Historic Review of the Indians of the United States

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Indian history begins with the advent of the white people upon this continent. Much of what has been written about the pre-Columbian period is but a repetition of old fancies, legends, and traditions. There are a few mounds, or graves, with their contents, some inscriptions, and some pottery resembling present tools and implements common to the world; excepting these and his descendants and their legends the pre Columbian aboriginal stands a myth.

Thee mounds or earthworks found in New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and elsewhere were for defense, residence, or burial places. Built along streams, they were frequently in the vicinity of rich alluvial where corn or other crops were easily raised, the rivers supplying fish and mussels, and the forests game in abundance. The cave and cliff dwellings or the rivers, streams, and canyons of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona and the ruined towns or pueblos on the plains in the same regions were also for defense and residence, Some of the ancient ruins, which have been restored on paper from the foundation lines, are deemed to have been communal houses, These three, grades or kinds of structures, each conforming to the demands of climate, were found by the Europeans on their first settlement in what were the colonies of England, Franco, and Spain. The age or antiquity of any of these structures was not determined by them.

The ruins, cave towns, and. cliff dwellings on the plains, in the cliff’s, or along streams in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, and in some cases adjacent to the present pueblos, have long been peopled by romance with legends of a race anterior to the ancestors of the present Indians. They have been mapped, platted, described, painted, and photographed until nothing new can now be given about them. Investigation shows that the pueblos were built of adobe, or sun dried bricks, or stone blocks broken from the sandstone adjacent, or rubble or boulders taken front the rivers or streams, and never of dressed stones as known to the whites; that they were the homes of the ancestry of the present Indians of the towns of the vicinity, and to part of the American race. The great area of the country covered by, these ruins or dwellings is no evidence that it contained a vast population, for the country itself, its resources and features, prevented a large population, and a small population, abandoning easily built houses from time to time for economical reasons, or flying to cave cliff dwellings for protection against a foe or to escape sudden inroads of water, will account for the, great number of ruins or dwellings. The present Pueblo Indians of Arizona, and New Mexico, living in the region of these rains, are not a mysterious people nor to more ancient people than other tribes of the North American Indians. Six of the Moqui towns are inhabited by Shoshone Indians. The people of the seventh town (Tewa), originally from the valley of the Rio Grande, are probably also Shoshone, as well as those of the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, they are all probably a portion of the down drift of the Shoshone movement of centuries ago, which came from the north and went south down the valleys on the east and west of the Rocky Mountains to the Rio Grande, thence to the Gila, mid Monett to the Pacific Ocean.

The great variety of life among the various tribes of people on this continent when first noted by the whites is confusing on review and furnishes but little ground for comparison. The varying degrees of progress or of detail of daily tribal life are perplexing; still, the climate of the several sections in which the aborigines wore found in these varying conditions will account for much of the difference in, customs, forms, and modes of life.

It is in evidence that many Indian tribes have become extinct from various causes, especially war, famine, and disease, since the European has been On the continent; others were described by the Indians as having become extinct long prier tit the white mans arrival; so that by observation and tradition, as well as their own statements, the thought is forced that the Indian nations or tribes or bands were on the decline at the date of the arrival of the whites under Columbus. Still, with all this presumably 1arge aboriginal population in what are now the United States, not a vestige remains to tell of the so-called pre-Columbian men and women except now and then a mound, a fort, a pueblo, or a grave, and traditions and legends.

The European found the Indians self-sustaining and self-reliant, with tribal governments, many forms of worship, and many superstitious, with ample clothing of skins and furs, and food fairly well supplied. They were wild men and women, to whom the restraints of a foreign control became as bonds of steel.

In 1832 George Catlin, the eminent ethnologist, from observation, gave the rank and grades of men in the various Indian tribes, which, with some slight modifications for local forms and necessities, were general. The United States, since establishing the reservation system, has done much toward doing away with these grades. The United States Indian agents now approve or reject the selection of chiefs, if any be selected, and when there is a chief his power is nominal, no matter who selects or approves him. The constant hunt for the mere necessities of life by the Indians has somewhat removed the old sense of dependence on the chief.

The following are the grades given by Mr. Catlin:

  1. War chief; the first man of the nation; the first to whom the pipe is handed on all occasions, even in councils or treaties; the man who leads in battle, is first in war, speaks first in council of war and second in peace councils or treaties.
  2. Civil chief: the headman of the nation, except in times of war; speaks first and smokes second in peace councils; is chief orator of no nation.
  3. Warrior: a man who is not a chief, but has been on was parties and holds himself ready at all times for war excursions.
  4. Braves: young men not distinguished as warriors, but known and admitted to be courageous, who stand ready at home to protect their houses and firesides.

As our Anglo-Saxon ancestor moved across the continent from the east; to the west he met several types of the Indian: Indians living upon cultivated corn, grain, and vegetables, wild grains, fruits, and roots; flesh eaters, root diggers, and fish eaters. Everywhere he found the Indian conforming through necessity to his surroundings, taking advantage of the situation, and ingenious with the elements around him.

The highest intelligence was found among the Indians of the Atlantic coast and east of the Ohio River, this intelligence gradually decreasing, until the most squalid Indian was found beyond the Rocky mountains and to the Pacific coast and northward, and in regions where the natural resources were limited.

Peaceful at the advent of whites, then hostile, the Indians became more wild and savage as our ancestors proceeded westward, this fierceness being aggravated by the advancing lines of Anglo-Saxon civilization.

