Aboriginal American Authors
Daniel G. Brinton
Produced by David Starner, David Garcia and the PG Online Distributed
ABORIGINAL AMERICAN AUTHORS AND THEIR PRODUCTIONS;
ESPECIALLY THOSE IN THE NATIVE LANGUAGES.
A CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE.
BY DANIEL G. BRINTON, A.M., M.D.,
Member of the American Philosophical Society; the American Antiquarian
Society; the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, etc.; Vice-President
of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, and of the
Congres International des Americanistes; Delegue-General de l'Institution
Ethnographique for the United States, etc.; Author of "The Myths of the
New World;" "The Religious Sentiment;" "American Hero Myths," etc.
Aboriginal American Authors, published by the Anthropologist Daniel G.
Brinton in 1883, is a work that is particularly appropriate for our own
times. The native American movement has stressed the need for history
written from the Indian point of view. Interest in native American
literature has become an important component in reinforcing a sense of
identity among American Indians today.
Brinton's work is a good summary of the better known traditional
writings of Indians from many regions of the Western hemisphere. This
bibliographical survey provides information on tribal histories that
would be particularly useful for Indian Study Programs in the states of
Oklahoma, New York and Wisconsin.
Brinton was aware of the 19th century racism of many who wrote about the
American Indian and reacted against it in his writings by taking a
stance which in some ways anticipates Ruth Benedict's involvement in
similar questions half a century later. Aboriginal American
Authors is written as an early attempt at placing the literature of
the American Indian with the other great literary traditions of the
world; that is why its usefulness endures.
Social Science Department
Chicago State College
The present memoir is an enlargement of a paper which I laid before the
_Congres International des Americanistes_, when acting as a delegate to
its recent session in Copenhagen, August, 1883. The changes are material,
the whole of the text having been re-written and the notes added.
It does not pretend to be an exhaustive bibliographical essay, but was
designed merely to point out to an intelligent and sympathetic audience
a number of relics of Aboriginal American Literature, and to bespeak the
aid and influence of that learned body in the preservation and
publication of these rare documents.
_Philadelphia, Nov. 1883._
Section 1. _Introductory_
Section 2. _The Literary Faculty in the Native Mind_
Vivid imagination of the Indians.
Love of story telling.
Appreciation of style.
Power and resources of their languages.
Facility in acquiring foreign languages.
Native writers in the English tongue.
Ancient books of Aztecs.
Of Mayas, etc.
Section 3. _Narrative Literature_
Desire of preserving national history.
Eskimo legends and narratives.
The _Walum Olum_ of the Delawares.
The Iroquois _Book of Rites_.
The National Legend of the Creeks.
Destruction of Ancient Literature.
Historians in Nahuatl.
The Maya _Books of Chilan Balam_.
Other Maya documents.
Writings in Cakchiquel.
_The Memorial de Tecpan Atitlan_.
Authors in Cakchiquel and Kiche.
The _Popol Vuh_.
Votan, the Tzendal.
Writers in Qquichua.
Letters, etc., in native tongues.
Tales and stories of the Tupis and other tribes.
Section 4. _Didactic Literature_
Progress of natives in science.
Their calendars and rituals.
Sermons in Guarani.
Section 5. _Oratorical Literature_
Native admiration of eloquence.
The Oratorical style.
Custom of set orations.
Specimens in the Nahuatl tongue.
Ancient prayers and rhapsodies.
Section 6. _Poetical Literature_
Form of the earliest poetry.
Unintelligible character of primitive songs explained.
A Chippeway love song.
A Taensa epithalamium.
Montaigne on Tupi poetry.
Ancient Aztec poetry.
Maya and Peruvian poems.
Section 7. _Dramatic Literature_
Development of the dramatic art in America.
Origin of the serious and comic dramas.
The Qquichua drama of Ollanta.
The Kiche drama of Rabinal Achi.
The Comic Ballet of the Gueegueence.
The _Logas_ of Central America.
Dramas of the Mangues.
Section 8. _Conclusion_
Ethnological value of literary productions.
Their general interest to scholars.
[Transcriber's Note: Footnotes have been moved from inline to end-of-text,
and the above "Footnotes" section added.]
ABORIGINAL AMERICAN AUTHORS.
* * * * *
Section 1. _Introductory_.
When even a quite intelligent person hears about "Aboriginal American
Literature," he is very excusable for asking: What is meant by the term?
Where is this literature? In fine, Is there any such thing?
To answer such inquiries, I propose to treat, with as much brevity as
practicable, of the literary efforts of the aborigines of this
continent, a chapter in the general History of Literature hitherto
Indeed, it will be a surprise to many to learn that any members of these
rude tribes have manifested either taste or talent for scholarly
productions. All alike have been regarded as savages, capable, at best,
of but the most limited culture.
Such an opinion has been fostered by prejudices of race, by the jealousy
of castes, and in our own day by preconceived theories of evolution.
That it is erroneous, can, I think, be easily shown.
Let us first inquire into the existence of
Section 2. _The Literary Faculty in the Native Mind_.
This faculty is indicated by a vivid imagination, a love of narration,
and an ample, appropriate, and logically developed vocabulary. That, as
a race, the aborigines of America possessed these qualifications to a
remarkable degree, is attested by many witnesses who have lived
intimately among them; and is only denied by those whose acquaintance
with them has been superficial, or derived from second-hand and doubtful
The red man peoples air, earth, and the waters with countless creatures
of his fancy; his expressions are figurative and metaphorical; he is
quick to seize analogies; and when he cannot explain he is ever ready to
invent. This is shown in his inappeasable love of story telling. As a
_raconteur_ he is untiring. He has, in the highest degree, Goethe's
_Lust zu fabuliren_. In no Oriental city does the teller of strange
tales find a more willing audience than in the Indian wigwam. The folk
lore of every tribe which has been properly investigated has turned out
to be most ample. Tales of talking animals, of mythical warriors, of
giants, dwarfs, subtle women, potent magicians, impossible adventures,
abound to an extent that defies collection.
Nor are these narratives repeated in a slip-shod, negligent style. The
hearers permit no such carelessness. They are sticklers for nicety of
expression; for clear and well turned periods; for vivid and accurate
description; for flowing and sonorous sentences. As a rule, their
languages lend themselves readily to these demands. It is a singular
error, due wholly to ignorance of the subject, to maintain that the
American tongues are cramped in their vocabularies, or that their syntax
does not permit them to define the more delicate relationships of ideas.
Nor is it less a mistake to assert, as has been done repeatedly, and
even by authorities of eminence in our own day, that they are not
capable of supplying the expressions of abstract reasonings. Although
pure abstractions were rarely objects of interest to these children of
nature, many, if not most, of their tongues favor the formation of
expressions which are as thoroughly transcendental as any to be found in
the _Kritik der Reinen Vernunft_.
Their literary faculty is further demonstrated in the copiousness of
their vocabularies, their rare facility of expression, and their natural
aptitude for the acquisition of other languages. Theophilie Gautier used
to say, that the most profitable book for a professional writer to read
is the dictionary; that is, that a mastery of words is his most valuable
acquirement. The extraordinarily rich synonomy of some American tongues,
notably the Algonkin, the Aztec, and the Qquichua, attests how
sedulously their resources have been cultivated. Father Olmos, in his
grammar of the Aztec, gives many examples of twenty and thirty
synonymous expressions, all in current use in his day. A dictionary, in
my possession, of the Maya, one of the least plastic of American
tongues, gives over thirty thousand words, and scarcely a hundred of
them of foreign extraction.
This linguistic facility is shown also in the ease with which they
acquire foreign languages. "It is not uncommon," says Dr. Washington
Matthews, speaking of the Hidatsa, by no means a specially brilliant
tribe, "to find persons among them, some even under twenty years of age,
who can speak fluently four or five different languages." Mr. Stephen
Powers tells us that, in California, he found many Indians speaking
three, four, five or more languages, generally including English; and
in South America, both Humboldt and D'Orbigny express their surprise at
the same fact, which they repeatedly observed.
But the most tangible evidence of both their linguistic and literary
ability is the work some of these natives have accomplished in European
tongues. It does not come within the limits of my plan to enter fully
into an examination of this branch of literature; but it is worth while
mentioning some of the more prominent native writers, who have composed
in European languages, as their productions are an easy test of what the
faculties of the red race are in this direction.
As the colonizers of the New World have been chiefly from Spain and
Great Britain, so naturally the English and Spanish languages have been
brought most widely to the knowledge of the natives. The half-civilized
tribes, within the area of the United States, have produced several
authors of merit. Perhaps the earliest of these was David Cusick, who,
in 1825, printed his _Ancient History of the Six Nations_. He was a
full blood Tuscarora, and his English is far from correct. Yet the
arrangement of his matter is skillful, and some passages quaintly vivid
and forcible. Another member of the Iroquois confederacy, Peter
Dooyentate Clarke, has taken up the _Origin and Traditional History of
the Wyandotts_, and has made a readable little book (published at
Toronto, 1870); while still more lately, Chief Elias Johnson, of the
Tuscaroras, has published a _History of the Six Nations_, very
creditably composed. (Lockport, 1881.)
The tribes of Algonkin lineage can also count some respectable writers.
The Rev. William Apess (or Apes), a member of the Pequod tribe of
Massachusetts, wrote and published five or six small books and
pamphlets, on questions relating to his people, between 1829 and 1837.
The book of George Copway, or Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, a chief of the
Ojibways, on _The Traditional History of the Ojibway Nation_
(London, 1850), is a good authority on the topic, and so well written
that we can scarcely suppose that it was his unaided effort. Of almost
equal merit is the _History of the Ojibway Indians, with especial
reference to their Conversion to Christianity_, by the Rev. Peter
Jones, or Kahkewaquonaby, a full-blood Indian, (London, 1861.)
In the southwest, the _Cherokee Phoenix_ offered a medium through
which the native writers of that tribe frequently published original
contributions; and one of its early editors, Elias Boudinot (named after
the celebrated philanthropist), published separately a number of
addresses and other documents, in English.
But, as we might naturally expect, it is in Spanish that we find the
best work of the native writers. The partly civilized races of Mexico,
Central America and Peru, were much better prepared to receive the
lessons of European teachers than the barbarous hunting tribes. Had they
had any fair chance, they would have soon equaled their teachers. Father
Motolinia, one of the earliest missionaries to Mexico, testifies to the
readiness with which the natives acquired both Spanish and Latin, and
adds that, in the latter tongue, they became skilled grammarians, and
wrote both verse and prose with commendable accuracy. Quite a long
list of such native Latinists, their names and their writings, is given
by Father Augustin de Vetancurt, and he is not sparing in his praise of
the ability they displayed in the use of both Spanish and Latin.
Similar testimony is rendered of the natives of Guatemala, by the
Archbishop Garcia Pelaez. He mentions, by name, several Indians who
became conspicuously thorough Latin scholars, and refers to others who
won honors in all the faculties of the University of Guatemala, and
distinguished themselves in after life by the display of their talents
and education. Nor would it be difficult to find many other such
examples in Peru and Brazil.
The list of native Mexicans who wrote in Spanish is a fairly long one;
and I need only mention the better known names. At the head should be
placed that of Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl. He was a lineal
descendant of the sovereigns of Tezcuco, and an ardent student of the
antiquities of his race. Among the many works which he wrote are the
_Relaciones Historicas_ and the _Historia Chichimeca_, which
were published by Lord Kingsborough; a _Historia de la Nueva
Espana_, a _Historia del Reyno de Tezcuco_, and a _Historia de
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe_, which have not had the fortune to be
printed. Such an excellent critic as Mr. Prescott says of his style:
"His language is simple, and occasionally eloquent and touching. His
descriptions are highly picturesque. He abounds in familiar anecdote;
and the natural graces of his manner in detailing the more striking
events of history and the personal adventures of his heroes, entitle him
to the name of the Livy of Anahuac."
Ixtlilxochitl flourished about the year 1600, and among his
contemporaries was Fernando de Alvarado Tezozomoc, also of native blood,
whose _Cronica Mexicana_ has been preserved, and is considered to
be well written, but less reliable. Of about the same date are the
_Relacion_ of Juan Bautista de Tomar, a native of Tezcuco, in which
he treats of the customs of his ancestors; the _Relaciones_ of Don
Antonio Pimentel, grandson of Nezahualpilli, lord of Tezcuco, an author
quoted and praised by the historian Torquemada; the _Historia de
Tlaxcallan_ of Diego Munoz Camargo, a noble Tlascalan mestizo, of
whose style Prescott remarks that it compares not unfavorably with that
of some of the missionaries themselves; and the _Relacion de los
Dioses y Ritos de la Gentilidad_ of Don Pedro Ponce, the cacique of
Tzumpahuacan. Somewhat later, about 1625, Don Domingo de San Anton Munon
Chimalpain wrote his _Historia Mexicana_ and his _Historia de la
Conquista_, which have been mentioned with respect by various
Along with these examples of literary culture in Mexico may be named
several native Peruvian writers who made use of the language of their
conquerors; as Don Joan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui, whose
_Relacion de Antiguedades de Piru_ is a precious document, though
composed in very uncritical Spanish; as Don Luis Inca, whose
_Relacion_, prepared in Spanish, seems now to be lost, but is
referred to, with praise, by some of the older writers; and, above all
others, Inca Garcillasso de la Vega, whose vivid and attractive style,
and numerous historical writings place him easily in the first rank of
Spanish historians of America.
From the above it would seem evident enough that the American aborigines
were endowed, as a race, with a turn for literary composition, and a
faculty for it. They were generally, however, an unlettered race. What
they composed was for oral use only. This might be carefully arranged,
committed to heart, and handed down from generation to generation; but
as for recording it in forms which would convey it to the mind through
the eye, that was a discovery they had but partially made.
