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The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America By Ellsworth Huntington Characters: 72392

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

When the white man first explored America, the parts of the continent that had made most progress were by no means those that are most advanced today. * None of the inhabitants, to be sure, had risen above barbarism. Yet certain nations or tribes had advanced much higher than others. There was a great contrast, for example, between the well-organized barbarians of Peru and the almost completely unorganized Athapascan savages near Hudson Bay.

* In the present chapter most of the facts as to the Indians

north of Mexico are taken from the admirable "Handbook of American

Indians North of Mexico," edited by F. W. Hodge, Smithsonian

Institution, Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin 30, Washington, 1907, two

volumes. In summing up the character and achievements of the Indians

I have drawn also on other sources, but have everywhere taken pains

to make no statements which are not abundantly supported by this

authoritative publication. In some cases I have not hesitated to

paraphrase considerable portions of its articles.

In the northern continent aboriginal America reached its highest development in three typical environments. The first of these regions centered in the valley of Mexico where dwelt the Aztecs, but it extended as far north as the Pueblos in Arizona and New Mexico. The special feature of the environment was the relatively dry, warm climate with the chief rainfall in summer. The Indians living in this environment were notable for their comparatively high social organization and for religious ceremonials whose elaborateness has rarely been surpassed. On the whole, the people of this summer rain or Mexican type were not warlike and offered little resistance to European conquest. Some tribes, to be sure, fought fiercely at first, but yielded within a few years; the rest submitted to the lordly Spaniards almost without a murmur. Their civilization, if such we may call it, had long ago seen its best days. The period of energy and progress had passed, and a time of inertia and decay had set in. A century after the Spaniards had overcome the aborigines of Mexico, other Europeans-French, English, and Dutch-came into contact with a sturdier type of red man, best represented by the Iroquois or Five Nations of central New York. This more active type dwelt in a physical environment notable for two features-the abundance of cyclonic storms bringing rain or snow at all seasons and the deciduous forest which thickly covered the whole region. Unlike the Mexican, the civilization of the Iroquois was young, vigorous, and growing. It had not learned to express itself in durable architectural forms like those of Mexico, nor could it rival the older type in social and religious organization. In political organization, however, the Five Nations had surpassed the other aboriginal peoples of North America. When the white man became acquainted with the Iroquois in the seventeenth century, he found five of their tribes organized into a remarkable confederation whose avowed object was to abolish war among themselves and to secure to all the members the peaceful exercise of their rights and privileges. So well was the confederation organized that, in spite of war with its enemies, it persisted for at least two hundred years. One of the chief characteristics of the Iroquois was their tremendous energy. They were so energetic that they pursued their enemies with an implacable relentlessness similar to the restless eagerness with which the people of the region from New York to Chicago now pursue their business enterprises. This led the Iroquois to torture their prisoners with the utmost ingenuity and cruelty. Not only did the savages burn and mutilate their captives, but they sometimes added the last refinement of torture by compelling the suffering wretches to eat pieces of flesh cut from their own bodies. Energy may lead to high civilization, but it may also lead to excesses of evil. The third prominent aboriginal type was that of the fishermen of the coast of British Columbia, especially the Haidas of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The most important features of their environment were the submerged coast with its easy navigation, the mild oceanic climate, and the dense pine forests. The Haidas, like the Iroquois, appear to have been a people who were still advancing. Such as it was, their greatness was apparently the product of their own ingenuity and not, like that of the Mexicans, an inheritance from a greater past. The Haidas lacked the relentless energy of the Iroquois and shared the comparatively gentle character which prevailed among all the Indians along the Pacific Coast. They were by no means weaklings, however. Commercially, for instance, they seem to have been more advanced than any North American tribe except those in the Mexican area. In architecture they stood equally high. We are prone to think of the Mexicans as the best architects among the aborigines, but when the white man came even the Aztecs were merely imitating the work of their predecessors. The Haidas, on the contrary, were showing real originality. They had no stone with which to build, for their country is so densely forested that stone is rarely visible. They were remarkably skillful, however, in hewing great beams from the forest. With these they constructed houses whose carved totem poles and graceful facades gave promise of an architecture of great beauty. Taking into account the difficulties presented by a material which was not durable and by tools which were nothing but bits of stone, we must regard their totem poles and mural decorations as real contributions to primitive architecture.

In addition to these three highest types of the red man there were many others. Each, as we shall see, owed its peculiarities largely to the physical surroundings in which it lived. Of course different tribes possessed different degrees of innate ability, but the chief differences in their habits and mode of life arose from the topography, the climate, the plants, and the animals which formed the geographical setting of their homes.

In previous chapters we have gained some idea of the topography of the New World and of the climate in its relation to plants and animals. We have also seen that climate has much to do with human energy. We have not, however, gained a sufficiently clear idea of the distribution of climatic energy. A map of the world showing how energy would be distributed if it depended entirely upon climate clarifies the subject. The dark shading of the map indicates those regions where energy is highest. It is based upon measurements of the strength of scores of individuals, upon the scholastic records of hundreds of college students, upon the piecework of thousands of factory operatives, and upon millions of deaths and births in a score of different countries. It takes account of three chief climatic conditions-temperature, humidity, and variability. It also takes account of mental as well as physical ability. Underneath it is a map of the distribution of civilization on the basis of the opinion of fifty authorities in fifteen different countries. The similarity of the two maps is so striking that there can be little question that today the distribution of civilization agrees closely with the distribution of climatic energy. When Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Rome were at the height of their power this agreement was presumably the same, for the storm belt which now gives variability and hence energy to the thickly shaded regions in our two maps then apparently lay farther south. It is generally considered that no race has been more closely dependent upon physical environment than were the Indians. Why, then, did the energizing effect of climate apparently have less effect upon them than upon the other great races? Why were not the most advanced Indian tribes found in the same places where white civilization is today most advanced? Climatic changes might in part account for the difference, but, although such changes apparently took place on a large scale in earlier times, there is no evidence of anything except minor fluctuations since the days of the first white settlements. Racial inheritance likewise may account for some of the differences among the various tribes, but it was probably not the chief factor. That factor was apparently the condition of agriculture among people who had neither iron tools nor beasts of burden. Civilization has never made much progress except when there has been a permanent cultivation of the ground. It has been said that "the history of agriculture is the history of man in his most primitive and most permanent aspect." If we examine the achievements and manner of life of the Indians in relation to the effect of climate upon agriculture and human energy, as well as in relation to the more obvious features of topography and vegetation, we shall understand why the people of aboriginal America in one part of the continent differed so greatly from those in another part. In the far north the state of the inhabitants today is scarcely different from what it was in the days of Columbus. Then, as now, the Eskimos had practically no political or social organization beyond the family or the little group of relatives who lived in a single camp. They had no permanent villages, but moved from place to place according to the season in search of fish, game, and birds. They lived this simple life not because they lacked ability but because of their surroundings. Their kayaks or canoes are marvels of ingenuity. With no materials except bones, driftwood, and skins they made boats which fulfilled their purpose with extraordinary perfection. Seated in the small, round hole which is the only opening in the deck of his canoe, the Eskimo hunter ties his skin jacket tightly outside the circular gunwale and is thus shut into a practically water-tight compartment. Though the waves dash over him, scarcely a drop enters the craft as he skims along with his double paddle among cakes of floating ice. So, too, the snowhouse with its anterooms and curved entrance passage is as clever an adaptation to the needs of wanderers in a land of ice and snow as is the skyscraper to the needs of a busy commercial people crowded into great cities. The fact that the oilburning, soapstone lamps of the Eskimo were the only means of producing artificial light in aboriginal America, except by ordinary fires, is another tribute to the ingenuity of these northerners. So, too, is the fire-drill by which they alone devised a means of increasing the speed with which one stick could be twirled against another to produce fire. In view of these clever inventions it seems safe to say that the Eskimo has remained a nomadic savage not because he lacks inventive skill but partly because the climate deadens his energies and still more because it forbids him to practice agriculture.

Southward and inland from the coastal homes of the Eskimo lies the great region of the northern pine forests. It extends from the interior of Alaska southeastward in such a way as to include most of the Canadian Rockies, the northern plains from Great Bear Lake almost to Lake Winnipeg, and most of the great Laurentian shield around Hudson Bay and in the peninsula of Labrador. Except among the inhabitants of the narrow Pacific slope and those of the shores of Labrador and the St. Lawrence Valley, a single type of barbarism prevailed among the Indians of all the vast pine forest area. Only in a small section of the wheat-raising plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan have their habits greatly changed because of the arrival of the white man. Now as always the Indians in these northern regions are held back by the long, benumbing winters. They cannot practice agriculture, for no crops will grow. They cannot depend to any great extent upon natural vegetation, for aside from blueberries, a few lichens, and one or two other equally insignificant products, the forests furnish no food except animals. These lowly people seem to have been so occupied with the severe struggle with the elements that they could not even advance out of savagery into barbarism. They were homeless nomads whose movements were determined largely by the food supply.

Among the Athapascans who occupied all the western part of the northern pine forests, clothing was made of deerskins with the hair left on. The lodges were likewise of deer or caribou skins, although farther south these were sometimes replaced by bark. The food of these tribes consisted of caribou, deer, moose, and musk-ox together with smaller animals such as the beaver and hare. They also ate various kinds of birds and the fish found in the numerous lakes and rivers. They killed deer by driving them into an angle formed by two converging rows of stakes, where they were shot by hunters lying in wait. Among the Kawchodinne tribe near Great Bear Lake hares were the chief source of both food and clothing. When an unusually severe winter or some other disaster diminished the supply, the Indians believed that the animals had mounted to the sky by means of the trees and would return by the same way. In 1841 owing to scarcity of hares many of this tribe died of starvation, and numerous acts of cannibalism are said to have occurred. Small wonder that civilization was low and that infanticide, especially of female children, was common. Among such people women were naturally treated with a minimum of respect. Since they were not skilled as hunters, there was relatively little which they could contribute toward the sustenance of the family. Hence they were held in low esteem, for among most primitive people woman is valued largely in proportion to her economic contribution. Her low position is illustrated by the peculiar funeral custom of the Takulli, an Athapascan tribe on the Upper Frazer River. A widow was obliged to remain upon the funeral pyre of her husband till the flames reached her own body. When the fire had died down she collected the ashes of her dead and placed them in a basket, which she was obliged to carry with her during three years of servitude in the family of her husband. At the end of that time a feast was held, when she was released from thraldom and permitted to remarry if she desired.

Poor and degraded as the people of the northern forests may have been, they had their good traits. The Kutchins of the Yukon and Lower Mackenzie regions, though they killed their female children, were exceedingly hospitable and kept guests for months. Each head of a family took his turn in feasting the whole band. On such occasions etiquette required the host to fast until the guests had departed. At such feasts an interesting wrestling game was played. First the smallest boys began to wrestle. The victors wrestled with those next in strength and so on until finally the strongest and freshest man in the band remained the final victor. Then the girls and women went through the same progressive contest. It is hard to determine whether the people of the northern pine forest were more or less competent than their Eskimo neighbors. It perhaps makes little difference, for it is doubtful whether even a race with brilliant natural endowments could rise far in the scale of civilization under conditions so highly adverse.

The Eskimos of the northern coasts and the people of the pine forests were not the only aborigines whose development was greatly retarded because they could not practice agriculture. All the people of the Pacific coast from Alaska to Lower California were in similar circumstances. Nevertheless those living along the northern part of this coast rose to a much higher level than did those of California. This has sometimes been supposed to show that geographical environment has little influence upon civilization, but in reality it proves exactly the opposite.

The coast of British Columbia was one of the three chief centers of aboriginal America. As The Encyclopaedia Britannica * puts it: "The Haida people constituted with little doubt the finest race and that most advanced in the arts of the entire west coast of North America." They and their almost equally advanced Tlingit and Tsimshian neighbors on the mainland displayed much mechanical skill, especially in canoe-building, woodcarving, and the working of stone and copper, as well as in making blankets and baskets. To this day they earn a considerable amount of money by selling their carved objects of wood and slate to traders and tourists. Their canoes were hollowed out of logs of cedar and were often very large. Houses which were sometimes 40 by 100 feet were built of huge cedar beams and planks, which were first worked with stone and were then put together at great feasts. These correspond to the "raising bees" at which the neighbors gathered to erect the frames of houses in early New England. Each Haida house ordinarily had a single carved totem pole in the middle of the gable end which faced toward the beach. Often the end posts in front were also carved and the whole house was painted. Another evidence of the fairly advanced state of the Haidas was their active commercial intercourse with regions hundreds of miles away. At their "potlatches," as the raising bees were called by the whites, trading went on vigorously. Carved copper plates were among the articles which they esteemed of highest value. Standing in the tribe depended on the possession of property rather than on ability in war, in which respect the Haidas were more like the people of today than were any of the other Indian tribes.

* 11th Edition, vol. XXII, p. 730.

Slavery was common among the Haidas. Even as late as 1861, 7800 Tlingits held 828 slaves. Slavery may not be a good institution in itself, but it indicates that people are well-to-do, that they dwell in permanent abodes, and that they have a well-established social order. Among the more backward Iroquois, captives rarely became genuine slaves, for the social and economic organization was not sufficiently developed to admit of this. The few captives who were retained after a fight were adopted into the tribe of the captors or else were allowed to live with them and shift for themselves-a practice very different from that of the Haidas.

