Part one of an eight part series on the history of America from its earliest times through to the age of George Washington, told by master storyteller Jacob Abbott.
Starting with a physical description of the geography and natural life of North America, Abbott moves on to forthrightly address the origins, customs, traditions, and lifestyle of the Indian tribes living in North America. His conclusions—once common knowledge, but now suppressed in the name of political correctness—deal with many of the critical issues which surrounded the original settling of America—and the concepts of race and racial differences.
“We are surprised sometimes, it is true, at the ingenuity which the Indians exhibited in some of their inventions, and it is, indeed, in some sense wonderful that with materials and implements so imperfect they could manufacture such efficient weapons and carry out such curious contrivances. But, after all, when we come to compare a bark canoe, perfect as it is in its way, with one of the ocean steam-ships of the Caucasian race, or the best made stone-tipped arrow ever shot at a moose or a buffalo, with the double-barreled rifled carbines carrying an explosive bullet, with which a French hunter lies in wait for an African lion, we learn the immense distance which separates the powers and attainments of the two races from each other.”
Abbott also points out the fact that archaeological excavations conducted in the nineteenth century had already conclusively proven that the Indians were not the original inhabitants of the continent, and an advanced and different people created much of what is today incorrectly regarded as Indian culture.
“There are remnants of many of the ancient tribes existing at the present day in various parts of our country, but they live by themselves, a marked and separate race, with nothing changed except the external circumstances by which they are surrounded. They live in huts still, as their ancestors did three hundred years ago. It is only the covering that is changed—the birch bark, which has failed, being replaced with canvass, or with slabs obtained from the white men. They sit upon the ground around their wigwam fire, just as of old, and are occupied in the same species of employment, only that they make baskets instead of canoes, and bows and arrows to sell us toys, or to be used by children in shooting at coppers for a prize, instead of for the service of hunters in the chase.”
“There are descendants from Indians residing in certain portions of the Southern States that have adopted a settled mode of life, and have attained to a considerable degree of refinement and civilization, but in general, even among these, the degree in which they manifest the capacities of the Caucasian race corresponds very nearly to the proportion of Caucasian blood that flows in their veins.”
CHAPTER I: Types of Life in America.
Subject of the Volume.—Origin of Vegetable and Animal Life in America.—Means of Communication with the Old World.—The Plants and Animals of America.—Generally New.—Man Admitted to be an Exception.—What Is a Species?—The Distinction of Species Very Permanent.—Evidence of Ancient Records.—Evidence of Fossil Remains.—Opinions of Naturalists and Philosophers.—Examples of Diversity.—The General Types the Same.—The Mystery General.—The Two Principal Theories.—Inquiries into This Subject Right and Proper.—The Testimony of Scripture.—Means of Transportation for Animals and Plants.—Glacial Action.—The Glacial Period of North America
CHAPTER II: Face of the Country.
The Map.—The Lake Country.—Fur-Bearing Animals.—The Indian Inhabitants.—Influence of the Moral Instincts.—The Great Central Valley.—The Soil of the Great Valley.—Formation of Islands in the River.—Swamps.—The Old Forsaken Channels.—The Mouth of the Mississippi.—The Prairies.—The Northern Atlantic Slope.—Native Animals.—Man.—The Southern Atlantic Slope.—Character of the Coast.—The Western Slope.—The Great Salt Desert.—The Deposits of Salt.—The Diggers.—Climate of the Country.—Recapitulation
CHAPTER III: Remarkable Plants
Distinction of Indigenous and Exotic.—The Cotton Plant.—Many Species.—The Sea Island Cotton.—Cotton Intended for the Clothing of Men.—Rice.—Maize.—An Indian Tradition.—The Distinction of Exogenous and Endogenous.—The Tobacco Plant.—The Habit of Using Tobacco.—Botanical Name.—The Potato.—The Magnolia.—The Mahogany Tree
