Imágenes de páginas

The existence of a future state was regarded by the prairie tribes as an actuality, and upon this idea was predicated the custom of depositing in the graves of departed friends their favorite implements, and such as they thought would be useful to them in the land of spirits. When a warrior died they placed with him his war-club, gun and red paint, and some times his horse was slain upon his grave, that he might be ready to mount and proceed to to his appointed place of rest in the land of spirits. If a female was to be interred, they placed with her a kettle, canoe paddles, articles of apparel, and other objects of feminine use and interest. No trait of character was more commendable in the Indian than his scrupulous regard for the graves of his ancestors. Not even the invasion of his hunting grounds roused more quickly his pat riotism and resentment, than the ruthless desecration of the graves of his fathers, by the unhallowed hands of strangers. So long as any part of their perishable bodies were supposed to remain, they were prompted by reverence to visit the sacred places where they slept, and pour out libations to their departed spirits.

Man is, by nature, a religious being. The exhibitions of his character, in this respect, are as universal as are the displays of his social, intellectual and moral nature No nations, tribes or individuals have been found, whatever may be their isolated condition or depth of degradation, but they are more or less governed by this inherent element. While the religious sentiment is universal, its manifestations are as various as the different degrees of advancement made by its subjects in knowledge. From the ignorant idolator who bows down before a lifeless image or some abject form of animal life, to the devotee of a more enlightened theology, the devotion is the same, but their theories and practices are infinitely diverse. The faculties which make man a worshipping being are unchangeable, and may not its manifestations become uniform, when the immutable attributes of the deity, and the invariable laws instituted by him for the government of the human family, are properly studied and understood.

The red man of the prairies and forests, like the rest of mankind, was also psychologically religious. Without speaking of the diver sities of belief entertained by different tribes, only the general features of their faith can be given. Prominent among these was the idea that every natural phenomenon was the special manifestation of the Great Spirit. In the mutterings of the thunder cloud, in the angry roar of the cataract, or the sound of the billows which beat upon the shores of his lake-girt forests, he heard the voice of the Great Spirit. The lightning's flash, the mystic radiance of the stars, were to him familiar displays of a spirit essence which upheld and governed all things, even the minute destinies of men; while the Indian attributed to the Great Spirit the good he enjoyed in life, he recognized the existence of evil. To account for this, without attributing malevolence to the Great Spirit, an antagonistical deity was created in his theology, whom he regarded as the potent power of malignancy. By this duality of deities he was careful to guard his good and merciful God from all imputations of evil by attributing all the bad intentions and acts which afflict the human family to the Great Bad Spirit.

Doubtless, in part, as a result of missionary instructions, the Illinois and other branches of Algonquin stock, designated their

Great Spirit as the Author of Life, the Upholder of the Universe. They believed him all-wise, all-powerful, and all-good, and variously assigned him a dwelling place in the sun, moon or indefinite skies. They not only distinguished the principle of good and evil by two antagonistic gods, but supplied them with an innumerable number of minor divinities, whose office was to execute their will. These consisted of birds, reptiles, fairies, spirits, and a great variety of other objects, some being instrumentalities of good and others of evil. Under such a multiplicity of antagonistic powers, everything which the Indian saw or heard in the external world might be the cause of intense hope or fear, and keep him in perpetual doubt as to whether it foreboded good or evil. A prey to these mysterious fears, he readily fell into the belief of sorcery and other supposed magic influences. From this cause they were constantly victimized by their priests, jugglers, and prophets, a class who lived by these impositions instead of hunting.

The belief in a future state was common. According to their traditions, which had been modified by missionary teachings, the wicked, at death, sink into a dark retributive stream, while the good are rewarded with an abode in a delightful hunting ground. In their lively imagery, they spoke of this place as the land of the blest, or the country of souls, through which meandered gently flowing rivers. They supposed these streams replete with every kind of fish suitable for food, and that those who bathed in them were exempt from the ills which afflict life in the present state of being. Over the surface, agreeably diversified with hills and valleys, were prairies interspersed with noble forests, under whose sheltering branches disported the various creations of animal life. Birds warbled their sweetest music in waving groves, and noble animals grazed on the verdant plains so numerous and prolific that the demands of the hunter were always met without exhausting the supply. No tempest's destructive blast, no wasting pestilence nor desolating earthquake, emanating from the Spirit of Evil, occurred to mar the sweet and varied pleasures of life. Such was the Indian's future state of existence, the dwelling place of the Great Spirit, who welcomed home at death his wandering children. The belief in this terrene elysium, the Indian's most exalted idea of paradise, doubtless explains his stoical indifference of death. With him

"Time comes unsighed for, unregretted flies ;
Pleased that he lives, happy that he dies."

