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Discoidal Stones

Games of various character have attracted the Indian tribes from the earliest notices we have of them. Some of these games are of a domestic character, or such as are usually played in the wigwam or domicile. Of this kind are the game of hunting the moccasin, the game of the bowl, and sundry minor games known to the Algonquins, the Cherokees, and other tribes. But by far the greater number of games practiced by the North American Indians are of an athletic character, and are designed to nourish and promote activity of limb, and manual expertness in the field, or on the green. Such are their various ball plays, and wrestling and running matches, which whole tribes are assembled to witness and participate in. To run swiftly; to fend adroitly with the baton; to strike or catch; to lift great weights; to throw stones; to shoot darts; to dance with spirit; and, in short, to exhibit any extraordinary feat of agility, strength, or endurance in mimic strife, has ever been held to be among the principal objects of applause, especially in the young. It is, indeed, in these sports that the elements of war are learned; and it is hence that excellence in these feats is universally held up to admiration in the oral recitals of the deeds of their heroes and prodigies. Manabozho excelled in his superhuman and god-like feats, and killed the mammoth serpent and bear-king. Papukewis could turn pirouettes until he raised a whirlwind, and Kwäsind could twist off the stoutest rope. These things are related to stimulate the physical powers of the young; and...

Akeek or Ancient Cooking Pot

In a state of nature, boiling is performed sometimes by casting heated stones into bark vessels filled with water. One of our tribes, (the Assinoboins,) has been named, it is averred, from this custom. The Micmacs and Souriquois, and some other extreme northern tribes, boiled in this manner. The southern and southwest and midland tribes, from the earliest notices of them, possessed a species of kettle made from pottery, the art of making, which was carried northward up the Mississippi Valley and to the great lakes. The Atlantic and New England tribes, whose traditions point southwest, had also, at the earliest recorded dates, a species of pottery, shreds of which are found at the sites of the oldest villages. This article was extensively used among the Algonquin tribes, by whom it was called Akeek a word which appears to have been composed from Akee, earth, and the generic ik, denoting something hard or metal-like. It was made of common clay, or clay-earth, tempered with feldspar, quartz, or shells. Sometimes the common black earth of alluvial lands was used by tribes in the South and West, and when so, sands or pounded shells were taken as the tempering ingredient. There was, generally, a ready adaptation to this purpose of the aluminous or other materials of the country possessed by the tribes. Thus the Florida tribes, who possessed rich black soils at the margins of their rivers, and an abundance of shells, made their vessels of these materials; while those tribes living on the banks of the Potomac, Delaware, and other Atlantic rivers, extending quite to the Penobscot, employed the different strata...

Objects of Indian Art and Tools

There was found, on opening some of the minor mounds of the Ohio Valley, a species of tubes, carved out of steatite, which attracted attention. These tubes appeared to have been bored by some instrument possessing a degree of hardness superior to steatite. One end was entirely open; the other had a small aperture, as if it had been intended to facilitate suction, by a temporary rod and valve. Specimens of these are figured in Plate 32, Figs. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. The same district of country disclosed, by its tumuli, large masses of the silvery kind of mica, which may, from its small perforations, have been designed for ornamenting ancient costume. See Plate 30, Figs. 1, 2, 3. Other mounds of the same region contained a very thick and heavy species of pottery, which seemed, from its fragments, to have been employed for saline kettles, or some metallurgic operation. (See Plate 34, Figs. 2 and 3.) A singular species of amulet, apparently, was used by the Potomac tribes; see Plate 16, Fig. 6, which is drawn from a specimen in the National Institute. Hollow bones of birds were employed for a species of baldric by the ancient Indians. They were of various lengths, reaching to three inches, and were bound around the body by a cord passing through them. (SeePlate 33, Figures 3, 4, 5.) These articles were taken from the ossuaries at Beverly, in Canada. In the same location were deposited what appear to have been walking-canes, having the twist of a vine about them, and domestic utensils of wood; all of which are, however, now completely...

Copper Armbands and Wristbands

The antique specimens of this part of personal decoration, which are furnished by graves and tumuli, do not differ essentially in their mechanical execution, from similar productions among the remote tribes of this day. They are simple rings or bands of the metal, bent. There is no union of the bent ends by soldering. Oxidation has nearly destroyed them, in the mound specimens, which have come to our notice. In the specimens, (Plate 31,) exhumed from the western part of Virginia, at the Great Tumulus of Grave Creek Flats, a salt of copper, apparently a carbonate was formed upon the metal in such a manner as to protect it from further oxidation. The use of this metal appears to have been very general by the American tribes at, and prior to, the era of the discovery; and the occurrence of the ornaments in graves and tumuli may be generally set down to that era. The fur trade, which immediately succeeded the arrival of the first ships, soon replaced this rude ornament, by bands and bracelets of silver, or silvered copper and tin. The passion for silver, in all its manufactured forms, was early developed among the tribes. They regarded it as a nobler metal than gold. The name for gold, in all the languages known to us, is a modern descriptive phrase, signifying yellow metal. It would appear, that gold is not a product of the countries or islands from which the tribes...

