The Mental Type of the Indian Race

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Archives Of Aboriginal Knowledge - Plate3
Offering pieces of flesh and viands, at meals and feasts, to their O-git-te-zeem-e-wug, or ancestors.

1. Do the traits we have been contemplating tend to establish for the Indian mind and character a type of race which may be deemed as peculiar? It may further the end in view, to examine this question by the light of their religious and psychological notions and dogmas; their mythology, and their conceptions of a Deity. They have also, in the Toltecan group, a calendar and system of astronomy, and a style of architecture, which are eminently calculated to arrest attention. More than all, the tribes over the whole continent possess a class of languages, which, by their principles of grammatical construction, though running through great changes, vindicate claims to philosophical study.

2. Are their traits, opinions, and idiosyncrasies, indigenous or American; or are they peculiar to the Indian mind as developed on this continent; and not derivative from other lands? If so, in what do their original conceptions of art or science, religion or opinion, consist?

Not in the adoration, or worship of the Sun, certainly!

That idolatrous practice had its origin in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Chaldea; whence it spread, east and west, nearly the world over. The worship of the Sun and Moon is mentioned by Job, and was the prevalent idolatry of the land of Uz. It is also seen that this form of idolatry was charged among the sins of the Jews, in the days of Ezekiel, as having been introduced secretly in the temple worship at Jerusalem.[1]

Oblations and public thanksgivings were decreed at Rome to the Sun, which was installed among the multiform gods of that empire.[2]

Fire was deemed by the followers of Zoroaster as a symbol of the Deity. That philosopher admitted no other visible object of worship. It was alone the supreme emblem of divine intelligence.[3]

Nothing is more notorious than the former prevalence of this worship among the Peruvian and Mexican tribes; where, however, it was mixed with the practice of human sacrifices, and the grossest rites. The Aztecs made offerings to the Sun upon the highest teocalli, and sung hymns to it. Sacred fire was supplied alone by the priesthood, and it was the foundation of their power.[4]

North of the Gulf of Mexico, the doctrine prevailed with more of its original oriental simplicity, and free from the horrid rites which had marked it in the valley of Anahuac, and among the spurs of the Andes.

The tribes of the present area of the United States would admit of no temples, but made their sacred fires in the recesses of the forest. They sung hymns to the Sun as the symbol of the Great Spirit.[5] Such is their present practice in the forests. They were guilty, it is true, at all periods of their history, of shocking cruelties to prisoners taken in war, but they never offered them as sacrifices to the Deity.

3. They never use common fire for uncommon purposes.[6] Sacred fire is extracted on ceremonial occasions by percussion; most commonly with the flint.[7] Opwáguns, or pipes, with the incense of tobacco, are thus lighted whenever their affairs, or the business in hand, is national, or relates to their secret societies. This object, so lighted, is first offered by genuflections to the four cardinal points, and the zenith. It is then handed by the master of ceremonies to the chiefs and public functionaries present, who are each expected to draw a few whiffs ceremonially. Sir Alexander Mackenzie has well described this ceremony at page 97 of his Voyages.

In this primitive practice of having no temples for their worship, extracting their sacred fire for ceremonial occasions by percussion, and keeping their worship up to its simple standard of a sort of transcendentalism, as taught by the oriental nations, to whom we have referred, the Indian tribes of the United States indicate their claims to a greater antiquity than those of the southern part of the continent. They appear to have been pushed from their first positions by tribes of grosser rites and manners.

“The disciples of Zoroaster,” says Herodotus, “reject the use of temples, of altars, and of statues; and smile at the folly of those nations who imagine that the gods are sprung from, or bear any affinity with the human nature. The tops of the highest mountains are the places chosen for their sacrifices. Hymns and prayers are the principal worship. The Supreme God, who fills the wide arch of heaven, is the object to which they are addressed.”[8]

4. Take another of their dogmas, and try whether it has the character of an original or derivative belief. “We allude to the two principles of Good and Evil, for which the Iroquois have the names of Inigorio, the Good mind, and Inigohahetgea, or the Evil mind. [9] This is one of the earliest oriental beliefs. It was one of the leading dogmas of Zoroaster. Goodness, according to this philosopher, is absorbed in light;

Evil is buried in darkness. Ormusd is the principle of benevolence, true wisdom, and happiness to men. Ahriman is the author of malevolence and discord. By his malice he has long pierced the egg of Ormusd; in other words, has violated the harmony of the works of creation.[10]

