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Yet mercy could make itself heard, even among barbarians, and peace was restored by atoning presents, if they were enough to cover up the graves of the dead. A tribe of Indians is a body of kindred, subdivided into the clan, the gens and the family. The gens constituted an organized band of relatives, the family the household. The name of the mother follows the children and fixes the line of kinship.

If her father was a chief her son inherits the honor. In their domestic relations she is the head of the family and through her blood all property, political and personal rights, must descend. If she was a "Turtle" the name of all her children is "Turtle," and they are known as the Turtle gens, clan or family. The father, though a chief and crowned with a hundred victories, though he has lined his wigwam, with the scalps of enemies, cannot cast upon his kin his property, his fame or name, and though he be Wolf, Beaver, Bear or Hare, the children are all "Turtle.

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It is not the province of the historian to say that the Indian rule as here set out is wrong and that the civilized rule is right. The Indian rule is certainly very close to nature. A man seeking a wife usually consults her mother, sometimes by himself, sometimes through his mother. When agreed upon the parties usually comply, making promises of faithfulness to the parents of both.

Polygamy was permitted, but was practiced very little. Wife No. Divorces are permitted but do not often occur.

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The Indian's idea of marriage and divorce is well illustrated by this anecdote: "An aged Indian, who for many years had spent much time in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, one day, about the year , observed that the Indians had a much easier way of getting a wife than the whites, but also a more certain way of getting a good one. Well—maybe then he get a very good wife, but maybe not: maybe very cross. Well, now, suppose cross. Scold so soon as get awake in the morning. Scold all day. Scold until sleep. All one—he must keep him. White people have laws forbidding throw wife away, he be ever so cross—must keep him always.

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Well, how does Indian do? Indian, when he sees industrious squaw, he go to him, place his two forefingers close aside each other, make two like one—then look page: 52 [View Page 52] Switch to Image Mode CLOSE Page 52 squaw in the face. See him smile; this is all one. He say yes. So take him home—no danger he be cross.

No, no; squaw know too well what Indian do if he cross. Throw him away and take another. Squaw love to eat meat; no husband no meat. Squaw do everything to please husband, he do everything to please squaw—live happy. The council of the tribe assigns to the gens a particular tract of land for cultivation. The woman council carefully divides and distributes that tract of land among the heads of the families, who are responsible for its cultivation.

The crops are planted, cultivated and gathered by the squaws. The wigwam and all articles of the household belong to the woman and at her death descend to her eldest daughter or nearest of female kin. In their criminal code adultery is punished in the first offense by cropping the hair, repeated offenses by cutting the left ear.


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If the mother fails to inflict the penalty it is done by the council of women of the gens. Theft is punished by twofold restitution. It is tried by the council of gens, from which there is no appeal. Maiming is compounded and tried in the same way. Murder is triable by the gens, but an appeal lies to the council of the tribes: technical errors in the prosecution are proofs positive of defendant's innocence; if found guilty the friends of the accused must pay for the dead man, and on failure to do so the friends of the lead man may kill the murderer at pleasure.

Witchcraft is punishable 1w death, by tomahawking, stabbing or burning: an appeal lies from the grand council of the tribe to the holy ordeal by fire.

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A circular fire is built, and if the accused can run through it from east to west and from north to south. Treason is punished with death and consists in first giving aid or comfort to enemies of the tribe, secondly in revealing the secrets of the medicine men. Each tribe had a sachem or chief counselor in matters of peace, whose place was filled on his death by the election of another member of his family, usually his brother or his sister's son.

Women as well as men voted at these elections. In times of war or other emergencies chiefs were chosen, who continued in office as long as they lived. Being chosen for personal qualities, such as wisdom, eloquence or bravery, these chiefs were often very able men. The sorcerers, called powwows or medicine men, had still greater power, owing to the superstition of the people.

They really had some skill in healing sick persons by vapor baths and decoctions of roots and herbs, but to these rational remedies they added howlings and incantations, which were supposed to frighten away the evil spirits that occasioned disease. According to the dark notions of barbarians the Indians were a very religious people.

They believed in a Great Spirit, the Master of Life, who had made the world, and whose bounty they celebrated by six annual thanksgivings—at the first flowing of maple sap, at planting, at the ripening of berries, when their green corn was ready for eating, at harvest and at New Year.

They believed also in an evil spirit, who might bring upon them famine, pestilence or defeat in war, and whom they sought to appease by fastings and sacrifice. They expected another life after death, and desired to have their weapons, and sometimes a favorite dog, buried with them for use in the "happy hunting grounds. Their heaven was limitless plains and boundless forests abounding in game of all sorts and flowing rivers stocked with all manner of fish—a place where the page: 54 [View Page 54] Switch to Image Mode CLOSE Page 54 imperfect conditions of this life for happiness would be perfect.

They had no priesthood nor ceremonials of worship.

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As illustrating their religious ideas it is related that "In the year two Creek chiefs accompanied an American to England, where, as usual, they attracted great attention and many flocked around them, as well to ascertain their ideas of certain things as to behold the savages. Being asked their opinion of religion or of what religion they were, one made answer that they had no priest in their country, nor established religion, for they thought that upon a subject where there was no possibility of people agreeing in opinion, and as it was altogether a matter of opinion, it was best that every one should paddle his canoe in his own way.

No sick person could be cured, no war planned and no treaty made without a dance, which often continued several days. Their musical instruments were drums, rattles and a rude kind of flute. The war dance was common to all tribes, but each clan had peculiar dances of its own, sometimes numbering thirty or more.

Though they had neither books nor writing, some Indian tribes practiced picture writing, which answered all their purposes. They had even a sort of musical notation, by which a leader could read off his song from a piece of birth bark marked with a stick. Beads made of shells or stone served them as money. Communion was the social law of the Indian race.

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In some of the "long houses" of the Iroquois twenty families were fed daily from the common kettle of boiled corn and beans. Hunters left their game to be carried home by other members of their clan while they pushed on for fresh supplies. The Indians were of an almost uniform dark brown color, with straight shining black hair and high cheek bones.

With but few exceptions they were treacherous, cruel and revengeful.


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  • Often hospitable and friendly while at peace, they were merciless and brutal in war. Prisoners were tortured with fiendish barbarity. It was thought an ill omen for the conquerors if they failed to make their victims cry out with pain; therefore, though they tore out bits of flesh with teeth or pincers night after night and at last roasted him in a slow fire, he continued to sing his death song with a calm, unwavering voice until his last breath released him from their torments.

    Howard county was organized in The county was formed wholly out of the Miami Indian Reserve.