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the contests for possession began between the wild Aboriginals, who thrust no spade into the soil, no sickle into ripe harvests, and those earnest delvers from the Old World, who came with the light of Christianity, to plant a new empire, and redeem the wilderness by cultivation-then commenced the heroic age of America. It ended when the work of the Revolution in the eighteenth century was accomplished-when the bond of vassalage to Great Britain was severed by her colonies, and when thirteen confederated States ratified a Federal Constitution, and upon it laid the broad foundation of our Republic.'

Long anterior to the advent of Europeans in America, a native empire, little inferior to old Ròme in civilization, flourished in that region of our Continent which now forms the south-western portion of our Republic, and the adjoining States of Central America. The Aztec Empire, which reached the acmé of its refinement during the reign of Montezuma, and crumbled into fragments beneath the heel of Cortez, when he dethroned and destroyed that monarch, extended over the whole region from the Rio Grande to the Isthmus of Darien; and when the Spaniards came, it was gradually pushing its conquests northward, where all was yet darkness and gloom. To human apprehension, this people, apparently allied by various ties to the wild nations of North America, appeared to be the most efficient instruments in the hands of Providence, for spreading the light of dawning civilization over the whole Continent. Yet, they were not only denied this glorious privilege, but, by the very race which first attempted to plant the seeds of European society in Florida, and among the Mobilian tribes, and to shed the illumination of their dim Christianity over the dreary region of the North, was their own bright light extinguished. The Aztecs and their neighbors were beaten into the dust of debasement by the falchion blows of avarice and bigotry, and nothing remains to attest their superiority but the magnificent ruins of their cities and temples, and their colossal statuary, which has survived the fury of the Spanish iconoclast and the tooth of decay. They form, apparently, not the most insignificant atom of the chain of events which connects the history of the Aboriginal nations of America with that of our Republic. The position of the tribes of the North is different. From the beginning of European settlements, they have maintained, and do still maintain, an important relation to the white people.


The first inhabitants of a country properly belong to the history of all subsequent occupants of the territory. The several nations of red or coppercolored people who occupied the present domain of the United States, when Europeans first came, form as necessary materials for a portion of the history of our Republic, as the Frenchmen and Spaniards, by whom parts of the territory were settled, and from whom they have been taken by conquest or purchase.



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The history of the Indian tribes, previous to the formation of settlements among them, by Europeans,' is involved in an obscurity which is penetrated

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only by vague traditions and uncertain conjectures. Whence came they? is a question yet unanswered by established facts. In the Old World, the monuIn North America, ments of an ancient people often record their history. such intelligible records are wanting. Within almost every State and Territory remains of human skill and labor have been found,' which seem to attest the existence here of a civilized nation or nations, before the ancestors of our Some of these numerous Indian tribes became masters of the Continent. appear to give indisputable evidence of intercourse between the people of the Old World and those of America, centuries, perhaps, before the birth of Christ, and at periods soon afterward. The whole mass of testimony yet discovered does not prove that such intercourse was extensive; that colonies from the eastern hemisphere ever made permanent settlements in America, or remained long enough to impress their character upon the country or the Aboriginals, if they existed; or that a high degree of civilization had ever prevailed on our Continent.

The origin of the Indian tribes is referred by some to the Phoenicians and other maritime nations, whose extensive voyages have been mentioned by ancient writers, and among whom tradition seemed to cherish memories of faroff lands beyond the sea, unknown to the earlier geographers. Others perceive evidences of their Egyptian or Hindoo parentage; and others find their ancestors among the "lost tribes of Israel," who "took counsel to forth go into a further country where never mankind dwelt," and crossed from northeastern Asia to our Continent, by way of the Aleutian Islands, or by Behring's Straits. These various theories, and many others respecting settlements of Europeans and Asiatics here, long before the time of Columbus, unsupported as they are by a sufficiency of acknowledged facts, have so little practical value


'Remains of fortifications, similar in form to those of ancient European nations, have been discovered. An idol, composed of clay and gypsum, representing a man without arms, and in all respects resembling one found in Southern Russia, was dug up near Nashville, in Tennessee. Also fireplaces, of regular structure; weapons and utensils of copper; catacombs with mummies; ornaments of silver, brass, and copper; walls of forts and cities, and many other things which only a people advanced in civilization could have made. The Aboriginals, themselves, have various traditions respecting their origin—each nation having its distinct records in the memory. Nearly all have traditional glimpses of a great and universal deluge; and some say their particular proThis belief, with modifications, was current genitor came in a bark canoe after that terrible event. among most of the northern tribes, and was a recorded tradition of the half-civilized Aztecs. The latter ascribed all their knowledge of the arts, and their religious ceremonies, to a white and bearded mortal who came among them; and when his mission was ended, was made immortal by the Great Spirit.