The aboriginal American Indian furnished a theme for poet, historian, and novelist. Cooper’s novels, delightful and heroic, with other Indian romances, have produced in the American mind a belief in a higher type of Indian than ever existed. So with all romance of Indian life. The high type demanded by false types in literature and poetry has worked gross injustice to the present North American Indian. It has created in the popular mind, in sections where he is not actually known, a false impression of his capacity, his manhood, and his fitness for the demands of Anglo-Saxon life. In fact, by reason of this false teaching, we expect too much of him. He has been placed upon a high pedestal in literature, story, and song, and at a distance, like the great statue, he shows neither defect nor lack of symmetry. On close inspection the present Indian clearly indicates a great decadence from his reputed ancestors, and convicts of exaggeration many of the writers contemporaneous with his forefathers.

As a rule, the present reservation Indian does not change unless compelled by necessity or force. Outside surroundings do not affect him as they do other people. He welcomes death, but resists the tendered civilization, Indian life from his point of view is perfect, and has always been. The continent was his, and he, an uncontrolled child of nature, the perfection of a wild man. He roamed over it without restraint. In early days he received hospitably the few whites who visited him, and cheerfully divided his food with them.

Along streams in the interior prior to the advent of the Europeans the dugout canoe was the Indian’s conveyance. The Spaniards brought the modern horse to America. Some of the horses escaped in the southwest and ran wild in bands. The Indians soon captured and adopted them, and so after a time the mime was partially abandoned, and as a result the roaming Plains Indian followed. The new means of locomotion, the horse, became the Indian’s inseparable companion. The interior of the country was thus easily explored. The plains where the horse was found running wild became of value as horse producing grounds, and almost incessant war was the result; but if tradition is to be believed, war was the normal condition of the Indian tribes of North America, The horse, enabling the Indian to follow the buffalo for food and clothes, and the claiming of the lands by the tribes encouraged his nomadic habits and paved the way for his continued unsettled life. The buffalo grounds were also battlefields where the southern Comanche fought the northern Sioux and the Pawnee and the Cheyenne met in deadly conflict.

The wandering habits of many tribes and their varied manners and customs may account for the great number of tribal languages. Permanent and isolated tribal settlements also aided the growth of distinct speech. Then the ideal Indian life existed. The battle for the necessities of life was not a struggle as now, because game was abundant and people were not so numerous. Skins and furs for clothing and for making lodges, tents, or tepees were plentiful; and the flesh of the fur animals was good for food. The streams abounded in fish and the seasons brought the unfailing crops of roots and units. War, theft, and laziness in the men were virtues, and labor by the women a duty. The workers in the tribes were few, and the breadwinners were the decoy, spear, and bow and arrow. The patient squaw was the stay of the family, being in fact a beast of burden and both camp guard and keeper, while the males loafed, hunted, stole horses, fished, or made war. Wants were comparatively few and easily supplied. Waste of flesh food was then the rule; still, with all his carelessness, the Indian had some idea of economy in the killing of beasts for food, as the buffalo herd or game preserves were invaded only in season.

In illustration of Indian life, consider the conditions mid surroundings of lake and river Indians of the middle United States. The Pottawatomie, Chippewa, Ottawa, Huron, Wyandotte, Miami, Shawnee, and Kickapoo roamed along the lakes, rivers, and streams of what is now Ohio, Indiana, northeastern Illinois, and Michigan. This was to them an ideal home. The water yielded fish, the trees shelter and fuel, the plains food and clothes. The Detroit River was then the favorite passageway and rallying point for the northwestern Indians. On it the canoes came and went, and it was an artery in the system of aboriginal life. Game was abundant, including bear, elk, moose, wolves, beaver, otters, muskrats, and rabbits. Wild berries were indigenous. The sugar maple contributed to the luxury of the savage taste. The wild rose, honeysuckle, and clematis made the forest air fragrant, and along the waterways and lakes the lily waved its welcome of beauty in myriad. blossoms. Night came as a time of rest, and while nature worked the Indian slept, and on the morrow, as the sun’s rays kissed the longing earth, He, arose to a bountiful repast not created by man. The incoming of the white man changed all this. The first sentence, of the Latin tongue spoken in the northwest ordained the death of the death of the Indian. He felt it, and neither honeyed speech, tuneful song, nor gilded vestment and protecting church could reconcile him to the foreign invasion and control. The green wood soon echoed to the ax of the settler, and the stalwart son of the forest who had walked through his own possessions, alert and erect as the towering pine, became of necessity a stealthy or hiding outcast in the land of’ his fathers, and crawled by night amidst the gloves where, prior to the advent of the whites, he had boldly walked by day as a free man, unchallenged of his tribe.

That the North American Indian was seafaring man prior to the advent of Europeans there is no evidence. He did not met with at sea or at a distance from the coast by the Europeans. He did not, as a rule, sail on the lakes, and his sailing on the rivers was in dugouts or rudely made craft. If he originally came by water across the sea his descendants early lost the trade of their fathers. Captain Howard Stansbury mentions the launching of a boat in 1849 on Great Salt lake, and the surprise it awakened among the Indians dwelling along its borders, and ventures the suggestion that it was the first boat they had over seen, The North American Indian was a land lover. He held to the earth. The forest and plains had more charms for him than the roar of breakers and the crush of waves. He considered lands to be tribal, not individual, property. He used lands he found vacant and fitted to his wants, but the individual use was merely possessory. The tribal lands, or claims for them, were held tenaciously, and the invasion of hunting grounds by other tribes was resisted, and .frequently war followed.

