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The Tribes and the States

W. J. Sidis




         9. Events in the Interior.  The Mound-Builder empire, whether or not it was an outpost of the ancient Atlantean empire, remained an established and powerful empire ruling practically the entire interior of the North American continent for thousands of years. Apparently the removal of the continent of Atlantis, the central source of the empire's power, weakened it somewhat; but still the Mound-Builder empire held its own against the Algonquin peoples who were pressing on their borders from the coast-lands to the north and northeast. This pressure was resisted as long as the Mound-Builders were able to maintain themselves united; but, after a time, for some reason, this empire deteriorated. Algonquin tradition explains it by the priestcraft among the Mound-Builders' gaining such despotic control that they were able to institute extensive sacrifices similar to those which were introduced widely into Mexico about the same time. This made most of the Mound-Builder people feel, with ample justification, that their lives would be quite as safe with the enemy as at home; so that city after city surrendered to the invading Algonquins, who finally occupied the whole northern prairie district. But, in that region, the infusion of a strain accustomed to the tyrannical institutions of the Mound-Builders' empire prevented the prairie tribes from feeling or carrying out the full spirit of freedom that was so strong among their Penacook cousins who stayed behind on the Atlantic coast.

       In the meantime other peoples of the coastland started moving in on the decaying Mound-Builder empire. The Iroquoian peoples of the lower part of the Hochelaga (St. Lawrence) River marched in behind the Algonquin invaders of the prairie region, and established themselves throughout the Great lakes region, and as far west as the Mississippi River. Also, about the fourteenth century, when the Mound-Builder empire was in full retreat southward, the Maskoki peoples of the southern Atlantic coast region swept over the mountains against their old enemies, and occupied most of the southern part of the prairies, thrusting back the Mound-Builders as far as the Mississippi in the south, and at the same time holding back the advance of the Algonquins from the north. This pressure on the Algonquins forced them to retreat toward the Great Lakes, mainly along the Mississippi, pushing the Iroquois peoples eastward from there, largely into the Lake Ontario region, but some of them, separated from the main Iroquoian body, into the Carolina mountains, thus leaving most of the Iroquois in the Lake Ontario region surrounded by Algonquins, and a few of them, mainly the Cherokees and Tuscaroras, isolated in the southern Appalachian mountains. It was thus that the Iroquois came into this region south of Lake Ontario, where they were in a good position to make effective attack on the land of Penacook, becoming to the Penacook tribes the sort of enemies from whom much could be learned that could be used for the development of the ideas of liberty.

        10. Pre-Federate Transatlantic Communication.  Even after the sinking of the continent of Atlantis which held the thread of communication between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, there never was a time when communication between Europe and America was completely interrupted. Slave raids on the American coast by Phoenicians and other ancient nations were fairly frequent, and "farthest Thule" (an island which, from the ancient description of locations, shape, and size, seemed to be Newfoundland) and other vaguely described transatlantic lands, were heard of continually. Similarly, fishing expeditions across the Atlantic, going to the Gaspé region, the Grand Banks, or Cape Cod, took place every summer for thousands of years from the Atlantic seaboard fishing towns of Europe, especially by the Basques, whose language, as we have seen, seems to relate them somehow to the native American races, thus making it seem probable that such fishing expeditions, in one form or another, might have been a continuous tradition handed down from the days of the Atlantean empire. The Celtic peoples later made numerous slave raids as well as fishing expeditions across the Atlantic, although the slave raids were more sporadic. The Penacook coast, being much closer to Europe than most of the American coast, naturally suffered most from these raids, and gave the Penacook peoples many centuries of experience in resisting the inroads of slavery.

