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Chapter 01
Page 21

New York, January 7th, 1846.

SIR: I have now the honor to submit a supplementary report, embracing minutes and remarks on the aboriginal history, antiquities and general ethnology of Western New York, made in accordance with an expression permitting the collection of such materials in your general instructions of the 26th of June last.

To these details I have prefixed some general considerations on the early period of the Iroquois history, the affinities of the several tribes, and the era and principles of their confederation; the antiquarian remains and general archaeology of the western countries; the ancient state of Indian art; some traits of their traditions and religion; and a few connected topics which, it is hoped, will tend to render the report more acceptable and valuable.

I regret, indeed, that time has not permitted me to enter more fully on some of the topics introduced, and that of others, I have been obliged to cut them short or omit them altogether, including the subject of their languages, geographical terminology, and personal names, the latter of which is a very curious inquiry of itself. I confess it would have fallen in with my inclinations, as well as my conceptions

Page 22

of the true nature and extent of the inquiries confided to me, to have extended them to other parts of the State, and given a more complete view of our ethnology, had it been practicable to do so before the meeting of the Legislature.

I cannot, however, close this note without expressing the hope that the Legislature will authorize you to take further measures for completing the work. There are a large number of the class of antique, circular and elliptical works scattered over the western and south western part of the State, of an age anterior to the discovery, which it would be important to examine and describe. These chiefly lie west of Cayuga, and upon the sources of the Susquehanna. Interspersed amid this system of common ring-forts of the west there are some of a still earlier period, which exhibit squares and parallelograms, yet without any defensive work in the nature of bastions.

The area of early French occupancy, or attempt at colonization, within the State, extends east and west between the waters of the Cayuga and Oneida lakes, as general boundaries, having the county of Onondaga as its chief and central point. This area will comprehend the most striking part of the numerous remains of implements of art, and other antiquities of European origin, which have hereto fore excited attention. How far these evidences extend north is not known. But any examination of either the aboriginal or foreign remains would be incomplete which did not extend also along the line of the St. Lawrence and the waters of Lake Champlain.

The valley of the Hudson, and the southern part of the State gene rally, although it has not been explored with this view, is known to have some antiquarian features worthy examination. And were there none others than the artificial shell mounds and beds on the sea coast and the fossil bones of the valley, so remarkable in themselves, these would alone be entitled to the highest interest in studying the ancient history of the races of man in this area.

Geological action subsequent to the period of the habitation of the globe, has not been examined with this view, but is believed to be important in denoting eras of former occupancy; it is known that various parts of the State have yielded, at considerable depths below the surface, many curious evidences of artificial remains, along with relics of the animal and vegetable kingdoms.

Page 23

There is an apparent extension of the system of works which characterize the fort and mound period of the Ohio valley, reaching from the Alleghany waters in Chautauque and Cattaraugus, along the southern shore of Lake Erie, indefinitely eastward, which it would be interesting to trace.

One of the most reliable proofs of eras and races of men is found in the remains of art.

There are some striking coincidences in this respect between the antiquities of New York and the Mississippi valley, which denote precisely the same state of arts and the same eras of occupancy. Such are the Minace Alleghanic which occurs alike in the Grave Creek mound and the simple places of sepulture in Onondaga, the Nabikoaguna Antique, which has been found at Upper Sandusky and at Onondaga and the MedaŽka Missouric, from the valley of the Sciota, in Ohio, and the Kasonda in New York.

Accurate descriptions of the whole class of our antiquarian remains could not, if thoroughly executed, but throw much light on, and introduce precision in, periods of remote history in this State, and indeed the continent, which are now either involved in obscurity 3 or constitute themes of mere conjecture.

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Iroquois General Ethnology - Table of Contents
Iroquois General Ethnology of Western New York

Notes About the Book:

Source: Notes on the Iroquois or, Contributions to the Statistics, Aboriginal History, Antiquities and General Ethnology of Western New York, By Henry R. Schoolcraft, 1846, Senate Document, Twenty-Four.

Online Publication: The manuscript was scanned and then ocr'd. Minimal editing has been done, and readers can and should expect some errors in the textual output.

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.


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