2 A Roman coin was found in Missouri; a Persian coin in Ohio; a bit of silver in Genesee county, New York, with the year of our Lord, 600, engraved on it; split wood and ashes, thirty feet below the surface of the earth, near Fredonia, New York; and near Montevideo, South America, in a tomb, were found two ancient swords, a helmet and shield, with Greek inscriptions, showing that they were made in the time of Alexander the Great, 330 years before Christ. Near Marietta, Ohio, a silver cup, finely gilded within, was found in an ancient mound. Traces of iron utensils, wholly reduced to rust, mirrors of isinglass, and glazed pottery, have also been discovered in these mounds. These are evidences of the existence of a race far more civilized than the tribes found by modern Europeans.

3 2 Esdras, xiii. 40-45.

The people of north-eastern Asia, and on the north-west coast of America, have a near resemblance in person, customs, and languages; and those of the Aleutian Islands present many of the characteristics of both. Ledyard said of the people of Eastern Siberia, "Universally and circumstantially they resemble the Aborigines of America."

for the student of our history, that we will not occupy space in giving a delineation of even their outlines. There are elaborately-written works specially devoted to this field of inquiry, and to those the curious reader is referred. The proper investigation of such subjects requires the aid of varied and extensive knowledge, and a far wider field for discussion than the pages of a volume like this. So we will leave the field of conjecture for the more useful and important domain of recorded history.

The New World, dimly comprehended by Europeans, afforded materials for wonderful narratives concerning its inhabitants and productions. The few natives who were found upon the seaboard, had all the characteristics common to the human race. The interior of the Continent was a deep mystery, and for a long time marvelous stories were related and believed of nations of giants and pigmies; of people with only one eye, and that in the centre of the forehead; and of whole tribes who existed without eating. But when sober men penetrated the forests and became acquainted with the inhabitants, it was discovered that from the Gulf of Mexico to the country north of the chain of great lakes which divide the United States and the British possessions, the people were not remarkable in persons and qualities, and that a great similarity in manners and institutions prevailed over that whole extent of country.

The Aboriginals spoke a great variety of dialects, but there existed not more than eight radically distinct languages among them all, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and westward to the Rocky Mountains, namely: ALGONQUIN, HURON-IROQUOIS, CHEROKEE, CATAWBA, UCHEE, NATCHEZ. MOBILIAN, and DAHCOTAH or SIOUX. These occupied a region embraced within about twenty-four degrees of latitude and almost forty degrees of longitude, and covering a greater portion of the breadth of the north temperate


All the nations and tribes were similar in physical character, moral sentiment, social and political organization, and religious belief. They were all of a copper color; were tall, straight, and well-proportioned; their eyes black and expressive; their hair black, long, coarse, and perfectly straight; their constitutions vigorous, and their powers of endurance remarkable. Bodily deformity was almost unknown, and few diseases prevailed. They were indolent, taciturn, and unsocial; brave, and sometimes generous in war; unflinching under torture; revengeful, treacherous, and morose when injured or offended; not always grateful for favors; grave and sagacious in council; often eloquent in speech; sometimes warm and constant in friendship, and occasionally courteous and polite.

The men were employed in war, hunting and fishing. The women performed all menial services. In hunting and fishing the men were assiduous and very skillful. They carried the knowledge of woodcraft to the highest degree of perfection; and the slightest indication, such as the breaking of a twig, or the bending of grass, was often sufficient to form a clew to the pathway of an enemy or of game. The women bore all burdens during journeys; spread the tents; prepared food; dressed skins for clothing; wove mats for

beds, made of the bark of trees and the skins of animals; and planted and gathered the scanty crops of corn, beans, peas, potatoes, melons, and tobacco. These constituted the chief agricultural productions of the Aboriginals, under the most favorable circumstances. In these labors the men never engaged; they only manufactured their implements of war. Their wigwams, or houses, were rude huts, madę of poles covered with mats, skins, or bark of trees; and all of their domestic arrangements were very simple. And simple, too, were their implements of labor. They were made of stones, shells, and bones, with which they prepared their food, made their clothing and habitations, and tilled their lands. Their food consisted of a few vegetables, and the meat of the deer, buffalo, and bear, generally roasted upon the points of sticks; sometimes boiled in water heated by hot stones, and always eaten without salt. Their dress in summer was a slight covering around the loins. In winter they were clad in the skins of wild beasts,' often profusely ornamented with the claws of the bear, the horns of the buffalo, the feathers of birds, and the bones of fishes. Their faces were often tattooed, and generally painted with bright colors in hideous devices. Their money was little tubes made of shells, fastened upon belts or strung in chains, and called wampum. It was used in traffic, in treaties, and as a token of friendship or alliance. Wampum belts constituted records of public transactions in the hands of a chief.


