of them jumping. They were trying to see who could jump the farthest.

Penn had been a very active boy. He knew how to jump very well. He went to the place where the Indians were jumping. He jumped farther than any of them.

When the great governor took part in their sport, the Indians were pleased. They loved Brother Onas more than ever.


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