I say, "partially," because graphic methods, of some kind, were widely
used. We may as well omit from consideration, in this connection, the
merely pictographic signs of the hunting tribes, although they were used
for mnemonic purposes. Let us rather proceed, at once, to the highest
specimens of the graphic art in ancient America, and inquire their
scope. In Mexico, in Yucatan, in Nicaragua, and in one or two districts
of South America, the early explorers found systems of writing which
seemed to resemble that to which they were accustomed.
The Aztecs manufactured, in large quantities, a useful paper from the
leaves of the maguey, and upon it they painted numerous figures and
signs, which conveyed ideas, and sometimes also sounds. An early
authority informs us that their books were of five kinds. The first
detailed their method of computing time; the second described their holy
days, festivals and religious epochs; the third gave the interpretation
of dreams, omens and signs; the fourth supplied directions for naming
children; and the fifth rehearsed the rites and ceremonies connected
with matrimony. Besides these, we know they wrote out tribute rolls,
the ancient history of their tribes, the fables of their mythology, the
genealogy of their sovereigns, and the geographical descriptions of
territories. Of all these we have examples preserved, and many of them
have been published.
Quite another and a more perfect method of writing prevailed among the
Mayas of Yucatan and Central America. Their books were exceedingly neat,
and strongly resembled an ordinary quarto volume, such as appears on
European bookshelves. I have so lately discussed their manufacture, and
the so-called alphabet in which they were written, and in a work of such
easy access, that it is enough if I quote the conclusions there arrived
at. They are:--
1. The Maya graphic system was recognized, from the first, to be
distinct from the Mexican.
2. It was a hieroglyphic system, known only to the priests and a few
3. It was employed for a variety of purposes, prominent among which was
the preservation of their history and calendar.
4. It was a composite system, containing pictures (figuras), ideograms
(caracteres), and phonetic signs (letras).
The ruins of Palenque, Copan, and other Maya cities, abound in such
The natives of Nicaragua, those, at least, of Aztec lineage, made use of
parchment volumes, folded into a neat and portable compass, in which
they painted, in red and black ink, certain figures, "by means of
which," says the chronicler Oviedo, "they could express and understand
whatever they wished, with entire clearness."
In South America the Peruvians had their _quipus_, cords of
different lengths, sizes and colors, knotted in various ways, and
attached to a base cord, an arrangement that was a decided aid to the
memory, though it could not be connected with the sounds of words. There
are also faint traces of figures, with definite meaning, among the
Muyscas of Colombia; and the Moxos of Western Bolivia are said to have
employed, as late as the last century, a method of writing, consisting
of lines traced on wooden slabs.
Section 3. _Narrative Literature_.
Of all forms of sustained discourse, we may reasonably suppose that of
narration to have been the earliest. The incidents of the hunt were
related at the return; the experiences of the past were told as a guide
to the present; and the first efforts of the imagination are the
depicting of fictitious occurrences, tradition and myth, story and
history; these make up most of the entertainment of conversation to
Hence, in this primitive literature which I am describing, the narrative
portion is the most abundant. There was a natural aspiration on the part
of the natives, as soon as they had learned the art of writing, to
preserve in permanent form the records, more or less authentic, of their
tribes and ancestors. This desire of preserving the national history is
shown by the works of Copway, Jones, Cusick, Ixtlilxochitl, and others,
to whom I have already referred, who wrote in European tongues.
If we begin our survey at the extreme north, we find the Eskimo, amid
his depressing surroundings of eternal frost and months-long nights, an
unwearied chatterbox, reciting his own and his ancestors' adventures,
and weaving from his fancy the most extraordinary web of fictitious
experiences. Once taught to write, hundreds of these tales were
committed to paper by native hands. The manuscript collection of such in
the possession of the learned and indefatigable Dr. Heinrich Rink
contains considerably over two thousand pages, and the charming
rendering into English, which has been published by his efforts, is a
storehouse of weird conceptions and partly historic traditions about the
past of Greenland and Labrador. What adds to their interest is that most
of the illustrations are wood-cuts by native artists, truthfully setting
forth their own mental pictures.
Another Eskimo composition, in the dialogue style, is before me as I
write. It is the description by Pok, a Greenlander, of his journey to
Europe and his return. The narrative forms a pamphlet of eighteen pages,
with several quaint colored illustrations, and it is one of the rare
products of the Godthaab press in Greenland to which we can assign a
genuine native origin.
Another, which reveals still more distinctly the artistic and
imaginative capacities of that strange race, was published at Godthaab,
in 1860. Mr. Field remarks of it:--"An Esquimau of Greenland, with his
pencil, has, in this work, attempted to give representations of the
traditions, manners, weapons and habits of life of his own race."
Among the tribes of the eastern United States there were a few
individuals who attempted to compose somewhat extensive records in their
One of the most curious examples is that known as the _Walum Olum_,
a short account of the early history of the Delaware tribe, written in
that idiom, with mnemonic symbols attached. Its history is not very
complete. A "Dr. Ward, of Indiana" is said to have obtained it from a
member of the nation, in 1822. From him it passed into the hands of
Prof. C.S. Rafinesque, an eccentric and visionary Frenchman, who passed
the later years of his life in Philadelphia. He undertook to translate
it, and after his death the translation, together with the original,
came into the possession of Mr. E.G. Squier. By him it was first
published, but in a partial and incomplete manner, much of the original
text and many of the mnemonic symbols being omitted, and no effort being
made to improve Rafinesque's translation.
The _Book of Rites_ of the Iroquois or Six Nations, lately
edited by Mr. Horatio Hale, is one of the most remarkable native
productions north of Mexico. Its authenticity and antiquity are
indisputable. The rites it describes are the ceremonies and set
speeches, the chants and formulas, of what is called "The Council of
Condolence," whose function is to express the national sense of loss at
the death of a chief, and to conduct the inauguration of his successor.
The publication of this ritual, supported as it is with the learned
notes of Mr. Hale, and an introduction by him, on the history, formation
and purpose of the famous League of the Iroquois, has thrown a
remarkable light, not merely on the ethnology of the district where the
Iroquois were located, but on the mental characteristics of the red race
in general. It is a refutation of the unscientific assumptions of a good
many would-be scientific men, who are self-blinded by their theories of
development to obvious facts in the mental powers of uncultivated
Of less general importance, but admirable also for competent editorship,
is the short narrative of the Nipissing Chief, Francois Kaondinoketc,
which was published a few years ago, both in the original and with a
French translation, by a Canadian missionary, eminent alike for his
piety and his learning. It recites the journey of a half-breed Christian
Indian into the country of the heathen tribe of Beaver Indians, and the
miraculous interposition by which his life was saved when these Pagans
had caught him. They told him he must kill an eagle flying far above
them; at his prayer, the bird descended and came within the reach of his
sabre. In turn, he asked them to shoot their arrows into a tree; but by
rubbing it with holy water, the bark was so hardened that not one of
their shafts could pierce it. So they confessed the greatness of the
This charmingly naive narrative makes us doubly regret that the editor's
projected _Chrestomathie Algonquine_ has not been carried out in
The southern Atlantic coast of the United States was principally
occupied by the Muskokee or Creek tribe, who occupied the territory as
far west as the Mississippi. Their language was first reduced to writing
in the Greek alphabet, by the Moravian missionaries, about 1733; but at
present a modified form of the English alphabet is in use. They had a
very definite and curious tribal history, full of strange metaphors and
obscure references. It was, according to old authorities, "written in
red and black characters, on the skin of a young buffalo," and was read
off from this symbolic script by their head-chief, Chekilli, to the
English, in 1735, and skin and translation were both sent to London, and
both lost there. But, luckily, the Moravian missionaries preserved a
faithful translation of it, and this, some years ago, I brought to the
notice of students of these matters.
Its authenticity is beyond question, and to this day the chiefs of the
Creeks recollect many of the points it contains, and have repeated it to
the eminent linguist, Mr. A.S. Gatschet, who has taken it down afresh
from their lips, and is preparing it for publication. Collateral
evidence is also furnished by "General" Milfort, a French adventurer,
who lived among the Creeks several years, toward the close of the last
century, and testifies that they preserved, "by beads and belts," the
memory of the adventures of their ancestors, and recited to him a long
account of them, which he repeats with that negligence which everywhere
marks his carelessly prepared volume.
Their northern neighbors, the Cherokees, use an alphabet invented by
Sequoyah, one of themselves, in 1824. It is syllabic, of eighty-five
characters, and is used for printing. Sequoyah had no intention of
aiding the missionaries; he preferred the "old religion," and when he
saw the New Testament printed in his characters, he expressed regret
that he had ever invented them. What he wanted was to teach his people
useful arts, and to preserve the national traditions. I have little
doubt they were written down; but here, again, I have failed of success
in my inquiries.
This is a poor showing of native literature for all the tribes in the
vast area of the United States. But, except some orations and poems,
hereafter to be mentioned, it is almost all that I can name. Passing
southward the harvest becomes richer. When Bishop Landa, in Yucatan, and
Bishop Zumarraga, in Mexico, made bonfires, in the public squares of
Mani and Tlaltilulco, of the priceless literary treasures of the Mayas
and Aztecs, their maps, their parchment rolls, their calendars on wood,
their painted paper books, their inscribed histories, it is recorded
that the natives bewailed bitterly this obliteration of their sciences
and their archives. Some of them set to work to recover the memories
thus doomed to oblivion, and to write them out, as best they could.
Most fertile of these were those who wrote in the Nahuatl tongue,
otherwise known as the Aztec or Mexican, this being most widely spoken
in Mexico, and the first cultivated by the missionaries. Many of these
memoirs were short descriptions of towns or tribes, with their
traditional histories. Others narrated the customs and mythologies of
the race before the arrival of the whites. None were printed, and little
or no care was taken to collect or preserve the manuscripts, so that
probably most of them were destroyed. At length, in 1736-45, an
enthusiastic Italian archaeologist, the Chevalier Lorenzo Boturini
Benaduci, devoted nearly ten years to collecting everything of the kind
which would throw light on ancient Mexican history. He was quite
successful, and his library, had it been preserved intact, would have
been to-day an invaluable source of information. But the jealous Spanish
government threw Boturini into prison; his library was scattered and
partly lost, and he died of chagrin and disappointment. Yet to him we
probably owe the preservation of the writings of Ixtlilxochitl,
Tezozomoc, and others who wrote in Spanish, and whose volumes have since
seen the light in the collections of Bustamente, Lord Kingsborough,
Ternaux-Compans, and elsewhere.
The Nahuatl MSS. have remained unedited. Few took an interest in their
contents, fewer still in the language. The science of linguistics is
very modern, and that even so perfect an idiom as the Nahuatl could
command the attention of scholars for its own sake, had not dawned on
the minds of patrons of learning.
Boturini catalogues some forty or fifty more or less fragmentary
anonymous MSS. in Nahuatl, which he had gathered together. I shall
recall only those whose authors he names. Some three or four historical
works were written in Nahuatl by Don Domingo de San Anton Munon
Chimalpain, whom I have already mentioned as an author in Spanish also.
Of his Nahuatl works his _Cronica Mexicana_, which traces the
history of his nation from 1068 to 1597, would be the most worthy an
editor's labors. It is now in the possession of M. Aubin.
The _Cronica de la muy noble y leal Ciudad de Tlaxcallan_, by Don
Juan Ventura Zapata y Mendoza, cacique of Quiahuiztlan, extends from the
earliest times to the year 1689. A copy of it, I have some reason to
think, is in Mexico. Boturini possessed the original, and it should, by
all means, be sought out and printed.
The ancient history of the same city was also treated of by one of the
earliest native writers, and his work, in Nahuatl, alleged to have been
translated by the interpreter Francisco de Loaysa, was obtained from the
latter by Boturini.
An account of Tezcuco and its rulers, after the Conquest until 1564, was
the work of a native, Juan de San Antonio; while Don Gabriel de Ayala, a
native noble of that city, composed a history of the Tezcucan and
Mexican events, extending from 1243 to 1562.
Of the anonymous MSS. in Boturini's list, I shall mention only one, as
it alone, of all his Nahuatl records, has succeeded in reaching
publication. He called it a _History of the Kingdoms of Culhuacan and
Mexico_. A copy of it passed to Mexico, where it was translated by
the Licentiate Faustino Chimalpopocatl Galicia, but in a very imperfect
and incorrect manner. The Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg copied the original
and the translation, and bestowed on the document both a new name,
_Codex Chimalpopoca_, and a whimsical geological signification. In
1879, the Museo Nacional of Mexico began in their _Anales_ the
publication of the original text, this time under still another title,
the _Anales de Cuauhtitlan_, with two translations, that of
Galicia, and a new one by Profs. G. Mendoza and Felipe Sanchez Solis. Up
to the present time, 1883, the work is not completed; but its signal
importance to ancient history and mythology is amply indicated by the
part in type.
