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Ancient State of Indian Art

To denote the state of art among the aboriginal race, it is necessary closely to examine such monuments of it, as exist. The word “monument” is used to denote any remains of art. Such are their relics in the form of worked shells and amulets, pottery, carved implements and utensils of stone, and other antiquarian remains found in their mounds, graves, fortifications, and other places of ancient occupancy in our latitudes. Of architectural ruins in stone, which constitute so striking a portion of aboriginal antiquities, in central and South America, particularly in the ruins of their temples and teocalli, (the only form of such architecture indeed, which survives,) we have no remains north of the latitude of the mouth of the Mississippi, unless they shall be disclosed in some of the large mounds yet unopened, or in portions of the country north of such a line, which yet remains unexplored, west of the extreme sources of the Red river and the Rio Del Norte. From this inquiry, we may peremtorily exclude, all articles and remains of metal (not gold, silver or native copper) and all sculpture and inscriptions (not picture writing) which have been found and commented on, with an air of wonder, in various places, but which are one and all, undoubtedly of European, or to give the greatest scope to conjecture, of transatlantic origin. Such are, to begin with the highest object, the Grave creek inscription in apparently Celtiberic characters, the stone with a rude inscription in Roman letters and Arabic figures found in Onondaga county, and now deposited in the Albany Academy; the amulets of coarse...

Ancient Site of the Onondagas in the Valley of the Kasonda, or Butternut Creek of Jamesville

The fact that the ruins of a square fort, with extensive sub-lines in the nature of an enclosure, had existed on the elevated grounds on the right banks of this stream, a mile or two from Jamesville, at the period of its first settlement, led me to visit it. There was the more interest imparted to this well attested tradition of the present inhabitants, by the accounts of the Onondagas, that this valley, in its extent above and below Jamesville, was one of their earliest points of settlement, prior to the era of their establishing their council fire at Onondaga Hollow. The subjoined sketch, although not plotted from actual measurement, will convey an idea of the relative position and former importance of the principal features, geographical and artificial, denoted. A. Indicates the site of the fort, which, at the time of my visit, was covered with a luxuriant field of wheat, without a feature to denote that it had ever been held under any other jurisdiction but that of the plough. The farm which embraces it, is owned and occupied by Isaac Keeler, who remarks that, at the time he came to settle here, the site of the old fort was an extensive opening in the forest, bearing grass, with some clumps of wild plumb trees, and a few forest trees. On this opening, the first regiment of militia that ever paraded in Onondaga county, met. It was commanded by Major De Witt, after whom the township is now named. About the year 1810, he felled an oak, near the site of the fort, measuring two feet six inches...

Ancient Shipwreck of a vessel from the old world on the coast

Whilst the northern tribes lived under the ancient confederacy before named, on the banks of the St. Lawrence and its waters, and before they had yet known white men, it is affirmed that a foreign ship came on the northern coasts, but being driven by stress of weather, passed southward, and was wrecked in that quarter. Most of the crew perished, but a few of them, dressed in leather, reached the shore, and were saved with some of their implements. They were received by a people called the Falcons,1 who conducted them to a mountain, where, however, they remained but a short time, for their allies, the Falcons, disclosed an unfriendly and jealous spirit, and threatened them. In consequence they immediately selected another location, which they fortified. Here they lived many years, became numerous and extended their settlements, but in the end, they were destroyed by furious nations. This tradition is divested of some of the symbolic traits which it possesses in the original, and by which the narrators may be supposed to have concealed their own acts of hostility or cruelty, in the extirpation of the descendants of the Europeans thus cast on their shores. To this end, they represent in the original, the saving of the crew to have been done through the instrumentality of carnivorous birds, and attribute the final destruction of the colony to fierce animals. It is one of the well known facts of history that none of the vessels of Columbus, Cabot, Verrizani, Sir Walter Raleigh, or Hudson, were wrecked on the American coasts: and there is hence a bare presumption that some...

Ancient Fortification of Osco at Auburn, Cayuga County

The eminence called “Fort Hill”, at one time called Osco,1 in the southwestern skirts of the village of Auburn, has attracted notice from the earliest times. Its height is such as to render it a very commanding spot, and crowned, as it was, with a pentagessimal work, earthen ramparts and palisades of entire efficacy against Indian missiles, it must have been an impregnable stronghold during the periods of their early intestine wars. The following diagram, drawn by James H. Bostwick, surveyor, and obligingly furnished by S, A. Goodwin, Esq. exhibits its dimensions: The site of this work is the highest land in the vicinity, and a visit to it affords one of the best and most varied views of the valley of the Owasco, and the thriving and beautiful inland town of Auburn, with its public buildings, prison,2 and other noted public edifices. The ellipsis enclosed by the embankments, with their intervening spaces, has a circumference of 1200 feet. Its minor dimensions are as follows, namely: Viewed as a military work, the numerous breaks or openings in the wall, marked from A. to C., constitute rather its characteristic trait. They are of various and irregular widths, and it seems most difficult to decide why they are so numerous. If designed for egress or regress, they are destitute of the principle of security, unless they were defended by other works of destructible material, which have wholly disappeared. The widest opening [of 166 feet,] opens directly north, the next in point of width [78 feet,] directly south; but in order to give these or any of the other spaces the character...

