Page images
PDF
EPUB

conquerors, would be tarnished with innumerable deeds of violence and cruelty. The Pacific provinces of Nicaragua were inhabited by a people closely related to the Mexicans, and, as has already been mentioned, their language was nearly the same. According to Squier, who has more than any other traveller studied the different races, the Indians living at the island of Omotepec at the present time are of pure Mexican or Aztec stock. So many of the names of towns in the central provinces are also of Aztec origin, that they must have had a considerable footing there also. They called the older inhabitants, whom they had probably dispossessed and driven back to the interior, “Chontalli,” which means “barbarians,” and hence the name of the province of Chontales, where these tribes still existed in considerable numbers at the time of the conquest. All these races, differing as they did in language and in the degree of civilization at which they had arrived, were closely affiliated. The eminent American archaeologist, Mr. John D. Baldwin, is of opinion that they were the descendants of indigenes. That at some very remote period before they had attained a high degree of civilization, they separated into two branches, one of which occupied Peru, the other Central America and Mexico. Both branches advanced greatly in civilization, and both afterwards deteriorated by being conquered by ruder but more warlike people belonging to the same stock. From Mexico the ancient people spread northward and southward. The northern emigrants peopled the banks of the Mississippi, and were the mound builders. The southern emigrants peopled Central America. Then

[graphic]

Ch. XX.] ORIGIN OF THE INDIANS. 363

came an immigration from the far north-west, of nomadic tribes from north-eastern Asia, who drove out the mound builders. The latter retreated back to Mexico, that their fathers had left ages before, and were the ancient Toltecs. Later on, the Aztecs, who were the southern branch of the ancient Mexicans, invaded Mexico from the south, and supplanted the Toltecs. Another branch of the same ancient stock were the Mayas of Yucatan.* Looking then far back we have, according to the old traditions, a few people who had escaped a great cataclysm, when fire and water both fought against mankind. Remnants perhaps of many tribes who, when the lowlands were overwhelmed, escaped to the mountains, speaking a variety of languages, and bringing with them some remembrances of the civilization of their ancient home. They increased and multiplied in their new abodes, some in Mexico, some in Yucatan, and others in Peru arrived at a great pitch of civilization. Ages passed away, they had developed into several distinct peoples, all showing traces of their common descent, but having branched off in different directions in their lines of progress; all underlaid by a few great principles: in their religion, by the worship of the heavenly bodies; in their government, by complete and absolute obedience to their kings and leaders; in their mode of life all agriculturists and dwellers in regular towns and villages. They spread northward and occupied the valley of the Mississippi, and in summer time sent off large bodies of workmen to extract the copper of Lake Superior. Then came the nomadic tribes from the north-west, the red Indians of the present day, and drove out the mound builders, who were turned back on their ancient home, of which they had lost all recollection, and where they appeared as immigrants and invaders. In the subjugation of the ancient Choluans by the Toltecs, and afterwards the Toltecs by the Aztecs, we see what has often occurred in the world's history—a highly civilized race conquered by a ruder people, who had advanced farther in the arts of war, and so overcame the people who had advanced farther in the arts of peace. Therefore the Choluans were replaced by the more warlike Toltecs, the Toltecs by the ruder Aztecs, and those who look at the miserable towns and villages of the present inhabitants alongside of the ruins of the grand edifices, the roads and aqueducts of ancient Mexico and Peru, may say, the Aztecs by the less civilized Spaniards. The term Brown Indians has been proposed to distinguish the races of Mexico, Central and South America, from the red Indians of the north; but it is a too general term, as it includes not only the highly-civilized Aztecs, Mayas, and Peruvians, but the much ruder Caribs of the eastern coasts of South America and the Antilles, who were widely removed from them in race and language. Squier has proposed the term Nahuatls for the people of Mexico and Central America, and if it might be strained to include the Peruvians also, and all the peoples descended from that ancient civilized race that had spread northward and southward, it would supply a want that I have greatly felt in studying these peoples. The Nahuatls—I use the term in the extended sense— are one of three great Indian races that occupy the greater part of North and South America. They had the Red Indians to the north of them, the Savage Caribs

* Ancient America, by J. D. Baldwin, A.M.

Ch. XX.] ORIGIN OF THE INDIANS. 365

to the south-east; from both these races they were profoundly different, though not in equal degrees. To the Red Indian they have scarcely any affinity, excepting such as had been brought about by the nomads, who came down from the north-west, taking the women of the Nahuatls, whom they conquered, for their wives, and thus bringing about some points of structural resemblance, such as are to be seen in a lesser degree in the citizens of the United States, through whose veins the blood of the half-breeds of the earlier settlements still courses. In Florida, and around the northern side of the Gulf of Mexico, there had probably been a greater fusion of the two races. But in origin the two peoples are distinct; the one came from north-eastern Asia, the other, I believe, from a tropical country joined on to the present continent, that was submerged at the breaking up of the glacial period. Was that country to the east or the west of the present continent? Was it Atlantis, or was it a submerged country in the Pacific P I am inclined to the latter opinion, and to believe that the inhabitants of ancient Atlantis were the ancestors of the warlike and adventurous Caribs. The Nahuatls, in their peaceful . dispositions and agricultural pursuits, are much more nearly allied to the Polynesians, and their present preponderance on the western coast favours the idea that they had a western origin. The Caribs, who were found in possession of most of the West Indian Islands, and of the eastern coast of South America, were a warlike, fierce, and enterprising race; and, even in Columbus's time, were found making long voyages to ravage the villages of the peace-loving

. Nahuatls. If there be any truth in the story told to Solon by the priests of Sais, they are a much more likely people to have invaded the countries around the Mediterranean than the Nahuatls. What seems foreign in the customs and beliefs of the latter appears to have come from the west—from China and Japan—whilst there are some few points of affinity between the Caribs and the peoples of Europe and Africa. Thus, Mr. Hyde Clarke states that the greater part of Brazil is covered by the Guarani or Tupi languages, which are allied to the Agan of the Nile region, the Aokhass of Caucasia, &c.

There is one singular custom amongst the Carib races of America, and amongst some ancient peoples in Asia, Europe, and Africa, the existence of which on both sides of the Atlantic cannot, I think, be explained, excepting on the theory that there was a remote intercourse or affinity amongst the peoples who practised it. I allude to the singular custom of the “Couvade,” in which the father is put to bed on the birth of a child. I take the following account of this curious practice from Mr. Tylor's philosophical “Early History of Mankind.”

The couvade is developed to the highest degree in South America and the West Indies. The following account is given by Du Tertre of the Carib couvade in the West Indies. When a child is born, the mother goes presently to work, but the father begins to complain, and takes to his hammock, and there he is visited as though he were sick, and undergoes a course of dieting “which would cure of the gout the most replete of Frenchmen.” The imaginary invalid must repose and

« EelmineJätka »