Gibbon informs us that the doctrines of Zoroaster had been so greatly corrupted that Artaxerxes ordered a great council of the magi to revise them, by whom it was settled on the basis of the two great and fundamental principles denoted.[11]

The North American tribes of our latitudes appear to have felt that the existence of evil in the world was incompatible with that universal benevolence and goodness which they ascribe to the Merciful Great Spirit. Iroquois theology meets this question: they account for it by supposing, at the creation, the birth of two antagonistical Powers of miraculous energy, but subordinate to the Great Spirit, one of whom is perpetually employed to restore the discords and mal-adaptations, in the visible creation, of the other.[12]

The earliest notice we have of this doctrine, among the United States tribes, is in the journal of a voyage to North America in 1721 by P. de Charlevoix, (Vol. 2, page 143,) in which he mentions the theology of the Iroquois, the descent of Atahentsic, and the birth of the antagonistical infants. It is more fully stated by Cusic, in 1825, and by Oriwahento, in 1837, as above referred to.

5. The idea of the allegory of the egg of Ormusd has been disclosed, in the progress of western settlements, by the discovery of an earthwork situated on the summit of a hill in Adams County, Ohio.[13] This hill is one hundred and fifty feet above the surface of Brush Creek. It represents the coil of a serpent seven hundred feet long; but, it is thought, would reach, if deprived of its curves, one thousand feet. The jaws of the serpent are represented as widely distended, as if in the act of swallowing. In the interstice is an oval, or egg-shaped mound. The oriental notion, thus depicted, is too peculiar to render it probable that it originated here.

6. Thus far, the beliefs of the more northerly of our tribes appear to be of a Chaldee-Persic character.[14] It is no proof that nations have been necessarily connected in their history because they coincide in the rites of sun worship. Other traits must also coincide. But, to those who object to the idea of the worship of the sun and moon as a natural species of idolatry for barbarous nations to select, between whom, however, no previous connexion or intercourse necessarily existed, it is replied, that this idea did not propagate itself west, with the idolatrous Scythians, at least, beyond Rome, where Sylla established the rite of an eternal Fire; nor did it re-appear among the

Celts, Cimbri, Teutons, Iberians, Selavoniaus, and other tribes who filled all Europe, to its extent in Scandinavia and the British isles. Nor do we find that the doctrine of the Two Principles of Good and Evil, so extensively believed by the nations of Central Asia, were spread at all in that direction. The Celtic priests had no such notions, nor do we hear of them among the worshipers of Odin: they both had an entirely different mythology. It is remarkable that there was no sun worship in the area of Western Europe. The propagation of the doctrines of the Magi appears to have been among the tribes east and south of the original seats of their power and influence. Egypt had them as early as the Exodus; and it has been seen that the idolatrous tribes of Chaldea were addicted to the worship of the sun and moon.[15]

7. It has been found that the Indians of the United States believe in the duality of the soul. This ancient doctrine is plainly announced as existing among the Algonquins, in connection with, and as a reason for, the custom of the deposit of food with the dead, and of leaving an opening in the grave covering, which is a very general custom.[16] All our tribes make such deposits of viands.

8. They also believe in the general doctrine of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. Pythagoras is supposed to have got his first notions on the subject, from the Egyptian priests, and the recluse Brahmins. But wherever he imbibed the notion, he transmitted it as far as his name had influence.[17] The notions of the northern tribes on this subject are shown incidentally in the oral tales which I first began to collect among the Algonquins and Dacotas in 1822, and which are embodied in Algic Researches.[18] The soul of man is seen, in these curious legends, to be thought immortal and undying, the vital spark passing from one object to another. This object of the new life in general is not man, but some species of the animated creation; or even, it may be, for a time, animate object. The circumstances, which determine this change, do not appear. “Nor can it be affirmed, that the doctrine is parallel, in all respects, to the theory of the Samian philosopher. It would seem that the superior will of the individual, as a spiritually possessed person, himself determined the form of his future life.

