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The types of the human skulls taken from those ancient mounds said to have been erected by a prehistoric race, and now called “Mound Builders” a race claimed to be far superior to our Indians are characteristic, not only of the ancient Mexicans, Peruvians and other ancient tribes of South America, but also of the ancient Natchez, Muskogee’s, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, Yamases and others of the North American continent. And it is a conceded fact that all Indians ever found in North and South America possess many common features. I have seen the native Indians of Mexico, Arizona and California, and recognized them at once to be of the North American Indian race. I have seen them singly and in groups; given special attention to their features, the expression of their eyes, their walk and manner of sitting, their manner of carrying their babes and heavy burdens, and found them all to be exactly the same as the southern Indians over seventy years ago.
The Indians of North America, as well as those of South America, when first known to the whites down to the years they were banished to the then wilderness west of the Mississippi river, lived everywhere in villages and towns upon the sites of which stand today many of our towns and cities: Natchez, Mobile, New York and others. Carter, in 1535, visited an Indian village named Ho-che-la-ga; De Soto, 1540, and all the early explorers, La Salle and others down to Lewis and Clark, in 1804; thence to the missionaries, in 1815; and thence to their banishment west of the Mississippi river, found the Indians everywhere living in towns and villages, proving the long reiterated assertion that they were nomadic, to be without even the shadow of truth upon which to lay a foundation. They had fixed habitations even as the whites, which move from place to place ten times as often as the Indian.
All their ancient villages and towns were fortified. Charlevoix, in his “Travels in North America, says: “The Indian villages in Canada were surrounded with double, and sometimes triple, rows of palisades, interwoven with branches of trees. The Pequod villages, destroyed by the English, in 1631, were surrounded by palisades.
Champlain, who, in 1615, invaded, with the Huron’s as allies, the territory of the Iroquois, found their villages strongly fortified. Biedman says: “We journeyed two days, and reached an Indian village in a plain, surrounded by” walls and a ditch filled by water, which had been made by the Indians.” Brackenridge, in his “Views of Louisiana,” says: “The custom of palisading appears to have been general among the Northern Tribes.”
“Mavilla” (now Mobile, Alabama,) says Biedman, “stood on a plane surrounded by strong walls.” The early explorers found it the same in Mexico, Central and South America. Yet, regardless of all the indisputable proofs to the contrary, the works of the Indians have been ascribed to another, and entirely different race of people called “Mound Builders, “though their imagined works are exactly similar to those known to be the work of the Indians, a common design pervading the whole everywhere with the same stone implements, axes, flint pointed arrowheads etc., also the same kind of personal ornaments, silver, tin, copper, etc., all proving that they are, and can be no other, than the works of our Indians ancestors, if testimony is .any longer valid. Well and truth fully has Brackenridge said in his “Views of Louisiana” (p. 182), “We are often tempted by a fondness for the marvelous to seek out remote and impossible causes for that which may be explained by the most obvious.” Not only tempted, but yield to the temptation with wonderful alacrity. The mounds are evidently the work of the Indians and their ancestors back through ages past; and, with equal truth it may be said, they also lived in permanent stockaded towns and villages, many of which much larger than many of our towns and villages that imagine themselves to be what they are not and never will be, by assuming the cognomen of city; equally as absurd and ridiculous as the Don Quixote idea of creating an imaginative, prehistoric race of people, and call them “The Mound Builders”; since the fact is, the more the subject is studied the more does truth point to the Indians and their ancestors as the true Mound Builders, whose mounds once so beautifully dotted various portions of this continent; though now defaced and destroyed by the leveling influence of ages, together with the destructive characteristics of the White Race; yet leaving the imagination of these modern knights of Lamanca a wide field in which to indulge their sentimental propensities.
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In Morgan’s “Ancient Society,” page 12, he says: “The Ojibway Indians were peculiarly skilled in making stone pipes, of which many showed elaborate skill in the carving.”
The Indians were also skilled in the art of pottery, as is fully proven by the numerous examples of their work seen by the early explorers. Du Pratz spoke particularly of the skill of the Natchez Indians in the art of pottery, Catlin also of the same thing among the Mandan Indians,, He says: “I have seen specimens of pottery, which have been dug- up in Indian mounds and tombs in the Southern and Middle States, placed in our Eastern museums, and looked upon as a great wonder, when here this novelty is at once done away with, and the whole mystery, where women can be seen handling and using them by hundreds, and they can be seen every day in the summer, also, molding into many fanciful forms and passing them through the kilns, where they are hardened. Others, after careful examination of the contents and remains of the mounds excavated in different and various states, claimed to be the work of a prehistoric race wholly different from our Indian Race, whom they named “The Mound Builders,” have found them to be, in all respects, exactly like those found in the mounds, known to have been built by the Indians, and also in and around old Indian villages. The Southern Indians had spades and shovels made of cedar, picks, axes and hoes of stone, and spoons of horn; together with the mortar and pestle, with which they prepared their corn for bread, and the Choctaws and Chickasaws use them to this day.
