QUERY XI

 

        _A description of the Indians established in that state?_
 
 

        Aborigines

        When the first effectual settlement of our colony was made,

which was in 1607, the country from the sea-coast to the mountains,

and from Patowmac to the most southern waters of James river, was

occupied by upwards of forty different tribes of Indians.  Of these

the _Powhatans_, the _Mannahoacs_, and _Monacans_, were the most

powerful.  Those between the sea-coast and falls of the rivers, were

in amity with one another, and attached to the _Powhatans_ as their

link of union.  Those between the falls of the rivers and the

mountains, were divided into two confederacies; the tribes inhabiting

the head waters of Patowmac and Rappahanoc being attached to the

_Mannahoacs_; and those on the upper parts of James river to the

_Monacans_.  But the _Monacans_ and their friends were in amity with

the _Mannahoacs_ and their friends, and waged joint and perpetual war

against the _Powhatans_.  We are told that the _Powhatans_,

_Mannahoacs_, and _Monacans_, spoke languages so radically different,

that interpreters were necessary when they transacted business.

Hence we may conjecture, that this was not the case between all the

tribes, and probably that each spoke the language of the nation to

which it was attached; which we know to have been the case in many

particular instances.  Very possibly there may have been antiently

three different stocks, each of which multiplying in a long course of

time, had separated into so many little societies.  This practice

results from the circumstance of their having never submitted

themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government.

Their only controuls are their manners, and that moral sense of right

and wrong, which, like the sense of tasting and feeling, in every man

makes a part of his nature.  An offence against these is punished by

contempt, by exclusion from society, or, where the case is serious,

as that of murder, by the individuals whom it concerns.  Imperfect as

this species of coercion may seem, crimes are very rare among them:

insomuch that were it made a question, whether no law, as among the

savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans,

submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of

existence would pronounce it to be the last: and that the sheep are

happier of themselves, than under care of the wolves.  It will be

said, that great societies cannot exist without government.  The

Savages therefore break them into small ones.
 
 

        The territories of the _Powhatan_ confederacy, south of the

Patowmac, comprehended about 8000 square miles, 30 tribes, and 2400

warriors.  Capt. Smith tells us, that within 60 miles of James town

were 5000 people, of whom 1500 were warriors.  From this we find the

proportion of their warriors to their whole inhabitants, was as 3 to

10.  The _Powhatan_ confederacy then would consist of about 8000

inhabitants, which was one for every square mile; being about the

twentieth part of our present population in the same territory, and

the hundredth of that of the British islands.

 

        Besides these, were the _Nottoways_, living on Nottoway river,

the _Meherrins_ and _Tuteloes_ on Meherrin river, who were connected

with the Indians of Carolina, probably with the Chowanocs.
 
 

        The preceding table contains a state of these several tribes,

according to their confederacies and geographical situation, with

their numbers when we first became acquainted with them, where these

numbers are known.  The numbers of some of them are again stated as

they were in the year 1669, when an attempt was made by the assembly

to enumerate them.  Probably the enumeration is imperfect, and in

some measure conjectural, and that a further search into the records

would furnish many more particulars.  What would be the melancholy

sequel of their history, may however be augured from the census of

1669; by which we discover that the tribes therein enumerated were,

in the space of 62 years, reduced to about one-third of their former

numbers.  Spirituous liquors, the small-pox, war, and an abridgment

of territory, to a people who lived principally on the spontaneous

productions of nature, had committed terrible havock among them,

which generation, under the obstacles opposed to it among them, was

not likely to make good.  That the lands of this country were taken

from them by conquest, is not so general a truth as is supposed.  I

find in our historians and records, repeated proofs of purchase,

which cover a considerable part of the lower country; and many more

would doubtless be found on further search.  The upper country we

know has been acquired altogether by purchases made in the most

unexceptionable form.
 
 

        Westward of all these tribes, beyond the mountains, and

extending to the great lakes, were the _Massawomecs_, a most powerful

confederacy, who harrassed unremittingly the _Powhatans_ and

_Manahoacs_.  These were probably the ancestors of the tribes known

at present by the name of the _Six Nations_.
 