There was no written language in all the New World, except rude hieroglyphics, or picture writings. The history of the nations, consisting of the records of warlike achievements, treaties of alliance, and deeds of great men, was, in the form of traditions, carefully handed down from father to son, especially from chief to chief. Children were taught the simple





'The engraving at the head of this chapter represents some Sioux Indians, in their winter and fanciful costumes.


* Wampum is yet in use, as money, among some of the Western tribes, and is manufactured, we believe, as an article of commerce on the sea-shore of one of the counties of New Jersey. It is made of the clear parts of the common clam-shell. This part being split off, a hole is drilled in it, and the form, which is that of the bead now known as the bugle, is produced by friction. They are about half an inch long, generally disposed in alternate layers of white and bluish black, and valued, when they become a circulating medium, at about two cents for three of the black beads, or six of the white. They were strung in parcels to represent a penny, three pence, a shilling, and five shillings, of white; and double that amount in black. A fathom of white was worth about two dollars and a half, and black about five dollars. They were of less value at the time of our war for independence. The engraving shows a part of a string and a belt of wampum.

3 This is part of a record of a war expedition. The figures on the right and left-one with a gun and the other with a hatchet-denote prisoners taken by a warrior. The one without a head, and holding a bow and arrow, denotes that one was killed; and the figure with a shaded part below the cross indicates a female prisoner. Then he goes in a war canoe, with nine companions, denoted by the paddles, after which a council is held by the chiefs of the Bear and Turtle tribes, indicated by rude figures of these animals on each side of a fire.

arts practiced among them, such as making wampum, constructing bows, arrows, and spears, preparing matting and skins for domestic use, and fashioning rude personal ornaments.

Individual and national pride prevailed among the Aboriginals. They were ambitious of distinction, and therefore war was the chief vocation, as we have said, of the men.' They generally went forth in parties of about forty bowmen. Sometimes a half-dozen, like knightserrant, went out upon the war-path to seek renown in combat. Their weapons were bows and arrows, hatchets (tomahawks) of stone, and scalping-knives of bone. Soon after they became acquainted with the Europeans, they procured knives and hatchets made of iron, and this was a great advance in the increase of their power. Some wore shields of bark; others wore skin dresses

for protection. They were skillful in stratagem, and seldom met an enemy in open fight. Ambush and secret attack were their favorite methods of gaining an advantage over an enemy. Their close personal encounters were fierce and bloody. They made prisoners, and tortured them, and the scalps of enemies were

their trophies of war. Peace was arranged by sachems in council 1;


and each smoking the same "pipe of peace," called calumet, was CALUMETS. a solemn pledge of fidelity to the contract.

With the Indians, as with many oriental nations, women were regarded as inferior beings. They were degraded to the condition of abject slaves, and they never engaged with the men in their amusements of leaping, dancing, targetshooting, ball-playing, and games of chance. They were allowed as spectators, with their children, at war-dances around fires, when the men recited the feats of their ancestors and of themselves. Marriage, among them, was only a temporary contract—a sort of purchase-the father receiving presents from the





1 It was offensive to a chief or warrior to ask him his name, because it implied that his brave deeds were unknown. Red Jacket, the great Seneca chief (whose portrait is at the head of this chapter), was asked his name in court, in compliance with a legal form. He was very indignant, and replied, "Look at the papers which the white people keep the most carefully"-(land cession treaties)" they will tell you who I am." Red Jacket was born near Geneva, New York, about 1750, and died in 1830. He was the last great chief of the Senecas. For a biographical sketch of him, see Lossing's "Eminent Americans."


Knights-errant of Europe, six hundred years ago, were men clothed in metal armor, who went from country to country, to win fame by personal combats with other knights. They also engaged in wars. For about three hundred years, knights-errant and their exploits formed the chief amusement of the courts of Europe. It is curious to trace the connection of the spirit of knighthood, as exhibited by the one hundred and thirty-five orders that have existed, at various times, in the Old World, with some of the customs of the rude Aboriginals of North America

3 ɑ, bow and arrow; b, a war club; c, an iron tomahawk; d, a stone one; e, a scalpingknife.

4 They seized an enemy by the hair, and by a skillful use of the knife, cut and tore from the top of the head a large portion of the skin.

5 Sachems were the civil heads of nations or tribes; chiefs were military leaders.

6 Tobacco was in general use among the Indians for smoking, when the white men came. The more filthy practice of chewing it was invented by the white people. The calumet was made of pipe-clay, and was often ornamented with feathers.

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