Duponceau, Gallatin, and Pickering were the most conspicuous, who fifty years ago laid the foundation of American ethnology, basing it entirely on language. Albert Gallatin, applying to the study of linguistics the penetrating sagacity which had resolved the most intricate questions of national diplomacy and finance, framed on this basis his great work, the "Synopsis of the Indian Tribes east of the Rocky Mountains," which, published in 1836, still remains the highest authority on the subject. Later investigators have followed in the same line. Hayden, in his "Ethnography and Philology of the Indian Tribes of the Missouri Valley"; Dall, in his treatises on the "Tribes of Alaska and of Washington Territory"; Powers, in his "Tribes of California"; Stoll, in his "Ethnography of Guatemala"; and Gatschet, in his account of the "Southern Families of Indians," have all been inevitably led to the linguistic classification as the only scientific method. The greatest of living historians has given to this method the weight of his authority. The latest revision of Bancroft's "History of the United States" (1887) comprises a succinct but minutely accurate enumeration of the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. He finds that there is "no method of grouping them into families but by their languages"; and he has accordingly named and classed the various groups according to their linguistic relations, as fixed by the best authorities. But the profoundest scholar can not be complete in all specialties. It did not occur to the illustrious historian that the distinction of language was significant of a similar distinction in character and customs; and thus, in his subsequent general description of the Indians, he has, like many other writers, been induced to ascribe to them common usages and traits to a greater extent than the facts will fairly warrant. It is true that similar surroundings, together with close intercourse continued for ages, had made a certain superficial resemblance among the various groups of American aborigines within the earlier limits of the United States; but more careful inquiry discloses the radical unlikeness, as decided in many other characteristics as in language. It was inevitable that a special acquaintance with the tribes of the far extended Algonkin family, with which the English colonists were first and longest in contact, should have colored all their ideas of the Indians. Thus the native habitation which Bancroft describes with his usual graphic clearness—but ascribing it to all the tribes—was simply the slight and temporary shelter of the restless Algonkin rovers. "With long poles fixed in the ground, and bent toward each other at the top, covered with birch or chestnut bark, and hung on the inside with embroidered mats, having no door but a loose skin, no hearth but the ground, no chimney but an opening in the roof, the wigwam was quickly constructed and as easily removed." Widely unlike this flimsy Algonkin tent was the permanent "long-house" of the Huron-Iroquois towns—a regularly-framed dwelling, having firm sidewalls and raftered roof, and sometimes extended to the length of a hundred feet,
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/359
RACE AND LANGUAGE.