In 1846, several gentlemen of literary, social, or political eminence, united with the writer of the present work, in a memorial to Congress on the subject of the Indian Tribes; their history, condition, and destiny, and the “imperfect and fragmentary” state of our information respecting them.1
On the 4th of March, 1847, Congress responded to this appeal in behalf of the Race, by directing the Secretary of War (who, at this period, had the jurisdiction of Indian Affairs)2 to collect and digest such statistics, and other information, as were necessary to a full historical understanding of the subject. The Author was honored with a commission to execute this trust, and directed to report the result of his investigations through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He immediately transferred his residence from New York, to Washington; in order to avail himself of the necessary facilities and sanctions of the office, in the prosecution of the inquiry.
The First Part of the investigations made in pursuance of this appointment, is now submitted. In carrying out the object, while presenting the existing state of the various tribes, it has been sought to group them, by the tie of languages, into generic families, or stocks ; and, so far as practicable, to restore those ethnological links in the chain of their history which denote resemblance, and ancient affinities. To do this, not only the principles of the languages are required, but the Indian antiquities and traditions, their physical traits, and the mental type and psychological peculiarities of the Race; which become so many points of comparison, and helps to investigation.
The peculiarly intimate relations the author has held to them (having married a highly educated lady, whose grandfather was a distinguished aboriginal chief- regnant, or king,) has had the effect of breaking down towards himself, individually, the eternal distrust and suspicion of the Indian mind, and to open the most secret arcana of his hopes and fears, as imposed by his religious dogmas, and as revealed by the deeply-hidden causes of his extraordinary acts and wonderful character.
To illustrate the work, the pictorial art is, it is conceived, appropriately appealed to; and it is made one of the points relied on to give its pages subsidiary interest and value. This department of American art is placed in charge of Captain S. Eastman, U. S. A. a graduate of West Point Military Academy, and a former Assistant-Professor of Drawing in that Institution; a man, indeed, who has served these twenty years, in peace and war, on the American frontiers, always carrying with him his easel and brushes, to while away leisure moments in camp; and who now returns from the West with his portfolio filled with views of American scenery, and objects of Indian life and art, delineated on the spot, or drawn from specimens.
Archives of Aboriginal Knowledge Volume I – TOC
- Notes of Henry Schoolcraft
- General History
In the examination of the Indian history, great importance has ever been attached to the principles of their languages. The author conceives that he has had unusual opportunities of becoming acquainted with the principles of these ancient mediums of human thought. He has devoted many years of his leisure to these investigations, while residing, in an official capacity, in the West. The theme has been pursued with all the ardor and hopefulness of youth, and the perseverance of maturer years, passed in the vicissitudes of a frontier life. If, to many, the wilderness is a place of wearisome solitude, to him it assumed, under these influences, far more the semblance of the choicest recesses of an academic study. This study has only been intruded upon by the cares of business, and the higher duties of office; but it has ever been crowned, in his mind, with the ineffable delights that attend the hope of knowledge, and the triumph of research.
- Schoolcraft’s Opinion of Native American History
- Native American Origin Synopsis
- Traditions of the Ante-Columbian Epoch
- Antiquities Of The United States
- Indian Art, Tools and Weapons
- Art, Adornment and Amusement
- Tools And Implements
- Hunting and Weapons
- Coin or its Equivalent to the Indian
- Mining and Metallurgy by Native Americans
- Ancient Ossuaries
- Indian Art, Tools and Weapons
- Archaeological evidences of the continent having been visited by a people using letters prior to the era of Columbus.
- Vikings in America
- Dighton Rock Inscriptions
- Grave Creek Mound Tablet
- An Ancient Shipwreck on the American Coasts
- Skeleton in Armor
- Oneida Stone, An Aboriginal Palladium
- Tribal Organization, History, And Government
The United States has maintained relations with some seventy tribes who occupy the continental area east of the Rocky Mountains. The great practical object, which has at all periods pressed upon the Government, has been the preservation of peace, on the constantly enlarging circle of the frontiers. This effort, basing itself on one of the earliest acts of Washington, has been unintermitted. Occupying the peculiar relation of a mixed foreign and domestic character, the intercourse has called for the exercise of a paternal as well as an official policy. No people has ever evinced such a non-appreciating sense of the lessons of experience, in the career of their history and destiny; and the problem of their management has still returned to us, to be repeated again What line of policy is best suited to advance their prosperity? The present plan of collecting information respecting their actual condition, character, and prospects, is based on an appeal to the entire official organization of the Department on the frontiers; and is believed to be the most efficient one that can be pursued to collect a body of authentic information, which may serve as the record from which the tribes are to be judged. Its results will be communicated as the materials accumulate.
- Shoshone or Snake Indians
- Indian Tribes of the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, by N. J. Wyeth, Esq.
- Comanches and other Indian Tribes of Texas, and the Policy to be pursued respecting them, by D. G. Burnet, Esq.
- Indian Tribes of New Mexico, by Gov. Charles Bent.
- Dacotas of the Mississippi, by Thomas S. Williamson, M. D.
