Skip to main content

Full text of "The red man's continent; a chronicle of aboriginal America"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on Hbrary shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http : //books . google . com/| 













*•■ >■ 

.1 1. '^Hclnq «P:jiitf>J >. TjfeK birr, nitin , > .1 ^diiS^iil^cin! .' r- ;,[ . 


WoorJ engraving in Ancient Ciiics of fhe New World, by Desird 
Charnay, translated by J. Gonino and Helen S. Conant, published by 
Chapman and Hall, London, 1887. 




















Copyright, 1919 , by Yale University Press 

• » • 

• • • • • • 

■ • * • • ■ 


• * • k 

•• • 


In writing this book the author has aimed first to 
present in readable form the main facts about the 
geographical environment of American history. 
Many important facts have been omitted or have 
been touched upon only lightly because they are 
generally familiar. On the other hand, special 
stress has been laid on certain broad phases of 
geography which are comparatively unfamiliar. 
One of these is the similarity of form between 
the Old World and the New, and between North 
and South America; another is the distribution of 
indigenous types of vegetation in North America; 
and a third is the relation of climate to health and 
energy. In addition to these subjects, the in- 
fluence of geographical conditions upon the life of 
the primitive Indians has been emphasized. This 
factor is especially important because people with- 
out iron tools and beasts of burden, and without 
any cereal crops except corn, must respond to 
their environment very differently from civilized 



people of today. Limits of space and the desire 
to make this book readable have led to the omission 
of the detailed proof of some of the conclusions 
here set forth. The special student will recog- 
nize such cases and will not judge them until he 
has read the author's fuller statements elsewhere. 
The general reader, for whom this book is designed, 
will be thankful for the omission of such piu'ely 
technical details. 



















Wood engraving in Ancient Cities of the New 
World, by D6sir6 Charnay, translated by J. 
Gonino and Helen S. Conant, published by 
Chapman and Hall, London, 1887. FroTtttspieee 


Wood engraving in Ancient Cities of the New 

World, by I>6sir^ Chamay. Facing page S2 


Prepared by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geo- 
graphical Society. ** " ^ 


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical 

Society. (After Unstead and Taylor.) " " 80 


Drawing in volume rv, Hubert Howe Bancroft's 

Works. " " lie 


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical 

Society. (After Wissler.) " " IW 





Maps by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical 

Society. (After Huntington.) Facing page l^S 


From a photograph. " ** ^M 


Engraving after a drawing by Champlain, in his 
Voyages et Descouvertures faUee en la Nouvdle 
France, published in 1619. *' " 160 


Wood engraving in Ancient Cities of the New 

JForW. by D6sir6 Chamay " " 168 




Across the twilight lawn at Hampton Institute 
straggles a group of sturdy young men with 
copper-hued complexions. Their day has been 
devoted to farming, carpentry, blacksmithing, or 
some other trade. Their evening will be given to 
study. Those silent dignified Indians with straight 
black hair and broad, strong features are training 
their hands and minds in the hope that some day 
they may stand beside the white man as equals. 
Behind them, laughing gayly and chattering as if 
without a care in the world, comes a larger group 
of kinky-haired, thick-lipped youths with black 
skins and African features. They, too, have been 
working with the hands to train the mind. Those 
two diverse races, red and black, sit down together 


in a classroom, and to them comes another race. 
The faces that were expressionless or merely mirth- 
ful a minute ago light up with serious interest 
as the teacher comes into the room. She stands 
there a slender, golden-haired, blue-eyed Anglo- 
Saxon girl just out of college — a mere child com- 
pared with the score of swarthy, stalwart men as 
old as herself who sit before her. Her mobile fea- 
tures seem to mirror a himdred thoughts while 
their impassive faces are moved by only one. Her 
quick speech almost trips in its eagerness not to 
waste the short, precious hour. Only a strong 
effort holds her back while she waits for the slow 
answers of the young men whom she drills over and 
over again in simple problems of arithmetic. The 
class and the teacher are an epitome of American 
history. They are more than that. They are an 
epitome of all history. 

History in its broadest aspect is a record of man's 
migrations from one envu-onment to another. 
America is the last great goal of these migrations. 
He who would understand its history must know 
its mountains and plains, its cUmate, its products, 
and its relation to the sea and to other parts of the 
world. He must know more than this, however, 
for he must appreciate how various environments 


alter man's energy and capacity and give his char- 
acter a slant in one direction or another. He must 
also know the paths by which the inhabitants have 
reached their present homes, for the influence of 
former environments upon them may be more im- 
portant than their immediate surroimdings. In 
fact, the history of North America has been per- 
haps more profoundly influenced by man's inherit- 
ance from his past homes than by the physical 
features of his present home. It is indeed of vast 
importance that trade can move freely through 
such natural channels as New York Harbor, the 
Mohawk Valley, and the Great Lakes. It is 
equally important that the eastern highlands of 
the United States are full of the world's finest coal, 
while the central plains raise some of the world's 
most lavish crops. Yet it is probably even more 
important that because of his inheritance from 
a remote ancestral environment man is energetic, 
inventive, and long-lived in certain parts of the 
American continent, while elsewhere he has not 
the strength and mental vigor to maintain even 
the degree of civilization to which he seems to 
have risen. 

Three streams of migration have mainly deter- 
mined the history of America. One was an ancient 


and comparatively insignificant stream from Asia. 
It brought the Indian to the two great continents 
which the white man has now practically wrested 
from him. A second and later stream was the great 
tide which rolled in from Europe. It is as diflFerent 
from the other as West is from East. Thus far it 
has not wholly obhterated the native people, for 
between the southern border of the United States 
on the one hand, and the northern borders of Ar- 
gentina, Chile, and Uruguay on the other, the vast 
proportion of the blood is still Indian. The Euro- 
pean tide may in time dominate even this region, 
but for centuries to come the poor, disinherited 
Indians will continue to form the bulk of the popu- 
lation. The third stream flowed from Africa and 
was as different from either of the others as South 
is from North. 

The differences between one and another of these 
three streams of population and the antagonisms 
which they have involved have greatly colored 
American history. The Indian, the European, and 
the N^gro apparently differ not only in outward 
appearance but in the much more important 
matter of mentality. According to Brinton' the 
average brain capacity of Parisians, including 

> D. G. Brinton, The American Race, 


adults of both sexes, is 1448 cubic centimeters. 
That of the American Indian is 1376, and that of 
the Negro 1344 cubic centimeters. With this 
diflFerence in size there appears to be a correspond- 
ing diflFerence in function. Thus far not enough 
accurate tests have been made upon Indians to 
enable us to draw rehable conclusions. The Negro, 
however, has been tested on an extensive scale. 
The results seem to leave little doubt that there 
are real and measurable differences in the mental 
powers of races, just as we know to be the case 
among individuals. The matter is so important 
that we may well dwell on it a moment before 
turning to the cause of the differences in the three 
streams of American immigrants. If there is a 
measurable difference between the inherent brain 
power of the white race and the black, it is prac- 
tically certain that there are also measurable 
differences between the white and the red. 

Numerous tests indicate that in the lower mental 
powers there is no great difference between the 
black and the white. In physical reactions one is 
as quick as the other. In the capacity of the senses 
and in the power to perceive and to discriminate 
between different kinds of objects there is also 
practical equality. When it comes to the higher 


faculties, however, such as judgment, inventive- 
ness, and the power of organization, a difference 
begins to be apparent. These, as Ferguson' says, 
are the traits that ^'divide mankind into the able 
and the mediocre, the brilliant and the dull, and 
they determine the progress of civilization more 
directly than do the simple fimdamental powers 
which man has in common with the lower animals." 
On the basis of the most exhaustive study yet 
made, Ferguson believes that, apart from all differ- 
ences due to home training and environment, the 
average intellectual power of the colored people of 
this country is only about three-fourths as great as 
that of white persons of the same amoimt of train- 
ing. He believes it probable, indeed, that this 
estimate is too high rather than too low. As to the 
Indian, his past achievements and present condi- 
tion indicate that intellectually he stands between 
the white man and the Negro in about the position 
that would be expected from the capacity of his 
brain. If this is so, the mental differences in the 
three streams of migration to America are fully as 
great as the outward and manifest physical differ- 
ences and far more important. 

Why does the American Indian differ from the 

» G. O. Ferguson, The Psychology of the Negro, New York. 1916. 


Negro, and the European from both? This is a 
question on which we can only speculate. But we 
shall find it profitable to study the paths by which 
these diverse races found their way to America 
from man's primeval home. According to the now 
almost universally accepted theory, all the races 
of mankind had a common origin. But where did 
man make the change from a four-handed, tree- 
dwelling little ape to a much larger, upright crea- 
ture with two hands and two feet? It is a mistake 
to suppose that because he is hairless he must have 
originated in a warm climate. In fact quite the 
opposite seems to be the case, for apparently he 
lost his hair because he took to wearing the skins 
of slain beasts in order that he might have not only 
his own hair but that of other animals as a protec- 
tion from the cold. 

In our search for the starting-place of man's 
slow migration to America our first step should be 
to ascertain what responses to physical environ- 
ment are common to all men. If we find that all 
men live and thrive best under certain climatic 
conditions, it is fair to assume that those condi- 
tions prevailed in man's original home, and this 
conclusion will enable us to cast out of the reckon- 
ing the regions where they do not prevail. A study 


of the relations of millions of deaths to weather 
conditions indicates that the white race is physi- 
cally at its best when the average temperature for 
night and day ranges from about 50° to 73° F. and 
when the air is neither extremely moist nor ex- 
tremely dry. In addition to these conditions there 
must be not only seasonal changes but frequent 
changes from day to day. Such changes are 
possible only where there is a distinct winter and 
where storms are of frequent occurrence. The best 
climate is, therefore, one where the temperature 
ranges from not much below the freezing-point at 
night in winter to about 80° F. by day in summer, 
and where the storms which bring daily changes 
are frequent at all seasons. 

Surprising as it may seem, this study indicates 
that similar conditions are best for all sorts of 
races. Finns from the Arctic Circle and Italians of 
sunny Sicily have the best health and greatest 
energy under practically the same conditions; so 
too with Frenchmen, Japanese, and Americans. 
Most surprising of all, the African black man in 
the United States is likewise at his best in essen- 
tially the same kind of weather that is most favor- 
able for his white fellow-citizens, and for Finns, 
Italians, and other races. For the red race, no 


exact figures are available, but general observation 
of the Indian's health and activity suggests that 
in this respect he is at one with the rest of mankind. 
For the source of any characteristic so wide- 
spread and uniform as this adaptation to environ- 
ment we must go back to the very beginning of the 
human race. Such a characteristic must have 
become firmly fixed in the human constitution 
before primitive man became divided into races, 
or at least before any of the races had left their 
original home and started on their long journey to 
America. On the way to this continent one race 
took on a dark reddish or brownish hue and its hair 
grew straight and black; another became black- 
skinned and crinkly-haired, while a third developed 
a white skin and wavy blonde hair. Yet through- 
out the thousands of years which brought about 
these changes, all the races apparently retained the 
indehble constitutional impress of the climate of 
their conmion birthplace. Man's physical adapta- 
tion to climate seems to be a deep-seated physiologi- 
cal fact like the uniformity of the temperature of 
the blood in all races. Just as a change in the 
temperature of the blood brings distress to the in- 
dividual, so a change of climate apparently brings 
distress to a race. Again and again, to be sure, on 


the way to America, and under many other cir- 
cumstances, man has passed through the most 
adverse climates and has survived, but he has 
flourished and waxed strong only in certain zones. 
Curiously enough man's body and his mind ap- 
pear to differ in their climatic adaptations. More- 
over, in this respect the black race, and perhaps 
the red, appears to be diverse from the white. In 
America an investigation of the marks of students 
at West Point and Annapolis indicates that the 
best mental work is done when the temperature 
averages not much above 40® F. for night and day 
together. Tests of school children in Denmark 
point to a similar conclusion. On the other hand, 
daily tests of twenty-two Negroes at Hampton In- 
stitute for sixteen months suggest that their men- 
tal ability may be greatest at a temperature only 
a little lower than that which is best for the most 
eflScient physical activity. No tests of this sort 
have ever been made upon Indians, but such facts 
as the inventiveness of the Eskimo, the artistic 
development of the people of northern British 
Columbia and southern Alaska, and the relatively 
high civilization of the cold regions of the Peruvian 
plateau suggest that the Indian in this respect is 
more like the white race than the black. Perhaps 


man's mental powers underwent their chief evolu- 
tion after the various races had left the aboriginal 
home in which the physical characteristics became 
fixed. Thus the races, though alike in their phy- 
sical response to climate, may possibly be differ- 
ent in their mental response because they have 
approached America by different paths. 

Before we can understand how man may have 
been modified on his way from his original home to 
America, we must inquire as to the geographical 
situation of that home. Judging by the climate 
which mankind now finds most favorable, the 
human race must have originated in the temperate 
regions of Europe, Asia, or North America. We 
are not entirely without evidence to guide to a 
choice of one of the three continents. There is a 
scarcity of indications of preglacial man in the 
New World and an abundance of such indications 
in the Old. To be sure, several skulls found in 
America have been supposed to belong to a time 
before the last glacial epoch. In every case, how- 
ever, there has been something to throw doubt on 
the conclusion. For instance, some human bones 
found at Vero in Florida in 1915 seem to be very 
old. Certain circumstances, however, suggest that 
possibly they may not really belong to the layers 


of gravel in which they were discovered but may 
have been inserted at some later time. In the Old 
World, on the contrary, no one doubts that many 
human skulls and other parts of skeletons belong 
to the interglacial epoch preceding the last glacial 
epoch, while some appear to date from still more 
remote periods. Therefore no matter at what date 
man may have come to America, it seems clear 
that he existed in the Old World much earlier. 
This leaves us to choose between Europe and Asia. 
The evidence points to central Asia as man's 
original home, for the general movement of human 
migrations has been outwarc/ from that region and 
not inward. So, too, with the great families of 
mammals, as we know from fossil remains. From 
the earliest geological times the vast interior of 
Asia has been the great mother of the world, the 
source from which the most important families 
of living things have come. 

Suppose, then, that we place in central Asia the 
primitive home of the thin-skinned, hairless human 
race with its adaptation to a highly variable climate 
with temperatures ranging from freezing to eighty 
degrees. Man could not stay there forever. He 
was bound to spread to new regions, partly because 
of his innate migratory tendency and partly 


because of Nature's stem urgency. Geologists are 
rapidly becoming convinced that the mammals 
spread from their central Asian point of origin 
largely because of great variations in climate.' 
Such variations have taken place on an enormous 
scale during geological times. They seem, indeed, 
to be one of the most important factors in evolu- 
tion. Since early man lived through the successive 
epochs of the glacial period, he must have been 
subject to the urgency of vast climatic changes. 
During the half million years more or less of his 
existence, cold, stormy, glacial epochs lasting tens 
of thousands of years have again and again been 
succeeded by warm, dry, interglacial epochs of 
equal duration. 

During the glacial epochs the interior of Asia 
was well watered and full of game which supplied 
the primitive human hunters. With the advent 
of each interglacial epoch the rains diminished, 
grass and trees disappeared, and the desert spread 
over enormous tracts. Both men and animals 
must have been driven to sore straits for lack of 
food. Migration to better regions was the only 
recourse. Thus for hundreds of thousands of years 
there appears to have been a constantly recurring 

' W. D. Matthew, Climate and EvdvHon, N. Y. Acad. Sci., 1915. 


outward push from the center of the world's 
greatest land mass. That push, with the conse- 
quent overcrowding of other regions, seems to have 
been one of the chief forces impelling people to 
migrate and cover the earth. 

Among the primitive men who were pushed out- 
ward from the Asian deserts during a period of 
aridity, one group migrated northeastward toward 
the Kamchatkan comer of Asia. Whether they 
reached Bering Sea and the Kamchatkan shore 
before the next epoch of glaciation we do not know. 
Doubtless they moved slowly, perhaps averaging 
only a few score or a hundred miles per generation, 
for that is generally the way with migrations of 
primitive people advancing into unoccupied terri- 
tory. Yet sometimes they may have moved with 
comparative rapidity. I have seen a tribe of herds- 
men in central Asia abandon its ancestral home 
and start on a zigzag march of a thousand miles 
because of a great drought. The grass was so 
scanty that there was not enough to support the 
animals. The tribe left a trail of blood, for wher- 
ever it moved it infringed upon the rights of others 
and so with conflict was driven onward. In some 
such way the primitive wanderers were kept in 
movement until at last they reached the bleak 


shores of the North Pacific. Even there something 
— perhaps sheer curiosity — still urged them on. 
The green island across the bay may have been so 
enticing that at last a raft of logs was knotted to- 
gether with stout withes. Perhaps at first the men 
paddled themselves across alone, but the hunting 
and fishing proved so good that at length they 
took the women and children with them, and so 
advanced another step along the route toward 
America. At other times distress, strife, or the 
search for game may have led the primitive no- 
mads on and on along the coast until a day came 
when the Asian home was left and the New World 
was entered. 

The route by which primitive man entered 
America is important because it determined the 
surroundings among which the first Americans 
lived for many generations. It has sometimes been 
thought that the red men came to America by way 
of the Kurile Islands, Kamchatka, and the Aleu- 
tian Islands. If this was their route, they avoided 
a migration of two or three thousand miles through 
one of the coldest and most inhospitable of regions. 
This, however, is far from probable. The distance 
from Kamchatka to the first of the Aleutian Islands 
is over one hundred miles. As the island is not in 


sight from the mainland, there is little chance that 
a band of savages, including women, would de- 
liberately sail thither. There is equally little prob- 
abihty that they walked to the island on the ice, 
for the sea is never frozen across the whole width. 
Nevertheless the climate may at that time have 
been colder than now. There is also a chance that 
a party of savages may have been blown across to 
the island in a storm. Suppose that they succeeded 
in reaching Bering Island, as the most Asiatic of 
the Aleutians is called, the next step to Copper 
Island would be easy. Then, however, there comes 
a stretch of more than two hundred miles. The 
chances that a family would ever cross this waste 
of ocean are much smaller than in the first case. 
Still another possibility remains. Was there once 
a bridge of land from Asia to America in this region? 
There is no evidence of such a link between the two 
continents, for a few raised beaches indicate tliat 
during recent geological times the Aleutian Islands 
have been uplifted rather than depressed. 

The passage from Asia to America at Bering 
Strait, on the other hand, is comparatively easy. 
The Strait itself is fifty-six miles wide, but in the 
middle there are twd small islands so that the 
longest stretch of water is only about thirty-five 


miles. Moreover the Strait is usually full of ice, 
which frequently becomes a solid mass from shore 
to shore. Therefore it would be no strange thing 
if some primitive savages, in hunting for seals or 
polar bears, crossed the Strait, even though they 
had no boats. Today the people on both sides of 
the Strait belong to the American race. They still 
retain traditions of a time when their ancestors 
crossed this narrow strip of water. The Thilanot- 
tines have a legend that two giants once fought 
fiercely on the Arctic Ocean. One would have been 
defeated had not a man whom he had befriended 
cut the tendon of his adversary's leg. The 
wounded giant fell into Bering Strait and formed a 
bridge across which the reindeer entered America. 
Later came a strange woman bringing u-on and 
copper. She repeated her visits until the natives 
insulted her, whereupon she went underground 
with her fire-made treasures and came back no 
more. Whatever may have been the circumstances 
that led the earliest families to cross from Asia to 
America, they little recked that they had found a 
new continent and that they were the first of the 
red race. 

Unless the first Americans came to the new con- 
tinent by way of the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, 


it was probably their misfortune to spend many 
generations in the cold regions of northeastern 
Asia and northwestern America. Even if they 
reached Alaska by the Aleutian route but came to 
the islands by way of the northern end of the Kam- 
chatkan Peninsula, they must have dwelt in a 
place where the January temperature averages 
— 10° F. and where there are frosts every month 
in the year. If they came across Bering Strait, 
they encountered a still more severe climate. The 
winters there are scarcely worse than in northern 
Kamchatka, but the summers are as cold as the 
month of March in New York or Chicago. 

Perhaps a prolonged sojourn in such a climate is 
one reason for the stolid character of the Indians. 
Of course we cannot speak with certainty, but we 
must, in our search for an explanation, consider the 
conditions of life in the far north. Food is scanty 
at all times, and starvation is a frequent visitor, 
especially in winter when game is hard to get. 
The long periods of cold and darkness are terribly 
enervating. The nervous white man goes crazy 
if he stays too long in Alaska. Every spring the 
first boats returning to civilization carry an unduly 
large proportion of men who have lost their minds 
because they have endured too many dark, cold 


winters. His companions say of such a man, ^^The 
North has got him." Almost every Alaskan recog- 
nizes the danger. As one man said to a friend, ^'It 
is time I got out of here." 

"Why?" said the friend, "you seem all right. 
What's the matter?" 

"Well," said the other, "you see I begin to like 
the smell of skunk cabbage, and, when a man gets 
that way, it*s time he went somewhere else." 

The skunk cabbage, by the way, grows in Alaska 
in great thickets ten feet high. The man was per- 
fectly serious, for he meant that his mind was 
beginning to act in ways that were not normal. 
Nowhere is the strain of life in the far north better 
described than in the poems of Robert W. Service. 

Oh, the awful hush that seemed to crush me down on 

every hand. 
As I blundered blind with a trail to find through that 

blank and bitter land; 
Half dazed, half crazed in the winter wild, with its grim 

heart-breaking woes. 
And the ruthless strife for a grip on life that only the 

sourdough knows! 
North by the compass, North I pressed; river and peak 

and plain 
Passed like a dream I slept to lose and waked to dream 



River and plain and mighty peak — and who could 

stand unawed? 
As their summits blazed, he could stand undazed at the 

foot of the throne of God. 
North, aye. North, through a land accurst, shunned by 

the scouring brutes. 
And all I heard was my own harsh word and the whine 

of the malamutes. 
Till at last I came to a cabin squat, built in the side of a 

And I burst in the door, and there on the floor, frozen 

to death, lay Bill.' 

The human organism inherits so delicate an ad- 
justment to climate that, in spite of man's boasted 
ability to live anywhere, the strain of the frozen 
North eliminates the more nervous and active types 
of mind. Only those can endure whose nerves 
lack sensitiveness and who are able to bear long 
privation and the strain of hunger and cold and 
darkness. Though the Indian may diflPer from the 
white man in many respects, such conditions are 
probably as bad for him as for any race. For this 
reason it is not improbable that long sojourns at 
way stations on the cold, Alaskan route from cen- 
tral Asia may have weeded out certain types of 
minds. Perhaps that is why the Indian, though 

< From Ballads of a Cheechako, 


brave, stoical, and hardy, does not possess the alert, 
nervous temperament which leads to invention 
and progress. 

The ancestors of the red man unwittingly chose 
the easiest path to America and so entered the con- 
tinent first, but this was their misfortune. They 
could not inherit the land because they chose a 
path whose unfavorable influence, exerted through- 
out centuries, left them unable to cope with later 
arrivals from other directions. The parts of 
America most favorable for the Indian are also best 
for the white man and Negro. There the alerter 
minds of the Europeans who migrated in the other 
direction have quickly eliminated the Indian. His 
long northern sojourn may be the reason why 
farther south in tropical lands he is even now at a 
disadvantage compared with the Negro or with the 
coolie from the East Indies. In Central America, 
for instance, it is generally recognized that Negroes 
stand the heat and moisture of the lowlands better 
than Indians. According to a competent author- 
ity: "The American Indians cannot bear the heat 
of the tropics even as well as the European, not to 
speak of the African race. They perspire little, 
their skin becomes hot, and they are easily pros- 
trated by exertion in an elevated temperature. 


They are peculiarly subject to diseases of hot 
climates, as hepatic disorders, showing none of the 
immunity of the African. Furthermore, the finest 
physical specimens of the race are found in the 
colder regions of the temperate zones, the Pampas 
and Patagonian Indians in the south, the Iroquois 
and Algonkins in the north; whereas, in the tropics 
they are generally undersized, short-lived, of in- 
ferior muscular force and with slight tolerance 
of disease."' "No one," adds another observer, 
"could live among the Indians of the Upper Ama- 
zon without being struck with their constitutional 
dislike to heat. The impression forced itself upon 
my mind that the Indian lives as a stranger or 
immigrant in these hot regions."* Thus when 
compared with the other inhabitants of America, 
from every point of view the Indian seems to be at 
a disadvantage, much of which may be due to the 
path which he took from the Old World to the New. 
Before the red man lost his American heritage, 
he must have enjoyed it for thousands upon thou- 
sands of years. Otherwise he never could have 
become so diflPerent from his nearest relative, 
the Mongol. The two are as truly distinct racec 

I D. G. Brinton, The American Race, pp. 84, S5, 
* H. W. Bates, The Naiuralut on the River Amazona, vol. n, pp. 
200, 201. 


as are the white man and the Malay. Nor could 
the Indians themselves have become so extra- 
ordinarily diverse except during the lapse of thou- 
sands of years. The Quichua of the cold highlands 
of Peru is as different from the Maya of Yucatan 
or the Huron of southern Canada as the Swede 
is from the Armenian or the Jew. The separa- 
tion of one stock from another has gone so far that 
almost countless languages have been developed. 
In the United States alone the Indians have fifty- 
five "families'' of languages and in the whole of 
America there are nearly two hundred such groups. 
These comprise over one thousand distinct lan- 
guages which are mutually unintelligible and at 
least as different as Spanish and Italian. Such 
differences might arise in a day at the Tower of 
Babel, but in the processes of evolution they take 
thousands of years. 