CHAPTER IV: Remarkable Animals
The Beaver.—The Beaver’s Teeth.—Fame of the Beaver.—His System of Building .—The Houses.—Working Hours.—Other Fur-Bearing Animals.—Curious Phenomenon.—The Buffalo.—Animal Migration.—Swimming the Streams.—Crossing on the Ice.—Trails.—Use of the Buffalo .—The Turkey.—The Alligator.—The Eagle.—Cochineal.—The Rattlesnake and Hummingbird.—The Rattle.—The Rattlesnake More Sinned Against Than Sinning.—He Acts Always on the Defensive.—The Hummingbird.—Vibrations Producing Sound.—The Hummingbird’s Mode of Life .—Gentleness of Disposition
CHAPTER V: The Indian Races
Question of the Origin of the Different Races of Men.—Distinction of Races.—Causes of the Differences Observed.—Important Conclusion.—The Distinction of Race Fixed and Permanent.—Objection to This View.—The Weak Especially Entitled to Protection from the Strong .—Original Peopling of the Continent.—Crossing the Northern Seas.—Traveling upon the Ice.—The Pacific Islander.—Currents of the Ocean.—Antiquity of the Aboriginal Population of America.—Ancient Nations of North America.—Durability of Earthworks.—Ancient Fields.—The Copper Mines.—The Mounds of Florida.—Unquestionable Antiquity of Many of the Mounds.—Conclusion
CHAPTER VI: The Indian Family
The Institution of Marriage.—General Law of Pairing.—Application to the Case of Man.—Construction of Dwellings.—Coverings.—Interior of the Lodges.—Indian Housekeeping.—Removals.—Canoes.—Log Canoes.—Clearing Land.—Tilling the Land.—Preparing the Corn for Food.—Mode of Boiling.—Varied Occupations of the Women .—Moccasins.—Excursions of the Women.—Education of the Children.—Stories for Children.—The Child That Turned into a Wolf
CHAPTER VII: Mechanic Arts
Native Ingenuity.—Manufacture of Weapons.—Superiority of Firearms.—Curious Modes of Making Handles.—Stone-Headed Mace.—Military Ornaments.—Hunting and Fishing.—Solitary Habits of the Indian.—Summer Hunting.—Night Hunting.—Snow Shoes.—Adventures in the Woods.—Fishing.—Various Manufactures.—Painting the Face.—The Tikkinagon.—Fire.—Wampum.—Wampum Used for Records and Documents.—Treaties and Public Records .—Pictorial Writing
CHAPTER VIII: Indian Legends and Tales
Travelers among the Indians.—Origin of Man.—Old Boreas and Shingebiss.—The Story of Ampata.—Trap Set for Catching the Sun.—Hunting in Heaven.—The Story of Moowis.—Old Red Head.—How Algon Gained His Wife
CHAPTER IX: Constitution and Character of the Indian Mind
Adaptations Observed in the Forms of Animal Life.—Mental Adaptations .—Designs of Divine Providence in Respect to Man.—The Great Divisions in the Human Family.—Constitutional Diversities.—Mental and Physical Constitution of the American Aborigines.—The Taciturnity of the Indians.—Cruelty.—The Father Dying for His Son.—The Practice of Scalping.—Origin of the Practice.—Customs Connected with the Practice of Scalping.—Treatment of Women.—Polygamy.—Intellectual Superiority of the Caucasian Race.—The Two Great Means of Civilization
CHAPTER X: The Coming of the Europeans
Great Changes Produced.—Changes in Respect to Animal Life.—Changes in Respect to Plants.—Changes in the Races of Men.—The Displacement of One Race by Another not Necessarily Attended with Suffering.—Difficulties that Opposed the Amalgamation of the Two Races.—Fixedness of the Indian Tastes and Habits.—Present Condition of the Western Tribes.—The Mandan Lodges.—Different Causes for the Aversion of the Indians to Live Like the Whites.—The Kennebec Indian and His Child.—The Feeling of Repulsion That Exists between the Different Races of Man not Necessarily a Prejudice.—The Universal Brotherhood of Man
About the author: Jacob Abbott (1803–1879) was a native of the state of Maine who was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, a minister, and founder of two schools (the Mount Vernon School for Young Ladies in Boston and the Mount Vernon School for Boys, in New York City). He wrote more than 180 books and became famous for his easy-to-read style of historical storytelling, stripped of the dry dustiness which characterized other texts.
The American History Series by Jacob Abbott:
Volume I: Aboriginal America
Volume II: Discovery of America
Volume III: The Southern Colonies
Volume IV: The Northern Colonies
Volume V: Wars of the Colonies
Volume VI: Revolt of the Colonies
Volume VII: War of the Revolution
Volume VIII: George Washington