Investigation shows that the Indians prior to the coming of the whites had portioned out the surface of the country fairly, well, and that by consent or tacit agreement separate sections of the country were occupied by tribes of the several stocks, in illustration: the Sioux, in a broad swath down the valley of the Mississippi, reached the far southeast; the Catawbas, of Siouan stock, were in North and South Carolina; the Biloxis in Louisiana, while the Tutelos, of the same stock, lived in eastern Virginia. The Shoshonean stock roamed down through the middle basin between the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains, in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, to the Pacific ocean, the Indians of the San Luis Roy mission, in California, being of this stock. Lands thus claimed were respected by the other tribes. The leagues of the Iroquois and the Dakotas seem to have been the comprehensive leagues, while in other instances adjoining tribes leagued in; emergency required for attack or assault. Tribes were sometimes found in perpetual league, as for instance the Huron and the Shawnees.

Indian nomadic life prevented large families. The various Indian tribes were generally mainline within the areas claimed by or conceded to them by other tribes. They moved with the seasons, following the game or going to corn growing grounds. Those who depended, most upon agriculture were the most permanent, because .the climate of the agriculture sections was usually good, and the country, generally limestone, abounded in root crops and. birds, and the streams contained fish. These natural resources made this class of Indians less nomadic than those who were mere flesh eaters, depending on game. Indians wore good judges of natural resources and possibilities, and they never oh’ their own choice selected a desert on which to live. The Jesuits in North America made no settlement which died out, except perhaps one, and that on the Missouri River. In fact, almost all their settlements became cities. The prefix St. to a city in the United States is pretty sure to designate an original Catholic; location. These fortunate locations were due to the fact that the priests sought the Indian settlements or towns and always found them favorably located for fish, flesh, and water, and grain and root crops.

Wild and free life made the Indian improvident. It gave him no care for the future. Even now a week’s rations is consumed in 2 days, for ho eats prodigiously, and besides he is not certain there may be any food on the morrow. Nature has also conspired to make the Indian thriftless and unstable. In his free condition he was the ideal wild man, pure and simple, and to this day many Indians are but little changed in their wild instincts. Then the restraint upon his appetite, physical or otherwise, was satiety, and death was met with nerve and as condition of life. Cunning and ingenious, and with some mechanical skill, he placed nature, under tribute for arms, weapons, decoys, and game traps. As a hunter he was more adroit than the wildest game, more fleet of foot than the elk or deer, and more stealthy than the wolf.

The Indian village was and is the unit of organization in almost all the tribes. The individual was and is merged in the village. With the sedentary Indians the villages were of it permanent character. With the nomadic Indians lodges or tents, with their livestock and property, composed the village. In peace the nomadic, village was placed in a favored retreat, and here the Indians remained until war or the seasons forced them to remove. By marks or signs a band could tell what Indians had preceded it. As a rule, the bands of a tribe had their well defined camping grounds, which were sacred to them. A tribe seldom, if ever, camped or lived in a compact mass. The villages were frequently remote, and in war were signaled with fires or alarmed by runners. In war old men and women cared for the camp and protected it. When a war party returned, one of their number was selected to bear it pole upon which were suspended the scalps taken from the enemy. The Indian village or camp (town it was called by the Creeks) was the seat of organization and power with the Indian tribes. The individual who led a band was the head of the, village, and his power in the conned of his tribe depended upon the number of warriors in his village, just as civilized nations have their influence in the world, by reason of their armies or navies. This Indian village life, the growth of centuries is now partially perpetuated on large reservations, and the love of it is one of the chief causes of the Indian’s resistance to the white man’s customs. The Indian does not like to live isolated. Dances preceded and followed all their movements, good or bad. Necessity and inclination made laws for them. From the camps or villages the warrior set out to acquire, new honors or to meet death. To them he returned alive, or his story came with the survivors. This was the life of the ancestors or the Indians, and with some tribes it still continues.

The Latin and Anglo-Saxon life, which poured in upon the Indian, was to hint invasion. The pale race to him was robbers, who despoiled him of his lands and game, and so became all time his enemy. The Indian’s dust impression or the white man was not very favorable, and to hint the white man has not changed, except to be looked upon as more grasping, He found in the first white man the same instincts of trade and desire to oppress the lower orders of men that he finds now.

While the Indians in past ages had all the benefits arising from contact with beautiful scenery, all that bounteous nature could give to please, ennoble, or entrance in all area so great that, all climates were within his domain, and all altitudes, from the towering mountain sublime in its up reaching to the low and poetic ranges or hills where verdure lay the year round and the wild flower blossomed with each succeeding rain, no Indian was ever inspired to the softer ways of life by the grand effects of lavish nature. None of these beauties seem to have raised the Indian to ways of relined peace. Always he seems to have been content with material things.

Indian eloquence has been aided by the beauties of nature, and his love of country, as depicted in his interpreted speeches, shows the influence of scenery. The wild man has a love for the spot on which he was born, even though it be but a rook, and he sticks to it tenaciously.

