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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 III. — Antiquities West of the Alleghanies.

FROM the preceding notices of the tribes once resident in Mexico, and in the valley of the Mississippi, we learn that there were two great ethnological families of red men in North America. Occupying different latitudes, separated by climatic barriers, and holding diverse positions in the scale of civilization, they inhabited coterminous countries, and were, in character, sui generis. They coincided in general features, character, habits, and modes of thought and action. The vocabularies of their languages differed; but the grammatical structure of them, and the philosophical principles upon which they were based, were remarkably coincident. Their arts and occupations were also dissimilar; one being an agricultural people, and the other still retaining their normal type of hunters and foresters. The picture-writing of the Aztecs was an improvement on pictography. Their cosmogonies and mythologies were rendered incongruous, and their religion converted into pure daemonology; the latter was founded on a few leading Indian principles, which, though similar to those of the North, had, however, acquired a grosser intensity of error and idolatry. In mental strength they were likewise inferior to the Indians of the North. The climates, fauna, and flora of their countries were different. The position of one people being in the tropical, and the other in the temperate, latitudes, they resorted to different means for obtaining subsistence. There was nothing, however, in which the broad line of separation was more clearly defined than in their modes of government. The American class adhered to a primitive patriarchal, or representative form, under the control of chiefs and councils; the other groaned under a fearfully despotic rule. Both cultivated the zea maize and nicotiana; both raised species of the batata, of beans, and of melons. In the northern latitudes, in lieu of the tropical fruits indigenous in those regions, the papaw, the plum, and the orange 741 offered their tempting products for the use of man. But, while the one class of tribes had not emerged from the simple hunter state, and still roamed through the vast forests of America, filled with animals and birds of every plumage, the other class had made important progress in arts, agriculture, and architecture; which, though tending to their advance in civilization, exercised a depressing

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influence on their moral character, and plunged them tenfold deeper into error and mysticism.

The investigation of the antique remains of labor and art, scattered over the Indian country west of the Alleghanies, which was instituted with a view of procuring some clue to the early history of the people formerly resident on the soil, develops a general correspondence between them and those common among the Mexican tribes at the era of the occupation of the Mexican valley by the Chichimacos and Acolhuans, or Tescocans; which event Clavigero places in 1170. 742 These barbarous tribes were not conquered, nor was Tanochtitlan, or Mexico, founded, until 1324. 743 Could the veil of oblivion be lifted from the events which transpired in the Mississippi valley at that date, i. e., one hundred and ninety-five or two hundred years before the advent of the Spaniards in Mexico, it would, in all probability, be found to have been thickly inhabited by fierce, athletic, and barbarous tribes, possessing all the elements of progress known to the Chichimacoans and their associates. These tribes were worshippers of the sun, whom they propitiated by fires kindled on the apex of high hills; they erected sepulchral mounds, in which they interred the remains of their kings or rulers; and they incessantly maintained the same fierce strife with all their neighbors, which has marked the entire Indian race during three and a half centuries. If the Mississippi tribes defended a town, as the existing remains indicate, by ditches and pickets, in which there was a zig-zag gate, conforming to the Tlascalan fashion, precisely the same mode was prevalent among the barbarous tribes of Mexico at the period when our southern stocks segregated from them.

So few traces of art were observable among the Vesperic tribes along the shores of the Atlantic, from the capes of Florida to the St. Lawrence, that, when the population of the colonies began to cross the Alleghanies, and descend into the rich agricultural valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi, surprise was expressed to find, concealed beneath a forest growth, the ruins of labor and arts, which appeared superior to any known to have been practised by the ancestors of the existing tribes.

