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Absence of Siderotechny from America Whatever opinion one may have concerning other materials and arts, it is conceded that aboriginally there was neither smelting of iron nor working by means of it in America. Hematite and perhaps other ores took their places in the Indian economy along with stone and copper, to be battered, rubbed, bored, sawed, and edged; but the fact remains that prior to the invasion of America from the Eastern hemisphere in historic times the native tribes manufactured no iron products and did not use iron as a metal in their industries. They are not now skillful in the manipulation of it. The fence between the purely native America that every ethnologist desires so earnestly to understand and the other America that is always obtruding itself upon the student was wrought of iron.
The American tribes eagerly adopted finished knives, axes, saws, files, needles, cooking pots, arrowheads, lance blades, weapons, and a thousand other inventions in lieu of their own poorer tools and utensils. In accepting the working parts of iron they continued to manufacture the manual parts and the haftings after their own fashions, to cover these with old devices full of meaning, and, in addition, to put their new tools upon the copying of whatever pleased them in the possession of their conquerors. The plasticity of the native American mind and the youth of the race as a whole are demonstrated by the eager26
ness with which the men were ready to leap out of the Stone Age into the Iron Age the very moment an advantage was to be gained. We nowhere hear of a man whose prejudices kept him from wearing a steel hunting knife at his side. The very worst he did was in some instances to buy the iron in hoops and
toes” and break it up and grind it after his own fancy. La Pey rere (1605) says of the Greenland Eskimo :
They laughed at the gold and silver money which was offered to them and appeared very eager for any articles made of steel; for they like them above everything, and would give whatever they most prizedtheir bows, arrows, boats, and oars; and when they had nothing more to give they stripped themselves and gave their shirts.
Elimination of Iron-age Products
When a chemist wishes to observe and examine any
substance apart, what infinite pains he takes at every step to exclude foreign bodies, to eliminate from the compound everything that is not the object of his search. The physicist, the biologist, the linguist act from the same motive. It is the method of science. There may
be occasions when the student aims to understand the compound itself and the method of its aggregation. That inquiry, however, can be made best when the ingredients are understood.
In such manner should be studied the meaning of the phrase "American aboriginal culture.” Omit for the present the vexed inquiries whence came the aborigines, how long have they been on this continent, and in what status of culture were they at a given time, and let us try to ascertain what in a few words was their own contribution to culture as a whole, and how much that is called theirs was really theirs. The Iron Age of the Eastern hemisphere must be carefully eliminated, and every object that has the materials and impressions of that age.
The eliminations here spoken of apply to race, to industries, to language, to social structures, to thoughts and beliefs. To get at the pure blood you must eliminate blood; to get at the pure language you must eliminate the foreign words from the Indian tongues and the foreign personal equations of sound and sense from the literature of the languages in foreign books; to get at the pure arts we must eliminate new materials, tools, processes, productions, and functionings; to get at the aboriginal society you must eliminate all disturbances by Caucasian interference. The same is true of savage science and religion.
i Histoire du Groenland, Hakluyt, 1855, p. 219.
Culture will be taken in this paper to mean the sum of all artificialities of life in the possession of a people, their processes of working and instrumentalities, their activities and organizations, their means of communicating ideas, of enjoyment; their thoughts and worships.
These may have been at any given time fundamentally and altogether new, or they may have been improvements and specialized editions of older works. Native culture includes the fundamentally original, that which a people created and all the idiosyncrasies that have been originated by them.
The adoption of an Eastern hemisphere art or fashion may have been out and out, or only a substitution. The horse and his iron trappings were adopted out and out, but the iron arrowpoint and the bead took the place of, were substituted for, the stone point and the porcupine quill. That this is so one may readily see by examining the method of attaching the one and of laying on the other.
Elimination in both cases is only half a study. There must be not only the taking out of the added part, but the restoration of the old. The whole round is substitution by the savage, elimination and restoration by the ethnologist.