9. Great attention is paid by the North American Indians to the flight of birds, whose motions in the upper regions of the atmosphere are considered ominous. Those of the carnivorous species are deemed indicative of events in war, and they are the symbols employed in their war-songs, and extemporaneous chants. The gathering of these species, to fatten upon dead bodies left upon the field of battle, is the image strongly thrown forward, in their chants, and these warlike Pe-na-si-wug are deemed to be ever prescient of the times and places of conflict, which are denoted by their flight. As the carnivora are familiar with the upper currents of the atmosphere, where their gods of the air dwell, their association, in the Indian mind, with these deities of battle, as messengers to carry intelligence, is a general belief. But no trace of omens, derived from the examination, after death, of entrails of any kind, as denoting futurity, a custom so prevalent among the ancients, has ever been found, or is believed to exist.

10. Minute observation is also bestowed by them upon the meteorology of the clouds. Their size, their color, their motions, their relative position to the sun and to the horizon, form the subject of a branch of knowledge, which is in the hands of their medas and prophets. Important events are often decided by predictions founded on such observations. The imagery of this exalted view of the celestial atmosphere, with its starry back-ground, and its warfare of thunder, lightning, electricity, aurora borealis, and storms, is very much employed in their personal names. This imagery is capable of being graphically seized on, by their transpositive languages, and is highly poetic. The habit of such observation, has evidently been nurtured by living for ages, as the race has, in the open air, and without houses to obscure every possible variety of atmospheric juxtaposition and display.

11. We might continue this discussion of opinions and beliefs which appear to lie hidden in the mythology of the Indian mind, or are only brought out in an incidental manner, and which appear not to have had an indigenous origin; but we should do great injustice to the Indian character, not to mention by far the most prominent of their beliefs, so far as they govern his daily practices. We allude to the doctrine of Manitoes, or what may be denominated Manitology. And here appears to be the strongest ground for originality of conception. All the tribes have some equivalent to this; We use the Algonquin word, because that is best known. The word Manito, when not used with a prefix or accent, does not mean the Deity, or Great Spirit. It is confined to a spiritual, or mysterious power. The doctrine that a man may possess such a power is well established in the belief of all the tribes. All their priests and prophets assert the possession of it, but the possession is not believed, by even the blindest zealot or impostor, to be supreme, or equal to that of the Great Merciful Spirit, or diurgic deity. A man may fast to obtain this power. The initial fast at the age of puberty, which every Indian undergoes, is for light to be individually advertised and become aware of this personal Manito. When revealed in dreams, his purpose is accomplished, and he adopts that revelation, which is generally some bird or animal, as his personal or guardian Manito. He trusts in it in war and peace; and there is no exigency in life, in or from which he believes it cannot help or extricate him. The misfortune is, for his peace and welfare of mind, that these Manitoes are not of equal and harmonious power. One is constantly supposed to be “stronger,” or to have greater spiritual powers than another. Hence, the Indian is never sure that his neighbor is not under the guardianship of a Manito stronger than his own.

This is not half the worst of the doctrine. There are malignant, as well as benevolent Manitoes. Here the Two Principles of Good and Evil, which we have discussed as of oriental origin, develop themselves. The evil Manito is constantly exercising his power to counteract or overreach the good. And thus the Indian, who believes in a passive Great Spirit, or Gezha Manito, with no other attributes but goodness and ubiquity, is left in a perpetual and horrible state of fear. His Great Spirit is believed to rule the earth and the sky, and to be the WA-ZHA-WAUD, or maker of the world; but he leaves these two antagonistical classes of Manitoes to war with each other, and to counteract each other’s designs, to fill the world with turmoil, and, in fact, to govern the moral destinies of mankind.

We thus have the doctrine of Ormusd and Ariman, of the oriental world, reproduced in another form, but one not less fraught with elements to disturb the harmony of creation, to pierce the egg of Ormusd, and to render the life of the simple believer in this dogma an unending scene of discord, dismay, and tumult.

12. There is no attempt by the hunter, priesthood, jugglers, or powwows, which can be gathered from their oral traditions, to impute to the great Merciful Spirit the attribute of justice, or to make man accountable to Him, here or hereafter, for aberrations from virtue, good will, truth, or any form of moral right. With benevolence and pity as prime attributes, the Great Transcendental Spirit of the Indian does not take upon himself a righteous administration of the world’s affairs, but, on the contrary, leaves it to be filled, and its affairs, in reality, governed, by demons and fiends in human form. Here is the Indian theology. Every one will see how sub-tile it is; how well calculated to lead the uninformed hunter mind captive, and make it ever fearful; and how striking a coincidence its leading dogma of the two opposing principles of Good and Evil affords, with the oriental doctrines to which we have referred.