The Indian vocabulary does not admit of much true oratory in speech, but his tones and gestures are always eloquent. Except an Indian be educated out of the Indian tongue, his periods are not musical and his ideas do not come forth in compact method. An Indian is frequently eloquent with his eyes and hands, but seldom in his ideas, as expressed in the Indian tongue. Still, metaphors are much used in the speeches and conversation of Indians, particularly the Iroquois in New York. When the weather is very cold the Iroquoian says ”it is a nose cutting morning”; of an emaciated person, “he has dried bones”. A steamboat is “the ship impelled by fire”, A horse is “a log carrier”. A, cow is called an end chewer”. In old times these Indians kept warm by covering themselves with boughs of hemlock; and now if an Indian is about to repair his cabin he says “I will surround it with hemlock boughs”, meaning that he will make it warm and comfortable. When a chief has made a speech he finishes with saying “the doors are now open, you can proceed”. The Iroquois call themselves “the older people” and the white man “our younger brother”.

Indian efforts in graphic art show the meagerness or his constructive power or idea, and his lack of mathematics accounts for his want of power of concentration.

As individuals the Indians sometimes show sterling virtues. Scores or incidents can be related of their faithful friendship to the whites during the present century, and many of them are capable of becoming good and industrious citizens.

The real North American Indian sometimes, dresses in highly colored blankets, when he can buy them, or in the government blue blankets sometimes furnished him, but when in the vicinity of towns or settlements he wears the rags cast off by the whites.

Delegations of Indians visiting eastern cities and the Indians usually seen in the cast are well dressed and present as fantastic appearance. They impress with their picturesque garb. To see a tribe, in the native condition on the plains, thus dressed would be a sight indeed. The truth
is, the dress is borrowed, and the entire wardrobe of a tribe is drawn upon to fit out the visiting delegates, the several owners of the traveling wardrobe remaining at home, tightly rolled up in blankets. Photographs of Indians kept on sale are those of Indians fixed up for artist effect and to catch the popular eye. When at home, rags and feathers or nature are the usual dress and decoration of the reservation Indians, except where the government provides. A visiting Indian is a very different person in appearance from an Indian at home.

The squaws in winter roll their lower limbs in gunny sacks; they capture all the cast-off female clothing of towns in their vicinity on the frontier. Buckskins and furs are now almost gone. In fact, anything will do for body covering.

The American colonists had a severe experience with the Indians, and Mr. Jefferson, in writing the Dec1aration of Independence, expressed the prevailing opinion of them when he wrote in that instrument or the “merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and condition.

The European did not teach the Indian the brutalities of war. From the statements made to the first white, men with whom he came in contact, the normal condition of the North American Indians prior to the advent of European was war, cruel and bloody. The several tribes, when they fought, fought to exterminate. They had no firearms or swords of steel, but they used with cunning in brutality the club, the, spear with stone point, the bow and arrow, and the stone brainer; rude but effective weapons. These wars were generally for encroachments on fish or game preserves or territory.

The Europeans taught the Indians the use or firearms. They also taught them the value of cunning diplomacy in transactions with men; and so after a time under this tutelage the Indian laid aside his club and shear and depended more upon deceit, words with double waning; he puts it, “speaking with a forked tongue”. The Caucasian also initiated him into the mystery of drunkenness, rm. it is not noted that the Indian had an intoxicant prior to the time the Europeans first mot him. Smallpox and venereal diseases were also the white man’s contributions to his red brother’s ills.

At the advent of the Europeans, and especially in Virginia, the Indians, according to their own statements, were, exterminating themselves. They told fabulous stories of great tribes of Indians once in existence, but now extinct; of vast hordes of large sized men and women in the west of the continent, who were overcome and destroyed. Their imaginations from time to time increased these exterminated tribes and their numbers.

After the colonization of the continent by Europeans the Indian became so busy in watching the white, man and his movements that he had little time to battle with his fellow Indians; and so for the first 100 years after the white man came the Indians probably increased.

Still, along the Indian trail to oblivion, the white man, in many cases, has been as brutal and fiendish as the Indian, and with less excuse, for one is civilized the other wild and untutored. There has been up to within a few years past but little inhumanity, charity, and justice in much of the white man’s treatment of the American Indian. No apology can be offered for it; no excuse, save, the domination for a time of the brute in our superior white race and the attempt to out Herod Herod, for at times Indians have been wantonly murdered or used like beasts. The Indian is a coward in warfare, because He fights behind rocks and bushes, and usually begins his wars with the murder of white women and children. He is at times treacherous, and lights like a wild animal, stealthily creeping and crawling up to his prey, when cornered he lights like a devil incarnate. Indians who are brutally brave in battle are at other times arrant cowards. The tierce and warlike Apache of Arizona, cruel and brutal is his warfare, hides like a coward at night, and traveler or soldier is always sate from attack from him after nightfall. The darkness to the Indian is peopled with evil spirits and dreaded and dangerous forms, so ho hides away until daylight. The once cruel and dreaded Bride Sioux on the Brule reservation, South Dakota, will not venture abroad at night, and, when forced to do so, will keep up an incessant hallooing and will not go far unless answered by a friendly shout.

As a fact, almost all the superstitions and customs recorded of the Indians during the past 400 years still exist, or traces of them can be found among both the wild and so ca1led civilized tribes, and frequently with Indians not in tribal relation or their descendants. This applies to reliable and authentic superstitions and customs, not to the idle fancies of imaginative Indians.

In illustration of Indian tenacity in holding to old customs, an Indian and his moccasins are yet almost inseparable companions. He seems born in them; he walks and sleeps in them, and he is buried in them. An Indian may be habited in a dress suit, but the chances are that his feet are covered with moccasins. In the army he dresses in uniform, but almost always insists on the moccasins. At the training and industrial schools it is with difficulty that he can be induced to discard them. Even after Indians are known as civilized they will be seen with moccasins.