It has been reiterated time and again that the Indians had no traditions concerning the origin and design of the mounds, and for this reason it had been asserted that the mounds are the work of an extinct race of such antiquity as to precede the ancient traditions of the Indians. But in this, as in the majority that has been written about that people, zeal without knowledge” is more manifest than truth. The traditions of the Indians, until within the past ten years, have always and everywhere, been pronounced as myths, absurdities unworthy of credence, though in every instance where they have been put to the test by discovery, they have invariably been confirmed by truth. Besides the Indians everywhere were utterly silent before the whites in regard to the manners, customs and traditions of their tribes, and would only converse upon these subjects with those whites in whom they had the most implicit confidence, such as the missionaries and other intimate white friends who had won their love and confidence; and the great wonder is that so much of their traditional history has been handed down to us. And it may be truthfully asserted that, through the old missionaries of seventy-five and a hundred years ago, the only true history, national and traditional, of the North American Indians, has been preserved and handed down to the present day; for they alone, of the white race, from first to last, seemed to be the Indians true friend, and proved it to the Indians entire satisfaction by their deeds and daily walk among them, many of them for over a half century, while all others seemed to delight only in killing-, plundering and defaming them; therefore, though they possessed many traditions in regard to the memorial mounds, effigy mounds and others, they have been silent, ever silent, upon the subject; and thus have we forever closed the doors of knowledge against ourselves in regard to the history of that past, and which we now would gladly read; but “too late” only those from those scenes of that mysterious unknown.
As late as when Lewis and Clark, in 1804, explored Oregon, they saw the Western Indians throw up embankments around their towns, and saw a newly erected mound six feet high and twelve feet in diameter at the base, which the Maho Indians had erected over the body of a chief.
De Soto, also the explorers who followed him two centuries afterwards, discovered towns strongly fortified with breast-works of timber, around which were cut large ditches. And it is not impossible that the very kind of implements used in erecting the mounds by the ancient Indians were the same used in cutting those old entrenchments. And the most reasonable conclusion that can be arrived at is that these ancient relics of the prehistoric past, scattered here and there over the different States of the South and West, are the work of the ancient Indians, and the probabilities are so evident that I am naturally and reasonably confident; yet, if driven back upon positive proof, I frankly acknowledge that I am not able to support it, even as he of opposite opinion is also unable to support his theory by positive proof.
The mounds those silent memorials of North American antiquity now mutilated, desecrated, misinterpreted, have lost all meaning. Once, those signs and symbols in heaped up earth might have been read, had the champions of liberty and the equality of the entire human race, only extended their professed noble characteristics to the descendants of the builders of those memorials, so instinct with the characteristics of a people over whom they had just begun to extend their power. Then they were tangible symbols and signs expressing truths known only to Indians, in which they would have instructed the white race had it proved itself their friend and protector, instead of their foe and destroyer. Therefore they were ever reserved towards the whites in general, and never revealed their most sacred signs and symbols of the present or past concerning their race to any white man, except to those who, by long acquaintance, had completely won their confidence; and it may be truthfully affirmed that, few ever reached that high place in the Indians heart except the faithful and loving missionaries; they, and they only, ever penetrated beneath the surface into the inner life and secrets of the North American Indians.
But they, being more intent upon the moral and intellectual improvement of the living Indians, gave little care concerning the dead. And those sentimental writers of the present day who claim the Mound Builders to be a race of people far antecedent to the Red, from the fact that the Indians gave a negative reply to all interrogatories made to them concerning the mounds, therefore were utterly ignorant in all things concerning them, are but the willing dupes of the Indians who keep, as much as possible, from the Whites all things relating to their past. I speak from 75 years experience. In 1884 I was in the Choctaw Nation and, upon being introduced to an aged Choctaw, born in his native domains, east of the Mississippi river. I commenced interrogating him in his own language when, after replying to a few questions, he suddenly fixed his keen, black eyes upon me and said: “For what purpose do you ask me such questions? The Choctaw friend who had introduced me to the old veteran came to my relief most fortunately by telling him who I was; that I was the true friend of all Indians and could be trusted. The old man again turned his eyes upon me, but with a confiding smile which I fully comprehended, and I found no trouble in obtaining a cheerful reply to any and all my questions.