The accounts of the fertile soil, genial climate, and natural beauty of the Ohio valley, given, about the year 1770, by hunters and adventurers, appeared, when recounted east of the mountains, like tales of some newly-found elysium, or land of promise. The desire for the acquisition of landed property was universal; America rang with the tale; and a collision of races was the consequent result. The earliest explorations of a reliable character were those which date from the generic era of Washington's youthful visit in 1754. The first, grant of land from the Indians was that made to William Trent and his associates, in 1768, and conveyed the tract situate between the Monongahela and Ohio rivers. 744 Detached tracts were located, and settlements began to be made in 1770; which is the date of the founding of Red Stone, or Brownsville, west of the mountain slope at the

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foot of Laurel Hill. Some other locations were made in these valleys between the years 1770 and 1772. At the latter period, explorers reached the noted flats, covered with Indian tumuli, the stream through which hence received the name of
Grave Creek. 745 Fort Harmer was erected in 1785, at the junction of the Muskingum river with the Ohio. Within a couple of years thereafter, Congress extended its jurisdiction north-west of Ohio, appointed a governor, and provided a judiciary; thus establishing a reliable protection for the settlements. On the 7th of May, 1788, Putnam and his New England associates landed at, and laid the foundation of Marietta. This may be assumed as the earliest period at which attention was attracted to a species of Indian antiquarian remains, bearing evidence of art superior to anything known among the existing Indian tribes.

Marietta was, in fact, one of the locations where the antiquarian remains of prior occupancy existed, and still exist, in one of their most striking and enigmatical forms. They embraced the acute form of the ordinary Indian sepulchral mound, but were composed of a raised platform of earth, of the general form of a parallelopipedon, pierced with gates, or spaces, clearly used as public entrances; and, if the outer lines of the raised work be supposed to have been surmounted with wooden pickets, and turrets for marksmen, the whole must have presented a palatial display. The height of the level floor of this fortified establishment could not possibly, have exceeded seven or eight feet; and, though its solid cubical contents were considerable, it was not, probably, beyond the ability of the inhabitants of a populous Indian town to construct. Such a structure, raised by the Toltecs, or Aztecs, or their predecessors, would not have excited remark, either on account of the amount of labor expended on it, or of the skill evinced in its construction; but, being a deserted ruin, in the territories of tribes who possessed neither much art or industry, beyond the merest requirements of pure hunter tribes, they became a theme of conjecture, and excited wonder; the more so, as the discoverers had never seen the evidences of semi-civilization evinced by the Indian tribes of Mexico. As the country filled up with population, other remains of analogous kind were brought to light, most of which were in the form of small sepulchral mounds, or barrows, ditches, or entrenchments once surmounted by pickets; but they excited little remark, except as bearing evidence of the ordinary appearance of an Indian town. The great
tumulus at Grave creek had early attracted notice on account of its size. There was scarcely a tributary stream, from Pittsburg to the mouth of the Ohio, which did not yield some vestige of this kind; but there was no locality in which the earth-works were so abundant and complicated, as in the Scioto valley. Those at Chillicothe, Circleville, and Paint Creek, evinced the existence of a once numerous ancient population. The entire area of the States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the surrounding western borders of Virginia and Kentucky, appeared to have been the theatre of dense Indian occupancy, partial cultivation, and of a peculiar character of internal commerce. There

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the antiquarian found specimens of hammered native copper, 746 steatites for
amulets and pipes, 747 the delicate marginella shell, 748 mica, 749 obsidian, and hornstone, 750 suitable for arrowheads. The art of making cooking-pots 751 and vases from tempered clay, was understood and practised by all the tribes, from the mouth of the Mississippi to the farthest extent north and east. The conch, and other heavy sea shells, were ingeniously carved into medals, 752
beads, 753 and wampum. 754 An extensive trade was carried on in native copper, mined from the basin of Lake Superior. The fine red pipe-stone, from the dividing grounds between Missouri and Mississippi, has been found in the antique Indian graves around Oswego 755 and Onondaga. Wristbands 756 and chisels, 757 of hammered native copper, have been figured in preceding pages. The tips of the horns of quadrupeds were used as awls; 758 and a thin, tubular piece of siliceous clay slate, worked into the shape of a parallelogram, and pierced with two orifices, was employed to separate the strands in making cords or ropes. 759 Thin pieces of bone, with an eye delicately drilled in them, served the purpose of bodkins. 760 Mortars for crushing corn were scooped out of solid pieces of rock. 761 Fire was produced by the rapid rotation of a stick, with a string and bow.
Discoidal stones, fabricated with great labor from pieces of hard granite and porphyry, 762 were used in games. Chisels, made of hard stone, were employed for removing the incinerated part of trunks of trees, in the process of felling them, and, also, in converting them into canoes. 763 Tomahawks, in the shape of lunettes, having sharp points, and an orifice in which to insert a handle, supplied the place of iron blades. 764
Smoking-pipes were formed of clay; 765 but this cherished article was generally carved out of stone, with much skill and ingenuity. 766 Long spear-points were made from chert and hornstone. 767
Fleshing instruments, used in the primary process of preparing skins, were made from porphyry and other hard stones. 768 The manual arts of the Indians were well adapted to their condition and necessities. They ingeniously made a species of fish-hooks, 769 sinkers, 770 and
spears, 771 from compact bone;