Most of the American Indians are pigeon-toed, probably growing out of the fact that having no heels on their moccasins and walking on the ball of the foot the foot turns inward; the male Indians also have a habit or crossing their feet when they sit.

For a long time it was believed that the North American Indian possessed positive and useful knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants, roots, and herbs, and certain portions of animals or birds indigenous to their country; Marvelous stories have been told of this knowledge and the cures made through it. Many white men have become rich front the sale of supposed Indian remedies, which the Indians never knew. Investigation shows that if they possessed any such knowledge it was exceedingly limited. Their surgery was of the crudest character, and in some cases almost brutal. Superstitions, appeals to charms, incantations, and trickery were and are the chief remedies used by the Indian medicine man, or shaman. Childbirth is attended to by women. The report of a special agent inferentially shows what has been known to as very few Indian querists, that the polygamy of most Indian men is largely in the nature of the Indian lechery. The Indian medicine men are simply the vilest of quacks, working upon the credulity of the people. Through their acts and advice many deaths have resulted.

The Indian is the embodiment of cruelty. Boy or man, he enjoys torturing all living things, but the women in this respect far excel the men. The prolonging of suffering while torturing a captive the Indian can accomplish with rare dexterity.

The Indian squaw is the tenderest possible mother, affectionate, loving, and even going hungry for her child; at the same time she is a fiend in war with the whites, and is the embodiment of cruelty in her methods of torturing the captives, men, women, and children.

The ancestors of the present Comanches at Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita agency, Oklahoma, were noted for their cruelty to prisoners. The Comanches in the olden times, or in early Texan days, Were known as Comanches of the Woods (those who lived in the timber) and Comanches of the Prairies (horse Indians).

Senator Sam Houston, in the Senate of the United States, December 31, 1854, in speaking of them, said:
There are not loss than 2,000 prisoners (whites) in the hands of thin Comanches, 400 in one band in my owe state. They take no prisoners but women and boys (killing the men). The boys they treat with a degree of barbarity unprecedented, and their cruelties toward the females are nameless and atrocious.

Many illustrations of the habits of the Sioux till other tribes in mutilating the dead whites after battle or massacre may be found is official reports of government officers. Squaws and children actually engage in war when necessary.

The North American Indian has an insatiable greed for money, and change in his condition can be aided by giving him a chance to acquire it. While low in his instincts he has the basis for development. With all his lack of reasoning powers, the Indian has rare perceptive faculties in the matter of the retention of his own property, and he discovers dangers to it at the proper moment. These faculties are inborn.

Indians as a class are egotists. Their egotism asserts itself in their tribal as well as personal matters. Each tribe asserts itself to be “the people”, the other tribes being mere “raise ups” or “drop offs”, The medicine men are unusually oppressive egotists.

Indians frequently have several names. George Catlin in 1832 wrote of this:

Nothing is more embarrassing for the traveler through the Indian countries both of North and South America than the difficulty of obtaining the real names of Indians, owing chiefly to the singular fact, that no Indian in either country will tell his name, but, leaves if for occasions or for other Indians to remit.

The Indians have generally their family names in the idiom of their tribe, and having no Christian name they often attach to them significations which are wrongly supposed to be their interpretations, A. great proportion of Indian names (like Jones, Bailey, Roberts, etc, in English) adults of no translation. In those cases the interpreters give their family names, joining to them the qualifications for which the individuals are celebrated, as Oon-disch-ta (the Salmon appearer), Oon-disch-ta, (the tiger killer), as we would say, Jones (the shoemaker), Jones (the butcher), etc.; and yet another difficulty still more embarrassing, that most Indians of celebrity have a dozen or more names, which they use according to caprice or circumstances.

I recollect that when I was painting the portrait of a Comanche chief I inquired his name, which another chief, sitting by, gave me as Ish-n-ro-yeh (he who carries a wolf). I expressed my surprise at his getting such a name, and inquired if he had ever carried a wolf, to which he replied: “Yes, I always carry a wolf, lifting up his medicine bag, made of tho skin of a white wolf and lying by the side of him as he was sitting on the ground.

How curious (Indian) names and how pleasing. Among the Mandans, the reputed belles, when I was there, were Mi-neek-e-sunk-te-ca (the mink) and Sha-ko-ka (mint), daughters of 2 of the subordinate chiefs; among the Riccarrees, Pshau-shaw (the sweet scented, grass); among the Minatarrees, a few miles above the Mandans, Soot-see-be-a (the midday sun); among the Assiniboines, Chin-cha-pee (the firebug that creeps); among the Shawanos, Kay-to-qua, (the female eagle); of the Ioways, Ku-tom-ye- wee-nee (the strutting pigeon); and among the Puncahs, Hec-la-dec (the pure fountain), and Mong-shong-shaw (the bending willow); among the Pawnee Plets-Shee-de-a (wild sage), and among the Kiowas Wum-pan-to-me (the white weasel).

Mr. Catlin in. the same work also calls attention to the variety and singularity of the names of Indian men, as shown in his catalogue, such as “The very sweet man” and “The grass, bush, and blossom”.

This duplication of names of Indians continues to this day. In fact, many Indians have merely nicknames given them by the whites or for reservation use. Some go by numbers, as Jim No. 1, Jim No. 2, Jim No. 3. Indians have no family names, which white men understand. For the past 2 or 3 years the agents on the reservations have been giving them names. The census rolls of 1890 show the continuance of curious Indian names.