 

        Very little can now be discovered of the subsequent history of

these tribes severally.  The _Chickahominies_ removed, about the year

1661, to Mattapony river.  Their chief, with one from each of the

tribes of the Pamunkies and Mattaponies, attended the treaty of

Albany in 1685.  This seems to have been the last chapter in their

history.  They retained however their separate name so late as 1705,

and were at length blended with the Pamunkies and Mattaponies, and

exist at present only under their names.  There remain of the

_Mattaponies_ three or four men only, and they have more negro than

Indian blood in them.  They have lost their language, have reduced

themselves, by voluntary sales, to about fifty acres of land, which

lie on the river of their own name, and have, from time to time, been

joining the Pamunkies, from whom they are distant but 10 miles.  The

_Pamunkies_ are reduced to about 10 or 12 men, tolerably pure from

mixture with other colours.  The older ones among them preserve their

language in a small degree, which are the last vestiges on earth, as

far as we know, of the Powhatan language.  They have about 300 acres

of very fertile land, on Pamunkey river, so encompassed by water that

a gate shuts in the whole.  Of the _Nottoways_, not a male is left.

A few women constitute the remains of that tribe.  They are seated on

Nottoway river, in Southampton county, on very fertile lands.  At a

very early period, certain lands were marked out and appropriated to

these tribes, and were kept from encroachment by the authority of the

laws.  They have usually had trustees appointed, whose duty was to

watch over their interests, and guard them from insult and injury.
 
 

        The _Monacans_ and their friends, better known latterly by the

name of _Tuscaroras_, were probably connected with the Massawomecs,

or Five Nations.  For though we are (* 1) told their languages were

so different that the intervention of interpreters was necessary

between them, yet do we also (* 2) learn that the Erigas, a nation

formerly inhabiting on the Ohio, were of the same original stock with

the Five Nations, and that they partook also of the Tuscarora

language.  Their dialects might, by long separation, have become so

unlike as to be unintelligible to one another.  We know that in 1712,

the Five Nations received the Tuscaroras into their confederacy, and

made them the Sixth Nation.  They received the Meherrins and Tuteloes

also into their protection: and it is most probable, that the remains

of many other of the tribes, of whom we find no particular account,

retired westwardly in like manner, and were incorporated with one or

other of the western tribes.
 
 

        (* 1) Smith.
 
 

        (* 2) Evans.
 
 

        I know of no such thing existing as an Indian monument: for I

would not honour with that name arrow points, stone hatchets, stone

pipes, and half-shapen images.  Of labour on the large scale, I think

there is no remain as respectable as would be a common ditch for the

draining of lands: unless indeed it be the Barrows, of which many are

to be found all over this country.  These are of different sizes,

some of them constructed of earth, and some of loose stones.  That

they were repositories of the dead, has been obvious to all: but on

what particular occasion constructed, was matter of doubt.  Some have

thought they covered the bones of those who have fallen in battles

fought on the spot of interment.  Some ascribed them to the custom,

said to prevail among the Indians, of collecting, at certain periods,

the bones of all their dead, wheresoever deposited at the time of

death.  Others again supposed them the general sepulchres for towns,

conjectured to have been on or near these grounds; and this opinion

was supported by the quality of the lands in which they are found,

(those constructed of earth being generally in the softest and most

fertile meadow-grounds on river sides) and by a tradition, said to be

handed down from the Aboriginal Indians, that, when they settled in a

town, the first person who died was placed erect, and earth put about

him, so as to cover and support him; that, when another died, a

narrow passage was dug to the first, the second reclined against him,

and the cover of earth replaced, and so on.  There being one of these

in my neighbourhood, I wished to satisfy myself whether any, and

which of these opinions were just.  For this purpose I determined to

open and examine it thoroughly.  It was situated on the low grounds

of the Rivanna, about two miles above its principal fork, and

opposite to some hills, on which had been an Indian town.  It was of

a spheroidical form, of about 40 feet diameter at the base, and had

been of about twelve feet altitude, though now reduced by the plough

to seven and a half, having been under cultivation about a dozen

years.  Before this it was covered with trees of twelve inches

diameter, and round the base was an excavation of five feet depth and

width, from whence the earth had been taken of which the hillock was

formed.  I first dug superficially in several parts of it, and came

to collections of human bones, at different depths, from six inches

to three feet below the surface.  These were lying in the utmost

confusion, some vertical, some oblique, some horizontal, and directed

to every point of the compass, entangled, and held together in

clusters by the earth.  Bones of the most distant parts were found

together, as, for instance, the small bones of the foot in the hollow

of a scull, many sculls would sometimes be in contact, lying on the

face, on the side, on the back, top or bottom, so as, on the whole,

to give the idea of bones emptied promiscuously from a bag or basket,

and covered over with earth, without any attention to their order.