During those thousands of years the red man, 
in spite of his Arctic handicap, by no means showed 
himself wholly lacking in originality and inventive 
ability. In Yucatan two or three thousand years 
ago the Mayas were such good scientists and re- 
corded their observations of the stars so accurately 
that they framed a calendar more exact than any 
except the one that we have used for the last two 


centuries. They showed still greater powers of 
mind in inventing the art of writing and in their 
architecture. Later we shall depict the environ- 
ment under which these things occurred; it is 
enough to suggest in passing that perhaps at this 
period the ancestors of the Indians had capacities 
as great as those of any people. Today they might 
possibly hold their own against the white man, 
were it not for the great handicap which they once 
suffered because Asia approaches America only in 
the cold, depressing north. 

The Indians were not the only primitive people 
who were driven from central Asia by aridity. 
Another group pushed westward toward Europe. 
They fared far better than their Indian cousins who 
went to the northeast. These prospective Euro- 
peans never encountered benumbing physical con- 
ditions like those of northeastern Asia and north- 
western America. Even when ice shrouded the 
northern part of Europe, the rest of the continent 
was apparently favored with a stimulating climate. 
Then as now, Europe was probably one of the 
regions where storms are most frequent. Hence it 
was free from the monotony which is so deadly in 
other regions. When the ice retreated our Euro- 
pean ancestors doubtless followed slowly in its 


wake. Thus their racial character was evolved in 
one of the world's most stimulating regions. Pri- 
vation they must have suflFered, and hardihood and 
boldness were absolutely essential in the combat 
with storms, cold, wild beasts, fierce winds, and 
raging waves. But under the spur of constant 
variety and change, these diflSculties were merely 
incentives to progress. When the time came for 
the people of the west of Europe to cross to Amer- 
ica, they were of a diflPerent caliber from the pre- 
vious immigrants. 

Two facts of physical geography brought Europe 
into contact with America. One of these was the 
islands of the North, the other the trade- winds of 
the South. Each seems to have caused a prelimi- 
nary contact which failed to produce important 
results. As in the northern Pacific, so in the north- 
em Atlantic, islands are stepping-stones from the 
Old World to the New. Yet because in the latter 
case the islands are far apart, it is harder to cross 
the water from Norway and the Lofoten Islands 
to Iceland and Greenland than it is to cross from 
Asia by way of the Aleutian Islands or Bering 
Strait. Nevertheless in the tenth century of the 
Christian era bold Norse vikings made the passage 
in the face of storm and wind. In their slender 


open ships they braved the elements on voyage 
after voyage. We think of the vikings as pirates, 
and so they were. But they were also diligent 
colonists who tilled the ground wherever it would 
yield even the scantiest living. In Iceland and 
Greenland they must have labored mightily to 
carry on the farms of which the Sagas tell us. 
When they made their voyages, honest commerce 
was generally in their minds quite as much as was 
plunder. Leif , the son of that rough Red Eric who 
first settled Greenland, made a famous voyage to 
Vinland, the mainland of America. Like so many 
other voyagers he was bent on finding a region 
where men could live happily and on filling his 
boats with grapes, wood, or other commodities 
worth carrying home. 

In view of the energy of the Norsemen, the traces 
of their presence in the Western Hemisphere are 
amazingly slight. In Greenland a few insignificant 
heaps of stones are supposed to show where some 
of them built small villages. Far in the north 
Stefansson found fair-haired, blue-eyed Eskimos. 
These may be descendants of the Norsemen, al- 
though they have migrated thousands of miles 
from Greenland. In Maine the Micmac Indians 
are said to have had a curious custom which they 


may have learned from the vikings. When a chief 
died, they chose his largest canoe. On it they piled 
dry wood, and on the wood they placed the body. 
Then they set fire to the pile and sent the blazing 
boat out to sea. Perhaps in earlier times the Mic- 
macs once watched the flaming funeral pyre of a 
fair-haired viking. As the ruddy flames leaped 
skyward and were reflected in the shimmering 
waves of the great waters the tribesmen must have 
felt that the Great Spirit would gladly welcome a 
chief who came in such a blaze of glory. ^ 

It seems strange that almost no other traces of 
the strong vikings are found in America. The 
explanation lies partly in the length and diflSculty 
of the ocean voyage, and partly in the inhospitable 
character of the two great islands that served as 
stepping-stones from the Old World to the New. 
Iceland with its glaciers, storms, and long dreary 
winters is bad enough. Greenland is worse. 
Merely the tip of that island was known to the 
Norse — and small wonder, for then as now most 
of Greenland was shrouded in ice. Various Scan- 
dinavian authors, however, have thought that 
during the most prosperous days of the vikings the 
conditions in Greenland were not quite so bad as 

> For this information I am indebted to Mr. Stansbury Hagar. 


at the present day. One settlement, Osterbyden, 
numbered 190 farms, 12 churches, 2 monasteries,, 
and 1 bishopric. It is even stated that apple-trees 
bore fruit and that some wheat was raised. " Cattle- 
raising and fishing," says Pettersson, "appear to 
have procured a good living. ... At present the 
whole stock of cattle in Greenland does not amount 
to 100 animals."" In those days the ice which 
borders all the east coast and much of the west 
seems to have been less troublesome than now. 
In the earliest accounts nothing is said of this ice 
as a danger to navigation. We are told that the 
best sailing route was through the strait north of 
Cape Farewell Island, where today no ships can 
pass because of the ice. Since the days of the 
Norsemen the glaciers have increased in size, for 
the natives say that certain ruins are now buried 
beneath the ice, while elsewhere ruins can be seen 
which have been cut oflF from the rest of the coun- 
try by advancing glacial tongues. 

Why the Norsemen disappeared from the West- 
ern Hemisphere we do not exactly know, but there 
are interesting hints of an explanation. It appears 

'O. Pettersson, Climatic VariaHons in Historic and Prehigtorio 
Times, Svenska Hydrogrifisk — Biologiska Kommissioneur Skrifteri 
Haft y. Stockholm. 


that the fourteenth century was a time of great 
distress. In Norway the crops failed year after 
year because of cold and storms. Provinces which 
were f onnerly able to^ support themselves by agri- 
culture were obliged to import food. The people 
at home were no longer able to keep in touch with 
the struggling colony in Greenland. No supplies 
came from the home land, no reinforcements to 
strengthen the colonists and make them feel that 
they were a part of the great world. Moreover in 
the late Norse sagas much is said about the ice 
along the Greenland coast, which seems to have 
been more abundant than formerly. Even the 
Eskimos seem to have been causing trouble, 
though formerly they had been a friendly, peace- 
able people who lived far to the north and did not 
disturb the settlers. In the fourteenth century, 
however, they began to make raids such as are 
common when primitive people fall into distress. 
Perhaps the storms and the advancing ice drove 
away the seals and other animals, so that the Eski- 
mos were left hungry. They consequently mi- 
grated south and, in the fifteenth century, finally 
wiped out the last of the old Norse settlers. If the 
Norse had established permanent settlements on 
the mainland of North America, they might have 


persisted to this day. As it was, the cold, bleak 
climate of the northern route across the Atlantic 
checked their progress. Like the Indians, they 
had the misfortune of finding a route to America 
through regions that are not good for man. 

Though islands may be stepping-stones between 
the Old World and the New, they have not been 
the bringers of civilization. That function in the 
history of man has been left to the winds. The 
westerHes, however, which are the prevailing winds 
in the latitude of the United States and Europe, 
have not been of much importance. On the Atlan- 
tic side they were for many centuries a barrier to 
contact between the Old World and the New. On 
the Pacific side they have been known to blow 
Japanese vessels to the shores of America con- 
trary to the will of the mariners. Perhaps the 
same thing may have happened in earlier times. 
Asia may thus have made some slight contribution 
to primitive America, but no important elements 
of civilization can be traced to this source. 

From latitude 30° N. to 30° S. the trade- winds 
prevail. As they blow from the east, they make it 
easy for boats to come from Africa to America. In 
comparatively recent times they brought the slave 
ships from the Guinea coast to our Southern States. 


The Af rican, like the Indian, has passed through a 
most unfavorable environment on his way from 
central Asia to America. For ages he was doomed 
to live in a climate where high temperature and 
humidity weed out the active type of human being. 
Since activity like that of Europe means death in 
a tropical climate, the route by way of Africa has 
been if anything worse than by Bering Strait. 

By far the most important occurrence which can 
be laid at the door of the trade-winds is the bring- 
ing of the civilization of Europe and the Mediter- 
ranean to the New World. Twice this may have 
happened, but the first occurrence is doubtful and 
left only a slight impress. For thousands of years 
the people around the Mediterranean Sea have 
been bold sailors. Before 600 B.C. Pharaoh Necho, 
so Herodotus says, had sent Phenician ships on 
a three-year cruise entirely around Africa. The 
Phenicians also sailed by way of Gibraltar to Eng- 
land to bring tin from Cornwall, and by 500 B.C. 
the Carthaginians were well acquainted with the 
Atlantic coast of northern Africa. 

At some time or other, long before the Christian 
era, a ship belonging to one of the peoples of the 
eastern Mediterranean was probably blown to the 
shores of America by the steady trade-winds. Of 


course, no one can say positively that such a voyage 
occurred. Yet certain curious similarities between 
the Old World and the New enable us to infer with 
a great deal of probability that it actually hap- 
pened. The mere fact, for example, that the adobe 
houses of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are 
strikingly like the houses of northern Africa and 
Persia is no proof that the civilization of the Old 
World and the New are related. A similar physical 
environment might readily cause the same type of 
house to be evolved in both places. When we find 
striking similarities of other kinds, however, the 
case becomes quite different. The constellations 
of the zodiac, for instance, are typified by twelve 
living creatures, such as the twins, the bull, the 
lion, the virgin, the crab, and the goat. Only one 
of the constellations, the scorpion, presents any 
real resemblance to the animal for which it is 
named. Yet the signs of the zodiac in Medi- 
terranean lands and in pre-Columbian America 
from Peru to southern Mexico are almost identical. 
Here is a list showing the Latin and English names 
of the constellations and their equivalents in the 
calendars of the Peruvians, Mexicans, and Mayas. ' 

' See S. Hagar, The Bearing of Astronomy on the ProbUms of ihe 
Unity or Plurality and the Probable Place of Origin of the American 
Aborigines, in American Anthroj)ologietp vol. xiv (1912), pp. 43-48. 



AVoo<i engraving in Ancient Citien oftheXew World , by l)(*sin» Charnay. 

yr:r\ \\ V 

" '\ 

\ ! 

t .i • 

.■ . \ 

:i . ji.T.. -r- ■ ■ ■» 












Bull (originally 


Stag or Deer 




Man and 


Two Generals 












Virgin (Mother 
Goddess of 


Maize Mother 

Maize Mother 


Scales (originally 
part of Scorpio) 











Arrows or 

Hunter and 

Hunter and 



War God 

War God 


Sea Goat 


Bearded God 



Water Pourer 





Fishes (and Knot) 


Twisted Reeds 

Notice how closely these lists are alike. The ram 
does not appear in America because no such animal 
was known there. The nearest substitute was the 
llama. In the Old World the second constellation 
is now called the bull, but curiously enough in 
earlier days it was called the stag in Mesopotamia. 
The twins, instead of being Castor and Pollux, 
may equally well be a man and a woman or two 
generals. To landsmen not familiar with creatures 
of the deep, the crab and the cuttlefish would not 
seem greatly diflPerent. The lion is unknown in 
America, but the creature which most nearly takes 



his place is the puma or ocelot. So it goes with all 
the signs of the zodiac. There are little diflFerences 
between the Old World and the New, but they only 
emphasize the resemblance. Mathematically there 
is not one chance in thousands or even millions 
that such a resemblance could grow up by accident. 
Other similarities between ceremonies or religious 
words in the Old World and the New might be 
pointed out, but the zodiac is illustration enough. 
Such resemblances, however, do not indicate 
a permanent connection between Mediterranean 
civilization and that of Central America. They do 
not even indicate that any one ever returned from 
the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern previous to 
Columbus. Nor do they indicate that the civiliza- 
tion of the New World arose from that of the Old. 
They simply suggest that after the people of the 
Mediterranean regions had become well civilized 
and after those of America were also sufficiently 
civilized to assimilate new ideas, a stray ship or two 
was blown by the trade- winds across the Atlantic. 
That hypothetical voyage was the precursor of the 
great journey of Columbus. Without the trade- 
winds this historic discoverer never could have 
found the West Indies. Suppose that a strong 
west wind had blown him backward on his course 


when his men were mutinous. Suppose that he had 
been forced to beat against head winds week after 
week. Is there one chance in a thousand that even 
his indomitable spirit could have kept his craft 
headed steadily into the west? But because there 
were the trade-winds to bring him, the way was 
opened for the energetic people of Europe to pos- 
sess the new continent. Thus the greatest stream 
of inunigration commenced to flow, and the New 
World b^an to take on a European aspect. 



America forms the longest and straightest bone in 
the earth's skeleton. The skeleton consists of six 
great bones, which may be said to form a spheroidal 
tetrahedron, or pyramid with a triangular base, for 
when a globe with a fairly rigid surface collapses 
because of shrinkage, it tends to assume this 
form. That is what has happened to the earth. 
Geologists tell us that during the thousand million 
years, more or less, since geological history began, 
the earth has grown cooler and hence has con- 
tracted. Moreover some of the chemical com- 
pounds of the interior have been transformed into 
other compounds which occupy less space. For 
these reasons the earth appears to have diminished 
in size until now its diameter is from two hundred 
to four hundred miles less than formerly. Dur- 
ing the process of contraction the crust has col- 
lapsed in four main areas, roughly triangular in 



shape. Between these stand the six ridges which 
we have called the bones. Each of the four de- 
pressed areas f ornas a side of our tetrahedron and 
is occupied by an ocean. The ridges and the areas 
immediately flanking the oceans form the conti- 
nents. The side which we may think of as the base 
contains the Arctic Ocean. The ridges surround- 
ing it are broad and flat. Large parts of them 
stand above sea-level and form the northern 
portions of North America, Europe, and Asia. A 
second side is the Pacific Ocean with the great 
ridge of the two Americas on one hand and Asia 
and Australia on the other. Next comes the side 
containing the Indian Ocean in the hollow and the 
ridges of Africa and Australia on either hand. The 
last of the four sides contains the Atlantic Ocean 
and is bounded by Africa and Europe on one 
hand and North and South America on the other. 
Finally the tip of the pyramid projects above the 
surrounding waters, and forms the continent of 

It may seem a mere accident that this tip lies 
near the South Pole, while the center of the oppo- 
site face lies near the North Pole. Yet this has 
been of almost infinite importance in the evolution 
not only of, plants and animals but of men. The 


reason is that this arrangement gives rise to a vast 
and almost continuous land mass in comparatively 
high latitudes. Only in such places does evolution 
appear to make rapid progress. ' 

Evolution is especially stimulated by two con- 
ditions. The first is that there shall be marked 
changes in the environment so that the process of 
natural selection has full opportunity to do its 
work. The second is that numerous new forms or 
mutants, as the biologists call them» shall be pro- 
duced. Both of these conditions are most fully 
met in large continents in the temperate zone, for 
in such places climatic variations are most extreme. 
Such variations may take the form of extreme 
changes either from day to night, from season to 
season, or from one century to another. In any 
case, as Darwin long ago pointed out, they cause 
some forms of life to perish while others survive. 
Thus climatic variations are among the niost power- 
ful factors in causing natural selection and hence 
in stimulating evolution. Moreover it has lately 
been shown that variations in temperature are one 
of the chief causes of organic variation. Morgan 
and Plough,* for example, have discovered that 

' W. D. Matthew, Climate and Effoludon, N. Y. Acad. Sci., 1915. 
' Unpublished manuscript. 


when a certain fly, called the drosophila, is sub- 
jected to extremes of heat or cold» the offspring 
show an unusually strong tendency to differ from 
the parents. Hence the climatic variability of the 
interior of large continents in temperate latitudes 
provides new forms of life and then selects some 
of them for preservation. The fossils found in the 
rocks of the earth*s crust support this view. They 
indicate that most of the great families of higher 
animals originated in the central part of the great 
land mass of Europe and Asia. A second but much 
smaller area of evolution was situated in the similar 
part of North America. From these two centers 
new forms of life spread outward to other con- 
tinents. Their movements were helped by the fact 
that the tetrahedral form of the earth causes almost 
all the continents to be united by bridges of land. 

If any one doubts the importance of the tetra- 
hedral form, let him consider how evolution would 
have been hampered if the land of the globe were 
arranged as isolated masses in low latitudes, while 
oceans took the place of the pres^it northern con- 
tinents. The backwardness of the indigenous life 
of Africa shows how an equatorial position retards 
evolution. The still more marked backwardness 
of Australia with its kangaroos and duck-billed 


platypuses shows how much greater is the retarda- 
tion when a continent is also small and isolated. 
Today, no less than in the past, the tetrahedral 
form of the earth and the relation of the tetrahe- 
dron to the poles and to the equator preserve the 
conditions that favor rapid evolution. They are 
the dominant factors in determining that America 
shall be one of the two great centers of civilization. 

If North and South America be counted as one 
major land mass, and Europe, Asia, and Africa as 
another, the two present the same general features. 
Yet their mountains, plains, and coastal indenta- 
tions are so arranged that what is on the east in 
one is on the west in the other. Their similarity is 
somewhat like that of a man's two hands placed 
palms down on a table. 

On a map of the world place a finger of one hand 
on the western end of Alaska and a finger of the 
other on the northeastern tip of Asia and follow 
the main bones of the two continents. See how the 
chief mountain systems, the Pacific " cordilleras," 
trend away from one another, southeastward and 
southwestward. In the centers of the continents 
they expand into vast plateaus. That of America 
in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States 
reaches a width of over a thousand miles, while 


that of Asia in Tibet and western China expands 
to far greater proportions. 

Prom the plateaus the two Cordilleras swing 
abruptly Atlanticward. The Eurasian cordillera 
extends through the Hindu Kush, Caucasus, and 
Asia Minor ranges to southern Europe and the 
Alps. Then it passes on into Spain and ends in the 
volcanoes of the Canary Islands. The American 
Cordillera swings eastward in Mexico and con- 
tinues as the isolated ranges of the West Indies 
until it ends in the volcanoes of Martinique. Cen- 
tral America appears at first sight to be a con- 
tinuation of the great cordillera, but really it is 
something quite different — a mass of volcanic ma- 
terial poured out in the gap where the main chain 
of mountains breaks down for a space. In neither 
hemisphere, however, is the main southward sweep 
of the mountains really lost. In the Old World the 
cordillera revives in the moimtains of Syria and 
southern Arabia and then runs southward along 
the whole length of eastern Africa. In America it 
likewise revives in the mighty Andes, which take 
their rise fifteen hundred miles east of the broken 
end of the northern cordillera in Mexico. In the 
Andes even more distinctly than in Africa the 
cordillera forms a mighty wall running north and 


south. It expands into the plateau of Peru and 
Bolivia, just as its African compeer expands into 
that of Abyssinia, but this is a mere incident. The 
main bone, so to speak, keeps on in each case till 
it disappears in the great southern ocean. Even 
there, however, it is not wholly lost, for it re- 
vives in the cold, lofty continent of Antarctica, 
where it coalesces once more with the other great 
tetrahedral ridges of Africa and Australia. 

It is easy to see that these great cordilleras have 
turned most of the earth's chief rivers toward the 
Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans. That is why these 
two oceans with an area of only forty-three million 
square miles receive the drainage from twenty 
million square miles of land, while the far larger 
Indian and Pacific Oceans with an area of ninety- 
one million square miles receive the rivers of only 
ten million square miles. The world's streams of 
civilization, like the rivers of water, have flowed 
from the great cordilleras toward the Atlantic. 
Half of the world's people, to be sure, are lodged 
in the relatively small areas known as China and 
India on the Pacific side of the Old World Cordil- 
lera. Nevertheless the active streams of civiliza- 
tion have flowed mainly on the other side — the 
side where man apparently originated. From the 


earliest times the mountains have served to deter- 
mine man's chief migrations. Their rugged fast- 
nesses hinder human movements and thereby give 
rise to a strong tendency to move parallel to their 
bases. During the days of primitive man the trend 
of the mountains apparently directed his migra- 
tions northeastward to Bering Strait and then 
southeastward and southward from one end of 
America to the other. In the same way the migra- 
tions to Europe and Africa which ultimately 
reached America moved mainly parallel to the 

From end to end of America the great mountains 
form a sharp dividing line. The aboriginal tribes ' 
on the Pacific slope are markedly different from 
those farther east across the mountains. Brinton 
sums the case up admirably: 

As a rule the tribes of the western coast are not con- 
nected with any east of the mountains. What is more 
singular, although they differ surprisingly among them- 
selves in language, they have marked anthropologic 
similarities, physical and psychical. Virchow has em- 
phasized, the fact that the skulls from the northern 
point of Vancouver's Island reveal an unmistakable 
analogy to those from the southern coast of California; 
and this is to a degree true of many intermediate 
points. Not that the crania have the same indices. On 


the contrary, they present great and constant diflfer- 
ences within the same tribe; but these differences are 
analogous one to the other, and on fixed lines. 

There are many other physical similarities which 
mark the Pacific Indians and contrast them with those 
east of the moimtains. The eyes are less oblique, the 
nose flatter, the lips fuller, the chin more pointed, the 
face wider. There is more hair on the face and in 
the axilla, and the difference between the sexes is much 
more obvious. 

The mental character is also in contrast. The Pacific 
tribes are more quiet, submissive, and docile; they have 
less courage, and less of that untamable independence 
which is so constant a feature in the history of the 
Algonquins and Iroquois.^ 

Although mountains may guide migrations, the 
plains are the regions where people dwell in greatest 
numbers. The plains in the two great land masses 
of the Old World and the New have the same in- 
verse or' right- and left-handed symmetry as the 
mountains. In the north the vast stretches from 
the Mackenzie River to the Gulf of Mexico corre- 
spond to the plains of Siberia and Russia from the 
Lena to the Black Sea. Both regions have a vast 
sweep of .monotonous tundras at the north and 
both become fertile granaries in the center. Before 
the white man introduced the horse, the ox, and 

< D. G. Brinton, The American Race, pp. lOS-4. 


iron ploughs, there prevailed an extraordinary simi- 
larity in the habits of the plains Indians from Texas 
to Alberta. All alike depended on the buffalo; all 
hunted him in much the same way; all used his 
skins for tents and robes, his bones for tools, and 
his horns for utensils. All alike made him the 
center of their elaborate rituals and dances. Be- 
cause the plains of North America were easy to 
traverse, the relatively high culture of the ancient 
people of the South spread into the Mississippi 
Valley. Hence the Natchez tribe of Mississippi 
had a highly developed form of sun-worship and 
a well-defined caste system with three grades of 
nobility in addition to the common people. Even 
farther north, almost to the Ohio River, traces of 
the sun-worship of Mexico had penetrated along 
the easy pathway of the plains. 

South of the great granaries of North America 
and Eurasia the plains are broken, but occur again 
in the Orinoco region of South America and the 
Sahara of Africa. Thence they stretch almost im- 
broken toward the southern end of the continents. 
In view of the fertility of the plains it is strange 
that the centers of civilization have so rarely been 
formed in these vast level expanses. ^ 

The most striking of the inverse resemblances 


between America and the Old World are found 
along the Atlantic border. In the north of Eu- 
rope the White Sea corresponds to Hudson Bay 
in America. Farther toward the Atlantic Ocean 
Scandinavia with its mountains, glaciers, and fiords 
is similar to Labrador, although more favored 
because warmer. Next the islands of Great 
Britain occupy a position similar to that of New- 
foundland and Prince Edward Island. But here 
again the eastern climate is "much more favorable 
than the western. Although practically all of 
Newfoundland is south of England, the American 
island has only six inhabitants per square mile» 
while the European country has six hundred. To 
the east of the British Isles the North Sea, the Bal- 
tic» and Lakes Ladoga and Onega correspond in 
striking fashion to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the 
river of the same name, and the Great Lakes from 
Ontario td Superior. Next the indented shores 
of western Prance and the peninsula of Spain re- 
semble our own indented coast and the peninsula 
of Florida. Here at last the American regions are 
as favored as the European. Farther south the 
Mediterranean and Black seas penetrate far in- 
to the interior just as does the Gulf of Mexico, 
and each continent is nearly cut in two where the 


canals of Suez and Panama respectively have 
been trenched. Finally in the southern continents 
a long swing eastward in America balances a simi- 
lar swing westward in Africa. Thus Cape Saint 
Roque and Cape Verde are separated by scarcely 
16° of longitude, although the extreme points of the 
Gulf of Mexico and the Black Sea are 140° apart. 
Finally to the south of the equator the conti- 
nents swing away from one another once more, 
preserving everywhere the same curious inverse 

Even more striking than the inverse resemblance 
of the New World to the Old is the direct similarity 
of North and South America. In physical form 
the two continents are astonishingly alike. Not 
only does each have the typical triangular form 
which would naturally arise from tetrahedral 
shrinking of the globe, but there are four other 
cardinal points of resemblance. First, in the 
northeast each possesses an area of extremely an- 
cient rocks, the Laurentian highlands of Quebec 
and Labrador in North America and the highlands 
of Guiana in South America. Second, in the south- 
east lie highlands of old but not the most ancient 
rocks stretching from northeast to southwest in 
the Appalachian region of North America and in 


the Brazilian mountains of the southern continent. 
Third, along the western side of each continent 
recent crustal movements supplemented by vol- 
canic action on a magnificent scale have given rise 
to a complex series of younger mountains, the two 
great Cordilleras. Finally, the spaces between the 
three mountain masses are occupied by a series 
of vast confluent plains which in each case extend 
from the northern ocean to the southern and bend 
around the southeastern highlands. These plains 
are the newest part of America, for many of them 
have emerged from the sea only in recent geological 
times. Taken as a whole the resemblance between 
the two continents is striking. 