There is much romance in ideal Indian names. Minnehaha, abbreviated in the west to Minnchaw; Hiawatha, Toyaba, (pure white spirit), Eufaula, (falling water), and Weewoka, are soft and euphonious. The names of some of the real Indians of the present time are among the Creeks and Cherokees, Man-afraid-of-his Horse, Tom Potato, Hog Shooter, Pig Mike, Samuel Walking Stick, Samuel Poor Boy, Adam Dirt Seller, David Bull Frog, James Tin Cup, Archie Big Foot, Thomas Rooster, Robin Dirt Pot, Walter House Fly, Liar, Samuel Squirrel, Two Strikes, Hump, One-Eyed Sam, Old Belly, Mouse, and Little Horse Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The following are Indian and white names of Bannock Indians taken from the ration list of the Bannock tribe, at Fort Hall agency, Idaho, in November, 1800: Weed-ze-we, Teton Bill; Coppe-quo-tan, Coffee Grounds; We he-din, Iron. Mouth; Se-tso Po-ku-walk-i, Chinaman’s Family; Ca-nave, Johnny Stevens; Egi, Little John; Pah-a-give-ta, Big Mack; Saw-a-hun, Little Old Man; Pi-ze, Pit Piper. Such lists could be extended indefinitely.

The Indian will be remembered in the coming centuries from the fact that he has impressed himself upon the laws of the republic, and given names to many of its states and territories, cities, towns, rivers, and maintains.

The following are Indian words, with their meanings, used for names of some of the states and. territories: Alabama, here we rest; Alaska, great country; Connecticut, upon the long river; Idaho, gem of the mountains; Illinois, Franco-Indian, tribe of men; Indiana; Iowa, Franco-Indian, drowsy; Kansas, smoky water; Kentucky, at the head of river; Massachusetts, about the great hills; Michigan, a weir for fish.; Minnesota, cloudy water Mississippi, great long river; Missouri, muddy; Nebraska, water valley; Dakota, leagued; Ohio, beautiful; Oklahoma, beautiful land; Oregon, great river of the west; Tennessee, river of big bend; Texas, friends; named after a tribe of Indians; Wisconsin, wild rushing channel; Wyoming, the large plains. The word. “Arkansas” is supposed by many to be a compound word composed of the Indian words “Kansas”, “smoky waters”, and “Arc” “bow”. But this is an error. The word is of Indian derivation, and its signification unknown. In the official report of the secretary of State for Arkansas, September 30, 1800, on page 350, it is stated that Marquette called the Indians he found on the west bank of the Mississippi, near where Memphis now is, A-kan-sea; that La Salle wrote of visiting the village of Ar-kan-sa; and that De Tonti wrote of them as Arkances. “The name”, adds the secretary, “is usually spelled by these early writers without either the terminal “w” or the terminal “s”, but was pronounced. Ar-kan-sah. In all the early laws and official documents, as late as 1820, the name is spelled with the terminal “s-a-w”. In the act of Congress creating the territory in 1819 the name spelled Arkan-saw nine times. In 1881 the legislature of the state passed a concurrent resolution to the effect that the true pronunciation of the, name of the state is that received by the French from the native Indians, and that it should be pronounced in three syllables with the final “s” silent, the “a” in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last, syllables.

It has been quite the mode recently to drop Indian names for places and natural objects and adopt names of modern persons or designations from the ancients. Indian names, however, have special import, and should be retained. Centuries ago the continent was fairly well explored, and while, the several nationalities stamped their sufferings, glories, or prowess upon the topography of the country with the names of sovereign leaders, they in many cases adopted the Indian names.

That the North American Indian had or has any well define I religions views or beliefs as we understand them remains yet to be ascertained. The ideal Indian has a religion, but the real Indian has none. “God”, a word he first heard from Europeans, has to him in ‘fact no special significance. It means anything around and above him. His mythology is crude and embraces the natural features about him: fire, water, the air, earth, the sun, moon, and stars, and all animated nature. The real Indian hangs to his mythology, which is ingenious for its elements but unsatisfactory as a timely, with desperate tenacity.

While the North American Indians, according to some authors, have a complete system of religion in forms most, ingenious and mathematical in its sequences, these same Indians are incapable of inventing, constructing, or building anything that requires the mental power of combination. They can not smelt iron or copper, or carve stone or wood except in imitation and in a feeble way, save the Alaska Indians, or do other mechanical things. In fact, they have no mathematics in their methods, and many of these alleged singular and complex religions and other systems would not be known save for their development or invention by white men. It remained, in many instances, for white men to tell the Indian what his methods and systems were.

The Indian has the faculty of being led in conversation. In fact, he likes to be so led, provided he sees any food or largess at the end, and any ingenious ethnologist or investigator wedded to a theory, if he has a vivid imagination and a stock of money and food, cast obtain ample proof of that theory from an Indian. Left to himself the Indian has no theories to propose to white men; and while the most garrulous people among themselves they become silent at the approach of the white man, their natural enemy. Approach an Indian camp quietly and unobserved, and you hear the clatter of tongues and the laughter of children. The women chatter like white gossips and the children bubble over with fun. Indian children seldom, if ever, cry, and a brutal Indian father or mother is most unusual. An Indian woman will unstring the cradle from her back, take the child out, fill her mouth with water, eject, it in a spray, and wash the vermin or dust from the child, which never even whimpers, carefully replace it, string it to her back, and trot along to catch up with the moving band. Again, she will take the child out when hot and cool it by blowing over it, and when cold in the winter she will also warm it by blowing her hot breath over it. Indian children seem to have the same secretive instincts as young mice and rats; they do not, make any noise and give no sign of their presence. This is common to most wild animals. Young cats, puppies, colts and calves, being domesticated animals, and white infants; make much noise from their birth. The silent Indian will, however, on the production of money, food, or clothing, forget his animosity to the whites until after the ownership of the visible objects is settled, when he will become talkative; during this time almost any theory can be proven.

