Columbus Landing on Hispaniola

The Discovery Of This Continent, it’s Results To The Natives

In the year 1470, there lived in Lisbon, a town in Portugal, a man by the name of Christopher Columbus, who there married Dona Felipa, the daughter of Bartolome Monis De Palestrello, an Italian (then deceased), who had arisen to great celebrity as a navigator. Dona Felipa was the idol of her doting father, and often accompanied him in his many voyages, in which she soon equally shared with him his love of adventure, and thus became to him a treasure indeed not only as a companion but as a helper; for she drew his maps and geographical charts, and also wrote, at his dictation, his journals concerning his voyages. Shortly after the marriage of Columbus and Felipa at Lisbon, they moved to the island of Porto Santo which her father had colonized and was governor at the time of his death, and settled on a large landed estate which belonged to Palestrello, and which he had bequeathed to Felipa together with all his journals and papers. In that home of retirement and peace the young husband and wife lived in connubial bliss for many years. How could it be otherwise, since each had found in the other a congenial spirit, full of adventurous explorations, but which all others regarded as visionary follies? They read together and talked over the journals and papers of Bartolomeo, during which Felipa also entertained Columbus with accounts of her own voyages with her father, together with his opinions and those of other navigators of that age his friends and companions of a possible country that might be discovered in the distant West, and the future fame of the fortunate discoverer. Thus they read, studied, thought and talked together concerning that which they believed the future would prove? A reality, but of which no other had a thought. This opinion had found a permanent lodgment in the mind of Columbus and awakened an enthusiasm therein never experienced before in the breast of man upon a like subject, and which aroused him to that energy of determination, which rebuked all fear and recognized no thought of failure. But alas, the noble Felipa, who alone had stood by him in their mutual opinions and shared with him the storm of thoughtless ridicule, lived not to learn of the fulfillment of their hopes, and the undying fame of her adored husband, even as he lived not to learn the extent of his discovery. But alas, for human justice and consistency. Instead of naming the New World II in honor of his equally meritorious wife, the heroic Dona Felipa, or in honor of both, it was wrested from them by one Americo Vespucci, a pilot on a vessel of an obscure navigator named Hojeda, and the world acquiesced in the robbery. But such are its rewards!

Columbus Landing on Hispaniola
Columbus Landing on Hispaniola

But more than four-hundred years have been numbered with the ages of the past, since a little fleet of three ships, respectively named Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina, under the command of Christopher Columbus, were nearing the coast of that country that lay in its primitive grandeur and loveliness, even as when pronounced good by its Divine Creator, beyond the unknown waters that stretched away in the illimitable distance to the West where sky and sea, though ever receding, seemed still to meet in loving embrace, but whose existence was first in the contemplations of Columbus and Felipa, and its reality, first in the knowledge of Columbus. At 10: o’clock, p.m., as it is recorded, Columbus discovered the feeble glimmerings of a distant light, to which he at once directed the attention of Pedro Gutierrez, who also saw it. On the next day, at 2 a. m., the distant boom of a gun was heard rolling along on the smooth surface of the tranquil waters, the first that ever broke the solitude of the night in those unknown regions of the deep. It came from the Pinta, and bore the joyful intelligence that land was found. But how little did these daring adventurers imagine the magnitude of their discovery; or that that midnight signal also heralded the extermination of old notions and the birth of new; the prelude to war and bloodshed with a people whose types were unknown to the civilized world. For man was there man in his primitive state. Fiercely energetic, yet never demonstrative or openly expressing his emotions; uncultured, yet slow and deliberate in his speech; congenial, yet ever exhibiting a reserve and diffidence among strangers; hospitable, yet knowing his rights, knew no fear in maintaining them; trusting, yet welcomed death rather than endure wrong. Yet, in most of his characteristics and. peculiarities seemingly to have a foreign origin from the known races of mankind; still indisputably of the human race he, too, was man; though with no regular or consistent ideas of the Deity, religion or civil government, yet possessing correct views of a distinction between right and wrong, on which were founded very correct maxims or codes of morality; but whose penal code was a definite and fixed rule of personal retaliation “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth;” thus they were gliding smoothly along on the tide of time, nor had a troubled wave ever risen to disturb the tranquility of their voyage, or shadows darkened their sky, and to whom the past had been so bright that the future held only fair promises for them. But, alas, how little did they realize how dark a future was in store for them! That mid night gun, as it momentarily flashed upon the deck of the Pinta and then sent its welcomed boom to the listening ears and watching eyes upon the decks of the Santa Maria and Nina proclaiming that their languishing hopes were realized and their declining expectations verified, was also the death signal, first to the distant Peruvians by the hand of Pizarro; next, to the Aztecs by the hand of Cortez; then last, but not least, to the North American Indians by the hand of De Soto as an introduction of what would be but the Old died hard to make way for the New.

Once the dominant power of this continent; but alas, through unequal wars: through altered circumstances, through usurpation and frauds; through oppressions and trials; through misfortunes and hardships, sorrows and sufferings, of which none can know but themselves, they have been coerced by arbitrary power exerted, through treaty and cessions by open-handed tyranny and wrong, to surrender their country, their all, to make way for white civilization and that liberty that only seemed to prosper and rejoice in pro portion to “the destruction of their own; while they long but vainly looked for the expected day when the White Man’s avarice would be satiated, and then the red and white races could walk together in harmony and peace each aiding the other in the development of the resources of their respective portions of the vast continent that lay between them, extending from ocean to ocean, to the mutual advantages of each in the noble and humane endeavors to attain the chief end of man the glory of God and the enjoyment of Him in this world and the one to come but the White Race would not.

But whence, the origin of this peculiarly interesting and wonderful people? From what nation of people descended? Whence and at what date, how and by what route came they to this continent? Language has contributed its mite and the archaeologist handed in his little, concerning the infancy of this peculiar people, yet the veil of mystery still hangs around them shutting out all knowledge of the primitive past. Who shall rend the veil and tell whence they came to possess this continent in that distant long ago before the dawn of history’s morn? Alas, even the feeble glimmerings of vague traditions have not furnished a ray of light to penetrate the darkness of the long night that enshrouds their origin. It is a sealed book.

Such has been for two centuries past, and still is, the long drawn and doleful wail concerning the North American Indians primitive land; romantic in affording an unlimited field over which the wild, dreamy speculations of the imaginative minds, of which the present age is so prolific in every thing read or heard about the Red Race, may find abundant space to indulge in their visionary delights unrestrained, undisturbed, undismayed; the alpha and the omega of their knowledge of the North American Indian race in Toto; since the causes that induced them to forsake and how they drifted from the shores of the eastern to the western continent, are today treasured in their ancient traditions still remembered by the few remaining of their aged and also written upon a few wampum the archives of their historic past that has escaped the white vandals devilish delight in destroying all that is Indian, now forever buried in that night of darkness which precedes their known history.

But to those who knew them in their native freedom, when uncontaminated by the demoralizing influences of unprincipled whites, they were truly a peculiar and interesting- people whose external habits, strange opinions, peculiar dispositions and customs, seemed to belong alone to themselves and to distinguish them from all known people of the human race; yet, wholly susceptible to as high moral and intellectual improvements as any other race of man kind; while their distinct identity with the human race is a fact which has never yet been successfully disproved. Though severed by climate, language and a thousand external conditions, there is still one deep underlying identity, which makes all man kind brothers; an instructive and interesting subject worthy the attention and consideration of all man kind. It is neither new nor novel but is as ancient as the creation of Adam and Eve.

Though the Indians were without letters, chronology, or any thing by which correctly to denote their dynasties but that which may be inferred from their monumental remains, yet there is much in their recitals of ancient epochs to give great consistency to their legends and traditions, and fully sufficient to reunite the assumed broken link in the chain of their history, which, in the ages of the past, connected them with the Old World; and their history, antiquities and mythology are still preserved by many striking allegories, here and there, or in wild yet consistent romance. And we can but admit that there are many evident truths which we must acknowledge; for when viewed by the light of facts, we see in the North American Indians a peculiar variety of the human race with traits of character plainly oriental, but who long since have been lost to all ancient and modern history.

But the time and manner of their migration to the western continent, as before stated, are wrapped in impenetrable mystery. Those who have studied the physiology, language, antiquities, and traditions of this peculiar people, have alike concluded that their migration to this continent, judging from the ancient ruins found, probably extends back to within five hundred years of the building of Babylon. Dating from the discovery of Columbus, the western continent has been known to the European world upwards of four hundred years; yet it is now generally conceded (if not universally admitted) that the Scandinavians (or Northmen) discovered it long before Columbus, and had sailed along the Atlantic coast from Greenland early in the 10th century. Those ancient and daring sea rovers of Norway, who ventured upon the pathless ocean without chart or compass guided alone by the planetary worlds above, discovered Iceland in the year 850, upon which they established a settlement; and in the following century, stumbled upon the bleak and inhospitable shores of Greenland upon which was also founded a colony. But it has been awarded to Leif, the son of Eric the Red, as the first discoverer of the North American continent in the 10th century. He named the, new country (now believed to be the coast of Massachusetts) Vinland, or Vineland, from the abundance of wild grapes that were there found. It is said the records of this expedition state: “And when spring came they sailed away, and Leif gave to the land a name after its sort, and called it Vinland. They sailed then until they reached Greenland; and ever afterward, Leif was called Leif the Lucky.”

The traditions of the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creek, Cherokees, Seminoles, Delaware’s, Shawnese, as learned by the early missionaries, and, in fact, of all the tribes who formerly dwelt east of the Mississippi River, state that the White Race come to this continent from the East, but that their fore fathers came from the North West.

It is also said, that a Mexican historian makes a new attempt to show that America was discovered in the fifth century, A. D., by a party of Buddhist monks from Afghanistan, of whom one, Hwai Shan, returned to Asia after an absence of forty one years. A short account of the land, which he visited, supposed to be Mexico, was included in the official history of China. It is said, there is proof that Hwai Shan actually visited some unknown eastern regions, and the traditions of Mexico contain an account of the arrival of monks. But whenever seen or found, whether in the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, or eighteenth centuries, the North American Indians have possessed nearly all the leading- traits that they now possess. And all admit, that of all the races of man kind upon earth that wandered from the native countries and have been thrown back into intellectual darkness, the North American Indians have undergone the least change, preserving 1 their physical and mental type nearly the same, seemingly as if bound by the irresistible power of an unchanging decree; and who, in their unvarying individuality and universal idiosyncrasy, point back to no known race of the human family except the Jews. When regarded as a whole, they appear to have been composed of fragments of different tribes of the races of man, yet having a general affinity to each other, and, with here and there an exception, appearing to be parts of a whole. The majority of their languages are evidently derivative, and of a style of synthesis more ancient than those even of Greece and Rome, but exhibiting no analogies to those of northern and western Europe.

Though Bancroft affirms “that their ancestors were, like themselves, not yet disenthralled from nature,” yet the traditions of many of the tribes pointed back to an era in the distant past in which they lived in a better and happier condition, but that was all, nor have ever the fragmentary writings of the ancients thrown any light upon their history. The Nilotic inscriptions, the oldest known, are alike silent concerning them, but that they may be still more ancient, their language, strange idiosyncrasies, and all that render them so peculiar and seemingly different from all the known human race, evidently denote and sustain the probability, if nothing more. Be this as it may, all evidence, yet obtained proves them to be of very ancient origin; and no known book goes far enough back into the past to date the period of their origin, unless it be the Sacred Scriptures. If we refer to them a proto type may possibly be traced in the Eberites, a branch of the house of Almodad, the son of Joktan, of whom it is said, during all periods of their history, that they were reckless, heedless, impatient of restraint or reproof. Yet, this but adds to the affirmation, that history will ever vainly inquire, “whence their origin.”

But that many of their traditions were based on facts is unquestionably true. Many tribes possess traditions of the first appearance of the White Race among them. The Mohicans and Lenni Lenapes have a tradition of the voyage, in 1609, of the great navigator and explorer, Hudson, up the river now bearing his name. Cartier‘s visit to the St. Lawrence in 1534 is remembered by tradition among the Algonquin’s, which still call the French, “People of the wooden vessel.” The Chippewa’s declared (1824) according to their traditions that seven generations of people had lived and died since the French first sailed upon the Lakes. Taking 1608 as the year of the settlement of Canada by the French, and allow thirty years to a generation, the accuracy of their tradition is certainly praiseworthy, to say the least of it. That their ancestors came from the Eastern continent there are many traditional evidences that seem founded on truth. In Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s travels among the most northern tribes, he says the Chippewa’s had a tradition that they originally came from another country, which was inhabited by a very wicked people, that in their travels they suffered greatly in passing over a great lake, which was always frozen and covered with snow. Mackenzie’s, page 387, says: “Their progress (the great Athapasca family) was easterly, and according to their own tradition, they came from Siberia; agreeing in dress and manners with the people now found upon the coast of Asia.” John Johnston, for many years an agent among the Shawnees, an Algonquin tribe, states that these Indians had a tradition of a foreign origin. In a letter of July 7th, 1819, 1 he says: “The people of this nation have a tradition that their ancestors crossed the sea; and that they migrated from Florida to Ohio and Indiana;” where they were located at the time of his agency among them. “They were the only tribe,” he writes, “with which I am acquainted, who admit a foreign origin.” The Cherokees also admit it. Oconostata, or the big warrior, chief of the ancient Cherokees, claimed that his people s ancestors came from Asia, landing far to the northwest of this continent; thence to Mexico; thence to this country. 2 Johnston further states respecting the Shawnees. “Until lately, they kept yearly sacrifices for their safe arrival in this country. Whence they came, or at what period they arrived in America, they do not know. It is a prevailing opinion among them, that Florida had been inhabited by white people, who had the use of iron tools. Black hoof, a celebrated Chief, affirms that he has often heard it spoken of by old people, that stumps of trees, covered with earth, were frequently found, which had been cut down with edged tools.” But this, no doubt, was the work of De Soto and his army in 1541. Many attribute to the Indians a Jewish origin, and not without some seemingly plausible reason. James Adair, a man, it is recorded, of fine erudition, and who lived more than thirty years among the ancestors of the present Chickasaws, and was often among the ancient Choctaws, Cherokees and Muscogees, and thus became familiar with the customs and habits of these Southern Indians. Tradition states that Adair commenced living among the Chickasaws in 1844. He wrote and published a work; “The American Indians,” in 1775. He was well versed in the Hebrew language, and in his long residence with the Indians acquired an accurate knowledge of their tongue, and he devoted the larger portion of his work to prove that the Indians were originally Hebrews, and were a portion of the lost tribes of Israel. He asserts that at the “Boos-Ketous” (the ceremony of initiating youth to manhood) “among the ancient Muscogees and other tribes, the warriors danced around the holy-fire, during which the elder priest invoked the Great Spirit, while they responded Halelu! Halelu! Then Haleluiah! Haleluiah!” He based his belief that they were originally Jews, upon their division into tribes, worship of Jehovah, notions of theocracy, belief in the ministrations of angels, language and dialects, manner of computing time, their Prophets and High Priests, festivals, fasts and religious rites, daily sacrifices, ablutions and anointing, laws of unseemliness, abstinence from unclean things, marriages,, divorces, and punishments for adultery, other punishments, their towns of refuge, purification and ceremony preparatory to war, their ornaments, manner of curing the sick, burial of the dead, mourning for the dead, choice of names adapted to their circumstances and times, their own traditions, and the accounts of our English writers, and the testimony which the Spanish and other authors have given concerning the primitive inhabitants of Peru and Mexico. He insists that in nothing do they differ from the Jews except in the rite of circumcision. The difference in food, mode of living and climate are relied on by Adair, to account for the difference in the color, between the Jew and the Indian. Abram Mordecai, an intelligent Jew, who dwelt fifty years in the ancient Creek nation, confidently believed that the Indians were originally of his people, and he asserted that in their Green Corn Dances he had heard them often utter in graceful tones, the word Yavoyaha! Yavoyaha! He was always informed by the Indians that this meant Jehovah, or the Great Spirit, and that they were then returning thanks for the abundant harvest with which they were blest.

I often heard the Choctaws, when engaged in their, ancient dances at their former homes east of the Mississippi River, utter in concert and in solemn tone of voice Yar-vo-hah, Yar-vo-yar-hah and when asked its signification, replied: “It is the name of the Great Spirit we worship.” According to an ancient tradition of the Choctaws, as before stated, the ancient Choctaws, Chickasaws and Muskogee’s (now Creeks) were once the same people, and today the Creeks have many pure Choctaw words in their language.

Other writers, who have lived among the ancient Indians, are of the same opinion with Adair and Abram Mordecai, forming this conclusion solely on the fact that many of the religious rites and ceremonies of the various tribes they regarded as truly Jewish, to that extent as to induce them to believe that the North American Indians are originally from the Jews.

Even the renowned Quaker, Wm. Penn, in expressing his views upon this subject, says: “For the original, I am ready to believe them the Jewish race, I mean of the stock of the ten tribes, and that for the following reasons:

“First. They were to go to a land not planted or known, which, to be sure, Asia and Africa were, if not Europe, and He that intended that extraordinary judgment upon them, might make the passage not uneasy to them, and it is not impossible in itself, from the easternmost part of Asia to the westernmost part of America. In the next place, I find them of like countenance, and their children of so lively resemblance that a man would think himself in Duke’s place or Berry Street in London, when he seeth them. But this is not all. They agree in rites; they reckon by moons; they offer their first fruits; they have a kind of feast of tabernacles; they are said to lay their altar upon twelve stones; their mourning a year; customs of women; with many other things.

There was a belief among many of the ancient tribes of the North American Indians, that their earliest ancestors were created within or at least once lived within, the interior of the earth. The Lenni Lenape, now known as the Delaware Indians, “considered, says Heckewelder, in his “Manners and Customs, of the Indians,” page 249, “the earth as their universal mother. They believed that they were created within its bosom, where for a long time they had their abode before they came to live on its surface. But as to the form under which they lived in the interior of the earth, their mythologists differ. Some assert that they lived there in human shape, while others, with much more consistency, declare that their existence was in the form of: certain terrestrial animals, such as the ground: hog, rabbit and the tortoise.” Similar views respecting their origin were held by the Iroquois. The Rev. Christopher Pyrloeus, who formerly lived among the Iroquois and spoke their language, was told, (according to Heckewelder) by a respectable Mohawk chief, “a tradition of the Iroquois which was as follows: That they had dwelt in the earth when it was dark and where no sun ever shone. That, though they engaged in hunting for a living, they ate mice. That one of their tribe called Ganawayahhah having accidentally found a hole at which to get out of the earth, went out, and after looking around a while saw a deer, which he killed, and took back with him to his home in the earth and that, on account both of the flesh of the deer proving such excellent food, and the favorable description he gave of the appearances above, they concluded it best to change their homes from the inside to the outside of the earth, and accordingly did so, and immediately engaged in raising corn, beans, etc.” Heckewelder does not state whether these traditions of the Lenni Lenape and Iroquois were associated by them with any particular localities. However, the place of origin was generally located in some suitable spot within the territory of the tribes, and which was regarded with much veneration by all. “We are told by Cussac, a later authority for the Iroqois tradition,” says Schoolcraft (in his Indian Tribes, part 5, page 636) “that the place at which the first small band of Indians was believe to have issued from the earth was a certain eminence near the Oswego Falls. Also, (part 5, p. 682) “that the Caddo’s, Ionies, and Amaudakas believe that their original ancestors came out of the Hot Springs of Arkansas.” Mercy, in his Exploration of the Red River, p. 69, states that the Wichita’s, on the Red River, believed that their fore fathers came out of the mountains which bear their name. Jones, in his Traditions of the North American Indians, v. 3. p. 187, says: The Minetories, on the Upper Missouri, pointed out two hills as marking the spot of the tribe s origin. Side by side with these of the “earth born” ancestry is another group of origin traditions, which represent the first of the human race as having their origin in and coming out of some body of water, a river, spring or lake, instead of the ground. Long, in his expedition to the Rocky Mountains, v. 1. p. 336, said: One branch of the Omaha’s asserted that their founder arose out of the water, bearing in his hand an ear of red maize, for which reason the red maize was never used by them for food.” De Smet, in his Oregon Missions, p. 178, states that, in the country of the Blackfoot tribe there are two lakes; one of them is known as the lake of men, and the other, as the lake of women. Out of the former came the father of the tribe and of the latter, the mother,

These two traditions of man’s origin, the one that he came out of the ground, the other, that he came out of the water, have been regarded by some as distinct from one another both in origin and meaning; while by others, as identical, and both being the mutilated interpretations of a myth into which a cave and a body of water enter as prominent and essential features.

Very similar, says Schoolcraft, in his Indian Traditions, 4, pp. 89 and 90, is the tradition of the Navajo’s, of New Mexico. According to their tradition as recorded by Dr. Ten Brock, all mankind and all the animals once lived in a gloomy cavern in the heart of the Cerro Naztarny Mountains, on the river San Juan. A lucky accident led them to suspect that the walls of their prison-house were quite thin, and the raccoon was set to dig a way out. As he did not succeed the moth worm took his place and after much hard labor affected an opening. But when he reached the outside of the mountain, he found all things submerged under the sea, so he threw up a little mound of earth and sat down to ponder on the situation. Presently the water receded in four great rivers and left in their place a mass of soft mud. Four winds arose and dried up the mud and then the men and animals came up, occupying in their passage several days. As yet there was no sun, moon nor stars; so the old men held a council and resolved to manufacture these luminaries. There were among them two flute players, who, while they had dwelt within the mountain, had been wont to enliven them with music; and when the sun and moon were finished, they were given into the charge of these musicians, who have been carrying them ever since. These are the main points of the Navajo legend as recorded by Dr. Ten Brock. It will be observed that the sea, which is nothing else than the primeval sea that forms so common a feature in cosmogonies, holds quite as prominent a place in the story as does the cavern itself, and the two might easily become separated in an incomplete version. Either the cave or the water might be dropped. In fact, there is another version of this legend, given by Col. J. A. Eaton, in which there is no mention of a cave. The Navajo’s, according to Eaton’s version of the story, came out of the earth in the middle of a certain lake in the valley of Montezuma, at some distance from their present location. The question which occurs first, upon surveying this group of legends so alike in their general tenor, is, are they historically connected with one another in the sense that they are the fragments of some primeval tale current among the Indians at a time when they were less widely scattered over the continent than at present, or have they sprung up at several centers independently of each other? This question is of great interest to American ethnologists, but one to which, in the present state of our knowledge respecting the mode of growth and diffusion of popular tales, it would, perhaps, be rash to attempt an answer. It may be said, however, in favor of the former hypothesis that the account of man’s origin at least, however, the story is circumstantially related is, so far as I have been able to discover, peculiar to America. It is true it has sometimes been classed with those old World legends which represent man as of an earthly nature, either as having been fashioned out of clay by the hand of some Promethean potter, or as having sprung from a seed of stones or of dragons teeth scattered over the soil, but a close inspection of any of its detailed versions will show that the story teller has in mind a thought essentially different from those embodied in these classic legends. The first men, according to the Indians account, did not spring up as vegetable life from the surface of the earth; they came out of its interior in the human shape and afterward accompanied by the animals of the chase. Indeed, when closely scanned, the story is seen to be an account, not of man s origin, but simply of a change in the scene of his existence. Except in a few cases in which we are told that the original men were created by the gods before being brought above ground, we receive no hint as to how their life began. We are merely told that they came a long time ago out of a cave or out of a lake, within which they have lived from the beginning. This is a characteristic feature, which I have not met with distinctly portrayed in any legends outside of America. But whether or not these tales have any true kinship with one another, it hardly admits of doubt that they have a common basis, either of facts or of logic, and that they may “bet regarded as practically, if not actually, different versions of a single original tale. What is this basis, and what is the meaning of the story? This question has often been asked, and has been answered variously. From a number of proposed “interpretations,” I select two, which seem the most worthy of consideration, as well from the inherent plausibility, as from the names by which they are endorsed. Mr. Herbert Spencer, speaking, in a recent work, with express reference to the Navajo tradition, of which an outline has been given above; says: “Either the early progenitors of a tribe were dwellers in caves or the mountains; or the mountains making most conspicuously the elevated region whence they came is identified with the object whence they sprung.” (Spencer Principles of Sociology, Vol. 1. p. 393.) And again: “Where caves are used for interments, they became the supposed places of abode for the dead; and hence develops the notion of a subterranean World.” (Ibid, p. 219.) Underlying the tradition of the Delawares and Iroquois, Heckewelder saw an admirable philosophical meaning a curious analogy between the general and the individual creation. This view has been adopted by Dr. D. G. Brinton who presents it as follow: “Out of the earth rises life, to it all returns. She it is who guards all germs, nourishes all beings. The Aztecs painted her a woman with countless breasts; the Peruvians called her Mama Alpha, mother earth; in the Algonquin tongue the word for earth, mother, father, are from the same root Home, Adam, Chomaigenes, what do all these words mean but earth born, the son of the soil, repeated in the poetic language of Attica in anthropos, he who springs up like a flower? As in Oriental legends the origin of man from the earth was veiled under the story that he was the progeny of some mountain fecundated by the embrace of Mithras or Jupiter, so the Indians often pointed to some height or some cavern, as the spot whence the first men issued, adult and armed from womb of All mother earth. This cavern, which thus dimly lingered in the memory of nations, occasionally expanded to a mother world, imagined underlying this of ours, and still inhabited by beings of our kind, who have never been lucky enough to discover its exit. Such tales of an underworld are very frequent among the Indians, and are a very natural out-growth of the literal belief that the race is earth-born.” (The Myths of the New World, 2nd. ed., pp. 238 to 245.) The following is the version given by Lewis and Clark of the tradition of the Mandans, on the upper Mississippi:

“The whole nation resided in one large village under ground near a subterraneous lake. A grapevine extended its roots down to their habitation and give them a view of the light, some of the most adventurous climbed up the vine, and were delighted with the sight of the earth, which they found covered with buffalo, and rich with every kind of fruit. Returning with the grapes they had gathered, their country men were so pleased with the taste of them, that the whole nation resolved to leave their dull residence for the charms of the upper region. Men, women and children ascended by means of the vine; and when about half the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a corpulent woman, who was clambering up the vine, broke it with her weight and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation the light of the sun.

When the Mandans die, they expect to return to the original seats of their forefathers, the good reaching the ancient village by means of the lake, which the burden of sins of the wicked will not enable them to pass. We might conjecture upon general grounds that the idea of an under world found among the Mandans, and many other American tribes sprang from the same sort of reasoning as has evidently given rise to it among other nations.”

Prince Maximilian of New Wied, who visited the Mandans subsequently to Lewis and Clark, and learned additional particulars respecting their belief in an underground origin tells us that the Mandans, like so many other nations, supposed the world to be divided into stages and stories. These were eight in number; four of them were above the earth, and four below, the earth itself forming the fourth stage from the bottom. (Maximilian, Travels in North America, London ed. p. 336.) There seems, therefore, to be very little room for doubt as to the original character of the cave of the Mandan legend. Among the Navajo’s we obtain equally satisfactory evidence touching the original of this legendary cave. Dr Ten Brock tells us that he often conversed with the Navajo’s on the subject of their beliefs, and he gives us, among other particulars, this very important item: “The old men say that the world (i. e. the earth) is, as it were, suspended, and that when the sun disappears in the evening”, he passes under and lights up our former place of abode, until he again reappears at morning in the east. There can be no question as to the location and the real character of the cave into which the sun descends at evening, and from which at morning” he comes forth. Under one disguise or another, this cavern occurs in legends the world over. It is the cave which the Polynesian Mani descends to visit his deserting mother, and into which Orpheus descends in search of Eurydiee; it is the Latinian cave, in which Selene, the Moon, woos Endymion, the Setting Sun. Nor need we be disconcerted because the Navajoes have located it within a particular mountain. ” It would seem that these Indian leg-ends have been handed down by tradition through cycles of ages, founded upon the declaration of the Bible, that man is a child of the soil that he is earth born. Professor Campbell, of the Presbyterian College, Montreal, believes that he has found the key to the Hittite inscriptions, and has sent the result of his investigations to the Society of Biblical Archaeology. The most striking and important feature of this work is the identity established by Professor Campbell, as he believes, between the Aztecs and the Hittites. He concludes a statement of his discovery in the “Montreal Witness” as follows: “It is interesting to know that we have on this continent the re mains of a people who played a great part in ancient history. It is also gratifying to learn that by the establishment of the Hittite origin of the Aztecs, evolutionism in philology and ethnology will receive its death blow.”


  1. American Archaeologist, p. 273[]
  2. Milfort, p. 269.[]

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

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