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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/125

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SKETCH OF LEWIS H. MORGAN.

Stephen Goodwin, of Chicago; Rev. James S. Bush, of Staten Island; and George S. Riley, of Rochester.

The society seems to have greatly flourished for a time, and to have been very popular throughout that portion of New York west of the Hudson River. Its ceremonies were picturesque and attractive. The meetings of the society were called councils, and were held in the woods. The Grand Council was held in a forest near Aurora by night, and the forest aisles were illuminated by huge camp-fires, and the sachems and chiefs who there assembled came in Indian panoply, with chaplets of eagle-feathers, Indian tunics, scarlet leggins, and decorated moccasins. It was wild sport, in which the young men engaged in merry mood.

Morgan and his young associates soon became absorbed in active business, and found that the society they had organized could not be operated without consuming too great a portion of their time, and it died by premeditated neglect. But the discoveries made by Morgan were of such importance and interest that he continued his investigations from time to time, and, in order to obtain a deeper insight into the home life and customs of the Indians, and their social and governmental organization, he spent much time among them and was adopted into a gens of the Senecas.

In 1847 he published in the "American Review" a series of "Letters on the Iroquois," over the signature of "Skenandoah." In the mean time he was building up a legal practice, and found that he must neglect it or abandon his studies of Indian life and government; and so he determined to publish the materials on hand, and then devote himself exclusively to the practice of his profession. This resulted in the publication in 1851 of "The League of the Iroquois," in which the social organization and government of this wonderful confederacy were carefully and thoroughly explained. The volume also contains interesting accounts of the daily life, customs, and superstitions of these Indians, and was the first scientific account of an Indian tribe ever given to the world.

The work is not entirely free from the nomenclature of sociology previously, and to some extent since, used by writers on our North American Indians, in which tribes are described as nations, and the institutions of tribal or barbaric life defined in terms used in national or civilized life. But the series of organic units was discovered among the Iroquois and was correctly defined, though the confederacy was called a league, the tribe a nation, and the gens a tribe. In like manner, kinship as the bond of union was fully recognized.

In 1856 Morgan attended the Albany meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and read a paper called "The Laws of Descent of the Iroquois." The reading of the paper awakened great interest in the subject, and a number of the leading members of the Association urged Mr. Morgan to continue his studies