Doubtless there were many MSS. which Boturini did not find, and there
are, probably, to this day, going to dust in private and public
libraries in Spain, valuable documents in the Nahuatl tongue. For a
long time it was supposed that the Nahuatl original of Father Bernardino
de Sahagun's _History of New Spain_ was lost; but at the meeting of
the _Congres des Americanistes_, in Madrid, in 1881, a part of it,
at least, was exhibited. This work almost belongs to aboriginal
literature, for a considerable portion of it, notably the third, sixth
and twelfth books, treating, respectively, of the origin of the gods,
the Aztec oratory, and their ancient history, are mainly native
narratives and speeches, taken down, word for word, in the original
tongue. Spanish scholars could not render a greater service to American
ethnology and linguistics than in the publication of this valuable
There is, also, or, at any rate, there was, in the Royal Library at
Madrid, a Mexican hieroglyphic work, "all painted," with a translation
apparently into the Nahuatl tongue. I would inquire of the learned
linguists of Spain whether that document cannot be unearthed. And
further, I would ask whether all trace has been lost of the writings of
Don Gabriel Castaneda, Chief of Colomocho, who wrote, in Nahuatl, an
account of the conquest of the Chichimecs by the Viceroy Antonio de
Mendoza, in 1541. That Manuscript was last heard of in the library of
the Convent of San Ildefonso, in Mexico. Perhaps it would tell us who
the Chichimecs were, about which there is disagreement enough among
Of the strictly hieroglyphic records I shall not take account. Their
interpretation is yet uncertain, and, as linguistic monuments, they
have, at present, no standing.
Equal, or superior, in culture, to the Aztecs were the Maya tribes.
Their chief seat was in Yucatan, but they extended thence southwardly to
the shores of the Pacific, and westward along the Gulf coast to the
River Panuco. The language numbered about sixteen dialects, none very
remote from the parent stem, which linguists identify as the Maya proper
of the Yucatecan peninsula. While there are a number of verbal
similarities between Maya and Nahuatl, the radicals of the two idioms
and their grammatical structure are widely asunder. The Nahuatl is an
excessively pliable, polysyllabic and highly synthetic tongue; the Maya
is rigid, its words short, of one or two syllables generally, and is
scarcely more synthetic than French. This contrast is carried out in the
style of their writers. Those in Nahuatl were lovers of amplification,
of flowing periods, of Ciceronian fullness; the Mayas cultivated
sententious brevity, they are elliptical, often to obscurity, and may be
compared rather to Tacitus, in his _Annals_, than to Cicero.
All the Maya tribes had strong literary tastes, but with characteristic
tenacity they clung entirely to their native tongues; and I know not a
single instance where one has left compositions in Spanish. Their
language is easy to learn; to a stranger to both, Maya comes easier than
Spanish, as intelligent writers in Yucatan have testified; and this
aided its survival. Their passion for learning to read and write was
strong, and had it been fed, instead of rigidly suppressed, there is
little doubt but that they would have become a highly enlightened
nation. The wretched system which smothered free thought in Spain killed
it in Yucatan.
The principal literary monument in the pure Maya is the collection known
as "The Books of Chilan Balam." I have described this collection at
length in previous publications, and shall content myself with a brief
reference to it. The title "Chilan Balam" means, in this connection,
"the interpreting priest;" that is, the sacred official who, in the
ancient religion, revealed the will of the gods. There are at least
sixteen collections under this name in Maya, copies, probably, in part,
of each other. Their contents may be classified under four headings:--
1. Chronology, calendars, and history, before and after the Conquest.
2. Prophecies and astrology.
3. Medical recipes and directions.
4. Christian narratives.
Of these, the last two are modern. The Christian portions are lives of
saints, and prayers. The medical directions are often found separate,
under the title "The Book of the Jew." Its language is modern and
corrupt--_mestizado_, as the Spaniards express it.
The "Prophecies" are alleged to have been delivered one or several
generations before the Conquest. Their style is extremely obscure, and
many of the forms are archaic. If not genuine originals, they are
unquestionably very early and faithful imitations of the oracular
deliveries of the ancient Maya priests.
The historical portions include rude annals since the Conquest, and a
series of Chronicles, extending back to about the third century of the
Christian era. There are five versions of these, all of which I have
published, with translations and copious notes, as the first volume of
my "Library of Aboriginal American Literature."
Another class of Maya historical documents embraces the surveys and land
titles, many of which date from the sixteenth century. I have in my
possession a copy of one as far back as 1542, unquestionably the oldest
monument of the Maya language extant. Sometimes these titles were
accompanied by a family history. Such is "The Chronicle of Chac Xulub
Chen," written by the Chief Nakuk Pech, in 1562, which I have published.
It gives, in a confused style, a history of the Conquest, and throws
light on the methods by which the Spaniards succeeded in overcoming the
various native tribes.
We owe the preservation of most of the Maya MSS. to the enlightened
labors of Don Juan Pio Perez, a distinguished Yucatecan scholar, and the
compiler of the best printed dictionary of the Maya tongue. The most
complete collection now in existence is that of the Canon Crescencio
Carrillo y Ancona, a learned archaeologist, and author of an excellent
history of Maya literature.
After the Maya, the most important of these associated dialects was the
Cakchiquel. It was, and still is, spoken in Guatemala; and the Kiche
(Quiche), also current there, is so nearly allied to it that they may be
treated as one idiom. The Cakchiquel possesses an extensive Christian
literature, as it was cultivated assiduously by the early missionaries.
Indeed, there was, for many years, a chair in the University of
Guatemala created for teaching it, and it is often referred to as the
_lengua metropolitana_, Guatemala having been the see of an
archbishop. There are in existence extensive lexicons of Cakchiquel, and
in it, besides various collections of sermons, was written the once
celebrated work of Father Domingo de Vico, the _Theologia Indorum_,
probably the most complete theological treatise ever produced in a
native American tongue.
The most notable aboriginal production in Cakchiquel is one frequently
referred to by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg as the _Memorial de
Tecpan Atitlan_, The Records from Tecpan Atitlan. It is an
historical account of his family and tribe, written in the sixteenth
century by a member of the junior branch of the ruling house of the
Cakchiquels. His name was Don Francisco Ernantez Arana Xahila, and a
passage of the MS. informs us that he was writing in 1581. After his
death the work was continued by Don Francisco Tiaz Gebuta Queh. The
style is familiar and often vivid, and the work is addressed to his
children. It begins with the earliest myths and traditions of the tribe,
and follows their fortunes to the lifetime of the writer. In respect
both to mythology, history and language, it is one of the most
noteworthy monuments of American antiquity. A loose paraphrase of it was
made by Brasseur de Bourbourg, based upon which, a Spanish rendering was
published by the "Sociedad Economica de Guatemala," under the auspices
of Senor Gavarrete. Neither the original nor any correct translation has
A copy of this MS. is in my collection, and both the original and a
second copy are in Europe; but there were a number of similar historical
accounts, committed to writing by this people and their immediate
neighbors, of which we know little but the titles and a few extracts.
Thus, the historian of Guatemala, Don Domingo Juarros, quotes from the
MSS. of Don Francisco Gomez, _Ahzib Kiche_, or Chief Scribe of the
Kiches, of Don Francisco Garcia Calel Tzumpan, of Don Juan Macario,
nephew, and Don Juan Torres, son, of the Chief Chignavincelut, and "the
histories written by the Quiches, Cakchiquels, Pipils, Pocomans, and
others, who learned to write their tongues from their Spanish teachers."
These MSS. gave the genealogies of their families and the migrations of
their ancestors "from the time when the Toltecs, from whom they trace
descent, first entered the territory of Mexico, and found it inhabited
by the Chichimecs."
One of the motives prompting to the composition of these works was to
vindicate the claims of families to the sovereignty, or to the
possession of land. They were, in fact, a sort of briefs of titles to
real estate. One such is preserved, in the original, in the Brasseur
collection, and is catalogued as "The Royal Title of Don Francisco
Izquin, the last Ahpop Galel, or King, of Nehaib, granted by the lords
who invested him with his royal dignity, and confirmed by the last King
of Quiche, with other sovereigns, November 22, 1558." A Spanish
translation of the title of a female branch of this same family was
printed at Guatemala in 1876, but the original text has never been put
to press, although it is said to be still preserved in one of the
ancient families of the Province of Totonicapam.
Another Kiche work, which has excited a lively but not very intelligent
interest among European scholars, is the _Popol Vuh_, National
Book, a compendious account of their mythology and traditional history.
A Spanish translation of it by Father Francisco Ximenez was edited in
Vienna, in 1857, by Dr. Carl Scherzer. The Abbe Brasseur followed, in
1861, by a publication of the original text, and a new translation into
French. This text fills 173 octavo pages, so that it will be seen
that it offers an ample specimen of the tongue.
Neither of these translations is satisfactory. Ximenez wrote with all
the narrow prejudices of a Spanish monk, while Brasseur was a Euhemerist
of the most advanced type, and saw in every myth the statement of a
historical fact. There is need of a re-translation of the whole, with
critical linguistic notes attached. A few years ago, I submitted the
names and epithets of the divinities mentioned in the Popol Vuh to a
careful analysis, and I think the results obtained show clearly how
erroneous were the conceptions formed regarding them by both the
translators of the document. I shall not here go into the question of
its age or authorship, about which diverse opinions have obtained; but I
will predict that the more sedulously it is studied, the more certainly
it will be shown to be a composition inspired by ideas and narratives
familiar to the native mind long before the advent of Christianity.
I have been told that there are other versions of the _Popol Vuh_
still preserved among the Kiches, and it were ardently to be desired
that they were sought out, as there are many reasons to believe that the
copy we have is incomplete, or, at any rate, omits some prominent
features of their mythology.
One branch of the Maya race, the Tzendals, inhabited a portion of the
province of Chiapas. One of their hero-gods bore the name of
_Votan_, a word from a Maya root, signifying the breast or heart,
but from its faint resemblance to "Odin," and its still fainter
similarity to "Buddha," their myth about him has given rise to many
whimsical speculations. This myth was written down in the native tongue
by a Christianized native, in the seventeenth century. The MS. came into
the possession of Nunez de la Vega, Bishop of Chiapas, who quotes from
it in his _Constituciones Diocesanas_, printed in Rome, in 1702.
The indefatigable Boturini tells us that he tried in vain to find it,
about 1740, and supposed it was lost. But a copy of it was seen and
described by Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera, in 1790. Possibly it is still in
existence, and there are few fragments of American literature which
would better merit a diligent search. As to the meaning of the Votan
myth, I have ventured an explanation of it in another work.
In South America, the only native historical writers who employed their
own tongue appear to have been of the Peruvian Qquichua stock. None of
their productions have been published, but one or more are in existence
and accessible. Prominent among them and deserving of early editing by
competent hands, is an anonymous treatise, partly translated by Dr.
Francisco de Avila, in 1608, on the "Errors, False Gods, Superstitions
and Diabolical Rites" of the natives of the provinces of Huarochiri,
Mama and Chaclla. The original text is in Madrid, and Avila's
translation, as far as it goes, has been rendered into English by Mr.
Clements R. Markham, and published in one of the Hackluyt Society's
A member of the Inca family, already referred to, Don Luis Inca, is
reported to have written a series of historical notes, _Advertencias_,
"with his own hand and in his own tongue;" but what became of his
manuscript is not known.
There is another class of historical documents, which profess to be the
production of native hands, and which are moderately numerous. These are
the official letters and petitions drawn up by the chiefs in their own
tongues, and forwarded to the Spanish authorities. Of these, two
interesting specimens, one in the "Abolachi" tongue (a dialect of
Muskokee), and the other in Timucuana, were published in fac-simile by
the late Mr. Buckingham Smith, but in a very limited number of copies
(only fifty in all). Others in Nahuatl and Maya, also in fac-simile,
appear in that magnificent volume, the _Cartas de Indias_, issued
by the Spanish Government in 1880. Doubtless more examples could be
found in the public Archives in Spain, and they should all be collected
into one volume. They were probably prompted by the Spanish local
authorities; but it is likely that they show the true structure of the
language, and, of course, they have a positive historical value.
It is related in the Proceedings of the Municipal Council of Guatemala
that, in 1692, the Captain Antonio de Fuentes y Guzman laid before the
Council seven petitions, written in the native language, on the bark of
trees. Whatever of interest they contained was, no doubt, extracted
by that laborious but imaginative writer, and included in his
_History_, which has never been published, though several
manuscript copies of it are in existence.
It will be seen that some of the so-called historical literature I have
mentioned rests uncertain on the border line between fact and fancy.
These old stories may be vague memories of past deeds, set in a frame of
mythical details; or they may be ancient myths, solar or meteorological,
which came to receive credence as actual occurrences. The task remains
for special students of such matters to sift and analyze them, and
settle this debateable point.
There is another class of narrations, about which there can be no doubt
as to their purely imaginative origin. These are the animal myths, the
fairy stories, the fireside tales of giants and magicians, with which
the hours of leisure are whiled away. Several collections of these have
been made, the words and phrases taken down precisely as the native
story-teller delivered them, and thus they come strictly within the
lines of aboriginal literature. They are the spontaneous outgrowth of
the native mind, and are faithful examples of native speech.
Over a hundred such tales have been collected by Dr.
Couto de Magalhaes, as narrated by the Tupis of Brazil, and
many of them have been published with all desirable fidelity,
and with a philosophical introduction and notes, in a volume
issued by the Brazilian government, under his editorial care.
A similar collection of Tupi stories was made by the late Prof. Charles
F. Hartt, whose early death was a loss to more than one branch of
science. It was his intention to edit them with the necessary notes and
vocabularies; but, so far as I know, the only specimens which appeared
in print were those he laid before the American Philological
Association, in 1872. The inquiries I have instituted about his MSS.
have not been successful.
Numerous texts of this description have been obtained from the Klamath
Indians by Mr. A.S. Gatschet, and from the Omaha by the Rev. J. Owen
Dorsey, both of which collections are in process of publication by the
Bureau of Ethnology at Washington. Scattered specimens of stories of
this kind have also been obtained by a number of travelers, and they are
always a welcome aid to the study both of the psychology and language of
Section 4. _Didactic Literature_.
The more civilized American tribes had made considerable advances in
some of the natural sciences, and in none more than in practical
astronomy. By close observation of the heavenly bodies they had
elaborated a complicated and remarkably exact system of chronology. They
had determined the length of the year with greater accuracy than the
white invaders; and the different cycles by which they computed time
allowed them to assign dates to occurrences many hundreds of years
Although there are local differences, the calendars in use in Central
and Southern Mexico and in Central America were evidently derived from
one and the same original. A great deal has been written upon them, but
for all that many questions about them remain unanswered. We do not know
the Maya method of intercalation; we do not understand the uses of the
shorter Mexican year, of 260 days; we are at a loss to explain the
purpose of doubling the length of certain months, as prevailed among the
Cakchiquels; we are in the dark about the significance of the names of
many days and months; we cannot see why the nations chose to begin the
count of the year at different seasons; and there are ever so many more
knotty problems about this remarkable system and its variations.
What we imperatively need is a supply of authentic aboriginal calendars,
accurately reproduced, for purposes of comparison. Boturini collected a
number of these, which he describes, and long before his day some
specimens had been published by Valades and Gemelli Carreri. They
were, in ancient times, usually depicted by circular drawings, called by
the Spaniards, Wheels (_ruedas_). After the Conquest they were
written out, more in the form of our almanacs. One such, in the Maya
tongue, with a translation, was contributed to Mr. Stephens' _Travels
in Yucatan_, by the eminent Maya scholar, Don Juan Pio Perez.
Several others were in his collection, and are accessible. Dr. Berendt
succeeded in securing _fac similes_ of Kiche and Cakchiquel
calendars, written out in the seventeenth century, and these are now in
my possession. I fear we have no perfect examples of the Zapotec
calendar, nor of that of the Tarascos of Michoacan, although an
anonymous author, most of whose MS. has been preserved, reduced the
latter to writing, and it may some day turn up. The Aztec calendars
collected by Boturini would, were they published, give us sufficient
material, probably, to understand clearly the methods of that tribe.
One momentous purpose which the calendar served was for supplying omens
and predictions; another was for the appointment of fasts and festivals,
for the religious ritual. The calendar arranged for these objects was
called, in the Nahuatl, _tonalamatl_, "the book of days," and in
Maya _tzolante_, "that by which events are arranged." So intimately
were all the acts of individual and national life bound up with these
superstitions, that an understanding of them is indispensable to a
successful study of the psychology and history of the race.
After the Conquest some of the notions about judicial astrology, then
prevalent in Europe, crept into the native understanding, and notably,
in the _Books of Chilan Balam_ we find forecastes of lucky and
unlucky days, and discussions of planetary influence, evidently borrowed
from the Spanish almanacs of the seventeenth century.
Most of the Aborigines of the Continent possessed a keen sense of
locality, and often a certain rude skill in cartography. The relative
position of spots and proportionate distances were approximately
represented by rough drawings. They knew the boundaries of their lands,
the courses of streams, the trend of shores, and could display them
intelligently. These maps, as they are called, present a very different
appearance from ours. Those of the Aztecs are rather pictured diagrams,
something like those we find in fifteenth century books of travel. A
fair specimen, though of date later than the Conquest, was published not
long since, in Madrid.
The Maya maps are even more conventional. A central point is taken,
usually a town, around which is drawn either a circle or a square, on
the four sides of which are placed the figures of the four cardinal
points, and within the figures are the various symbols which denote the
villages, wells, ponds, and other objects which are to be designated.
Specimens of some of these, all after the Conquest, however, have been
published by Mr. Stephens and Canon Carrillo, and others are found in
the various _Books of Chilan Balam_.
Very few strictly scholastic works seem to have been produced by the
natives. Nearly all those which I have seen for use in the Mission
schools appear to be the productions of the white instructors,
generally, of course, aided by some intelligent native. I have in my
possession an _Ortografia en Lengua Kekchi_, picked up by Dr.
Berendt in Vera Paz, which was the work of Domingo Coy, an Indian of
Coban (MS. pp. 32). But on examination it proves to be merely an
adaptation of a _Manual de Ortografia Castellana_, in use in the
schools, and not an original effort. For all that, it is not without
linguistic value. In Mexico a useful little book of instruction in
Nahuatl has been prepared by the licentiate Faustino Chimalpopoca
Galicia, a scholar of indigenous extraction. An older work, of a
similar character, by Don Antonio Tobar, a descendant of the Montezumas,
is mentioned by bibliographers, but never was printed, and has probably
It has always been part of the policy of both Catholic and Protestant
missions to permit the natives to enter the career of the church; in the
territories of both confessions instances are moderately numerous of
priests and preachers of half or full Indian blood. Most of these
educated men, however, rather shunned the cultivation of their maternal
tongues, and preferred, when they wrote at all, to choose that of their
white brethren, the Spanish, Portuguese or English. The extensive
theological literature which we possess, printed or in manuscript, in
American tongues, and in many it is quite ample, is scarcely ever the
result of the efforts of the Christian teachers of indigenous
A notable exception was the licentiate Bartolome de Alva, a native
Mexican, descended from the Tezcucan kings, who composed, in Nahuatl and
Spanish, a _Confessionario_, which was printed at Mexico in 1634.
It contains some interesting references to the mythology and
superstitions of the natives.
The Indian Elias Boudinot and other Cherokees have printed many essays
and tracts in that tongue, but whether original or merely translated I
do not know. The sermons of the native Protestant missionaries to their
fellows were probably extempore addresses. At any rate, I have not seen
any in manuscript or print. A volume of the kind exists, however, in
manuscript, in the Library of the _Instituto Historico_ of Rio
Janeiro, which it would be very desirable to have printed. It is the
_Sermones e Exemplos em lengua Guarani_, by Nicolas Japuguay, cura
of the Parish of San Francisco in 1727. But when it is edited, let us
hope that it will be a more favorable example of critical care than the
_Crestomathia da Lingua Brasilica_, edited by Dr. Ernesto Ferreira
Franca (Leipzig, 1859), which, according to Professor Hartt, is "badly
arranged, carelessly edited, and disfigured by innumerable typographical
A curious variety of religious literature is what are called the
Passions, _Las Pasiones_, which are found among the natives of the
Isthmus of Tehuantepec. These prose chants took their rise at an early
period among the sodalities (_cofradias_), organized under the name
of some particular saint. Each of these societies possessed a volume,
called its Regulations (_Ordenanzas_), containing, among other
matters, a series of invocations, founded on the history of the Passion
of Christ. During Holy Week, certain members of the fraternity, called
_fiscales_, gather in the church, around one of their number, who
reads a sentence in a loud voice. The fiscales repeat it in a chanting
tone, with a uniform and monotonous cadence. It is probable that these
chants are the compositions of the Indians themselves. Dr. Berendt
obtained several copies of these, some in the Chapaneca of Chiapas, and
others in the Zoque of the Isthmus, which are now in my hands.
Section 5. _Oratorical Literature._
The love of the American Indian for oratorical display has been
commented on by almost all writers who have studied his disposition.
Specimens of native eloquence have been introduced into school books,
and declaimed by many an aspiring young Cicero. Most of them are,
doubtless, as fictitious as Logan's celebrated speech, which was exalted
by the great Jefferson almost to a level with the outbursts of
Demosthenes, to be reduced again to very small proportions by the
criticisms of Brantz Mayer.
In fact, in spite of all that has been said about the native oratory,
we are in a very inadequate position to judge of it correctly, and this
because we have no accurate reports in the original tongues of their
speeches. Translations, more or less loose, more or less imaginary,
we have in abundance; but, for critical purposes, they are simply
Yet that even the ruder tribes in both the northern and southern
continents, attached great weight to the cultivation of oratory, is
amply evident. James Adair, who is competent authority, tells us that
the southern Indians studied public speaking assiduously, and that their
speeches "abound with bolder tropes and figures than illiterate
interpreters can well comprehend or explain." Mr. Howse writes that,
among the Crees, those who possess oratorical talent are in demand by
the Chiefs, who employ them to deliver the official harangues. Among
the Aztecs, the very word for chief, _tlatoani_, literally means
"orator" (from the verb _tlatoa_, to harangue). In the far south,
among the Araucanians of Chili, and their relatives the migratory hordes
of the Pampas, no gift is in higher estimation than that of an easy and
perspicuous delivery. This alone enables the humblest to rise to the
position of chieftain. So it was over the whole continent.
In most of their languages, the oratorical was markedly different from
the familiar or colloquial style. The former was given to antithesis,
repetition, elaborate figures, unusual metaphors, and more sonorous and
lengthened expressions. The Rev. Mr. Byington gives a number of the
oratorical affectations in the Choctaw, as _akakano_ for _ak_,
_okakocha_ for _ok_, etc.
Some genuine specimens of the oratory of the northern tribes are
preserved by Mr. Hale, in the Iroquois _Book of Rites_, to which I
have referred on a previous page. The speeches it contains were learned
by heart, and transmitted from generation to generation, long before
they were committed to writing, and long after some of the words and
expressions they contain had become lost to the colloquial language of
The ancient Mexicans were much given to this sort of formal
speech-making. They had a large number of cut-and-dried orations, which
professional rhetoricians delivered on all important occasions in life.
The new-born child was harangued at, in good set terms, when it was but
a few days old. Betrothals, marriages, festivals, the commencement of
puberty and of pregnancy, etc., were all celebrated by the delivery of
discourses. Fathers taught their children, teachers their pupils,
monarchs their vassals, war chiefs their soldiers, by such declamations.
The general name for these speeches was _huehuetlatolli_, ancient
Many have been preserved, and a tolerably complete collection could be
made in the original tongue. To effect this, we should have to have
recourse to the original Nahuatl MS. of Sahagun's history, which, I have
already said, exists in Madrid; next, to the extremely rare work of the
eminent Nahuatl scholar, Father Juan Baptista, _Platicas Morales_,
in which, according to Vetancurt, he gives, in the original, the ancient
addresses of fathers to their children, and of rulers to their
subjects; and lastly, to the recently published, though very early
written, _Mexican Grammar_, of the Franciscan Andre de Olmos, which
contains a number of these discourses, carefully edited and translated
by the accomplished scholar, M. Remi Simeon.
The numerous prayers to the heathen gods, preserved by Sahagun, are,
doubtless, faithfully recorded, and are accurate examples of the
elevated literary style of the ancient Aztecs. They should, by all
means, be printed, so that they could be accessible to those who would
acquaint themselves with the genius of the language and the psychology
of the people.
In the Qquichua of Peru, a few similar prayers to Viracocha have been
saved from oblivion, in the pages of Cristobal de Molina. One or more
copies of his _Relacion_ are in the United States, but it has only
appeared in print through a translation by Mr. Markham, in the Hackluyt
Society's publications. Some modern prayers of the Mayas are to be
found in the collection of Brasseur, and, doubtless, several of the
so-called ancient "prophecies," preserved in the _Books of Chilan
Balam_, are, in fact, specimens of the impassioned and mystic
rhapsodies with which the priests of their heathendom entertained their
hearers, as Cortes and his followers heard, one day, on the island of
Section 6. _Poetical Literature._
Man, remarks Wilhelm von Humboldt, belongs to the singing species of
animals. True it is, that wherever found, he has some notion of music,
cultivates the accord of sounds by some sort of instrument, and gives
expression to his most acute emotions in modulations of vocal tone.
The earliest and simplest poetry is nothing more than such modulated
sounds; it is not in definite words, and hence, is not capable of
translation; it is but the expression of feeling through the voice, as
is the wail of the infant, the rippling laughter of youth, the crooning
of senility, the groans of pain or sorrow.
Perhaps this first is also the highest expression of the aesthetic
sense. The most admired cantatrices of to-day drown the words in a
wealth of vocalization, and the meaning is lost, even were the language
one known to their hearers, which it usually is not. I have heard a
living poet, himself of no mean eminence, maintain that the harmony of
versification is a far higher test of true poetic power than the ideas
These principles must be borne in mind when we apply the canons of
criticism to the poetry of the ruder races. It is not composed to be
read, or even recited, but to be sung; its aim is, not to awaken thought
or convey information, but solely to excite emotion. It can have a
meaning only when heard, and only in the surroundings which gave it
Hence it is, that the notices of the poetry of American nations are so
scant and unsatisfactory. While all travelers agree that the tribes have
songs and chants, war songs, peace songs, love songs, and others, few
satisfactory specimens have been recorded. Those who have examined the
subject most accurately have found that many so-called songs are mere
repetitions of a few words, or even of simple interjections, over and
over again, with an endless iteration, in a chanting voice. The Dakota
songs which have been preserved by Riggs, the Chippeway songs obtained
from the interpreter Tanner, and the numerous specimens of native
Californian chants recorded by Powers, as well as many others of this
class which might be mentioned, are mainly of this character.
Consequently, they show very poorly in a translation, and
are apt to convey an unjustly depreciatory notion of the
nations which produce them. To estimate them aright, the
meter and the music must be taken into consideration, and also
their suitability to the minds to which they were addressed.
But the anthology of America is not limited to specimens of this kind.
In the Iroquois _Book of Rites_ there are funeral dirges of
considerable length, expressive and touching in meaning; and in the
Algonkin a few have been preserved in the original, which are authentic
and pleasing. Here, for instance, is a nearly literal version of a
Chippeway love song:--
"I will walk into somebody's dwelling,
Into somebody's dwelling will I walk.
To thy dwelling, my dearly beloved,
Some night will I walk, will I walk.
Some night in the winter, my beloved,
To thy dwelling will I walk, will I walk.
This very night, my beloved,
To thy dwelling will I walk, will I walk."