If these four physiographic provinces of North 
and South America lay in similar latitudes in the 
respective continents we might expect each pair 
to have a closely similar effect on life. In f aima, 
flora, and even in human history they would 
present broad and important resemblances. As a 
matter of fact, however, they are as different as 
can well be imagined. Where North America is 
bathed by icy waters full of seals and floating ice 
South America is bathed by warm seas full of 
flying-fish and coral reefs. The northern continent 
is broadest in the cool latitudes that are most 


favorable for human activity. The southern ex- 
pands most widely in latitudes whose debilitating 
monotony of heat and moisture is the worst of 
handicaps to human progress. The great rivers of 
the northern continent correspond very closely to 
those of the southern. The Mackenzie, however, is 
bound in the rigid bands of winter for eight months 
each year, while the Orinoco, the corresponding 
South American river, lies sweltering under a tropi- 
cal sun which burns its grassy plains to bitter dust 
even as the sharp cold reduced the Mackenzie 
region to barren tundra. The St. Lawrence flow^ 
through fertile grain fields and the homes of an 
active people of the temperate zone, but the Ama- 
zon winds its slow way amid the malarious languor 
of vast tropical forests in which the trees shut out 
the sky and the few natives are apathetic with the 
eternal inertia of the hot, damp tropics. 

Only when we come to the Mississippi in the 
northern continent and the Rio de la Plata in the 
southern do we find a pair of rivers which corre- 
spond to any degree in the character of the life sur- 
rounding them, as well as in their physiographic 
character. Yet even here there is a vast difference, 
especially in the upper courses of the river. Each at 
its mouth flows through a rich, fertile plain occupied 


by a progressive, prosperous people. But the Rio 
de la Plata takes its rise in one of the world's most 
backward plains, the home of uncivilized Indians, 
heartless rubber adventurers, and the most rapa- 
cious of oflScials. Not infrequently, the degenerate 
white men of these regions, yielding to the subtle 
and insidious influence of the tropics, inflict the 
most outrageous abuses upon the natives, and 
even kill them on slight provocation. The natives 
in turn hate their oppressors, and when the chance 
comes betray them or leave them to perish in sick- 
ness and misery. The upper Mississippi, on the 
other hand, comes from a plain where agriculture 
is carried on with more labor-saving devices than 
are found anywhere else in the world. There 
States like Wisconsin and Minnesota stand in the 
forefront of educational and social progress. The 
contrasts between the corresponding rivers of the 
two Americas are typical of the contrasts in the 
history of the two continents. 



The four great physical divisions of North Amer- 
ica — the Laurentian highland, the Appalachian 
highland, the plains, and the western cordillera 
— are strikingly different in form and structure. 
The Laurentian highland presents a monotonous 
waste of rough hills, irregular valleys, picturesque 
lakes, and crooked rivers. Most of it is thinly 
clothed with pine trees and bushes such as the 
blueberry and huckleberry. Yet everywhere the 
ancient rock crops out. No one can travel there 
without becoming tiresomely familiar with fine- 
grained, shattered schists, coarse granites, and 
their curiously banded relatives, the gneisses. 
This rocky highland stretches from a little north 
of the St. Lawrence River to Hudson Bay, aroimd 
which it laps in the form of a V, and so is known 
as the Archaean V or shield. 

Everywhere this oldest part of the Western 



Hemisphere presents unmistakable signs of great 
age. The schists by their fine crumpKng and scaly 
flakes of mineral show that they were formed deep 
in the bowels of the earth, for only there could they 
be subjected to the enormous pressure needed to 
transform their minerals into sheets as thin as 
paper. The coarse granites and gneisses proclaim 
still more clearly that they must have originated 
far down in the depths of the earth; their huge 
crystals of mica, quartz, hornblende, feldspar, 
and other minerals could never have been formed 
except under a blanket of rock which almost pre- 
vented the original magmas from cooling. The 
thousands or tens of thousands of feet of rock which 
once overlay the schists and still more the granites 
and gneisses must have been slowly removed by 
erosion, for there was no other way to get rid of 
them. This process must have taken tens of mil- 
lions of years, and yet the whole work must have 
been practically completed a hundred or perhaps 
several hundred million years ago. We know this 
because the self -same ancient eroded surface which 
is exposed in the Laurentian highland is found 
dipping down under the oldest known f ossilif erous 
rocks. Traces of that primitive land surface are 
found over a large part of the American continent. 


Elsewhere they are usually buried under later 
strata laid down Wn the continent sank in part 
below sea-level. Only in Laurentia has the land 
remained steadily above the reach of the ocean 
throughout the millions of years. 

Today this old, old land might be as rich as 
many others if climate had been kind to it. Its 
soil, to be sure, would in many parts be sandy 
because of the large amount of quartz in the rocks. 
That would be a small handicap, however, pro- 
vided the soil were scores of feet deep like the red 
soil of the corresponding highland in the Guiana 
region of South America. But today the North 
American Laurentia has no soil worth mentioning. 
For some reason not yet understood this was the 
part of America where snow accumulated most 
deeply and where the largest glaciers were formed 
during the last great glacial period. Not once but 
many times its granite surface was shrouded for 
tens of thousands of years in ice a mile or more 
thick. As the ice spread outward in almost every 
direction, it scraped away the soil and gouged in- 
numerable hollows in the softer parts of the under- 
lying rock. It left the Laurentian highland a land 
of rocky ribs rising between clear lakes that fill 
the hollows. The lakes are drained by rapid rivers 


which wind this way and that in hopeless confusion 
as they strive to move seaward over the strangely 
uneven surface left by the ice. Such a land is good 
for the hunter and trapper. It is also good for 
the summer pleasure-seeker who would fain grow 
strong by paddling a canoe. For the man who 
would make a permanent home it is a rough, in- 
scrutable region where one has need of more than 
most men's share of courage and persistence. Not 
only did the climate of the past cause the ice to 
scrape away the soil, but the climate of the present 
is so cold that even where new soil has accumulated 
the farmer can scarcely make a living. 

Around the borders of the Laurentian highland 
the ice accomplished a work quite different from 
the devastation of the interior. One of its chief 
activities was the scouring of a series of vast hol- 
lows which now hold the world's largest series of 
lakes. Even the lakes of Central Africa cannot 
compare with our own Great Lakes and the other 
smaller lakes which belong to the same series. 
These additional lakes begin in the far north with 
Great Bear Lake and continue through Great Slave 
Lake, Lake Athabasca, and Lake Winnipeg to the 
Lake of the Woods, which drains into Lake Superior. 
All these lakes lie on the edge of the great Lauren- 


tian shield^ where the ice, crowding down from the 
highland to the north and east, was compressed 
into certain abeady existent hollows which it 
widened, deepened, and left as vast bowls ready 
to be filled with lakes. 

South and southwest of the Laurentian highland 
the great ice sheet proved beneficial to man. 
There, instead of leaving the rock naked, as in the 
Laurentian region, it merely smoothed off many 
of the irregularities of the surface and covered 
large areas with the most fertile soil. 

In doing this, to be sure, the ice-cap scoured 
some hollows and left a vastly larger number of 
basins surrounded in whole or in part by glacial 
d6bris. These have given rise to the innumerable 
lakes, large and small, whose beauty so enhances 
the charms of Canada, New England, New York, 
Minnesota, and other States. They serve as res- 
ervoirs for the water supply of towns and power 
plants and as sources of ice and fish. Though they 
take land from agriculture, they probably add to 
the life of the community as much in other ways 
as they detract in this. Moreover glaciation di- 
verted countless streams from their old courses and 
made them flow over falls and rapids from which 
water-power can easily be developed. That is one 


reason why glaciated New England contains over 
forty per cent of all the developed water-power in 
the United States. 

Far more important, however, than the glacial 
lakes and rivers is the fertile glacial soil. It comes 
fresh from the original rocks and has not yet been 
exhausted by hundreds of thousands of years of 
weathering. It also has the advantage of being 
well mixed, for generally it is the product of scra- 
pings from many kinds of rocks, each of which con- 
tributes its own particular excellence to the general 
composition. Take Wisconsin as an example.' 
Most parts of that State have been glaciated, but 
in the southwest there lies what is known as the 
"driftless area" because it is not covered with the 
"drift" or glacial d6bris which is thickly strewn 
over the rest of the State. A comparison of other- 
wise similar counties lying within and without the 
driftless area shows an astonishing contrast. In 
1910 the average value of all the farm land in 
twenty counties covered with drift amounted to 
$56.90 per acre. In six counties partly covered 
with drift and partly driftless the value was $59.80 

' R. H. Whitbeck, Eiconomic Aspects of Ohciation in Wisconnn, in 
Annals of the Associaiion of American Geogra'phers, vol. iii (1913)» 
pp. 62-67. 


per acre, while in thirteen counties in the driftless 
area it was only $33.30 per acre. In spite of the 
fact that glaciation causes swamps and lakes, the 
proportion of land cultivated in the glaciated 
^reas is larger than in the driftless. In the gla- 
ciated area 61 per cent of the land is improved and 
in the driftless area only 43.5 per cent. Moreover, 
even though the underlying rock and the original 
topography be of the same kind in both cases, the 
average yield of crops per acre is greater where the 
ice has done its work. Where the country rock 
consists of limestone, which naturally forms a rich 
soil, the difference in favor of the glaciated area 
amounts to only 1 or 2 per cent. Where the 
country rock is sandy, the soil is so much improved 
by a mixture of fertilizing limestone or even of clay 
and other materials that the average yield of crops 
per acre in the glaciated areas is a third larger than 
in the'drif tless. Taking everything into considera- 
tion it appears that the ancient glaciation of Wis- 
consin increases the present agricultural output 
by from 20 to 40 per cent. Upwards of 10,000,000 
acres of glaciated land have already been developed 
in the most populous parts of the State. If the aver- 
age value of all products on this area is reckoned at 
$16 per acre and if the increased value of agricul- 


tural products due to glaciation amounts to 30 per 
cent, then the net value of glaciation per year to the 
farmers of Wisconsin is $45,000,000. This means 
about $800 for each farmer in the glaciated area. 

Wisconsin is by no means unique. In Ohio, for 
instance, there is also a driftless area.' It lies in 
the southeast along the Ohio River. The difiFer- 
ence in the value of the farm land there and in the 
glaciated region is extraordinary. In the driftless 
area the average value per acre in 1910 was less 
than $24, while in the glaciated area it was nearly 
$64. Year by year the proportion of the popula- 
tion of the State in the unglaciated area is steadily 
decreasing. The difiFerence between the two parts 
of the State is not due to the underlying rock struc- 
ture or to the rainfall except to a slight degree. 
Some of the dilBFerence is due to the fact that im- 
portant cities such as Cleveland and Toledo lie on 
the fertile level strip of land along the lake shore, 
but this strip itself, as well as the lake, owes much 
of its character to glaciation. It appears, there- 
fore, that in Ohio, perhaps even more than in Wis- 
consin, man prospers most in the parts where the 
ice has done its work. 

> William H. Hess, The Influence of Olaciaiion in Ohio, in Bulletin 
of the Oeofpra'phical Society of PhikMphia, vol. xy (1917), pp. 19-42. 


We have taken Wisconsin and Ohio as examples, 
but the effect of glaciation in those States does not 
differ materially from its effect all over southern 
Canada and the northern United States from New 
England to Kansas and Minnesota. Each year 
the people of these regions are richer by perhaps a 
billion dollars because the ice scraped its way down 
from Laurentia and spread out over the borders of 
the great plains on the west and of the Appalachian 
region on the east. 

We have considered the Laurentian highland 
and the glaciation which centered there. Let us 
now turn to another highland only the northern part 
of which was glaciated. The Appalachian high- 
land> the second great division of North America, 
consists of three parallel bands which extend south- 
westward from Newfoundland and the St. Law- 
rence River to Georgia and Alabama. The eastern 
and most important band consists of hills and 
mountains of ancient crystalline rocks, somewhat 
resembling those of the Laurentian highland but 
by no means so old. West of this comes a broad 
valley eroded for the most part in the softer por- 
tions of a highly folded series of sedimentary 
rocks which are of great age but younger than the 


crystalline rocks to the east. The third band is the 
Alleghany plateau, composed of almost horizontal 
rocks which lie so high and have been so deeply 
dissected that they are often called mountains. 

The three Appalachian bands by no means pre- 
serve a uniform character throughout their entire 
length. The eastern crystalline band has its chief 
development in the northeast. There it com- 
prises the whole of New England and a large part 
of the maritime provinces of Canada as well as 
Newfoimdland. Its broad development in New 
England causes that region to be one of the most 
clearly defined natural units of the United States. 
Ancient igneous rocks such as granite lie intricately 
mingled with old and highly metamorphosed sedi- 
ments. Since some of the rocks are hard and others 
soft and since all have been exposed to extremely 
long erosion, the topography of New England con- 
sists typically of irregular masses of rounded hills 
free from precipices. Here and there hard masses 
of unusually resistant rock stand up as isolated 
rounded heights, like Mount Katahdin in Maine. 
They are known as "monadnocks " from the moun- 
tain of that name in southern New Hampshire. In 
other places larger and more irregular masses of 
hard rock form mountain groups like the White 


Mountains, the Green Mountains, and the Berk- 
shires, each of which is merely a great series of 

In the latitude of southern New York the crys- 
talline rocks are compressed into narrow compass 
and lose their mountainous character. They form 
the irregular hills on which New York City itself 
is built and which make the suburbs of Westchester 
County along the eastern Hudson so diverse and 
beautiful. To the southeast the topography of the 
old crystalline band becomes still less pronounced, 
as may be seen in the rolling, fertile hills around 
Philadelphia. Farther south the band divides into 
two parts, the mountains proper and the Piedmont 
plateau. The mountains begin at the Blue Ridge, 
which in Virginia raises its even-topped heights 
mile after mile across the length of that State. In 
North Carolina, however, they lose their character 
as a single ridge and expand into the broad mass of 
the southern Appalachians. There Mount Mitch- 
ell dominates the eastern part of the American 
continent and is surrounded by over thirty other 
mountains rising to a height of at least six thousand 
feet. The Piedmont plateau, which lies at the 
eastern foot of the Blue Ridge, is not really a 
plateau but a peneplain or ancient lowland worn 


almost to a plain. It expands to a width of one 
hundred miles in Virginia and the Carolinas and 
forms the part of those States where most of the 
larger towns are situated. Among its low gentle 
heights there rises an occasional httle monadnock 
like Chapel Hill, where the University of North 
Carolina lies on a rugged eminence which strikingly 
recalls New England. For the most part, however, 
the hills of the Piedmont region are lower and more 
rounded than those in the neighborhood of Phila- 
delphia. The country thus formed has many ad- 
vantages, for it is flat enough to be used for agricul- 
ture and yet varied enough to be free from the 
monotony of the level plains. 

The prolonged and broken inner valley forming 
the second band of the Appalachians was of some 
importance as a highway in the days of the In- 
dians. Today the main highways of traffic touch it 
only to cross it as quickly as possible. From Lake 
Champlainit trends straight southward in the Hud- 
son Valley imtil the Catskills have been passed. 
Then, while the railroads and all the traffic go on 
down the gorge of the Hudson to New York, the 
valley swings off into Pennsylvania past Scranton, 
Wilkesbarre, and Harrisburg. There the under- 
lying rock consists of a series of alternately hard 


and soft layers which have been crumpled up much 
as one might wrinkle a rug with one's foot. The 
pressure involved in the process changed and hard- 
ened the rocks so much that the coal which they 
contain was converted into anthracite, the finest 
coal in all the world and the only example of its 
kind. Even the famous Welsh coal has not been 
so thoroughly hardened. During a long period of 
erosion the tops of the folded layers were worn off 
to a depth of thousands of feet and the whole coim- 
try was converted into an almost level plain. Then 
in the late geological period known as the early Ter- 
tiary the land was lifted up again, and once more 
erosion went on. The soft rocks were thus etched 
away until broad valleys were formed. The hard 
layers were left as a bewildering succession of ridges 
with flat tops. A single ridge may double back 
and forth so often that the region well deserves 
the old Indian name of the "Endless Mountains.** 
Southwestward the valley grows narrower, and the 
ridges which break its surface become straighter. 
Everywhere they are flat-topped, steep-sided, and 
narrow, while between them lie parts of the main 
valley floor, flat and fertile. Here in the south, 
even more clearly than in the north, the valley is 
bordered on the east by the sharply upstanding 


range of the crystalline Appalachians, while on the 
west with equal regularity it comes to an end in an 
escarpment which rises to the Alleghany plateau. 
This plateau, the third great band of the Appa- 
lachians, begins on the south side of the Mohawk 
Valley. To the north its place is taken by the 
Adirondacks, which are an outlier of the great 
Laurentian area of Canada. The fact that the out- 
lier and the plateau are separated by the low strip 
of the Mohawk Valley makes this the one place 
where the highly complex Appalachian system can 
easily be crossed. If the Alleghany plateau joined 
the Adirondacks, Philadelphia instead of New York 
would be the greatest city of America. Where the 
plateau first rises on the south side of the Mo- 
hawk, it attains heights of four thousand feet in 
the Catskill Moimtains. We think of the Catskills 
as mountains, but their steep cliffs and table- 
topped heights show that they are really the rem- 
nants of a plateau, the nearly horizontal strata of 
which have not yet been worn away. Westward 
from the Catskills the plateau continues through 
central New York to western Pennsylvania. Those 
who have traveled on the Pennsylvania Railroad 
may remember how the railroad climbs the es- 
carpment at Altoona. Farther east the train 


has passed alternately through gorges cut in the 
parallel ridges and through fertile open valleys 
forming the main floor of the inner valley. Then it 
winds up the long ascent of the Alleghany front in 
a splendid horseshoe curve. At the top, after a 
short tunnel, the train emerges in a wholly different 
country. The valleys are without order or system. 
They wind this way and that. The hills are not 
long ridges but isolated bits left between the wind- 
ing valleys. Here and there beds of coal blacken 
the surface, for here we are among the rocks from 
which the world's largest coal supply is derived. 
Since the layers lie horizontally and have never 
been compressed, the same material which in the 
inner valley has been changed to hard, clean- 
burning anthracite here remains soft and smoky. 

In its southwestern continuation through West 
Virginia and Kentucky to Tennessee the plateau 
maintains many of its Pennsylvanian characteris- 
tics, but it now rises higher and becomes more in- 
accessible. The only habitable portions are the 
bottoms of the valleys, but they are only wide 
enough to support a most scanty population. Be- 
tween them most of the land is too rough for any- 
thing except forests. Hence the people who live at 
the bottoms of the valleys are strangely isolated. 


They see little or nothing of the world at large or 
even of their neighbors. The roads are so few and 
the trails so diflScult that the farmers cannot easily 
take their produce to market. Their only recourse 
has been to convert their bulky corn into whisky, 
which occupied little space in proportion to its 
value. Since the mountaineer has no other means 
of getting ready money, it is not strange that he has 
become a moonshiner and has fought bitterly for 
what he genuinely believed to be his rights in that 
occupation. Education has not prospered on the 
plateau because the narrowness of the valleys causes 
the population to be too poor and too scattered to 
support schools. For the same reason feuds grow 
up. When people live by themselves they become 
suspicious. Not being used to dealing with their 
neighbors, they suspect the motives of all but their 
intimate friends. Moreover, in those deep valleys, 
with their steep sides and their general inaccessibil- 
ity, laws cannot easily be enforced, and therefore 
each family takes the law into its own hands. 

Today the more rugged parts of the Appalachian 
system are chiefly important as a hindrance to 
communication. On the Atlantic slope of the old 
crystalline band there are great areas of gentle 
relief where an abundant population can dwell. 


Westward on the edges of the plateau and the 
plains beyond a still greater population can find a 
living, but in the intervening space there is oppor- 
tunity for only a few. The great problem is to 
cross the mountains as easily as possible. Each 
accessible crossing-place is associated with a city. 
Boston, as well as New York, owes much to the low 
Mohawk-Hudson route, but is badly handicapped 
because it has no easy means of crossing the eastern 
crystalline band. Philadelphia, on the other hand, 
benefits from the fact that in its vicinity the crys- 
tallines are low and can readily be crossed even 
without the aid of the valleys of the Delaware and 
Schuylkill rivers. It is handicapped, however, by 
the Alleghany escarpment at Altoona, even though 
this is lower there than farther south. Baltimore, 
in the same way, owes much of its growth to the 
easy pathways of the Susquehanna on the north 
and the Potomac on the south. Farther south 
both the crystalline band and the Alleghany pla- 
teau become more diflScult to traverse, so that 
communication between the Atlantic coast and the 
Mississippi Valley is reduced to small proportions. 
Happy is New York in its situation where no one 
of the three bands of the Appalachians opposes 
any obstacle. 


The plains of North America form the third of 
the four main physical divisions of the continent. 
For the most part they lie between the great west- 
em Cordillera on one side and the Laurentian and 
Appalachian highlands on the other. Yet they lap 
around the southern end of the Appalachians and 
run far up the Atlantic coast to New York. They 
remained beneath the sea till a late date, much 
later than the other three divisions. They were 
not, however, covered with deep water like that of 
the abysmal oceans, but only with shallow seas 
from which the land at times emerged. In spite of 
the old behef to the contrary, the continents appear 
to be so permanent that they have occupied prac- 
tically their present positions from the remotest 
geological times. They have moved slowly up and 
down, however, so that some parts have frequently 
been submerged, and the plains are the parts that 
remained longest under water. 

The plains of North America may be divided 
into four parts according to the character of their 
surface: the Atlantic coastal plain, the prairies, 
the northwestern peneplain, and the southwestern 
high plains. The Atlantic coastal plain lies along 
the Atlantic coast from New York southward to 
Florida and Alabama. It also forms a great em- 


bayment up the Mississippi Valley as far as the 
Ohio River, and it extends along the shore of the 
Gulf of Mexico to the Rio Grande. The chief 
characteristic of this Atlantic and Gulf coastal 
plain is its belted nature. One layer of rocks is 
sandy, another consists of limestone, and a third 
of clay. When uplifted and eroded each assiunes 
its own special topography and is covered with its 
own special type of vegetation. Thus in South 
Carolina and Georgia the crystaDine Piedmont 
band of the Appalachian province is bordered on 
the southeast by a belt of sandstone. This rock is 
so far from the sea and has been raised so high 
above it that erosion has converted it into a r^on 
of gentle hills, whose tops are six hundred or seven 
hundred feet above sea-level. Its sandy soil is so 
poor that farming is diflScult. The hills are largely 
covered with pine, yielding tar and turpentine. 
Farther seaward comes a broad band of younger 
rock which forms a clayey soil or else a yellow 
sandy loam. These soils are so rich that splendid 
cotton props can be raised, and hence the region is 
thickly populated. Again there comes a belt of 
sand, the so-called "pine barrens," which form a 
poor section about fifty miles inland from the coast. 
Finally the coastal belt itself has emerged from 


beneath the sea so recently and lies so nearly at 
sea-level that it has not been greatly eroded, and is 
still covered with numerous marshes and swamps. 
The rich soil and the moisture are good for rice, but 
the region is so unhealthy and so hard to drain 
that only small parts are inhabited. 

Everywhere in the coastal plain this same belted 
character is more or less evident. It has much to 
do with 8,11 sorts of activities from farming to poli- 
tics. On consulting the map showing the cotton 
production of the United States in 1914, one notices 
the two dark bands in the southeast. One of them, 
extending from the northwestern part of South 
Carolina across Georgia and Alabama, is due to the 
fertile soil of the Piedmont region. The other, 
lying nearer the sea, begins in North Carolina and 
extends well into Alabama before it swings around 
to the northwest toward the area of heavy produc- 
tion along the Mississippi. It is due to the fertile 
soil of that part of the coastal plain known as the 
"cotton belt." Portions of it are called the "black 
belt," not because of the colored population, but 
because of the darkness of the soil. Since this land 
has always been prosperous, it has regularly been 
conservative in poHtics. 

The Atlantic coastal plain is by no means the 


only part of the United States where the fertility 
of the soil is the dominant fact in the life of the 
people. Because of their rich soil the prairies 
which extend from western Ohio to the Missouri 
River and northward into Canada are fast becom- 
ing the most steadily prosperous part of America. 
They owe their surpassing richness largely to gla- 
ciation. We have already seen how the coming 
of the ice-sheet benefited the regions on the borders 
of the old Laurentian highland. This same benefit 
extended over practically the whole of what are 
now the prairies. Before the advent of the ice the 
whole section consisted of a broadly banded coastal 
plain much older than that of the Atlantic coast. 
When the ice with its burden of material scraped 
from the hills of the north passed over the coastal 
plain» it fiUed the hollows with rich new soil. The 
icy streams that flowed out from the glaciers were 
full of fine sediment, which they deposited over 
enormous flood plains. During dry seasons the 
winds picked up this dust and spread it out still 
more widely, forming the great banks of yellow 
loess whose fertite soil mantles the sides of many 
a valley in the Mississippi basin. Thus glaciers, 
streams, and winds laid down ten, twenty, fifty, or 
even one hundred feet of the finest, most fertile soil. 


