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Collection: Archives Of Aboriginal Knowledge

Mace or War Club

There is no instance, it is believed, among the North American Indians, in which the war-club employed by them is made of a straight piece, or has not a recurved head. Generally, this implement consists of a shaft of heavy wood, such as the rock maple, with a ball carved at one side of the head, much in the manner of the South Sea Islander, or Polynesian war-clubs. Such is the Pug-ga-ma-gun of the Algonquins. It differs from the Polynesian club, chiefly in its possessing a tabular shaft, and in its less elaborate style of carving. Clubs exhibited at the war dance or other ceremonial exhibitions, are always larger than those intended for practical use, and partake decidedly of a symbolical character. A practice has prevailed since the introduction of iron, of combining a lance with the same implement. It is then shaped somewhat in the form of the butt end of a gun or rifle, but having more angular lines. A lance of iron, of formidable dimensions, is inserted at the intersection of the most prominent angle. This fearful weapon, which appears to be the most prominent symbol of war, is very common among the prairie tribes. No warrior is properly equipped without one. It is often elaborately ornamented with war eagles feathers, and with paints and devices. Brass tacks are sometimes used in the lance-clubs as ornaments,...

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Indian Arrowheads

A great variety of these ancient instruments was fabricated, according to the species of hunting, the size and ferocity of the animals pursued, and the ages of the persons using them. Boys were always furnished with small arrow-points, such as were expected to be spent against squirrels, or the lesser quadrupeds and birds. This was the second lesson in learning the art of hunting; the first consisted in using the blunt arrow or Beekwuk, 1This specimen is preserved in the cabinet of curiosities of Miss Crooks, of Dundas; to whose politeness I owe the favor of being permitted to...

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Indian Axe

Various stone implements of the antique period of the hunter occupancy of America, have received the name of “Indian Axe.” With what justice this term was applied, in relation to the use made of the European axe of iron, it is proposed to inquire. The ancient Indians, prior to the era of the discovery of America, had indeed no use for an axe, in the sense in which we apply the term now a days. Fire was the great agent they employed in felling trees and reducing their trunks to proper lengths. There was no cutting of trees. No...

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Indian Pipes

The American Indian takes a great pride in his pipe. There is nothing too precious for him to make it from. His best efforts in ancient sculpture were devoted to it. And there is nothing in his manners and customs more emphatically characteristic, than his habits of smoking. Smoking the leaves of the nicotiana was an ancient custom with the Indian tribes. Tobacco, which is improperly supposed to be an Asiatic plant, appears first to have been brought to England from the North American coasts by the ships of Sir Walter Raleigh, about 1588. Powhatan and his sylvan court...

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Corn Pestle or Hand Bray Stone

The zea maize was cultivated by the Indian tribes of America throughout its whole extent. Cotton was raised by the Mexican and Peruvian tribes; but there is no instance on record in which the plant was cultivated by tribes living north of the Rio Grande del Norte. The Florida and Louisiana tribes raised a kind of melon, and per haps some minor vegetables; but the whole of the tribes situated in the Mississippi Valley, in Ohio, and the Lakes, reaching on both sides of the Alleghanies, quite to Massachusetts, and other parts of New England, cultivated Indian corn. It...

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Indian Gorgets or Medals

Whether this was in ancient times merely an ornament, which any one might wear, or a badge of authority, it might be fruitless now to inquire. It is probable that the modern practice of conferring metallic medals on chiefs only, and of marking thereby their authority, was founded on an ancient practice of this kind existing in the original tribes. The ancient gorget or medal of the North American tribes, was formed of the inner and shining parts of large sea-shells. The instance figured in Plate 19, Figs. 3 and 4, was taken from one of the old ossuaries of...

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Stone Block Prints

The Islanders of the Pacific Ocean fabricate a species of cloth, or habilimental tapestry, from the fibrous inner bark of certain trees. This bark is macerated, and extended into a comparatively thin surface by mallets of wood or stone. When the required degree of attenuation has been attained, the pieces are dyed, or colored with certain pigments, or vegetable concoctions, known to them. To impart regularity to the patterns, blocks or prints are applied. The coloring is wholly external; in no instance, of many specimens examined, does it extend through, or on both sides of the bark. A proof entirely conclusive that it has not been dipped, or immersed in a vat. It is not easy to determine whether a mordant has been used to set the dye or decoction. From several specimens from the Owyhee, or Sandwich Island group, herewith figured, in Plate 30, Figures 4, 5, and 6,) which have been deposited in our cabinet for upwards of twenty years, the coloring matter appears to be quite permanent. It has, at least, resisted the rays of light, with but little change, during that period; but it must be remarked that the specimens have been protected, a part of the time, in drawers. It will be observed that the yellows and blacks have endured best. A carmine-red has endured tolerably; a light brick red exhibits no change. From a...

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Rope Maker’s Reed

We can refer to no period of their traditions, when the Indian tribes were destitute of the art of making twine, and a small kind of rope. Although they had not the hemp plant, there were several species of shrubs spontaneously produced by the forest, from the inner bark of which they made these articles. They fabricated nets for fishing, which are referred to in their ancient oral tales. To tie sticks or bundles, is one of the oldest and simplest arts of mankind; and the verb to tie has, therefore, been selected by some philologists, as one of the primitives.12 It is, however, a compound, consisting of a tiling and an act, in all the Algonquin dialects known to us. The process of twine and rope making, from the barky fibre of certain plants, it appears, was one connected with some kind of machinery. From the species of stone reed that is found in some of their tumuli, whose object was, to hold the strands or plies apart, it is probable that a wooden instrument, having the properties of a rope-maker s hand-windlass, was employed to twist them together. Yet if this was not done, and we have no evidence that it was, the reed would afford some facilities for hand twisting. We have two remains of this instrument. The first was found in the upper vault of...

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Medaëka, or Amulets

Charms for preventing or curing disease, or for protection against necromancy, were the common resort of the Indians; and they are still worn among the remote and less enlightened tribes. These charms were of various kinds; they were generally from the animal or mineral kingdom, such as bone, horn, claws, shells, steatites, or other stone of the magnesian family. The Indian philosophy of medicine greatly favored this system of charms. A large part of their materia medica was subject to be applied through the instrumentality of amulets. They believed that the possession of certain articles about the person would...

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Funeral Food Vase

The idea of placing food in or near the grave, to serve the departed spirit on its journey to the fancied land of rest in another world, is connected with the ancient belief in a duality of souls. This idea is shown to exist among the present tribes of the United States. 1Proceedings of the New York Historical Society. One of these souls is liberated at death, but the other is compelled to abide with the body; and it is to provide for this, that a dish or vase of food is deposited generally at this day, not in...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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