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Mace or War Club

There is no instance, it is believed, among the North American Indians, in which the war-club employed by them is made of a straight piece, or has not a recurved head. Generally, this implement consists of a shaft of heavy wood, such as the rock maple, with a ball carved at one side of the head, much in the manner of the South Sea Islander, or Polynesian war-clubs. Such is the Pug-ga-ma-gun of the Algonquins. It differs from the Polynesian club, chiefly in its possessing a tabular shaft, and in its less elaborate style of carving. Clubs exhibited at the war dance or other ceremonial exhibitions, are always larger than those intended for practical use, and partake decidedly of a symbolical character. A practice has prevailed since the introduction of iron, of combining a lance with the same implement. It is then shaped somewhat in the form of the butt end of a gun or rifle, but having more angular lines. A lance of iron, of formidable dimensions, is inserted at the intersection of the most prominent angle. This fearful weapon, which appears to be the most prominent symbol of war, is very common among the prairie tribes. No warrior is properly equipped without one. It is often elaborately ornamented with war eagles feathers, and with paints and devices. Brass tacks are sometimes used in the lance-clubs as ornaments, and not infrequently a small hand looking glass is sunk or inserted in the tabular part of the handle. It was then intended to be stuck in the ground, and to serve the warrior to make his war toilet. Figures...

Indian Arrowheads

A great variety of these ancient instruments was fabricated, according to the species of hunting, the size and ferocity of the animals pursued, and the ages of the persons using them. Boys were always furnished with small arrow-points, such as were expected to be spent against squirrels, or the lesser quadrupeds and birds. This was the second lesson in learning the art of hunting; the first consisted in using the blunt arrow or Beekwuk,1 which was fired at a mark. Great complacency and pride was evinced by the parents in preparing the rising generation for this art, on expertness in which so much of his future success depended; and a boy s first success in killing a bird or quadruped, was uniformly celebrated by a festival, in which the object killed was eaten, with great gravity, by the elders, and the feat extravagantly extolled. Thus early was emulation excited. Of the various kinds of arrows picked up in the fields and woods, we introduce the figures of several, numbered and classified agreeably to their sizes and uses. The smallest of these, or boy s arrow of the first class, does not exceed, but often falls below, one inch, besides the shaft, in length: from this they vary to three and a quarter inches. In breadth and the form of the barb there was also much variety, and an entire and ingenious adaptedness of the instrument to the object. Figures 1 to 9, Plate 17, and 1 to 12, Plate 18, exhibit this variety. Of Plate 18, Figures 4 and 5, and 8 to 12 respectively, are drawings of specimens deposited in the...

Indian Axe

Various stone implements of the antique period of the hunter occupancy of America, have received the name of “Indian Axe.” With what justice this term was applied, in relation to the use made of the European axe of iron, it is proposed to inquire. The ancient Indians, prior to the era of the discovery of America, had indeed no use for an axe, in the sense in which we apply the term now a days. Fire was the great agent they employed in felling trees and reducing their trunks to proper lengths. There was no cutting of trees. No stone axe, which we have ever examined, possesses the hardness or sharpness essential to cut the solid fibers of an oak, a pine, an elm, or any species of American tree whatever. When the wants of an Indian hunter had determined him to fell a tree, in order to make a log canoe, or construct pickets for a palisade, he erected a fire around it, close upon the ground. When the fire had burned in so as to produce a coal that might impede its further progress, a stone instrument of a peculiar construction, with a handle to keep the person from the heat, was employed to pick away the coal, and keep the surface fresh. This is the instrument called by them Agakwut, and to which popular opinion has usually applied the name of axe. The annexed, (Plate 14, Fig. 1,) is an exact representation of one of these antique axes, from the region of the upper lakes. De Bry pictures this process in making canoes. The mode of...