The priest; in some cases marries the Pueblos of New Mexico by the ceremonies of his church, and frequently immediately afterward they are remarried in the old Indian way. Sometimes prior to the dance and estufa ceremonies, lasting several days, the priest is removed to a safe distance, placed under guard, and held a prisoner until the affair has ended.

The Indian is superstitious, but superstition is not by any means common to savage races. In fact, many are led to believe from observation that culture frequently breeds superstition. The Messiah craze of 1890 among the Indians was no worse than some of the isms among the whites.

The Indian is tenacious of his beliefs and customs. In past years too many attempts have been made to correct Indian forms and observances, not heeding the fact that in any of these are the results of long established and serious beliefs.

In an account of the state of the missions newly settled by the Jesuits in California, by Father Francis M. Picolo, made to the royal council at Guadalaxa, in Mexico, February 10, 1702, is this reference to the religion of the Indians of California in 1697:

The Californians [Indians] are a very lively people, and fond of joking. This we found when we first began to instruct them. They whenever we committed any error in speaking their language, laughed at and jeered us; but, now that we are better acquainted, they correct us, whenever we commit a fault, in the civilest manner, and whenever we explain some mystery or article in morality which interfered with their prejudices or ancient errors, they wait till the preacher has ended his discourse and then will dispute with him in a forcible and sensible manner. If cogent reasons are offered they listen to them with great docility, and when convinced they submit, and perform whatever is enjoined on them. They did not seem to have any form of government, nor scarce anything like religion or a regular worship. They adore the moon, and cut their hair (to tho best of my remembrance) when that planet is in the wane, in honor of their deity. The hair which is thus cut oft they give to their priests, who employ it in several superstitious uses. Every family enacts its own laws at pleasure, and this possibly may be the cause of the frequent contests and wars in which they are engaged with one another.

Some of the surroundings of the attempts at Christianizing the American Indians in later days were not calculated to inspire particular confidence in the promised “peace on earth and good will to men” to come from the adoption of the creed preferred by the white man. The nonprogressive, those who believed in holding on to the old Indian ways, frequently had strong arguments to use with their people against change and conforming to the ways of the whites. Willing ears listened to the recital of these incidents and willing hearts carried them over the plains or in the groves to roaming Indians from the Gulf to the Lakes. The story of the massacre of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten, in what is now Ohio, March 8, 1782, was treasured by the old Indians, and repeated to listeners along the frontier from 1782 until 1810, and greatly aided Tecumseh and his Winnebagos in inciting the other Indians to revolt.

The North American Indian, a child of nature, seems to possess a peculiar logic, and it seems to have been born in him.

On a visit to the Dacotah mission in 1859 a scalp dance was held near the mission house. I was indignant. I went to Wabasha, the head chief, and said: “Wabasha, you asked me for a missionary and teacher. I gave thorn to you. I visit, you, and the first sight is this brutal scalp dance. I knew the Chippeway whom your young men have murdered; he had a wife and children; his wife is crying for her husband; his children are asking for their father, Wabasha, the Great Spirit hears his children cry. He is angry. Some day he will ask Wabasha “Where is your red brother?” The old chief smiled, drew his pipe from his mouth, blew a cloud of smoke upward, and said; “White man go to war with his own brother in the same country; kill more men than Wabasha can count in all his life. Great Spirit smiles; says, “Good white man; he has my book; I love him very much; I have a good place for him by and by”. The Indian is a wild man; he has no Great Spirit book; he kills one man; has scalp dance; Great Spirit is mad, and says, “Bad Indian; I will put him, in a bad place by and by”, Wabasha don’t believe it “.-Bishop H. B. Whipple, Minnesota, April, 1890.

The Indian as usual soon perceives the attempt to convert him to the white man’s creeds and resists it with vigor.

On the reservations the Indian is cunning enough to see that he may reap some personal advantage by getting the agent and missionary at loggerheads, and to this end he frequently works. All the reservation Indian’s aims and means are directed toward the acquisition of material things, things brought to him by others. A church on a reservation, which clothes its Indian school children and has other material aids gets it lull attendance. Komo, a Ute Indian, while explaining that he and his people were nominally Christians, unwittingly gave the reason when he said, “Oh! we go down to Salt Lake, City once it year, get baptized and get blankets”. At the present time church attending Indians on tin; reservations are called by the whites “pork and flour Indians”, as these commodities are sometimes distributed to them.

In considering the present reservation Indians it is well to recall that it is over 200 years since Massasoit, Philip, or Powhatan lived; a shorter period since Brandt, Red Jacket, Tecumseh, Black Hawk, and Osceola were ruling chiefs; while Little Crow, Rain in the Face, Red Cloud, Scar Faced Charley, Joseph, Bannock Jim, and Sitting Bull are near neighbors.

The Indian one now meets is a plain, every day fact, and he is found to be eminently open and plain in one purpose; and that to get it living with as little effort as possible. The Indian is never so much in earnest as when at the national trencher. He begins when the food is before him and ends when it is all consumed; still, when compelled, Indians can live upon as little food as any people.