Much more striking, and to me strangely so, are the songs of the Taensa,
a small tribe who dwelt on the banks of the lower Mississippi. They are
now extinct, but a very curious account of their language, by a Spanish
missionary, has been preserved and recently published. The early
travelers speak of them as an unusually cultivated people, but one
cannot but be surprised to find them capable of composing an
epithalamium like the following:--
"Tikaens, thou buildest a house, thou bringest thy wife to live in it.
"Thou art married, Tikaens, thou art married.
"Thou wilt become famous; thy children will name thee among the elders.
Think of Tikaens as an old man!
"By what name is thy bride known? Is she beautiful? Are her eyes soft
as the light of the moon? Is she a strong woman? Didst thou understand
her signs during the dance?
"I know not whether thou lovest her, Tikaens.
"What said the old man, her father, when thou askedst for his pretty
"What betrothal presents didst thou give?
"Rejoice, Tikaens! be glad, be happy!
"Build thyself a happy home.
"This is the song of its building!"
Some of the songs of war and death are quite Ossianic in
style, and yet they appear to be accurate translations.
The comparatively elevated style of such poems need not cast doubt upon
them. The first European who wrote about the songs of the natives of
America, who was none other than the witty and learned Montaigne, paid a
high tribute to their true poetic spirit. Montaigne knew a man who had
lived among the Tupis of Brazil for ten or twelve years, and had learned
their language and customs. He remembered several of their songs of war
and love, and translated them to gratify the insatiable thirst for
knowledge of the famous essayist. The refrain of one of them, supposed
to be addressed to one of those beautiful serpents of the tropical
forests, ran thus:--
"O serpent, stay! stay, O serpent! that thy painted skin may serve my
sister as a pattern for the design and form of a rich cord, which I may
give to my love; for this favor, may thy beauty and grace be esteemed
beyond those of all other serpents."
"I have had enough to do with poetry," comments Montaigne on this
couplet, "to say about this that not only is there nothing barbarous in
this fancy, but that it is altogether worthy of Anacreon." Such is his
enthusiasm, indeed, that he finds in this simple and faithful expression
of sentiment the highest form of poesy; "the true, the supreme, the
divine; that which is above rules and beyond reasoning."
Scarcely can we call these words extravagant, when, in our own century,
another Frenchman, eminent as a scientific observer, and speaking from
the results of personal study on the spot, has said of the songs of a
tribe of this same Tupi stock, the Guarayos, that they cannot be
surpassed for grace of language and delicacy of expression.
Many interesting Klamath, Omaha and Zuni verses have been collected by
the efforts of Gatschet, Dorsey, Cushing and other zealous laborers
connected with the Bureau of Ethnology at Washington, and these will
shortly be accessible to all through the accurate publications of the
The melodious Nahuatl tongue lent itself readily to poetic composition,
and was cultivated enthusiastically in this direction long before the
Conquest. Apparently the poetic dialect never freed itself from the use
of unmeaning particles thrown in to complete the meter; as, indeed, may
also be said of the English popular song dialect, which retains to this
day very many such.
With this exception the Tezcucan poets, for it was in that province that
the muses were most assiduously worshiped, made use of a pure,
brilliant, figurative style, and had developed a large variety of
One of the most famous disciples of the lyre was Nezahualcoyotl, himself
sovereign of Tezcuco about the year 1460. He left seventy odes on
philosophical and religious subjects, which were borne in memory and
repeated after the Conquest. Translations of a few of them have come
down to us, but my inquiries as to the whereabouts of the originals, if,
indeed, they exist, have been fruitless. The Jesuit, Horatio Carochi,
published some ancient verses in his grammar of the Nahuatl (Mexico,
1645). Several which appear in later works do not seem to merit the
credit of antiquity. They are more like those which Sahagun wrote and
published, in Nahuatl, at a very early period, Christian songs,
intended to take the place of the ditties of love and chants of war,
which the natives had such a passion for singing.
Under the title _Cantares de los Mexicanos_, there was long
preserved in the library of the University of Mexico a manuscript of the
sixteenth or seventeenth century, with a large number of supposed
ancient Aztec songs; but what has become of it now, nobody knows.
Thus it is that these precious monuments of antiquity are allowed to lie
uncared for, through generations, until, at length, they fall a prey to
ignorance or theft.
A few other fragments of Nahuatl poetry, all probably modern, but some
of them the versification of native bards, might be named; but the whole
of it, as now existing, could give us but a faint idea of the perfection
to which the art appears to have attained in the palmy days of the great
In the literature of the Maya group of dialects, there have been
preserved various sacred chants, some in the _Books of Chilan
Balam_, others in the Kiche _Popol Vuh_. What are known as the
"Maya Prophecies" are, as I have said, evidently the originals, or
echoes of the mystic songs of the priests of Kukulkan and Itzamna,
deities of the Maya pantheon, who were supposed to inspire their
devotees with the power of foretelling the future.
The modern Maya lends itself very readily both to rhyme and rhythm, and
I have in my possession some quite neat specimens of versification in
it, from the pen of the Yucatecan historian, Apolinar Garcia y Garcia.
When we reach Peru we find a race not less poetical in temperament than
the cultured Mexicans. Nothing but their ignorance of an alphabet, and
the indifference or fanatical hatred of the early explorers for the
productions of the native intellect, prevented the perpetuation of a
Qquichua literature, both extensive and noble. As it is, we may expect
many valuable examples of it when the learned Peruvian scholar, Senor
Gavino Pacheco Zegarra, shall publish his long promised _Tresor de la
Langue des Incas_. Among them he has announced the first appearance
of a number of _Yaravis_, or elegiac chants, composed by the
Indians themselves, and sung in memory of their departed friends.
We know, from the testimony of Garcillaso de la Vega, that the Inca
bards formed a separate and highly respected class, and that in their
hands the supple Qquichua tongue had been brought under well recognized
rules of prosody. He mentions the different classes and subjects of
their poems, compares them to similar compositions in Spanish, and even
gives specimens of two short ones, of undoubted antiquity, and adds
that, when a boy, he knew many others. "What would not one now give,"
exclaims Mr. Markham, "for those precious relics of Inca civilization,
which the half-caste lad allowed to slip from his memory." All that
Mr. Markham could collect, in his extensive journeys in Peru, were not
above twenty songs of ancient date, and I regret to say that these have
not yet been published.
Of those charming Tupi songs, to which I have already referred, I fear
that we have but very few preserved in the original tongue. Not that
there is any lack of poems in the _lingoa geral_, or "common
language" of Brazil, as the ordinary and corrupt Tupi there spoken is
called. It is a melodious idiom, lending itself easily to rhyme and
rhythm, and several Brazilian writers of European blood have gained
reputation by their compositions in it. But of genuine aboriginal
productions, there are not many.
The entertaining old voyager, Jean de Lery, who visited Brazil with
Villegagnon in 1557, has recorded a few simple airs, which appear to be
merely choruses or refrains of songs, the delivery of which was,
however, so effective, that to hear them carried him out of himself; and
ever, when his memory recalled them, his heart beat, and it seemed that
he heard the wild cadence once again resounding in his ears through the
Some strange old poetic invocations in archaic Tupi addressed to the
moon and to the god of love, Ruda, who dwells in the clouds, have been
collected and printed by Dr. Couto de Magalhaes, a writer whose studies
on Tupi poetry, its character and development, merit high praise.
Both the songs and music of the modern natives of that country attracted
the attention of the learned Von Martius, and in his volumes of
_Travels in Brazil_ an appendix is devoted to their discussion.
Many excellent hints for preparing a Tupi anthology are also contained
in an erudite note of Ferdinand Denis to his description of the visit of
fifty native Tupis to France, in 1550.
Section 7. _Dramatic Literature_.
The development of the dramatic art can be clearly traced
in the American nations. When the Spaniards first explored
the West Indian Islands they found the inhabitants much
given to festivals which combined dancing with chanting,
and the introduction of figures with peculiar costumes. The
native name of these representations was adopted by the
Spaniards, and applied to such performances elsewhere. The
word is _areytos_, and is derived from the Arawack verb, _aririn_,
to rehearse, recite.
Such dramatic recitations were found among most of the tribes of North
and South America, and have been frequently described by travelers.
Often they were of a religious nature, having something to do with
devotional exercises; but not seldom they were simply for amusement.
Occasionally they were mere pantomimes, where the actors appeared in
costume and masks, and went through some ludicrous scene. Thus, to quote
one example out of many, Lieutenant Timberlake saw some among the
Cherokees, about the middle of the last century, which he speaks of as
"very diverting," where some of the actors dressed in the skins of wild
animals, and the simulated contest between these pretended beasts and
the men who hunted them, were the motives of the entertainment.
From the solemn religious representations on the one hand and these
diverting masquerades on the other, arose the two forms of tragedy and
comedy, both of which were widely popular among the American
aborigines. The effete notion that they were either unimaginative or
insusceptible to humor is, to be sure, still retained by a few writers,
who are either ignorant or prejudiced; but it has been refuted so often
that I need not stop to attack it. In fact, so many tribes were of a gay
and frolicsome disposition, so much given to joking, to playing on
words, and to noticing the humorous aspect of occurrences, that they
have not unfrequently been charged by the whites best acquainted with
them, the missionaries, with levity and a frivolous temperament.
Among the many losses which American ethnology has suffered, that of the
text of the native dramas is one of the most regretable. Is is, however,
not total. Two have been published which claim to be, and I think are,
faithful renditions of the ancient texts as they were transmitted
verbally, from one to another, in pre-Columbian times.
The most celebrated of these is the drama of _Ollanta_, in the
Qquichua language of Peru. No less than eight editions of this have been
published, the last and best of which is that by the meritorious
scholar, Senor Gavino Pacheco Zegarra. The internal evidence of the
antiquity of this drama has been pronounced conclusive by all competent
The plot is varied and ingenious, and the characters agreeably
contrasted. Ollanta is a warrior of low degree, who falls in love with
Cusi Coyllur, daughter of the Inca, who returns his affection. The
lovers have secret meetings, and Ollanta asks the sovereign to sanction
their union. The proud ruler rejects the proposal with scorn, and the
audacious warrior gathers his adherents and attacks the State, at first
with success. But Cusi Coyllur is thrown into prison and her child, the
fruit of her illicit love, is separated from her. The Inca dies, and
under his successor Ollanta is defeated and brought, a prisoner, to the
capital. Mindful, however, of his merits, the magnanimous victor pardons
him, restores him to his honors, and returns to his arms Cusi Coyllur
and her child. Minor characters are a facetious youth, who is constantly
punning and joking; and the dignified figure of the High Priest of the
Sun, who endeavors to dissuade the hero from his seemingly hopeless
The second drama to which I refer is that of _Rabinal Achi_, in the
Kiche tongue of Guatemala. The text was obtained by the Abbe Brasseur de
Bourbourg, and edited with a French translation. The plot is less
complete than that of the _Ollanta_, and the constant repetitions,
while they constitute strong evidence of its antiquity and native
origin, are tedious to a European reader.
Rabinal-Achi is a warrior who takes captive a distinguished foe, Canek,
and brings him before the ruler of Rabinal, King Hobtoh. The fate of the
prisoner is immediate death and he knows it, but his audacity and
bravery do not fail him. He boasts of his warlike exploits, and taunts
his captors, like an Iroquois in his death song, and his enemies listen
with respect. He even threatens the king, and has to be restrained from
attacking him. As his end draws near, he asks to drink from the royal
cup and eat from the royal dish; it is granted. Again, he asks to be
clothed in the royal robe; it is brought and put about him. Once more he
makes a request, and it is to kiss the virgin mouth of the daughter of
the king, and dance a measure with her, "as the last sign of his death
and his end." Even this is conceded, and one might think that it was his
uttermost petition. But no; he asks one year's grace, wherein to bid
adieu to his native mountains. The king hears this in silence, and Canek
disappears; but returning in a moment, he scornfully inquires whether
they supposed he had run away. He then, in a few strong words, bids a
last farewell to his bow, his shield, his war-club and battle-axe, and
is slain by the warriors of the king.
The love of dramatic performances was not crushed out in the natives by
the Conquest. In fact, in the Spanish countries, it was turned to
account and cultivated by the missionaries as a means of instructing
their converts in religion, by "miracle plays" or _autos
sacramentales_, as they are called. It was even permitted to the more
intelligent natives to compose the text of plays. One such, manifestly,
I think, the work of a native author, in the mixed Nahuatl-Spanish
dialect of Nicaragua, I have prepared for publication. The original was
found by Dr. Berendt in Masaya, and his copy, without note or
translation, came into my hands.
The play is a light comedy, and is called "The Ballet of the Gueegueence
or the Macho-Raton." The characters are a wily old rascal, Gueegueence,
and his two sons, the one a chip of the old block, the other a bitter
commentator on the family failings. They are brought before the Governor
for entering his province without a permit; but by bragging and promises
the foxy old man succeeds both in escaping punishment and in effecting a
marriage between his scapegrace son and the Governor's daughter. The
interest is not in the plot, which is trivial, but in the constant play
on words, and in the humor, often highly Rabelaisian, of the anything
but venerable parent.
The "Zacicoxol," or Drama of Cortes and Montezuma, written in Kiche, of
which I have a copy, may possibly be the work of an Indian, but is
probably largely that of one of the Spanish curas, and appears to have
little in it of interest.
Another and peculiar form of dramatic recitation is what are called the
Loas or _Logas_, of Central America. In these, a single individual
appears in some quaint costume, in a little theatre erected for the
purpose, and recites a burlesque poem, acting the different portions of
it to the best of his ability. At present, most of these _Logas_
are of a semi-religious character. The one I have is entitled "The Loga
of the Child-God," _Loga del nino Dios_, and is written in Spanish
intermingled with words from the Mangue or Chorotegan language. This
tongue, spoken by a few persons in Nicaragua, is closely akin to the
Chapanec of Chiapas, and was a sonorous and rich idiom. Those who spoke
it were much given to scenic representations, as we learn from the
historian Oviedo, who lived among them for nearly a year, about 1527.
