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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 16, No. 3
March, 1938

By Joseph B. Thoburn

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What and who were the Mound-Builders—whence did they come—how long did they remain—and, finally, what became of them? These queries have been often propounded, variously answered and, in some instances, evaded. Among the theories advanced in response to such questions, there have been some to the effect that the Mound-Builder people were quite distinct from the American Indian occupants of the same part of the United States during a more recent era; by some authorities they are reputed to have been far superior to Indians in culture, skill, and ability. Some anthropologists have expressed a belief that the Mound-Builder people were exterminated by the Indians, though the trend and consensus of scientific opinion in more recent years has seemed toward a more or less generally accepted conclusion that there had been a measure of racial kinship, with the possibility that part of the modern Indian people are descended from the more ancient Mound-Builder stock. As yet, however, there has not seemed to be much in the way of concerted effort to trace the relationships of such a connection or to account for the origins and development of such ancient cultures.

In July, 1925, the writer discussed these matters with one of the most eminent American archaeologists, Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley, who urged that certain opinions then expressed should be embodied in the form of an hypothesis, for publication, to the end that the minds of other students might be directed toward the consideration and investigation of principles and problems thus involved. Inasmuch as it does not seem to have been subject to previous discussion, in concrete form, elsewhere, it is suggestively presented herein.

Of the earlier writers on themes pertaining to the subject of this discussion, either directly or indirectly, the names of Thomas

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Jefferson and Albert Gallatin, each prolific in other lines of literary production, and each distinguished as well in civic leadership and in public service, should be mentioned. When they began writing on such lines, such branches of human knowledge as American archaeology and American ethnology were unknown. It follows, therefore, that the voluntary observations and writings of these two scientifically-minded thinkers, without intent or even thought of so doing, actually did initiate the beginnings of a new branch of human knowledge that, eventually, became classed as one of the sciences, now known as American anthropology. Jefferson is credited with having been the first to attempt to list the Indian tribes by name and location. Gallatin, a native of Switzerland, who arrived in America before the end of the Revolutionary War (though he had no part in that struggle), was the first to attempt to classify the Indian tribes into ethnic groups through the determination of linguistic relationships.

Jefferson believed in securing scientific information for the public benefit and at public expense. It was fortunate, indeed, that the acquisition of the French colonial Province of Louisiana was effected during his presidential administration, since it was he who decided that there should be extensive explorations of the new dominion. He personally selected, as the leaders of these exploring expeditions, such men as Captains Lewis and Clark and Lieutenant Pike. It was characteristic of him that he should enjoin upon the minds of these exploratory leaders the importance of preserving complete and accurate records of the journeys in which each might participate during the course of such service, relative to the geography, physiography, climate, soils, fauna, flora, and natural resources of the regions to be traversed; with the collection of adequate and thoroughly representative specimens for museum and herbarium, together with copious notes in the way of pertinent information concerning the indigenous human inhabitants of the regions thus visited.

Gallatin, who was a prolific writer upon a wide variety of themes of human interest, is said to have remarked, late in life, that he personally regarded the rest of his writings as being of

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minor importance in comparison with what he had written about the American Indian race—a statement which, in view of subsequent developments in the way of knowledge concerning aboriginal American anthropology, would seem to have been fully justified.

Since the time when Jefferson and Gallatin were writing about such matters—away back in the fore part of the nineteenth century—there have been many other writers whose ideas on such themes have been set forth in books, in magazines, and in scientific reviews, but it may be stated that not all of these can be cited as being authoritative. Various and varied theories have been advanced as to origins, migrations, and cultural developments of ancient peoples in areas and locales long since abandoned. Some of these are so utterly lacking in reason and even possibility as to be absurd. Others are whimsical and fantastic as if designed to prove a preconceived pet theory, rather than to ascertain fact and demonstrate logical conclusions. On the other hand, there have been many earnest, sincere investigators, whose patient explorations, researches, and studies have contributed materially to definite scientific knowledge of a given theme such as that which is hereby brought to attention and consideration. It is of interest to remark in this connection that some of the earliest investigators, who lacked an opportunity to consult the opinions of others, preceding them, were among the most conservative in arriving at conclusions, such as those of Squier and Davis,1 whereas, some of the more recent "investigators" have not only been hasty in reaching conclusions but also ever ready to draw inferences from far-fetched sources.