Indian Pipes

The American Indian takes a great pride in his pipe. There is nothing too precious for him to make it from. His best efforts in ancient sculpture were devoted to it. And there is nothing in his manners and customs more emphatically characteristic, than his habits of smoking. Smoking the leaves of the nicotiana was an ancient custom with the Indian tribes. Tobacco, which is improperly supposed to be an Asiatic plant, appears first to have been brought to England from the North American coasts by the ships of Sir Walter Raleigh, about 1588. Powhatan and his sylvan court smoked it. It was considered a sacred gift. They affect, in their oral tales, to have received it like the zea maize, by an angelic messenger from the Great Spirit. They offered the fumes of it to him, by burning it in their pipes. This ceremony always preceded solemn occasions. They then partook of the same oblation; and it is well known that they spend a large part of their leisure hours in the pastime of smoking. It is a custom, which marks them in a peculiar manner. “While it appears to be ancient, there is nothing more fixed in their habits. I have met them in far distant locations, in the wilderness, in a state of want for food, and yet the first request has been for tobacco. So fixed and general a habit would appear to connect itself with their geographical origin. Yet here we are quite at fault. There is no mention of the custom of smoking in the Sacred Volume. Abraham and Jacob when they were...

Corn Pestle or Hand Bray Stone

The zea maize was cultivated by the Indian tribes of America throughout its whole extent. Cotton was raised by the Mexican and Peruvian tribes; but there is no instance on record in which the plant was cultivated by tribes living north of the Rio Grande del Norte. The Florida and Louisiana tribes raised a kind of melon, and per haps some minor vegetables; but the whole of the tribes situated in the Mississippi Valley, in Ohio, and the Lakes, reaching on both sides of the Alleghanies, quite to Massachusetts, and other parts of New England, cultivated Indian corn. It was their staple product. The Delaware, the Hudson, Connecticut, and minor rivers north of it, yielded this grain; and it was a gift which their sagamores and priests attributed to the god of the South-west. The dry grain was prepared for boiling by crushing it in a rude wooden or stone mortar. This was a severe labor, which fell to the women s share; but it was mitigated by preparing, daily, only as much as was required by the family. It was not crushed fine, but broken into coarse grains, in which state it was eaten by the eastern tribes, under the name of samp a kind of hominy. The dish called “succutash” consisted of green corn, cut from the cob, and mixed with green beans. There is abundant evidence, in the ancient pestles found in the fields formerly occupied by Indian tribes throughout the Atlantic States, of the practice of using pestles for crushing it, above referred to. These pestles were generally made from a semi-hard rock, often grauwacke,...

Indian Gorgets or Medals

Whether this was in ancient times merely an ornament, which any one might wear, or a badge of authority, it might be fruitless now to inquire. It is probable that the modern practice of conferring metallic medals on chiefs only, and of marking thereby their authority, was founded on an ancient practice of this kind existing in the original tribes. The ancient gorget or medal of the North American tribes, was formed of the inner and shining parts of large sea-shells. The instance figured in Plate 19, Figs. 3 and 4, was taken from one of the old ossuaries of Beverly, Canada West.1 This article is three inches across, and three and three quarter inches from top to bottom. Another species of ancient medal or gorget of smaller size, found in their ancient places of sepulture, consisted of a circular piece of flat shell, from one and a half to two inches in diameter, quartered with double lines, having the devices of dots between them. This kind was doubly perforated in the plain of the circle. Three examples of this form of medal or badge of chieftainship are figured in Plate 25, Figs. 7, 29, and 30. The specimen figure 29 was obtained from an old grave at Upper Sandusky, Ohio; and number 30, Plate 25, from a similar position in Onondaga County, N. Y. These localities serve to show its use among diverse tribes, and prove an extensive community of the prevalent manners and customs; a point which it is important at all times to keep in view. In connection with this subject, there is given in Plate 12, Fig. 1, the...

Stone Block Prints

The Islanders of the Pacific Ocean fabricate a species of cloth, or habilimental tapestry, from the fibrous inner bark of certain trees. This bark is macerated, and extended into a comparatively thin surface by mallets of wood or stone. When the required degree of attenuation has been attained, the pieces are dyed, or colored with certain pigments, or vegetable concoctions, known to them. To impart regularity to the patterns, blocks or prints are applied. The coloring is wholly external; in no instance, of many specimens examined, does it extend through, or on both sides of the bark. A proof entirely conclusive that it has not been dipped, or immersed in a vat. It is not easy to determine whether a mordant has been used to set the dye or decoction. From several specimens from the Owyhee, or Sandwich Island group, herewith figured, in Plate 30, Figures 4, 5, and 6,) which have been deposited in our cabinet for upwards of twenty years, the coloring matter appears to be quite permanent. It has, at least, resisted the rays of light, with but little change, during that period; but it must be remarked that the specimens have been protected, a part of the time, in drawers. It will be observed that the yellows and blacks have endured best. A carmine-red has endured tolerably; a light brick red exhibits no change. From a specimen of this Polynesian bark now before us, it appears to possess an alkaline property, which gives it some of the qualities of felt. It is fibrous and tubercular. Long keeping, in a dry place, has developed spongy spots. This...