None of these remain, though as late as about 1820, one of great
antiquity, believed to be an original native production, continued to be
acted. Its title was _La Ollita_ or _El Canahuate_, the former
word meaning the peculiar musical instrument of that locality, the
"whistling jar." The subject was a tale of love, and one of these
primitive flutes was used as an accompaniment to the songs.
Section 8. _Conclusion_.
Thus do I answer the questions which I proposed at the outset of my
thesis. If I have failed to justify the expectations which I may have
raised, at least I have thrown into strong relief the cause of my
failure, to wit, the utter and incredible neglect which, up to this
hour, has prevailed with regard to the preservation of what relics of
native literature which we know have existed,--which do still exist.
Time and money are spent in collecting remains in wood and stone, in
pottery and tissue and bone, in laboriously collating isolated words,
and in measuring ancient constructions. This is well, for all these
things teach us what manner of men made up the indigenous race, what
were their powers, their aspirations, their mental grasp. But closer to
very self, to thought and being, are the connected expressions of men in
their own tongues. The monuments of a nation's literature are more
correct mirrors of its mind than any merely material objects. I have at
least shown that there are some such, which have been the work of native
American authors. My object is to engage in their preservation and
publication the interest of scholarly men, of learned societies, of
enlightened governments, of liberal institutions and individuals, not
only in my own country, but throughout the world. Science is
cosmopolitan, and the study of man is confined by no geographical
boundaries. The languages of America and the literary productions in
those languages have every whit as high a claim on the attention of
European scholars as have the venerable documents of Chinese lore, the
mysterious cylinders of Assyria, or the painted and figured papyri of
the Nilotic tombs.
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: What Dr. Washington Matthews says of one of the Sioux
tribes is, in substance, true of all on the Continent:--
"Long winter evenings are often passed in reciting and listening to
stories of various kinds. Some of these are simply the accounts given by
the men, of their own deeds of valor, their hunts and journeys; some are
narrations of the wonderful adventures of departed heroes; while many
are fictions, full of impossible incidents, of witchcraft and magic. The
latter class of stories are very numerous. Some of them have been handed
down through many generations; some are of recent origin; while a few
are borrowed from other tribes. Some old men acquire great reputation as
story tellers, and are invited to houses, and feasted, by those who are
desirous of listening to them. Good story tellers often originate tales,
and do not disclaim the authorship. When people of different tribes meet
they often exchange tales with one another. An old Indian will occupy
several hours in telling a tale, with much elegant and minute
description."--_Ethnography and Philology of the Hidatsa Indians_,
pp. 62-3. (Washington, 1877.)]
[Footnote 2: That these assertions are not merely my own, but those of
the most profound students of these tongues, will be seen from the
following extracts, which could easily be added to:--
"This language [the Cree] will be found to be adequate, not only to the
mere expression of their wants, but to that of every circumstance or
sentiment that can, in any way, interest or affect uncultivated
minds."--Joseph Howse, _A Grammar of the Cree Language_, p. 12.
"J'ai affirme que nos deux grandes langues du Nouveau Monde [the
Iroquois and the Algonkin] etaient tres claires, tres precises,
exprimant avec facilite non seulement les relations exterieures des
idees, mais encore leur relations metaphysiques. C'est ce qu' out
commence de demontrer mes premiers chapitres de grammaire, et ce
qu'achevera de faire voir ce que je vais dire sur les verbes."--Rev. M.
Cuoq, _Jugement Errone de M. Ernest Renan sur les Langues
Sauvages._ p. 32 (2d Ed. Montreal, 1869.)
"Affermo che non e facile di trovare una lingua piu atta della Messicana
a trattar le materie metafisiche; poiche e difficile di trovarne
un' altra, che tanto abbondi, quanto quella, di nomi astratte."--Clavigero,
_Storia Antica del Messico_, Tomo IV, p. 244. (Cesena, 1781.)
"Todos los bellisimos sentimientos que se albergan en los nobles
corazones en ninguna otra de aquellas lenguas (Europeas) pueden
encontrar una expresion tan viva tan patetica y energica como la que
tienen en Mexicano. ?En cual otra se habla con tanto acatamiento, con
veneracion tan profunda, de los altisimos mysterios de ineffable amor
que nos muestra el Cristianismo?"--Fr. Agustin de la Rosa, in the _Eco
de la Fe_. (Merida, 1870.)
Alcide d'Orbigny argues forcibly to the same effect, of the South
American languages:--"Les Quichuas et les Aymaras civilises ont une
langue etendue, pleine de figures elegantes, de comparaisons naives, de
poesie, surtout lorsqu'il s'agit d'amour; et il ne faut pas croire
qu'isoles au sein des forets sauvages ou jetes au milieu des plaines
sans bornes, les peuples chasseurs, agriculteurs et guerriers, soient
prives de formes elegantes, de figures riches et variees."--_L'Homme
Americain_, Tome I, p. 154.
For other evidence see Brinton, _American Hero Myths_, p. 25.
(Philadelphia, 1882.). Horatio Hale, _The Iroquois Book of Rites_,
p. 107. (Philadelphia, 1883.)]
[Footnote 3: _Ethnography and Philology of the Hidatsa Indians_,
[Footnote 4: _The Tribes of California_, p. 73. (Washington,
[Footnote 5: "Il n'est pas rare de trouver des individus parlant jusqu'a
trois ou quatre langues, aussi distinctes entr'elles que le francais et
l'allemand."--Alcide D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Americain_, Tome I, p.
170. The generality of this fact in South America was noted by Humboldt,
_Voyage aux Regions Tropicales_, T. III, p. 308.]
[Footnote 6: "Hay muchos de ellos buenos gramaticos, y componen
oraciones largas y bien autorizadas, y versos exametros y
pentametros."--Toribio de Motilinia, _Historia de los Indios de la
Nueva Espana_, Tratado III, cap. XII.]
[Footnote 7: _Menologio Franciscano de los Varones mas Senalados de la
Provincia de Mexico_, Tomo IV, pp. 447-9. (Mexico, 1871.)
In the Prologue to the _Sermonario Mexicano_ of F. Juan de Bautista
(Mexico, 1606), is a well-written letter, in Latin, by Don Antonio
Valeriano, a native of Atzcaputzalco, who was professor of grammar and
rhetoric in the College of Tlatilulco. Bautista says of him that he
spoke extempore in Latin with the eloquence of a Cicero or a Quintilian;
and his contemporary, the academician Francisco Cervantes Salazar,
writes: "Magistrum habent [Indi] ejusdem nationis, Antonium Valerianum,
nostris grammaticis nequaquam inferiorem, in legis christianae
observatione satis doctum et ad eloquentiam avidissimum."--_Tres
Dialogos Latinos de Francisco Cervantes Salazar_, p. 150 (Ed.
Icazbalceta, Mexico, 1875).]
[Footnote 8: Francisco de Paula Garcia Pelaez, _Memorias para la
Historia del Antiguo Reyno de Guatemala_, Tomo III, pp. 201 and 221
[Footnote 9: _Ritos Antiguos, Sacrificios e Idolatrias de los Indios
de la Nueva Espana_, in the _Coleccion de Documentos Ineditos para
la Historia de Espana_, Tom. 53, p. 300.]
[Footnote 10: _A Study of the Manuscript Troano_. By Cyrus Thomas,
Ph.D., with an Introduction by D.G. Brinton, M.D., p. xxvii.
[Footnote 11: "Tenian libros de pergaminos que hacian de los cueros de
venados, tan anchos como una mano o mas, e tan luengos como diez o doce
passos, e mas e menos, que se encogian e doblaban e resumian en el
tamano e grandeza de una mano por sus dobleces uno contra otro (a
manera de reclamo); y en aquestos tenian pintados sus caracteres o
figuras de tinta roxa o negra, de tal manera que aunque no eran letura
ni escritura, significaban y se entendian por ellas todo lo que querian
muy claramente."--Oviedo, _Historia General y Natural de Indias_,
Lib. XLII, cap. I.]
[Footnote 12: "Une ecriture consistant en raies tracees sur de petites
planchettes."--Alcide D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Americain_, Tomo L, p.
170, on the authority of Viedma, _Informe general de la Provincia de
Santa Cruz, MS_.]
[Footnote 13: _Legends and Tales of the Eskimo_. (Edinburgh and
[Footnote 14: _Pok, Kalalek avalangnek, etc._, Nongme, 1857; or,
_Pok, en Groenlaender, som har reist og ved sin Hjemkomst, etc. Efter
gamle Handskrifter fundne hos Groenlaendere ved Godthaab._ Godthaab,
[Footnote 15: _Kaladlit Assilialit, etc._ See Thomas W. Field,
_Indian Bibliography_, p. 199. (New York, 1873.)]
[Footnote 16: First printed in _The American Whig Review_, New York,
Feb. 1849; reprinted in _The Indian Miscellany_, edited by W.W.
Beach, Albany, 1877. I have not been able to find the original.]
[Footnote 17: Horatio Hale, _The Iroquois Book of Rites_.
(Philadelphia, 1883.) It is No. II of my "Library of Aboriginal American
The introductory essay, in ten chapters, treats at considerable length
of the ethnology and history of the Huron-Iroquois nations, the Iroquois
League and its founders (Hiawatha, Dekanawidah, and their associates),
the origin of the Book of Rites, the composition of the Federal Council,
the clan system, the laws of the League, and the historical traditions
relating to it, the Iroquois character and public policy, and the
Iroquois language. A map prefixed to the work shows the location of the
United Nations and of the surrounding tribes.]
[Footnote 18: _Recit de Francois Kaondinoketc, Chef des Nipissingues
(tribu de race Algonquine) ecrit par lui-meme en 1848.--Traduit en
Francais et accompagne de notes par_ M.N.O., 8vo. pp. 8. (Paris,
[Footnote 19: _The National Legend of the Chata-Muskokee Tribes_. By
Daniel G. Brinton, M.D. Morrisania, N.Y., 1870. 4to. pp. 13. Reprinted
from _The Historical Magazine_, February, 1870.]
[Footnote 20: "Les chefs des vieillards m'avoient souvent parle de leurs
ancetres, des courses qu'ils avoient faites, et des combats qu'ils
avoient eu a soutenir, avant que la nation put se fixer ou elle est
aujourd'hui. L'histoire de ces premiers Creeks, qui portoient alors le
nom de Moskoquis, etoit conservee par des banderoles ou chapelets,"
etc.--_Memoire ou Coup-d'Oeil Rapide sur mes different Voyages et mon
Sejour dans la Nation Creck,_ Par le Gen. Milfort, pp. 48, 229.
(Paris, An. XI, 1802).]
[Footnote 21: "We burned all we could find of them," writes Bishop Landa,
"which pained the natives to an extraordinary degree."--_Relacion de
las Cosas de Yucatan_, p. 316. For a discussion of what was destroyed
at Mani see Cogolludo, _Historia de Yucatan_, 3d Ed., Vol. I, p.
604, note by the Editor. The efforts which have of late been made by
Senor Icazbalceta and the Reverend Canon Carrillo to modify the general
opinion of these acts of vandalism cannot possibly be successful. The
ruthless hostility of the Church to the ancient civilization, an
hostility founded on religious intolerance, could be proved by hundreds
of extracts from the early writers.]
[Footnote 22: Boturini's work is entitled _Idea de una Nueva Historia
General de la America Septentrional fundada sobre material copioso
defiguras, Symbolos, Caracteres, y Geroglificos, Cantares y Manuscritos
de Autores Indios_. Madrid, 1746. The fate of his collection is
sketched by Brasseur de Bourbourg, in the introduction to his
_Histoire des Nations civilisees de Mexique et de l'Amerique
Centrale_, Vol I.]
[Footnote 23: The following extract from Ixtlilxochitl sums up the native
authorities on which he relied for the particulars of the life of the
last prince of Tezcuco, and merits quotation as a bit of literary
"Autores son de todo lo referido, y de los demas de su vida y hechos los
infantes de Mexico Ytzcoatzin y Xiuhcozcatzin, y otros Poetas y
Historicos en los anales de las tres cabezas de esta Nueva Espana, y en
particular en los anales que hizo el infante Quauhtlazaciulotzin, primer
Senor del pueblo de Chiauhtla; y asimismo se halla en las relaciones que
escribieron los infantes de la ciudad de Tezcuco, Don Pablo, Don
Toribio, Don Hernando Pimentel y Juan de Pomar hijos y nietos del Rey
Nezalhualpiltzintli de Tezcuco, y asimismo el infante Don Alonso
Axiaicatzin Senor de Itztapalapan, hijo del rey de Cuitlahuac, y sobrino
del rey Motecutzomatzin."--Ixtlilxochitl, _Historia Chichimeca_,
[Footnote 24: In the celebrated library of J.F. Ramirez, were two folio
volumes, containing 1022 pages, entitled _Anales Antiguos de Mexico y
sus Contornos_. They included, besides various Spanish accounts, 27
fragments in the Nahuatl language, some translated and some not. The
titles of all are given by Don Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, in his
valuable and rare _Apuntes para un Catalogo de Escritores en Lenguas
Indigenas de America_, pp. 140-142. (Mexico, 1866.)]
[Footnote 25: _Memorial del Pueblo de Teptlaustuque, en la Nueva
Espana; en que se refiere su Origen i Poblacion, i de los Tributos i
Servicios, antes i despues de la Conquista; todo pintado, i M.S._ En
la Libreria del Rei. Antonio de Leon i Pinelo, _Bibliotheca
Occidental_. The district of Tepetlaoztoc belonged to Tezcuco.]