One of the comparatively recent contributions to the literature of the primitive and prehistoric life of the eastern portions of the United States is the monumentally important volume entitled "The Mound Builders," of which Prof. Henry C. Shetrone, director and archaeologist of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, is the author.2

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Some of the earlier theorists strove to identify the American aborigines as the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel. So, too, in more recent times, there have been lacking those who would ascribe to them a descent from a surviving fragment of the human inhabitants of the mythical "lost continent of Atlantis." These and several other theories have been partially or wholly passed up for a conclusion, more or less widely accepted, that the people of the native American race are descended from a Mongoloid ancestry which arrived on this continent from Asia by crossing the narrow sea passage between Siberia and Alaska, either in small seaworthy craft, or on the ice in winter time. Without giving the matter much thought, the writer hereof was once ready to accept that theory without qualifications, even though he would have been just as willing to believe that all of the multiplied millions of the Malasian and Mongolian races might just as readily prove to be of American descent with the migration moving westward, like the great continental migrations of the past, rather than eastward.

For the sake of argument, an Asiatic origin is granted in this paper, without wholly rejecting a theory of a measure of Atlantean contribution, as a result of which, the basic cultures of Southern Mexico, of Central America, and of the Andean Highlands might have been materially affected.

Any inter-continental migration across Bering Strait would have been from the Arctic coast of Siberia to the Arctic coast of Alaska, with the way open, at times, for further eastward migration, at other times clogged by ice. Such a movement would have been not improbably accidental and might, therefore, account for the origin of the Eskimo race much more readiy than for that of the rest of the indigenous inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. The suggested other possible route for such an inter-continental movement, from the vicinity of the Kamchatkan Peninsula to the tip end of the Aleutian chain of islands, farther southward, was more free of ice-barriers, and, moreover, it woud have led to the mainland in Southwestern Alaska, where the maximum climatic effect of the temperate Japan Current would be manifest.

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The Mongoloid inhabitants of the Kamchatkan coast country were seashore people; the source of their subsistence was almost, if not quite, wholly from marine life in its various forms. Such a migration was likewise not improbably accidental, with boats driven before gales of wind. After reaching the coast of the mainland, there would be a tendency to move occasionally farther down the Alaskan coast.

Through the ages, such a slow migration could have been kept up, with the flight of centuries and even of hundreds of generations, British Columbia, Puget Sound, the mouth of the Columbia, the Golden Gate, and Southern California, may have invited the location of small elements of the passing migrations, but such local populations seldom, if ever, passed eastward as far as the Great Plains or even to the Great Interior Basin.

The south-bound immigrants of this lagging advance were still seashore people—fisheaters, who had long since lost the last vestige of their Kamchatkan or Siberian culture, save the mechanics of their simple arts of seeking sustenance from wave and shore. The southern extremity of the Californian Peninsula was reached and the coast line of the enclosed gulf was skirted. This is not a matter of mere conjecture or surmise, for one island in that gulf was settled at that time and it has ever since been inhabited by the same sort of people. The traces of such ancient occupancy still exist on Tiburon Island. These traces tell of a depleted culture, of the most primitive form of human life—still seashore people, still fisheaters, unchanged from their wandering forebears in thought, custom, trait, or deed. But others went on to find the field for further development in southern Mexico and Central America.

A hundred, aye, possibly five hundred generations had passed since first those Asiatic ancestors had passed from the Siberian shore to the tip of the Aleutian chain; each generation, in turn, had been born, nurtured and reared to physical maturity, to reproduce its like and to pass into the shades of oblivion.

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Of the original culture which had been transported across that narrow sea, only the crudely flaked blades of chert or quartzite, and the awls or needles of bone, fashioned to penetrating points with an abrasive of grooved sandstone, survived as implements and tools. The arts and crafts and handiwork of the future had to be recontrived and redeveloped as laboriously, yet no less certainly than the first artifacts of the first primitive man on the continent of Asia. Theirs was no alien culture from overseas; rather, it was as native to the soil as any of the grasses, herbs, shrubs, or trees of America that were not indigenously duplicated on the Eastern Hemisphere.