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their war clubs, 772 bows, arrows, and canoes, 773 were constructed with as much ingenuity as those of the semi-civilized tribes of Polynesia. Their musical instruments consisted of a pipe or flute, tambourine, drum, and rattles. 774 The attempts they made to sculpture objects in natural history on their pipes and vases, 775 exhibited much spirit; 776 and their braided work on pouches, as well as on the stems of their pipes of state, 777 displayed the exercise of much patient ingenuity. Had not warfare so completely engrossed their minds, they must have made rapid advances in the arts. Stones, on which were carved figures for embossing skins, or fabrics of bark, intended to be used as clothing, were manufactured with considerable skill. Specimens of two of these, one of which was found in a small mound at Cincinnati, and the other at
Grave creek, have been previously delineated. 778 The mounds erected by them, varied much in size; specimens of which have been presented in
Plate V., Vol. I. The largest spherical circumference of any of the mounds is 666 feet, and the smallest, 20 feet. The greatest height attained is 90 feet; and the two principal mounds, of Cahokia and Grave creek, could not contain much less than 3,000,000 square feet of earth. The most copious evidences of the density of the former population, and of their cultivation, were found in the Mississippi valley, on the extensive and fertile alluvial plains in Illinois, opposite to the present city of St. Louis, thence extending to Kaskaskia and the junction of the Ohio, and up the valley of the latter into the territory of the ancient Andastes, Eries, and Troquois. The Scioto valley must have contained a dense hunter and semi-agricultural population, previous to its occupancy by the Shawnees; and the Grave creek flats appear to have been the central location of populous tribes. The most striking evidences of agricultural industry were disclosed in the forests and prairies of Indiana and Southern Michigan, during the settlement of the country, between the years 1827 and 1837. Drawings of these curiously-formed fields, or agricultural beds, have been submitted. 779 These points of the rich domains of the West may be conjectured to have supplied the means of subsistence for the aboriginal miners of Lake Superior. The small growth of the forest trees in the ancient mining excavations of that region, does not give evidence of an antiquity more remote than the twelfth century, if it even extends to that time. The skill evinced in the work does not appear to be beyond the capacity of a semi-barbarous people. Mauls of stone, and the elements of fire and water, were the principal agents employed. The natural lodes and veins of native copper, for which that region is so remarkable, were followed horizontally. Ladders, formed from trees by cutting off the branches at a short distance from the trunk, sufficed for descending into the pits; and levers of timber were employed for lifting the smaller pieces of ore; the larger masses being frequently left in the veins. The great mass of

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copper found on the Ontonagon, in early times, was one of these, which they were evidently compelled to abandon.

The Aztecs did not drive out or conquer the barbarous tribes of Anahuac, and obtain the mastery of that valley until 1325. 780 There are no reasons for believing that the useful metals were known to, or mining practised at all by the Chichimeca or Acolhuan stock; and until this branch of their arts was developed, the northern tribes were in a position to furnish them with supplies of copper, and the crude material for the manufacture of bronze. There is, likewise, ample reason to believe, that the process of mining in the northern latitudes of the region of Lake Superior was carried on, periodically, by persons who derived their sustenance from, or who permanently resided in, the genial plains south of the great lake. The exploration, for some cause, appears to have been suddenly abandoned, as if the miners were driven off by an inroad of barbarous hordes.

From an examination of the ages of trees, as disclosed by the annual deposit of vegetable fibre, the termination of the ancient mound period appears to have occurred in the twelfth, or early in the thirteenth century. There seems then to have been a general disturbance among, and breaking up of the aboriginal stocks. The late Dr. Locke, after counting the cortical rings of trees growing on the ancient work found by him in Ohio, in 1838, determined it to have existed 600 years; which would place its abandonment in 1238. 781 Mr. Tomlinson, the proprietor of the large tumulus at
Grave creek, in Virginia, states that a large tree of the species quercus albus, which stood on the flat surface of the apex of that mound, blew down in 1828, and on counting the cortical rings, they were ascertained to be 500; which denotes that the tree commenced its cortical deposits in 1328. 782

General George Rogers Clark, whose opportunities for making a personal inspection of the western vestiges of the mound period were extensive, expresses the opinion that these remains do not exceed the age of 500 years; which would place the date of their abandonment about the year 1380. 783 The Kaskaskia chief, Ducoign, being interrogated on the topic, replied that great Indian wars had prevailed, in which the tribes fought desperately, and destroyed each other's strength. 784 This view of their tradition is also taken by the Iroquois, as exhibited in the curious pamphlet history of Cusic. 785

The fortifications constructed by the Mississippi valley tribes were well adapted to the particular kind of enemy to be encountered. Lines of pickets were placed around a village, situated on an eminence, or in the valley, or on the plain. Ditches formed no part of the defensive plan, at least in their technical military sense. They were sometimes located without the walls, and occasionally within. In the former case they denote a contingent state of labor in the construction — in the latter, they appear to have been intended

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as pits of refuge, or for heroic resistance — an Indian feature in fighting. The principal artistic feature in the construction appears to have been the gate, which was, in all cases, formed according to the Tlascalan plan, though varied in sundry ways. The principal object appears to have been to lead the enemy into a labyrinth of passages, in which he would become perplexed how to proceed. Sections of curved walls produced the same effect; and a small mound-shaped redoubt was sometimes used. These various modes of constructing the gateway have been generalized and presented for study, on a single Plate. 786

The tumuli, or mounds, constituted no part of the military defence, though frequently located at or near the entrenched towns; but, being devoted exclusively to ecclesiastical or sepulchral purposes, they were under the care and control of the Indian priesthood. Some of the smaller mounds had been merely circular altars of earth, a few feet in height; but, after serving this purpose a long time, they were heaped up with loose earth into the shape of cones, and left as memorials of the Indian.

The first formal attempt made to investigate the remains of western antiquities was instituted under the auspices of the American Antiquarian Society. The primary volume of the collections of this society was published in 1820, under the title of Archaeologia Americana. In this work the descriptions, accompanied with plates, which were furnished by Mr. Atwater, comprise the earthworks and mounds at Newark, Marietta, Circleville, Paint creek, Portsmouth, in the Little Miami valley, at
Grave creek, and at other places in the Ohio valley, and in the Western States. The descriptions and plates illustrating those works are clearly and intelligibly executed. The antiquities of the country had not then been studied, and for the hasty theories accompanying these descriptions, that society does not hold itself responsible. Still, Mr. Atwater is entitled to high praise for his zeal and assiduity in introducing a subject of interesting historical research and philosophical speculation to the public consideration. The attention of scientific men in the United States had not previously been directed to the study of antiquarian remains. But few thought that any thing left by a savage people, who possessed neither arts, letters, nor monuments, would repay elaborate inquiry, if worthy of remembrance. Students of history and scholars were not then a numerous class, and even they were unacquainted with the evidences of superior Indian art and skill which had been developed in Mexico and Peru. The prevalent impression in Mr. Atwater's time, and still partially entertained, was that these antiquarian vestiges, though they evinced but little art, were the work of some other and more advanced race, and not attributable to the ancestral line of the existing tribes. Yet there are some works of art and labor in the Mississippi valley, constructed during the antiquarian period, greatly resembling those of the Mexican tribes. They had, it is true, less stimulus to artistic effort and art in the natural history and climatology of the country. The

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flora of the north did not comprise the cotton plant, the luscious fruits, the legumes, the rich dyes and drugs, and other productions peculiar to the tropics, which had been elements of industry to the native Indians of Mexico. Its mineralogy included none of the native precious metals. The zea maize was conveyed north to about latitude 46°, and disseminated to the further shores of New England, and even to the
sources of the Mississippi. The tobacco plant was also cultivated in some of the temperate latitudes; but it is inferred that these northern Indians were seduced into the line of barbarism by the ready means of subsistence afforded by the deer and the buffalo, which ranged freely through the forests and plains.