Rope Maker’s Reed

We can refer to no period of their traditions, when the Indian tribes were destitute of the art of making twine, and a small kind of rope. Although they had not the hemp plant, there were several species of shrubs spontaneously produced by the forest, from the inner bark of which they made these articles. They fabricated nets for fishing, which are referred to in their ancient oral tales. To tie sticks or bundles, is one of the oldest and simplest arts of mankind; and the verb to tie has, therefore, been selected by some philologists, as one of the primitives.12 It is, however, a compound, consisting of a tiling and an act, in all the Algonquin dialects known to us. The process of twine and rope making, from the barky fibre of certain plants, it appears, was one connected with some kind of machinery. From the species of stone reed that is found in some of their tumuli, whose object was, to hold the strands or plies apart, it is probable that a wooden instrument, having the properties of a rope-maker s hand-windlass, was employed to twist them together. Yet if this was not done, and we have no evidence that it was, the reed would afford some facilities for hand twisting. We have two remains of this instrument. The first was found in the upper vault of the great Grave Creek Mound. It is six inches in length, with two orifices for the twine, one and three-quarter inches apart, and tapering from the centre, where it is one and two-tenth inches broad, to half an inch at...

Medaëka, or Amulets

Charms for preventing or curing disease, or for protection against necromancy, were the common resort of the Indians; and they are still worn among the remote and less enlightened tribes. These charms were of various kinds; they were generally from the animal or mineral kingdom, such as bone, horn, claws, shells, steatites, or other stone of the magnesian family. The Indian philosophy of medicine greatly favored this system of charms. A large part of their materia medica was subject to be applied through the instrumentality of amulets. They believed that the possession of certain articles about the person would render the body invulnerable; or that their power to prevail over an enemy was thus secured. A charmed weapon could not be turned aside. The possession of certain articles in the secret arcanum of the gush-ke-pi-tá-gun,11 or medicine sac, armed the individual with a new power; and this power was ever the greatest, when the possession of the articles was secret. Hence secresy in the use of their necromantic medicines was strictly enjoined. There was a class of charms that might be thrown at a person, and the very gesticulation, in these cases, was believed to be enough to secure efficacy. The mere thrusting of a Meda s sac towards an individual was deemed to be efficacious. A beam of light was often sufficient, in the Indian s eyes, to be charged with the fatal influence. Where the doctrine of necromancy is believed, it is impossible to limit it, and the Medas, who had learned their arts from regular profession in the secret chamber of the mystical lodge, formed a...

Funeral Food Vase

The idea of placing food in or near the grave, to serve the departed spirit on its journey to the fancied land of rest in another world, is connected with the ancient belief in a duality of souls. This idea is shown to exist among the present tribes of the United States.1 One of these souls is liberated at death, but the other is compelled to abide with the body; and it is to provide for this, that a dish or vase of food is deposited generally at this day, not in the grave, to be buried with the corpse, but under a close covering of barks erected over the grave. The ancient Indians placed this food in a vase of unglazed pottery, in the grave. This pottery, as disclosed by graves, is of a dark color, and consists of clay and shells slightly baked. The vase is generally small, sometimes not more than six inches in height, but varying from nine to ten; it is seldom more. It is uniformly without a foot, and with the lip slightly turned, and externally ornamented. The ornaments are impressed on the vase in its soft state, and unpainted. Nearly every ancient Indian grave that has been opened in the State of Tennessee has one of these ancient vases, or “crocks,” as they are popularly called. Their use can hardly be imagined without adverting to this ancient custom. The small burial mounds of Florida, along the Gulf coast, are literally filled with these antique vases. These places of sepulchral are locally denominated “feasting mounds,” from an evident impression that the ancient vases were dedicated...
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