However, before such a people could progress very far in the line of arts and crafts, they had to solve the problem of a dependable food supply. Down there, where the land connection between the two Americas shrinks to a narrow dimension between the eastern and western oceans, these primitive men found a species of tall, coarse-stemmed grass, which produced, as seed, edible grains upon its vertically erect, spike-like tassel. They learned to plant and cultivate this product for the sake of its edible grain-like seeds. Whether by accident or by purposeful intent, these primitive men bred the grain-like seeds off of the spike-headed tassel to grow, instead, on cobs and branching ears, that sprang forth from the spindling stalk and then, by seed selection, they improved upon the quantity, or productiveness, and the quality, or food value, of the crop and thus was developed one of the most marvelous achievements in the annals of the plant breeders' art ever attained in any clime or in any time. The peanut, the sweet potato, the bean, and the cotton plant, and other vegetative species also lent themselves to useful plant development of these primitive tillers of the soil, even though men of a later day and of a professedly "superior" race are wont glibly to recite the saying that the native American race has "made no contribution to civilization." Then, these primitive agriculturists in Southern Mexico and Central America found certain tracts of land of comparatively restricted area, each of which had a fortunate combination of fertile soil and humid climate, upon which vast yields of human food might be produced by

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agricultural means and at low economic cost. The existence of such a condition made for the development of density of population, which had to precede the possibility of a division of labor, and that, in turn, was essentially precedent to development in the arts and crafts.

Previous mention has been made of Prof. H. C. Shetrone's book, Mound Builders. He discusses the Mound-Builders and the American Indians of more recent times as being of Asiatic Mongoloid origin and as having migrated from Siberia to Alaska, across Bering Strait upon their own initiative and, presumably, bringing with them a degree of primitive culture that was already fairly well developed. He assumes that this inter-continental migratory movement was by navigation across the comparatively narrow marine interval between the nearest approach of the mainland shores of the two continents. Then, after the arrival and safe landing of the first human inhabitants on the North American continent has been thus explained, he proceeds to account for the dispersal and distribution of this primeval pioneering population by further migration in two directions; namely, (1) eastward and (2) southward.3

While this writer does not concur in all of Professor Shetrone's conclusions, it will be noted by readers of his book that his description of the cultural changes incident to those superinduced by life in subtropical and tropical environments is interesting in that it parallels very closely the conclusions at which this writer had independently arrived, years before Professor Shetrone's volume was published.

But the necessarily restricted areas of these racial swarming grounds in the tropical end of the continent naturally meant an over-population of such areas within a few generations at most. Either over-population, a protracted drouth, or the depletion of soil fertility would mean a real or prospective shortage of food, relief from the possibilities of which might have been sought by migration to a region where more extensive areas of tillable land

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could be found. Other influences contributing to that same end might have been the proximity of a stronger and less kindly disposed neighbor who coveted the land thus occupied and utilized; or imperial colonization; or possibly, political discontent. In any event, or, at all events, this aggregation of small racial swarming grounds seems to have sent forth its surplus population in wave after wave of migration northward into what are now the eastern portions of the United States and Canada, just as certainly as the second Aryan swarming ground, around the lower Baltic, sent swarming hordes to overrun Central and Southern Europe and even across the Gibraltar narrows into Northern Africa, from the era of the Roman Republic down to and throughout the Danish, Gothic, and Norse invasions of the Middle Ages.

A particular instance in which skill and taste in culture as illustrated in the arts and crafts, and which remained practically unaffected by the flight of time, may be cited in the case of the mound group in the northern part of Le Flore County, Oklahoma, a few miles north of the town of Spiro, recently dissected under the direction of Dr. Forrest Clements, Anthropologist of the University of Oklahoma.

Reconstructing the story of this migration of the Mound-Builder ancestors of the Siouan peoples in some detail, it may be stated that they not only heaped up this interesting group of earthworks and, with their crudely fashioned stone implements of tillage, cleared some of the surrounding area of timber, brush, canebrake, and grass, but they reduced its fertile virgin soil to cultivation for the production of crops of corn, beans, and other staples. This was not alone for their own sustenance, but also to supply other parties of their people who came up from the rear and passed on ahead to clear and plant other tracts and erect other mounds as markers of their progress toward a land of plenty, with fertile soils, with rivers and lakes and mountains and forests and vast hunting ground, which teemed with game and fish.