[Footnote 26: "Don Gabriel Castaneda, Indio principal, natural de
Michuacan Colomocho en la Provincia de Mejico. Escribio en Lengua
Megicana, _Relacion_ de la Jornada que hizo Sandoval Acaxitli,
Cacique y Senor de Tlalmanalco, con el Sr. Visorey Don Antonio de
Mendoza en la Conquista de los Chichimecas de Xuchipila,
1541."--Beristain y Souza, _Biblioteca Hispano-Americana
[Footnote 27: For testimony to this interesting fact see _The Maya
Chronicles_, Introduction, p. 28, note.]
[Footnote 28: _The Books of Chilan Balam, The Prophetic and Historic
Records of the Mayas of Yucatan_. By Daniel G. Brinton, M.D.,
Philadelphia, 1882. Reprint from the _Penn Monthly_, March, 1882.]
[Footnote 29: _Library of Aboriginal American Literature_, Vol. I,
p. 189. (Philadelphia, 1882.)]
[Footnote 30: An intelligent appreciation of the linguistic labors of Pio
Perez was written by Dr. Berendt, in 1871, and printed in
Mexico.--_Los Trabajos Linguisticos de Don Juan Pio Perez_. 8vo.
[Footnote 31: _Disertacion sobre la Historia de la Lengua Maya o
Yucateca_. Por Crescencio Carrillo. Published in the _Revista de
[Footnote 32: A fine manuscript of Vico's work, as well as a number of
other productions in Cakchiquel, by the missionaries, are in the library
of the American Philosophical Society, at Philadelphia.]
[Footnote 33: Tecpan Atitlan is a village on the shore of Lake Atitlan,
in the province of Solola, Guatemala.]
[Footnote 34: Don Domingo Juarros, _Compendio de la Historia de la
Ciudad de Guatemala_, Tomo, II pp. 6, 7, 12, 16, et al. (Ed.
Guatemala, 1857). A copy of Tzumpan's writings is said to be in a
private library in the United States.
The native Cakchiquel writers were also the authorities on which Father
Vazquez depended, in part, in composing his history of Guatemala. He
gives a partial translation of one, beginning the passage: "Los Indios
de Zolola dizen en sus escritos," etc.--Fray Francisco Vazquez,
_Cronica de la Provincia de Guatemala_, Lib. III, Cap. XXXVI.
(Guatemala, 1714, 1716.)]
[Footnote 35: Brasseur de Bourbourg, _Bibliotheque
Mexico-Guatemalienne_, p. 142. (Paris, 1871.)]
[Footnote 36: _Titulos de la Casa de Ixcuin-Nehaib, Senora del
Territorio de Otzoya_. Guatemala, 1876. 8vo. pp. 15. Reprint from the
_Boletin de la Sociedad Economica de Guatemala_.]
[Footnote 37: _Las Historias del Origen de los Indios de esta Provincia
de Guatemala, traducidas de la lengua Quiche al Castellano_. Por el
R.P.F. Francisco Ximenez. 8vo. Vienna, 1857.]
[Footnote 38: _Popol Vuh. Le Livre Sacre et les Mythes de l'Antiquite
Americaine, avec les livres heroiques et historiques des Quiches_.
Par l'Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg. (Paris, 1861.)]
[Footnote 39: _The Names of the Gods in the Kiche Myths of Central
America_. By Daniel G. Brinton, M.D. 8vo. pp. 37. (Philadelphia,
1881.) Reprint from the _Proceedings_ of the American Philosophical
[Footnote 40: Boturini, _Idea de una Nueva Historia de la America
Septentrional_, p. 115.]
[Footnote 41: Cabrera, _Teatro Critico Americano_, p 33.]
[Footnote 42: _American Hero-Myths_, pp. 213-217. (Philadelphia,
[Footnote 43: On this Qquichua MS. see Marcos Jimenez de la Espada,
_Tres Relaciones de Antiguedades Peruanas_. Introd. p. 34.]
[Footnote 44: _Relacion de las Costumbres Antiguas de los Naturales del
Piru_, printed in the work last quoted, p. 142, note.]
[Footnote 45: "En cabildo de 29 de Julio de 1692, el capitan Don Antonio
de Fuentes y Guzman trajo a esta sala siete peticiones escritas en
cortezas de arboles."--Francisco de Paula Garcia Pelaez, _Memorias
para la Historia del Antiguo Reyno de Guatemala_, Tom. II, p. 267.
[Footnote 46: _O Selvagem. Trabalho Preparatorio para aproveitamento de
Selvagem e de solo por elle occupado no Brazil_. Rio de Janeiro,
[Footnote 47: _Notes on the Lingoa Geral, or Modern Tupi of the
Amazonas_, in the _Transactions_ of the American Philological
Association, for 1872.]
[Footnote 48: Boturini, _Idea de una Nueva Historia_, etc., App. pp.
57 et seq.; Didacus Valades, _Rhetorica Christiana_, Pars Secunda
(Perusia, 1579); Gemelli Carreri, _Giro del Mundo_.]
[Footnote 49: Stephens, _Travels in Yucatan_, Vol. I, p. 449
[Footnote 50: _Relacion de las Ceremonias y Ritos de Mechoacan_. The
MS. of this work, in the Library of Congress, does not contain the
Calendar which the author, in the body of the work, promises to append;
nor apparently does the copy in Madrid, from which the work was printed,
in Vol. 53 of the _Coleccion de Documentos Ineditos para la Historia
[Footnote 51: _Pintura del Gobernador, Alcaldes y Regidores de Mexico.
Codex en Geroglificos Mexicanos y en lengua Castellana y Azteca._
First published at Madrid, 1878. A specimen of the map, "Carte
Geographique Azteque," is given by Professor Leon de Rosny, in _Les
Documents Ecrit de l'Antiquite Americaine_, p. 70 (Paris, 1882).]
[Footnote 52: Stephens, _Travels in Yucatan_, Vol. II, p. 265, gives
a Maya map of Mani. A more complete study of the subject is that of
Carrillo, _Geografia Maya_, in the _Anales del Museo Nacional de
Mexico_, Tom. II, p. 435.]
[Footnote 53: _Silabario de Idioma Mexicano, dispuesto por el_ Lic.
Faustino Chimalpopocatl Galicia, Mexico, 1849, 8vo. pp. 16. Second
edition, Mexico, 1859, 8vo. pp. 32. Also _Epitome o Modo Facil de
Aprender el Idioma Nahuatl_, 12mo. pp. 124, Mexico, 1869.]
[Footnote 54: _Elementos de la Gramatica Megicana_, por Don Antonio
Tobar Cano y Moctezuma. Written about 1642.]
[Footnote 55: _Confessionario Mayor y Menor en Lengua Mexicana, y
Platicas contra las Supersticiones de Idolatria, que el dia de oy an
quedado a los Naturales desta Nueva Espana_. Ano de 1634. Mexico. A
copy of this scarce volume is in my library.]
[Footnote 56: Dr. Couto de Magalhaes remarks: "Como o nome indica, este
missionario devia ser algum mestico que, com o leite materno, beben os
primeiros rudimentos da grande lingua Sul-Americana."--_Origens,
Costumes e Regias Selvagem_, p. 62 (Rio de Janeiro, 1876). In 1876 M.
Varuhagen published, at Vienna, a _Historia da paixao de Christo e
taboa dos parentescos em lingua Tupi_, written by Yapuguay, an
extract, apparently, from the volume mentioned in the text. The edition
was only 100 copies.]
[Footnote 57: C.F. Hartt, _On the Lingoa Geral of the Amazonas_, p.
3, in the _Transactions_ of the American Philological Association,
[Footnote 58: _Tah-gah-jute; or, Logan and Cresap. An Historical
Essay._ By Brantz Mayer. (Albany, 1867.)]
[Footnote 59: _History of the American Indians_, pp. 52, 63.
[Footnote 60: James Howse, A Grammar of the Cree Language, p. 11.
[Footnote 61: "Piensan que un hombre que habla sin cortarse y con soltura
debe ser de una naturaleza superior y privilegiada. Por solo esta
circumstancia ascienden el grado de Ghulmenes o caciques, u hombres
notables." Federico Barbara, _Manual o Vocabulario de la Lengua
Pampa_, p. 164. (Buenos Aires, 1879.)]
[Footnote 62: Rev. Cyrus Byington, _Grammar of the Choctaw
Language_, p. 20 (Philadelphia, 1870.)]
[Footnote 63: _Huehue_, ancient; _tlatolli_, words, speeches. A
special variety were the _calmecatlatolli_, the declamations which
the youths of noble families were taught to deliver in the spacious
halls of the _calmecac_, or public schools. "Calmeca tlatolli,
palabras dichas en corredores largos. E tomase por los dichos y
fictiones de los viejos antiguos." Molina, _Vocabulario de la Lengua
Mexicana, sub voce_. The word _calmecac_ is a compound of _calli_,
house, and _mecana_, to give, it being the building furnished by
the State for purposes of public instruction.]
[Footnote 64: Fr. Juan Baptista (or Bautista), _Platicas Morales en
Lengua Mexicana, intitulados Huehuetlatolli_, 8vo. Mexico (1599? or
1601?). This work is not mentioned by Icazbalceta, but is described in
Berendt's notes, and a copy was sold in Paris in 1869. It is enumerated
by Vetancurt, _Menologio Franciscano_, p. 446 (2d ed.).]
[Footnote 65: Olmos, _Grammaire de la Langue Nahuatl_, pp. 231 sqq.
[Footnote 66: _Narratives of the Rites and Laws of the Incas._
Translated by C. R. Markham. Printed for the Hackluyt Society (London,
[Footnote 67: _Chrestomathie de la Langue Maya_, in _Etude sur le
Systeme Graphique et la Langue des Mayas._ (Paris, 1870.)]
[Footnote 68: Bernal Diaz gives an interesting account of this "black
sermon," as he calls it. The incident is significant, as it shows that
the natives were accustomed to gather around their places of worship, to
listen to addresses by the priests. See the _Historia Verdadera de la
Conquista de la Nueva Espana_, Cap. XXVII. (Madrid, 1632.)]
[Footnote 69: Some judicious remarks on the origin and development of
aboriginal poetry are offered by Theodore Baker, in his excellent
monograph on the music of the North American Indians, but his field of
view was somewhat too restricted to do the subject full justice, as,
indeed, he acknowledges. _Ueber die Musik der Nord-Americanischen
Wilden_, von Theodor Baker, pp. 6-14. (Leipzig, 1882.)]
[Footnote 70: Schoolcraft, _History, Condition and Prospects of the
Indian Tribes of the United States_, vol. V, p. 559.]
[Footnote 71: _Grammaire et Vocabulaire de la Langue Taensa, avec
Textes traduits et commentes_. Par J.D. Haumonte, Parisot, et L.
Adam. Paris, 1882.]
[Footnote 72: "Or, i'ay assez de commerce avec la poesie pour juger cecy,
que non seulement il n'y a rien de barbaric en cette imagination, mais
qu'elle est tout a faict anacreontique."--_Essais de Michel de
Montaigne_, Liv. I, cap. XXX, and comp. cap. XXXVI.]
[Footnote 73: "Chez les Guarayos, ces hymnes religieux et allegoriques,
si riches en figures.--Il est impossible de trouver rien de plus
"Quant a leurs poetes, le charme avec lequel ils peignent l'amour,
annonce, certainement en eux, une intelligence developpee et autant
d'esprit que de sensibilite."--Alcide D'Orbigny, _L'Homme
Americain_, Tome I, pp. 155, 170.]
[Footnote 74: "Negli avanci, che si restano della lor Poesia, vi sono
alcuni versi, ne'quali tra le parole significative si vedono frapposte
certe interjezioni, o sillabe prive d'ogni significazione, e soltanto
adoperate, per quel ch'appare, per aggiustarsi al metro. Il linguaggio
della lor Poesia era puro, ameno, brilliante, figurato, e fregiato di
frequenti comparazioni fatte colle cose piu piacevoli della natura,
siccome fiori, alberi, ruscelli, &c."--_Clavigero, Storia di
Messico_. Tom. II, p. 175.]
[Footnote 75: The originals of some of these poems were in the hands of
Ixtlilxochitl, as is evident from his _Historia Chichimeca_, cap.
[Footnote 76: Sahagun, _Psalmodia Xpiana_. (Mexico, 1583?) An
extremely rare book, which I have never seen. Clavigero saw a copy, and
thinks it was printed about 1540. _Storia di Messico_, Tom. II, p,
[Footnote 77: It is mentioned by Icazbalceta, _Apuntes para un Catalogo
de Escritores en Lenguas Indigenas de America_, p. 146. (Mexico,
1866.) There are, however, two copies of it extant, somewhere.]
[Footnote 78: See Mr. Clements R. Markham's Introductions to his edition
of the _Ollanta_ drama (London, 1871); and to his _Qquichua
Grammar and Dictionary_ (London, 1864).]
[Footnote 79: "I'en demeurai tout rauy; mais aussi toutes les fois qu'il
m'en ressouuient, le coeur m'en tressaillant, il me semble que ie les
aye encor aux oreilles."--Jean de Lery, _Histoire d'un voyage faict en
la terre du Bresil, autrement dite Amerique_, pp. 258, 286. (Geneve,
[Footnote 80: See his _Origens, Costumes e Regiaeo Selvagem_, pp.
78-82, 140-147. (Rio de Janeiro, 1876.)]