As it regards the Indians in general, it is an adage among those whose observations have been the most extensive, that he who has seen one tribe has seen them all. This seems to be true, notwithstanding their wide geographical distribution, and the great extremes of climate to which they are exposed. Whether enjoying the great abundance and mild climate of the Mississippi Valley, or chilled and stinted by the bleak and barren regions of the extreme north and south of the hemisphere, over which they are scattered, they have the same general lineaments. "All possess, though in varied degrees, the same long, lank, black hair, the dull and sleepy eye, the full and compressed lips, and the salient but dilated nose." 19* The cheek bones are prominent, the nostril expanded, the orbit of the eye squared, and the whole max


ilory region ponderous. The cranium is rounded, and the diametre, from front to back, less in some instances than between the sides. The posterior portion is flattened toward the crown, while the forehead is low and retreating. The hair, which, in the white man, is oval, and in the black man eccentrically eliptical, is invariably round. Not only its cylindrical form, but its great length and coarseness, are found in all the diversified climate in which this people is found. When contrasted with the European, they are found mentally and physically inferior. No measurement has been instituted to determine their average stature, whereby the difference between them and the races of Europe, in this respect, can be accurately determined. Shenandoah was 6 feet 3 inches high; Logan, 6 feet; Red Jacket, 5 feet 8 inches, and the distinguished Fox chief, Keokuk, 6 feet 2 inches. These celebrated instances doubtless exceeded the majority of their countrymen in hight, as all rude and uncultivated races admire superior physical development, and generally consult prominence of stature in the selection of their leaders. While their stature may average with that of the European, in muscular power and endurance they are surpassed. In feats of agility, connected with running and hunting, they are scarcely equal to their white competitors; while in all labors requiring compactness of muscle and protracted exertion, the latter are always the victors. In the severe labor of rowing, and the carrying of heavy burdens across the portages of the northwest, it was observed that the French boatmen of Illinois and Canada exhibited the greatest strength and endurance. The European also excels them in brain development and mental power. The facial angle, which indicated the volume of the intellectual lobe, has in the European an average of 80 degrees, while that of the Indian is only 75. The superiority of the former in this respect, and in the size and activity of his brain, is in keeping with their respective conditions. The history of the one is a history of human progress; that of the other details the struggles of a race perishing before the advance of civilization, which it is neither able to adopt nor successfully oppose.

Much has been said and written in regard to the unjust encroachments of white men upon the territory of the Indians. No doubt much hardship has grown out of the manner in which their lands have been taken, yet the right of civilized races to demand a part of their vast domain, even without their consent, when it could not be obtained otherwise, can hardly be questioned. The earth was designed by the Creator for the common habitation of man, and it is his destiny and duty to develop its resources. When, therefore, the occupants of any region fail to accomplish these objects, they must be regarded as unfaithful stewards, and give way to those who have the ability to make it yield the largest supplies and support the greatest number of inhabitants. Had the Indians, who refused to become tillers of the soil, been suffered to retain possession of the hemisphere over which they roamed, some of the most fertile portions of the globe must have remained a wilderness, thus defeating the object of the Creator; and doing great injustice to the rest of mankind. Failing to make a proper use of this heritage, they have lost it, but behold the gain! At the touch of civilization the wilderness has been made to blossom like the rose. Herds and harvests have followed

the track of the pale-faced pioneer, and teeming millions of a higher life have taken the place of a few wandering hunters and fishermen. After Columbus made known to Europeans the existence of the new world, priority of discovery was considered as conferring upon the governments under whose patronage it was made, the right of extinguishing the Indian title. England, in the exercise of this right, treated the Indians substantially as she did her own subjects. She respected their claim to occupy and use the country for their own benefit, but did not permit them to alienate it except to her own people, in accordance with the principle of English law that all titles to lands are vested in the crown. The United States, by the acquisition of independence, succeeded to the right of the mother country, and has forced upon them similar restrictions, and accorded the same privileges. In every instance the government has extinguished their title by treaty or purchase. It must, however, be admitted that in many instances these treaties grew out of wars provoked by frontier settlers, for the sole purpose of demanding territory in the way of reprisal. It must also be added, that when lands have been obtained by purchase, the consideration was frequently of the most trivial character.



Although commercial enterprise is perhaps the principal agent for the dissemination of civilization in the undeveloped regions of the globe, its extension into the Mississippi valley was due to a different cause. Pioneers, actuated by a religious fervor and enthusiasm hitherto without a parallel in the history of the world, were the first to explore its trackless wilds, and attempt to teach its savage inhabitants the refinements of civilized life. These self-denying explorers belonged mostly to the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus, a famous religious order founded by Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish knight of the sixteenth century. He gave out that the constitution of his order was given him by immediate inspiration. Notwithstanding his high pretensions, he at first met with little encouragement, and the Pope, to whom he applied for the authority of his sanction, referred him to a committee of cardinals. The latter decided that his proposed establishment would not only be useless, but dangerous, and the Pope refused to give it his approval. To overcome the scruples of the Pope, in addition to the vows of other orders he required the members of his society to take a vow of obedience to the Pope, whereby they bound themselves to go whithersoever he should direct them in the service of religion, without requiring anything from him as a means of support. In other orders the primary object of the monk is to separate himself from the rest of the world, and in the solitude of the cloister to practice acts of self-mortification and purity. He is expected to eschew the pleasures and secular affairs of life, and can only benefit mankind by his example and prayers. Loyola, on the contrary, preferred that the members of his society should mingle in the affairs of men, and they were accordingly exempted from those austerities and ceremonies which consumed much of the time of other orders. Full of the idea of implicit obedience which he had learned from the profession of arms, he gave to his order a government wholly monarchical. To a general, who should be chosen for life from the several' provinces, the members were compelled to yield not only an outward submission, but were required to make known to him even the thoughts and feelings of their inner life. At the time this offer was made, the papal power had received such a shock from the refusal of many nations to submit to its authority, that the Pope could not look upon it with indifference. He saw that it would place at his disposal a body of the most rigorously disciplined ecclesiastics, whose powerful influence would enable him to repel the violent

« AnteriorContinuar »