We have already seen how much the soil was 
improved by gladation in Wisconsin and Ohio. 
It was in the prairie States that this improvement 
reached a maximum. The soil there is not only 
fine grained and free from rocks, but it consists of 
particles brought from widely diflFerent sources and 
is therefore full of all kinds of plant foods. In most 
parts of the world a fine-grained soil is formed only 
after a prolonged period of weathering which 
leaches out many valuable chemical elements. In 
the prairies, however, the soil consists largely of 
materials that were mechanically ground to dust 
by the ice without being exposed to the action of 
weathering. Thus they have reached their present 
resting-places without the loss of any of their origi- 
nal plant foods. When such a soil is found with a 
cUmate which is good for crops and which is also 
highly stimulating to man, the combination is al- 
most ideal. There is some justification for those 
who say that the north central portion of the 
United States is more fortunate than any other 
part of the earth. Nowhere else, unless in west- 
ern Europe, is there such a combination of fertile 
soil, fine climate, easy communication, and possi- 
bilities for manufacturing and commerce. Iron 
from that outlier of the Laurentian highland which 


forms the peninsula of northern Michigan can 
easily be brought by water almost to the center 
of the prairie region. Coal in vast quantities lies 
directly under the surface of this region, for the 
rock of the ancient coastal plain belongs to the 
same Pennsylvanian series which yields most of 
the world's coal. Here man is, indeed, blessed with 
resources and opportunities scarcely equaled in 
any other part of the world, and finds the only 
drawbacks to be the extremes of temperature in 
both winter and summer and the remoteness of the 
region from the sea. Because of the richness of 
their heritage and because they hve safely pro- 
tected from threats of foreign aggression, the 
people who live in this part of the world are in 
danger of being slow to feel the currents of great 
world movements. 

The western half of the plains of North America 
consists of two parts unlike either the Atlantic 
coastal plain or the prairies. From South Dakota 
and Nebraska northward far into Canada and 
westward to the Rocky Mountains there extends 
an ancient peneplain worn down to gentle relief 
by the erosion of millions of years. It is not so 
level as the plains farther east nor so low. Its 
western margin reaches heights of four or five 


thousand feet. Here and there, especially on the 
western side, it rises to the crest of a rugged es- 
carpment where some resistant layer of rocks 
still holds itself up against the forces of erosion. 
Elsewhere its smooth surfaces are broken by lava- 
capped mesas or by ridges where some ancient vol- 
canic dike is so hard that it has not yet been worn 
away. The soil, though excellent, is thinner and 
less fertile than in the prairies. Nevertheless the 
population might in time become as dense and 
prosperous as almost any in the world if only the 
rainfall were more abundant and good suppUes of 
coal were not quite so far away. Yet in spite of 
these handicaps the northwestern peneplain with 
its vast open stretches, its cattle, its wheat, and its 
opp>ortunities is a most attractive land. 

South of Nebraska and Wyoming the "high 
plains," the last of the four great divisions of the 
plains, extend as far as western Texas. These, like 
the prairies, have been built up by deposits brought 
from other regions. In this case, however, the de- 
posits consist of gravel, sand, and silt which the 
rivers have gradually washed out from the Rocky 
Mountains. As the rivers have changed their 
courses from one bed to another, layer after layer 
has been laid down to form a vast plain like a 


gently sloping beach hundreds of miles wide. In 
most places the streams are no longer building this 
up. Frequently they have carved narrow valleys 
hundreds of feet deep in the materials which they 
formerly deposited. Elsewhere, however, as in 
western Kansas, most of the country is so flat that 
the horizon is like that of the ocean. It seems al- 
most incredible that at heights of four or five 
thousand feet the plains can still be so wonderfully 
level. "When the grass is green, when the spring 
flowers are at their best, it would be hard to find a 
picture of greater beauty. Here the buffalo wan- 
dered in the days before the white man destroyed 
them. Here today is the great cattle region of 
America. Here is the region where the soul of man 
is fiUed with the feeling of infinite space. 

To the student of land forms there is an ever- 
present contrast between those due directly to 
the processes which build up the earth's surface 
and those due to the erosive forces which destroy 
what the others have built. In the great plains of 
North America two of the divisions, that is, the 
Atlantic coastal plain of the southeast and the 
peneplain of the northwest, owe their present form 
to the forces of erosion. The other two, that is, the 


prairies and the high plains, still bear the impress 
of the original processes of deposition and have 
been modified to only a slight extent by erosion. 

A similar but greater contrast separates the 
mountains of eastern North America and those of 
the western cordillera — the fourth and last of 
the main physical divisions of the continent. In 
both the Laurentian and the Appalachian highlands 
the eastern mountains show no trace of the original 
forms produced by the faulting of the crust or by 
volcanic movements. All the original distinctive 
topography has been removed. What we see to- 
day is the product of erosion working up>on rocks 
that were thousands of feet beneath the surface 
when they were brought to their present positions. 
In the western cordillera, on the contrary, al- 
though much of the present form of the land is due 
to erosion, a vast amount is due directly to so- 
called "tectonic" activities such as the breaking 
of the crust, the pouring out of molten lavas, and 
the bursting forth of explosive eruptions. 

The character of these tectonic activities has 
differed widely in different parts of the cordillera. 
A broad upheaval of great blocks of the earth*s 
crust without tilting or disturbance has produced 
the plateaus of Arizona and Utah. The gorges that 


have been rapidly cut into such great upheaved 
blocks form part of the world's most striking 
scenery. , The Grand Canyon of the Colorado with 
its tremendous platforms, mesas, and awe-inspir- 
ing cliflFs could have been formed in no other way. 
Equally wonderful are some of the narrow canyons 
in the broadly upheaved plateaus of southern 
Utah where the tributaries of the Virgin and other 
rivers have cut red or white chasms thousands of 
feet deep and so narrow that at their bottoms per- 
petual twilight reigns. It is a curious proof of the 
fallibihty of human judgment that these great 
gorges are often cited as the most striking examples 
of the power of erosion. Wonderful as these gorges 
certainly are, the Piedmont plain or the north- 
western peneplain is far more wonderful. Those 
regions had their grand canyons once upon a time, 
but now erosion has gone so far that it has reduced 
the whole area to the level of the bottoms of the 
gorges. Though such a fate is in store for all the 
marvelous scenery of the western cordillera, we 
have it, for the present at least, as one of the most 
stimulating panoramas of our American environ- 
ment. No man worthy of the name can sit on the 
brink of a great canyon or gaze up from the dark 
depths of a gorge without a sense of awe and 


wonder. There, as in few other places. Nature 
shows with unmistakable grandeur the marvelous 
power and certainty with which her laws work out 
the destiny of the universe. 

In other parts of the great American cordillera 
some of the simplest and youngest mountain ridges 
in the world are found. In southern Oregon, for 
example, lava blocks have been broken and up- 
Kf ted and now stand with steep fresh faces on one 
side and with the old surface inclining more gently 
on the other. Tilted blocks on a larger scale and 
much more deeply carved by erosion are found 
in the lofty St. Elias Mountain of Alaska, where 
much of the erosion has been done by some of the 
world's greatest glaciers. The western slope of the 
Wasatch Mountains facing the desert of Utah is 
the wall of a huge fracture, as is the eastern face 
of the Sierra Nevadas facing the deserts of Nevada. 
Each of these great faces has been deeply eroded. 
At the base, however, recent breaking and up- 
heaval of the crust have given rise to fresh un- 
eroded slopes. Some take the form of triangular 
facets, where a series of ridges has been sUced 
across and lifted up by a great fault. Others as- 
sume the shape of terraces which sometimes con- 
tinue along the base of the mountains for scores of 


miles. In places they seem like bluffs cut by an 
ancient lake, but suddenly they change their alti- 
tude or pass from one drainage area to another as 
no lake-formed strand could possibly do. 

In other parts of the cordillera, mountains have 
been formed by a single arching of the crust with- 
out any breaking. Such is the case in the Uinta 
Moimtains of northwestern Utah and in some of 
the ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. 
The Black Hills of South Dakota, although lying 
out in the plains, are an example of the same kind 
of structure and really belong to the cordillera. In 
them the layers of the earth's crust have been bent 
up in the form of a great dome. The dome struc- 
ture, to be sure, has now been largely destroyed, 
for erosion has long been active. The result is that 
the harder strata form a series of concentric ridges, 
while between them are ring-shaped valleys, one of 
which is so level and unbroken that it is known to 
the Indians as the "race-course." In other parts 
of the cordillera great masses of rock have been 
pushed horizontally upon the tops of others. In 
Montana, for example, the strata of the plains have 
been bent down and overridden by those of the 
mountains. These are only a few of the countless 
forms of breaking, faulting, and crumpling which 


have given to the cordillera an ahnost infinite 
variety of scenery. 

The work of mountain building is still active in 
the western cordillera, as is evident from such an 
event as the San Francisco earthquake. In the 


Owens Valley region in southern California the 
gravelly beaches of old lakes are rent by fissures 
made within a few years by earthquakes. In other 
places fresh terraces on the sides of the valley mark 
the lines of recent earth movements, while newly 
formed lakes lie in troughs at their base. These 
Owens Valley movements of the crust are parts 
of the stupendous uplift which has raised the Sierra 
Nevada to heights of over 14,000 feet a few miles 
to the west. Along the fault line at the base of 
the mountains there runs for over 250 miles the 
world's longest aqueduct, which was built to re- 
lieve Los Angeles from the danger of drought. It 
is a strange irony of fate that so delicate and so 
vital an artery of civilization shotdd be forced to lie 
where a renewal of earthquake movements may 
break it at any time. Yet there was no other place 
to put it, for in spite of man's growing control of 
nature he was forced to follow the topography of 
the region in which he lived and labored. 
On the southern side of the Mohave Desert a 





little to the east of where the Los Angeles aqueduct 
crosses the mountains in its southward course, the 
record of an earthquake is preserved in unique 
fashion. The steep face of a terrace is covered with 
trees forty or fifty years old. Near the base the 
trees are bent in pecuKar fashion. Their lower por- 
tions stand at right angles to the steeply sloping 
face of the terrace, but after a few feet the trunks 
bend upward and stand vertically. Clearly wjien 
these trees were young the terrace was not there. 
Then an earthquake came. One block of the 
earth's crust was dropped down while another was 
raised up. Along the dividing line a terrace was 
formed. The trees that happened to stand along 
the line were tilted and left in a slanting position 
on the sloping surface between the two parts of the 
earth's crust. They saw no reason to stop growing, 
but, turning their tips toward the sky, they bravely 
pushed upward. Thus they preserve in a striking 
way the record of this recent movement of the 
earth's crust. 

Volcanoes as well as earth movements have 
occurred on a grand scale within a f ew himdred 
years in the cordillera. Even where there is to- 
day no visible volcanic activity, recent eruptions 
have left traces as fresh as if they had occurred but 


yesterday. On the borders of the Grand Canyon 
of the Colorado one can see not only fresh cones of 
volcanic ash but lava which has poured over the 
edges of the cliflfs and hardened while in the act 
of flowing. From Orizaba and Popocatepetl in 
Mexico through Mount San Francisco in Arizona, 
Lassen Peak and Mount Shasta in California, 
Mount Rainier with its glaciers in the Cascade 
Range of Washington, and Mount Wrangell in 
Alaska, the cordillera contains an almost unbroken 
chain of great volcanoes. All are either active at 
present or have been active within very recent 
times. In 1912 Mount Katmai, near the north- 
western end of the volcanic chain, erupted so 
violently that it sent dust around the whole world. 
The presence of the dust caused brilliant simsets 
second only to those due to Krakatoa in 1883. It 
also cut oflF so much sunlight that the effect was 
felt in measurements made by the Smithsonian In- 
stitution in the French provinces of North Africa. 
In earlier times, throughout the length of the 
cordillera great masses of volcanic material were 
poured out- to form high plateaus like those of 
southern Mexico or of the Columbia River in Ore- 
gon. In Utah some of these have been lifted up so 
that heavy caps of lava now form isolated sheets 


topping lofty plateaus. There the lowland shep- 
herds drive their sheep in summer and Hve in 
absolute isolation for months at a time. There, 
as everywhere, the cordillerii bears the marks of 
mountains in the making, while the mountains of 
eastern America bear the marks of those that were 
made when the world was young. 

The geysers and hot springs of the Yellowstone 
are another proof of recent volcanic activity. They 
owe their existence to hot rocks which lie only a 
little way below the surface and which not long 
ago were molten lava. The terraces and platforms 
built by the geysers are another evidence that the 
Cordillera is a region where the surface of the earth 
is still being shaped into new forms by forces acting 
from within. The physical features of the coimtry 
are still in process of construction. 

In spite of the importance of the constructive 
forces which are still building up the mountains, 
much of the jfinest scenery of the cordillera is due 
to the destructive forces of erosion. The majestic 
Columbia Canyon, like others of its kind, is the 
work of running water. Glaciers also have done 
their part. During the glacial period the forces 
which control the paths of storms did not give to 
the cordillera region such an abundance of snow 


as was sifted down upon Lanrentia. Therefore 
no such huge continental glaciers have flowed 
out over millions of square miles of lower coimtry. 
Nevertheless among the moimtains themselves the 
ice gouged and scraped and smoothed and at its 
lower edges deposited great moraines. Its work to- 
day makes the cliflfs and falls of the Yosemite one 
of the world's most famous bits of scenery. This 
scenery is young and its beauty will pass in a short 
time as geology counts the years, for in natural 
scenery as in himian life it is youth that makes 
beauty. The canyons, waterfalls, and geysers of 
the Cordillera share their youth with the lakes, 
waterfalls, and rapids due to recent glaciation in 
the east. Nevertheless, though youth is the con- 
dition of most striking beauty, maturity and old 
age are the condition of greatest usefulness. The 
young Cordillera with its mountains still in the mak- 
ing can support only a scanty population, whereas 
the old eastern mountains, with the lines of long 
life engraved upon every feature, open their arms 
to man and let him Uve and prosper. 

It is not enough that we should picture merely 
the four divisions of the land of our continent. 
We must see how the land meets the sea. In low 


latitudes in both the Old World and the New, the 
continents have tended to emerge farther and 
farther from the sea during recent geological times. 
Hence on the eastern side of both North and South 
America from New Jersey to Brazil the ocean 
is bordered for the most part by coastal plains, 
uplifted from the sea only a short time ago. On 
the mountainous western side of both continents, 
however, the sea bottom shelves downward so 
steeply that its emergence does not give rise to a 
plain but merely to a steep slope on which he a 
series of old beaches several hundred and even one 
thousand feet above the present shore line. Such 
conditions are not favorable to human progress. 
The coastal plains produced by uplift of the land 
may be fertile and may furnish happy homes for 
man, but they do not permit ready access to the sea 
because they have no harbors. The chief harbor 
of Mexico at Vera Cruz is merely a little nick in 
the coast-line and could never protect a great fleet, 
even with the help of its breakwater. Where an 
enterprising city like Los Angeles Ues on the 
uplifted Pacific coast, it must spend millions in 
wresting a harbor from the very jaws of the sea. 

In high latitudes in all parts of the world the 
land has recently been submerged beneath the sea. 


In some places, especially those like the coasts 
of Virginia and central California which lie in 
middle latitudes, a recent slight submergence has 
succeeded a previous large emergence. Wherever 
such sinking of the land has taken place, it has 
given rise to countless bays, gulfs, capes, islands, 
and fiords. The ocean water has entered the 
valleys and has drowned their lower parts. It has 
surrounded the bases of hills and left them as is- 
lands; it has covered low valleys and has created 
long sounds where traffic may pass with safety 
even in great storms. Though much land has. 
thus been lost which would be good for agricul- 
ture, commerce has been wonderfully stimulated. 
Through Long Island Sound there pass each day 
hundreds of boats which again and again would 
suffer distress and loss if they were not protected 
from the open sea. It is no accident that of the 
eight largest metropolitan districts in the United 
States five have grown up on the shores of deep 
inlets which are due to the drowning of valleys. 

Nor must the value of scenery be forgotten in a 
survey such as this. Year by year we are learning 
that in this restless, strenuous American life of ours 
vacations are essential. We are learning, too, that 
the love of beauty is one of Nature's greatest 


healers. Regions like the coast of Maine and Puget 
Sound, where rugged land and life-giving ocean in- 
terlock, are worth untold millions because of their 
inspiring beauty. It is indeed marvelous that in 
the latitude of the northern United States and 
southern Canada so many circumstances favor- 
able to human happiness are combined. Fertile 
soil, level plains, easy passage across the moimtains, 
coal, iron, and other metals imbedded in the rocks, 
and a stimulating climate, all shower their blessings 
upon man. And with all these blessings goes the 
advantage of a coast which welcomes the mariner 
and brings the stimulus of foreign lands, while at 
the same time it affords rest and inspiration to the 
toilers here at home. 



No part of the world can be truly understood with- 
out a knowledge of its gannent of vegetation, for 
this determines not only the nature of the animal 
inhabitants but also the occupations of the major- 
ity of human beings. Although the soil has much 
to do with the character of vegetation, climate has 
infinitely more. It is temperature which causes 
the moss and lichens of the barren tundras in the 
far north to be replaced by orchids, twining vines, 
and mahogany trees near the equator. It is rain- 
fall which determines that vigorous forests shall 
grow in the Appalachians in latitudes where grass- 
lands prevail in the plains and deserts in the 
western cordillera. 

Forests, grass-lands, deserts, represent the three 
chief types of vegetation on the surface of the earth. 
Each is a response to certain well-defined condi- 
tions of climate. Forests demand an abundance of 



moisture throughout the entire season of growth. 
Where this season lasts only three months the 
forest is very diflFerent from where it lasts twelve. 
But no forest can be vigorous if the ground habitu- 
ally becomes dry for a considerable period during 
which the weather is warm enough for growth. 
Desert vegetation, on the other hand, which 
consists primarily of bushes with small, drought- 
resistant leaves, needs only a few irregular and in- 
frequent showers in order to endure long periods 
of heat and drought. Discontinuity of moisture 
is the cause of deserts, just as continuity is the 
necessary condition of forest growth. Grasses pre- 
vail where the climatic conditions are intermediate 
between those of the forest and the desert. Their 
primary requisite is a short period of fairly abun- 
dant moisture with warmth enough to ripen their 
seeds. Unlike the trees of the forests, they thrive 
even though the wet period be only a fraction of 
the entire time that is warm enough for growth. 
Unlike the bushes of the desert, they rarely thrive 
unless the ground is well soaked for at least a 
few weeks. 

Most people think of forests as oflFering far more 
variety than either deserts or grass-lands. To them 
grass is just grass, while trees seem to possess 


individuality. In reality, however, the short turfy 
grass of the far north differs from the four-foot 
fronds of the bunchy saccaton grass of Arizona, 
and from the far taller tufts of the plumed pampas 
grass, much more than the pine tree diflFers from the 
palm. Deserts vary even more than either forests 
or grass-lands. The traveler in the Arizona desert, 
for example, has been jogging across a gravelly 
plain studded at intervals of a few yards with little 
bushes a foot high. The scenery is so monotonous 
and the noon simshine so warm that he almost falls 
asleep. When he wakes from his day-dream, so 
weird are his surroimdings that he thinks he must 
be in one of the places to which Sindbad was car- 
ried by the roc. The trail has entered an open 
forest of Joshuas, as the big tree yuccas are called 
in Arizona. Their shaggy trunks and uncouth 
branches are rendered doubly unkempt by sword- 
like, ashy-yellow dead leaves that double back on 
the trunk but refuse to fall to the ground. At a 
height of from twelve to twenty feet each arm of 
the many-branched candelabrum ends in a stiff ro- 
sette of gray-green spiky leaves as tough as hemp. 
Equally bizarre and much more imposing is a des- 
ert "stand" of giant suhuaros, great fluted tree- 
cacti thirty feet or more high. In spite of their 


size the suhuaros are desert types as tnily as 
is sagebrush. 

In America the most widespread type of forest 
is the evergreen coniferous woodland of the north. 
Its pines> firs» spruces, hemlocks, and cedars which 
are really junipers, cover most of Canada to- 
gether with northern New England and the re- 
gion south of Lakes Huron and Superior. At its 
northern limit the forest looks thoroughly for- 
lorn. The gnarled and stunted trees are thickly 
studded with half -dead branches bent down by the 
weight of snow, so that the lower ones sweep the 
ground, while the upper look tired and discouraged 
from their struggle with an inclement cUmate. 
Farther south, however, the forest loses this aspect 
of terrific struggle. In Maine, for example, it gives 
a pleasant impression of comfortable prosperity. 
Wherever the trees have room to grow, they are 
full and stocky, and even where they are crowded 
together their slender upspringing trunks look 
alert and energetic. The signs of death and de- 
cay, indeed, appear everywhere in fallen trunks, 
dead branches, and decayed masses of wood, but 
moss and lichens, twinflowers and bunchberries so 
quickly mantle the prostrate trees that they do not 
seem like tokens of weakness. Then, too, in every 


open space thousands of young trees bank their 
soft green masses so gracefully that one has an 
ever-present sense of pleased surprise as he comes 
upon this younger fohage out of the dim aisles 
among the bigger trees. 

Except on their southern borders the great 
northern forests are not good as a permanent home 
for man. The snow Ues so late in the spring and 
the summers are so short and cool that agriculture 
does not prosper. As a home for the fox, marten, 
weasel, beaver, and many other fur-bearing ani- 
mals, however, the coniferous forests are almost 
ideal. That is why the Hudson's Bay Company 
is one of the few great organizations which have 
persisted and prospered from colonial times to the 
present. As long ago as 1670 Charles II granted 
to Prince Rupert and seventeen noblemen and 
gentlemen a charter so sweeping that, aside from 
their own powers of assimilation, there was almost 
no limit to what the ^' Governor and Company of 
Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's 
Bay" might acquire. By 1749, nearly eighty 
years after the granting of the charter, however, 
the Company had only four or five forts on the 
coast of Hudson Bay, with about 120 regular 
employees. Nevertheless the poor Indians were 


so ignorant of the value of their furs and the con- 
sequent profits were so large that, after Canada 
had been ceded to Great Britain in 1763, a rival 
organization, the Northwest Fur Company of Mon- 
treal, was established. Then there began an era 
that was truly terrible for the Indians of the north- 
em forest. In their eagerness to get the valuable 
furs the companies offered the Indians strong 
liquors in an abundance that ruined the poor red 
man, body and soul. Moreover the fur-bearing 
animals were killed not only in winter but during 
the breeding season. Many mother animals were 
shot and their little ones were left to die. Hence 
in a short time the wild creatures of the great 
northern forest were so scarce that the Indians 
well-nigh starved. 

In spite of this slaughter of fur-bearing animals, 
the same Company still draws fat dividends 
from the northern forest and its furry inhabitants. 
If the forest had been more habitable, it would 
long ago have been occupied by settlers, as have 
its warmer, southern portions, and the Company 
would have ceased to exist. Aside from the regions 
too cold or too dry to support any vegetation what- 
ever, few parts of the world are more deadening to 
dviKzation than the forests of the far north. Near 


the northern limit of the great evergreen forest of 
North America wild animals are so rare that a 
family of hunting Indians can scarcely find a living 
in a thousand square miles. Today the voracious 
maw of the daily newspaper is eating the spruce 
and hemlock by means of relentless saws and 
rattling pulp-mills. In the wake of the lumber- 
men settlers are tardily spreading northward from 
the more favored tracts in northern New England 
and southern Canada. Nevertheless most of the 
evergreen forests of the north must always remain 
the home of wild animals and trappers, a backward 
region in which it is easy for a great fur coinpany 
to maintain a practical monopoly. 

Outliers of the pine forest extend far down into 
the United States. The easternmost lies in part 
along the Appalachians and in part along the 
coastal plain from southern New Jersey to Texas. 
The coastal forest is unlike the other coniferous for- 
ests in two respects, for its distribution and growth 
are not limited by long winters but by sandy soil 
which quickly becomes dry. This drier south- 
em pine forest lacks the beauty of its northern 
companion. Its trees are often tall and stately, 
but they are usually much scattered and are sur- 
rounded by stretches of scanty grass. There is no 


trace of the mossy carpet and dense copses of under- 
growth that add so much to the picturesqueness of 
the forests farther north. The unkempt half-breed 
or Indian hunter is replaced by the prosaic gatherer 
of turpentine. As the man of the southern forests 
shuffles along in blue or khaki overalls and carries 
his buckets from tree to tree, he seems a dull figure 
contrasted with the active northern hunter who 
glides swiftly and silently from trap to trap on his 
rawhide snowshoes. Yet though the southern pine 
forest may be less picturesque than the northern, 
it is more useful to man. In spite of its sandy soil, 
much of this forest land is being reclaimed, and all 
will some day probably be covered by farms. 