13. It is difficult to introduce comparisons between the barbarous tribes of America, and the existing civilized races of Asia. The latter, east of the Indus, at least, and bordering on the Indian Ocean, are called non-progressive races; but they possess a type of civilization, founded on agriculture, arts, and letters, which is very ancient. They have practiced the science of numbers and astronomy from the earliest times. Most, or all of them, have alphabets. The cuneiform character was in use in the days of Darius Hystaspes.[19] Many of the arts are supposed to have had their origin there. The use of iron among them is without date. Their systems of religious philosophy were committed to writing, if not put in print, before America was discovered. The Chinese knew the art of printing, before it was discovered in Europe. They were acquainted with the powers of the magnet, and the mariner’s compass.[20] Naval architecture has belonged to the Chinese and Japanese, time out of mind.[21] The Hindostanees built temples in India of enormous magnitude and exact proportions, long, it is believed, before the use of Egyptian or Grecian architecture. The sword, the spear, the bow and arrow, and the shield and banner, came into their hands from the earliest days of the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Persian monarchies.[22]

14. From Professor Wilson’s Lectures on the Hindus, the religious system and practices of these nations are based upon a confused notion of God, but have degenerated into the most monstrous and sublime absurdities. Their systems are, one and all, ideal, contemplative, full of mysticism, and extravagantly transcendental. They have not, like the Greeks, so much deified men and made gods of heroes, as they have shown a proneness to deify events, powers, and attributes. The creation, the preservation, and the regeneration, or reproductive powers of man, are worshiped symbolically in different phases, as the First Cause. Brahma is creation, Vishnu preservation, and Siva reproduction, among the Hindus.[23] Setting out with an idea of Monotheism, they have in this way multiplied their objects of adoration, till they are the most sub-tile and extravagant polytheists on the globe. Thirty thousand gods have the Hindus alone. All the elements are deified, and their worship has become proverbial for the gross character of its idolatry.

15. Many have supposed that the oriental arts and knowledge were transferred to this continent at early epochs, and have beheld evidence of this in the ruins of temples, teocalli, and other structures and vestiges of ancient art, scattered over the country. We shall know more of this, when we come to find and decipher inscriptions. As yet, very little is known, scientifically, of American ruins and monuments of antiquity. We have done very little beyond the popular description of certain remains of ancient architecture. The first accounts of Del Rio of the ruins of Palenque, electrified the antiquarian world.

Views and descriptions of the buildings and temples of a former race in Central America and Yucatan, served to confirm this. Generally, very high-toned theories were in vogue, in speaking of the ancient period of American civilization. The descriptions of Stephens, and the artistic views of Catherwood, have done much to render the existence of these ruins in Central America and Yucatan an element of popular knowledge. In our own country, Mr. Norman has added to this diffusion. In Europe, the spread of this knowledge has been in the hands of men of research. Denmark has stepped forward, to separate the era of the Scandinavian, from the other ruins and vestiges of ancient occupancy.[24]

16. In the United States, there has been much speculation upon our mounds and earth works, from the era of Mr. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, in 1778, to the present day. Generally, the remarks, with much, but various degrees of merit, have wanted elementariness, and not unfrequently seem open to the criticism of high theories upon very slender materials. There has been some attempt, it would seem, by ancient

hands in the south, to imitate the gigantic piles of the Euphrates and the Nile. The type of the teocalli and terraced pyramid cannot be successfully sought, short of these localities. But our ruins are wholly without the oriental inscriptive arts of these early structures of mankind. M. Jomard has, indeed, identified Lybian characters in one of the tumuli of the Ohio valley.[25] The knowledge of the inhabitants of Persia, of India, and of China, is very ancient. We are not authorized to conclude that the ignorant only migrate.

17. Races of men carry with them two generic traits, namely, arts and ideas. The latter are the most ancient, for a man must have the conception of a thing before he can construct the thing itself. Opinions, therefore, of God, of worship, of astronomy, in fine, the pre-thoughts or principles of every art and science, should be sought as the earliest evidences of the connections and affinities of races. Thought and words are older than works. This truth gives to philology, as a proof of antiquity, its best claim. Races, who thought in a particular manner, or whose thoughts succeeded each other in a certain fixed train, spoke grammatically alike. I see a horse, or A horse I see, are phrases that indicate two classes of syntax.

