« PreviousContinue »
States. The system of protection and pupilage under which, from the most generous motives, the Indian has hitherto been placed, has unquestionably been protracted until, in some cases at least, it has been prejudicial in its influence. It has precluded him from acquiring property, marrying on equal terms with the intruding race, and so transferring his offspring to the common ranks. While, however, we thus see that, in this transitional stage, a large proportion of the degenerate descendants of the aborigines absolutely perish in their premature contact with European civilisation, the half-breed of the frontier occupies a more favourable position. He mingles, in many cases, on a common footing with the settlers of the western clearings; his children grow up as members of the new community; and that inevitable process of amalgamation produces the same results there, which, it is manifest, are effacing every trait of Indian blood from the longest settled and most civilized of the survivors of the Indian nations of Canada.
The causes which have been referred to, as operating to prevent either the half-breed Indians or their posterity from being transferred in a condition of social equality to the common ranks of the New World's settlers, are neither irremediable nor of universal application. The honours of the Government House at Vancouver's Island are at present done by the daughters of an Indian mother; the hospitalities of more than one Canadian parsonage have been enjoyed by the author, where the hostess had the red blood of the New World in her veins; and Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, in replying to inquiries on the extent of hybridity in the United States, thus concludes: "When the Indian acquires property, and with it education, and becomes permanently settled, then honourable marriage will commence, and with it a transfer of the posterity to our ranks. I hope to see that day
arrive; for I think we can absorb a large portion of this Indian blood, with an increase of physical health and strength, and no intellectual detriment." Whether it is calculated to prove beneficial or not, this process has not now to begin; though a change in the relative position of the civilized Indian with the occupants of the older settlements may tend greatly to increase it. The same process by which the world's old historic and unhistorie races were blended into elements out of which new nations sprung, is here once more at work. Already on the Red River, the Saskatchewan, the Columbia, and Fraser's River, on Vancouver's Island, and along the whole Indian frontiers both of the United States and British North America, the red and the white man meet on terms of greater equality; and the result of their intercourse is to create a half-breed population on the site of every new western clearing, totally apart from those of mixed blood who are reabsorbed into the native tribes. The statistics of the more civilized and settled bands of Indians in Upper and Lower Canada do not indicate that the intermixture of red and white blood, though there carried out under unfavourable circumstances, leads to degeneracy, sterility, or extinction; and the result of their intermingling in the inartificial habits of border life, is the transfer of a larger amount of red blood to the common stock than has hitherto, I believe, received any adequate recognition by those who have devoted attention to the comprehensive bearings of the inquiries which such phenomena of hybridity as have been discussed in this chapter involve.
Do races ever amalgamate? Does a mixed race exist? asks Dr. Knox :1 himself the native of that little islandworld where, favoured by its very insulation, Briton and Gael, Roman, Pict, and Scot, Saxon and Angle, Dane, Norman, and Frank, have for two thousand years been mingling their blood, and blending their institutions into a homogeneous unity. In seeking an answer to the great problem of modern science involved in such inquiries, the insular character of Britain presents some important elements tending to simplify the inquiry; but the archæological and historical data illustrative of the process by which the island race of Britain,
"This happy breed of men, this little world," 2
has attained to its present development, become of secondary importance, when compared with the gigantic scale on which undesigned ethnological experiments have been wrought out on the continent of America. Admitting, for the sake of argument, all that is implied, not only in acknowledged Asiatic affinities of the Esquimaux; but the utmost that can be assumed in favour of an intrusive population by means of Phoenician, Celtiberian, ancient British, or Scandinavian colonizations, nevertheless it remains indisputable that the Western
1 The Races of Men, Lect. i.
2 Richard II. Act ii. Sc. i.
Hemisphere has been practically isolated from the Old World and all its generations for unnumbered centuries. The traditions of the Aztecs told of an ancient era when Quetzalcoatl, the divine instructor of their ancestors in the use of the metals, in agriculture, and the arts of government, dwelt in their midst. Fancy pictured in brightest colours that golden age of Anahuac, thus associated with the mythic traditions of some wise benefactor and civilizer of the Aztec nation. But amid all the glowing fancies with which tradition delighted to clothe the transmitted memories of the age of Quetzalcoatl, a curious definiteness pertains to the physical characteristics of this ancient benefactor of the race. He was said to have been tall of stature, with a fair complexion, long dark hair, and a flowing beard. This remarkable tradition of a wise teacher, superior to all the race among whom he dwelt, and marked by characteristics so unlike the native physiognomy, was accompanied with the belief that, after completing his mission among the Aztecs, he embarked on the Atlantic Ocean for the mysterious shores of Tlapallan, with the promise to return. How far the rumours of Spanish invasion preceded the actual landing of Cortes, and helped to give shape to more ancient traditions, it must be difficult to determine. Nearly thirty years elapsed between the first insular discoveries of Columbus and the landing of Cortes on the Mexican shores; and many a tale of the strange visitors who had come from out the ocean's eastern horizon, armed with the thunder and the lightning, and with a skill in metallurgy such as the divine teacher of the art could alone be supposed to possess, may have shaped itself into the vague tradition of the good Quetzalcoatl, as it passed from one to another eager listener, ere it reached the Mexican plateau. But the tradition seems like the embodiment of the faint
memories of an older intercourse with the race of another hemisphere, when Egyptian or Phoenician, Greek, Iberian, or Northman, may have dwelt among the gentle elder race of the plateau, before the era of Aztec conquest, and taught them those arts wherein lie the essential germs of civilisation. If so, however, the race remained physically unaffected by the temporary presence of its foreign teachers, and continued to develop all the special characteristics of the American type of man, until Columbus, Cabot, Verrazzano, and Cartier, Cortes, Pizarro, De Leon, Raleigh, and other discoverers and explorers, prepared the way for the great ethnolo gical experiment of the last three centuries, of transferring the populations of one climate and hemisphere to other and totally diverse conditions of existence on the New Continent.
But now we witness on the American continent the two essentially distinct forms of migration, by means of which the capacity of the indigenous man of one quarter of the globe to be acclimatized and permanently installed as the occupant of another, is to be fully tested. First we have the abrupt transport of the Spaniard to the American archipelago, to the tierra caliente of the Gulf coast, and the tierra fria of the plateau; the equally abrupt transference of the Englishman to the warm latitudes of Virginia and the bleak New England coast; and the attempt of the colonists of Henry IV. and Louis XIII. to found la Nouvelle France between Tadousae and Quebec, where winter reigns through half the year, and the thermometer ranges frequently from 30 to 40 below zero. Again, we have the compulsory migration of a population derived from the interior and the Atlantic coasts of the African continent, to the islands and those southern states of America, where experience indicates that the industrial occupation of