Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/629

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
611
ANCIENT COPPER-MINES OF ISLE ROYALE.

of copper, and the use of copper implements. The Indian, it is said, knows nothing of the mound—that is, nothing of its origin. He also avers, at the present time, that he knows nothing about the copper knives, axes, and arrow-points that are shown him. This fact, taken with a sentiment that has exalted the builders of the mounds to a stage of civilization far in advance of that evinced by the commonalty of the savage races of North America as they exist in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, has erected a barrier between the Indian and the mound-builder, which, though wholly imaginary when subjected to close analysis, is so great that they have been regarded either as misinformed, or rash, who have ventured to question its validity. Messrs. Squier and Davis, who first systematically explored and described the remarkable mounds of the Ohio Valley, were led to regard the mound-builders as a race wholly distinct from the Indian ("Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge," vol. i, 1848), and this view is also maintained by the beautiful and able work of Mr. John T. Short ("The North Americans of Antiquity," 1880). Mr. Squier, however, in his work on the "Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York" ("Smithsonian Contributions," vol. ii), in 1849, mentions many points of resemblance between the mound-builder and the Indian, though he does not specifically state that the Ohio Valley earthworks are probably of Indian origin, while he does conclude that the mounds and earthworks of western New York, as well as their contents, are the product of the Iroquois. Mr. Lapham, in vol. vii of the "Smithsonian Contributions," unhesitatingly ascribes the mounds and the copper-mining to the Indians, but his opinion has been generally ignored. Colonel J. W. Foster, in "Prehistoric Races of the United States," makes light of Mr. Lapham's views.

Upon consulting a number of works in the library of the Minnesota Historical Society that bear on this subject, it is found that there are a great many more references to the use of copper by the Indians, and to their knowledge of its origin, than has generally been supposed. They are too numerous and circumstantial, and are spread over too wide a stretch of time, to be supposed to be exceptional.

Following are a few quotations from early journals and histories that seem to demonstrate not only that the Indians used and mined native copper, but that they also erected mounds of earth, or of stones, in commemoration of their honored dead, and for sepulture. The Indian is a dull utilitarian. He is but little given to sentiment. As he knows nothing of the future, so he remembers little of the past. Hope and history are alike feeble in his mental garniture. His traditions are worthless, and "his chronology of moons and cycles is an incoherent and contradictory jumble."[1] If he says he knows nothing of these relics, his testimony can apply only to himself personally, for his ancestors, on the most undeniable evidence, did know all about them.

  1. ↑ Short, "The North Americans of Antiquity," p. 22.