- 1837 Smallpox Epidemic
- Tribes on the Santa Fe Trail, and at the foot of the Rocky Mountains
- History of the Muskogee Indians
- Massachusetts Indians
- Algonquian Language
- Indians of Kentucky
- Menomonie and Chippewa History
- Miscotins and Assigunaigs
- Origin and History of the Chickasaws
- Character of the Indian Race
Thirty years thus spent on the frontiers, and in the forests, where the Natives still dwells, have exhibited them to his observation in almost every possible development. He has been placed in a variety of situations to observe the structure and capacities of the Indian mind, in its minutest idiosyncrasies; to glean his notions of life, death, and immortality; his conceptions of the character and being of a God, who is universally acknowledged as the Creator; and to detect the secret springs of his acts, living and dying. The mental type of the aborigines, which has been systematically pursued through the recondite relations of their mythology and religion; their notions of the duality of the soul ; their conceptions of a complex spiritual agency affecting man and beast ; their mysterious trust in a system of pictographic symbols, believed to have a reflex power of personal influence ; and their indomitable fixity in these peculiarities, reveal the true causes, he apprehends, why the race has so long and so pertinaciously resisted, as with iron resistance, all the lights and influences which Europe and America united have poured upon their mind, through letters, arts, knowledge, and Christianity.
- Indian Mythology and Oral Traditions
- Indian Pictographs
- The Antiquity of Pictorial Writing
- Elements of Picture Writing
- Kekeenowin or Hieratic Signs of the Medawin and Jeesukawin
- Medawin, or to Meda
- Rites and Symbolic Notations of the Songs of the Wabeno
- Synopsis of Wabeno Songs
- Symbols of Hunting in Pictography
- The Sacred Jeesukawin, or Sacred Prophetic Art
- Symbols for Love and War in Pictography
- Rock Writing or Muzzinabikon
- Algonquian Pictography
- Comparative Views of International Pictography
- Indian Mythology and Oral Traditions
- Population And Statistics
- Image Plates 1-76
In the consideration of the policy to be adopted with respect to the wild prairie and transmontane tribes, who rove over immense tracts with no sense of dependence or responsibility but that which they daily acknowledge to the bow and arrow, the gun and club, in the use of which they have acquired great dexterity and new power by the introduction of the horse; we commend to notice the remarks of Mr. Wyeth, formerly of Oregon, on the best mode to be adopted respecting the shifting and feeble tribes of those latitudes. The faithless and robber-like character of the prairie hordes east of the mountains, is graphically depicted by Mr. Burnet, in his memoir on the Comanche, and by Mr. Fitzpatrick, respecting the Arapaho and other predatory tribes on the higher Arkansas and Nebraska. Although this character is inapplicable to the more easterly tribes, many of whom are advanced in arts and knowledge, it is yet important to keep it in view in adjusting our policy respecting those remote and lawless tribes.
The experience of two hundred years, with the entire race, demonstrates the delusion of a prosperous Indian nationality, as based on any other system but that of agriculture and the arts. And, it is believed, the sooner the several tribes cease to regard themselves politically as containing the elements of a foreign population, the sooner will the best hopes of their permanent prosperity and civilization be realized. Meantime, while they preserve a pseudo-nationality, it may be affirmed as one of the clearest deductions of statistical and practical investigations into the operation of our laws, and the general principles of population, that nothing beyond the interest of the funds due to the tribes, for lands purchased from them, should continue to be paid as annuities, while policy requires, that the principal should be devoted, with their consent, wholly to purposes of civil polity, education, and the arts.
With all their defects of character, the Indian tribes are entitled to the peculiar notice of a people who have succeeded to the occupancy of territories, which once belonged to them. They constitute a branch of the human race whose history is lost in the early and wild mutations of men. We perceive in them many noble and disinterested traits. The simplicity of their eloquence has challenged admiration. Higher principles of devotion to what they believe to be cardinal virtues no people ever evinced. Faith has furnished the Christian martyr with motives to sustain him at the stake: but the North American Indian has endured the keenest torments of fire without the consolations of the Gospel. Civilized nations are cheered on their way to face the cannon s mouth by inspiring music; but the warrior of the forest requires no roll of the drum to animate his steps.
Mistaken in his belief in a system of gods of the elements misconceiving the whole plan of industrial prosperity and happiness wrong in his conceptions of the social duties of life, and doubly wrong in his notions of death and eternity, he yet approves himself to the best sensibilities of the human heart, by the strong exhibition of those ties which bind a father to his children, and link whole forest communities in the indissoluble bonds of brotherhood. He lingers with affection, but with helpless ignorance, around the dying couch of his relatives; and his long memory of the dead ceases but with life itself. No costly tomb or cenotaph marks his place of burial; but he visits that spot with the silent majesty of grief. God has planted in his heart affections and feelings, which only require to be molded, and directed to noble aims. That impress seals him as a brother, erring, indeed, and benighted in his ways, but still a brother.
To reclaim such a race to the paths of virtue and truth; to enlighten the mind which has been so long in darkness; and to give it new and solid foundations for its hopes, is a duty alike of high civilization and warm benevolence.
This memorial, with the names, &c., is given in Vol. III., XV. Statistics and Population. ↩
Transferred by Act of Congress, in 1849, to the Secretary of the Interior. ↩