Thus, after all the rest of their migrating host had overtaken and passed them to push on through the wilderness to establish

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new settlements, far in advance, the people of this settlement, prepared to leave this mound group and its surrounding corn patches and gardens, and, like the backbirds arising from the rear of the flock that follows the furrow of the plowman in the field, to alight close behind the plow, they, too, prepared to move again to the front to build new mounds or, as it were, to erect new altars, where new fields and gardens were to be cleared and the soil to be upturned for planting and tilling and harvesting. Thus, in the course of years, or possibly of decades or generations, though no manna fell from the heavens for their sustenance, they wanted not for food or raiment because of their own industry either in tilling the soil or in their quest of game and fish, and in time, a line of mounds, erected at extended intervals, marked the trail of their migration across the heart of Texas, across Southeastern Oklahoma and the width of Central Arkansas, to and beyond the Mississippi and the full length of Tennessee, though the passes of the Appalachian Mountains, along the upper reaches of the Tennessee River and out on the Piedmont Plateau, beyond, where they spread out to occupy the land, even as the Israelites did the land of Canaan; from the James River of Virginia, across the two Carolinas, unto the Savannah, which marks the border of Georgia. And in most of the mounds that mark the line of advance of more than one thousand miles, there are to be found ethnic type artifacts that bear faithful witness to the identity of the builders.

Through nearly, if not quite half, of a millenium the Siouan people dwelt in the beautiful Piedmont Plateau country.4 Then, however attractive it may have become to them, or however fondly devoted to it they had become, something caused them to abandon it and make a retromigratory movement westward. For some reason that has not been explained, but possibly because of the intrusive arrival of the Muskhogean migrations into contiguous regions southward and southwestward, with a simultaneous manifestation of ruthless hostility by Iroquois on the east and northeast, almost the whole of the Siouan people seem to have obeyed a sudden

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and common impulse which caused them to abandon this habitat which they had occupied through many generations. In going, they did not retrace the route over which their ancestors had entered the region east of the Appalachian ranges. Instead, their withdrawal seems to have been made by way of "the Northern gate," as it were, making their way from the valleys of the James and Roanoke through the mountains, to those of the Kanawha and the Big Sandy and thence to that of the Ohio.

The westward trek was made in two divisions, the Northern branch being much the greater in size and including all of the large tribes of the later Sioux confederacy, of Minnesota and the Dakotas. The Southern Division included the parent stock of the Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Kansa, and Ponca tribes. The route over which the main body of Northern Sioux made its way into the West and Northwest is unknown, though it is not improbable that a careful study of the type artifacts on ancient camp sites of the Great Lakes region might throw considerable light upon that matter. Be that as it may, however, it is known that the people of the Southern Sioux Division descended the Ohio River at the mouth of which the Mississippi River was crossed. There, this body was subdivided into the Osage. Omaha, and Quapaw, about 650 years ago. Within two or three centuries thereafter, some of the Osage came down into Le Flore County, Oklahoma, and pitched their camp in close proximity to the mound group, previously described as having been constructed during the course of the migration from the tropical and subtropical swarming ground. While encamped at the spot, only a few rods from the mound group which has been, recently in the process of dissection by the crew from the University of Oklahoma, a number of members of this Osage band died and, when buried, part of the votive offerings, included with the burials, being ceremonial stone pipes, identical in design or pattern with those which had been deposited in the mound of the group when it was erected, at the time of the original migration, thus proving the presumptive descent from the Mound-Builders of the same locale and of a much more ancient era. More warlike and less industrious than their mound-building

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ancestors, these people had probably failed to recognize this mound group as the handiwork of their own forefathers!

The writer is well aware that such an hypothesis is widely at variance to the long accepted theory of successive migrations from Northeastern Siberia to Alaska and of the spread from Alaska in all directions to people the continent. Yet to this it should suffice by way of rejoinder, to cite the fact that food supplies in Northeastern Siberia and in Alaska were insufficient and unsuited to make possible any extensive migrations therefrom, either primarily or in sequence. On the other hand, the evidences in support of this new hypothesis are numerous and corroborative, even though hitherto unsuspected or overlooked.

