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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 IV. — Some Traditionary Gleams of Ancient History.

THE inherent idiosyncracies of the Indian mind, which impel it to such extraordinary acts, are not greater, however, than his firm adherence to an ancient state of apparently nomadic society, which has long ceased to exist, but to which the mind reverts, as to a golden age, when everything was better than it now is. A respectable Algonquin on Lake Superior, of whom the writer made inquiries many years ago, in relation to this ancient epoch, replied that they had even spoken their language in greater purity.

There is one particular in which the tribes identify themselves with the general traditions of mankind. It is in relation to a general deluge, by which the races of men were destroyed. The event itself is variously related by an Algonquin, an Iroquois, a Cherokee, a Muscogee, or a Chickasaw; but all coincide in the statement that, there was a general cataclysm, and that a few persons were saved. Another feature of this traditional identification consists in the traditional recognition of the fact that their ancestors descended from those imaginative and idolatrous tribes and septs of the Mosaical epoch, who believed the earth to be a fortuitous concurrence of atoms, with deities of "stocks and stones," to whom, as new information, the great additional declaration was made, that, in the beginning, God created the world. 721 This fundamental tradition of the divine origin of the earth and heavens is a striking trait in all the Indian cosmogonies of America.

The tradition of the deluge is veiled in allegories and figures, such as a raft, a tree, a high mountain, &c., according to the genius or imagination of the various tribes. That of the Algonquins is simply this: Hiawatha, or Manabo, having incurred the enmity of the Prince of Serpents, a very Typhon in character, who held sway in the basin of Lake Superior, the spirit permitted the ice to break in during the winter season, while Chibiabos, his grandson was crossing from one point to another. The following summer, the demi-god watched along the shore to find the sandy bay, where the serpents came out to bask; and having consulted with a kingfisher as to the precise

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spot, he took his station on shore, and transformed himself into the semblance of a high stump of a tree, broken off by the wind. As soon as the Prince of the Serpents and his court appeared, and had sunk into repose on the sand, he drew his bow, and shot an arrow into his enemy's heart. The serpents fled, screaming, into the depths of the sea; but, in revenge for this act, caused the waters to rise, which overflowed the forests, and pressed on, after the fleeing demi-god, until all the land was submerged. The benevolent god, who assumes in these latitudes the name of Manabo, ascended a high mountain, and climbed to the top of a tree; but the waters rose to his feet. He then commanded the tree to stretch upward, and it obeyed him. But the waters still rising to his feet, he again bade the tree to grow taller, which it did, and finally it became stationary. The waters having risen to his neck, the amphibious animals and water-fowl were playing around him; for they were his brothers. He first directed the loon to dive down for some earth; but when it rose to the surface it was dead. He then told the beaver, the otter, and the mink to attempt the same feat; but none of them found the bottom. At last he sent the muskrat; "for your ancestors," he said, "were always famous for grasping the muddy bottoms of pools with their claws." The animal succeeded in bringing up a morsel of earth in its talons; and from this new chaotic mass the Algic deity recreated the earth.

The ancient nations, who spread over the earth from the primary locations of mankind, in Asia, when they had forgotten the existence of the true God, attributed the origin and government of the world to Ba-al, Osiris, Ormusd, Chemosh, Brahm, Budd, Fohi, and other phantoms of the imagination, which varied with every climate, every territory, and every mountain, plain, and valley; while the American tribes, spread over an immense continent, have concentrated their leading beliefs on a great original Creator, who is described as possessing many attributes similar to those of the Almighty; who is not apparent to human perception as a person, but is clothed with the magnificent garniture of the sidereal heavens, and surrounded by the most sublime and startling atmospheric phenomena. In the primary conception of a supreme ruler by the earliest oriental nations, they endeavored to relieve the character of their benevolent deities by the addition of a dual power, as in the instance of Ahrirnan, Typhon, Moloch, and Beelzebub. This dualistic principle, wherever examined, marks the mythology of the Vesperic tribes, who attribute the powers of evil to a god, antagonistic to the Great Good Spirit, the universal Indian nucleus of sovereign power, ubiquity and benevolence.

The Indian mind does not generalize. It has not, from the knowledge of particular facts, derived general conclusions, although sometimes generic ideas are reached by means of metonymy, and frequently by the symbolic use of words. The globe is called Aké, which is, also, the name for any ponderable bit of earth. They consider the continent of America to be a large island, and are ignorant of the geographical divisions of the earth. It is generally called the Island of the Great Spirit.