        The first definite invasion of the coast of North America proper was in the year 1000, when the Norse colonists in Greenland sent an expedition out westward to find new lands to conquer. The Norse people were at that time terrorizing the whole of Europe with their slave raids wherever they could reach, and it was natural for them to seek new lands to raid for their purposes. Since it was only about five hundred miles from Greenland to Labrador, it would be surprising if this sea-raiding people, once established in Greenland, should fail to sight the North American continent. But, as the coast at this point proved, to their eyes, hopelessly desolate, they followed the coast southward in the hope of reaching better regions. This led them finally to the coast of the Penacook peoples, where they made their camp on a convenient island in a large harbor. This island was Noddle's Island (now better known as East Boston) in Boston Harbor, and the camp was on a promontory facing the sea, now known as Jeffries Point. The camp was later moved to a more permanent location on the mainland, near the present Mount Auburn.

        These Norse invaders in "Vinland," as they named the country, treated the native inhabitants (whom they named "Skrellings," or "skinned people") about the same way as they did in Europeas subjects for pillage and slave-raids. They raided as far as the "Wonderstrand" (Cape Cod), and they usually made themselves enemies wherever they went, in America as in Europe.

        The leaders of the expedition soon returned to Greenland, and left a strong force settled on the American coast. The Norse settlement was being constantly attacked by the various tribes whose territories met at the harbor where the Norse had landed. Many Vinland slaves were taken to Greenland, and the next year Lief Ericsson, the leader of the original expedition, returned to the Vinland camp with a number of colonists, both men and women. The year after that, another visit from the ships, and the settlement grow larger, though a few colonists went back to Greenland, some with children born in America.

        In the meantime, the Penacook peoples could hardly be expected to remain idle, considering the increasing numbers of such ferocious and warlike people as they had never seen before. Finally, the tribes within raiding radius of the Norse campthe Masadchu, Okamakammesset, Saugus, Natick, and Wampanoagwere forced to take the war-path together; and this concerted action seems to have been what laid the foundation for the later Penacook Federation. The Norse camp could not hold out against the united attack. Some of the Norse escaped in the ships, sailed off southward in quest of new conquests, and were never heard of again; while most of the captive colonists were adopted into the tribes. It was probably this occasion that made the Okamakammessets, in whose territory the camp had been, teach their adoptees the lesson"No slave upon our land."

        The next return of ships from Greenland found no trace of their colony, and not even a hint as to what had became of it. This ended the Norse raids, although sporadic raids on the coast, especially Celtic raids, continued.

        11. The Iroquois.  We have seen that the Iroquois, in the various migrations and counter-migrations resultant on the breakup of the Mound-Builders' empire, were forced into the region to the south of Lake Ontario. The area surrounded by Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Champlain, and the Adirondack, Alleghany, and Catskill Mountains was isolated enough to permit development of the peoples without holding them back by complete lack of communication. Five tribes took possession of this regionthe Senecas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas. Of course, once they occupied the territory, the occupants started a series of fights for control of the region, and the fourteenth century saw many such wars between the various nations of Iroquoian stock, each of whom was trying to take control of the entire region.

        The other Iroquoian nations, such as the Hurons, beyond the Great Lakes, and the Cherokees and Tuscaroras, isolated in the Carolina mountains, were not directly concerned in these fights; so it came about that these five nations were in constant contact, both in peace and in war, and had a common interest in defending the same land, although at the same time they were rivals for its control. Some sort of union was the only way out of it; and intercommunication between the five main Iroquois became a matter of great importance.

        The Penacook peoples, in their own isolated region on the seacoast, also had their occasional internecine wars, but not as regularly as the Iroquois tribes across the hills to the west. Besides, the Norse raids had taught the Penacook people the lesson of the need of co-operation, a lesson which was repeatedly put to good use whenever the Mohawks attempted to raid across the Berkshire Hills. Since the Mohawks usually made such raids after they had been defeated and pushed eastward by the other Iroquois tribes, such temporary alliances were usually successful, and encouraged the Penacook peoples further in the lesson of concerted action; and if the Mohawks could not be held off at the Berkshire Hills, the Quinnitucket (Connecticut) River served as a second, a final line of defense where reinforcements could gather for a final effort; so that to the Penacook people the Quinnitucket became an emblem of liberty.