18. The opinion that there is a God, that matter was created by him, and continues to exist by his will, is a basis for the Hindu theology, however corrupted.[26] That this power and harmony of the creation is kept up, is continually opposed to another power, and is in danger of being destroyed by it, appears to have been one of the earliest philosophical and religious errors.[27] Man, as the chief possessor of creation, is subject to this disturbing power. Heat, air, water, earth, light, and darkness, affect him. Hence his offerings to them, under various names, in heathen theology and mythology, and the origin of elemental worship. We have given Zoroaster as the earliest author who is known as sustaining this theory under the symbols of fire and the sun. The Brahmins early taught it, worshiping as a primary dogma, as we have stated, the creation, the continuance, and the propagation of the race as different hypotheses of God: they also enthroned the elements as objects of worship.

19. The Hindus regard the eternity of life as the great evil. Its indestructibility by death is the grand object from which they seek to be delivered. There is no rest for the soul: it wanders; it suffers various transmigrations from one object to another; and is the great burthen to be dropped. Pythagoras, as stated and believed by the Greeks, is known to have taken this notion from the Brahmins. It is clear, from the writings of the Sanscrit professor at Oxford, that they anciently taught, and now practice it, as one of the prime elements of their theology. They teach, also, a succession of creations or worlds.

20. We have said that it is difficult to compare the notions of our Indians with those of the existing orientals: the one is a barbarous race mere hunters, without knowledge, arts, or letters; the other civilized, and possessing them. Something may, however, be inferred, from the theory announced, of the antiquity of thought and ideas.

21. It has been seen, in the course of our discussion, that the Indians of America worship, with more truth and purity than has been found this side of the Indus, the Tigris and Euphrates, the being of a universal God, or Manito, who is called, in the North, the Great, Good, or Merciful Spirit. To his power they oppose an antagonistical Great, Evil-minded Spirit, who is constantly seeking to destroy and overturn all good and benevolent measures. This evil power, or Matchi Manito, is represented or symbolized often by the Serpent; hence gifts and addresses are made to him by their Medas and Jossakeeds. They also offer oblations to him directly, as inhabiting the solid earth. They pour out drinks to him. Thus the ancient oriental notion of a dualistical deity is revealed.

22. It has also been seen that they are worshipers of the elements, of fire, and the sun; and that hymns and offerings are made to the latter. It has been shown that their oral traditions contain abundant evidence of the idea of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of the soul through a wandering series of existences, human and brutal. These are certainly not American, but foreign and oriental ideas, and denote an oriental origin.

23. If it be now inquired, Are the North American Indians, then, off-shoots of an oriental Indian stock, among whom these ideas once prevailed? it is asked, What stock? The Hindu religious practices and opinions of modern days, if we seek for comparison there, are very different from those prescribed by the Vidas, the most ancient authority. Changes have been introduced by the Puranas and other sacred books of comparatively modern date, so that there are some of their ancient gods which are utterly unknown to modern worshipers.

24. The idea of caste is perfectly unknown to the North American Indian. He does not entertain, but repudiates the very thought of it. To him all races are ” born equal.” The burning of widows at the funereal pile; the casting of bodies into any stream, like the Ganges, whose waters are believed to be sacred; these are ideas and practice’s equally unknown. The incineration of the bodies of the dead was not practiced on this continent, even in the tropics, and is a rite unknown to the tribes of the United States. It is said to be practiced in New Caledonia.[28]

25. The periodical offering of cakes, libations, flesh, or viands at the grave, to ancestors, or the Patras of the human race, which is stated to be a custom of the Hindus, is, however, seen to be an idea incorporated in the practice of the American, or at least the Algonic Indians. These Indians, believing in the duality of the soul, and that the soul sensorial abides for a time with the body in the grave, requiring food for its ghostly existence and journeyings, deposit meats and other aliment, at and after the time of interment. This custom is universal, and was one of their earliest observed traits.[29] De Bry mentions a feast to fire, in 1588.

26. Another custom, near akin to it, prevails. They offer pieces of flesh and viands, at meals and feasts, to their O-git-te-zeem-e-wug, or ancestors. (See Plate 3.) This duty seems to be obligatory on every Indian in good standing with his tribe, who has been, so to say, piously instructed by the Medas or his parents; and the consequence is, he fears to neglect it. Every feast, in fact, every meal at which there is some particularly savory or extra dish, brings prominently up this duty of a gift to the spirit of forefathers, or of those relatives in old times, or newly deceased, who have preceded them to the grave. The first idea that a grave, or burial-ground, or ad-je-da-tig,[30] suggests to him, is the duty he owes as an honest man, expecting good luck in life, to his relatives, or O-git-te-zeem-e-wug.

