Page images

ever before visited this locality, it is utterly unknown. It was not practicable in Carver's time. Mr. Featherstonhaugh failed in his attempt. The sanctity attached to the spot by the natives has opposed an obstacle to the advance of white men; and it is one which Mr. Catlin had to encounter. He found the quarry 10 be near its southern extremity, at the foot of a perpendicular stratified cliff of quartzy rock, thirty feet high, and two miles in extent. The face of this cliff, of which we have examined specimens from the hands of Mr. Catlin, is perfectly vitreous and shining, and, in this respect, totally unlike any other non-volcanic rock. That it is of a secondary character, is evident from its stratification and overlying position, with respect to the pipe-stone stratum ; and this fact is furthermore indicated by the indistinctly granular structure of some portions of it. It is, in fact, a granular quartz, and may be regarded as part of an immense formation of this kind, lying at a great altitude at a former period over a large portion of the area of the northwest, of which the solitary locality at the falls of Puckagama, on the upper Mississippi, is a part.

Mr. Catlin found at this elevation large primitive boulders of the erratic block group, resting on the secondary series ; an occurrence remarkable for the magnitude of the blocks, but not otherwise differing from the common aspect of this feature in American geology. The parent bed of these boulders need not be sought at a point more remote than the banks of the upper Mississippi, between Soc and Elk and De Corbeau rivers, where the primitive granitical group were foound, in a highly crystalline state, by General Cass, in his expedition to the head-waters of the Mississippi, in 1820.

The high value attached by the aborigines to this species of material for their pipes, and its intimate connexion with their superstitious rites and religious ceremonies, have led them to resort to this spot, in all past ages, with feelings approaching to veneration. If it has not been made another Delphic temple of Diana, where votaries came to solve their doubts and obtain responses, it has greatly resembled it in the moral influences shed over half America, by furnishing to the tribes, in this stone, the symbolical medium of exhibiting their necromantic arts, solemnizing their religion, or sealing

their political covenants. Mr. Catlin observed the rocks in the vicinity, to be covered with inscriptions of various kinds, left there by the natives as memorials of their visits, or evidences of their martial feats, their lineage, or their devotion.

It would afford us pleasure to submit further extracts from his work, verifying our commendations of his descriptions of the wild hunting sports of the West, the rich and varied scenes over which he passed, and the thrilling ceremonies of which he was so often a spectator. But the limits to which we are confined, forbid it, and we must refer the reader to the work itself for this gratification. As little space have we to denote those instances which we have marked in the reading, as errors of fact or opinion, owing to haste, bad interpreters, a desire to grasp more than fell in his way, or scantiness of research. Most of these instances occur in those branches of the subject, however, on which the author confessedly does not take credit to himself, or to which he has devoted but little attention, such as the past history of the tribes, and those general considerations which belong to their origin, their antiquities, or their languages. Of many of the wild and free tribes roving in the West, and their mode of subsistence, dress, hunting scenes, or peculiar ceremonies, so little was known, that almost any thing that was observed, was likely to have the charm of novelty, and there was but little danger of running counter to prior observers. But, when our author has touched on nations and tribes nearer home and better known, or taken up topics which require care and study, we have felt the wish, either that he had yielded more time to the subject, or been directed by a sounder logic in some of his deductions. The proposition which is confidently made and repeated, that, out of fortyeight languages in North America, thirty are radically different, and eighteen only dialects, unsupported as it is by data, appears wholly gratuitous ; but five vocabularies, of one hundred words each, are furnished, and even of these, one fifth at least is adverse to the proposition. Mr. Gallatin, who has profoundly investigated this subject, is of opinion, that the uniformity of character in the grammatical structure and forms of the indigenous languages, denotes a common origin, however varied by verbal changes and the process of intermixture. * Other eminent philologists have advanced analogous views.

"Iroquois," is a generic term, bestowed by the French on that type of languages of which the Five Nations, the Tuscaroras, and originally the Wyandots, spoke dialects. The term, however, was early restricted to the two former ; and the latter, for distinction's sake, and owing to striking events in their history, were called Hurons. When, therefore, the author speaks of the St. Regis Indians, as he manifestly does, (Vol. II. p. 106.,) as Iroquois, in contradiction to the Mohawks, Oneidas, Senecas, Cayugas, &c., whose council-fire and seat of political authority was at Onondaga, he is laboring under a gross error. So, as a geographical question, when speaking (Vol. I. p. 53,) of the “Ojibbeways,” of Red River and the Assinaboin borders, as separated by 66 several hundred miles” of territory from the Chippewas of Lake Superior, and to be without knowledge of them, or traditions of the manner or the time of their severance, he is wholly under the influence of a mistake. They are the same people in language, customs, and traditions, and occupy the entire line of country from southeast to northwest without interruption.