Another feature of the Haidas' life which showed comparative progress was the social distinctions which existed among them. One of the ways in which individuals maintained their social position was by giving away quantities of goods of all kinds at the potlatches which they organized. A man sometimes went so far as to strip himself of nearly every possession except his house. In return for this, however, he obtained what seemed to him an abundant reward in the respect with which his fellow-tribesmen afterward regarded him. At subsequent potlatches he received in his turn a measure of their goods in proportion to his own gifts, so that he was sometimes richer than before. These potlatches were social as well as industrial functions, and dancing and singing were interspersed with the feasting. One of the amusements was a musical contest in which singers from one tribe or band would contend with one another as to which could remember the greatest number of songs or accurately repeat a new song after hearing it for the first time. At the potlatches the children of chiefs were initiated into secret societies. They had their noses, ears, and lips pierced for ornaments, and some of them were tattooed. This great respect for social position which the Haidas manifested is doubtless far from ideal, but it at least indicates that a part of the tribe was sufficiently advanced to accumulate property and to pass it on to its descendants-a custom that is almost impossible among tribes which move from place to place. The question suggests itself why these coast barbarians were so much in advance of their neighbors a few hundred miles away in the pine woods of the mountains. The climate was probably one reason for this superiority. Instead of being in a region like the center of the pine forests of British Columbia where human energy is sapped by six or eight months of winter, the Haidas enjoyed conditions like those of Scotland. Although snow fell occasionally, severe cold was unknown. Nor was there great heat in summer. The Haidas dwelt where both bodily strength and mental activity were stimulated. In addition to this advantage of a favorable climate these Indians had a large and steady supply of food close at hand. Most of their sustenance was obtained from the sea and from the rivers, in which the runs of salmon furnished abundant provisions, which rarely failed. In Hecate Strait, between the Queen Charlotte Islands and the mainland, there were wonderfully productive halibut fisheries, from which a supply of fish was dried and packed away for the winter, so that there was always a store of provisions on hand. The forests in their turn furnished berries and seeds, as well as bears, mountain goats, and other game.

Moreover the people of the northwest coast had the advantage of not being forced to move from place to place in order to follow the fish. They lived on a drowned shore where bays, straits, and sounds are extraordinarily numerous. The great waves of the Pacific are shut out by the islands so that the waterways are almost always safe for canoes. Instead of moving their dwellings in order to follow the food supply, as the Eskimo and the people of the pine forest were forced to do, the Haidas and their neighbors were able without difficulty to bring their food home. At all seasons the canoes made it easy to transport large supplies of fish from places even a hundred miles away. Having settled dwellings, the Haidas could accumulate property and acquire that feeling of permanence which is one of the most important conditions for the development of civilization. Doubtless the Haidas were intellectually superior to many other tribes, but even if they had not been greatly superior, their surroundings would probably have made them stand relatively high in the scale of civilization. Southward from the Haidas, around Puget Sound and in Washington and Oregon, there was a gradual decline in civilization. The Chinook Indians of the lower Columbia, beyond the limits of the great northern archipelago, had large communal houses occupied by three or four families of twenty or more individuals. Their villages were thus fairly permanent, although there was much moving about in summer owing to the nature of the food supply, which consisted chiefly of salmon, with roots and berries indigenous to the region. The people were noted as traders not only among themselves but with surrounding tribes. They were extremely skillful in handling their canoes, which were well made, hollowed out of single logs, and often of great size. In disposition they are described as treacherous and deceitful, especially when their cupidity was aroused. Slaves were common and were usually obtained by barter from surrounding tribes, though occasionally by successful raids. These Indians of Oregon by no means rivaled the Haidas, for their food supply was less certain and they did not have the advantage of easy water communication, which did so much to raise the Haidas to a high level of development.

Of the tribes farther south an observer says: "In general rudeness of culture the California Indians are scarcely above the Eskimo, and whereas the lack of development of the Eskimo on many sides of their nature is reasonably attributable in part to their difficult and limiting environment, the Indians of California inhabit a country naturally as favorable, it would seem, as it might be. If the degree of civilization attained by a people depends in any large measure on their habitat, as does not seem likely, it might be concluded from the case of the California Indians that natural advantages were an impediment rather than an incentive to progress." In some of the tribes, such as the Hupa, for example, there existed no organization and no formalities in the government of the village. Formal councils were unknown, although the chief might and often did ask advice of his men in a collected body. In general the social structure of the California Indians was so simple and loose that it is hardly correct to speak of their tribes. Whatever solidarity there was among these people was due in part to family ties and in part to the fact that they lived in the same village and spoke the same dialect. Between different groups of these Indians, the common bond was similarity of language as well as frequency and cordiality of intercourse. In so primitive a condition of society there was neither necessity nor opportunity for differences of rank. The influence of chiefs was small and no distinct classes of slaves were known. Extreme poverty was the chief cause of the low social and political organization of these Indians. The Maidus in the Sacramento Valley were so poor that, in addition to consuming every possible vegetable product, they not only devoured all birds except the buzzard, but ate badgers, skunks, wildcats, and mountain lions, and even consumed salmon bones and deer vertebrae. They gathered grasshoppers and locusts by digging large shallow pits in a meadow or flat. Then, setting fire to the grass on all sides, they drove the insects into the pit. Their wings being burned off by the flames, the grasshoppers were helpless and were thus collected by the bushel. Again of the Moquelumne, one of the largest tribes in central California, it is said that their houses were simply frameworks of poles and brush which in winter were covered with earth. In summer they erected cone-shaped lodges of poles among the mountains. In favorable years they gathered large quantities of acorns, which formed their principal food, and stored them for winter use in granaries raised above the ground. Often, however, the crop was poor, and the Indians were left on the verge of starvation.

