Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HUNTER, John Dunn, adventurer, born in a settlement west of the Mississippi about 1798; died near Nacogdoches, Texas, early in 1827. According to his own narrative he was made captive by the Kickapoo Indians when an infant, and adopted into the family of one of the principal warriors. He afterward fell into the hands of a party of Kansas Indians, and was finally received among the Osages, where he was adopted for the third time. He was dangerously wounded in an engagement with the Canis, and before he had recovered was taken by the Osages across the Rocky mountains into the valley of Columbia river, and up to its mouth. After travelling southward toward the affluents of the Rio del Norte, and receiving from the Indians the name of the "Hunter," on account of his skill in the chase, he went with them toward the affluents of the Mississippi, meeting traders often by the way. The treacherous conduct of his companions toward the latter disgusted Hunter, and, after several exciting incidents and some internal struggles, he determined in 1817 to cast his lot with the whites. He managed to reach New Orleans, and, after realizing a considerable sum by the sale of the furs that he possessed, he attended the schools of the city and learned the English language. Here he assumed the name that the Indians had given him. He was in Kentucky in 1821, pursuing his studies, and afterward, by the advice and help of friends, visited Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and other cities. He was pressed on all sides to publish a narrative of his life among the Indians, and was assisted by Edward Clarke in the composition of his work, which appeared in 1823, and was received with much favor. Its success, however, was checked soon afterward. Duponceau, a Frenchman living in Philadelphia, who had long been engaged in researches on the idioms of the American Indians, met Hunter, and, after several conversations with him, became convinced that he was an "impostor, and entirely ignorant of the language he claimed to know." He told Hunter so, and published his opinion. The statement of Duponceau first met with little belief, but it was supported by some of those who had formed part of the expedition to the Rocky mountains of Major Stephen H. Long in 1819-'20. Hunter now embarked for England, where he met with a flattering reception. The Royal society believed him a man that had been specially raised by Providence to carry the benefits of intellectual training to the Indians, and he pointed out the means of arriving at this end in the preface to the English reprint of his book. After receiving many valuable gifts, and being presented to the royal family, he returned to the United States, where he met with a renewal of the charges against him. In the "North American Review" he was denounced in an article by General Cass as "one of the boldest impostors that had appeared in the literary world since the days of Psahnanazar," and at the same time the author of the article accumulated a mass of irresistible proofs against him. Hunter made no attempt to refute these charges. He went to Mexico and endeavored to obtain from the government of that country the grant of an immense territory on which he proposed to settle a colony of Indians. He assured the Mexicans that he would thus form a rampart on their frontiers that would be capable of resisting" every encroachment on the part of the United States. His proposal was rejected, and he went to Texas, where he became one of the chiefs of the party that was trying to secure its independence. After an unsuccessful attempt at a revolution, he was killed by an Indian whom he had persuaded to join in it. Hunter's work is entitled "Manners and Customs of Several Indian Tribes located West of the Mississippi" (Philadelphia, 1823; reprinted in London the same year, under the title "Memoirs of a Captivity among the Indians of North America, from Childhood to the Age of Nineteen"). It was translated into German by Wilhelm A. Lindau (Dresden, 1824), and also into Swedish (Mariefred, 1826).
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