The tribes equally failed to successfully bestow on themselves a generic name. When

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questioned, they generally replied in a spirit of independence, analogous to that which characterized the Gallic and Gothic tribes during the Roman conquests, at the commencement of the Christian era. They were, in the tone of those warlike nations, Alla-manna, "all men," or Gher-mon, "war men." The Delawares, who have at least claims to geographical priority on the Atlantic shores, called themselves Lenno Lenapi, as if we should say male, or manly men, but which a free translation requires to be rendered, men who are men. The tribes living in the valley of the Illinois told the French they were mini, or men. 722 The Algonquin tribes, generally, pronounced themselves Unishinaba, the common people. The proud and conquering Iroquois pronounced themselves, as a nationality, to be Ongwi Honwi, "men excelling all others." 723

The globe has presented few races of men who afford stronger evidences of original unity with the Adamic family than the American Indians. Considerable differences of color in the skin exist, varying from the cinnamon standard to a dark red, on the one hand, and an approach to white, on the other. Climatic phenomena and peculiar habits may, agreeably to Smith, account for this. The prairie tribes are generally impressed with a russet elemental tinge of a deeper hue; while the tribes residing within the shelter of vast forests assume a lighter color. There are deeper shades in the California tribes, and still darker shades on the banks of the Orinoco. But the causes of these changes admit of a specific solution. According to Dr. Haring, a tradition is still extant, that a slave ship having entered the Orinoco, the negroes rose on the natives, and having destroyed them, seized on their women for wives, mastered the ship's officers, and redeemed themselves from bondage.

In taking a comprehensive view of the Indian tribes of the United States, and of North America, they must be regarded as a unity. Such is the opinion of the late Dr. Samuel George Morton, who, from a full and elaborate examination of their physiological traits, and scientific admeasurements of the volume of crania, derived from all quarters, regards the leading tribes as common to the continent; recognising only the distinction between skulls of semi-civilized and hunter tribes; which, as the learned physiologist observes, are "manifestly arbitrary." 724 This distinction is an important one, and should be borne in mind, although it will not fail to be observed, when the data are investigated, that the classification is established rather on effects, in the production of which, mental and moral habits of thinking, the development of arts, agriculture, and public architecture, such as the erection of teocalli and palatial edifices, are supposed to have exercised no slight influence. The skulls of the hunter class of tribes, however, particularly those of the Vesperic group, denote a greater development

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of original cranial volume than those of the Aztecs and of the Peruvians, more especially those of the Atacarna period. 725 These peculiar characteristics have been described by Dr. Morton in a former volume of this work, and illustrated by finished drawings of crania. 726

Wishing to make comparisons of the cranial volume of the several generic groups of the Vesperic family, classified according to language, I requested Mr. J. S. Phillips, who had been Dr. Morton's assistant and scientific manipulator at Philadelphia, to subject the entire cabinet of skulls to a new admeasurement, together with additional specimens from the Pacific coast, deposited in the cabinet of the National Institute at Washington, by Captain Charles Wilkes, U. S. N. The results of this examination, which are very interesting, on account of the facts deduced, have been given in a preceding volume. 727

The admeasurements of Mr. Phillips make it evident that the facial angle varied but little from each other in the series of Vesperic skulls, and differed but a few degrees from the common European and American average. In his summary, he assumes the skulls of the "barbarous tribes of North America" to have 76 2/3 degrees facial angle, and 83 1/2 cubic inches internal capacity.

As to the cranial volume of the United States tribes, the admeasurements place the internal capacity of the Iroquois group at 88 1/2 cubic inches; the great central Algonquin, and the Southern, or Appalachian groups, coincide, in their mean capacity, at 83 3/4 inches; the Dakotah, or Prairie group, average 85 inches, being 1 1/4 inches greater than the milder Algonquins and Appalachians; "and these," he adds, "appear to possess more force of character, and more of the untameable violence which forms the most characteristic feature in our barbarous tribes." 728 A skull of a Winnebago, of this family, is figured in the preceding paper of Dr. Morton. 729

Of the more western groups, embracing the Rocky mountains, and extending to the Pacific, the Shoshonees are rated at 81 inches internal capacity, and the Oregonian tribes at 80; not the slightest difference existing, in this respect, between the natural and the artificially flattened heads. 730

The results of these investigations are very interesting, and are the more suggestive, as showing that the native capacity of even the rudest tribes ranges very high. They are alike interesting and suggestive, bearing testimony, as they do, to this great fact in human progress, that it is education, letters, and arts, that lead to the development of intellect. The degraded and variously developed Chinook skulls 731 are shown to have an internal capacity of 80; while the evidences of craniologic studies demonstrate that the very elongated skulls, such as those of the old Peruvians, disinterred at Lake Titicaca, denote less volume than those of the North American hunter tribes; 732 although

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the testimony of Garcileso de la Vega, himself of the race, and the researches of M. Aleida D'Orbigny, Morton, and all others who have examined their history, concur to prove that these
ancient Peruvians, the Aymaras of modern times, "were the architects of their own tombs and
temples," and were not, as some suppose, "intruders, who had usurped the civilization, and appropriated the ingenuity of an antecedent and more intellectual race."

In summing up the deductions arising from a survey of the facts adduced to prove that the tribes are varieties or links in the chain of unity of the human species, reference is made to the quotations from Lavater, Humboldt, and Latham, and to the views of the American authors, Dr. S. G. Morton, Dr. Forrey, and Dr. Thomas Smith, D. D., as set forth in the preceding volumes. 733

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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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