Finally in the far south, in the peninsula of Lower California, the tribes were "probably the lowest in culture of any Indians in North America, for their inhospitable environment which made them wanderers, was unfavorable to the foundation of government even of the rude and unstable kind found elsewhere." The Yuman tribes of the mountains east of Santiago wore sandals of maguey fiber and descended from their own territory among the mountains "to eat calabash and other fruits" that grew beside the Colorado River. They were described as "very dirty on account of the much mescal they eat." Others speak of them as "very filthy in their habits. To overcome vermin they coat their heads with mud with which they also paint their bodies. On a hot day it is by no means unusual to see them wallowing in the mud like pigs." They were "exceedingly poor, having no animals except foxes of which they had a few skins. The dress of the women in summer was a shirt and a bark skirt. The men appear to have been practically unclothed during this season. The practice of selling children seems to have been common. Their sustenance was fish, fruits, vegetables, and seeds of grass, and many of the tribes were said to have been dreadfully scorbutic." A little to the east of these degraded savages the much more advanced Mohave tribe had its home on the lower Colorado River. The contrast between these neighboring tribes throws much light on the reason for the low estate of the California Indians. "No better example of the power of environment to better man's condition can be found than that shown as the lower Colorado is reached. Here are tribes of the same family (as those of Lower California) remarkable not only for their fine physical development, but living in settled villages with well-defined tribal lines, practising a rude, but effective, agriculture, and well advanced in many primitive Indian arts. The usual Indian staples were raised except tobacco, these tribes preferring a wild tobacco of their region to the cultivated." *

* Hodge, "Handbook of American Indians."

This quotation is highly significant. With it should be compared the fact that there is no evidence that corn or anything else was cultivated in California west of the Rio Colorado Valley. California is a region famous throughout America for its agriculture, but its crops are European in origin. Even in the case of fruits, such as the grape, which have American counterparts, the varieties actually cultivated were brought from Europe. Wheat and barley, the chief foodstuffs for which California and similar subtropical regions are noted, were unknown in the New World before the coming of the white man. In pre-Columbian America corn was the only cultivated cereal. The other great staples of early American agriculture were beans and pumpkins. All three are preeminently summer crops and need much water in July and August. In California there is no rain at this season. Though the fall rains, which begin to be abundant in October and November, do not aid these summer crops, they favor wheat and barley. The winter rains and the comparatively warm winter weather permit these grains to grow slowly but continuously. When the warm spring arrives, there is still enough rain to permit wheat and barley to make a rapid growth and to mature their seeds long before the long, dry summer begins. The comparatively dry weather of May and June is just what these cereals need to ripen the crop, but it is fatal to any kind of agriculture which depends on summer rain.

Crops can of course be grown during the summer in California by means of irrigation, but this is rarely a simple process. If irrigation is to be effective in California, it cannot depend on the small streams which practically dry up during the long, rainless summer, but it must depend on comparatively large streams which flow in well-defined channels. With our modern knowledge and machinery it is easy for us to make canals and ditches and to prepare the level fields needed to utilize this water. A people with no knowledge of agriculture, however, and with no iron tools cannot suddenly begin to practice a complex and highly developed system of agriculture. In California there is little or none of the natural summer irrigation which, in certain parts of America, appears to have been the most important factor leading to the first steps in tilling the ground. The lower Colorado, however, floods broad areas every summer. Here, as on the Nile, the retiring floods leave the land so moist that crops can easily be raised. Hence the Mohave Indians were able to practice agriculture and to rise well above their kinsmen not only in Lower California but throughout the whole State.

In the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, just as on the Pacific coast, the condition of the tribes deteriorated more and more the farther they lived to the south. In the regions where the rainfall comes in summer, however, and hence favors primitive agriculture, there was a marked improvement. The Kutenai tribes lived near the corner where Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia now meet. They appear to have been of rather high grade, noteworthy for their morality, kindness, and hospitality. More than any other Indians of the Rocky Mountain region, they avoided drunkenness and lewd intercourse with the whites. Their mental ability was comparatively high, as appears from their skill in buffalo-hunting, in making dugouts and bark canoes, and in constructing sweat-houses and lodges of both skins and rushes. Even today the lower Kutenai are noted for their water-tight baskets of split roots. Moreover the degree to which they used the plants that grew about them for food, medicine, and economical purposes was noteworthy. They also had an esthetic appreciation of several plants and flowers-a gift rare among Indians. These people lived in the zone of most stimulating climate and, although they did not practice agriculture and had little else in their surroundings to help them to rise above the common level, they dwelt in a region where there was rain enough in summer to prevent their being on the verge of starvation, as the Indians of California usually were. Moreover they were near enough to the haunts of the buffalo to depend on that great beast for food. Since one buffalo supplies as much food as a hundred rabbits, these Indians were vastly better off than the people of the drier parts of the western coast.

South of the home of the Kutenai, in eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and neighboring regions dwelt the Utes and other Shoshoni tribes. In this region the rainfall, which is no greater than that of California, occurs chiefly in winter. The long summer is so dry that, except by highly developed methods of irrigation, agriculture is impossible. Hence it is not surprising to find a traveler in 1850 describing one tribe of the Ute family as "without exception the most miserable looking set of human beings I ever saw. They have hitherto subsisted principally on snakes, lizards, roots." The lowest of all the Ute tribes were those who lived in the sage-brush. The early explorer, Bonneville, found the tribes of Snake River wintering in brush shelters without roofs merely heaps of brush piled high, behind which the Indians crouched for protection from wind and snow. Crude as such shelters may seem, they were the best that could be constructed by people who dwelt where there was no vegetation except little bushes, and where the soil was for the most part sandy or so salty that it could not easily be made into adobe bricks.

The food of these Utes and Shoshonis was no better than their shelters. There were no large animals for them to hunt; rabbits were the best that they could find. Farther to the east, where the buffalo wandered during part of the year and where there are some forests, the food was better, the shelters were more effective, and, in general, the standard of living was higher, although racially the two groups of people were alike. In this case, as in others, the people whose condition was lowest were apparently as competent as those whose material conditions were much better. Today, although the Ute Indians, like most of their race, are rather slow, some tribes, such as the Payutes, are described as not only "peaceful and moral," but also "industrious." They are highly commended for their good qualities by those who have had the best opportunities for judging. While not as bright in intellect as some of the prairie tribes whom we shall soon consider, they appear to possess more solidity of character. By their willingness and efficiency as workers they have made themselves necessary to the white farmers and have thus supplied themselves with good clothing and many of the comforts of life. They have resisted, too, many of the evils coming from the advance of civilization, so that one agent speaks of these Indians as presenting the singular anomaly of improving by contact with the whites. Apparently their extremely low condition in former times was due merely to that same handicap of environment which kept back the Indians of California.