We regret to see Ee-tow-o-kaun, a Stockbridge Indian of the ancient Mohegan stock, represented with war feathers on his head. It is half a century, at least, since this tribe laid aside this sign of the barbaric state, while under instruction in Massachusetts, and assumed the civilized dress, and many of them embraced Christianity. As a member of the Christian church, in which he is represented in the text following the hundred and ninety-ninth plate of Vol. II. with a psalmbook, shot-pouch, bell, and plumes, the exhibition appears at least inappropriate, and we doubt whether it would not, if known to his pastor, the Rev. Cutting Marsh, afford grounds for church censure.

Mr. Catlin (Vol. I. p. 193,) offers some original remarks on the style of the Ancient Mexican Drawings, which appear to be entitled to attention. No one has surveyed the outlines of the Aztec head, as generally drawn, without something bordering on surprise at its angular character. He noticed a very similar style of depicting the human head among

[ocr errors]

the Mandans (see Plate 65, Vol. II.), although they have nothing in their own tribe to have copied it from ; and he conceives this peculiarity to be a mere defect of drawing. Where the heads of horses and other animals are found so much out of drawing as they are in ancient Mexican paintings, it is a fair inference to conclude, as he does, that the human figure was equally so. And this craniological wonder would therefore end, if this theory be true, in the discovery that the Mexicans were miserable limners. There are, indeed, none of our native tribes, in which their rude drawings are not most strikingly out of proportion, violating the natural features and outlines of all the animal creation. The whole tenor of the author's remarks on this subject appear to us well founded.

He is less at home in his note on the origin of wampum, an article which he found to be but little used by the tribes of the upper Missouri, and the more remote parts of the West and Southwest. How this is, we cannot say. Wampum is not, however, as is stated (Vol. I. p. 222), made from freshwater shells, nor prepared by the Indians at all. This article has, for several centuries, constituted a regular item in the invoices of the fur trade. It is manufactured exclusively by white men, from the clam, and consists of the blue and white kinds, which are sold by the grain. Kinnikinnick (Vol. I. p. 234) is a name for the leaves of the Uva ursi, and not applied to other substitutes for tobacco. Assinaboin signifies, not " stone boilers,” but “stone Sioux" ; and is derived from Bwoin, a Sioux, and Ossin, a stone, in the Chippewa language. But these, and other verbal inaccuracies, are taxable to the interpreters, on whom our author was dependent, — a class of men, who are too often ignorant and depraved, having really but little knowledge of either the Indian or the English language, destitute of the power of accurate discrimination, and with an utter disregard of moral responsibility. Such men are prone to fasten themselves upon every stranger who visits an Indian trading-post, a government fort, or a frontier village ; and, having the element of the marvellous largely developed themselves, think nothing so clever as the imposition of strange and wild stories, theories, traditions, translations, and downright perversions of truth, upon the hapless inquirer. Many of our difficulties with the aboriginal tribes, growing out of treaties and councils, originate in a similar cause ; namely, false interpretation ; and we advise no one, after he has reached the point of his proposed observation, to take out his note-book and pencil, before he has assured himself, that the habitual mis-pronouncer and mistranslator at his service is not also a most consummate liar. Most of these persons are either petty traders, or dependants upon the larger trading-houses, — a class, against whom Mr. Catlin, along with travellers generally, inveighs in no measured terms. Whether the Indian mind, however, after an intercourse of two or three centuries with these and other classes of no very gentle frontiersmen, is " a beautiful blank,” – a term twice employed, (Vol. I. p. 182, and Vol. II. p. 245,) — 6 on which any thing can be written,” may well be questioned. We are inclined to think, if we may preserve the figure, that it is a blank leaf of an original folio, which has been badly blotted over by vices, superstitions, and crimes, of divers hues, which it would require some chemical agent of strong power to discharge, so as to restore its immaculate hue. And such a process we believe the Indian mind must undergo, before the words Christianity and civilization can be successfully written upon it. Civilization is a process of slow growth, and the Indians have fearful odds to contend against, whilst the proportion of those who plant, to those who pluck up, is as one to one thousand. And it requires, for its successful introduction among our native tribes, aids and influences of no less potency than the Gospel offers. With this it is believed the prospect, however dark its past or present appearance, promises well. Without this the labor is the labor of Sisyphus.

How the red men of this continent came into their present degraded condition, — how, indeed, they came here at all, has been a topic of enlightened inquiry from the remotest times. And their monuments and antiquities constitute one of the best means whereby this question may be answered. Mr. Bradford, in the work whose title is prefixed to this article, has examined the evidence bearing on this branch of the subject with clearness and candor. A professional man himself, and habituated to the distinctions which are required to exhibit truth in its legal lights, he has possessed an advantage in taking up a mass of materials scattered through a wide range of books, old and new ; and, we think, he has brought to the task a spirit of research, and a degree of ability, which

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »