Original Document
Original Document
Lieutenant Joumonville, on Indians and Oil, 1750.

Native peoples had incorporated the oil into some of their religious ceremonies. The most significant observations of these early civilizations came from military travelers, particularly from the French who fought with native warriors in the French and Indian War. The following observation was written by the French Commander of Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh), in a letter to his commanding officer, General Montcalm.

"I would desire to assure you that this is a most delightful land. Some of the most astonishing natural wonders have been discovered by our people. While descending the Allegheny, fifteen leagues below the mouth of the Conewango and three above the Venango, we were invited by the chief of the Senecas to attend a religious ceremony of his tribe. We landed, and drew up our canoes on a point where a small stream entered the river. The tribe appeared unusually solemn. We marched up the stream about half a league, where the company, a large band, it appeared, had arrived some days before us. Gigantic hills begirt us on every side. The scene was really sublime. The great chief then recited the conquests and heroism of his ancestors. The surface of the stream was covered with a thick scum, which burst into complete conflagration. The oil had been gathered, and lighted with a torch. At the sight of the flames, the Indians gave forth a triumphant shout and made the hills and valleys re-echo again. Here, then is revived the ancient fire worship of the East; here, then are the children of the sun."

Credit: "Petroleum: An Historical Sketch," American Catholic Quarterly Review (1895): 409.
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