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Their amusements were dances to a rude sort of mu- corres

sic, with a song or recitative, and having a pantomimic
and dramatic character, in which a certain resemblance
may be traced to what we are told of the origin of the
Greek and Roman drama. Such, especially, was the
war dance, representing a whole history of the departure,
the exploits, and the return of a war party. They ob-
served, also, certain fasts and festivals of a religious char-
acter. Some of the tribes had a great wigwam, a rude
sort of temple, for the celebration of their religious cere-
monies. The young men were often initiated into man-
hood by cruel rites, intended apparently to test their
powers of endurance. They practiced, for sport and ex-
ercise, several athletic games, among which foot-ball was
a favorite. They had also games of chance, and were
much addicted to gambling.
The scanty and uncertain supply of food, and more
especially the hardships and severe labors to which the
Indian women were subjected, contributed to keep the
population in check. Few exceeded the number of three
or four children. As a general rule, the Indians were
not long lived. Many perished prematurely by consump-
tion and fevers, to which the sudden vicissitudes of the
climate and their habits of life particularly exposed them.
Toothache, one of the endemic disorders of the United
States, is noticed by an early observer as a very com-
mon affliction, bringing tears into the eyes of the stout-
estwarriors. Whole tribes were sometimes swept away
by famine or pestilential disorders. Europeans intro-
duced the small-pox and other diseases, which proved
very fatal.
The earlier visitors to North America formed very
exaggerated notions of the number of the native inhabit-
ants. From the sea-coast, back to the falls of the rivers,

chosen seems to have been by far the most populous part of the

continent. This district had a resource in abundant sup-
plies of fish, for the most part wanting in the interior.
Great tracts among and beyond the mountains seem
to have been destitute of resident inhabitants, serving
as occasional hunting-grounds for distant tribes. The
prairies of the Far West did not originally possess those
herds of wild horses which have added so much to the
pleasure and the power, and probably, also, to the num-
bers of the Western tribes. The most powerful confed-
eracies, the Iroquois or Five Nations, the Cherokees, the
Creeks, the Choctaws, the Chippewas of Lake Superior,
never could boast more than three, four, or five thousand
warriors, and the warriors were usually reckoned a fourth
part of the whole number. From the more accurate
knowledge we possess of existing tribes, compared with
the facts stated by the earlier observers, we have no rea-
son to suppose that the total Indian population within
the territory of the United States east of the Rocky
Mountains, at any time subsequent to the discovery of
America, exceeded, if indeed it even reached, three hun-
dred thousand individuals.
Such was the state of the aboriginal population when
North America first became known to Europeans. Yet
there exist remarkable proofs, scattered through the whole
extent of the Valley of the Mississippi, of the former oc-
cupation of that region by a far more numerous, and, in
some respects, a different people. These memorials con-
sist of embankments of earth and stone, exhibiting un-
deniable evidences of design and labor, sometimes of very
great extent. Some of them, along the brows of hills
or the precipitous edges of ravines, inclosing a greater or
less space of table land, were evidently intended as works
of defense. Others, still more numerous, extensive, and

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toms at the junction of rivers, sites selected for towns
by the present inhabitants, they present in some places
curious basso relievos, birds, beasts, reptiles, and even
men; but more generally, in the Valley of the Ohio.
inclosures of various sorts, often curiously complicated.
perfect circles and perfect squares, and parallel lines of
great extent, the embankments being from five to thirty
feet high, and the inclosures from one to fifty, and often
a hundred or two hundred, and sometimes four hundred
acres in extent. Other classes of monuments, often con-
nected with those justmentioned, but often separate, and
increasing in number toward the south, are conical and
pyramidal structures, from a few yards to a thousand or
two thousand feet in diameter, and from ten to ninety
feet high, sometimes terraced like the Mexican teocallis.
Some of these mounds were evidently for sepulchral pur-
poses, and others apparently mounds of sacrifice. Con-
nected with these ancient monuments have been found
remnants of pottery, weapons and utensils of stone, axes
and ornaments of copper, but nothing which affords any
decisive evidence of a state of civilization superior to
that of the present Indians. Yet the extent and num-
ber of these earth-erections, of which there are but few
traces east of the Alleganies—the most populous region
of North America when it first became known to Euro-
peans—evince the combined labor of many hands, of a
sort of which no traces appeared among the tribes found
in possession by Europeans.
A closer examination of those tribes might show some
striking and curious peculiarities; but the institutions
and the social condition of all the aborigines north of the
Gulf of Mexico present a strong general resemblance in
extreme simplicity and primitive rudeness.


Extending our glance for a moment to the rest of the new world, we find in the West Indies, and throughout the whole wide western slope of South America, different languages indeed, and some differences of customs and habits, occasioned by differences of climate and natural productions, but a social condition, a state of primitive ignorance and poverty, and on the continent a paucity of population, the same with that of the northern tribes. It was only on the table land of Mexico, the isthmus of Central America, the elevated plateaus of Bogota, Quito, and Peru, circumscribed spots, peculiarly favored by nature, enjoying most of the advantages, and escaping many of the inconveniences of both the torrid and the temperate zones, that the American race had made any onward steps in the career of civilization. Here were populous communities, supported by regular labors of agriculture; the art of weaving cotton cloth; the employment of copper, which they knew how to subject to a peculiar hardening process, as a substitute for iron; the knowledge of gold, and the art of working it; the mass of the people, as in so many Eastern countries, in the condition of serfs; a nobility; a priesthood, not without learning; an elaborate mythology; architecture on a gigantic scale; large cities; despotic monarchs: in Mexico, a cruel and bloody system, over which the god of war presided, to whom was offered the horrible but consistent worship of human sacrifices: in Peru, a superstition comparatively mild, and a government comparatively paternal, administered by the Incas, children of the Sun. It is much to be lamented that the jealous fanaticism of the early Spanish conquerors, followed by apathy and neglect in their descendants, has resulted in the loss of memorials which might have enabled us more accurately to estimate the character, perhaps to trace the progress of this aboriginal American chotra

civilization, which seems, indeed, to have been but a de-
velopment of the ruder system of the other tribes, and
still bearing many traces of its origin. It is certain, at
all events, that the native Mexicans and Peruvians, who
still constitute the mass of the population in those coun-
tries, are of the same race or type with our North Ameri-
can Indians. From Patagonia to Hudson's Bay, the
aboriginal inhabitants of America presented a resemblance
sufficient to mark them as a separate and peculiar race,
and obvious to the most careless observer. It was only
about the Arctic seas that a departure from this uniform
type was observed; that region being inhabited by the
Esquimaux, of the same race apparently with the polar
inhabitants of the Eastern continent. A similar con-
formity also prevailed as to all the animal inhabitants
of that region.
When the aborigines of North America first came in
contact with voyagers from Europe, struck with their
superiority in arts and knowledge, they inclined to re-
gard them as supernatural beings, to be received with
unbounded hospitality, veneration, and confidence. This
trust and good will were cruelly repaid. The practice
of kidnapping the Indians, to sell them into slavery, as
we have seen, was early commenced—a business reg-
ularly carried on for the benefit of the Spanish settle-
ments in the West Indies. Nor did adventurers of other
nations hesitate to seize the unsuspecting natives as tro-
phies of the voyage, or to serve as guides for future ex-
peditions. By most of the early navigators, to murder
the natives in cold blood, upon the slightest provocation,
seems to have been thought quite a matter of course.
Can we wonder that confidence was soon replaced by dis-
trust and hatred; that, in accordance with their ideas,

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