The bones of which the greatest numbers remained, were sculls,

jaw-bones, teeth, the bones of the arms, thighs, legs, feet, and

hands.  A few ribs remained, some vertebrae of the neck and spine,

without their processes, and one instance only of the (* 3) bone

which serves as a base to the vertebral column.  The sculls were so

tender, that they generally fell to pieces on being touched.  The

other bones were stronger.  There were some teeth which were judged

to be smaller than those of an adult; a scull, which, on a slight

view, appeared to be that of an infant, but it fell to pieces on

being taken out, so as to prevent satisfactory examination; a rib,

and a fragment of the under-jaw of a person about half grown; another

rib of an infant; and part of the jaw of a child, which had not yet

cut its teeth.  This last furnishing the most decisive proof of the

burial of children here, I was particular in my attention to it.  It

was part of the right-half of the under-jaw.  The processes, by which

it was articulated to the temporal bones, were entire; and the bone

itself firm to where it had been broken off, which, as nearly as I

could judge, was about the place of the eye-tooth.  Its upper edge,

wherein would have been the sockets of the teeth, was perfectly

smooth.  Measuring it with that of an adult, by placing their hinder

processes together, its broken end extended to the penultimate

grinder of the adult.  This bone was white, all the others of a sand

colour.  The bones of infants being soft, they probably decay sooner,

which might be the cause so few were found here.  I proceeded then to

make a perpendicular cut through the body of the barrow, that I might

examine its internal structure.  This passed about three feet from

its center, was opened to the former surface of the earth, and was

wide enough for a man to walk through and examine its sides.  At the

bottom, that is, on the level of the circumjacent plain, I found

bones; above these a few stones, brought from a cliff a quarter of a

mile off, and from the river one-eighth of a mile off; then a large

interval of earth, then a stratum of bones, and so on.  At one end of

the section were four strata of bones plainly distinguishable; at the

other, three; the strata in one part not ranging with those in

another.  The bones nearest the surface were least decayed.  No holes

were discovered in any of them, as if made with bullets, arrows, or

other weapons.  I conjectured that in this barrow might have been a

thousand skeletons.  Every one will readily seize the circumstances

above related, which militate against the opinion, that it covered

the bones only of persons fallen in battle; and against the tradition

also, which would make it the common sepulchre of a town, in which

the bodies were placed upright, and touching each other.  Appearances

certainly indicate that it has derived both origin and growth from

the accustomary collection of bones, and deposition of them together;

that the first collection had been deposited on the common surface of

the earth, a few stones put over it, and then a covering of earth,

that the second had been laid on this, had covered more or less of it

in proportion to the number of bones, and was then also covered with

earth; and so on.  The following are the particular circumstances

which give it this aspect.  1. The number of bones.  2. Their

confused position.  3. Their being in different strata.  4. The

strata in one part having no correspondence with those in another.

5. The different states of decay in these strata, which seem to

indicate a difference in the time of inhumation.  6. The existence of

infant bones among them.
 
 

        (* 3) The os sacrum.
 
 

        But on whatever occasion they may have been made, they are of

considerable notoriety among the Indians: for a party passing, about

thirty years ago, through the part of the country where this barrow

is, went through the woods directly to it, without any instructions

or enquiry, and having staid about it some time, with expressions

which were construed to be those of sorrow, they returned to the high

road, which they had left about half a dozen miles to pay this visit,

and pursued their journey.  There is another barrow, much resembling

this in the low grounds of the South branch of Shenandoah, where it

is crossed by the road leading from the Rock-fish gap to Staunton.

