Aboriginal history



ON the discovery an exploration of America it was found to be everywhere inhabited, from the north polar region to the extreme south, by peoples differing in degree of culture from abject savagery to a low stage of civilization. Though at first all these peoples were looked upon as members of a single race, later research has rendered this questionable, marked diversities in ethnological character having been perceived. In language a greater unity appears, philologists generally holding that the American languages all belong to one family of human speech, though the dialects differ widely in character and in degree of development. The American languages approach in type those of northern Asia, though not very closely. The same may be said of the American features. Yet if the Americans and Mongolians were originally of the same race, as seems not improbable, their separation must have taken place at a remote period, to judge from the diversities which now exist between them.

The aboriginal inhabitants of the United States, when first discovered, differed very considerably in political and social condition. Those of the north were in a state of savagery or low barbarism. The southern Indians were much more advanced politically, while the Natchez people of the lower Mississippi possessed a well-organized despotic monarchy, widely different in character from the institutions of the free tribes of the north. In Mexico existed a powerful civilized empire, despotic in character, possessed of many historical traditions, and having an extensive literature, which was nearly all destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. In this region were two distinct linguistic races, the Nahuas of Mexico and the Mayas of the more southern region. To the latter are due the remarkable architectural remains of Yucatan and Guatemala. In South America was also discovered an extensive civilized empire, of a highly-marked despotic type,--the Inca empire of Peru. This rather low form of civilization extended far to the north and south in the district west of the Andes, while the remainder of South America was occupied by savage tribes, some of them exceedingly debased in condition.

Of late years it has been made evident, through diversified archaeological discoveries, that at some epoch, perhaps not very remote, the whole region of the Mississippi Valley was the seat of a semi-civilized population, probably some-what closely approaching in customs and condition the inhabitants of the Gulf States when first seen by the Spanish and French explorers. This people had utterly vanished from the region of the northern United States at the earliest date of the advent of the whites, and perhaps many centuries before that era; yet the whole region of their former residence is so abundantly covered with their weapons, utensils, ornaments, and architectural remains, that we are not only positively assured of their former existence, but are enabled also to form many conjectures as to their probable history.





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