When an Indian falls into the fire, or is partially burned, it is a belief that the spirits of their ancestors have pushed him into the flames, owing to the neglect of these pious offerings. Sometimes it is a wife or child that is believed to be thus pushed. In passing a grave-yard or burial-place where the remains of his ancestors repose, the Indian is strongly reminded of this pious duty; and if he has any thing from which a meat or drink-offering can be made, his feelings make a strong appeal to him to perform it.

An Algonquin, on a certain occasion, was passing at dusk through an extensive Indian burial-ground, where his O-git-te-zeem-e-wug lay. Believing that the dual soul abides with the body, his fancy pictured to him two of the ” Patras ” sitting between the graves. He had a kettle of whiskey in his hands. He felt that he could not part with this precious drink, by pouring out even a small libation. He grasped it the firmer, and hurried on, but cast back a furtive glance. One of the spirits was on his track. He hurried on, but his ghostly pursuer gained on him. He determined at once on his course; and letting the phantom come up close to him, he wheeled round on a sudden, and grasped him. He looked, and, lo! He held in his arms, not his pursuer or ghostly patra, but a tall bunch of rushes. The spirit had vanished, and transformed himself to a plant in an instant. Such are the notions of the Algonquins, and, so far as known, the North American Indians generally.

27. It is a species of idolatry laid to the charge of the Israelites, that while they were in the wilderness, they “ate the sacrifices of the dead.” (Psalms cvi. 28.) There is hardly a form of eastern idolatry herein alluded to, into which the Israelites had not, at one time or another, fallen; but the most common, wide-spread, and oft-recurring rite, was that of burning incense on high places to imaginary beings, or devils, under the delusive idea of their being gods; the very trait which is so striking in all our Indian tribes.

28. If Hindostan can be regarded in truth as having contributed to our Indian stocks at all, it must have been at a very ancient epoch, before the Vidas were written; for it is asserted that the present customs of the Hindoos are corruptions of an elder system, and are in many things new, or traceable to those books.[31]

29. The probability of a Shemitic origin for at least the northern stocks, revives with the investigation of the principles of their languages. It is sought to place this study on a broader basis, by the accumulation of vocabularies and grammars from all the leading stocks. It is already perceived that the elder philologists employed fragmentary materials; that some of their generalizations were too hasty; and that there are no amalgamations of diverse principles of syntax, but, on the contrary, a remarkable oneness; that they are, in fact, rather una-trsyntheiic than poly-synthetic; not “agglutinated,” but accretive.

30. It was early thought that the manners and customs of the tribes savored much of the Mongolic or Samoidean type. The tribes of the East Indies, who were in the mind’s eye of the early discoverers, embrace much of that generic type, both in their physical and moral character. Columbus himself thought so.

On the discovery of the race, as represented by the Caribs of the West Indies, in 1492, Columbus was so struck with the general resemblance of their physiological traits to those of the East Indians or Hindustanese, that he at once called them Indianos. All subsequent observers in that area have concurred generally with him in this respect. The red skin, the hazel and glazed eye, and coal-black hair, have continued to our day to be characteristics, even where the breadth of the cheek bones, modified by artificial craniological pressure, and the varying stature, and effects of mere latitude and subsistence, fail.

31. Such has also been the observation in North America. Ninety-two years after the discovery, that is, in 1584, when the first ships sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, under his commission from Queen Elizabeth, reached the Virginia coasts, they landed among a generic family of the red men, differing in language wholly from the Caribs, but whose physical type was nevertheless essentially the same. The stock family found in Virginia has since become very well known to us, under the generic cognomen of Algonquins. Wherever examined, between the original landings at OCCOQUCW and ROANOKE, and the south capes of the St. Lawrence, they have revealed the same general physiology. They have reproduced themselves, in every age of our history, without change. The black, straight hair, the black, glassy eye, the coffin-shaped face, produced by prominent cheek-bones, and the peculiar varietetic red color, and fine, soft, inodorous organization of the epidermis and skin, has been recognized as expressively Indian. Fulness or lankness of muscle, height or shortness of stature, and weakness or vigor of vitality, may be considered as the effects of peculiarities of food and climate. But the traits that preside over and give character to the muscular mass, show themselves as clearly in the well-fed Osage and Dacotah, and the stately Algonquin, as in the fish and rabbit-fed Gens de Terre (Muskigo) on the confines of Canada, or the root-eating Shoshonee of the Rocky Mountains.