Two other outliers of the northern evergreen 
forest extend southward along the cool heights of 
the Rocky Mountains and of the Pacific coast 
langes of the United States. In the Olympic and 
Sierra Nevada ranges the most western outUer of 
this northern band of vegetation probably contains 
the most inspiring forests of the world . There grow 
the vigorous Oregon pines, firs, and spruces, and 
the still more famous Big Trees or sequoias. High 
on the sides of the Sierra above the yuccas, the 
live oaks, and the deciduous forest of the lower 
slopes, one meets these Big Trees. To come upon 


them suddenly after a long, rough tramp over the 
sunny lower slopes is the experience of a lifetime. 
Upward the great trees rise sheer one hundred 
feet without a branch. The huge fluted trunks 
encased in soft, red bark six inches or a foot thick 
are more impressive than the columns of the 
grandest cathedral. It seems irreverent to speak 
above a whisper. Each tree is a new wonder. One 
has to walk around it and study it to appreciate 
its enormous size. Where a tree chances to stand 
isolated so that one can see its full majesty, the 
sense of awe is tempered by the feeling that in 
spite of their size the trees have a beauty all their 
own. Lifted to such heights, the branches appear 
to be covered with masses of peculiarly soft and 
rounded foliage like the piled-up banks of a white 
cumulus cloud before a thunderstorm. At the base 
of such a tree the eye is caught by the sharp, trian- 
gular outline of one of its young progeny. The 
lower branches sweep the ground. The foliage is 
harsh and rough. In almost no other species of 
trees is there such a change from comparatively 
ungraceful youth to a superbly beautiful old age. 
The second great type of American forest is 
deciduous. The trees have broad leaves quite un- 
like the slender needles or overlapping scales of 


the northern evergreens. Each winter such forests 
shed their leaves. Among the mountains where 
the frosts come suddenly, the blaze of glory and 
brilliance of color which herald the shedding of the 
leaves are surpassed in no other part of the world. 
Even the colors of the Painted Desert in northern 
Arizona and the wonderful flowers of the California 
plains are less pleasing. In the Painted Desert 
the patches of red, yellow, gray-blue, white, pale 
green, and black have a garish, almost repellent 
appearance. In California the flame-colored acres 
of poppies in some places, of white or yellow daisy- 
like flowers in others, or of purple blossoms else- 
where have a softer expression than the bare 
soil of the desert. Yet they lack the deUcate blend- 
ing and harmony of colors which is the great- 
est charm of the autumn foliage in the deciduous 
forests. Even where the forests consist of such 
trees as birches, beeches, aspens, or sycamores, 
whose leaves merely turn yellow in the fall, the 
contrast between this color and the green tint of 
summer or the bare branches of winter adds a 
spice of variety which is lacking in other and more 
monotonous forests. 

From still other points of view the deciduous 
forest has an almost unequaled degree of variety. 


In one place it consists of graceful little birches 
whose white trunks shimmering in the twilight 
form just the background for ghosts. Contrast 
them with the oak forest half a mile away. There 
the sense of gracefulness gives place to a feeling 
of strength. The lines are no longer vertical but 
horizontal. The knotted elbows of the branches 
recall the keels of sturdy merchantmen of bygone 
days. The acorns under foot suggest food for the 
herds of half -wild pigs which roam among the trees 
in many a southern county. Of quite another type 
are the stately forests of the Appalachians where 
splendid magnolia and tulip trees spread their 
broad limbs aloft at heights of one hundred feet 
or more. 

Deciduous forests grow in the well-balanced 
regions where simimer and winter approach 
equality, where neither is unduly long, and where 
neither is subject to prolonged drought. They 
extend southward from central New Englana, 
the Great Lakes, and Minnesota, to Mississippi, 
Arkansas, and eastern Texas. They predominate 
even in parts of such prairie States as Michigan, 
Indiana, southern Illinois, and southeastern Mis- 
souri. No part of the continent is more populous 
or more progressive than the regions once covered 


by deciduous forests. In the United States nearly 
sixty per cent of the inhabitants live in areas 
reclaimed from such forests. Yet the area of the 
forests is less than a quarter of the three million 
square miles that make up the United States. 

In their relation to human life the forests of 
America difiPer far more than do either grass-lands 
or deserts. In the far north, as we have seen, the 
pine forests furnish one of the least favorable en- 
vironments. In middle latitudes the deciduous 
forests go to the opposite extreme and furnish the 
most highly favored of the homes of man. Still 
farther southward the increasing luxuriance of the 
forests, especially along the Atlantic coast, renders 
them less and less favorable to mankind. In 
southern Mexico and Yucatan the stately equa- 
torial rain forest, the most exuberant of all types 
of vegetation and the most imconquerable by man, 
makes its appearance. It forms a discontinuous 
belt along the wet east coast and on the lower 
slopes of the mountains from southern Yucatan to 
Venezuela. Then it is interrupted by the grass- 
lands of the Orinoco, but revives again in still 
greater magnificence in the Guianas. Thence it 
stretches not only along the coast but far into the 
little known interior of the Great Amazon basin. 


while southward it borders all the coast as far as 
southern Brazil. In the Amazon basin it reaches 
its highest development and becomes the crowning 
glory of the vegetable world, the most baffing 
obstacle to human progress. 

Except in its evil efifects on man, the equatorial 
rain forest is the antithesis of the forests of the 
extreme north. The equatorial trees are hardwood 
giants, broad leaved, bright flowered, and often 
fruit-bearing. The northern trees are softwood 
dwarfs, needle-leaved, flowerless, and cone-bearing. 
The equatorial trees are often branchless for one 
hundred feet, but spread at the top into a broad 
overarching canopy which shuts out the sun 
perpetually. The northern trees form sharp Uttle 
pyramids with low, widely spreading branches at 
the base and only short twigs at the top. In the 
equatorial forests there is almost no underbrush. 
The animals, such as monkeys, snakes, parrots, 
and brilUant insects, Uve chiefly in the lofty tree- 
tops. In the northern forests there is almost 
nothing except underbrush, and the foxes, rabbits, 
weasels, ptarmigans, and mosquitoes live close to 
the groimd in the shelter of the branches. Both 
forests are alike, however, in being practically un- 
inhabited by man. Each is peopled only by primi- 



tive nomadic hunters who stand attbe very bottom 

* * • 

in the scale of civilization. ' :•**.% 

Aside from the rain forest there are 'two other 
types in tropical countries — jungle 'ftriji scrub. 
The distinction between rain forest, juitgle, and 
scrub is due to the amount and the seaspii of 
rainfall. An understanding of this distinction yijot 
only explains many things in the present condititj^'. 
of Latin America but also in the history of prei»;\ 
Columbian Central America. Forests, as we have \- 
seen, require that the ground be moist throughout 
practically the whole of the season that is warm 
enough for growth. Since the warm season lasts 
throughout the year within the tropics, dense 
forests composed of uniformly large trees corre- 
sponding to our oaks, maples, and beeches will not 
thrive unless the ground is wet most of the time. 
Of course there may be no rain for a few weeks, 
but there must be no long and regularly recurrent 
periods of drought. Smaller trees and such species 
as the cocoanut palm are much less exacting and 
will flourish even if there is a dry period of several 
months. Still smaller, bushy species will thrive 
even when the rainfall lasts only two or three 
months. Hence where the rainy season lasts most 
of the year, rain forest prevails; where the rainy 




• • . . 

and dry seascm*s*do not differ greatly in length, 
tropical jun^^ the dominant growth; and where 
the rainy 'season is short and the dry season long, 
the juQgledegenerates into scrub or bush. 

The relation of scrub, jungle, and rain forest is 
wellNillustrated in Yucatan, where the ancient 
Mi^^ reared their stately temples. On the 
% ji\»rthem coast the annual rainf-all is only ten or 
^^Tfifteen inches and is concentrated largely in our 
o^\*- summer months. There the country is covered 
^*^ with scrubby bushes six to ten feet high. These 
are beautifully green during the rainy season from 
June to October, but later in the year lose almost 
all their leaves. The landscape would be much 
like that of a thick, bushy pasture in the United 
States at the same season, were it not that in the 
late winter and early spring some of the bushes 
bear brilliant red, yellow, or white flowers. As one 
goes inland from the north coast of Yucatan the 
rainfall increases. The bushes become taller and 
denser, trees twenty feet high become numerous, 
and many rise thirty or forty feet or even higher. 
This is the jungle. Its smaller portions suggest a 
second growth of timber in the deciduous forests 
of the United States fifteen or twenty years after 
the cutting of the original forest, but here there 


is much more evidence of rapid growth. A few 
species of bushes and trees may remain green 
throughout the year, but during the dry season 
most of the jimgle plants lose their leaves, at least 
in part. 

With every mile that one advances into the more 
rainy interior, the jungle becomes greener and 
fresher, the density of the lower growths increases, 
and the proportion of large trees becomes greater 
until finaUy jungle gives place to genuine forest. 
There many of the trees remain green throughout 
the year. They rise to heights of fifty or sixty feet 
even on the borders of their province, and at the 
top form a canopy so thick that the ground is shady 
most of the time. Even in the. drier part of the 
year when some of the leaves have fallen, the rays 
of the sun scarcely reach the ground until nine or 
ten o'clock in the morning. Even at high noon 
the sunlight straggles through only in small patches. 
Long, sinuous lianas, often queerly braided, hang 
down from the trees; epiphytes and various para- 
sitic growths add their strange green and red to the 
complex variety of vegetation. Young palms grow 
up almost in a day and block a trail which was 
hewn out with much labor only a few months 
before. Wherever the death of old trees forms 


an opening, a thousand seedKngs begin a fierce 
race to reach the Ught. Everywhere the dominant 
note is intensely vigorous life, rapid growth, and 
quick decay. 

In their eflfect on man, the three forms of tropical 
forest are very dififerent. In the genuine rain 
forest agriculture is almost impossible. Not only 
does the poor native find himself baffled in the face 
of Nature, but the white man is equally at a loss. 
Many things combine to produce this result. 
Chief among them are malaria and other tropical 
diseases. When a few miles of railroad were being 
built through a strip of tropical forest along the 
coast of eastern Guatemala, it was impossible to 
keep the laborers more than twenty days at a time; 
indeed, unless they were sent away at the end of 
three weeks, they were almost sure to be stricken 
with virulent malarial fevers from which many 
died. An equally potent enemy of agriculture is 
the vegetation itself. Imagine the difficulty of 
cultivating a garden in a place where the weeds 
grow all the time and where many of them reach a 
height of ten or twenty feet in a single year. Per- 
haps there are people in the world who might culti- 
vate such a region and raise marvelous crops, but 
they are not the indolent people of tropical Amer- 


ica; and it is in fact doubtful whether any kind of 
people could live permanently in the tropical forest 
and retain energy enough to carry on cultivation. 
Nowhere in the world is there such steady, damp 
heat as in these shadowy, windless depths far 
below the lofty tops of the rain forest. Nowhere is 
there greater disinclination to work than among 
the people who dwell in this region. Consequently 
in the vast rain forests of the Amazon basin and 
in similar small forests as far north as Central 
America, there are today practically no inhabi- 
tants except a mere handful of the poorest and 
most degraded people in the world. Yet in ancient 
times the northern border of the rain forest was the 
seat of America's most advanced civilization. The 
explanation of this contradiction will appear later. ^ 
Tropical jungle borders the rain forest all the 
way from southern Mexico to southern Brazil. It 
treats man far better than does the rain forest. 
In marked contrast to its more stately neighbor, it 
contains abundant game. Wild fruits ripen at 
almost all seasons. A few banana plants and palm 
trees will well-nigh support a family. If corn is 
planted in a clearing, the ietum is large in propor- 
tion to the labor. So long as the population is not 

« See pp. 16&-171. 


too dense, life is so easy that there is Kttle to stimu- 
late progress. Hence, although the people of the 
jungle are fairly niunerous, they have never played 
much part in history. Far more important is the 
r61e of those Uving in the tropical lands where 
scrub is the prevaiKng growth. In our day, for 
example, few tropical lowlands are more pro- 
gressive than the narrow coastal strip of north- 
em Yucatan. There on the border between jungle 
and scrub the vegetation does not thrive suffi- 
ciently to make life easy for the chocolate-colored 
natives. Eflfort is required if they would make a 
living, yet the eflfort is not so great as to be beyond 
the capacity of the indolent people of the tropics. 

Leaving the forests, let us step out into the 
broad, breezy grass-lands. One would scarcely ex- 
pect that a journey poleward out of the forest of 
northern Canada would lead to an improvement 
in the conditions of human life, yet such is the case. 
Where the growing season becomes so short that 
even the hardiest trees disappear, grassy tundras 
replace the forest. By furnishing food for such 
animals as the musk-ox, they are a great help to 
the handful of scattered Indians who dwell on the 
northern edge of the forest. In summer, when the 


animals grow fat on the short nutritious grass, 
the Indians follow them out into the open eoimtry 
and hunt them vigorously for food and skins to 
sustain life through the long dreary winter. In 
many cases the hunters would advance much farther 
into the grass-lands were it not that the abimdant 
musk-oxen tempt the Eskimo of the seacoast also 
to leave their homes and both sides fear bloody 

With the growth of civilization the advantage of 
the northern grass-lands over the northern forests 
becomes stiU more apparent. The domestic rein- 
deer is beginning to replace the wild musk-ox. The 
reindeer people, Hke the Indian and Eskimo 
hunters, must be nomadic. Nevertheless their 
mode of life permits them to live in much greater 
numbers and on a much higher plane of civiliza- 
tion than the hunters. Since they hunt the fur- 
bearing animals in the neighboring forests during 
the winter, they diminish the food supply of the 
hunters who dwell permanently in the forest, and 
thus make their life still more difficult. The north- 
ern forests bid fair to decline in population rather / 
than increase. In this New World of ours, strange 
as it may seem, the almost uninhabited forest 
regions of the far north and of the equator are 


probably more than twice as large as the desert 
areas with equally sparse population. 

South of the tundras the grass-lands have a still 
greater advantage over the forests. In the forest 
region of the Laurentian highland abundant snow 
lasts far into the spring and keeps the ground so 
wet and cold that no crops can be raised. More- 
over, because of the still greater abundance of 
snow in former times, the largest of ice sheets, as 
we have seen, accumulated there during the Glacial 
Period and scraped away most of the soil. The 
grassy plains, on the contrary, are favored not 
only by a deep, rich soil, much of which was laid 
down by the ice, but by the relative absence of 
snow in winter and the consequent rapidity with 
which the ground becomes warm in the spring. 
Hence the Canadian plains from the United States 
boundary northward to latitude 57® contain a 
prosperous agricultural population of over a million 
people, while the far larger forested areas in the 
same latitude support only a few thousand. 

The question is often asked why, in a state of 
nature, trees are so scarce on the prairies — in 
Iowa, for instance — although they thrive when 
planted. In answer we are often told that up 
to the middle of the nineteenth century such vast 


herds of buffaloes roamed the prairies that seedling 
trees could never get a chance to grow. It is also 
said that prairie fires sweeping across the plains 
destroyed the little trees whenever they sprouted. 
Doubtless the buffaloes and the fires helped to 
prevent forest growth, but another factor appears 
to be still more important. All the States between 
the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains 
receive much more rain in summer than in winter. 
But as the soil is comparatively dry in the spring 
when the trees begin their growth, they are handi- 
capped. They could grow if nothing else interfered 
with them, just as peas will grow in a garden if the 
weeds are kept out. If peas, however, are left 
uncared for, the weeds gain the upper hand and 
there are no peas the second year. If the weeds 
are left to contend with grass, the grass in the end 
prevails. In the eastern forest region, if the grass 
be left to itself, small trees soon spring up in its 
midst. In half a century a field of grass goes back 
to forest because trees are especially favored by the 
climate. In the same way in the prairies, grass is 
especially favored, for it is not weakened by the 
spring drought, and it grows abundantly until it 
forms the wonderful stretches of waving green 
where the buffalo once grew fat. Moreover the 


fine glacial soil of the prairies is so clayey and com- 
pact that the roots of trees cannot easily penetrate 
it. Since grasses send their roots only into the 
more friable upper layers of soil, they possess 
another great advantage over the trees. 

Far to the south of the prairies lie the grass-lands 
of tropical America, of which the llanos of the 
Orinoco furnish a good example. Almost every- 
where their plimoied grasses have been left to grow 
undisturbed by the plough, and even grazing ani- 
mals are scarce. These extremely flat plains are 
flooded for months in the rainy season from May 
to October and are parched in the dry season that 
follows. As trees cannot endure such «rtremes, 
grasses are the prevailing growth. Elsewhere 
the nature of the soil causes many other grassy 
tracts to be scattered among the tropical jungle 
and forest. Trees are at a disadvantage both in 
porous, sandy soils, where the water drains away 
too rapidly, and in clayey soil, where it is held 
so long that the ground is saturated for weeks or 
months at a time. South of the tropical portion 
of South America the vast pampas of Argentina 
closely resemble the North American prairies and 
the drier plains to the west of them. Grain in 
the east and cattle in the west are fast causing the 


disappearance of those great tussocks of tufted 
grasses eight or nine feet high which hold among 
grasses a position analogous to that of the Big 
Trees of California among trees of lower growth. 

It is often said that America has no real deserts. 
This is true in the sense that there are no regions 
such as are found in Asia and Africa where one can 
travel a himdred miles at a stretch and scaiteely see 
a sign of vegetatron — nothing but barren gravel, 
graceful wavy sand dunes, hard wind-swept clay, 
or still harder rock salt broken into rough blocks 
with upturned edges. In the broader sense of the 
term, however, America has an abundance of des- 
erts — regions which bear a thin cover of bushy 
vegetation but are too dry for agriculture without 
irrigation. On the north such deserts begin in 
southern Canada where a dry region abounding in 
small salt lakes lies at the eastern base of the Rocky 
Mountains. In the United States the deserts lie 
almost wholly between the Sierra Nevada and the 
Rocky Mountain ranges, which keep out any mois- 
ture that might come from either the west or the 
east. Beginning on the north with the sage-brush 
plateau of southern Washington, the desert ex- 
pands to a width of seven hundred miles in the 


gray, sage-covered basins of Nevada and Utah. 
In southern California and Arizona the sage-brush 
gives place to smaller forms like the saJt-bush, 
and the desert assumes a sterner aspect. ~ Next 
comes the cactus desert extending from Arizona 
far south into Mexico. One of the notable features 
of the desert is the extreme heat of certain portions. 
Close to the Nevada border in southern California, 
Death Valley, 250 feet below sea-level, is the hot- 
test place in America. There alone among the 
American regions familiar to the writer does one 
have that feeling of intense, overpowering aridity 
which prevails so often in the deserts of Arabia and 
Central Asia. Some years ago a Weather Bureau 
thermometer was installed in Death Valley at Fur- 
nace Creek, where the only flowing water in more 
than a hundred miles supports a depressing little 
ranch. There one or two white men, helped by a 
few Indians, raise alfalfa, which they sell at exor- 
bitant prices to deluded prospectors searching for 
riches which they never find. Though the terrible 
heat ruins the health of the white men in a year or 
two, so that they have to move away, they have 
succeeded in keeping a thermometer record for 
some years. No other properly exposed, out-of- 
door thermometer in the United States, or perhaps 


Drawing in volume it, Hubert Howe Bancroft's Works. 


in the world, is so familiar with a temperature of 
100° F. or more. During the period of not quite 
fifteen hundred days from the spring of 1911 to 
May, 1915, a maximum temperature of 100° P. 
or more was reached on five hundred and forty- 
eight days, or more than one-third of the time. On 
July 10, 1913, the mercury rose to 134° P. and 
touched the top of the tube. How much higher it 
might have gone no one can tell. That day marks 
the limit of temperature yet reached in this coim- 
try according to official records. In the summer of 
1914 there was one night when the thermometer 
dropped only to 114° P., having been 128° P. at 
noon. The branches of a pepper- tree whose roots 
had been freshly watered wilted as a flower wilts 
when broken from the stalk. 

East and south of Death Valley lies the most 
interesting section of the American desert, the so- 
called succulent desert of southern Arizona and 
northern Mexico. There in greatest profusion 
grow the cacti, perhaps the latest and most highly 
specialized of all the great families of plants. 
There occur such strange scenes as the "forests'* 
of suhuaros, whose giant columns have already 
been described. Their beautiful crowns of large 
white flowers produce a fruit which is one of the 



mainstays of the Papagos and other Indians of the 
regions. In this same region the yucca is highly 
developed, and its tall stalks of white or greenish 
flowers make the desert appear like a flower garden. 
In fact this whole desert, thanks to light rains in 
summer as well as winter, appears extraordinarily 
green and prosperous. Its fair appearance has 
deceived many a poor settler who has vainly tried 
to cultivate it. 

Farther south the deserts of America are largely 
confined to plateaus like those of Mexico and Peru 
or to basins sheltered on all sides from rain-bearing 
winds. In such basins the suddenness of the transi- 
tion from one type of vegetation to another is as- 
tonishing. In Guatemala, for instance, the coast 
is bordered by thick jungle which quickly gives 
place to magnificent rain forest a few miles inland. 
This continues two or three score miles from the 
coast until a point is reached where mountains 
begin to obstruct the rain-bearing trade-winds. 
At once the rain forest gives place to jungle; in a 
few miles jungle in its turn is replaced by scrub; 
and shortly the scrub deg:enerates to mere desert 
bush. Then in another fifty miles one rises to the 
main plateau passing once more through scrub. 
This time the scrub gives place to grass-lands 


diversified by deciduous trees and pines which give 
the country a distinctly temperate aspect. On 
such plateaus the chief civilization of the tropical 
Latin-American coimtries now centers. In the 
past, however, the i^ateaus were far surpassed by 
the Maya lowlands of Yucatan and Guatemala. 

We are wont to think of deserts as places where 
the plants are of few kinds and not much crowded. 
As a matter of fact, an ordinary desert supports a 
much greater variety of plants than does either a 
forest or a prairie. The reason is simple. Every 
desert contains wet spots near springs or in swamps. 
Such places abound with all sorts of water-loving 
plants. The deserts also contain a few valleys 
where the larger streams keep the ground moist 
at all seasons. In such places the variety of trees 
is as great as in many forests. Moreover almost all 
deserts have short periods of abundant moisture. 
At such times the seeds of all sorts of little annual 
plants, including grasses, daisies, lupines, and a 
host of others, sprout quickly, and give rise to a 
carpet of vegetation as varied and beautiful as 
that of the prairie. Thus the desert has not only 
its own peculiar bushes and succulents but many of 
the products of vegetation in swamps, grass-lands, 
and forests. 


Though much of the ground is bare in the desert, 
the plants are actually crowded together as closely 
as possible. The showers of such regions are 
usually so brief that they merely wet the surface. 
At a depth of a foot or more the soil of many 
deserts never becomes moist from year's end to 
year's end. It is useless for plants to send their 
roots deep down under such circumstances, for 
they might not reach water for a hundred feet. 
Their only recourse is to spread horizontally. The 
farther they spread, the more water they can ab- 
sorb after the scanty showers. Hence the plants 
of the desert throttle one another by extending 
their roots horizontally, just as those of the forest 
kill one another by springing rapidly upward and 
shutting out the light. 

Vegetation, whether in forests, grass-lands, or 
deserts, is the primary source of human suste- 
nance. Without it man would perish miserably; 
and where it is deficient, he cannot rise to great 
heights in the scale of civilization. Yet strangely 
enough the scantiness of the vegetation of the 
deserts was a great help in the ascent of man. 
Only in dry regions could primitive man compete 
with nature in fostering the right kind of vege- 
tation. In such regions arose the nations which 


first practised agriculture. There man became 
comparatively civilized while his contempora- 
ries were still nomadic hunters in the grass-lands 
and the forests. 



When the white man first explored America, the 
parts of the continent that had made most progress 
were by no means those that are most advanced 
today. ^ None of the inhabitants, to be sure, had 
risen above barbarism. Yet certain nations or 
tribes had advanced much higher than others. 
There was a great contrast, for example, between 
the well-organized barbarians of Peru and the al- 
most completely unorganized Athapascan savages 
near Hudson Bay. 

In the northern continent aboriginal America 
reached its highest development in three typical 

' In the present chapter most of the facts as to the Indians north of 
Mexico are taken from the admirable Handbook of American Indians 
North of Mexico, edited by F. W. Hodge, Smithsonian Institution, 
Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin 30, Washington, 1907, two volumes. 
In summing up the character and achievements of the Indians I have 
drawn also on other sources, but have everywhere taken pains to make 
no statements which are not abundantly supported by this authorita- 
tive publication. In some cases I have not hesitated to paraphrase 
considerable portions of its articles. 



environments. The first of these regions centered 
in the valley of Mexico where dwelt the Aztecs, 
but it extended as far north as the Pueblos in Ari- 
zona and New Mexico. The special feature of the 
environment was the relatively dry, warm climate 
with the chief rainfall in summer. The Indians 
living in this environment were notable for their 
comparatively high social organization and for 
religious ceremonials whose elaborateness has 
rarely been surpassed. On the whole, the people 
of this summer rain or Mexican type were not 
warlike and offered little resistance to European 
conquest. Some tribes, to be sure, fought fiercely 
at first, but yielded within a few years; the rest 
submitted to the lordly Spaniards almost without 
a murmur. Their civilization, if such we may call 
it, had long ago seen its best days. The period of 
energy and progress had passed, and a time of 
inertia and decay had set in. 

