Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/348

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

throve fur-bearing creatures in great variety, coveted by the titled and fashionable in the Eastern Hemisphere. The trader brought along with him the gun and the curved knife, with which men built better canoes and women cut the finest leather, called babiche. Result: better boats for water travel, better snow-shoes for snow travel and also better men and women. But primarily, after all, conditions were hard and starvation was not unknown.

The sleds of the birch-canoe region have no runners; they are boats to move on the snow. In the fur trade the dog became exalted through external stimulus, and the voyageurs were known as the hardiest of men.

In the realm of the æsthetic, however, through all the birch bark area men knocked at the door of Nature in vain. The fine art of both sexes was in ephemeral costume decorated with porcupine quills. No pottery, basketry, woodwork, stonework, earthwork or fine carving of any kind existed. Since the art faculty and the materials are always exalted mutually, it is in vain to enquire whether the one or the other was lacking.

The north Atlantic area.

The drainage of the St. Lawrence, the Appalachian mountains, and the Atlantic slope together formed the culture area for two powerful Indian families, the Iroquoian and the Algonquian. The annual round of varied employments, in peace and in war, developed a fine breed of men. Cultivation of maize by the women, added to their zootechnic activities, trained their wits in economy and cooperation. They were not excellent potters or weavers, however, and their advancement was far behind that of the men. Matriarchy was breaking down at the period of the Discovery. The early records of these two families abound in accounts of long journeys, of masterful enterprises, of concerted activities, of imposing councils, of treaties and alliances, which go to show that the Atlantic slope long ago could produce noble men.

The Mississippi valley area.

Between the Blue Ridge mountains and the Rockies, when the historian arrived, two contending cultures had been at work, evoked by the kingdoms of nature—that of the buffalo and that of the prairie. As the land of Egypt is the residuum of a continuous warfare between the desert dust and the Nile fioods, so the phenomenon of roving tribes living on the sites of mounds and earthworks, of which they had neither knowledge nor tradition, was the outcome of the conflict between the hunting Dakotans and their congeners on the one side and the agricultural builders of mounds from the south.