Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

as citizens of Canada and the United States, began in 1641. The first royal grants both in New England and farther south made no mention of the native population of the country, and the early proprietors and settlers were largely left to their own devices in dealing with them, the policy of extinguishing their titles to land being adopted as needed. Later on, of course, due recognition was had of the fact that certain parts of America were inhabited by “heathen,” “savages,” &c., and the chiefs of many of the tribes were looked upon as rulers with prerogatives of princes and royal personages (e.g. the “Emperor” Powhatan and the “Princess” Pocahontas, “King” Philip, the “Emperor” of the Creeks, &c.). The method of dealing with the Indian “tribes” by the Federal government as autonomous groups through treaties, &c., lasted till 1871, when, by act of Congress, “simple agreements” were favoured in lieu of “solemn treaties.”

Meanwhile no consistent purpose was shown in dealing with the Indian problem. At one time the American policy was to concentrate all the Indians on three great reservations, an expansion of the plan adopted early in the 19th century which set aside the former “Indian country” (afterwards restricted to the Indian Territory). The sentiment in regard to great reservations, however, gradually weakened, till in 1878 it was proposed to concentrate the Indians on smaller reservations; but the entire reservation system became increasingly unpopular, and finally in 1887 Congress enacted the Land Severally Law, paving the way for abolition of the reservation and agency system; at the same time it emphasized the government policy of gradually (the reservation system was a preliminary step in the way of bringing the Indians more under government control) bringing about the cessation of all “tribes” as independent communities and securing their ultimate entrance upon citizenship with the white population. This certainly was far removed from the declaration of the Virginia Assembly in 1702 that “no Indian could hold office, be a capable witness, or hunt over patented land”; and at this time also, “an Indian child was classed as a mulatto, and Indians, like slaves, were liable to be taken on execution for the payment of debt.” As Miss Fletcher (Handb. of Amer. Inds., 1907, pt. i. p. 501) notes, the ordinance of Congress passed in 1787 respecting the duty of the United States to the Indian tribes, which was confirmed by the act of 1789, was reaffirmed in the organizing acts of Alabama, Colorado, Dakota, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The Land Severally Law of 1887 (amended 1890) provided for the survey of reservations and the allotment to each person of a tract ranging from 40 to 160 acres, the remainder being sold to white settlers. The process of dividing the Indian lands into individual allotments and disposing of the remainder for the benefit of the tribe or the nation has been very successful in many cases. This policy has culminated in a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, by virtue of which all Indians living upon their own allotments were declared to be citizens, on the same terms and subject to the same laws as the whites.

During the period 1609-1664, from the visit of Hudson to the surrender of New Amsterdam to the English, the Dutch exercised not a little influence upon the aborigines of the present state of New York and some of the regions adjoining. Hudson's harsh treatment of the natives caused the Dutch trouble later on. Through their trading-post of Fort Orange (now Albany) they came into contact with both Iroquoian and Algonkian tribes, carrying on an extensive trade in furs with some of them, including the New England Pequots. They sided with the Iroquois against the northern Algonkian tribes, but also aided the Mohegans against the Mohawks. Farther south they helped the Senecas against the Munsees. Their quarrels with the English involved many of the Indian tribes on one side or the other. They have been generally condemned for their readiness to furnish the Indians with firearms and intoxicating liquors, though some of these actions were doubtless performed by individual traders and settlers only and cannot be charged to a deliberate policy of the government. The modern title of Kora, given by the Canadian Iroquois to the governor-general (also to the king of England), is a corruption of Corlaer, the name of a Dutch trusted manager of Rensselaercoyck (cf. the Iroquois name for the French governor, Onontio = Montmagny).

German influence among the American Indians north of Mexico has made itself felt among the Eskimo (particularly in Labrador), the Delawares and Mohegans, the Iroquois and the Cherokee, where the Moravian missionaries did much good work. They influenced the Indians for peace and good conduct during the great wars. In Labrador the dress, habitations and beliefs of the Eskimo have been considerably modified. It is said by some that Sequoyah, the inventor of the “Cherokee alphabet,” had for father a German settler.

