Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/459

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AMERICA 411 AMERICA not all-powerful) spirits; in many tribes little atten- tion is paiil to them. Historic deities also arose among tliem as the result of belief in mighty wizards whose spirit dwelt in their fetishes. Sacrifices were made to the fetishes, and the most precious objects offered up, human victims being looked upon as the most desirable. Kven the practice of scalping was ba.sed upon the belief that, by securing that part of the enemy's body nearest to the brain, the captor came into possession of the mental faculties of the deceased, and thus adiled so much more to his own mental and physical power. Anthropophagy, or cannibalism, so wiilely distributed through the tropics, rested on the same conception. .iH)HiGiNAL Laws and Languages. — The Indian had no written laws. Custom ruled; the decisions of the tribal councils and oracular utterances deter- mined the questions at issue. The council was the chief authority in tem[X)ral matters; the chiefs exeeuteil its aecrees, which were first sanctioned, or modified, by the oracles of the shamans. There was no writing, no letters, but some of the more ad- vanced tribes used pictographs, by means of which they could, to a limited extent, record historic events, preserve the records of tribute, and represent the calendars, both astronomical (in a rude way) and ritual. The knotted strings, or yi/i/jpus, of Peru were a more imperfect metliod, ancl their use, in a simpler form, was much more extended than is generally thought. The aboriginal languages of America are di-ided into stocks, and again sub- divided into dialects. The number of these stocks is becoming gratlually reduced as a result of pliilologi- cal study. There is an aflinity between some of the idioms of western North America and some of eastern .sia, but further than that resemblances do not go. It is safer to follow the exami)le set by Hrinton and to subdivide the -American idioms into geographical groups, each of which embraces a cer- tain number of stocks. There is, however, an ob- jection to this plan in that in some cases one stock is scattered and disi>ersed over more than one geographic section. There are, for instance, indica- tions that the Shoshones of Oregon, the Pimas, Opatas, Yaqui of .rizona and Sonora, and the Mexi- cans (.ztecs, Tezcucans, etc.) and a part of the Indians of Nicaragua belong to one linguistic family, which is thus represented both among the North Pacific and Central groups. Leaving aside the Eskimo, whose langiiage may be chi.s.scd as specifically Arctic, the most important groups arc: in IJritish America the Athapascans, or TinniS; the Navajos, or DinnC', in Arizona and New Mexico, with their relatives the Apaches or N'd(S: the Algonquins. ranging from Nova Scotia in the north-east, on the .Vtlanlic, to New York Bay in the south, and from the headwaters of the Missouri Uiver in the west, across the ba.sin of the Great Lakes; of these Indians the Arapahoes, Blackfeet, Cheyennes, Chippeways, Delawares, Sacs and Foxes, and Shawnees are the most generally known. Many tribes of this group (like those of New England for instance) are practically extinct : the Iroquois in northern New York, embracing the Ilurons, Eries, Cherokees, etc.; the Muskogees, comprising the tribes along the southern .tlantic coast to part of Florida; the Catawbas. Natchez, and .some of the Indians of Florida and Coahuila in Mexico; the Pawnees, Da- kotas, and Kiowas, mostly Indians from the plains and of the watershed west of the Mi.>isi.ssippi; in the West, on the Pacific coast, the north Pacific group extends from Alaska to southern California. The Yumas are scattered from the mouth of the Colorado through portions of .Arizona, and a branch of them is Rai<l to live in the Mexican State of Oaxaca. The Pueblos of New Mexico and .Arizona are looked upon as a separate linguistic cluster also. Of the great Shoshone group mention has already been made. Mexico further contains a number of clusters hn- guistieally distinct, like the Taoascans, the Otomis, the Totonacos, Zapotecos, Mijes, Mi.xtecos, Mayas, Zenilales, some of which have been grouped into one family. The Maya, for instance, embrace some of the more highly developed tribes of Guatemala, and the Iluaxtecos of the State of Vera Cruz, far to the north of Yucatan. The farther south we go, the more indefinite become linguistic classifications for the reason that the material at hand has not been sufficiently investigated, and also that there is, especially in regard to South America, much ma- terial still to be collected. It follows, therefore, that the idioms of the Isthmus can hardly be regarded as classified. A number are recognized as apparently related, but that relationship is but imperfectly un- derstood. In South America, we here merely men- tion the Chibchas, or Muyscas, of Colombia, the extensive Arawak stock, and the Caribs, the former widely scattered, the latter limited to Venezuela, the Orinoco, and Guyana. Of the idioms of Ecuador little is known except that the Quichua language of Peru (mountains) may have supplanted a number of other languages before the Spanish conquest. South of the tjuichua the great Aymard stock oc- cupies the central jilateau, but in primitive times it extended much farther north. In Brazil, the Tupi (Guarani) and Tapuya were, on the coast, the most widely diffu.sed languages. We may further men- tion the idioms of Chile which may form one family, the tribes of the Gran C'haco (of which the Calchaquis were the most ailvanced), and the unclassified idioms of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. This sketch of the distribution of American languages cannot here be carried into greater detail. American linguistics are constantly progressing, and much of what now appears well established is liable to be overthrown in the future. Ohigin of the AnoKiGiNAL Races. — The question of the origin of the Indians is as yet a matter of con- jecture. Affinities with Asiatic groups have been observed on the north-western and western coast of North America, and certain similarities between the Peruvian-coast Indians and Polynesian tribes seem striking, but decisive es'idence is still wanting. The numberless hypotheses on the origin of the primitive Americans that have floodetl literature since the days of Columbus have no proper place here. The exist- ence of man in America during the glacial period is still a matter of research. Neither is there any proof of the coming of Christian missionaries in jire- Columbian times. There may be indications, but these lack, so far, the support of documentary en- dence. If, however, we consider Greenland iis an island belonging to the North American Continent, Christianity was introduced into America in the tenth century of our era. The tale of the voyage to "Vinland" attributed to a Bishop Jon, or John, in the fourteenth century, rests on slender foundations. In regard to the visits of Asiatics to the west coast of -America, nothing is known, the Fu-Sang tale hax-ing long ago been shown to apply to the Japanese archipelago. Martin Beliaim placed on his map of 1492 a note according to which seven Portuguese bishops in the ninth century fled from the Moors to a western island calleil .Vntilia and there fouiuled seven towns. Other than this, there is no authority for the story. Finally, there is the tale of Atlantis, told by Plato in his "Tinueus" and liis "Critias", which is efjually unsupported. Though the subject of much speculation, no trace of a submerged conti- nent, or part of the .American Continent, of which the .Antilles would be the remnant, has so far been dis- covered. The attempts to establish traces of the .Atlantis catastrophe in the folklore of Central Amer- ican tribes liave met with indifferent success.