Both of these have, within these dozen years, been cleared of their

trees and put under cultivation, are much reduced in their height,

and spread in width, by the plough, and will probably disappear in

time.  There is another on a hill in the Blue ridge of mountains, a

few miles North of Wood's gap, which is made up of small stones

thrown together.  This has been opened and found to contain human

bones, as the others do.  There are also many others in other parts

of the country.
 
 

        Great question has arisen from whence came those aboriginal

inhabitants of America?  Discoveries, long ago made, were sufficient

to shew that a passage from Europe to America was always practicable,

even to the imperfect navigation of ancient times.  In going from

Norway to Iceland, from Iceland to Groenland, from Groenland to

Labrador, the first traject is the widest: and this having been

practised from the earliest times of which we have any account of

that part of the earth, it is not difficult to suppose that the

subsequent trajects may have been sometimes passed.  Again, the late

discoveries of Captain Cook, coasting from Kamschatka to California,

have proved that, if the two continents of Asia and America be

separated at all, it is only by a narrow streight.  So that from this

side also, inhabitants may have passed into America: and the

resemblance between the Indians of America and the Eastern

inhabitants of Asia, would induce us to conjecture, that the former

are the descendants of the latter, or the latter of the former:

excepting indeed the Eskimaux, who, from the same circumstance of

resemblance, and from identity of language, must be derived from the

Groenlanders, and these probably from some of the northern parts of

the old continent.  A knowledge of their several languages would be

the most certain evidence of their derivation which could be

produced.  In fact, it is the best proof of the affinity of nations

which ever can be referred to.  How many ages have elapsed since the

English, the Dutch, the Germans, the Swiss, the Norwegians, Danes and

Swedes have separated from their common stock?  Yet how many more

must elapse before the proofs of their common origin, which exist in

their several languages, will disappear?  It is to be lamented then,

very much to be lamented, that we have suffered so many of the Indian

tribes already to extinguish, without our having previously collected

and deposited in the records of literature, the general rudiments at

least of the languages they spoke.  Were vocabularies formed of all

the languages spoken in North and South America, preserving their

appellations of the most common objects in nature, of those which

must be present to every nation barbarous or civilised, with the

inflections of their nouns and verbs, their principles of regimen and

concord, and these deposited in all the public libraries, it would

furnish opportunities to those skilled in the languages of the old

world to compare them with these, now, or at any future time, and

hence to construct the best evidence of the derivation of this part

of the human race.
 
 

        But imperfect as is our knowledge of the tongues spoken in

America, it suffices to discover the following remarkable fact.

Arranging them under the radical ones to which they may be palpably

traced, and doing the same by those of the red men of Asia, there

will be found probably twenty in America, for one in Asia, of those

radical languages, so called because, if they were ever the same,

they have lost all resemblance to one another.  A separation into

dialects may be the work of a few ages only, but for two dialects to

recede from one another till they have lost all vestiges of their

common origin, must require an immense course of time; perhaps not

less than many people give to the age of the earth.  A greater number

of those radical changes of language having taken place among the red

men of America, proves them of greater antiquity than those of Asia.
 
 

        I will now proceed to state the nations and numbers of the

Aborigines which still exist in a respectable and independant form.

And as their undefined boundaries would render it difficult to

specify those only which may be within any certain limits, and it may

not be unacceptable to present a more general view of them, I will

reduce within the form of a Catalogue all those within, and

circumjacent to, the United States, whose names and numbers have come

to my notice.  These are taken from four different lists, the first

of which was given in the year 1759 to General Stanwix by George

Croghan, Deputy agent for Indian affairs under Sir William Johnson;

the second was drawn up by a French trader of considerable note,

resident among the Indians many years, and annexed to Colonel

Bouquet's printed account of his expedition in 1764.  The third was

made out by Captain Hutchins, who visited most of the tribes, by

order, for the purpose of learning their numbers in 1768.  And the

fourth by John Dodge, an Indian trader, in 1779, except the numbers

marked *, which are from other information.
 
 

 

        The following tribes are also mentioned:

        xxx
 
 

        But, apprehending these might be different appellations for

some of the tribes already enumerated, I have not inserted them in

the table, but state them separately as worthy of further inquiry.

The variations observable in numbering the same tribe may sometimes

be ascribed to imperfect information, and sometimes to a greater or

less comprehension of settlements under the same name.