Ancient Entrenchments on Fort Hill, near Le Roy, Genesee County

The following diagram of this work has been drawn from a pen-sketch, forwarded by the Rev. Mr. Dewey, of Rochester. The work occurs on an elevated point of land formed by the junction of a small stream, called Fordham’s Brook, with Allen’s Creek, a tributary of the Genesee River. Its position is about three miles north of the village of Le Roy, and some ten or twelve northeast of Batavia. The best view of the hill, as one of the natural features of the country, is obtained a short distance north of it, on the road from Bergen to Le Roy. To attain a proper conception of its susceptibilities and capacity, as the site of a work of defense, it is essential to conceive the country, for some distance, to have had the level of the extreme plain, forming the highest part of the fort. The geological column of this plain, after passing down through the unconsolidated strata, appears to be composed of various strata of coniferous limestone, Onondaga or hydraulic limestone, and perhaps Medina sandstone. Geological causes, originating, so far as we can immediately perceive, in the two streams named, have cut down this series of stratifications, on the north, east and west, unequally, to the depth of some eighty or nine ty feet, isolating the original plain, on three sides, by the vallies of Allan s creek and Fordham brook. Availing themselves of this heavy amount of natural excavation, the ancient occupants of it further strengthened its position, by casting up a wall and ditch along the brow of the two vallies, at the points of their...

A Sketch of the Iroquois Groups of Aboriginal Tribes

On the discovery of North America, the Iroquois tribes, were found seated chiefly in the wide and fertile territory of western and northern New York, reaching west to the sources of the Ohio;1 north, to the banks of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence; and east, to the site of Albany. They had as much nationality of character, then, as any of the populous tribes, who, in the 4th century wandered over central and western Europe. They were, in a high degree, warlike, handling the bow and arrow with the skill and dexterity of the ancient Thracians and Parthians. They were confederated in peace and war, and had begun to lay the foundations of a power, against which, the surrounding nations, in the Mississippi valley, and along the St. Lawrence, the Hudson, and the Delaware, could not stand. The French, when they effectually entered the St. Lawrence in 1608,2 courted their alliance on the north, and the Dutch did the same in 1609, on the Hudson. Virginia had been apprised of their power, at an early day, and the other English colonies, as they arrived, were soon made acquainted with the existence of this native confederacy in the north. By putting fire-arms into their hands, they doubled the aboriginal power, and became themselves, far more than a century, dependent on their caprice or friendship. The word Iroquois, as we are told by Charlevoix, who is a competent and reliable witness on this point, is founded on an exclamation, or response, made by the sachems and warriors, on the delivery to them, of an address. This response, as heard among...

American Antiquities

Class First. Nabikoáguna.1 Objects of this kind were worn as marks of honor or rank. So far as known, they were constructed from the most solid and massy parts of the larger seashells. Few instances of their having been made from other materials, are known, in our latitudes. The ruins and tombs of Central and South America have not been explored, so far as is known, with this view. Nor have any insignia of this character been found of stone. Nabikoáguna Antique. Fig. I., Plate I. This article is generally found in the form of an exact circle, rarely, a little ovate. It has been ground down and re-polished, apparently, from the sea conch. Its diameter varies from three-fourths of an inch to two inches. Thickness, two-tenths in the center, thinning out a little towards the edges. It is doubly perforated. It is figured on the face and its re verse, with two parallel latitudinal, and two longitudinal lines crossing in its center, and dividing the area into four equal parts. Its circumference is marked with an inner circle, corresponding in width to the cardinal parallels. Each division of the circle thus quartered, has five circles with a central dot. The latitudinal and longitudinal bands or fillets, have each four similar circles and dots, and one in its center, making thirty-seven. The number of these circles varies, however, on various specimens. In the one figured, they are fifty-two. The partial decomposition of the surface renders exactitude in this particular sometimes impossible. This article was first detected, many years ago, in a medal, one and a half inches diameter, found...

Census of the Iroquois in 1844

New York, October 31st, 1845. SIR: In conformity with your instructions of the 25th June last, I proceeded to the several Iroquois reservations therein named, and I have the honor herewith to transmit to you the census returns for each reservation, numbered from I to VIII, and distinguished by the popular name of each tribe, or canton. I. The question of the original generic name, by which these tribes were denoted, the relation they bear to the other aboriginal stocks of America, and the probable era of their arrival, and location within the present boundaries of this State, is one, which was naturally suggested by the statistical inquiries entrusted to me. Difficult and uncertain as any thing brought forward on these subjects must necessarily be, it was yet desirable, in giving a view of the present and former condition of the people that the matter should be glanced at. For, although nothing very satisfactory might be stated, it was still conceived to be well to give some answer to the intelligent inquirer, to the end, that it might, at least, be perceived the subject had not escaped notice. A tropical climate, ample means of subsistence, and their consequence, a concentrated and fixed population, raised the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, and some other leading nations on the continent, to a state of ease and semi-civilization, which have commanded the surprise and admiration of historians. But it may be said, in truth, that, in their fine physical type, and in their energy of character, and love of independence, no people, among the aboriginal race, have ever exceeded, if any has ever...

Notes on the Iroquois

Notes on the Iroquois is an official report to the government on the possibilities of civilizing the Iroquois. In the face of facts which depress all others, Schoolcraft is full of high hope that these Indians may be once and for all leaving hunting and farming. He finds the Iroquois increasing in numbers, stabilizing the organization of their society, and improving as individuals.

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