        Here, for the same reasons as among the Iroquois people, intertribal communication became an important matter; and the weaving of wampum belts became an international means of communication, understood by Iroquois and Penacook alike. This was a sort of writing by means of belts of colored beads, in which the various designs of beads denoted different ideas according to a definitely accepted system, which could be read by anyone acquainted with wampum language, irrespective of what the spoken language was. Records and treaties were kept in this manner, and individuals could write letters to one another in this way.

        As we shall see, it was the repeated peace conferences of the Iroquois tribes, and the frequent alliances of the Penacook peoples, as well as the systems of intertribal communication that both sets of nations organized, that laid the foundation for the later Iroquois and Penacook Federations, which in turn became the prototype of all federations that were formed after them.

        12. Lines of Communication.  Thus, as we have seen, both the Iroquois and the Penacook tribes began to feel the need of intercommunication; and not only Iroquois and Penacook tribes, but their southerly neighbors the Lenapes, began to establish regular courier services for communications between towns and between tribes, carrying messages for anyone who desired to send a letter or other news to another place within the range of the service. Since one of the purposes of this service between tribes was to make it simple to carry on peace negotiations, and to settle difficulties between members of hostile nations that might lead to open conflict, these couriers were neutrals, with the privileges of crossing the lines into the enemy's territory, and with the reciprocal duty of themselves keeping out of any war that might arise along their set route. A system of public and neutral couriers, taking no part in warfare, was considered among all the northeastern tribes to be an important factor for peace, both for ending war and for cementing a peace already made.

        In those nations, in this way, a regular public system was instituted, for the first time in the world's known history, whereby anyone could send messages from place to place. Not only was a service of couriers organized for this purpose on an international basis, but the various nationalities in this part of North America co-operated in marking out a system of courier roads, that helped in bringing all these peoples closer together. This whole section of America was soon completely marked out with courier pathways used for peace purposes only, and regularly avoided by armies, which respected the neutrality of the communication service by using instead an improvised "war-path."

        Many of these routes are still in use as highways. Thus, the main courier route of the Iroquois tribes still serves as the main vehicle thoroughfare across New York State, and even the railroads and canals follow it very closely. The Manhattan tribe of the Lenapes, for communication with the mainland, marked out along the length of their island a courier track which they called Wesqueqwek; and, in the city which the white invaders afterwards built on the same island, attempts were made to institute street plans doing away with this lane, but it finally became the most important street of the cityBroadway. No improvement on the Lenape route could be found. The Penacook peoples were not a bit behind their neighbors in establishing these routes, and many such roads, winding in and out among the hills of the Penacook country to avoid steep grades and difficult terrain, have become the main thoroughfares of numerous modern cities and country districts in present-day New England.

        It is difficult to realize what a step in advance this courier service meant. In many other parts of the world (as in Mexico, Peru, and France, in the pre-federate period, and in ancient Persia) rulers had established private courier systems of their own, to learn what was going on in their realm, and to get commands through to their underlings. But the only way the ordinary person could send communication was to employ his own messenger, if he could, to deliver oral or written messages. Even as late as the time of the first white settlements in America, this difficulty of communication prevailed all over the eastern hemisphere; while at that time the original inhabitants of the Atlantic coast of North America had been using a regular public postal service, both for oral and recorded messages, for at least two hundred years. The first white colonies communicated with each other by means of red couriers, who could deliver letters as easily as wampums; and the whites' towns had their posts for the red couriers, which, in the case of ports, could also be used by ships. These posts became "post offices," publicly managed (in an attempt to copy the Ganowanian model), and later imitated by the mother countries, so that the white invasion of North America introduced the idea of public postal service among the whites, not only in America but in Europe. The idea was, however, essentially one of red-race origin.

"When the Okamakammessets and the other tribes would send
Their messages, the couriers their daily way would wend
Over roads which for the purpose the tribe together made
And, with knowledge of the country, in the best location laid.

"Now these self-same roads as highways and city streets appear,
Bringing all New England's cities to one another near;

While the service which those couriers in transmitting news did give
Has become a postal system helping all the world to live."


[Complete poem can be found in America's Search for Liberty in Song & Poem]

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