Naturally, this pronouncement calls for considerable explanation or elucidation. One of the first queries would be as to the method of transportation adopted for the movement of such throngs of people. Unlike our Aryan ancestral caravans or even the comparatively short journey of the Children of Israel from Egypt to Palestine, these migrating peoples from tropical or subtropical America had neither flocks nor herds nor beasts of burden. Some of the burdens that were carried were too heavy to have been transported far on the backs of men. Moreover, on a continuous line of march, their commissary and subsistence supplies would have constituted a respectable amount of freight, that would have overburdened any body of human beings who set forth afoot to march over a distance which extended through a wilderness of hundreds of miles, with neither roads nor broken trails.

These immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande between El Paso and Brownsville, doubtless explored portions of the present state of Texas as they passed through. Portions of the present states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri were each traversed by some of them years before they had occasion to cross the Mississippi. That the areas embraced in these states, as well as much of the region east of the Mississippi, had been explored during the advance of these migrations seems not unlikely, though much advance exploration may not have been

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necessary in all instances. The people who thus migrated from the tropical and subtropical end of the continent were Mound-Builders and they left memorials of their occupancy in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri, as well as in most of the states east of the Mississippi.

Those who incline to a belief in the theory that the central part of the continent was peopled by migrations from Alaska, usually regard and class Mound-Builder vestigia as originating in and emanating from "centers of a development of Mound-Builder culture," and as isolated instances of peculiarly or spontaneously sportive skill and ability; whereas, in reality, the fact that the Mound-Builder cultures were of alien origin and were transported to this country after being developed in the racial swarming grounds in tropical North America does not seem to have ever been strongly asserted heretofore, consequently; and, most assuredly, its mention should not be inappropriate or untimely now. The correlation of these Mound-Builder cultures with the traces of ancient life in the tropical and subtropical regions of the North American continent are not only well within the realms of possibility, but constitute a problem to the solution of which American Archaeology should be addressing itself. Oklahoma mounds yield evidence to support such a theory as indicated by results in earth-work dissection recently conducted under the direction of Dr. Forrest Clements, of the University of Oklahoma, near the town of Spiro, Le Flore County, previously mentioned in this paper.

Relative to the intrusive immigrations from the Mexican Plateau and Central America into that part of the United States and Canada, east of the Great Plains, there is not a need to suppose that the movement of peoples from these several subtropical swarming grounds should have been carried on by any program at any given season, time, or year. There is no reason to suppose that the quantity of people moving at any one time was very large. The movements of peoples in Europe, long under discussion and investigation, first seemed to be long caravan parades of organized people until further and more thorough studies have uncovered the fact that such migrations started slowly and progressed slowly

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by infiltration of small units, families or tribes, from time to time over long periods. What has been called the Frankish invasion was really nothing but the few years of time marking the climax of an age-long, slow infiltration of Frankish peoples from beyond the Rhine into Gallo-Roman Territory. So with the American Indian. Why else the numerous ramifications of tribal and clan structures? It does not follow that any such migrations of people should be managed by any skilled mind to move from given point "x" in Mexico (or Germany), to given point "y" in the United States (or France), which would be the foreordained destination of the moving people. Rather did they move in every instance by trial and error, start and stop, forward and return, with no program at all involved.

In the case of the American continent, we know that this was the more probable because of the better climatic conditions existing throughout the southwest, from Mexico through to Nebraska. No student of climatic conditions will gainsay the fact that the now arid condition of our southwest is anything but an advancing condition; witness Dr. Paul B. Sear's Deserts on the March. Another proof of better climatic conditions for previous periods of this area is had in the remarks of those who accompanied Coronado. There is little reason to doubt that these agricultural people moved northward slowly, carrying with them their culture, with local occupancies sometimes lasting a generation or more.