A century after the Spaniards had overcome the 
aborigines of Mexico, other Europeans — French, 
English, and Dutch — came into contact with a 
sturdier type of red man, best represented by the 
Iroquois or Five Nations of central New York. 
This more active type dwelt in a physical environ- 
ment notable for two features — the abundance of 


cyclonic storms bringing rain or snow at all seasons 
and the deciduous forest which thickly covered 
the whole region. Unlike the Mexican, the civili- 
zation of the Iroquois was young, vigorous, and 
growing. It had not learned to express itself in 
durable architectural forms like those of Mexico, 
nor could it rival the older type in social and 
religious organization. In political organization, 
however, the Five Nations had surpassed the other 
aboriginal peoples of North America. When the 
white man became acquainted with the Iroquois 
in the seventeenth century, he found five of their 
tribes organized into a remarkable confederation 
whose avowed object was to abolish war among 
themselves and to secure to all the members the 
peaceful exercise of their rights and privileges. 
So well was the confederation organized that, in 
spite of war with its enemies, it persisted for at 
least two hundred years. 

One of the chief characteristics of the Iroquois 
was their tremendous energy. They were so ener- 
getic that they pursued their enemies with an 
implacable relentlessness similar to the restless 
eagerness with which the people of the region from 
New York to Chicago now pursue their business 
enterprises. This led the Iroquois to torture their 


prisoners with the utmost ingenuity and cruelty. 
Not only did the savages bum and mutilate their 
captives, but they sometimes added the last re- 
jBnement of torture by compelling the suflFering 
wretches to eat pieces of flesh cut from their own 
bodies. Energy may lead to high civilization, but 
it may also lead to excesses of evil. 

The third prominent aboriginal type was that 
of the fishermen of the coast of British Colum- 
bia, especially the Haidas of the Queen Charlotte 
Islands. The most important features of their 
environment were the submerged coast with its 
easy navigation, the mild oceanic climate, and the 
dense pine forests. The Haidas, like the Iroquois, 
appear to have been a people who were still ad- 
vancing. Such as it was, their greatness was ap- 
parently the product of their own ingenuity and 
not, like that of the Mexicans, an inheritance from 
a greater past. The Haidas lacked the relentless 
energy of the Iroquois and shared the compara- 
tively gentle character which prevailed among all 
the Indians along the Pacific Coast. They were by 
no means weaklings, however. Commercially, for 
instance, they seem to have been more advanced 
than any North American tribe except those in the 
Mexican area. In architecture they stood equally 


high. We are prone to think of the Mexicans 
as the best architects among the aborigines, but 
when the white man came even the Aztecs were 
merely imitating the work of their predeces- 
sors. The Haidas, on the contrary, were showing 
real originality. They had no stone with which to 
build, for their country is so densely forested that 
stone is rarely visible. They were remarkably 
skillful, however, in hewing great beams from the 
forest. With these they constructed houses whose 
carved totem poles and graceful fagades gave 
promise of an architecture of great beauty. Tak- 
ing into account the difficulties presented by a ma- 
terial which was not durable and by tools which 
were nothing but bits of stone, we must regard 
their totem poles and mural decorations as real 
contributions to primitive architecture. 

In addition to these three highest types of the 
red man there were many others. Each, as we 
shall see, owed its peculiarities largely to the physi- 
cal surroundings in which it lived. Of course 
diflFerent tribes possessed diflFerent degrees of innate 
abihty, but the chief diflPerences in their habits and 
mode of life arose from the topography, the chmate, 
the plants, and the animals which formed the 
geographical setting of their homes. 


In previous chapters we have gained some idea 
of the topography of the New World and of the 
cUmate in its relation to plants and animals. We 
have also seen that climate has much to do with 
human energy. We have not, however, gained a 
sufficiently clear idea of the distribution of dimatic 
energy. A map of the world showing how energy 
would be distributed if it depended entirely upon 
climate clarifies the subject. The dark shading of 
the map indicates those regions where energy is 
highest. It is based upon measurements of the 
strength of scores of individuals, upon the scholas- 
tic records of hundreds of college students, upon 
the piecework of thousands of factory operatives, 
and upon millions of deaths and births in a score of 
diflPerent countries. It takes account of three chief 
climatic conditions — temperature, humidity, and 
variability. It also takes account of mental as well 
as physical ability. Underneath it is a map of the 
distribution of civilization on the basis of the 
opinion of fifty authorities in fifteen diflFerent coun- 
tries. The similarity of the two maps is so striking 
that there can be little question that today the 
distribution of civilization agrees closely with the 
distribution of climatic energy. When Egypt, 
Babylonia, Greece, and Rome were at the height of 


their power this agreement was presumably the 
same, for the storm belt which now gives variabil- 
ity and hence energy to the thickly shaded regions 
in our two maps then apparently lay farther south. 
It is generally considered that no race has been 
more closely dependent upon physical environment 
than were the Indians. Why, then, did the ener- 
gizing eflFect of climate apparently have less eflFect 
upon them than upon the other great races? Why 
were not the most advanced Indian tribes found 
in the same places where white civilization is to- 
day most advanced? Climatic changes might in 
part account for the diflFerence, but, although such 
changes apparently took place on a large scale in 
earlier times, there is no evidence of anything ex- 
cept minor fluctuations since the days of the first 
white settlements. Racial inheritance likewise 
may account for some of the differences among 
the various tribes, but it was probably not the 
chief factor. That factor was apparently the 
condition of agriculture among people who had 
neither iron tools nor beasts of burden. Civiliza- 
tion has never made much progress except when 
there has been a permanent cultivation of the 
groimd. It has been said that "the history of 
agriculture is the history of man in his most primi- 


tive and most permanent aspect.*' If we examine 
the achievements and manner of life of the Indians 
in relation to the eflPect of climate upon agriculture 
and human energy, as well as in relation to the 
more obvious features of topography and vegeta- 
tion, we shall understand why the people of ab- 
original America in one part of the continent 
differed so greatly from those in another part. 

In the far north the state of the inhabitants to- 
day is scarcely different from what it was in the 
days of Columbus. Then, as now, the Eskimos 
had practically no political or social organization 
beyond the family or the httle group of relatives 
who lived in a single camp. They had no per- 
manent villages, but moved from place to place 
according to the season in search of jBsh, game, and 
birds. They lived this simple life not because they 
lacked ability but because of their surroundings. 
Their kayaks or canoes are marvels of ingenuity. 
With no materials except bones, driftwood, and 
skins they made boats which fulfilled their purpose 
with extraordinary perfection. Seated in the small, 
round hole which is the only opening in the deck 
of his canoe, the Eskimo hunter ties his skin jacket 
tightly outside the circular gunwale and is thus 
shut into a practically water-tight compartment. 


Though the waves dash over him, scarcely a drop 
enters the craft as he skims along with his double 
paddle among cakes of floating ice. So, too, the 
snowhouse with its anterooms and curved entrance 
passage is as clever an adaptation to the needs of 
wanderers in a land of ice and snow as is the sky- 
scraper to the needs of a busy commercial people 
crowded into great cities. The fact that the oil- 
burning, soapstone lamps of the Eskimo were the 
only means of producing artificial light in abori- 
ginal America, except by ordinary fires, is another 
tribute to the ingenuity of these northerners. So, 
too, is the fire-drill by which they alone devised a 
means of increasing the speed with which one 
stick could be twirled against another to produce 
fire. In view of these clever inventions it seems 
safe to say that the Eskimo has remained a no- 
madic savage not because he lacks inventive skill 
but partly because the climate deadens his energies 
and still more because it forbids him to practice 

Southward and inland from the coastal homes of 
the Eskimo lies the great region of the northern 
pine forests. It extends from the interior of Alaska 
southeastward in such a way as to include most of 
the Canadian Rockies, the northern plains from 


Great Bear Lake almost to Lake Winnipeg, and 
most of the great Laurentian shield around Hudson 
Bay and in the peninsula of Labrador. Except 
among the inhabitants of the narrow Pacific slope 
and those of the shores of Labrador and the St. 
Lawrence Valley, a single' type of barbarism pre- 
vailed among the Indians of all the vast pine forest 
area. Only in a small section of the wheat-raising 
plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan have their 
habits greatly changed because of the arrival of 
the white man. Now as always the Indians in 
these northern regions are held back by the long, 
benumbing winters. They cannot practice agri- 
culture, for no crops will grow. They cannot 
depend to any great extent upon natural vegeta- 
tion, for aside from blueberries, a few Uchens, and 
one or two other equally insignificant products, 
the forests furnish no food except animals. These 
lowly people seem to have been so occupied with 
the severe struggle with the elements that they 
could not even advance out of savagery into bar- 
barism. They were homeless nomads whose move- 
ments were determined largely by the food supply. 
Among the Athapascans who occupied all the 
western part of the northern pine forests, clothing 
was made of deerskins with the hair left on. The 


lodges were likewise of deer or caribou skins, al- 
though farther south these were sometimes re- 
placed by bark. The food of these tribes consisted 
of caribou, deer, moose, and musk-ox together with 
smaller animals such as the beaver and hare. 
They also ate various kinds of birds and the fish 
found in the numerous lakes and rivers. They 
killed deer by driving them into an angle formed 
by two converging rows of stakes, where they were 
shot by hunters lying in wait. Among the Kaw- 
chodinne tribe near Great Bear Lake hares were 
the chief source of both food and clothing. When 
an unusually severe winter or some other disaster 
diminished the supply, the Indians believed that 
the animals had moimted to the sky by means 
of the trees and would return by the same way. 
In 1841 owing to scarcity of hares many of this 
tribe died of starvation, and numerous acts of 
cannibalism are said to have occurred. Small 
wonder that dvilization was low and that infanti- 
cide, especially of female children, was common. 
Among such people women were naturally treated 
with a minimum of respect. Since they were not 
skilled as hunters, there was relativelv little which 
they could contribute toward the sustenance of the 
family. Hence they were held in low esteem, for 


among most primitive people woman is valued 
largely in proportion to her economic contribution. 
Her low position is illustrated by the peculiar 
funeral custom of the Takulli, an Athapascan tribe 
on the Upper Frazer River. A widow was obliged 
to remain upon the funeral pyre of her husband till 
the flames reached her own body. When the fire 
had died down she collected the ashes of her dead 
and placed them in a basket, which she was obUged 
to carry with her during three years of servitude in 
the family of her husband. At the end of that 
time a feast was held, when she was released from 
thraldom and permitted to remarry if she desired. 
Poor and degraded as the people of the northern 
forests may have been, they had their good traits. 
The Kutchins of the Yukon and Lower Mackenzie 
regions, though they killed their female children, 
were exceedingly hospitable and kept guests for 
months. Each head of a family took his turn in 
feasting the whole band. On such occasions eti- 
quette required the host to fast until the guests 
had departed. At such feasts an interesting wres- 
tling game was played. First the smallest boys 
began to wrestle. The victors wrestled with those 
next in strength and so on until finally the strongest 
and freshest man in the band remained the final 


victor. Then the girls and women went through 
the same progressive contest. It is hard to deter- 
mine whether the people of the northern pine 
forest were more or less competent than their 
Eskimo neighbors. It perhaps makes little dif- 
ference, for it is doubtful whether even a race 
with brilliant natural endowments could rise far 
in the scale of civilization under conditions so 
highly adverse. 

The Eskimos of the northern coasts and the 
people of the pine forests were not the only ab- 
origines whose development was greatly retarded 
because they could not practice agriculture. All 
the people of the PaciiBc coast from Alaska to 
Lower California were in similar circumstances. 
Nevertheless those Uving along the northern part 
of this coast rose to a much higher level 'than did 
those of California. This has sometimes been 
supposed to show that geographical environment 
has little influence upon civilization, but in reahty 
it proves exactly the opposite. 

The coast of British Columbia was one of the 
three chief centers of aboriginal America. As The 
Encyclopcedia Britannica^ puts it: "The Haida 
people constituted Mrith little doubt the finest race 

» 1 1 th Edition, vol. xxn, p. 780. 


and that most advanced in the arts of the entire 
west coast of North America." They and their 
almost equally advanced TUngit and Tsimshian 
neighbors on the mainland displayed much me- 
chanical skill, especially in canoe-building, wood- 
carving, and the working of stone and copper, as 
well as in making blankets and baskets. To this 
day they earn a considerable amount of money 
by seUing their carved objects of wood and slate 
to traders and tourists. Their canoes were hol- 
lowed out of logs of cedar and were often very 
large.' Houses which were sometimes 40 by 100 feet 
were built of huge cedar beams and planks, which 
were first worked with stone and were then put 
together at great feasts. These correspond to the 
"raising bees" at which the neighbors gathered to 
erect the frames of houses in early New England. 
Each Haida house ordinarily had a single carved 
totem pole in the middle of the gable end which 
faced toward the beach. Often the end posts in 
front were also carved and the whole house was 
painted. Another evidence of the fairly advanced 
state of the Haidas was their active commercial 
intercourse with regions hundreds of miles away. 
At their "potlatches," as the raising bees were 
called by the whites, traffic went on vigorously. 


Carved copper plates were among the articles 
which they esteemed of highest value. Standing 
in the tribe depended on the possession of property 
rather than on ability in war, in which respect the 
Haidas were more like the people of today than 
were any of the other Indian tribes. 

Slavery was common among the Haidas. Even 
as late as 1861, 7800 Tlingits held 828 slaves. 
Slavery may not be a good institution in itself, 
but it indicates that people are well-to-do, that 
they dwell in permanent abodes, and that they 
have a well-estabhshed social order. Among the 
more backward Iroquois, captives rarely became 
genuine slaves, for the social and economic organi- 
zation was not sufficiently developed to admit of 
this. The few captives who were retained after a 
fight were adopted into the tribe of the captors or 
else were allowed to hve Mrith them and shift for 
themselves — a practice very different from that 
of the Haidas. 

Another feature of the Haidas' life which showed 
comparative progress was the social distinctions 
which existed among them. One of the ways in 
which individuals maintained their social position 
was by giving away quantities of goods of all kinds 
at the potlatches which they organized. A man 


sometimes went so far as to strip himself of nearly 
every possession except his house. In retm'n for 
this, however, he obtained what seemed to him an 
abundant reward in the respect Mrith which his 
fellow-tribesmen afterward regarded him. At 
subsequent potlatches he received in his turn a 
measure of their goods in proportion to his own 
gifts, so that he was sometimes richer than before. 
These potlatches were social as well as industrial 
functions, and dancing and singing were inter- 
spersed with the feasting. One of the amusements 
was a musical contest in which singers from one 
tribe or band would contend with one another as 
to which could remember the greatest number of 
songs or acciwately repeat a new song after hearing 
it for the first time. At the potlatches the children 
of chiefs were initiated into secret societies. They 
had their noses, ears, and lips pierced for ornaments, 
and some of them were tattooed. This great re- 
spect for social position which the Haidas mani- 
fested is doubtless far from ideal, but it at least 
indicates that a part of the tribe was sufficiently 
advanced to accumulate property and to pass it 
on to its descendants — a custom that is almost 
impossible among tribes which move f rom^ place 
to place. 


The question suggests itself why these coast 
barbarians were so much in advance of their 
neighbors a few hundred miles away in the pine 
woods of the mountains. The climate was prob- 
ably one reason for this superiority. Instead of 
being in a region like the center of the pine forests 
of British Columbia where human energy is sapped 
by six or eight months of winter, the Haidas 
enjoyed conditions like those of Scotland. Al- 
though snow fell occasionally, severe cold was 
unknown. Nor was there great heat in smmner. 
The Haidas dwelt where both bodily strength and 
mental activity were stimulated. In addition to 
this advantage of a favorable chmate these Indians 
had a large and steady supply of food close at hand. 
Most of their sustenance was obtained from the 
sea and from the rivers, in which the runs of salmon 
furnished abundant provisions, which rarely failed. 
In Hecate Strait, between the Queen Charlotte Is- 
lands and the mainland, there were wonderfully 
productive hahbut fisheries, from which a supply of 
fish was dried and packed away for the winter, so 
that there was always a store of provisions on 
hand. The forests in their turn furnished ber- 
ries and seeds, as well as bears, mountain goats, 
and other game. 


Moreover the people of the northwest coast had 
the advantage of not being forced to move from 
place to place in order to follow the fish. They 
lived on a drowned shore where bays, straits, and 
soimds are extraordinarily numerous. The great 
waves of the Pacific are shut out by the islands so 
that the waterways are almost always safe for 
canoes. Instead of moving their dwelUngs in order 
to follow the food supply, as the Eskimo and the 
people of the pine forest were forced to do, the 
Haidas and their neighbors were able without 
difficulty to bring their food home. At all seasons 
the canoes made it easy to transport large supplies 
of fish from places even a hundred miles away. 
Having settled dwellings, the Haidas could ac- 
cumulate property and acquire that feeUng of 
permanence which is one of the most important* 
conditions for the development of civilization. 
Doubtless the Haidas were intellectually superior 
to many other tribes, but even if they had not 
been greatly superior, their surroundings would 
probably have made them stand relatively high in 
the scale of civilization. 

Southward from the Haidas, around Puget 
Sound and in Washington and Oregon, there was 
a gradual decline in civilization. The Chinook 


Indians of the lower Columbia, beyond the limits 
of the great northern archipelago, had large com- 
munal houses occupied by three or four families 
of twenty or more individuals. Their villages were 
thus fairly permanent, although there was much 
moving about in summer owing to the nature of 
the food supply, which consisted chiefly of salmon, 
with roots and berries indigenous to the region. 
The people were noted as traders not only among 
themselves but with surrounding tribes. They 
were extremely skillful in handling their canoes, 
which were well made, hollowed out of single logs, 
and often of great size. In disposition they are 
described as treacherous and deceitful, especially 
when their cupidity was aroused. Slaves were 
common and were usually obtained by barter from 
surrounding tribes, though occasionally by success- 
ful raids. These Indians of Oregon by no means 
rivaled the Haidas, for their food supply was less 
certain and they did not have the advantage of 
easy water conununication, which did so much to 
raise the Haidas to a high level of development. 

Of the tribes farther south an observer says: 
"In general rudeness of culture the California 
Indians are scarcely above the Eskimo, and where- 
as the lack of development of the Eskimo on many 


sides of their nature is reasonably attributable in 
part to their difficult and limiting environment, 
the Indians of California inhabit a country natur- 
ally as favorable, it would seem, as it might be. 
If the degree of civiKzation attained by a people 
depends in any large measure on their habitat, as 
does not seem likely, it might be concluded from 
the case of the California Indians that natural 
advantages were an impediment rather than an 
incentive to progress." In some of the tribes, such 
as the Hupa, for example, there existed no organi- 
zation and no f ormaUties in the government of the 
village. Formal councils were imknown, although 
the chief might and often did ask advice of his men 
in a collected body. In general the social structure 
of the California Indians was so simple and loose 
that it is hardly correct to speak of their tribes. 
Whatever solidarity there was among these peo- 
ple was due in part to family ties and in part 
to the fact that they hved in the same village 
and spoke the same dialect. Between diflFerent 
groups of these Indians, the common bond was 
similarity of language as well as frequency and 
cordiality of intercourse. In so primitive a condi- 
tion of society there was neither necessity nor op- 
portunity for differences of rank. The influence 


of chiefs was small and no distinct cJasses of slaves 
were known. 

Extreme poverty was the chief cause of the low 
social and political organization of these Indians. 
The Maidus in the Sacramento Valley were so 
poor that, in addition to consuming every possible 
vegetable product, they not only devoured all 
birds except the buzzard, but ate badgers, skunks, 
wildcats, and mountain lions, and even consumed 
salmon bones and deer vertebrae. They gathered 
grasshoppers and 'locusts by digging large shallow 
pits in a meadow or flat. Then, setting fire to the 
grass on all sides, they drove the insects into the 
pit. Their wings being burned off by the flames, 
the grasshoppers were helpless and were thus col- 
lected by the bushel. Again of the Moquelumne, 
one of the largest tribes in central California, it is 
said that their houses were simply frameworks 
of poles and brush which in winter were covered 
with earth. In summer they erected cone-shaped 
lodges of poles among the mountains. In favorable 
years they gathered large quantities of acorns, 
which formed their principal food, and stored them 
for winter use in granaries raised above the ground. 
Often, however, the crop was poor, and the Indians 
were left on the verge of starvation. 


Finally in the far south, in the peninsula of 
Lower California, the tribes were "probably the 
lowest jn culture of any Indians in North America, 
for their inhospitable environment which made 
them wanderers, was unfavorable to the founda- 
tion of government even of the rude and unstable 
kind found elsewhere." The Yuman tribes of 
the mountains east of Santiago wore sandals of 
maguey fiber and descended from their own terri- 
tory among the mountains "to eat calabash and 
other fruits'* that grew beside the Colorado River. 
They were described as "very dirty on account of 
the much mescal they eat." Others speak of them 
as "very filthy in their habits. To overcome ver- 
min they coat their heads with mud with which 
they also paint their bodies. On a hot day it is by 
no means unusual to see them wallowing in the 
mud like pigs." They were "exceedingly poor, 
having no animals except foxes of which they had 
a few skins. The dress of the women in summer 
was a shirt and a bark skirt. The men appear to 
have been practically unclothed during this season. 
The practice of selling children seems to have been 
common. Their sustenance was fish, fruits, vege- 
tables, and seeds of grass, and many of the tribes 
were said to have been dreadfully scorbutic." 


A little to the east of these d^raded savages the 
much more advanced Mohave tribe had its home 
on the lower Colorado River. The contrast be- 
tween these neighboring tribes throws much light 
on the reason for the low estate of the California 
Indians. "No better example of the power of en- 
vironment to better man's condition can be found 
than that shown as the lower Colorado is reached. 
Here are tribes of the same family (as those of 
Lower California) remarkable not only for their 
fine physical development, but living in settled 
villages with well-defined tribal lines, practising a 
rude, but effective, agriculture, and well advanced 
in many primitive Indian arts. The usual Indian 
staples were raised except tobacco, these tribes 
preferring a wild tobacco of their r^on to the 

This quotation is highly significant. With it 
should be compared the fact that there is no evi- 
dence that com or anything else was cultivated in 
California west of the Rio Colorado Valley. Cali- 
fornia is a region famous throughout America for 
its agriculture, but its crops are European in origin. 
Even in the case of fruits, such as the grape, which 
have American counterparts, the varieties actually 

< Hodge, Handbook of American Indians. 


cultivated were brought from Europe. Wheat and 
barley, the chief foodstuffs for which California 
and similar subtropical regions are noted, were un- 
known in the New World before the coming of the 
white man. In pre-Columbian America com was 
the only cultivated cereal. The other great staples 
of early American agriculture were beans and 
pmnpkins. All three are preeminently summer 
crops and need much water in July and August. 
In California there is no rain at this season. 
Though the fall rains, which begin to be abundant 
in October and November, do not aid these summer 
crops, they favor wheat and barley. The winter 
rains and the comparatively warm winter weather 
permit these grains to grow slowly but continu- 
ously. When the warm spring arrives, there is still 
enbugh rain to permit wheat and barley to make 
a rapid growth and to mature their seeds long 
before the long, dry summer begins. The com- 
paratively dry weather of May and June is just 
what these cereals need to ripen the crop, but it 
is fatal to any kind of agriculture which depends 
on summer rain. 

Crops can of course, be grown during the simi- 
mer in California by means of irrigation, but this 
is rarely a simple process. If irrigation is to be 


eflfective in California, it cannot depend on the 
small streams which practically drjr up during the 
long, rainless summer, but it must depend on 
comparatively large streams which flow in well- 
defined channels. With our modem knowledge 
and machinery it is easy for us to make canals and 
ditches and to prepare the level fields needed to 
utiUze this water. A people with no knowledge of 
agriculture, however, and with no iron tools can- 
not suddenly begin to practice a complex and 
highly developed system of agriculture. In Cali- 
fornia there is little or none of the natural summer 
irrigation which, in certain parts of America, 
appears to have been the most important factor 
leading to the first steps in tilling the ground. 
The lower Colorado, however, floods broad areas 
every summer. Here, as on the Nile, the retiring 
floods leave the land so moist that crops can easily 
be raised. Hence the Mohave Indians were able 
to practice agriculture and to rise well above their 
kinsmen not only in Lower California but through- 
out the whole State. 

In the Rocky Mountain region of the United 
States, just as on the Pacific coast, the condi- 
tion of the tribes deteriorated more and more the 
farther they lived to the south. In the regions where 


the rainfall comes in summer, however, and hence 
favors primitive agricultm-e, there was a marked 
improvement. The Kutenai tribes lived near the 
corner where Idaho, Montana, and British Colmn- 
bia now meet. They appear to have been of 
rather high grade, noteworthy for their morality, 
kindness, and hospitality. More than any other 
Indians of the Rocky Mountain region, they 
avoided drunkenness and lewd intercourse with the 
whites. Their mental ability was comparatively 
high, as appears from their skill in buffalo-himting, 
in making dugouts and bark canoes, and in con- 
structing sweat-houses and lodges of both skins 
and rushes. Even today the lower Kutenai are 
noted for their water-tight baskets of split roots. 
Moreover the degree to which they used the plants 
that grew about them for food, medicine, and eco- 
nomical purposes was noteworthy. They also had 
an esthetic appreciation of several plants and 
flowers — a gift rare among Indians. These people 
lived in the zone of most stimulating cUmate and, 
although they did not practice agriculture and had 
little else in their surroundings to help them to rise 
above the. common level, they dwelt in a region 
where there was rain enough in summer to pre- 
vent their being on the verge of starvation, as 


the Indians of California usually were. Moreover 
they were near enough to the haunts of the 
buffalo to depend on that great beast for food. 
Since one buffalo supplies as much food as a 
hundred rabbits, these Indians were vastly bet- 
ter off than the people of the drier parts of the 
western coast. 

