| Peter of New Amsterdam|
|by James Otis|
|The story of the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam, through the eyes of the young lad Peter. Relates its settlement by the West India Company under the leadership of Peter Minuit, their transactions with the Indians including the purchase of the island of Manhattan, their overthrow of the Swedish forts to the south, and their surrender to English forces in 1664. The portrait of the contrasting figures of Peter Minuit and Peter Stuyvesant enlivens the narrative. Numerous black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 8-10 |
THE HOMES OF THE SAVAGES
THIS same Dutchman, seeing that the Indian houses
excited my curiosity, offered to go with me inside one,
and, on my agreeing eagerly, he led the way into
the first building on our path, with no thought of
 asking permission, much as if entering his own dwelling.
It surprised me to see what flimsy affairs they were,
and yet it was said that the savages lived in them during
the winter when there is much snow on the ground.
I have already told you
that instead of having
a roof laid on upright
sides, the top was
rounded like a huge
log cleft in halves, and
once inside I understood why they were
built in such fashion.
The timbers were nothing more than small, young
trees, the thicker ends of which were thrust into the
ground, and the tops bent over until the whole formed
an arch. On the outside of this was bark taken from
the birch tree, sewed or pegged in place, and in the
center of the floor, which was simply the bare earth
beaten down hard, a fire could be built, the smoke
finding its way out through a hole in the roof.
Why such frail buildings did not take fire from sparks,
I could not understand, for it would have needed but a
tiny bit of live coal to set the whole thing in a blaze.
There were no people in this house which we
entered, and therefore it was that I could look about me
 more closely than would otherwise have been the case.
I saw pots and kettles fashioned of what looked to be
gourds, or baked clay; sharpened stones lashed to
wooden handles, to be
used, most like, as axes, and
shells with an edge so sharp
that one might have whittled a heavy stick into
shavings, which shells, so the
Dutchman told me, served
the savages as knives.
There were many wooden bowls, which must have
been formed by these same
knives of shell, and one of
them, half filled with a greasy looking mixture, was yet
standing upon the embers, as if its contents had been
heated in that vessel of wood over the fire.
The beds were not uninviting, save that they were
far from being cleanly, and gave forth a disagreeable
odor, for they were made of furs piled high upon a
coarse kind of straw.
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