America and Indian race — страница 12

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Thus the Cherokee, living in a country abounding in wild fruits, had no word for grape, but had instead a distinct descriptive term for each of the three varieties with which he was acquainted. In the same way, he could not simply say "I am here", but must qualify the condition as standing, sitting, etc. The earliest attempt at a classification of the Indian languages of the United States and British America was made by Albert Gallatin in 1836. The beginning of systematic investigation dates from the establishment of the Bureau of American Ethnology under Major J.W. Powell in 1879. For the languages of Mexico and Central America, the basis is the "Geografía" of Orozco y Berra, of 1864, supplemented by the later work of Brinton, in his "American

Race" (1891), and corrected and brought up to the latest results in the linguistic map by Thomas and Swanton now in preparation by the Bureau of Ethnology. For South America, we have the "Catálogo" of Hervas (1784), which covers also the whole field of languages throughout the world; Brinton's work just noted, containing the summary of all known up to that time, and Chamberlain's comprehensive summary, published in 1907. To facilitate intertribal communication, we frequently find the languages of the more important tribes utilized by smaller tribes throughout the same region, as Comanche in the southern plains and Navajo (Apache) in the South-West. From the same necessity have developed certain notable trade jargons, based upon some dominant language, with

incorporations from many others, including European, all smoothed down and assimilated to a common standard. Chief among these were the "Mobilian" of the Gulf states based upon Choctaw; the "Chinook jargon" of the Columbia and adjacent territories of the Pacific coast, a remarkable conglomerate based upon the extinct Chinook language; and the lingoa geral of Brazil and the Paraná region, based upon Tupí-Guaraní. To these must be added the noted "sign language" of the plains, a gesture code, which answered every purpose of ordinary intertribal intercourse from Canada to the Rio Grande. Religion and Mythology The Indian was an animist, to whom every animal, plant, and object in nature contained a spirit to be propitiated or feared. Some of these,

such as the sun, the buffalo, and the peyote plant, the eagle and the rattlesnake, were more powerful or more frequently helpful than others, but there was no overruling "Great Spirit" as so frequently represented. Certain numbers, particularly four and seven, were held sacred. Colours were symbolic and had abiding place, and sometimes sex. Thus with the Cherokee the red spirits of power and victory live in the Sun Land, or the East, while the black spirits of death dwell in the Twilight Land of the West. Certain tribes had palladiums around which centered their most elaborate ritual. Each man had also his secret personal "medicine". The priest was likewise the doctor, and medicine and religious ritual were closely interwoven. Secret societies were in every

tribe, claiming powers of prophecy, hypnotism, and clairvoyance. Dreams were in great repute, and implicitly trusted and obeyed, while witches, fairies, and supernatural monsters were as common as in medieval Europe. Human sacrifices, either of infants or adults, were found among the Timucua of Florida, the Natchez of Mississippi, the Pawnee of the plains, and some tribes of California and the north-west coast, the sacrifice in the last-mentioned region being frequently followed by a cannibal feast. From time to time, as among more civilized nations, prophets arose to purify the old religion or to preach a new ritual. Each tribe had its genesis, tradition, and mythical hero, with a whole body of mythologic belief and folklore, and one or more great tribal ceremonials. Among the

latter may be noted the Green-Corn Dance thanksgiving festival of the eastern and southern tribes, the Sun-Dance of the plains, the celebrated snake dance of the Hopi and the Salmon Dance of the Columbia tribes. The method of disposing of the dead varied according to the tribe and the environment, inhumation being probably the most widespread. The Hurons and the Iroquois allowed the bodies to decay upon scaffolds, after which the bones were gathered up and deposited with much ceremony in the common tribal sepulchre. The Nanticoke and Choctaw scraped the flesh from the bones, which were then wrapped in a bundle, and kept in a box within the dwelling. Tree, scaffold, and cave burial were common on the plains and in the mountains, while cremation was the rule in the arid regions