South of the home of the Kutenai, in eastern 
Oregon, southern Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and 
neighboring regions dwelt the Utes and other 
Shoshoni tribes. In this region the rainfall, which 
is no greater than that of California, occurs chiefly 
in winter. The long summer is so dry that, except 
by highly developed methods of irrigation, agricul- 
ture is impossible. Hence it is not surprising to 
find a traveler in 1850 describing one tribe of the 
Ute family as "without exception the most miser- 
able looking set of human beings I ever saw. They 
have hitherto subsisted principally on snakes, liz- 
ards, roots." The lowest of all the Ute tribes were 
those who Hved in the sage-brush. The early ex- 
plorer, Bonneville, found the tribes of Snake 
River wintering in brush shelters without roofs — 
merely heaps of brush piled high, bdiind which the 
Indians crouched for protection from wind and 
snow. Crude as such shelters may seem, they were 



From a photograph. 


the best that could be constructed by people who 
dwelt where there was no vegetation except httle 
bushes, and where the soil was for the most part 
sandy or so salty that it could not easily be made 
into adobe bricks. 

The food of these Utes and Shoshonis was no 
better than their shelters. There were no large 
animals for them to hunt; rabbits were the best 
that they could find. Farther to the east, where 
the buffalo wandered during part of the year and 
where there are some forests, the food was better, 
the shelters were more effective, and, in general, 
the standard of hving was higher, although racially 
the two groups of people were alike. In this case, 
as in others, the people whose condition was lowest 
were apparently as competent as those whose 
material conditions were much better. Today, al- 
though the Ute Indians, like most of their race, are 
rather slow, some tribes, such as the Payutes, are 
described as not only "peaceful and moral," but 
also "industrious." They are highly commended 
for their good quaUties by those who have had the 
best opportunities for judging. While not as 
bright in intellect as some of the prairie tribes 
whom we shall soon consider, they appear to 
possess more solidity of character. By their 



willingness and eflBciency as workers they have 
made themselves necessary to the white farmers 
and have thus supplied themselves with good cloth- 
ing and many of the comforts of life. They have 
resisted, too, many of the evils coming from the 
advance of civilization, so that one agent speaks 
of these Indians as presenting the singular anomaly 
of improving by contact with the whites. Ap- 
parently their extremely low condition in former 
times was due merely to that same handicap of 
environment which kept back the Indians of 

Compare these backward but not wholly un- 
gifted Utes with the Hopi who belonged to the 
same stock. The relatively high social organiza- 
tion of the latter people and the intricacy and 
significance of their reUgious ceremonials are well 
known. Mentally the Hopi seem to be the equal 
of any tribe, but it is doubtful whether they have 
much more innate capacity than many of their 
more backward neighbors. Nevertheless they 
made much more progress before the days of the 
white man, as can easily be seen in their artistic 
development. Every one who has crossed the 
continent bv the Santa F6 route knows how inter- 
esting and beautiful are their pottery, basketry. 


and weaving. Not only in art but also in govern- 
ment the Hopi are highly advanced. Their govern- 
ing body is a council of hereditary elders together 
with the chiefs of religious fraternities. Among 
these officials there is a speaker chief and a war 
chief, but there seems never to have been any 
supreme chief of all the Hopi. Each pueblo has 
an hereditary chief who directs all the communal 
work, such as the cleaning of the springs and 
the general care of the village. Crimes are rare. 
This at first sight seems strange in view of the fact 
that no penalty was inflicted for any crime except 
sorcery, but under Hopi law all transgressions 
could be reduced to sorcery. One of the most 
striking features of Hopi life was its rich religious 
development. The Hopi recognized a large num- 
ber of supernatural beings and had a great store of 
most interesting and poetic mythological tales. 
The home of the Hopi would seem at first sight as 
unfavorable to progress as that of their Ute cousins, 
but the Hopi have the advantage of being the most 
northwesterly representatives of the Indians who 
dwell within the regions of summer rain. For- 
tunately for them, their country is too desert and 
unf orested for them to subsist to any great degree 
by the chase. They are thus forced to devote all 


their energy to agriculture, through which they 
have developed a relatively high standard of hving. 
They dwell far enough south to have their heaviest 
rainfall in summer and not in winter, as is the case 
in Utah, so that they are able to cultivate crops of 
com and beans. Where such an intensive system 
of agriculture prevails, the work of women is as 
valuable as that of men. The position of woman is 
thus relatively high among the Hopi, for she is 
useful not only for her assistance in the labors of 
the field but also for her skill in preserving the 
crops, grinding the flour, and otherwise preparing 
the comparatively varied food which this tribe 
fortunately possesses. 

From northern New Mexico and Arizona to 
Mexico City summer rains, dry winters, and still 
drier springs, are the rule. Forests are few, and 
much of the country is desert. The more abimdant 
the rains, the greater the number of people and 
the greater the opportunities for the accumulation 
of wealth, and thus for that leisure which is neces- 
sary to part of a community if civiKzation is to 
make progress. That is one reason why the civil- 
ization of the summer rain people becomes more 
highly developed as they go from north to south. 
The fact that the altitude of the country increases 


from the United States border southward also 
tends in the same direction, for it causes the climate 
to be cooler and more bracing at Mexico City than 
at places farther north. 

The importance of summer rains in stimulating 
growth and in f adUtating the early stages of agri- 
culture is noteworthy. Every one famiUar with 
Arizona and New Mexico knows how the sudden 
summer showers fill the mountain vaUeys with 
floods which flow down upon the plain and rapidly 
spread out into broad, thin sheets, often known as 
play as. There the water stands a short time and 
then either sinks into the ground or evaporates. 
Such places are favored with thef best kind of 
natural irrigation, and after the first shower it is an 
easy matter for the primitive farmer to go out and 
drop grains of com into holes punched with a stick. 
Thereafter he can count on other showers to water 
his field while the com sprouts and grows to 
maturity. All that he needs to do is to watch 
the field to protect it from the rare depredations 
of wild animals. As time goes on the primi- 
tive farmer realizes the advantage of leading the 
water to particularly favorable spots and thus be- 
gins to develop a system of artificial irrigation. 
In regions where such advantageous conditions 


prevail, the people who live permanently in one 
place succeed best, for the work that they do one 
year helps them the next. They are not greatly 
troubled by weeds, for, though grasses grow as 
well as com in the places where the water spreads 
out, the grasses take the form of little clumps which 
can easily be pulled up. In the drier parts of the 
area of summer rain, it becomes necessary to con- 
serve the water supply to the utmost. The Hopi 
consider sandy fields the best, for the loose sand on 
top acts as a natural blanket to prevent evapora- 
tion from the underlying layers. Sometimes in dry 
seasons the Hopi use extraordinary methods to 
help their seeds to sprout. For instance, they place 
a seed in a ball of saturated mud which they bury 
beneath several inches of sand. As the sand pre- 
vents evaporation, practically all the water is re- 
tained for the use of the seed, which thereupon 
sprouts and grows some inches by the time the 
first summer floods arrive. 

The Indians of the Great Plains lived a very 
different life from that of the natives of either the 
mountains or the Pacific coast. In the far north, 
to be sure, the rigorous chmate caused all the 
Indians to live practically alike, whether in the 
Rockies, the plains, or the Laurentian highland. 


South of them, in that great central expanse 
stretching from the latitude of Lake Winnipeg to 
the Rio Grande River, the Indians of the plains 
possessed a relatively uniform type of life peculiar 
to themselves. This individuality was due partly 
to the luxuriant carpet of grass which covered the 
plains and partly to the supply of animal food af- 
forded by the vast herds of buffaloes which roamed 
in tens of thousands throughout the whole terri- 
tory. The grass was important chiefly because it 
prevented the Indians from engaging in agriculture, 
for it must never be forgotten that the Indians had 
neither iron tools nor beasts of burden to aid them 
in overcoming the natural difficulties in the way 
of agriculture. To be sure, they did occasionally 
pound meteoric iron into useful implements, but 
this substance was so rare that probably not one 
Indian in a hundred had ever seen a piece. The 
Indians were quite familiar with copper, but there 
is not the slightest evidence that they had dis- 
covered any means of hardening it. Metals played 
no real part in the life of any of the Indians of 
America, and without such tools as iron spades and 
hoes it was impossible for them to cultivate grass- 
land. If they burned the prairie and dropped seeds 
into holes, the corn or beans which they thus 


planted were sure to be choked by the quickly 
springing grass. To dig away the tough sod around 
the hole for each seed would require an almost 
incredible amount of work even with iron tools. 
To accomplish this with wooden spades, rude 
hoes made of large flakes of flint, or the shoulder 
blades of the buffalo, was impossible on any large 
scale. Now and then in some river bottom where 
the grass grew in clumps and could be easily pulled 
up, a Uttle agriculture was possible. That is all 
that seems to have been attempted on the great 
grassy plains. 

The Indians could not undertake any wide- 
spread cultivation of the plains not only because 
they lacked iron tools but also because they had 
no draft animals. The buffalo was too big, too 
fierce, and too stupid to be domesticated. In all 
the length and breadth of the two Americas there 
was no animal to take the place of the useful horse, 
donkey, or ox. The llama was too small to do 
anything but carry Ught loads, and it could Uve 
only in a most limited area among the cold An- 
dean highlands. Even if the aboriginal Ameri- 
cans could have made iron ploughs, they could not 
have ploughed the tough sod without the aid of 
animals. Moreover, even if the possession of 


metal tools and beasts of burden had made agri- 
culture possible in the grass-lands, it would have 
been difficult, in the absence of wood for fences, to 
prevent the buffalo from eating up the crops or 
at least from tramping through them and spoiling 
them. Thus the fertile land of the great plains 
remained largely unused u^til the white man came 
to the New World bringing the iron tools and 
domestic animals that were necessary to successful 

Although farming of any sort was almost as im- 
possible in the plains as in the dry regions of win- 
ter rains farther west, the abundance of buffaloes 
made life much easier in many respects. It is 
astonishing to see how many purposes these ani- 
mals served. An early traveler who dwelt among 
one of the buffalo-hunting tribes, the Tonkawa of 
central Texas, says: "Besides their meat it [the 
buffalo] furnishes them liberally what they de- 
sire for conveniences. The brains are used to 
soften skins, the horns for spoons and drinking 
cups, the shoulder blades to dig up and clear 
off the ground, the tendons for threads and 
bow strings, the hoofs to glue the arrow-feath- 
ering. From the tail-hair they make ropes 
and girths, from the wool, belts and various 


ornaments. The hide furnishes . . . shields, tents, 
shirts, footwear, and blankets to protect them 
frotn the cold/*' 

The buffalo is a surprisingly stupid animal. 
When a herd is feeding it is possible for a man to 
walk into the midst of it and shoot down an animal. 
Even when one of their companions falls dead, the 
buffaloes pay no attention to the hunter provided 
he remains perfectly still. The wounded animals 
are not at first dangerous but seek to flee. Only 
when pursued and brought to bay do they turn on 
their pursuers. When the Indians of an encamp- 
ment united their forces, as was their regular habit, 
they were able to slaughter hundreds of animals 
in a few days. The more delicate parts of the meat 
they ate first, often without cooking them. The 
rest they dried and packed away for future use, 
while they prepared the hides as coverings for the 
tents or as rugs in which to sleep. 

Wherever the buffaloes were present in large 
numbers, the habits of the Indians were much the 
same. They could not live in settled villages, for 
there was no assurance that the buffalo would come 
to any particular place each year^ The plains tribes 
were therefore more thoroughly nomadic than al- 

' See Hodge, Handbook of American Indians, vol. ii, p. 781. 


most any others, especially after the introduction 
of horses. Because they wandered so much, they 
came into contact with other tribes to an unusual 
degree, and much of the contact was friendly. 
Gradually the Indians developed a sign language 
by which tribes of different tongues could com- 
municate with one another. At first these signs 
were like pictographs, for the speaker pointed as 
nearly as possible to the thing that he desired to in- 
dicate, but later they became more and more con- 
ventional. For example, man, the erect animal, was 
indicated by throwing up the hand, with its back 
outward and the index finger extending upward. 
Woman was indicated by a sweeping downward 
movement of the hand at the side of the head with 
fingers extended to denote long hair or the combing 
of flowing locks. 

Among the plains Indians, the Dakotas, the 
main tribe of the Sioux family, are universally 
considered to have stood highest not only physi- 
cally but mentally, and probably morally. Their 
bravery was never questioned, and they con- 
quered or drove out every rival except the Chip- 
pewas. Their superiority was clearly seen in their 
system of government. Personal fitness and pop- 
ularity determined chieftainship more than did 


heredity. The authority of the chief was limited 
by the Band Council, without whose approbation 
Uttle or nothing could be accomplished. In one of 
the Dakota tribes, the Tetons, the poUdng of a 
viUage was confided to two or three officers who 
were appointed by the chief and who remained in 
power until their successors were appointed. Day 
and night they were always on the watch, and so 
arduous were their labors that their term of service 
was necessarily short. The brevity of their term, 
however, was atoned for by the greatness of their 
authority, for in the suppression of disturbances no 
resistance was suffered. Their persons were sacred, 
and if in the execution of their duty they struck 
even a chief of the second class they could not be 

The Dakotas, who Uved in the region where their 
name is still preserved, inhabited that part of the 
great plain which is cUmatically most favorable 
to great activity. It is perhaps because of thdr 
response to the influence of this factor of geo- 
graphical environment that they and their neigh- 
bors are the best known of the plains tribes. Their 
activity in later times is evident from the fact that 
the Tetons were called "the plundering Arabs of 
America." If their activities had been more wisely 


directed, they might have made a great name for 
themselves in Indian history. In the arts they 
stood as high as could be expected in view of the 
wandering life which they led and the limited mate- 
rials with which they had to work. In the art of 
making pictographs, for instance, they excelled all 
other tribes, except perhaps the Kiowas, a plains 
tribe of Colorado and western Kansas. On the 
hides of buffalo, deer, and antelope which formed 
their tents, the Dakotas painted calendars, which 
had a picture for each year, or rather for each 
winter, whUe those of the Kiowas had a summer 
symbol and a winter symbol. Probably these cal- 
endars reveal the influence of the whites, but they 
at least show that these people of the plains were 

Farther south the tribes of the plains stood on a 
much lower level than the Dakotas. The Spanish 
explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, describes the Yguases 
in Texas, among whom he lived for several years, 
in these words: "Their support is principally 
roots which require roasting two days. Many are 
very bitter. Occasionally they take deer and at 
times fish, but the quantity is so small and the 
famine so great that they eat spiders and eggs 
of ants, worms, lizards, salamanders, snakes, and 

tbit ka wiuB tkcf stAe. and 

eaitk jnd al tbit tkor is, tlie dang of deer, tilings 
I oast to iimiliii jnd I c M ue alK bcfieve tiiat 

in tiyii land tii^ would eat tiiem. 

Tbey save tiie boocs of tiie fidi tibey oonsame, tiie 
snakes and <idicr animaK tiiai tiicy mav after- 
waid beat them together and eat the pofwder.^ 
Damig these pamfol penods, they bade Cabeza de 
Yaca^nottobesad. There would soon be piidUy 
pears, ahhongh the seascm of this tniit of the cactus 
m^it be months distant lilben the pears were 
npe, the peo|^ feasted and danced and forgot 
tiieir former piivations. They destroyed their 
female infants to i»event them being taken by 
their enemies and thus becoming the means of 
increasing the tatter's number." 

East <rf the Great Plains there dwdt stin anotha 
important type ci Indians, the pec^le ci the dedd- 
uousforests. Tlieir home extended from the Great 
Lakes to the Gulf ci Mexico. As we have already 
seen, the Iroquois who inhabited the northern part 
of this r^on were in many respects the hi^est 
product of aboriginal America. The northern Iro- 
quois tribes, especially those known as the Five 
Nations, were second to no other Indian people 
north of Mexico in political organization, state- 


craft, and military prowess. Their leaders were 
genuine diplomats, as the wily French and English 
statesmen with whom they treated soon discov- 
ered. One of their most notable traits was the 
reverence which they had for the tribal law. The 
wars that they waged were primarily for political 
independence, for the fimdamental principle of 
their confederation was that by uniting with one 
another they would secure the peace and welfare 
of all with whom they were connected by ties of 
blood. They prevented blood feuds by decreeing 
that there should be a price for the killing of a co- 
tribesman, and they abstained from eating the 
flesh of their enemies in order to avoid future strife. 
So thoroughly did they believe in the rights of the 
individual that women were accorded a high posi- 
tion. Among some of the tribes the consent of all 
the women who had borne children was required 
before any important measure could be taken. 
Candidates for a chief ship were nominated by the 
votes of the mothers, and, as lands and houses 
were the property of the women, their power in 
the tribe was great. 

The Iroquois were sedentary and agricultural, 
and depended on the chase for only a small part 
of their existence. The northern tribes were 



especially noted for their skill in building fortifica- 
tions and houses. Their so-called castles were sohd 
wooden structures with platforms running around 
the top on the inside. From the platforms stones 
and other missiles could be hurled down upon 
besiegers. According to our standards such dwell- 
ings were very primitive, but they were almost as 
great an advance upon the brush piles of the Utes 
as our skyscrapers are upon them. 

Farther south in the CaroUnas, the Cherokees, 
another Iroquoian tribe, stand out prominently by 
reason of their unusual mental abiUty. Under the 
influence of the white man, the Cherokees were 
the first to adopt a constitutional form of govern- 
ment embodied in a code of laws written in their 
own language. Their language was reduced to 
writing by means of an alphabet which one of their 
nimiber named Sequoya had devised. Sequoya 
and other leaders, however, may not have been 
pure Indians, for by that time much white blood 
had been mixed with the tribe. Yet even before 
the coming of the white man the Cherokees were 
apparently more advanced in agriculture than the 
Iroquois were, but less advanced in their form of 
government, in their treatment of women, and in 
many other respects. 

isatmis FORT 

snug after * dntwiog by ChampluD, in lui !>. 
rtrbira fail** «n Ja iVouwU* Franu, pobliahaAi 


In general, as we go from north to south in the 
region of deciduous forests, we find that among the 
early Indians agriculture became more and more 
important and the people more sedentary, though 
not always more progressive in other ways. The 
Catawbas, for instance, in South Carolina were 
sedentary agriculturists and seem to have differed 
little in general customs from their neighbors. 
Their men were brave and honest but lacking in 
energy. In the Muskhogean family of Indians, 
comprising the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and 
Seminoles, who occupied the Gulf States from Geor- 
gia to Mississippi, all the tribes were agricultural 
and sedentary and occupied villages of substantial 
houses. The towns near the tribal frontiers were 
usually palisaded, but those more remote from in- 
vasion were unprotected. All these Indians were 
brave but not warlike in the violent fashion of the 
Five Nations. The Choctaws would fight only in 
self-defense, it was said, but the Creeks and es- 
pecially the Chickasaws were more aggressive. In 
their government these Muskhogean tribes appear 
to have attained a position corresponding to their 
somewhat advanced culture in other respects. Yet 
their confederacies were loose and flimsy compared 
with that of the Five Nations. 



while the women used short pickers or parers about 
a foot long and five inches wide. Seated on the 
ground they used these to break the upper part of 
the soil and to grub out weeds, grass, and old corn- 
stalks. They had the regular custom of burning 
^ver an old patch each year and then replanting it. 
Sometimes they merely put the seeds in holes and 
sometimes they dug up and loosened the ground 
for each seed. Clearings they made by girdling the 
trees, that is, by cutting off the bark in a circle at 
the bottom and thus causing the tree to die. The 
brush they hacked or broke down and burned when 
it was dry enough. 

There is much danger of confusing the agricul- 
tural condition of the Indian after the European 
had modified his Ufe with his condition before the 
European came to America. For instance, in the 
excellent article on agriculture in the Handbook cf 
American Indians, conditions prevailing as late as 
1794 in the States south of the Great Lakes are 
spoken of as if typical of aboriginal America. But 
at that time the white man had long been in con- 
tact with the Indian, and iron tools had largely 
taken the place of stone. The rapidity with which 
European importations spread may be judged 
by the fact that as early as 1736 the Iroquois in 


New York not only had obtained horses but were 
regularly breeding them. The use of the iron axe 
of course spread with vastly greater rapidity than 
that of the horse, for an axe or a knife was the first 
thing that an Indian sought from the white man. 
In the eighteenth century agriculture had thus 
become immeasurably easier than before, yet even 
then the Indians still kept up their old habit of 
cultivating the same fields only a short time. The 
regular practice was to cultivate a field five, ten, 
and sometimes even twenty or more years, and 
then abandon it. ' 

Wbat hindered agricultiu-e most in the northern 
part of the deciduous forest was the grass. Any one 
who has cultivated a garden knows how rapidly 
the weeds grow. He also knows that there is no 
weed so hard to exterminate as grass. When once 
it gets a foothold mere hoeing seems only to make 

' Ordinsrily it ia stated that this practice was due to the exbauitkiii 
of the soil. Iliat, however, ii open to question, for five or ten yean' 
desultory cultivation on the part of the Indian would Bcotcely exhaust 
the soil so much that people would go to the great labor of making new 
clearings and moving their villages. HOTeover,iDtheScut1iern States 
it is well known today that the soil is exhausted nmch mare rapidly . 

than farther north because it contains less humus. Nevertheless the j 

southern tribes cultivated the land about their vlliuges fur Idng I 

poiods. Tribes like the Creeks, the Cherokees, and the Natcbes ap- I 

pear to have been decidedly less pione to move than the IroquoiiJii .^ 
Biuteof therelativelyhighdevebpmentof thesenorthem natin^ '-^1 


it grow the faster. The only way to get rid of grass 
when once it has become well established is to 
plow the field and start over again, but this the 
Indians could not do. When first a clearing was 
made in the midst of the forest, there was no grass 
to be contended with. Little by little, however, it 
was sure to come in, until at length what had been 
a garden was in a fair way to become a meadow. 
Then the Indians would decide that it was neces- 
sary to seek new fields. 

One might suppose that under such circum- 
stances the Indians would merely clear anoth^ 
patch of forest not far from the village and so 
continue to live in the old place. This, however, 
they did not do because the labor of making a 
clearing with stone axes and by the slow process of 
girdling and burning the trees was so great that it 
was possible only in certain favored spots where 
by accident the growth was less dense than usual. 
When once a clearing became grassy, the only thing 
to do was to hunt for a new site, prepare a clearing, 
and then move the village. This was apparently 
the reason why the Iroquois, although successful 
in other ways, failed to establish permanent towns 
like those of the Pueblos and the Haidas. Their 
tiCiVancement not only in architecture but in many 


of the most important elements of civilization was 
for this reason greatly delayed. There was little 
to stimulate them to improve the land to which 
they were attached, for they knew that soon they 
would have to move. 

Farther south the character of the grassy vege- 
tation changes, and the condition of agrictilture 
alters with it. The grass ceases to have that thick, 
close, turfy quahty which we admire so much in the 
fields of the north, and it b^ns to grow in bunches. 
Often a southern hillside may appear from a dis- 
tance to be as densely covered with grass as a New 
England hayfield. On closer examination, how- 
ever, the growth is seen to consist of individual 
bunches- which can easily be pulled up, so that 
among the southern tribes the fields did not become 
filled with grass as they did in the north, for the 
womeni had relatively little difficulty in keeping 
out this kind of weed as well as others. 

In this survey of aboriginal America we have 
been impressed by the contrast between two di- 
verse aspects of the control of human activities by 
physical environment. We saw, in the first plac^ 
that in our own day the distribution of culture in 
America is more closely related to climatic energy 


than to any other factor, because man is now so 
advanced in the arts and crafts that agricultural 
difficulties do not impede him, except in the far 
north and in tropical forests. 

Secondly, we have found that, although all the 
geographical factors acted upon the Indian as they 
do today, the absence of metals and beasts of 
burden compelled man to be nomadic, and hence 
to remain in a low stage of civilization in many 
places where he now can thrive. 

In the days long before Columbus the distribu- 
tion of civilization in the Red Man's Continent 
offered still a third aspect, strikingly different both 
from that of today and from that of the age of 
discovery. In that earlier period the great centers 
of civilization were south of their present situation. 
In the southern part of North America from Ari- 
zona to Florida there are abundant evidences that 
the Indians whom the white man found were less 
advanced than their predecessors. The abundant 
ruins of Arizona and New Mexico, their widespread 
distribution, and the highly artistic character of 
the pottery and other products of handicraft found 
in them seem to indicate that the ancient popula- 
tion was both denser and more highly cultured than 
that which the Eiu*opeans finally ousted. In the 




Wood engraving in Ancient Cities qf the New World, by D^sir^ Charnay. 

< . . •• 

..;. ■:.. ! ■ ■ 

J » 

/ -•■ 

k '" 





















Gulf States there is perhaps not much evidence that 
there was a denser population at an earlier period, 
but the excellence of the pre-Columbian handi- 
crafts and the existence of a decadent sun worship 
illustrate the way in which the civilization of the 
past was higher than that of later days. 

