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ment. An influence still more predominant attached to chores
the courage, strength, and stratagem of the eminent war-
rior. But this influence, in either case, rather resem-
bled that of party leaders among us than the definite
authority of legal magistrates. Though individual In-
dians often stood in great awe of their chiefs, there seems
to have been no means of coercing a reluctant minority.
If a war party was proposed, it consisted wholly of vol-
unteers; only those went who chose, or who had confi-
dence in the chiefs offering to lead; and so it was in all
other matters requiring co-operation.
There was, however, a third source of influence far
more effective, and the foundation, often, of a highly des-
potic authority, obtained by those who possessed the tal-
ent and the cast of mind-to work upon the superstitious
imaginations of their fellows. The Indians, like all rude
men, were very superstitious. They believed most de-
voutly in dreams, revelations, omens, charms. They as-
cribed an invisible guardian spirit to every man, every
animal, every natural object. They were addicted to
religious fastings and lonely meditations; they subject-
ed themselves to severe penances in hopes to propitiate
the invisible powers, or to produce that morbid excite-
ment of fancy which they mistook for vision or inspira-
tion. The ordinary priests or pow-wows, more recently
known as “medicine men,” the leaders of the Indians in
their superstitious devotions, professed also the art of
healing; and to the cure of fevers and other diseases by
herbs and vapor baths, in which they possessed some lit-
tle skill, they added incantations and ceremonies to drive
away the spirits regarded as the causes of all violent dis-
orders, and, indeed, of all phenomena of which some other
explanation was not immediately obvious. In the pos-
sibility of communicating with the world of spirits, and
chosen of employing its agency in human affairs, the Indians
were firm believers; and enthusiastic and artful individ-
uals, by assuming the character of inspired prophets and
workers of miracles, often obtained implicit reverence,
and almost absolute authority.
It thus happened that different communities present-
ed great differences in apparent forms of government.
Some tribes seemed the slaves of a spiritual despotism;
others resembled a limited monarchy; others an oligarchy
governed by two or three powerful chiefs; and others yet
a democracy, in which all the warriors stood nearly upon
a level. The character of chief was often hereditary,
and was sometimes exercised even by women. But the
ideas of the Indians on the subject of descent differed
from those of Europe. The heir was not the chief's own
son, but the son of his sister—a usage universal through-
out America, wherever hereditary descent was in vogue.
Birth, however, was of little avail when other qualifi-
cations were wanting. The title of chief might remain,
but the influence passed into other hands.
The hunting grounds and territory of the Indians ap-
pertained not to the chiefs nor to individuals, but to the
tribe or confederacy. Yet their notions of individual
property were clear and exact. Each Indian had a well-
established right in the wigwam he had built, in the
growing corn he had planted, in the game he had killed,
and in all movable goods, the produce of his industry
or skill. But the idea of accumulation hardly existed;
and where there was so little property, violations of its
rights were not apt to be frequent. The Indians were
generous, because they were thoughtless and careless of
the future. Those who had food were always ready to
share it with the hungry. The chiefs especially kept
open house, and in that way maintained their popularity.
There was no division of labor; each family did every charter
thing for itself. Buying and selling between members
of the same village seem to have been almost unknown.
Even between different tribes the exchange of commodi-
ties was very limited. In a few articles only, of which
the possession or production was peculiar to certain con-
federacies, an incipient commerce seems to have existed.
The tribes along the sea-coast were found, by the earliest
navigators, in possession of plates and ornaments of cop-
per. These articles naturally suggested the idea of mines
in the neighborhood, but they seem to have been derived
by barter from the distant and unknown shores of Lake
Superior. Some of the tribes on the coast manufactur-
ed, in their turn, ornamental beads from pieces of sea-
shells; and these beads, wrought into belts, were diffus-
ed, by exchange, through the distant interior. Peculiar
kinds of clay and stone, fit for pipes and other implements,
seem also to have been articles of traffic.
In all cases of violations of his rights, whether of per-
son or property, each Indian relied, in the first place, on
his own strength for protection. That failing, he ap-
plied to his chief, who thus acted occasionally the part
of judge, and, indeed, of executioner, inflicting with his
own hand the sentences he decreed; sometimes blows,
and sometimes death. If the culprit were formidable,
some trusty warrior was deputed to take him off by a
sudden stroke. It was, indeed, the necessity of protec-
tion that led each Indian to attach himself to some chief,
and each petty chief to some superior one; and when
protection was refused or injuries inflicted, they did not
hesitate to transfer themselves to some abler or juster
leader. The chiefs, therefore, though guilty of occasional
violences, found it necessary to study popularity, and to
maintain a reputation for disinterestedness and justice.
In cases of homicide, the relations of the slain were es teemed bound to avenge his death, though sometimes, through the interference of the chiefs or of mutual friends, they were persuaded to accept a ransom. This principle of vengeance, being extended to the intercourse of neighboring confederacies, led to a series of retaliations ending in furious and hereditary hatreds, and leading often to perpetual wars.
War, indeed, was esteemed among the Indians, as it has been among communities far more civilized, the most honorable, glorious, and worthy of employments. The rank, or comparative estimation of the chiefs, greatly depended on the number of enemies they had slain in battle. This warlike spirit was little, or not at all, stimulated by hopes of conquest or plunder. It was the fury of hatred and revenge, the restless spirit of enterprise, still more, the desire of honor and distinction, that stirred up the warriors to deeds of blood. On their return from a successful expedition, they expected to be met and escorted back to the village amid the plaudits of the women and children, bearing with them the captives taken, and the scalps of the slain stretched on poles—obscure rudiments of what the Romans called a triumph.
In their primitive state, pitched battles or general engagements were unknown among the Indians. Surprise was the great point of their tactics. As the warriors were obliged to carry their provisions on their backs, or to support themselves by hunting, their war parties were seldom numerous. Yet their ardor was great. To reach some distant hostile village, they crossed mountains, swam rivers, and endured the utmost extremities of hunger and fatigue. But, though capable of momentary ef. forts of great vigor, these children of impulse had not the pertinacity, nor perseverance, nor fixed purposes of civilized life. Bursts of passionate activity were followed by chores long intervals of indolence. Until they learned of the – white man to make war on a larger scale, it was the utmost ambition of their warriors to steal into the enemy's country, to take a few scalps, and to make a few prisoners with the least possible loss to themselves; after which they long remained quiet, unless excited by some retaliatory inroad or some fortuitous encounter. In the first fury of a successful attack, the women and children of the hostile village were sometimes indiscriminately massacred; but, in general, their lives were spared, and they were received by adoption into the families of their captors. The hostile warrior, if taken prisoner, was reserved for a horrid death, being tortured with all the ingenuity of savage hatred, and burned at the stake by a slow fire. The women and children joined in these torments, and the flesh of the victim was sometimes eaten. Such, at least, was the custom of the Iroquois, the most warlike and ferocious of all the North American tribes; but there is little trace of such cruel practices among the Indians of the Atlantic coast. It was a point of honor with the dying warrior to endure these torments without the slightest flinching or indication of pain, shouting out his death-song from among the flames, and taunting with his latest breath the unskillfulness of his tormentors. Yet even in the midst of these horrors humanity sometimes regained dominion. Among the torturing crowd some one saw, or thought he saw, in the unhappy victim of hate, a resemblance to some relative who had perished in battle. Claimed to supply the place of that relative, the prisoner was adopted on the spot as son or brother, and was expected to evince his gratitude and to ratify his adoption by forgetting forever his native tribe and all his former connections.