DIVISIONS. - THE ALGONQUINS. - THE HURONS. - THEIR HOUSES. -
FORTIFICATIONS. - HABITS. - ARTS. - WOMEN. - TRADE. - FESTIVITIES. -
MEDICINE. - THE TOBACCO NATION. - THE NEUTRALS. - THE ERIES. -
THE ANDASTES. - THE IROQUOIS. - SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ORGANIZATION. -
IROQUOIS INSTITUTIONS, CUSTOMS, AND CHARACTER. -
INDIAN RELIGION AND SUPERSTITIONS. - THE INDIAN MIND.
America, when it became known to Europeans, was, as it had long been, a scene of wide-spread revolution. North and South, tribe was giving place to tribe, language to language; for the Indian, hopelessly unchanging in respect to individual and social development, was, as regarded tribal relations and local haunts, mutable as the wind. In Canada and the northern section of the United States, the elements of change were especially active. The Indian population which, in 1535, Cartier found at Montreal and Quebec, had disappeared at the opening of the next century, and another race had succeeded, in language and customs widely different; while, in the region now forming the State of New York, a power was rising to a ferocious vitality, which, but for the presence of Europeans, would probably have subjected, absorbed, or exterminated every other Indian community east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio.
The vast tract of wilderness from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, and from the Carolinas to Hudson's Bay, was divided between two great families of tribes, distinguished by a radical difference of language. A part of Virginia and of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Southeastern New York, New England, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Lower Canada were occupied, so far as occupied at all, by tribes speaking various Algonquin languages and dialects. They extended, moreover, along the shores of the Upper Lakes, and into the dreary Northern wastes beyond. They held Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, and detached bands ranged the lonely hunting-round of Kentucky.
[ The word Algonquin is here used in its broadest signification. It was originally applied to a group of tribes north of the River St. Lawrence. The difference of language between the original Algonquins and the Abenaquis of New England, the Ojibwas of the Great Lakes, or the Illinois of the West, corresponded to the difference between French and Italian, or Italian and Spanish. Each of these languages, again, had its dialects, like those of different provinces of France. ]
Like a great island in the midst of the Algonquins lay the country of tribes speaking the generic tongue of the Iroquois. The true Iroquois, or Five Nations, extended through Central New York, from the Hudson to the Genesee. Southward lay the Andastes, on and near the Susquehanna; westward, the Eries, along the southern shore of Lake Erie, and the Neutral Nation, along its northern shore from Niagara towards the Detroit; while the towns of the Hurons lay near the lake to which they have left their name.
[ To the above general statements there was, in the first half of the seventeenth century, but one exception worth notice. A detached branch of the Dahcotah stock, the Winnebago, was established south of Green Bay, on Lake Michigan, in the midst of Algonquins; and small Dahcotah bands had also planted themselves on the eastern side of the Mississippi, nearly in the same latitude.
There was another branch of the Iroquois in the Carolinas, consisting of the Tuscaroras and kindred bands. In 1716 they were joined to the Five Nations. ]
Of the Algonquin populations, the densest, despite a recent epidemic which had swept them off by thousands, was in New England. Here were Mohicans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Wampanoags, Massachusetts, Penacooks, thorns in the side of the Puritan. On the whole, these savages were favorable specimens of the Algonquin stock, belonging to that section of it which tilled the soil, and was thus in some measure spared the extremes of misery and degradation to which the wandering hunter tribes were often reduced. They owed much, also, to the bounty of the sea, and hence they tended towards the coast; which, before the epidemic, Champlain and Smith had seen at many points studded with wigwams and waving with harvests of maize. Fear, too, drove, them eastward; for the Iroquois pursued them with an inveterate enmity. Some paid yearly tribute to their tyrants, while others were still subject to their inroads, flying in terror at the sound of the Mohawk war-cry. Westward, the population thinned rapidly; northward, it soon disappeared. Northern New Hampshire, the whole of Vermont, and Western Massachusetts had no human tenants but the roving hunter or prowling warrior.
We have said that this group of tribes was relatively very populous; yet it is more than doubtful whether all of them united, had union been possible, could have mustered eight thousand fighting men. To speak further of them is needless, for they were not within the scope of the Jesuit labors. The heresy of heresies had planted itself among them; and it was for the apostle Eliot, not the Jesuit, to essay their conversion.
[ These Indians, the Armouchiquois of the old French writers, were in a state of chronic war with the tribes of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Champlain, on his voyage of 1603, heard strange accounts of them. The following is literally rendered from the first narrative of that heroic, but credulous explorer.