[Footnote 81: Spix and Martius, _Reise in Brasilien, Brasilianische
Volkslieder und Indianische Melodien, Musikbeilage_.]
[Footnote 82: _Une Fete Bresilienne celebree a Rouen en 1550 suivie
d'un Fragment du XVI'e Siecle roulant sur la Theogonie des anciens
Peuples du Bresil et des Poesies en Langue Tupique, de Christovam
Valente_. Par Ferdinand Denis, pp. 36-51, 98, sqq. (Paris, 1850.)]
[Footnote 83: The Arawack language, which is now spoken in Guiana only,
at the time of the discovery extended over the Greater and Lesser
Antilles and the Bahama Islands, as I have shown in an essay on _The
Arawack Language of Guiana in its Linguistic and Ethnological
Relations_, in the _Transactions_ of the American Philosophical
[Footnote 84: _The Memoirs of Lieutenant Henry Timberlake_, p. 80
[Footnote 85: In the ancient Qquichua literature the tragic dramas were
called _huancay_; those of a comic nature, _aranhuay_. Both
were composed in assonant verses of six and eight syllables, which were
not sung or chanted, but repeated with dramatic intonation.]
[Footnote 86: On the bibliography of the drama see Zegarra, _Ollantai,
Drame en Vers Quechuas du temps des Incas_, Introd. p. CLXXIII.
(Paris, 1878.) The English translation is by Clements R. Markham,
_Ollanta, an Ancient Ynca Drama_ (London, 1871).]
[Footnote 87: The recent attempt of General Don Bartolome Mitre, of
Buenos Ayres, to discredit the antiquity of the Ollanta drama (in the
_Nueva Revista de Buenos Ayres_, 1881), has been most thoroughly
and conclusively refuted by Mr. Clements R. Markham, in the volume of
the Hackluyt Society's Publications for 1883.]
[Footnote 88: _Rabinal-Achi, ou le Drame Ballet du Tun_, published
as an appendix to the _Grammaire de la Langue Quiche_ (Paris, 1862).
The Abbe Brasseur asserts that he wrote down this drama from verbal
information, at the village of Rabinal in Guatemala; but a note by Dr.
Berendt in my possession characterizes this statement as incorrect, and
adds: "Brasseur found the MS. all written, in the hands of an hacendado,
on the road from Guatemala to Chiapas. The original exists still in the
same place." It was a weakness with the Abbe to throw, designedly,
considerable obscurity about his authorities and the sources of his
* * * * *
Names of native authors and productions are in _italics_.
_Alva, B. de_
_Anales de Cuauhtitlan_
Anales del Museo Nacional
_Apes, Rev. Wm._
Avila, F. de
_Ayala, G, de_
Bautista, J. de
Beristain y Souza
_Book of the Jew_
_Book of Rites_
_Books of Chilan Balam_
Brasseur de Bourbourg, Abbe
Byington, Rev. C.
Carrillo, Rev. C.
_Cartas de Indias_
_Chac Xulub Chen_, Chronicle of
_Chilan Balam, Books of_
Chili, Tribes of
_Chimalpain, D. Munon_
_Chimalpopoca, F, Lic._
_Clark, P. Dooyentate_
Couto de Magalhaes, Dr.
Franca, Dr. E.F.
Fuentes y Guzman
Humboldt, W. von
Iroquois Book of Rites
_Ixtlilxochitl, F. de A._
_Jew, The Book of the_
Jimenez de la Espada
_Jones, Rev. Peter_
_La Vega, Garcilasso de_
Leon i Pinelo, Ant.
Lery, Jean de
_Loaysa, F. de_
Matthews, Dr. W.
Martius, C. von
_Maya Chronicles, The_
Mendoza, Ant., de
Motolinia, T. de
_Nehaib, Titles of_
Nunez de la Vega.
Olmos, Andre de
_Pachacuti, Don J._
Pampas, Tribes of
Pelaez, F.P. Garcia
Perez, Juan Pio
_Pomar, J. de_
_Popol Vuh, The_
_Prophecies of Mayas_
Quiches, see _Kiches_
Rink, Dr. H.
_Rosa, A. de la_
Rosny, Leon de
Sahagun, B. de
_San Antonio, J. de_
Sanchez Solis, F.
_Tezozomoc, F. de A._
Tlatilulco, College of
_Tlaxcallan, History of_
_Tomar, J.B. de_
Vetancurt, A. de
Vico, Domingo de
_Zapata y Mendoza, J.V._
* * * * *
Library of Aboriginal American Literature.
General Editor and Publisher, DANIEL G. BRINTON, M.D.,
115 South Seventh St., Philadelphia, Pa., United States.
The European Market will be supplied by
NICHOLAS TRUeBNER & CO., 57 & 59 Ludgate Hill, London, England.
_The aim of this series is to put within the reach of scholars
authentic materials for the study of the languages, history and culture
of the native races of North and South America. Each of the works
selected will be the production of a native author, and will be printed
in the original tongue, with an English translation and notes. Most of
them will be from unpublished manuscripts, and they will form a series
indispensable to the future student of American archaeology, ethnology or
linguistics. They will be printed FROM TYPE, AND IN LIMITED EDITIONS
ONLY. The volumes will be sold SEPARATELY, at moderate prices, either in
paper or bound in cloth. They will all be planted on heavy laid paper,
of the best quality. The following have already appeared_:--
* * * * *
NO. I. THE MAYA CHRONICLES.
Edited by DANIEL G. BRINTON, M.D.
1 vol., 8vo, pp. 279. Price, paper, $3.00; cloth, $3.50.
This volume contains five brief chronicles in the Maya language of
Yucatan, written shortly after the Conquest, and carrying the history of
that people back many centuries. To these is added a history of the
Conquest, written in his native tongue, by a Maya Chief, in 1562. The
texts are preceded by an introduction on the history of the Mayas; their
language, calendar, numeral system, etc.; and a vocabulary is added at
NOTICES OF THE PRESS.
"We hope that Dr. Brinton will receive every encouragement in his labors
to disclose to Americans these literary antiquities of the Continent. He
eminently deserves it, both by the character of his undertaking and the
quality of his work."--_The American_ (Phila.)
"It would be difficult to praise too highly the task Dr. Brinton has set
before him. Prepared by long studies in the same field, he does not
undertake the work as a novice. ... There should be no hesitation among
those who wish well to American antiquarianism in subscribing to the
series edited and published by Dr. Brinton."--_The Critic_.
"Dr. Brinton's work upon the history of the Mayas or Aborigines of
Yucatan [the "Maya Chronicles"] is a most important contribution to the
literature of American antiquities. ... Comparative linguists, as well
as archaeologists, will find a new and very interesting subject of study
in these remains."--_The Saturday Review_ (London).
"The efforts of Dr. Brinton will be welcomed by all antiquarian
students, for they are not only original contributions, but are also
presented in a readable and interesting manner."--_The American
* * * * *
No. II. The IROQUOIS BOOK OF RITES.
Edited by HORATIO HALE, Esq.
1 vol., 8vo. Price, paper, $3.00; cloth, $3.50.
The "BOOK OF RITES" is a native composition, which was preserved orally
for centuries, and was written down about a century ago. It gives the
speeches, songs and ceremonies which were rehearsed when a chief died
and his successor was appointed. The fundamental laws of the League, a
list of their ancient towns, and the names of the chiefs who composed
their first council, are also comprised in the work. It may be said to
carry the authentic history of Northern America back to a period fifty
years earlier than the era of Columbus. The introductory essay treats of
the ethnology and history of the Huron-Iroquois League and its founders,
the origin of the Book of Rites, the composition of the Federal Council,
the clan system, the laws of the League, and the Iroquois character,
public policy, and language.
NOTICES OF THE PRESS AND OF EMINENT WRITERS.
"This work may be said to open a field of Indian research new to
ethnologists. ... These precious relics of antiquity are concise in
their wording, and full of meaning. ... The additions made by Mr. Hall
are almost as valuable as the texts themselves." --_The Nation_ New
York, September 13, 1883.
"The reputation of the author, added to this fascinating title, will
insure its favorable reception, not only by ethnologists, but also, the
reading public. ... A remarkable discovery, and indisputably of great
ethnological value. ... A book which is as suggestive as this must bear
good fruit."--_Science_, August 31,1883.
"The work contains much new material of permanent interest and value to
the historical scholar and the scientist. ... "--_The Magazine of
American History_, September, 1883.
"In this Book of Rites we have poetry, law, history, tradition and
genealogy, interesting and valuable for many reasons...."--_Good
Literature_, August 18, 1883.
"The Book of Rites is edited by the eminent philologist, Mr. Horatio
Hale, who has done so much to elucidate the whole subject of Indian
ethnography and migrations, with the argument derived from language in
connection with established tradition; and especially to disentangle
Iroquois history from its complications with the legends of their
mythology."--_Auburn Daily Advertiser_, July 21, 1883.
"The book is one of great ethnological value, in the light it casts on
the political and social life, as well as the character and capacity, of
the people with whom it originated."--_Popular Science Monthly_,
"It is a philosophical and masterly treatise on the Iroquois league and
the cognate tribes, their relations, language, mental characteristics
and polity, such as we have never had of any nation of this
Continent...."--_Dr. J. Gilmary Shea_.
"It is full of instructive hints, particularly as bearing on the state
of so-called savages before they are brought in contact with so-called
civilized men. Such evidence is, from the nature of the case, very
difficult to obtain, and therefore all the more valuable...."--_Prof.
F. Max Mueller_.
"It gives us a much clearer insight into the formation and workings of
the Iroquois league than we before possessed."--_Hon. George S.
"It contains more that is authentic and new, of the Iroquois nations,
than any other single work with which I am acquainted."--_Rev. Charles
* * * * *
No. III. THE COMEDY-BALLET OF GUeEGUeENCE.
Edited by DANIEL G. BRINTON, M.D.
1 vol., 8vo. Paper, $2.00; Cloth, $2.50.
A curious and unique specimen of the native comic dances, with
dialogues, called _bailes_, formerly common in Central America. It
is in the mixed Nahuatl-Spanish jargon of Nicaragua, and shows
distinctive features of native authorship. The Introduction treats of
the ethnology of Nicaragua, and the local dialects, musical instruments,
and dramatic representations of that section of our continent. A map and
a number of illustrations are added.
Other important works, in various native languages, are in the course of
preparation, under competent editorship.
Of these may be mentioned--
THE NATIONAL LEGEND OF THE CREEKS. Edited by A.S. GATSCHET.
The original account, written in 1735; an English translation, and a
re-translation into the Creek language, in which it was originally
delivered, by an educated native, and into the Hitchiti, a dialect
cognate to the Creek.
THE ANNALS OF THE KAKCHIQUELS. By ERNANTEZ XAHILA.
These chronicles are the celebrated _Memorial de Tecpan Atitlan_ so
often quoted by the late Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg. They are invaluable
for the ancient history and mythology of Gautemalan nations, and are of
undoubted authenticity and antiquity.
THE ANNALS OF QUAUHTITLAN. Edited by A.F. BANDELIER.
The original Aztec text, with a new translation. This is also known as
the _Codex Chimalpopoca_. It is one of the most curious and
valuable documents in Mexican archaeology.
ABORIGINAL AMERICAN ANTHOLOGY. Edited by DANIEL G. BRINTON, M.D.
A collection of the songs, chants and metrical compositions of the
Indians, designed to display the emotional and imaginative powers of the
race and the prosody of their languages.
* * * * *
_The following two works are not portions of the series, but are
related to it by their contents. They may be obtained from the same
A STUDY in the NATIVE RELIGIONS of the WESTERN CONTINENT.
By DANIEL G. BRINTON, A.M., M.D., etc.
1 vol., 8vo, pp. 251. (Philad'a, 1882.) Cloth, Price, $1.75.
NOTICES OF THE PRESS.
"Dr. Brinton writes from a minute and extended knowledge of the original
sources. ... His work renders a signal service to the cause of
comparative mythology in our country."--_The Literary World_
"This study of certain of the most remarkable stories of American
mythology is exceedingly interesting."--_The Saturday Review_
"In his 'American Hero-Myths' Dr. Brinton gives us the clue to the
religious thought of the aboriginal Races. ... It is a learned and
careful book, clearly written, popular in style though scientific
in method, and must be a good deal fresher than a novel to most
readers."--_The American_ (Philadelphia).
"This volume is the first attempt at what is entitled to be regarded as
a critically accurate presentation of the fundamental conceptions found
in the native beliefs of the tribes of America."--_The New England
"This is a thoughtful and original contribution to the science of
comparative religion."--_The Boston Journal_.
"We regard the 'Hero Myths' as a valuable contribution to the history of
religion and to comparative mythology."--_The Teacher_ (Philadelphia).
"...These few extracts give no idea of the mass of legends in this
volume, and the queer, out-of-the-way information it supplies concerning
the ideas and usages of races now extinct or hastening to
extinction."--_The Dublin Evening Mail_.
"Dr. Brinton, in his 'American Hero-Myths,' has applied the comparative
method soberly, and backed it by solid research in the original
authors."--_The Critic_ (New York).
ABORIGINAL AMERICAN AUTHORS, AND THEIR PRODUCTIONS.
Especially those in the Native Languages.
A Contribution to the History of Literature.
By DANIEL G. BRINTON, A.M., M.D., etc.
1 vol., 8vo, pp. 63. Boards. Price, $1.00.
An essay founded on an address presented to the Congress of
Americanists, at Copenhagen, in 1883. It is an extended review of the
literary efforts of the red race, in their own tongues, and in English,
Latin and Spanish (both manuscript and printed). An entirely novel field
of inquiry is opened to view, of equal interest to ethnologists,
linguists and historians.
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