Compare these backward but not wholly ungifted Utes with the Hopi who belonged to the same stock. The relatively high social organization of the latter people and the intricacy and significance of their religious ceremonials are well known. Mentally the Hopi seem to be the equal of any tribe, but it is doubtful whether they have much more innate capacity than many of their more backward neighbors. Nevertheless they made much more progress before the days of the white man, as can easily be seen in their artistic development. Every one who has crossed the continent by the Santa Fe route knows how interesting and beautiful are their pottery, basketry, and weaving. Not only in art but also in government the Hopi are highly advanced. Their governing body is a council of hereditary elders together with the chiefs of religious fraternities. Among these officials there is a speaker chief and a war chi

ef, but there seems never to have been any supreme chief of all the Hopi. Each pueblo has an hereditary chief who directs all the communal work, such as the cleaning of the springs and the general care of the village. Crimes are rare. This at first sight seems strange in view of the fact that no penalty was inflicted for any crime except sorcery, but under Hopi law all transgressions could be reduced to sorcery. One of the most striking features of Hopi life was its rich religious development. The Hopi recognized a large number of supernatural beings and had a great store of most interesting and poetic mythological tales. The home of the Hopi would seem at first sight as unfavorable to progress as that of their Ute cousins, but the Hopi have the advantage of being the most northwesterly representatives of the Indians who dwell within the regions of summer rain. Fortunately for them, their country is too desert and unforested for them to subsist to any great degree by the chase. They are thus forced to devote all their energy to agriculture, through which they have developed a relatively high standard of living. They dwell far enough south to have their heaviest rainfall in summer and not in winter, as is the case in Utah, so that they are able to cultivate crops of corn and beans. Where such an intensive system of agriculture prevails, the work of women is as valuable as that of men. The position of woman is thus relatively high among the Hopi, for she is useful not only for her assistance in the labors of the field but also for her skill in preserving the crops, grinding the flour, and otherwise preparing the comparatively varied food which this tribe fortunately possesses.

From northern New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico City summer rains, dry winters, and still drier springs, are the rule. Forests are few, and much of the country is desert. The more abundant the rains, the greater the number of people and the greater the opportunities for the accumulation of wealth, and thus for that leisure which is necessary to part of a community if civilization is to make progress. That is one reason why the civilization of the summer rain people becomes more highly developed as they go from north to south. The fact that the altitude of the country increases from the United States border southward also tends in the same direction, for it causes the climate to be cooler and more bracing at Mexico City than at places farther north.

The importance of summer rains in stimulating growth and in facilitating the early stages of agriculture is noteworthy. Every one familiar with Arizona and New Mexico knows how the sudden summer showers fill the mountain valleys with floods which flow down upon the plain and rapidly spread out into broad, thin sheets, often known as playas. There the water stands a short time and then either sinks into the ground or evaporates. Such places are favored with the best kind of natural irrigation, and after the first shower it is an easy matter for the primitive farmer to go out and drop grains of corn into holes punched with a stick. Thereafter he can count on other showers to water his field while the corn sprouts and grows to maturity. All that he needs to do is to watch the field to protect it from the rare depredations of wild animals. As time goes on the primitive farmer realizes the advantage of leading the water to particularly favorable spots and thus begins to develop a system of artificial irrigation. In regions where such advantageous conditions prevail, the people who live permanently in one place succeed best, for the work that they do one year helps them the next. They are not greatly troubled by weeds, for, though grasses grow as well as corn in the places where the water spreads out, the grasses take the form of little clumps which can easily be pulled up. In the drier parts of the area of summer rain, it becomes necessary to conserve the water supply to the utmost. The Hopi consider sandy fields the best, for the loose sand on top acts as a natural blanket to prevent evaporation from the underlying layers. Sometimes in dry seasons the Hopi use extraordinary methods to help their seeds to sprout. For instance, they place a seed in a ball of saturated mud which they bury beneath several inches of sand. As the sand prevents evaporation, practically all the water is retained for the use of the seed, which thereupon sprouts and grows some inches by the time the first summer floods arrive.

The Indians of the Great Plains lived a very different life from that of the natives of either the mountains or the Pacific coast. In the far north, to be sure, the rigorous climate caused all the Indians to live practically alike, whether in the Rockies, the plains, or the Laurentian highland. South of them, in that great central expanse stretching from the latitude of Lake Winnipeg to the Rio Grande River, the Indians of the plains possessed a relatively uniform type of life peculiar to themselves. This individuality was due partly to the luxuriant carpet of grass which covered the plains and partly to the supply of animal food afforded by the vast herds of buffaloes which roamed in tens of thousands throughout the whole territory. The grass was important chiefly because it prevented the Indians from engaging in agriculture, for it must never be forgotten that the Indians had neither iron tools nor beasts of burden to aid them in overcoming the natural difficulties in the way of agriculture. To be sure, they did occasionally pound meteoric iron into useful implements, but this substance was so rare that probably not one Indian in a hundred had ever seen a piece. The Indians were quite familiar with copper, but there is not the slightest evidence that they had discovered any means of hardening it. Metals played no real part in the life of any of the Indians of America, and without such tools as iron spades and hoes it was impossible for them to cultivate grassland. If they burned the prairie and dropped seeds into holes, the corn or beans which they thus planted were sure to be choked by the quickly springing grass. To dig away the tough sod around the hole for each seed would require an almost incredible amount of work even with iron tools. To accomplish this with wooden spades, rude hoes made of large flakes of flint, or the shoulder blades of the buffalo, was impossible on any large scale. Now and then in some river bottom where the grass grew in clumps and could be easily pulled up, a little agriculture was possible. That is all that seems to have been attempted on the great grassy plains.

The Indians could not undertake any widespread cultivation of the plains not only because they lacked iron tools but also because they had no draft animals. The buffalo was too big, too fierce, and too stupid to be domesticated. In all the length and breadth of the two Americas there was no animal to take the place of the useful horse, donkey, or ox. The llama was too small to do anything but carry light loads, and it could live only in a most limited area among the cold Andean highlands. Even if the aboriginal Americans could have made iron ploughs, they could not have ploughed the tough sod without the aid of animals. Moreover, even if the possession of metal tools and beasts of burden had made agriculture possible in the grass-lands, it would have been difficult, in the absence of wood for fences, to prevent the buffalo from eating up the crops or at least from tramping through them and spoiling them. Thus the fertile land of the great plains remained largely unused until the white man came to the New World bringing the iron tools and domestic animals that were necessary to successful agriculture.

Although farming of any sort was almost as impossible in the plains as in the dry regions of winter rains farther west, the abundance of buffaloes made life much easier in many respects. It is astonishing to see how many purposes these animals served. An early traveler who dwelt among one of the buffalo-hunting tribes, the Tonkawa of central Texas, says: "Besides their meat it [the buffalo] furnishes them liberally what they desire for conveniences. The brains are used to soften skins, the horns for spoons and drinking cups, the shoulder blades to dig up and clear off the ground, the tendons for threads and bow strings, the hoofs to glue the arrow-feathering. From the tail-hair they make ropes and girths, from the wool, belts and various ornaments. The hide furnishes... shields, tents, shirts, footwear, and blankets to protect them from the cold." *

*See Hodge, "Handbook of American Indians," vol. II, p. 781.