The Aztecs, who figure so largely in the history 
of the exploration and conquest of Mexico, were 
merely a warlike tribe which had been fortunate 
in the inheritance of a relatively high civihzation 
from the past. So, too, the civilization found by 
the Spaniards at places such as Mitla, in the ex- 
treme south of Mexico, could not compare with 
that of which evidence is found in the ruins. 
Most remarkable of all is the condition of Yucatan 
and Guatemala. In northern Yucatan the Span- 
iards found a race of mild, decadent Mayas living 
among the relics of former grandeur. Although 
they used the old temples as shrines, they knew 
little of those who had built these temples and 
showed still less capacity to imitate the ancient 
architects. Farther south in the forested region 
of southern Yucatan and northern Guatemala the 
conditions are still more surprising, for today these 
r^ons are almost uninhabitable and are occupied 
by only a few sickly, degraded natives who live 


largely by the chase. Yet in the past this region 
was the scene of by far the highest culture that 
ever developed in America. There alone in this 
great continent did men develop an architecture 
which, not only in massiveness but in wealth of 
architectural detail and sculptural adcHnment, vies 
with that of early Egypt or Chaldea. There alone 
did the art of writing develop. Yet today in those 
regions the density of the forest, the prevalence of 
deadly fevers, the extremely enervating tempera- 
ture, and the steady humidity are as hostile to 
civilization as are the cold of the far north and 
the dryness of the desert. 

The only explanation of this anomaly seems 
to be that in the past the climatic zones of the 
world have at certain periods been shifted farther 
toward the equator than they are at present. 
Practically all the geographers of America now be- 
lieve that within the past two or three thousand 
years climatic pulsations have taken place whereby 
places like the dry Southwest have alternately ex- 
perienced centuries of greater moisture than at 
present and centuries as dry as today or even 
drier. During the moist centuries greater stormi- 
ness prevailed, so that the climate was appar- 
ently better not only for agriculture but for human 



energy. At such times the standard of Kving was 
higher than now not only in the Southwest but in 
the Gulf States and in Mexico. In periods when 
the deserts of the southwestern United States were 
wet, the Maya region of Yucatan and Guatemala 
appears to have been relatively dry. Then the 
dry belt which now extends from northern Mexico 
to the northern tip of Yucatan apparently shifted 
southward. Such conditions would cause the for- 
ests of Yucatan and Guatemala to become much 
less dense than at present. This comparative de- 
forestation would make agriculture easily possible 
where today it is out of the question. At the same 
time the relatively dry climate and the clearing 
away of the vegetation would to a large degree 
eliminate the malarial fevers and other diseases 
which are now such a terrible scoiu-ge in wet tropi- 
cal countries. Then, too, the storms which at the 
present time give such variability to the climate 
of the United States would follow more southwly 
courses. In its stimulating qualities the climate of 
the home of the Mayas in the days of their prime 
was much more nearly like that which now prevails 
where civilization rises highest. 

From first to last the civilization of America has 
been bound up with its physical environment. It 


matters little whether we are dealing with the red 
race, the black, or the white. Nor does it matter 
whether we deal with one part of the continent or 
another. Wherever we turn we can trace the in- 
fluence of mountains and plains, of rocks and 
metals from which tools are made, of water and its 
finny inhabitants, of the beasts of the chase from 
the hare to the buffalo, of domestic animals, of the 
native forests, grass-lands, and deserts, and, last 
but not least, of temperature, moisture, and wind 
in their direct effects upon the human body. At 
one stage of human development the possibilities 
of agriculture may be the dominant factor in man's 
life in early America. At another, domestic ani- 
mals may be more important, and at still another, 
iron or waterways or some other factor may be pre- 
dominant. It is the part of the later history of the 
American Continent to trace the effect of these vari- 
ous factors and to chronicle the influence that they 
have had upon man's progress. 


Although many books deal with the physical features 
of the Western Hemisphere and many others with the 
Indians, few deal with the two in relation to one another. 
One book, however, stands out preeminent in this re- 
spect, namely, Edward John Payne's History of the New 
World Called America, 2 vols. (1892-99). This book, 
which has never been finished, attempts to explain 
the conditions of life among the American aborigines 
as the result of geographical conditions, especially 
of the food supply. Where the author carries this 
attempt into the field of special customs and religious 
rites, he goes too far. Nevertheless his work is uncom- 
monly stimulating and deserves the careful attention of 
the reader who would gain a broad grasp of the relation 
of geography to the history of the New World. 

Two other good books which deal with the relation 
of geography to American history are Miss Ellen C. 
Semple's American History and its Geographical Condi- 
tions (1903) and A. P. Brigham's Geographic Influences 
in ATnerican History (1903). Both of these books in- 
terpret geography as if it included little except the form 
of the land. While they bring out clearly the effect of 
mountain barriers, indented coasts, and easy routes 
whether by land or water, they scarcely touch on the 

more subtle relationships between man on the one hand 



and the climate, plants, and animals which form the 
dominant features of his physical environment on the 
other hand. 

In their emphasis on the form of the land both Semple 
and Brigham follow the lead of W. M. Davis. In his 
admirable articles on America and the United States in 
The EncydopiBdia Britannica (11th edition) and in The 
International Geography edited by H. E. Mill (1901), 
Davis has given an uncommonly clear and vivid descrip- 
tion of the main physical features of the New World, 
living beings, however, play little part in this descrip- 
tion, so that the reader is not led to an understanding 
of how physical geography affects human actions. 

Other good descriptions of the North American conti- 
nent are found in the following books: I. C. Russell's 
NorihAmerica (1904) , Stanford's Compendium of Modern 
Geography and Travel, including the volumes on Canada, 
the United States, and Central America, and the great 
volumes on America in The Earth and its Inhabitants by 
]^lis6e Reclus, 19 vols. (1876-1894). Russell's book is 
largely physiographic but contains some good chapters 
on the Indians. In Stanford's Compendium the pur- 
pose is to treat man and nature in their relation to one 
another, but the relationships are not clearly brought 
out, and there is too much emphasis on purely de- 
scriptive and encyclopedic matter. So far as interest is 
concerned, the famous work by Elis^e Reclus holds high 
rank. It is an encyclopedia of geographical facts ar- 
ranged and edited in such a way that it has all the in- 
terest of a fine book of travel. Like most of the other 
books, however, it fails to bring out relationships. 

As sources of information on the Indians, two books 
stand out with special prominence. The Am^erican Race, 


by D. G. Brinton (1891), is a most scholarly volume de- 
voted largely to a study of the Indians on a linguistic 
basis. It contains some general chapters, however, on 
the Indians and their environment, and these are most 
illuminating. The other book is the Handbook of Ameri- 
can Indians North of MexicOy edited by F. W. Hodge, 
and published by the United States Bureau of Eth- 
nology (Washington, 1897, 1910, 1911). Its two large 
volumes are arranged in encyclopedic form. The vari- 
ous articles are written by a large number of scholars, 
including practically all the students who were at work 
on Indian ethnology at the time of publication. Many 
of the articles are the best that have been written and 
will not only interest the general reader but will con- 
tribute to an understanding of what America was when 
the Indians came here and what it still is today. 



• I 




Adirondack Mountains, 64 

Africa, migration from, 4; posi- 
tion on earth, 37; backward- 
ness of indigenous life in, 89 

Agriculture, cotton production, 
70; in tropical forests, 104- 
106; advantages of desert for, 
116-17; influence on civili- 
zation, 124-25; in California, 
140-42; of Hopi Indians, 147- 
148, 149-50; difficulties on the 
plains, 151-52; Catawba, 161; 
Muskhogean, 161; Iroquois, 

Alabama, "cotton belt" in, 70 

Alaska, probable migrations by 
way of, 15-21; climate, 18; 
effect of climate on white men, 
18-20; probable effect on In- 
dians, 20-21 

Aleutian Islands supposed route 
of red men, 15-16, 17-18 

Alleghany plateau, 64-66 

Altoona, escarpment at, 64, 67 

Amazon River, 22, 49 

America, migrations to, 2-4; 
inverse resemblances to Old 
World, 40 et seq. ; see also Cor- 
dillera, North America, South 

Andes Mountains, 41-42 

Animal life, of Asia, 12-13; in 
northern forests, 92, 128; 
musk-ox, 106-07; no draft 
animals, 152; buffalo, 153- 

Annapolis, tests of mentality at, 

Antarctica, 37, 42 

Appalachian highland, 3; one of 
physical divisions of North 
America, 51; character and 
extent, 59-60; eastern crystal- 
line band, 60-62; second band, 
valley, 62-64; third band, 
Alleghany plateau, 64-66; 
routes over, 67 

Archaean V, 51 

Archeology, indications of pre- 
glacial man, 11-12; ruins of 
Arizona and New Mexico, 

Arctic Ocean, position on earth, 
37; drainage into, 42 

Arizona, plateaus of, 76; Painted 
Desert, 97; desert, 113-14; 
climate, 148-50; ruins in, 

Asia, migrations from, 4, 12->-14; 
man's original home, 11-12; 
climatic variation in, 13; 
position on earth, 37; Cor- 
dillera in, 41 

Athabasca, Lake, 54 

Athapascan Indians, 118, 127- 

Atlantic coast, resemblances be- 
tween that of America and 
Old World, 45-47 

Atlantic coastal plain, 68-70 

Atlantic Ocean, position on 
earth, 37; drainage into, 42 

Australia, position on earth, 37; 
backwardness of indigenous 
life in, 39-40 

Aztecs, 119, 169 





Baltic Sea, 46 

Baltimore, routes over moun- 
tains near, 67 

Bates, H. W., The Naturalist on 
the River Amazons quoted, 22 

Bering Island on supposed route 
of red men, 16 

Bering Strait as possible passage 
to America, lfi^l7 

Berkshires, 61 

"Black belt, "70 

Black Hills of South Dakota, 79 

Black Sea, 46, 47 

Blue Ridge, 61 

Bonneville, Captain B. L. E., 144 

Boston, debt to Mohawk-Hud- 
son route, 67 

Brains, race differences, 4-6 

Brinton, D. G., The American 
Race cited, 4; quoted, 21-22, 

Buffaloes, use to Indians, 45, 

Cabeza de Vaca, Nufiez, de- 
scribes Yguases, 157-58 

California, color in fields of, 97; 
Indians of, 136-38; agriculture, 
140-42; climate, 141 

Canary Islands, 41 

Cape Farewell Island, sailing 
route north of, 28 

Carthaginians familiar with At- 
lantic coast of northern Africa, 

Catawba Indians, 161 

Catskill Mountains, 64 

Central America, negroes and 
Indians in, 21; formation of, 

Cherokee Indians (Iroquoian), 

Chickasaw Indians (Muskho- 
gean), 161 

China, population of, 42 

Chinook Indians, 135-36 

Choctaw Indians (Muskhogean), 

Climate, best conditions for man. 

7-9; physical adi^tation to, 
9-10; mental response to, 10- 
11; variation as cause ior 
migration, 13-14; of Alaska, 
18-20; stolid character of 
Indian explained by, 18, 20- 
21; in Central America, 21; 
of Europe, 24-25; effect on 
evolution, 38; effect on vege- 
tation, 88; typical environ- 
ments of aboriginal America, 
118-22; distribution of cli- 
matic energy, 123-24; of Cali- 
fornia, 141; of Arizona and 
New Mexico, 148-60; in- 
fluence on present distribution 
of culture, 167-68; shifting of 
climatic zones, 170-71 

Coal, 3, 63, ^, 73 

Colorado River, 140, 142 

Columbia River, 82, 136 

Columbus, Christopher, 34-35 

Continents, formation of the, 37 

Copper Island on supposed route 
to America, 16 

Cordillera, American, 40-42; Eu- 
rasian, 41-42; effect on rivers, 
42; effect on civilization, 41^-43; 
formation of western, 76-84; 
volcanic, 81-83 

"Cotton belt," 70 

Cotton production of United 
States (1914), 70 

Creek Indians (Muskhogean), 161 

Dakota Indians, 155-57 

Darwin, C. R., theory of sur- 
vival of fittest, 38 

Death Valley, 112-13 

Deserts, Sahara, 45; represent- 
ative type of vegetation, 88; 
kind of vegetation, 89; Ari- 
zona, 90-91, 112, 113-14; in 
United States, 111-14; heat of. 
112-13; in Guatemala, 114- 
115; variety of vegetation,l 15; 
manner of growth of vege- 
tation, 116; as aid to growth 
of civilization, 116-17 



Earth, contraction of, 86; tetra- 
hedral form of, 86-87, 89-40 

Earthquakes, 80^81 

EneydojHBdia BrUannica quoted, 

"Endless Mountoins," 68 

England, Phenicians sail to, 81 

Erosion, 63, 75-76, 77, 78, 88-84 

Eskimos, inventiveness, 10, 125- 
126; fair-haired, probable de- 
scendants of Norsemen, 26; 
in Greenland, 29; social organi- 
zation, 125; boats, 125-26; 
houses, 126; lamps, 126; prog- 
ress retarded, 126, 180 

Europe, climate, 24-25; physical 
contact with America, 25; 
position on earth, 87 

Europeans, migration to America, 
4; effect on Indians, 4; brain 
capacity of, 4-5; migration 
from Central Asia, 24-25; 
see also Norsemen 

Evolution, 7; stimulants to, 88- 
89; importance of form of 
earth to, 39-40 

Ferguson, G. O., The Psychology 
of the Negro cited, 6 

Five Nations, see Iroquois In- 

Florida, 46 

Forests, conditions demanded by, 
88-89; northern evergreen, 
91-94; relation to human life, 
92-98, 95, 99, 100-01, 104-06; 
southern pine, 94-95; of Pa- 
cific coast, 95-96; deciduous, 
96-99; equatorial rain, 99- 
100, 101-02, 103-05; jungle, 
101-08, 105-06; scrub, 101- 
102, 106; prevention of growth 
on prairie, 108-09; Indians of 
the northern, 126-27 

Fur trade with Indians, 92-94 

Furnace Creek, 112 

Georgia, topography of, 69; 
cotton production in, 70 

Glaciation, in Laurentian high- 
land, 58-54; formation of 
lakes, 54-55; beneficial td 
man, 55-56, 59; in Wisconsin, 
5d-58; in Ohio. 58; in Cor- 
dillera region, 83-84 

Grand Canyon of the Colorado, 

Grass-lands, 88, 89-90, 106-11; 
see also Llanos, Plains, Prairies, 

Great Bear Lake, 54 

Great Britain, position of, 46 

Great Lakes, 46, 54 

Great Plain, see Plains 

Great Slave Lake, 54 

Green Mountains, 61 

Greenland, on route of vikings, 
25-26; Red Eric first settles, 
26; traces of Norsemen in, 26; 
early settlement, 27-28, 29 

Guatemala, malaria in, 104; vege- 
tation in, 114-15; ancient 
culture in, 169-70 

Hagar, S., 27; The Bearing of As- 
tronomy on the Unity or Plu- 
rality and the Probable Place of 
Origin of the American Aborigi- 
nes cited, 32 

Haida Indians, 121-22, 130-35 

Hair, Human, 7, 9 

Hampton Institute, races repre- 
sented at, 1-2; tests of mental 
ability at, 10 

Herodotus cited, 31 

Hess, W. H., The Influence of 
Glaciation in Ohio cited, 58 

History, definition of, 2 

Hodge, F. W., ed.. Handbook of 
American Indians North of 
Mexico, 118 (note), 164; quot- 
ed, 140, 154 

Hopi Indians, 146-50 

Hudson Bay, 46 

Hudson Valley, traffic in, 62 

Hudson's Bay Company, 92-93 

Hupa Indians, 137 

Huron Indians, 23 



lodand, on route of vikings, 25; 
unfavorable to settlement, 26, 

India, population of, 42 

Indian Ocean, position on earth, 
S7; drainage into, 42 

Indians, at Hampton Institute, 
1; migration from Asia, 8-4; 
brains of, 5-6; effect of dinuite 
on mentality of, 10; supposed 
route to America, 15-17; effect 
of sojourn in Alaska, 18, 20-21 ; 
effect of heat on, 21-22; a dis- 
tinct race, 22-23; diversity 
among, 23; similarities b^ 
tween customs of Old World 
and, 32-34; differences between 
Pacific coast tribes and others, 
43-44; of the plains, 45, 150- 
158; types, 118-^22; dependent 
on physical environment, 124; 
of the far north. 125-80; of the 
Pacific coast, 130-42; of Rocky 
Mountain region, 142-50; sign 
language, 155; of the decidu- 
ous forests, 158-67; see also 
names of families and tribes 

Intellect, race differences, 4-6 

Iron, 72-73 

Iroquois Indians, 119-21, '158- 

Kamchatka, migration toward, 
14; supposed route of red 
men, 15-16; climate, 18 

Kat-ahdin, Mount, 60 

Katmai, Mount, eruption (1912), 

Kawchodinne Indians, 128 

Kentucky, plateau in, 65-66 

Kiowa Indians, 157 

Krakatoa eruption (1883), 82 

Kurile Islands on supposed route 
of red men, 15-16 

Kutchin Indians. 129-30 

Kutenai Indians, 148-44 

Labrador. 46, 47 
Ladoga, Lake, 46 

Lassen Peak, 82 

Laurentian highland, 47, 51-55, 

Leif voyages to \^nland, 26 

Llanos of the Orinoco, 45, 49, 110 

Lofoten Islands on route of 
vikings, 25 

Long Island Sound, 86 

Los Angeles, aqueduct, 80; har- 
bor, 85 

Lower Califomia, Indians of, 

Mackenzie River, 49 

Maidu Indians, 188 

Maine, scenery of, 87 

Mammals of Asia, 12-13 

Martinique, 41 

Matthew, W. D., Climate and 
Evolution cited, 13, 38 

Mayas of Yucatan, 23-24; zo- 
diac signs of. 32-83; decadent, 

Mediterranean Sea. 31. 46 

Mental differences in races, 4-6 

Mexicans, zodiac signs of. 32- 
33; conquered. 119 

Mexico, rain forests in, 99 

Mexico, Gulf of, 46, 47 

Micmac Indians, 26-27 

Migrations, to America, 2-4; 
caused by climate variation, 
13-14; slowness, 14-15; sup- 
posed route of red men to 
America, 15-17; to Europe, 
24-25; determined by moun- 
tains, 43-44 

Minnesota, progress in. 50 

Mississippi River, 49-50 

Mitchell, Mount, 61 

Mitla. evidence of early civili- 
zation at. 169 

Mohave Desert. 80-81 

Mohave Indians. 140* 142 

Mohawk Valley. 64 


Mongol nearest relative of In- 
dian,. 22-23 

Montana, topography of, 79 



Moquelumne Indians, 188 
Morgan and Plough cited, 38- 

Mountain systems, cordilleras, 

40-43, 76-84; Appalachian, 

Muskhogean Indians, 161 

Natchez Indians, 45, 162 
Negroes, at Hampton Institute, 

1; migration from Africa, 4; 

brains of, 5-6; best climate for, 

8; unfavorable environment in 

Africa, 31 
New England, water-power in, 

56; topography, 60-61 
Newfoundland, 46, 60 
New Mexico, Pueblo Indians of, 

32; climate^ 148-50; ruins of, 

New York, topography of, 61 
New York City, advantageous 

situation of, 67 
Norsemen, 25-30 
North America, pre-glacial man 

in, 11-12; position on earth, 

37; compared with South 

America, 47-50; physical di- 
visions of, 51-87; see also 

North Carolina, mountains in, 

61; cotton production in, 

North Pole, 37 
North Sea, 46 
Northwest Fur Company of 

Montreal, 93 
Northwestern peneplain, 68, 73- 

74, 77 
Norway in fourteenth century, 

Nufiez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvaro, 

describes Yguases, 157-58 

Ohio, glaciation in, 58 

Onega, Lake, 46 

Oregon, mountain ridges in, 78; 

Indians of, 135-36 
Origin of man, 7, 11-12 

Orinoco River, 45, 49, 110 
Orizaba, 82 

Osterbyden (Greenland), 28 
Owens Valley, 80 

Pacific coast, Indians of, 43-^4 

Pacific Ocean, position on earth, 
37; drainage into, 42 

Painted Desert of Arizona, 97 

Pampas of Argentina, 110-11 

Panama Canal, 47 

Payute Indians, 145-46 

Pennsylvania, topography of, 

Peruvians, zodiac signs of, 32-33; 
advancement of, 118 

Pettersson, O., Climatic Vari- 
ations in Historic and Pre- 
Historic Times quoted, 28 

Pharaoh Necho sends ships 
around Africa, 31 

Phenicians, early cruises of, 31 

Philadelphia, crossing place of 
mountains near, 67 

Physio^aphy, aid to under- 
standing of history, 2; Europe, 
24; islands of the North, 25; 
trade-winds, 25, 30, 31, 34; 
■form of American continent, 
36-40; comparison with Old 
World, 40-47; comparison of 
North and South America, 
47-50; of North America, 51- 
87; see also Climate, Deserts, 
Forests, Grass-lands, Moim- 
tain systems. Rainfall 

Piedmont plateau of the Appala^ 
chians, 61-62, 69, 70, 77 

"Pme barrens," 69 

Plains, of North America, 44-45, 
68-75; of Old Worid, 44-45; 
Indians of, 45, 150-58; of 
South America, 45, 49; of Af- 
rica, 45; vegetation of, 106-11 

Plata, Rio de la, 49-50 

Plough, Morgan and, cited, 38- 

Popocatepetl, 82 

"Potlatches," 131 



Prairies, 68, 71-78, 108-10; see 

also Gras»-land8 
Prince Edward Island, 46 
Pueblo Indians, 82 
Paget Sound, 87; Indians near, 


Queen Charlotte Islands, Haidas 

of, 121, 134 
Quichua Indians, 23 

Baces, brain differences^ 4-€; 
common origin of, 7; differen- 
tiation of, 9; place of origin, 11 

RainfaU, 88, 89, 98, 99, 100, 101, 
102, 103, 104, 148-^0; see also 

Rainier, Mount, 82 

Red Eric settles Greenland, 26 

Religion, sun-worship, 45, 162; of 
Hopi Indians, 147 

Rio de la Plata, 49-50 

Rocky Mountains, 79, 142-50; 
see also Cordillera 

Sahara Desert, 45 

St. Elias Mountain, 78 

St. Lawrence, Gulf of, 46 

St. Lawrence River, 46, 49 

Saint Roque, Cape, 47 

San Francisco earthquake, 80 

San Francisco, Mount, 82 

Scandinavia, 46 

Scenery, value of, 86-87 

Seminole Indians (Muskhogean), 

Sequoya devises alphabet for 

Cherokee language, 160 
Service, R. W., Ballads of a 

Cheechako quoted, 19-20 
Shasta, Mount, 82 
Shoshoni Indians, 144, 145 
Sierra Nevada Mountains, ero- 
sion in, 78; effect of earth- 
quakes, 80 
Sign language, 155 
Sioux Indians, 155-57 
Slavery among the Haidas and 

Tlingits, 132; among Chi- 
nooks, 136 

Slave-trade, African, 30 

South America, position oo 
earth, 37; comparMl with 
North America, 47-60; for- 
ests of, 99-100, 105; grass- 
lands of, 110-11; see aim 

South Carolina, topography of, 
69; cotton production in* 

South Pole, 37 

Southwestern High Plains, 68, 
74-75, 76 

Spain, 46 

Stefansson, Vilhjdlmur, finds fair- 
haired Eskimos, 26 

Suez Canal, 47 

Takulli Indians, 129 

Temperature, effect on mental 
work, 10 

Tennessiee, plateau in, 65-66 

Teton Indians (Dakotas), 156- 

Thilanottines, legend of, 17 

Tlingit Indians, 131, 132 

Trade-winds, 25, 30, 31, 84 

Trees, see Forests 

Tsimshian Indians, 131 

Tundras, 44; see also Grass- 

Uinta Moimtains, 79 

Utah, plateaus of, 76, 77, 82- 

Ute Indians, 144-45 

Vaca, NufLez Cabeza de, describes 

the Yguases, 157-58 
Vegetation, 88 et seq. 
Vera Cruz, harbor at, 85 
Verde, Cape, 47 
Vero (Fla.)t bones found at, 

Vikings, see Norsemen 
Vinland, mainland of America, 




Virgin River, 77 
Virginia, Blue Ridge in» 61 
Volcanoes, 81-83 

Wasatch Mountains, 78 

Washington, Indians of, 135- 

West Point, tests of mental 
ability at, 10 

West Virginia, plateau in, 65- 

Whitbeck, R. H., Economic 
Aspects of Glaciation in Wis- 
consin cited, 56 

White Mountains, 60-61 

White Sea, 46 

Winnipeg, Lake, 54 

Wisconsin, progress in, 50; glacia- 
tion in, 56-58 

Woods, Lake of the, 54 

Wrangell, Mount, 82 

Writing, Sequoya devises Chero- 
kee, 160; among Mayas, 170 

Yellowstone National Park, gey- 
sers and hot springs in, 83 

Yguases Indians, 157-58 

Yosemite Valley, 84 

Yucatan, forests of, 99, 102-04; 
progressive, 106; Mayas of, 

Yuman Indians, 139 

Zodiac signs of, 32-34 




'{ I 
1 I 









Fl 1 

!■ i 


OCT 14 I 
OCT 281919