Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> Native American Representation in Simms's The Yemassee >> Page 37

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Page 37

Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription Makes the waters tremble

Pass, Opitchi-Manneyto
Pass, black spirit, pass from us
Be thy passage gentle. (189)

These mournful lines, which allegorically serve to calm a summer storm, express
both the simplicity and eventual submissiveness of the people.
One might interpret the differences between the native and colonizer as
irreconcilable, with the former philosophy deeply rooted in nature and its gods,
and the latter rooted in a progressive, forward movement. The Indian worldview is
generally understood as reflecting a circular pattern of life, regarding the earth as
an infinitely repeating cycle with which one should live in harmony, while the
occidental view generally constructs the world as linear, with the frontier always
lying ahead as a challenge. In some of the verses of the Yemassee, the Indian
becomes self-deprecating, hoping that enough worship and sacrifice has been
offered to the evil spirit so that his wrath might abate. The colonizer is not seen a
the primary cause of the native's troubles. For the Yemassee, there are good and
evil gods of nature to whom the Indians are subject and in whom they must have
trust and hope, for the gods possess the greatest powers. The English seem to be a
manifestation of an evil curse for the native, so the Indian does not directly see the
colonizer as an enemy in this religious context. Consequently, the Indian usually
does not manipulate or deceive because it would go against his principles. The
native sees the colonizer as one of a number of forms through which evil can
manifest itself.
Native allegiances nonetheless become strained and discordant as a
consequence of the loss of land and the threat of extinction. For these reasons,
Sanutee knows that he cannot trust the chiefs of other neighboring tribes because
at every turn, the English are offering material goods or favors for the acquisition
of Indian territory. Notes the narrator of The Yemassee:

As in the practice of more civilized communities, securing the
mercenaries, a chief has been known to enter into treaties,
unsanctioned by his brothers; and, forming a party resolute to
sustain him, has brought about a civil war in the nation, and
perhaps, the secession, from the great body, of many of its tribes.
(76)

Thus blood ties, race, language, region, religion, and customs, those ingredients
which hold together nations, could be compromised by the threat of force and the
temptation of fortune.



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