32. There must be something permanent in the physical type of the man, which has produced itself, with such amazing constancy, through all our latitudes, torrid, tropical, temperate, and frigid. And the facts go nigh to prove that this type is more prominent and important, as indicative of faithfulness to organic laws of lineament, and minute corpuscular organization, than is generally supposed.[32] At least, the result of three and a half centuries does not, where the blood is unmixed, much favor the idea of a progressive physical development.

33. Nor is there much to favor the idea of the organization of a new mental germ. The same indestructibility of type, the same non-progressiveness of the Indian oriental mind, is perceived in the race in every part of this continent. A new course of thought led Copernicus and Galileo to infer that the earth turned daily on its axis before the sun. It led Harvey to conclude that the blood circulates by an organic propulsion from the human heart. It led Jenner to believe that one species of virus may destroy the liability to take disease from a more violent natural effect of another and kindred species. There appears to be little or nothing of this kind of thought in the Indian mind of either continent. It appears to have no intellectual propulsion, no analytic tendencies. It reproduces the same ideas in 1850 as in 1492. But if it has this want of originality, this want of a disposition to re-examine the truth of its former opinions or dogmas, is the assimilation to Asiatic arts and sciences strongly apparent?

34. The ancient Persians had a calendar, consisting of twelve moons of thirty days each, giving them a year of three hundred and sixty days. They had a cycle of one hundred and twenty years, and allowed the fragmentary hours of each year to be heaped up before them, till the close of this cycle, when they added the accumulated days, to square their chronology. They believed, like the Hebrews and other oriental nations, that the sun passed every day around the earth.

According to Sir Stamford Raffles, Hindostan and Java had a market-day every fifth day. The Chinese had a cycle of sixty years. Doctor Morrison states, that the mode of the latter, in recording their chronology, consisted of two set of hieroglyphics, comprising what they denominate stems and branches. Their cycle was divided into sub-periods of ten stems, and each stem into twelve branches. The hieroglyphic denoting the stem being always different in the cycle, and that of the branches being the same for each relative day, their astronomers had the means of an exact chronology. They had a week of five days; every fifth day being, like the Hindu system, market-day. Each day had a name, and each name a hieroglyphic, representing that object.

35. Something of this kind was found, in the thought-work of the calendar of the Aztecs of Mexico. They had however a cycle of fifty-two years, founded manifestly in original ignorance of the true length of the year, and a wrong division of the months. They had four days, called respectively, Tochtli, Acatl, Techpatl, and Calli, or, a bird, a reed, a flint, and a house. The fifth day was a market-day. These names they repeated to thirteen. Thirteen days constituted a month, or trecena, as the Spaniards called it. A year consisted of twenty months, or two hundred and sixty days. All this was clearly the result of a superstitious astrology and wild mythology, in the hands of the priests and political leaders, who were the exclusive repositories of knowledge, and were leagued to acquire power over the people. It was early seen by them, by observing the planetary motions, that their astronomy was wrong. To correct it, and make it tally with the periods of the sun’s recessions, they added one hundred and five days to their year, making it, as we now see, correspond to the lunar year of the East.

Each cycle was divided into four sub-periods of thirteen years, called Tlalpilli. To record time, each day had a dot, or date, before its symbol, indicating its number in the Tlalpilli, and a dot or date behind it, denoting the year of the cycle. By this simple contrivance, although the names of the days were often repeated, it was arithmetically impossible that the number of the Tlalpilli and of the cycle should coincide. The arrangements are denoted on the following table.

