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The investigations carried on under Professor Keasbey's direction by students of the seminar during the past few years have led to the formulation of certain general conclusions in regard to the development of primitive societies. An economy, according to Professor Keasbey, may be defined
a system of activities whereby the potential utilities inherent in the environment are through utilization converted into actual utilities.” 1
The motives making for utilization are everywhere the same; nevertheless, since the potential utilities of one environment differ from those of another, processes of utilization must differ accordingly. Starting from this principle, it has been found convenient to plot off the surface of the earth into a series of typical environments; e. g. the jungle, the arctic, the barren, the forest, the plain, the desert oasis, the river valley, etc. The nature of the potential utilities characteristic of each of these environments seems in every case to determine the process of utilization and hence the economic life of the inhabitants. Everywhere similar conditions seem to result in similar forms of utilization. Between the economic activities and the social institutions of mankind there is also perceptible a relation of cause and effect. Everywhere like systems of utilization give rise to like familial, political, and ecclesiastical institutions.
The work assigned me has been confined chiefly to the primitive societies of North America. The results gained from an intensive study of Iroquois life, I shall present in this monograph.
In order to make plain the significance of Iroquois institutions it will be advisable, in a general way, to relate their environment with the other environments of North America, and their manner of life with the manners of life of other Indian tribes. At the
1“A Classification of Economies." Reprint from Proc. Am. Philos. Soc., Vol. XLI, No. 169, page 1.
beginning of the sixteenth century, North America, exclusive of Mexico, included several more or less distinct cultural areas, which may be enumerated in the following order: first, the Arctic Environment, extending all the way across the northern-most zone of the continent, its southern boundary being the indefinite line marking the transition from the frigid to the cold temperate zone; second, the Barren Environment, stretching from the Rocky Mountains on the east to the Pacific coast ranges on the west, and from the Columbia River on the north to the Colorado River valley on the south; third, the Forest Environment, including the eastern portion of the continent from the Atlantic to the western edge of the forest belt, and also the narrow region lying along the Pacific coast west of the Coast Ranges; fourth, the Plain Environment, extending from the edge of the forest belt to the Rocky Mountains; and fifth, the Desert-Oasis Environment, stretching from the Colorado River southward to the Gulf and into Mexico. Each of these environments possessed certain characteristic features which determined the manner of life of the early inhabitants.
In the sterile and ice-bound environment of the Arctic area, the basis of subsistence was fish, whales, and seals. Even this food supply was often scanty and difficult to obtain. In general, the conditions under which man carried on the struggle for existence were extremely hard, and allowed very little opportunity for progress.
The western slope of the Rocky Mountains and the great plain adjoining well deserved the epithet “barren.” This region, cut off by the coast ranges from the moist breezes of the Pacific and by the Rocky Mountains from the Atlantic winds, was an arid and sterile desert with little or no vegetation and but a scanty supply of fish and small game. Thus the Barren, like the Arctic Environment, offered little encouragement to primitive progress.
The eastern forest region rejoiced in a mild climate and a plentiful rainfall. Before the European settlement the whole district was covered by a forest of varying density, the trees growing thickest in the temperate and warm temperate parts of the east and south, and becoming fewer in the north toward Hudson's Bay, and in the west throughout the park-like region in the
vicinity of the Mississippi. The whole section was stocked with fish and game.
From the Great Lakes southward, the climate was warm and the soil fertile enough to encourage more or less cultivation of maize in the river valleys and open spaces and clearings in the woods. Generally speaking, it was an environment conducing to a hunting and fishing life, with a growing dependence upon maize culture toward the south.
The western forest environment, stretching from the Columbia River valley down along the Pacific coast, was characterized by an equable oceanic climate and by an abundant flora and fauna. It was especially rich in fish, small game, nuts, roots, etc. The main difference between the western and the eastern forest environment is to be found in the fact that in the latter the main supply was game, while in the former fish took the chief place.