One proof of the fact that the culture of the American Indian is a culture preserved against great odds and not one developing slowly in situ from rudimentary and elemental units, is found in the tradition of the Cheyenne Indian preserved in the writings of John H. Seger, to whom these traditions were told by an old Cheyenne chief, in which the statement is made that "The corn was lost"; the corn which they had had, as the means of sustenance, for untold generations.5 Where did they get this corn except from the place where it developed, artificially, in an evolu-

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tionary scale? And it was lost, remember, in the northern part of the United States.

At this juncture it seems well to advert to the matter of type-artifacts, to the significances of which many archaeologists pay no attention if, indeed, they have any knowledge thereof. These include implements, tools, utensils, weapons, ornaments, etc., the presence of which, on an archaeological site, enables one who is familiar therewith immediately to recognize and identify the ethnic stock of the people whose handiwork may be represented in or on such a given site or ruin. The type-artifacts which commonly offer marked distinctions are the mortar or metate, used in grinding grain, or in mascerating dried meat or desiccated roots, etc., the stone hoe used in soil tillage, the tobacco pipe, the form and decoration of pottery, ornaments, etc. As a rule the type-artifacts of two tribes of the same or closely related ethnic stock are nearly if not quite identical though, in some instances, there has been a noticeable variation or modification due to the influence of close association with the people of a distinctly different ethnic stock.

Some archaeologists refer to the Mound-Builders as if they were all of a single ethnic or linguistic stock, though, as a matter of fact, there were several distinct ethnic stocks, with pronounced ethnic distinctions including the Algonquin, Iroquoian, Siouan, Muskohogean, and Timuquan and others. It is believed that, as a rule, a single migration may have accounted for the introduction of a given ethnic culture, though it is not held that two Iroquois migrations did take place; namely, (1) the Southern (Cherokee) and (2) the Northern (Iroquois of the Great Lakes), with a brief interval between the two, as indicated by the Walam Olum,6 which is the migration legend of the Algonquian Lenna Lenape, or Delaware. This was secured, near the close of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, by Constantine Rafinesque, son of the French geologist. The younger Rafinesque obtained it in graphic form, subsequently working out a translation which was

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reduced to writing. At first there were suspicions that his version was a forgery, or a hoax, but subsequent examination by later investigators, after his death, revealed the fact that it was genuine, though there were some inaccuracies.

The Algonquin migration was evidently a very large one, else it must have been a movement in several extensive divisions with more or less widely spaced intervals between. The marked differences in physical appearances, in physiognomy, etc., the great divergence in the Algonquian languages, and the variation in traits, customs and cultural distinctions are such as to be suggestive of the possibility of the absorption of earlier and more primitive stocks, such, for instance, as the Cave and Shelter Lodge people of the Ozark Plateau, an inference that is somewhat strengthened by the Delaware name of their own tribe, Lenna Lenape, meaning, literally, "pure people" or "unmixed people," which, for analogous reasons, is readily comparable with the origin and significance of the aristocratic sangre azul, or "blue blood" of the Gothic nobility after its settlement in Spain.

Though all were of the same ethnic stock, originally, there are at least three versions of the Creek migration legend, with the possibility of others, as yet untranslated, among the people of other cultural centers of the Creek people. It seems that the Creek migration preceded that of the Chickasaw and Choctaw people.7 If so, like that of the Algonquin, it evidently annexed and absorbed minor elements of more primitive and less cultured fragments or remnants or unrelated and less cultured ethnic stock or stocks of a previous era of occupancy, the effect and influence of which was to modify the language and culture of the first Muskhogean migration. The Chickasaw Choctaw migration legend is quite distinct from that of the Creek or Muskogee people, thus proving that the two movements were not simultaneous.8 When the Chick-

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asaw-Choctaw migration followed, it was to find that the Creek conquest and annexation had cleared an extensive area of its previous population, thus permitting the people of the second Muskhogean migration to effect a settlement that was free from contamination by alien or less cultured influences; consequently the language and culture of the Chickasaw and the Choctaw—and especially the latter—remained practically unchanged down until the beginning of the historical period.

