Page images


The writer is fully aware of the inequalities of treatment in the following report. These are incident to the limitation of time in its preparation, owing to the lack of appropriation to carry the work to completeness. In the historical chapters, covering the period prior to the Revolution, the legal enactments and educational efforts in behalf of the Indians are set forth iu but two of the colonies- Virgivia and Massachusetts; but as these led the other plantations, so to speak, in their relations with the natives, the omissions are not vital to the general picture. The influence of the Six Nations of New York, and the French control of the tribes to the north and west, are but little more than hinted at in the report, because these are fully set forth in the works of Mr. Francis Parkman and in the Documentary History of New York. The story of the Delaware tribe, under its Moravian missionaries, that suffered practically an extermination while acting as a barrier between the settlers and the wild tribes to the westward, is told only in bare outline.

The original plan of this report embraced the history of each existing tribe from its first contact with the white race to its present reservation life; but funds were not available for so great an undertaking, although much material was collected. The story, however, is told in part by the synopsis of all the treaties made with each tribe, if one recalls, as he reads, the ever-present power of trade and the current events at the various periods of negotiation, which more or less shaped each treaty as it was made. The résumé of laws reveals the singular position in which the Indian has been placed toward the nation, and also shows a strange falling away from legal privileges by the mixed bloods, who, by birth, are and always were citizens of the United States.

In the entire report the curtailment of time for labor on the one hand, and of space on the other, are plainly discernible, and have necessarily limited the report to an outline study, rather than made it a history of Indian education and civilization.

A. C. F.





Whence came the American Indians ? This question still engages the attention of scientific scholars. Archæological research reveals the fact of the high antiquity of man upon this continent, making it equal to, if not exceeding, that already accorded to man in Europe. The remains of habitations are plentiful and varied; they indicate movements of peoples over our country, one group displacing another; but whence the first impulse started remains unsolved.

It seems probable that communication between this hemisphere and that of the East took place in the past, both by way of the Pacific and by the North and South Atlantic. How long or how extended this intercourse was, is as yet unknown. At present the evidence seems to point toward a composite character for the race found here by Euro. pean nations four hundred years ago, and this in the face of marked similarities.

The causes that held the people of the Americas from achieving a civilization approaching that of the eastern continents are perhaps not yet fully accounted for. Two physical peculiarities, however, may be mentioned as more or less influential in hindering a rapid advancement in America.

The configuration of the two hemispheres presents a marked contrast: in the eastern the great body of the country lies from east to west and the formation of the land is such as to foster the growth of varied peoples along the line of the same zone; in the western the stretch is from Dorth to south and the two extended areas of land are separated by an equatorial sea and the mountainous ridge of a narrow isthmus, thus hold. ing the people in comparative isolation, while the expanse of ocean on each side prevents free outside intercourse.

The absence of domesticated animals added to the difficulties of the people. His herds not only insured the man of the eastern continents a constant supply of food, but the horse and the ox relieved him from the heavier burdens of work. They permitted the accumulation of wealth, and by securing release from hunger and want set free the

mental powers, so that man could bring about higher social and govern. mental conditions. It is by observing the status of peoples in the East who did not possess these animals that we are enabled to realize the debt civilization owes to herds and horses. Their absence in America ranks the advance in agriculture and the arts attained by the people of this continent higher than would otherwise be the case; and also in a great degree explains the widespread hunter-life, the primitive governmental state, the absence of co-ordinated society, and the general classification of labor by sex. The tribal relation was better fitted for hunters than any form of arbitrary government that might have led to a higher type of society.

In the sixteenth century the Spanish, French, and English nations engaged in ventures for discovery and colonization. The Spaniards, however, penetrated farther into the present territory of the United States, and came in contact with more of the aboriginal population than either of the other nations. It is from the records of the Spaniards, therefore, that we mainly derive our historical knowledge of the Indians at that early date.

