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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter I. — Antagonism of Barbarianism and Civilization.

"WHY," said Apaumet, "do you believe letters and arts superior to the pursuits of the bow and arrow? Do they more truly fulfil the ambitions of the human heart, according to the measure of light and knowledge, which determine the actual conditions of the different races of men?" Apaumet was a Mohican scholar, who had been carefully educated at Princeton, in New Jersey, where he was named John Calvin, and where he acquired a knowledge of classical and English Literature, of which, as he had a retentive memory, he was, on some occasions, not a little vain. He returned to his tribe on the Housatonic, and accompanied them to the banks of the Oneida, in western New York, where, as he was neither a hunter nor a fisherman, he became a schoolmaster: being disappointed with civilization, and discouraged with life, he tried to drown his sorrows in the intoxicating bowl, and often, while inebriated, would recite some of the finest passages of Homer. He said that his knowledge was useless to him, because he had no letters to write, and no accounts to keep; and that his study of history had taught him that his people were savages, and he himself a lettered savage, alike unfit for Indian or civilized life.

Apaumet would neither have warred against the European race, nor laid a straw in the way of civilization; but the Indian race lacked his intellect, his knowledge and his Christianity. Their minds were obscured by the gloom of barbarism, and, when aroused to action by their prophets, or excited by the eloquence of their chiefs and

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sachems, they became uncontrolable; their ardor being in a great measure proportioned to their ignorance.

It has been ever thus from the discovery of this continent. Their affection for ancient rites, manners, and customs, was a succedanum for patriotism; and their old traditions supplied their entire store of information. They regarded themselves as having once been the peculiar favorites of the Great Spirit, and they looked back to that period as to a sort of golden age, when every want was supplied. Their old men were then wiser; their laws, and their very language, was purer. Savages they never suspected themselves to be, and one common thought pervaded the whole mass. There were no facts from which to draw inferences, except those derived from Indian life; and these taught, that bravery and endurance were the chief objects of human attainment. The Indian mind is a unit; the likes, dislikes, and objects of contention of one member, being participated in by the rest of the tribes. Before the present condition of the tribes, who have been tranferred from the east to the west of the Mississippi, is adverted to, it may be appropriate to refer more fully to those leading principles which give uniformity to the Indian history. The condensed view of it which has been presented, from the day when the first European foot trod the soil of this continent, renders it evident that the contest has not been so much between particular races of Europe and the Indians, as between them and all races who upheld civilization against barbarism. It was not so much a struggle between colonies and tribes, as between conditions of society. True to his instincts, the Indian desired to preserve his territories as hunting-grounds, on which the entire race of animals might increase, and his offerings to a class of imaginary gods, at once propitiate their favor, and avert the penalty of past neglects or ingratitude. He did not wish for a religion whose teachings were diametrically opposite; and coveted not letters, which he did not understand or appreciate, and could not employ in the nomadic life which he led. Industry was to him a weariness he could not endure, and which he was ever ready to confound with slavery, of which the surveyor's compass and chain, the plough, and the loom, were regarded as the talismanic emblems. Possessing a marked character for secresy, deception, and endurance, he only tolerated what he could not resist. The conspiracies of Opechanganough, in Virginia, of the Chicoras and Tuscaroras in the Carolinas, of Sassacus and Pometacom, in Massachusetts, of Pontiac and Tecumseh in the West, and of Tuscaloosa and Osceola in the South, of Black Hawk in 1832, and of the Seminoles in 1835, were alike in accordance with the generic principle which they professed, and three centuries have not varied the issue. What the Indian contended against in 1622 and 1675, he tried to resist in 1712, 1763, and 1812. It was civilization he warred against; and letters, labor, and Christianity, were the potent and mysterious powers he supplicated his gods to resist.

Keeping in view this great truth, we have been enabled to present the preceding sketch of Indian history, without breaking it up by geographical lines; for the theatre

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of contest was America, not this, or that State; and the actors were the subtle and energetic groups of Vesperia. Whether encountered on the plains of New England or New York, or in the valleys of the Susquehanna, the Wabash, or the Mississippi, it was the same race, possessing similar characteristics, and actuated by like vindictive principles, that was to be encountered.

Discords like those which existed among the Cherokees, between the Ross and Ridge party, are exceptional cases to this rule. This side contest may be likened to the war between Uncas and Sassacus, which was originally based on rivalry and personal ambition. These feuds introduced no new principle, and do not disclose a new trait of character.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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