In beginning the preparation of this paper, in the fore part of 1937, there seemed to be nothing known of the existence of any tradition among the Siouan peoples concerning an ancient migration from a tropical or subtropical swarming-ground. Before it was completed, however, it was learned that the late Mrs. Jennie Fornenia, a member of Yankton Sioux tribe, who died in 1920 at a very advanced age, and who was an official conservator of its traditional history, was wont to recite the story of the migration of her people from their ancient swarming-ground, in Southern Mexico or Central America, northward around the curving coast line of the Gulf of Mexico, toward the lower Rio Grande, where it crossed into the present United States.9

The only hint of a northward migration from an Iroquoian source is the following from General Milfort's book:

Big Warrior, chief of the Cherokees, as late as 1822, not only confirms their tradition that Mexico was their native country, but goes back to a more remote period for their origin and claims that his ancestors came from Asia; crossing Bering Strait in their canoes: thence down the Pacific coast to Mexico; thence to the country east of the Mississippi River, where they were first known to the Europeans.10

It is of interest to remark in this connection that Lieut. John J. Abert, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, was informed by the Cheyenne Indians in Southern Colorado where he was conducting an exploring expedition in 1846, that the earliest they knew

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ancestors was when they came far northward into the country in various parts of which they have lived ever since.

Lieutenant Abert reports, writing of the Cheyenne:

These Indians, like those of all the tribes I have met with, pride themselves upon the antiquity of their origin. Like the Arcadians of old, who boasted that they were born before the moon was created, and like people of modern days, who trace their origin back until they become mystified. These Indians talk of their having descended from nations that lived long, long ago, and who came a long, long way to the north; endeavoring thus to give force to the idea, of the length of the time, and of the distance, by placing their hands close together, and then moving them slowly asunder; so slowly that they seem as if they would never complete the gesture.11

The late James Mooney, of the National Museum, than whom there was no more discerning or devoted student of American ethnology, was firmly convinced of the tropical or subtropical origin of the cultures of the Indian peoples of the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, though whether he left any written statements concerning that matter in his voluminous unpublished writings, at the time of his death, is not known.

It seems not improbable that the great Shoshonean and Athapascan stocks may also have been in these successive migratory movements. In submitting this statement, the writer is well aware that it is contrary to the generally accepted canons of belief that the Athapascan people of Northwestern British America and of Eastern and Southern Alaska are directly descended from the last Asiatic trans-Bering migration and impious, indeed, is he who ventures thus ruthlessly to mar such a theory that has gained respectability due to age and its hitherto unchallenged sentimental association. To be sure, the Southern Athapascan peoples are well supplied with traditions of a far northern origin, but whence came these traditions? Is it not just possible that such traditions may have been introduced from extra racial sources? The writer is not

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lacking in a spirit of due veneration for teachings which have the sanctions of age and sincerity, with at least a semblance of justification in fact, but, further than that, he cannot follow, merely to help support a weak theory. It so happens in this instance that he has been privileged to delve in the ruined village sites of the Plains Athapascan—the proto-Apache of four centuries ago—who made earthenware pottery and grew maize or Indian corn, two arts which they could not have learned from any other people between their range in the Panhandle regions of Okahoma and Texas, and the far northern habitat of their kinsmen, the Athapasca, proper. A comparison of type-artifacts from northern and southern Athapascan village or camp sites before either came under European influence or into European contact, might be very instructive in this connection. The great Athapascan group possibly failed to reach or to cross the Mississippi and was thus left to engage in aimless wandering on or near the eastern edge of the Great Plains, under circumstances that caused a rapid deterioration of cultural refinement, and finally reaching the semi-arid high plains where they "lost the corn," as other Indian peoples have done in more recent times. It is reasonable to assume that, during the course of this aimless wandering, there were two losses from secession or withdrawal, or unintentional separation, leading to the formation of the Navajo and Apache groups, which drew off toward the Southwest. Then, with the Assiniboin, the Blackfeet, the Cree, and the Crown behind them, they may have been driven much farther to the northward where they were forced to live wholly by the chase.

