362 W. H. ABBOTT We know there were many tribes, several races, curious customs, innumerable traditions and many languages, all of which have received scant attention from the conqueror who disdained learning anything from the Indian. The records left seem to civilized man meager, indeed. The white race, with its instinct for building, cannot comprehend a race that has no desire for permanent habitations or occupa- tions. We are so delighted with our new found mastery of some of the natural powers that we cannot excuse the absence of them and have forgotten how to read the records of any other events than those commemorated by an exercise of these new powers. When we remember that nature leaves a complete record of her march onward, without recourse to any of these artificial helps, we then realize that the immense book of history of pre- ceding ages is only closed because we do not know how to read, rather than because no record is left. Of. the records left, the mounds with their various skulls, implements, and structures have given an inkling of how to start the deciphering. The camping grounds, the oyster shell piles and the arrow heads and tomahawks give another point of departure. The traditions are of course actual history much distorted, but surely of great value and especially so for re- cent events. The most valuable record left and the one which can prob- ably be made the stepping stone for any extensive research is the various Indian languages. A complete study of all the dialects will probably give a thousand years of history and may point the way to that larger study of traces and markings which the future historian will be able to decipher as the geolo- gist now deciphers the story of the rocks. For the above purpose alone, possibly a record of books open to the philologist and the historian would be sufficient. We certainly cannot hope to use the Indian languages to form any considerable, part of the language of the present day. It is, however, advantageous to have the Indian words enter into our daily life in some capacity, so that they may be
Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/370
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