A hundred or more years ago, in a report to the French academy, written by a competent and famous investigator, it was stated that “the North American Indian is an enigma”, and this can in truth be written of him today. While an enigma he is of a magnificent race, physically. When we consider the ravages of disease, intermarriage, exposure, starvation, and the white man, and then consider the number of Indians now here, as against the number at the advent of the European on this continent, the Indian would seem to be a startling example of the survival of the fittest. War fits his nature, is his occupation by design, and gives him fame. His heroes are warriors, and so tradition and fact encourage him to follow war as it recreation or profession.

Being the original occupant and owner of the lands he can not see why he should give way, go to the wall, or move to parts unknown. He can not understand the profit to come to him and his by his being despoiled first: and absorbed afterward, With his limited experience he can not understand why so much should be exacted of him, and so little be done of a practical nature by those receiving most of the benefits, Centuries of living by roaming, war, and the consuming of the wild products of nature have not especially fitted him for readily accepting Anglo-Saxon civilization.

The Indian’s battle has been for the control of the heart of a continent. With few exceptions he does not realize the necessity for change. It was bred in his bone that labor is dishonorable. The approach, demands, and requirements of civilized life foretold to him the end of the old Indian life, and the curling smoke from the settler’s but the doom of his unrestrained liberty. Moral training, such as we know he never knew, and he does not know to this day, his method of warfare, fierce and brutal, was born in him. He, met force with force, reason with the knife, and logic with his club or gun. The first tender of our advancing civilization he met with surprise and then resistance, and so, for almost 300 years unceasing warfare has followed. If quiet in one place, he is growling or in revolt in another. In almost all or the pioneer movements to the west the crack of the rifle was heard while the glitter of the hoe was seen. As the Indian felt the presence and weight of this new civilization all of his past history and present crowded upon him and he revolted, because he could see that his race was about to be covered with a cloud that would eventually engulf it. The white man’s clutch was on his throat. With the advancing lines of white men it took no prophet; to proclaim the doom. With clenched teeth, and club or gun in hand, he places his back to the rock and dies in resistance.

As has been stated, it is not probable that the present area of the United States since the white man came has contained at one time more than 500,000 Indians. High estimates were made in early days, but the average even then was about 1,000,000. In 1890 we have 248,253 civilized and uncivilized Indians.

Through almost four centuries warlike bands resisted and many of these Indians are still resisting progress. How defiantly they met death! They died silently, without a groan, and the shouts of murdered white men and women, the groans of butchered children, the roar of the cannon, and the crack of the rifle.

Over the old hunting ground, across the silvery streams which thread the brown barrens and plains, up the tall mountains among the towering pines to the snow-capped and sun touched summits, in the land once the home of his people, the Indian of today can cast only a longing-eye, and reflect. The plains are silent to the tread of the old Indian host; no monuments or structures tell their story; no footprints in the rocks, no piles of carved or sculptured stone speak of their patience, ingenuity, or their presence, The streams run as of yore, but, while softly creeping to the sea, they sing no song and speak no word of the olden times. The nodding pine and ash along the mountainside bend and bow a welcome to the newcomer, but are silent to the past. The canyon and mountain recess shelter as of old, but speak not. For the remaining Indian the painter, the museum, and the art preservative alone can tell the story. Even nature, the Indian’s god, is silent as to him, and speaks not. Such has been his life, such the result, that if the entire remaining Indians were instantly and completely wiped from the face of the earth they would leave no monuments, no buildings, no written language save one, no literature, no inventions, nothing in the arts or sciences, and absolutely nothing for the benefit of mankind. A few small graves and unimportant structural ruins and enigmas met the gaze of the white man 400 years ago. The past of the Indian was sealed even then, and apparently to the Indian as well as the white man; and this condition remains to this time. All of the Indian past is now largely reflection and retrospection. Crooning squaws and tottering old men on reservations, in most cases in squalor, rags, and hunger, retell the fierce battles of their people, each tale exaggerated with age, every person mentioned a hero; all now legend and myth. These past Indian splendors and glories can never come again; but, the Indian does not realize it, and so he invokes their return with his ghost or Messiah dance.

There are not 10 tribes of any of the 200 or more now in the United States but what have been in revolt, and those existing as tribes are, now remnants, with a few exceptions, too poor or too few to fight, or they consider it too dangerous. The government is at present engaged in trying to civilize and control the remnants of these once powerful tribes on reservations. Its hardest struggle is with the original Indian “nomads”, the Indians of the plains or ”flesh eaters”.

The Atlantic, coast Indians, the Cherokees in North Carolina, and some Indians on the northern lakes, and the, remnant of the Six Nations in New York and Pennsylvania have long since ceased to be troublesome. Removal west, whiskey, restraints of civilized life, smallpox and other diseases have helped to destroy the great mass of the North American Indians from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi river.

The Pacific coast fish eaters and root diggers are now peaceable, and are progressive and almost entirely self-supporting.

The Five Civilized Tribes (the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles in Indian Territory), once warlike and fierce, furnish no guide for comparison in the question of reservation Indian conditions. Because of being left to control themselves, intermarriage with whites and Negroes, and the adoption of others into the tribes, the pure Indians are few and the people are progressive. The Sioux, Kiowas, Comanches, Apaches, Navajos, and the Bannocks are on reservations and doing as well as the poor country they occupy will permit.

The other reservation Indian tribes, even if disposed to war, are so surrounded by white settlements that a war would be of short duration.



MLA Source Citation:

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 31 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/historic-review-of-the-indians-of-the-united-states.htm - Last updated on Oct 21st, 2012


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