The great influence of the Spaniards upon the American Indians has been treated by Blackmar in his Spanish Institutions in the South-west, and by Lummis, Bourke, Hodge and other authorities. The results of Spanish contact and control are seen in the loan-words in the various languages of the region, the consequences of the introduction of domestic animals (horse, mule, sheep, goat, fowls), the perfection of the arts involved in the utilization of wool, the planting of wheat, the cultivation of peaches and other exotic fruits. The difference between the Navaho and their close kinsmen the Apache may be largely attributed to changes wrought by the coming of the Spaniards. The “Mission Indians” of California represent another great point of contact. In California thousands and thousands of Indians were converted and brought under the control of the able and devoted missionaries of the Catholic Church, only to become more or less utterly helpless when Spanish domination ceased and the missions fell into decay. Traces of Spanish influence may be found as far north as the Saskatchewan, where personal names implying origin from a Mexican captive occur; and there is not a little Spanish blood in some of the tribes of the Great Plains, who often took with them from their border raids, or acquired from other tribes, many white prisoners from Mexico, &c.

In Alaska the influence of Russian sailors, traders and settlers during the period of occupancy was considerable, as was also that of the priests and missionaries of the Greek Church, but much of what was thus imposed upon the aborigines has now been modified or is being submerged by the more recent influences of the English-speaking settlers, miners, &c., and the efforts of the American government to educate and improve them. The influence of the Russians extended even to California, as the name “Russian River” would indicate, and Friederici (Schiffahrt der Indianer, 1907, p. 46) even thinks that to them is due the sporadic occurrence in that region of skin-boats. It was through the Russians that the Alaskan Eskimo received tobacco. Some Russian words have crept into certain of the Indian languages. It has been said that the Russian authorities from time to time transported a few Indians over-sea to Kamchatka, &c.

The general question of the relations of the Europeans in North America with the Indians has been treated by various authors, one of the most recent being Friederici, whose Indianer und Amerikaner (Brunswick, 1900) is perhaps a little too prejudiced.

The contact between the races in North America has had its darker side, seen in the numerous conflicts and “wars” Indian wars. that have marked the conquest of the continent by the whites and the resistance of the weaker people to the inevitable triumph of the stronger. The following sketch of the warlike relations of various Indian stocks with the European colonists and their descendants brings out the principal facts of historic interest.

Eskimoan.—The history of warfare between the European colonists (and their descendants) and the North American aborigines begins with the conflict of Eskimo and Northmen in Greenland, the last phase of which, in the first half of the 15th century, ended in the destruction of the European settlements and the loss of knowledge of the Eskimo to the Old World till they were rediscovered by Frobisher in 1576 and Davis in 1585. Then came a new series of small conflicts in which the whites have been the chief aggressors—whalers, sealers and other adventurers. In the extreme north-west the Aleuts were very harshly treated by the Russians, and one of the most recent deeds of brutality has been the reported extermination, by irresponsible whalers, of the Eskimo of Southampton Island in Hudson's Bay.

Algonkian and Iroquoian.—Southward, along the Atlantic coast, the period of actual settlement by the whites in large numbers was preceded by numerous conflicts with the Algonkian Indians in which all too often the whites (adventurers, fishermen, &c.) were principally at fault, the natives being sometimes carried off as slaves to Spain and elsewhere in Europe. When Champlain, very shortly after the founding of Quebec, decided to help his Algonkian neighbours against their Iroquoian enemies, an alliance was entered upon which had much to do with the final defeat of France in North America. The battle fought and won by Champlain near Ticonderoga in 1609 made the Iroquois the lasting antagonists of the French, and, since the former held a large portion of what is now the state of New York, the latter were effectually prevented from annihilating or destroying the English colonies to the south. The Iroquois alliance with the English in New York was preceded by