The buffalo is a surprisingly stupid animal. When a herd is feeding it is possible for a man to walk into the midst of it and shoot down an animal. Even when one of their companions falls dead, the buffaloes pay no attention to the hunter provided he remains perfectly still. The wounded animals are not at first dangerous but seek to flee. Only when pursued and brought to bay do they turn on their pursuers. When the Indians of an encampment united their forces, as was their regular habit, they were able to slaughter hundreds of animals in a few days. The more delicate parts of the meat they ate first, often without cooking them. The rest they dried and packed away for future use, while they prepared the hides as coverings for the tents or as rugs in which to sleep.

Wherever the buffaloes were present in large numbers, the habits of the Indians were much the same. They could not live in settled villages, for there was no assurance that the buffalo would come to any particular place each year. The plains tribes were therefore more thoroughly nomadic than almost any others, especially after the introduction of horses. Because they wandered so much, they came into contact with other tribes to an unusual degree, and much of the contact was friendly. Gradually the Indians developed a sign language by which tribes of different tongues could communicate with one another. At first these signs were like pictographs, for the speaker pointed as nearly as possible to the thing that he desired to indicate, but later they became more and more conventional. For example, man, the erect animal, was indicated by throwing up the hand, with its back outward and the index finger extending upward. Woman was indicated by a sweeping downward movement of the hand at the side of the head with fingers extended to denote long hair or the combing of flowing locks.

Among the plains Indians, the Dakotas, the main tribe of the Sioux family, are universally considered to have stood highest not only physically but mentally, and probably morally. Their bravery was never questioned, and they conquered or drove out every rival except the Chippewas. Their superiority was clearly seen in their system of government. Personal fitness and popularity determined chieftainship more than did heredity. The authority of the chief was limited by the Band Council, without whose approbation little or nothing could be accomplished. In one of the Dakota tribes, the Tetons, the policing of a village was confided to two or three officers who were appointed by the chief and who remained in power until their successors were appointed. Day and night they were always on the watch, and so arduous were their labors that their term of service was necessarily short. The brevity of their term, however, was atoned for by the greatness of their authority, for in the suppression of disturbances no resistance was suffered. Their persons were sacred, and if in the execution of their duty they struck even a chief of the second class they could not be punished.

The Dakotas, who lived in the region where their name is still preserved, inhabited that part of the great plain which is climatically most favorable to great activity. It is perhaps because of their response to the influence of this factor of geographical environment that they and their neighbors are the best known of the plains tribes. Their activity in later times is evident from the fact that the Tetons were called "the plundering Arabs of America." If their activities had been more wisely directed, they might have made a great name for themselves in Indian history. In the arts they stood as high as could be expected in view of the wandering life which they led and the limited materials with which they had to work. In the art of making pictographs, for instance, they excelled all other tribes, except perhaps the Kiowas, a plains tribe of Colorado and western Kansas. On the hides of buffalo, deer, and antelope which formed their tents, the Dakotas painted calendars, which had a picture for each year, or rather for each winter, while those of the Kiowas had a summer symbol and a winter symbol. Probably these calendars reveal the influence of the whites, but they at least show that these people of the plains were quickwitted.

Farther south the tribes of the plains stood on a much lower level than the Dakotas. The Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, describes the Yguases in Texas, among whom he lived for several years, in these words: "Their support is principally roots which require roasting two days. Many are very bitter. Occasionally they take deer and at times fish, but the quantity is so small and the famine so great that they eat spiders and eggs of ants, worms, lizards, salamanders, snakes, and vipers that kill whom they strike, and they eat earth and all that there is, the dung of deer, things I omit to mention and I earnestly believe that were there stones in that land they would eat them. They save the bones of the fish they consume, the snakes and other animals, that they may afterward beat them together and eat the powder." During these painful periods, they bade Cabeza de Vaca "not to be sad. There would soon be prickly pears, although the season of this fruit of the cactus might be months distant. When the pears were ripe, the people feasted and danced and forgot their former privations. They destroyed their female infants to prevent them being taken by their enemies and thus becoming the means of increasing the latter's number."

East of the Great Plains there dwelt still another important type of Indians, the people of the deciduous forests. Their home extended from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. As we have already seen, the Iroquois who inhabited the northern part of this region were in many respects the highest product of aboriginal America. The northern Iroquois tribes, especially those known as the Five Nations, were second to no other Indian people north of Mexico in political organization, statecraft, and military prowess. Their leaders were genuine diplomats, as the wily French and English statesmen with whom they treated soon discovered. One of their most notable traits was the reverence which they had for the tribal law. The wars that they waged were primarily for political independence, for the fundamental principle of their confederation was that by uniting with one another they would secure the peace and welfare of all with whom they were connected by ties of blood. They prevented blood feuds by decreeing that there should be a price for the killing of a co-tribesman, and they abstained from eating the flesh of their enemies in order to avoid future strife. So thoroughly did they believe in the rights of the individual that women were accorded a high position. Among some of the tribes the consent of all the women who had borne children was required before any important measure could be taken. Candidates for a chiefship were nominated by the votes of the mothers, and, as lands and houses were the property of the women, their power in the tribe was great.

The Iroquois were sedentary and agricultural, and depended on the chase for only a small part of their existence. The northern tribes were especially noted for their skill in building fortifications and houses. Their so-called castles were solid wooden structures with platforms running around the top on the inside. From the platforms stones and other missiles could be hurled down upon besiegers. According to our standards such dwellings were very primitive, but they were almost as great an advance upon the brush piles of the Utes as our skyscrapers are upon them. Farther south in the Carolinas, the Cherokees, another Iroquoian tribe, stand out prominently by reason of their unusual mental ability. Under the influence of the white man, the Cherokees were the first to adopt a constitutional form of government embodied in a code of laws written in their own language. Their language was reduced to writing by means of an alphabet which one of their number named Sequoya had devised. Sequoya and other leaders, however, may not have been pure Indians, for by that time much white blood had been mixed with the tribe. Yet even before the coming of the white man the Cherokees were apparently more advanced in agriculture than the Iroquois were, but less advanced in their form of government, in their treatment of women, and in many other respects. In general, as we go from north to south in the region of deciduous forests, we find that among the early Indians agriculture became more and more important and the people more sedentary, though not always more progressive in other ways. The Catawbas, for instance, in South Carolina were sedentary agriculturists and seem to have differed little in general customs from their neighbors. Their men were brave and honest but lacking in energy. In the Muskhogean family of Indians, comprising the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, who occupied the Gulf States from Georgia to Mississippi, all the tribes were agricultural and sedentary and occupied villages of substantial houses. The towns near the tribal frontiers were usually palisaded, but those more remote from invasion were unprotected. All these Indians were brave but not warlike in the violent fashion of the Five Nations. The Choctaws would fight only in self-defense, it was said, but the Creeks and especially the Chickasaws were more aggressive. In their government these Muskhogean tribes appear to have attained a position corresponding to their somewhat advanced culture in other respects. Yet their confederacies were loose and flimsy compared with that of the Five Nations. Another phase of the life of the tribes in the southern part of the region of deciduous forests is illustrated by the Natchez of Mississippi. These people were strictly sedentary and depended chiefly upon agriculture for a livelihood. They possessed considerable skill in the arts. For instance, they wove a cloth from the inner bark of the mulberry tree and made excellent pottery. They also constructed great mounds of earth upon which to erect their dwellings and temples. Like a good many of the other southern tribes, they fought when it was necessary, but they were peaceable compared with the Five Nations. They had a form of sun-worship resembling that of Mexico, and in other ways their ideas were like those of the people farther south. For instance, when a chief died, his wives were killed. In times of distress the parents frequently offered their children as sacrifice.

