Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Indian In His Wigwam
Characteristics of The Red Race of America
From Original Notes and Manuscripts
By Henry R. Schoolcraft
New York
Dewitt & Davenport
Tribune Buildings

This is a lengthy book and covers many of the Red Race who are not native to New York State. Pertinent parts of the book will be posted. abjerry
Thanks to Pamela Wozniak and David Collins for loaning this book for the purpose of using it on our website.



A PHOSPECTUS for this work was issued in 1842. While the title is slightly modified, the design and plan of its execution have not been essentially changed. The principal object aimed at, under the general idea of the history and geography of the Aboriginal Race, is to furnish a general and standard reference-book, or short encyclopedia of topics relative to the entire race, alphabetically arranged. By the insertion of the name of each family of tribes, nation, sub-tribe, or important clan, the occasion will be presented of noticing the leading or characteristic events, in their history, numbers, government, religion, languages, arts or distinctive character.

Where the scene or era of their expansion, growth and decay has been so extensive, embracing as it does, the widest bounds and remotest periods, their antiquities have also called for a passing notice. Nor could any thing like a satisfactory accomplishment of the plan be effected, without succinct notices of the lives and achievements of their principal chiefs, rulers, and leading personages.

Language is an important means of denoting the intricate thread of history in savage nations. Mr. Pritchard considers it more important than physiological structure and peculiarities. It is, at least, found often to reveal ethnological affinities, where both the physical type, and the light of tradition, afford but little aid. The words and names of a people, are so many clues to their thoughts and intellectual structure ; this branch of the subject, indeed, formed the original germ of the present plan, which was at first simply geographical, and has been rather expanded and built upon, than, if we may so say, supplied the garniture of the edifice. In a class of transpositive languages, which are very rich in their combinations, and modes of concentrated description, it must needs happen, that the names of places would often recall both associations and descriptions of deep interest in contemplating the fate and fortunes of this unfortunate race. Without intruding upon the reader disquisitions which would be out of place, no opportunity has been omitted, from the consideration of their names, to throw around the sites of their former or present residence, this species of interest.

But half the work would have been done, it is conceived, to have confined the work to North America; and it must necessarily have lost, by such a limitation, more than half its interest. We are just beginning in truth to comprehend the true character and bearing of that unique type of civilization which existed in Mexico, Peru, and Yucatan. The rude hand with which these embryo kingdoms of the native race were overturned, in consequence of their horrid idolatries, necessarily led to the destruction of much of their monumental, and so far as their picture writing reached, some of their historical materials, of both of which, we now feel the want. It is some relief, to know, as the researches of Mr. Gallatin, which are now in progress, demonstrate, that by far the greatest amount of the ancient Mexican picture writings, as they are embraced in the elaborate work of Lord Kingsborough, relate to their mythology and superstitions, and are of no historical value whatever. And if the portions destroyed in the Mexican and Peruvian conquests, were as liberally interspersed with similar evidences of their wild polytheism, shocking manners, and degraded worship, neither chronology nor history have so much to lament.

The early, strong and continued exertions which were made by the conquerors to replace this system of gross superstition and idolatry, by the Romish ritual, filled Mexico and South America with missions of the Catholic Church, which were generally under the charge of zealous and sometimes of learned and liberal-spirited superintendants, who have accumulated facts respecting the character and former condition of the race. These missions, which were generally spread parallel to the sea coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific, reaching inland along the banks of the great rivers and plains, have confessedly done much to ameliorate the manners and condition of the native race, to foster a spirit of industry, and to enlighten their minds. Still, it is scarcely known, that numerous and powerful tribes, stretching through wide districts of the Andes and the Cordilleras, never submitted to the conqueror, and yet exist in their original state of barbarism.

In this department of inquiry, the geographical and historical work of De Alcedo, which, so far as the Spanish and Portuguese missions are concerned, is both elaborate and complete in its details, has been taken as a basis. No one can write of South America and its native tribes, without reference to Humboldt. Other standard writers have been consulted, to give this part of the work as much value as possible, not excepting the latest voyages and travels. The design has been, without aiming at too much, to compress a body of leading and characteristic facts, in the shortest practicable compass, which should, at the same time, present an ethnological view of the various families and groups of the race.

In each department of inquiry, which admitted of it, the author has availed himself of such sources and opportunities of personal observation and experience, as his long residence in the Indian territories, and his study of the Indian history have afforded. And he is not without the hope, that his inquiries and researches on this head may be found to he such as to merit approval.

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