Much of our knowledge of ancient human life is speculative, hypothetical, and easily subject to misinterpretation; yet, even so, men learn to read it as they decipher the meaning of graphic symbolism, petroglyph, and pictograph. The science of indigenous anthropology in America has been chiefly developed within the past century. Had its development been three centuries earlier, and had the humanitarian impulses of civilized men been subject to the same refined and cultural influences that they now are, this world might have been enabled to avail itself of all that was

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best in the people of the aboriginal American race; history would read very differently from what it does and the sum total of human happiness would have been much greater than it has been. Despite the destructive influences with which the people of the native American race have had to contend, they still live in literature, art, and spirit—as positive factors in national life, into which they are now being incorporated as civic elements. Government Indian policies, once so crude and inconsiderate in the treatment of Indian people, have been so modified and reformed as to be of beneficent value, deserving to be cherished as a worthy achievement, such as no other civilized state ever before deigned to extend, even in a belated way, to any primitive people prior to very modern times.

In concluding this brief paper, the writer trusts that it may not seem presumptuous to summarize some of its contents by way of emphasis in the matter of suggestions as to means and methods of procedure in the further exploration and study of American Archaeology. First to be so stressed is the importance of a thorough investigation of the subject of the positive identification of type-artifacts, their systematic classification and more general use. With a full and accurate knowledge of this as a basis, the way should be open for surveys and significances of prehistoric migrations and occupancies. Moreover, with a selected collection of type-artifacts from this side of the Rio Grande, in a careful comparison with specimens in the public museums of Mexico and Central America, the location and identification of pre-migrant swarming-grounds should be well within the bounds of possibility.

Another phase of the problem would be the differentiation and identification of artifacts of known ethnic origin or culture in a more recent period or era and the correlation thereof with those of some one or another of the Mound-Builder cultures. This may seem rashly venturesome, but the fact is that arts and crafts of some of the cultures which existed down to the beginning of the historical period, were so nearly duplicates of some of those ancient forerunners as to render it difficult in some instances, to

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state definitely just where archaeology ends and where ethnology begins.

In addition to evidences as to the credibility of this hypothesis already presented, there are others that have recently become available for citation in such connection, besides many others which might be brought into such use by careful research among the writings of previous writers and collectors. Of such, the following may be cited: (a) There were six or seven species of tobacco indigenous to the North American continent, with habitats scattered between the southern portions of Arizona and California, on the north, and the Isthmus of Panama, on the south. Nicotiniana tabacum the species that was in cultivation among the people of the Indian tribes, north of the Gulf of Mexico and east of the Mississippi River (i. e., the Mound-Builder regions), and the one which was introduced into England during the Sixteenth Century and which is now in cultivation in various countries on all of the continents, is the only species of the group that was or is indigenous in the southern part of Central America. How were its seeds brought to the eastern part of the present United States if not brought by a migrating people? (b) A bowl-shaped mortar or metate, fashioned from "honeycomb" lava was plowed up in a field near Morris, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, several years ago. Lava of that sort, common in Southern Mexico and Central America, is not found in Oklahoma except in or near the stream beds of torrential rivers in the extreme western part of the state, and metates of the type of this specimen are unknown in the last mentioned region. (c) In McCurtain County, in southeastern Oklahoma, earthenware pottery of typical Northern Iroquois model and decorative pattern, has been unearthed. (d) A cache or deposit of ornamentally flaked ceremonial chert blades was recently uncovered beneath a prehistoric grave in Delaware County, Oklahoma, the like of which are said not to have been previously found except in British Honduras.

The presentation of this preliminary statement of such an hypothesis has been long delayed, since the possibility of its preparation first came under consideration early in 1914. Other investi-

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gators, more fortunately situated, could have covered the ground much more expeditiously and probably could have presented such a discussion more intelligibly. It is understood that several other investigators have been at work upon similar hypothesis in recent years. Doubtless, when some one or more of these shall have been completed and such papers published, it will be found that some, if not all of them, are much more thorough and exhaustive in discussion of the subject that this one. Nevertheless, there seems to be abundant reason why the matter should be brought to the attention of an interested public at this time.

The problem thus set forth for solution is too extensive to be worked out in all its phases by any single investigator. Rather, it is not improbable that its complete solution calls for the coordinated effort of several scientific institutions, with many field and research workers in collaboration. Surely the result of such a united effort should abundantly justify its projection.

There is no more important archaeological field in the United States than that which is embraced in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri, where the Mound-Builder people first landed in the United States and made their mark in a large way.12

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