Many characteristics of the Natchez and other southern tribes seem to indicate that they had formerly possessed a civilization higher than that which prevailed when the white man came. The Five Nations, on the contrary, apparently represent an energetic people who were on the upward path and who might have achieved great things if the whites had not interrupted them. The southern Indians resemble people whose best days were past, for the mounds which abound in the Gulf States appear to have been built chiefly in pre-Columbian days. Their objects of art, such as the remarkable wooden mortars found at Key Marco and the embossed copper plates found elsewhere in Florida, point to a highly developed artistic sense which was no longer in evidence at the coming of the white man.

It is interesting to see the way in which climatic energy tended to give the Five Nations a marked superiority over the tribesmen of the South, while agriculture tended in the opposite direction. There has been much discussion as to the part played by agriculture among the primitive Americans, especially in the northeast. Corn, beans, and squashes were an important element in the diet of the Indians of the New England region, while farther south potatoes, sunflower seeds, and melons were also articles of food. The New England tribes knew enough about agriculture to use fish and shells for fertilizer. They had wooden mattocks and hoes made from the shoulder blades of deer, from tortoise shells, or from conch shells set in handles. They also had stone hoes and spades, while the women used short pickers or parers about a foot long and five inches wide. Seated on the ground they used these to break the upper part of the soil and to grub out weeds, grass, and old cornstalks. They had the regular custom of burning over an old patch each year and then replanting it. Sometimes they merely put the seeds in holes and sometimes they dug up and loosened the ground for each seed. Clearings they made by girdling the trees, that is, by cutting off the bark in a circle at the bottom and thus causing the tree to die. The brush they hacked or broke down and burned when it was dry enough.

There is much danger of confusing the agricultural condition of the Indian after the European had modified his life with his condition before the European came to America. For instance, in the excellent article on agriculture in the "Handbook of American Indians," conditions prevailing as late as 1794 in the States south of the Great Lakes are spoken of as if typical of aboriginal America. But at that time the white man had long been in contact with the Indian, and iron tools had largely taken the place of stone. The rapidity with which European importations spread may be judged by the fact that as early as 1736 the Iroquois in New York not only had obtained horses but were regularly breeding them. The use of the iron axe of course spread with vastly greater rapidity than that of the horse, for an axe or a knife was the first thing that an Indian sought from the white man. In the eighteenth century agriculture had thus become immeasurably easier than before, yet even then the Indians still kept up their old habit of cultivating the same fields only a short time. The regular practice was to cultivate a field five, ten, and sometimes even twenty or more years, and then abandon it. *

*Ordinarily it is stated that this practice was due to the

exhaustion of the soil. That, however, is open to question, for five

or ten years' desultory cultivation on the part of the Indian would

scarcely exhaust the soil so much that people would go to the great

labor of making new clearings and moving their villages. Moreover, in

the Southern States it is well known today that the soil is exhausted

much more rapidly than farther north because it contains less humus.

Nevertheless the southern tribes cultivated the land about their

villages for long periods. Tribes like the Creeks, the Cherokees, and

the Natchez appear to have been decidedly less prone to move than the

Iroquois, in spite of the relatively high development of these northern


What hindered agriculture most in the northern part of the deciduous forest was the grass. Any one who has cultivated a garden knows how rapidly the weeds grow. He also knows that there is no weed so hard to exterminate as grass. When once it gets a foothold mere hoeing seems only to make it grow the faster. The only way to get rid of grass when once it has become well established is to plow the field and start over again, but this the Indians could not do. When first a clearing was made in the midst of the forest, there was no grass to be contended with. Little by little, however, it was sure to come in, until at length what had been a garden was in a fair way to become a meadow. Then the Indians would decide that it was necessary to seek new fields.

One might suppose that under such circumstances the Indians would merely clear another patch of forest not far from the village and so continue to live in the old place. This, however, they did not do because the labor of making a clearing with stone axes and by the slow process of girdling and burning the trees was so great that it was possible only in certain favored spots where by accident the growth was less dense than usual. When once a clearing became grassy, the only thing to do was to hunt for a new site, prepare a clearing, and then move the village. This was apparently the reason why the Iroquois, although successful in other ways, failed to establish permanent towns like those of the Pueblos and the Haidas. Their advancement not only in architecture but in many of the most important elements of civilization was for this reason greatly delayed. There was little to stimulate them to improve the land to which they were attached, for they knew that soon they would have to move.

Farther south the character of the grassy vegetation changes, and the condition of agriculture alters with it. The grass ceases to have that thick, close, turfy quality which we admire so much in the fields of the north, and it begins to grow in bunches. Often a southern hillside may appear from a distance to be as densely covered with grass as a New England hayfield. On closer examination, however, the growth is seen to consist of individual bunches which can easily be pulled up, so that among the southern tribes the fields did not become filled with grass as they did in the north, for the women had relatively little difficulty in keeping out this kind of weed as well as others.