The Great Plain, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, though traversed by several large river systems tributary to the Mississippi, was a comparatively arid region with but a scanty rainfall. Hence there was but little vegetation. Nevertheless, this section of the continent was originally well stocked
Over its vast extent great herds of buffalo ranged, subsisting on the long succulent grass with which the prairie was covered, and migrating from north to south, and back again, according to the seasons. Before the Discovery the Prairie was not inhabited, except by occasional bands of buffalo hunters on expeditions from their villages on the Mississippi and its great western tributaries. The introduction of the horse gave a decided impetus to buffalo hunting as a means of livelihood. After this event the great stock of the Sioux pushed farther and farther into the wilderness, and developed more and more perfectly the economy in social life typical of nomadic plain-dwelling people the world over.
The region south of the barren plateau, between the Colorado River valley and the Gulf of Mexico, has been called the desertoasis environment. Here the sterile highland was deeply gashed by swift-flowing rivers, which found their sources in the Rocky Mountains and emptied into the Gulf of California on the one hand, and into the Gulf of Mexico on the other. In the deep
river valleys were rich alluvial deposits which, with the help of irrigation, could be, and were, cultivated. Hence the aboriginal inhabitants of the region were gathered in small isolated agricultural communities, depending for subsistence chiefly upon maize culture.
The environmental conditions of each of the areas just described required in every case the adoption by the primitive inhabitants of an economic system suitable to their surroundings. Their economy in turn determined the nature of their social institutions. In fact, the forms of the family, of the state, and of religion among any given people, are, according to the hypothesis, to be regarded as sociological consequents of certain economic antecedents: in other words, they are the outcome of the peculiar systems of production, consumption, and distribution that have proved most advantageous in a given environment. In the barren environment of the great western desert, marked by extremes of temperature and poverty of flora and fauna, the food-quest consisted primarily of root grubbing and acorn gathering, with some fishing, and hunting of small animals. The means of production consisted of such inventions as were needed to procure food; as, for instance, the bow and arrow, the digging stick, and the basket for carrying roots and nuts. The production group in this case was the family; the wife gathering roots and nuts and bringing up the children, while the husband obtained what fish and game he could find and acted as defender of the group. Anything less than this mere sexual association of labor was impossible, if the species was to be preserved. Anything more extensive in the line of coöperation was likewise made impossible by the scantiness of the food supply, and the consequent necessity of dispersion in the smallest possible groups.
“ The Mountain Snakes,” says Schoolcraft, “exist in small detached bodies and single families, and change their locations so widely that they seem to have no particular claim to any portion." Similar circumstances as regards scarcity of food resulted in a similar manner of life during a large part of the year among the Esquimaux of the Arctic region. We are told that “ The Esquimaux live in
Schoolcraft, “Hist. Ind. Tribes,” I, 224.
the most perfect state of independence of each other,—the youth, as soon as he is able to build a kaiak and to support himself, no longer observes any family ties, but goes where his fancy takes him." Obviously, therefore, the consumption and distribution group must also have been represented by the family: of exchange, there was no question.
From the point of view of politics, also, among the Esquimaux, as among the Indians of the Great Desert, the family was at once the largest and the smallest group. Mere congregation of these units might occur at certain seasons in spots where acorns or fish were plentiful. At the most, however, only a loose temporary organization resulted. The family remained the social unit and wandered off again when it pleased, a complete political and production group. Within the family, husband and wife associated their labor in producing the surplus; nevertheless, the female, isolated from others of her own sex, was entirely dependent upon the male for defense and hence for access to the source of supply. The man, then, may be said to have controlled the social surplus; hence sovereignty belonged to him, and he wielded unlimited authority over the little group of which he was the head : in other words, the rule of the husband and father was the only government known to these domestic economists. The religion and morals of this stage of culture were of the simplest description. Their religion was the lowest form of Fetishism-abject fear of disutilities and reverence of utilities.
A stage above the domestic economists of the Arctic region and the Great Desert stood the village economists of the western forest. True, the latter had made no distinct advance in methods of production nor in political organization; yet from the economic position which they occupied, some progress in these respects became possible. On the northwest coast, the periodical ascent of the rivers by the salmon at the spawning season afforded the aborigines an abundant and regular food supply. Families, therefore, did not need to separate as they increased in numbers; on the contrary, large gentile groups remained together, settled near the good fishing places, while their means of production tended to become preëminently a stock of implements and inventions of especial use