The Spanish voyages to the coast of Florida between 1513 and 1528 were generally slave-procuring ventures, and their records afford little information concerning the natives. Though the pretentious expedition of Narvaez, which landed at Tampa Bay, Florida, in 1528, encountered defeat and disaster, all but four members perishing, yet by means of the intelligence and fortitude of the treasurer of the ill-fated company, Cabeza de Vaca, a record has been left giving much valuable information concerning the inhabitants of the interior of the continent. During a period of captivity extending over six years Cabeza de Vaca devoted himself to a study of the languages of the natives of Alabama and Mis. sissippi, and noted their customs. After many adventures he escaped, and spent two years in trying to rejoin his countrymen. In his journey. ings he traversed the country from the Gulf of Mexico, through the territory at present covered by Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and the Mexican state of Sonora, to the Pacific Ocean. His skill in medicine caused him to be everywhere kindly received and treated with respect. He was usually accompanied from place to place by a retinue of natives. He says, “Although we knew six languages we could not everywhere avail ourselves of them, there being so many differences.” 1

The tribes inhabiting the present Gulf States were found living in villages. Some of these were surrounded with palisades. The houses were built of sun-dried brick or of timber stuccoed with clay, and thatched with cane or covered with mats. Some of these houses were sufficiently commodious to accommodate several hundred persons. The country abounded with game, and the people raised maize, beans, and pumpkins. Cotton was cultivated, and the arts of spinning and weav

1 Shipwrecks of Cabeza de Vaca. Translated by Buckingham Smith. Washington. Privately printed, 1831, p. 103.


ing were known. The "blankets of cotton” were declared by the trav. eller to be better than those of New Spain.

In the southwest the tribes inhabiting the regions that were arid were on that account less thrifty and advanced, and they live to-day in much the same manner as when Cabeza de Vaca met them over three hundred and tifty years ago. Their dwellings were “ wicky ups," made of boughs, and their food consisted of roots or other scanty natural prod. ucts of the region.

In some localities the Indians had no domestic utensils, and collected the juice of fruits in holes in the earth; others cooked food by casting beated stones into calabashes partly filled with water and containing the food to be cooked; and still others had clay jars, in which they preserved their maize by burying it in the earth.

Approaching the Mexican settlements near the coast of the Gulf of California Cabeza de Vaca met a Spanish slave buuting expedition, which had laid waste the entire country. The Indians had deserted their towns and fled to the mountains. On his assurance of safety, they returned to their homes; but the leader of the expedition violated this pledge, and, capturing as many as possible, hurried them away into slavery.

The tribes on the Pacific coast subsisted mainly ou fislı, game, acorns, puts, berries, and roots. The camas bulb was an important article of food, serving to make a kind of bread. Maize was unknown to these Indians as late as 1805.2

The narrative of Cabeza de Vaca and the glowing accounts of a Spanish priest who had explored the interior and seen at a distance the wall of Cibola, inspired the expedition of Coronado. This adventure made known a wide extent of country, reaching east to the tributaries of the Mississippi and north to the Arkansas River. The Indians were not at first subjugated by the invaders, and Spanish civilization made little impression upon them. Conversion was chiefly in form. The Pueblos dwelt then as now in their communal dwellings, and comparatively little change has taken place in their vocations or customs.3

Coronado had hardly reached Mexico, returning from his unsuccessful Search for fabulous wealth, when another expedition, stronger and more completely equipped than any that had left Spain for the New World, sailed to explore and conquer Florida. It was commanded by De Soto, who had won fame and fortune under Pizarro in the conquest of Peru. After stopping in Cuba to complete his preparation and enroll the vol. unteers who flocked to his standard, he continued west and reached

1 Shipwrecks of Cabeza de Vaca, p. 102. * Lewis and Clarke's Travels, Vol. I, p. 384. * Buckingham Smith, in a note to his translations of the narrative of Cabeza de Vaca, speaking of Bernard Romans' Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, published in 1775, says: “This volume shows the customs and character of the tribes along the Gulf coast seventy-five years ago to have differed but little from those that Cabeza had before described.”

« PreviousContinue »