In this survey of aboriginal America we have been impressed by the contrast between two diverse aspects of the control of human activities by physical environment. We saw, in the first place, that in our own day the distribution of culture in America is more closely related to climatic energy than to any other factor, because man is now so advanced in the arts and crafts that agricultural difficulties do not impede him, except in the far north and in tropical forests. Secondly, we have found that, although all the geographical factors acted upon the Indian as they do today, the absence of metals and beasts of burden compelled man to be nomadic, and hence to remain in a low stage of civilization in many places where he now can thrive. In the days long before Columbus the distribution of civilization in the Red Man's Continent offered still a third aspect, strikingly different both from that of today and from that of the age of discovery. In that earlier period the great centers of civilization were south of their present situation. In the southern part of North America from Arizona to Florida there are abundant evidences that the Indians whom the white man found were less advanced than their predecessors. The abundant ruins of Arizona and New Mexico, their widespread distribution, and the highly artistic character of the pottery and other products of handicraft found in them seem to indicate that the ancient population was both denser and more highly cultured than that which the Europeans finally ousted. In the Gulf States there is perhaps not much evidence that there was a denser population at an earlier period, but the excellence of the pre-Columbian handicrafts and the existence of a decadent sun worship illustrate the way in which the civilization of the past was higher than that of later days. The Aztecs, who figure so largely in the history of the exploration and conquest of Mexico, were merely a warlike tribe which had been fortunate in the inheritance of a relatively high civilization from the past. So, too, the civilization found by the Spaniards at places such as Mitla, in the extreme south of Mexico, could not compare with that of which evidence is found in the ruins. Most remarkable of all is the condition of Yucatan and Guatemala. In northern Yucatan the Spaniards found a race of mild, decadent Mayas living among the relics of former grandeur. Although they used the old temples as shrines, they knew little of those who had built these temples and showed still less capacity to imitate the ancient architects. Farther south in the forested region of southern Yucatan and northern Guatemala the conditions are still more surprising, for today these regions are almost uninhabitable and are occupied by only a few sickly, degraded natives who live largely by the chase. Yet in the past this region was the scene of by far the highest culture that ever developed in America. There alone in this great continent did men develop an architecture which, not only in massiveness but in wealth of architectural detail and sculptural adornment, vies with that of early Egypt or Chaldea. There alone did the art of writing develop. Yet today in those regions the density of the forest, the prevalence of deadly fevers, the extremely enervating temperature, and the steady humidity are as hostile to civilization as are the cold of the far north and the dryness of the desert.

The only explanation of this anomaly seems to be that in the past the climatic zones of the world have at certain periods been shifted farther toward the equator than they are at present. Practically all the geographers of America now believe that within the past two or three thousand years climatic pulsations have taken place whereby places like the dry Southwest have alternately experienced centuries of greater moisture than at present and centuries as dry as today or even drier. During the moist centuries greater storminess prevailed, so that the climate was apparently better not only for agriculture but for human energy. At such times the standard of living was higher than now not only in the Southwest but in the Gulf States and in Mexico. In periods when the deserts of the southwestern United States were wet, the Maya region of Yucatan and Guatemala appears to have been relatively dry. Then the dry belt which now extends from northern Mexico to the northern tip of Yucatan apparently shifted southward. Such conditions would cause the forests of Yucatan and Guatemala to become much less dense than at present. This comparative deforestation would make agriculture easily possible where today it is out of the question. At the same time the relatively dry climate and the clearing away of the vegetation would to a large degree eliminate the malarial fevers and other diseases which are now such a terrible scourge in wet tropical countries. Then, too, the storms which at the present time give such variability to the climate of the United States would follow more southerly courses. In its stimulating qualities the climate of the home of the Mayas in the days of their prime was much more nearly like that which now prevails where civilization rises highest.

From first to last the civilization of America has been bound up with its physical environment. It matters little whether we are dealing with the red race, the black, or the white. Nor does it matter whether we deal with one part of the continent or another. Wherever we turn we can trace the influence of mountains and plains, of rocks and metals from which tools are made, of water and its finny inhabitants, of the beasts of the chase from the hare to the buffalo, of domestic animals, of the native forests, grass-lands, and deserts, and, last but not least, of temperature, moisture, and wind in their direct effects upon the human body. At one stage of human development the possibilities of agriculture may be the dominant factor in man's life in early America. At another, domestic animals may be more important, and at still another, iron or waterways or some other factor may be predominant. It is the part of the later history of the American Continent to trace the effect of these various factors and to chronicle the influence that they have had upon man's progress.


Although many books deal with the physical features of the Western Hemisphere and many others with the Indians, few deal with the two in relation to one another. One book, however, stands out preeminent in this respect, namely, Edward John Payne's "History of the New World Called America," 2 vols. (1892-99). This book, which has never been finished, attempts to explain the conditions of life among the American aborigines as the result of geographical conditions, especially of the food supply. Where the author carries this attempt into the field of special customs and religious rites, he goes too far. Nevertheless his work is uncommonly stimulating and deserves the careful attention of the reader who would gain a broad grasp of the relation of geography to the history of the New World.

Two other good books which deal with the relation of geography to American history are Miss Ellen C. Semple's "American History and its Geographical Conditions" (1903) and A. P. Brigham's "Geographic Influences in American History" (1903). Both of these books interpret geography as if it included little except the form of the land. While they bring out clearly the effect of mountain barriers, indented coasts, and easy routes whether by land or water, they scarcely touch on the more subtle relationships between man on the one hand and the climate, plants, and animals which form the dominant features of his physical environment on the other hand.

In their emphasis on the form of the land both Semple and Brigham follow the lead of W. M. Davis. In his admirable articles on America and the United States in "The Encyclopaedia Britannica" (11th edition) and in The International Geography edited by H. R. Mill (1901), Davis has given an uncommonly clear and vivid description of the main physical features of the New World. Living beings, however, play little part in this description, so that the reader is not led to an understanding of how physical geography affects human actions.

Other good descriptions of the North American continent are found in the following books: I. C. Russell's "North America" (1904), Stanford's "Compendium of Modern Geography and Travel," including the volumes on Canada, the United States, and Central America, and the great volumes on America in "The Earth and its Inhabitants" by Elise Reclus, 19 vols. (1876-1894). Russell's book is largely physiographic but contains some good chapters on the Indians. In Stanford's "Compendium" the purpose is to treat man and nature in their relation to one another, but the relationships are not clearly brought out, and there is too much emphasis on purely descriptive and encyclopedic matter. So far as interest is concerned, the famous work by Elise Reclus holds high rank. It is an encyclopedia of geographical facts arranged and edited in such a way that it has all the interest of a fine book of travel. Like most of the other books, however, it fails to bring out relationships.

As sources of information on the Indians, two books stand out with special prominence. "The American Race," by D. G. Brinton (1891), is a most scholarly volume devoted largely to a study of the Indians on a linguistic basis. It contains some general chapters, however, on the Indians and their environment, and these are most illuminating. The other book is the "Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico," edited by F. W. Hodge, and published by the United States Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1897, 1910, 1911). Its two large volumes are arranged in encyclopedic form. The various articles are written by a large number of scholars, including practically all the students who were at work on Indian ethnology at the time of publication. Many of the articles are the best that have been written and will not only interest the general reader but will contribute to an understanding of what America was when the Indians came here and what it still is today.

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