In 1848, some twenty-eight years subsequent to Mr. Atwater's examinations, the Smithsonian Institution published, in the first volume of its Transactions, a full and comprehensive memoir on the subject, under the caption of "Monuments of the Mississippi Valley;" the information contained therein having been derived from personal surveys, principally made by Mr. E. G. Squier and Dr. Davis. An elaborate account of these remains is given, illustrated by a large number of engravings. In this work descriptions are presented of the principal earth-works of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, from minute instrumental examinations. Whatever had been previously described, is reproduced, with much new matter respecting mounds, fortifications, altars, articles of art, and other remains of human labor and ingenuity, found scattered over those vast plains and valleys. The prominent impression produced in the minds of these writers, by a survey of this field is, that the country must have been inhabited by a population vastly more dense than any which has existed there since its discovery; or else, that these accumulated labors are the results of much longer, and more indefinite periods of occupation than is supposed. One great merit of this work is, that extravagant theories are therein avoided. There is, however, a gloss thrown over rude and enigmatical monuments, which presupposes the occupation of the valley in former ages, by a people more advanced in arts and polity than the remote ancestors of the present race of Indians. This conclusion, which is produced by the actual declension of Indian art in the north, since its first occupancy, had been the theory of Mr. Atwater in 1820; it had been entertained by General Putnam and the Ohio colonists, in 1787, and by Dr. Stiles, president of Yale college, to whom the facts were reported. Dr. Webster, the lexicographer, was of the opinion that the question of these antiquities was solved by referring them to De Soto, during his extensive explorations and semi-Quixotic marches, in the early part of the fifteenth century. Yet the most northerly point ever reached by De Soto was Coligoa, on the head-waters of the River St. Francis, in Missouri. This chivalric explorer never erected any fortifications beyond temporary shelters, and the only ditched and staked camp he constructed was the one in which he passed the winter of 1541, after crossing the Ozark range of Missouri and Arkansas. This must be located in the prairie county of the Neosho, on the Arkansas, west of Van Buren.

A prominent feature in the Smithsonian memoir is a description of the fortified

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lines, erected around the escarpment of abrupt hills, which commanded a view of the valleys and plains, and gave great capacity of defence to a comparatively small body of men. This appears to have been the Indian mode of fortification, requiring but little labor and less art; yet evincing a strong natural judgment as to the best means of defence against missiles and hand to hand warfare. Possessing no metallic instruments, trees were felled by kindling fires around their trunks, and then beating off the incinerated parts. This process of girdling and ringing supplied them with pickets to erect around the brows of eminences. Gates were frequently constructed in a zig-zag style, which puzzled the enemy, and brought them unawares into labyrinths, or placed them in a position where they could be cut off by a discharge of arrows. 787

Among the peculiar earth-works of the Ohio valley, are the raised earthen platforms at Marietta, Ohio, with their geometrical lines and counter lines, and interior redoubts, which have, on account of their anomalous character, been frequently referred to. It was thought, by the early discoverers, that there must have been a subterranean passage to these works from the Muskingum river. A mound of acute conical form near the smaller platform, indicates that it was only one of the numerous specimens of the Indian architecture. The drawings made by Mr. Atwater and Mr. Squier, exhibit considerable discrepancies, which it is not attempted to reconcile, but of which the reader is left to judge from the accompanying Plate.

The whole field of antiquarian research, as represented in the Mississippi valley monuments, may be regarded as the local nucleus and highest point of development of arts and industry attained by the red race, after their segregation from the nomadic Toltec stocks. These monuments were widely scattered, but they assume the same mixed sepulchral and civic character which is apparent in those found along the Alleghany branch of the Ohio, in western New York, and in other parts of the Union. The largest mounds in the Union, and those which are truncated or terraced, bear the closest resemblance to the Mexican teocalli. They occupy the most southern portions of the Mississippi valley, and Florida. They become less in size as we progress north, and cease entirely after reaching the latitude of Lake Pepin, on the upper Mississippi, the head-waters of the Wisconsin, 788 and the mining excavations of Lake Superior.

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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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