TLALPILLI

1. 2. 3. 4. CYCLE 52
1 Tochtli 1 1 Acatl 14 1 Techpatl 27 1 Calli 40
2 Acatl 2 2 Techpatl 15 2 Calli 28 2 Tochtli 41
3 Techpatl 3 3 Calli 16 3 Tochtli 29 3 Acatl 42
4 Calli 4 4 Tochtli 17 4 Acatl 30 4 Techpatl 43
5 Tochtli 5 5 Acatl 18 5 Techpatl 31 5 Calli 44
6 Acatl 6 6 Techpatl 19 6 Calli 32 6 Tochtli 45
7 Techpatl 7 7 Calli 20 7 Tochtli 33 7 Acatl 46
8 Calli 8 8 Tochtli 21 8 Acatl 34 8 Techpatl 47
9 Tochtli 9 9 Acatl 22 9 Techpatl 35 9 Calli 48
10 Acati 10 10 Techpatl 23 10 Calli 36 10 Tochtli 49
11 Techpatl 11 11 Calli 24 11 Tochtli 37 11 Acatl 50
12 Calli 12 12 Tochtli 25 12 Acatl 38 12 Techpatl 51
13 Tochtli 13 13 Acatl 26 13 Techpatl 39 13 Calli 52
Map of Boturini - Plate 1
Map of Boturini – Plate 1
Map of Boturini - Plate 2
Map of Boturini – Plate 2

By this system, which is accurately observed in the map of Boturini, which we have inserted in a condensed form, (Plates 1 and 2) it was easy to determine the time they employed in their migration down the Pacific coast, and into the interior. But their year was still inexact, which was noticed by observations of the priests; and in 1519, at the tune the Spaniards arrived, they had corrected it to within two hours and thirty-nine minutes of the exact solar year. This was their greatest triumph. It appears evident, however, that their system of astronomy is of indigenous growth, and that, taking a few ideas of what had affected the memories of their ancestors, in the eastern hemisphere, as the market-day, and the double hieroglyphic system, it had been the accumulated result of patient observation, in the clear skies of Mexico.

In a series of experiments devoted to the hair, made with this instrument, by Mr. Peter A. Browne, of Philadelphia, this gentleman has demonstrated three primary species of the hair and hairy tissue, or wool, of the human head, as shown by the researches respecting the Anglo-Saxon, Indian, and Negro races. These experiments, which appear to have been conducted with scientific and philosophical care, denote the structure and organization of each of these species to be peculiar. They are denominated, in the order above stated, cylindrical or round, oval, and eccentrically elliptical, or flat. The Indian hair employed in these experiments was the Choctaw. Inquiries are now on foot by this gentleman, if we err not, in connection with the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, to pursue these results.

[[29]]Hackluyt’s Collection.[[279]]

Footnotes

   (↵ returns to text)

  1. Ezekiel viii. 16.
  2. Tacitus, Vol. III., p. 242.
  3. Gowan’s Ancient Fragments, p. 135.
  4. Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico.
  5. See specimens among the pictographic writings in the sequel.
  6. Mackenzie.
  7. The Irqquois used an apparatus for giving velocity to a turning upright stick, on a basis of wood, called Da-ya-yä-dä-ga-ne-at-hä. (See the Third Report of the Regents of the New York University, on the State Collection of Natural History, Antiquities, &c. Paper by Lewis H. Morgan, Esq., p. 88.)
  8. Herodotus.
  9. Oneota, p. 208. Vide Cusic’s Ancient History of the Six Nations; also the Wyandot tradition of Oriwahento
  10. Abstract of the theology of Zoroaster.
  11. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  12. Iroquois Cosmogony, Part VI.
  13. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge.
  14. Notes to Ontwa on Eternal Fire.
  15. Job.
  16. Oneöta.
  17. Lemprière.
  18. Part I. Indian Tales and Legends, 1839. Harpers, New York.
  19. Rawlinson.
  20. Voltaire’s Essay on History.
  21. Duhalde’s China.
  22. Rollin’s Universal History.
  23. H. H. Wilson’s Two Lectures before the University of Oxford, on the Hindus. London, 1841.
  24. Antiquitatcs Americana.
  25. Un Pierre Grève, &c.
  26. Wilson.
  27. Zoroaster.
  28. Harmon’s Travels.
  29. Grave-post.
  30. Wilson.
  31. The great improvements in the microscope, which have been made within late years, have had the tendency to show the permanency of the physical type of man, by revealing the minute organization of animal tissue, bones, nails, flesh, hair, pores of the skin, &c.


MLA Source Citation:

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Archives of aboriginal knowledge. Containing all the original paper laid before Congress respecting the history, antiquities, language, ethnology, pictography, rites, superstitions, and mythology, of the Indian tribes of the United States. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1860. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-mental-type-of-the-indian-race.htm - Last updated on Apr 2nd, 2013


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