The term American is not difficult to define, and here will apply to the Western hemisphere between 20° and 180° west from Greenwich. This includes a very small projection of eastern Asia occupied by Eskimo, and omits a few islands of the Aleutian chain lying in the Eastern hemisphere. Polynesia also will be excluded, although it lies entirely within the Western hemisphere, excepting the two colonies of New Zealand and Madagascar. The Northern continent lies for the most part west of the meridian of Washington, while South America is situated almost entirely east of it.
The two Boundary Lines There are two acculturations attributed to the American aborigines: (1) That which has come to them in historic times, and (2) that which may have and is alleged to have come to them before the time of Eric the Red and of Columbus. The proof of the first named is both historical and ethnographic; you may see the thing any day and you have the record. The proof of the second is ethnographic only; it relies on material and not on literary evidence; on language and tradition and social organization and not on the actual specimen. tact with the Iron Age. It is impossible to draw an ethnic map of the two Americas for any year or epoch. In Major Powell's ethnological chart he locates tribes and linguistic families at the time when they were first reported. In some instances there is a difference of three hundred years between two historians. As regards time of earliest acquaintance, the line of contact is greatly curved. Furthermore, the one who makes the first report finds that he has been anticipated by unrecorded intrusions.
In this paper attention will be paid only to the first named. To arrive at scientific conclusions regarding the old and genuine American culture it is necessary first to know accurately all the modern culture of all the stocks and tribes, and then to eliminate therefrom the elements that have got into it since the Caucasian intrusion, to put back those elements that contact destroyed and replaced. By such analysis and synthesis the hither boundary of the unsophisticated culture of the Western hemisphere may be staked out.
The following difficulties confront the investigator:
I. The material objects upon which he has to rely are in cabinets and great museums. Sharp rivalry exists over the possession of old and rare and unadulterated material, consequently a certain percentage in every collection is fraudulent. If any one contends that this is not true of his material, let the student beware of him. Furthermore, there are no good catalogs of the great museums even. One must travel for years to see them, and it is not always convenient for the keepers to interrupt their own work.
II. Another considerable percentage, and this time of most precious things, is not properly described; the tribe and locality are wrongly inscribed or they are not given at all. Objects are often labeled from the point where they were procured and not from the place where they were invented or used originally. As between the aboriginal and the old world: 1, Old world things are ascribed to the new. 2, New world things are ascribed to the old. 3, Things from one part or tribe of the new are ascribed to another part or tribe. 4, Things made in one decade are ascribed to earlier or later decades.
III. A period of nearly four hundred years elapsed between the first and the latest business transactions of whites and negroes with American savages. It cannot be positively known by what instrumentality any one tribe after the first got its original con
IV. Accounts of early travelers, written in charming fashion for friends and royal patrons or as official and ecclesiastical reports, cannot always be checked off by comparison with the type material as in a laboratory. The tribes have disappeared or have been changed. The diagnosis is inadequate for the rigors of scientific method. Old pictures and descriptions abruptly leave us in doubt, and things are named in the current language of the day. The greatest patience is demanded in deciding just what an old author means or exhibits.
V. Since the days of Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries the American aboriginal tribes have been moved from almost the entire Northern continent, and in their stead are to be seen Aryans (both blonde and brunette) from Europe, Asia and Africa; Semites, African Negroids, Chinese, Coreo-Japanese, Mongols, Tartars, and Malayo-Polynesians. The degree and the times of these removals are not known, but the number of native tribes in our day living lives unaffected by these intrusions is very small. Therefore, even the trained ethnographer, who takes photos and measurements of any tribes as he now finds them and collects the products of industry with scrupulous caution, is not dealing with extra-iron culture.
VI. The amount of iron in tools and manufactured products to be found in ethnic collections does not express the knowledge of iron possessed by each people. The collector, of his own instinct or obeying instructions, carefully avoids iron and ironmade things. He says, " They are white man's work; they are modern." So, though the genius of a collection might be ferruginous, it would be difficult to lay one's hand on the metal or its handiwork. Again, the collector himself obtains his material not for money, but for beads, knives, files, bars of iron, axes, and often for steel tools with which to make more objects for his Indian collection.