Bone Shuttle

In making their mats or rude lodge-tapestry, and other coarse fabrics, the aborigines employed an instrument of bone, of a peculiar construction, which has the properties of a shuttle. It was designed to introduce the woof in preparing these fabrics, as they did, from rushes and other, flexible materials used for the purpose. The art was rude,” and of a kind “to fall into disuse, by the coast tribes, as soon as European manufactures were introduced. It is therefore, when found in opening graves, &c., a proof of the ante-European period. One of these antique implements, herewith figured, (Plate 28, Fig. 1) was disclosed about- 1835, in opening an old grave, in the course of some excavations which were undertaken within the enclosure of Fort Niagara, N. Y. This grave must have been older than the origin of that fortress the foundations of which were laid by La Salle among the Seneca Iroquois, in 1678. This instrument is constructed of finely polished bone. It is ten and a half inches in length, perfectly round, about one eighth of an inch in thickness, and has a double barbed head one and a quarter inches in length. Between the barbs, is a mouth or slit, which would enable it to carry the thread across and through the warp. The instrument is slightly, curved, probably owing to the difficulty of finding one of so fine a quality, perfectly...

Aishkun, or Bone Awl

Men’s and women’s clothes were before the discovery made of skins, or dressed leather. It was necessary to the formation of garments for the body and legs, and shoes for the feet, that some hard and sharp instrument should be employed, capable of readily penetrating the skin or leather. The method of the ancient species of sewing of our tribes resembled that of a modern cordwainer rather than of a seamstress or tailor. Leather, dressed or undressed, being the material to be put together, this was accomplished by making holes in the edges of the garment or skin, and pushing through these the ends of deer sinews, or other fibrous integument. For this purpose the small and compact end of a horn, which is called aishkun by the Algonquins, was taken. Sometimes a rib bone, and at others the tibia of animals, was used. These articles are still employed for this purpose, for coarse work, among the remote tribes. These awls were of various sizes, as shown in figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Plate 27. The metallic needle is one of the articles supplied to these tribes by civilization. Sewing and the seamstresscal art, is an incident of high...

Javelin, or Indian Shemagon or Spear

This antique implement was one of the most efficacious, in close encounters, before the introduction of iron weapons. A fine specimen of it was brought to me, at Michillimackinac, in (August) 1837, by a noted chief, called MUKONS E-WYON, or the Little Bear Skin, of the Manistee river of the northern peninsula. The following is a facsimile of it. (Plate 26, Figure 2.) The material is of a yellowish chert. It is seven inches long, and one and a half wide at the lower end, which is chipped thin to admit the splints by which it was fastened to the staff. The length of the pole or staff could only be conjectured, and was probably five feet. The chief said, on presenting it, that it was one of the old implements of his ancestors. Figures 1, 3, 4, Plate 26, are foe-similes of several fine specimens of spearheads, now in possession of the National Institute, Washington, D....

Balista or Demon’s Head

Algonquin tradition affirms, that in ancient times during the fierce wars which the Indians carried on, they constructed a very formidable instrument of attack, by sewing up a large round boulder in a new skin. To this a long handle was tied. When the skin dried, it became very tight around the stone; and after being painted with devices, assumed the appearance and character of a solid globe upon a pole. This formidable instrument, to which the name of balista may be applied, is figured (Plate 15, Fig 2) from the description of an Algonquin chief. It was borne by several warriors, who acted as balisteers. Plunged upon a boat, or canoe, it was capable of sinking it. Brought down among a group of men on a sudden, it produced consternation and...

Coin or its Equivalent to the Indian

The discovery of America caused a total revolution in the standard of value among the Indian tribes. Exchanges among them had been adjusted to a great extent, by articles in kind. Among the northern tribes, skins appear to have been a standard. A beaver skin long continued to be the plus, or multiple of value. But however general this standard might have been, it is certain that among the tribes seated along the north Atlantic, some varieties, or parts of species of sea-shells, under the names of peag, seawan, and wampum, became a sort of currency, and had the definite arithmetical value of coin. In New England a string of wampum consisted of a definite number of grains, the whole of which was worth five shillings. At Manhattan and Fort Orange, it appears from ancient documents on file in the State Department at Albany, as stated by Dr. O’Calligan, that about 1640, three beads of purple or blue wampum, and six of white wampum, were equivalent to a styver, or to one penny English. It required four hundred and fifty beads to make a strand, which was consequently valued at $ 1.50. At a subsequent period, four grains of sewan made a penny. Purple wampum was made from the Venus mercatorius, while the white was taken from the pillar of the periwinkle. In opening ancient graves in Western New York, this ancient coin has been found in the shape of shell-beads, some of which are half an inch in diameter. The same article has been disclosed by the tumuli, and graves of the West. It has also been taken...

Stone Bill, or Tomahawk

The pointed mace, found in the early North American graves and barrows, is uniformly of a semi-lunar form. It appears to have been the Cassetete or head-breaker, such as we can only ascribe to a very rude state of society. It was employed by warriors prior to the introduction of the agakwut and tomahawk. All the specimens examined have an orifice in the center of the curve for the insertion of a handle. Its object was to penetrate, by its sharp points, the skull of the adversary. This was not done by cutting, as with the agakwut or mace, but by perforating the cranium by its own gravity, and the superadded force of the warrior. In an attack, it must have been a powerful weapon. A specimen (Figure 1, Plate 11) obtained through the intervention of F. Follett, Esq., from a small mound on the banks of the Tonawanda, near Batavia, New York, is of the following dimensions. Length, eight inches: breadth, one and a half inches: thickness, about one and a quarter inches. The material is a neutral-colored siliceous slate, exquisitely worked and polished. Its weight is half a pound. Another specimen (Figure 2, Plate 11) from Oakland County, Michigan, has both the lunar points slightly broken off, yet it weighs six and a half ounces. It is of the same material, but striped. It is, in all respects, a stouter instrument. The use of this instrument, as well as the antique spear or shemagun, mark an era prior to the...
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