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A study of the development of certain tribes on the western continent from a tribal to a confederacy form of government

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the Department of Anthropology
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Madelon Elizabeth McCreery
May 1940
UMI Number: EP54604
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UMI EP54604
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T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by
un d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f h.&T. F a c u l t y C o m m i t t e e ,
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l its m e m b e r s , has been
presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m e n t o f the re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f
D edn
D a te ..
F a c u lty C om m ittee
C hairm an
I • INTRODUCTION . . . ........................
II. THE CREEK C O N F E D E R A C Y ....................
IV. THE AZTEC C O N F E D E R A C Y ....................
. ........................
Map showing Area included within the Creek
and Iroquois Confederacies • • ♦ • • • • • •
Map showing the extent of the Aztec
Confederacy • • • • • » • • • • • • • • »
Map showing expansion of the Inca Empire • • • 84A
The purpose of this thesis is to make a comparat-ive~.
study of the origin, development, and final form of the
Creek, Iroquois,/Aztech and Inca governments. It is hoped
that this study will help to determine whether from a simple
basic type, government in the Americas developed along the
same path in every case, to various stages of complexity;
of which four of these stages are represented by the govern­
ments of these four native American Nations#
It is also
hoped that this study may show a further basis for testing
the hypothesis that all American tribes belong to the same
Ethnic group.
In the following chapters it will be shown that of
'the four Nations chosen, the Creeks had the most element­
ary form of Confederate government.
The Iroquois with a
more complex and a more successful organization had ad­
vanced considerably farther.
Moving south from the United
States, we find the Aztecs of Mexico possessing a still
more complicated form of confederacy, in fact they might
be said to be verging on the imperialistic.
And finally,
still further south, we find the Incas of Peru using the
most complicated form of all; that which might justly he
called an Empire*
It should he noted that all of the four mentioned
Nations fall partly within the scope of written history*
Thus for our source material, we may draw freely from the
reports of the early Spanish Chroniclers and early French
and British historians in the Americas*
Vftiile using this
material, one must he careful to distinguish between fact
and theory*
In the reports On the Mexican and Peruvian
Nations, one must he especially careful, for these Chron­
iclers tended to Interpret all that they found In the
Americas In terms of European culture, falling to perceive
and recognize the hasic forms of American culture as such*
However It is mainly in their terminology that one finds
the fault, and careful study can reveal the facts of ab­
original government in its true light*
This early written material Is further augmented
by recent archeological excavation and ethnological study
by such competent men as Spinden, Hewett, Means and others*
So far there has been an absence of previous inves­
tigation on this problem as an ethnological study, although
competent ethnographical studies already have been made on
several of these tribes*
Before starting on the problem, it seems best to give
a brief resume of the basic forms of native government in the
The primary social group in every country is the
The hand, or natural social group, is made up of a
group of families under the leadership of a competent in­
The nucleus of this group is usually the immedi­
ate family of this leader, further augmented by relatives
and outsiders drawn to it by faith in the leader.
The band
as a social unit is characteristic of nomadic hunting peoples.
As soon as there is a people whose culture pattern is
dictated by a sedentary agricultural life, one finds more com­
plicated social structure.
The system characteristic of the
Americas is known as the clan-gens system.
Under this system
an individual is designated by name and descent as belonging
to a specific family group.
Since this relation is carefully
marked the individual Is likely to have many relatives, close
and distant, whose kinship he may readily ascertain by their
name and membership in his gens.
There were two methods of
tracing descent and relationship.
One was through the male,
or father line, and this is generally known as the gens
and the other was through the female, or mother
line, and known as the clan system.
terms has been but recently accepted.
This differentiation of
Due to general con­
fusion in the use of older quotations, I will not make this
differentiation of terms in this thesis, but instead, will
clearly state in each case which method of descent was prac­
ticed, and continue to use the terms 1clan* and fgensr inter-
changeably as was previously done#
There were certain privileges and rights practiced by
each clan or gens, which were characteristic wherever the
system was employed#
As the gens or clan was a government as
well as a social unit, some of these privileges had to do with
civil affairs#
The group of people belonging to the same gens
within a tribe or township, had the right to elect or depose
its chief and secondary chiefs#
strangers into their gens#
They had the right to adopt
They had the right to bestow names,
which included the totemic name of the gens, upon new members#
They had mutual rights of inheritance of the property of de­
ceased members#
burial places#
They had common religious rites and common
They were obligated not to marry a member of
their own clan or gens thus preventing inbreeding#
The child­
ren of each marriage belonged to either the Mother’s clan or
the Father’s gens depending upon which line of descent was
practiced by that group#
Within the gens or clan reciprocal
obligations of help, defense, and redress of injuries were
Within a tribe, the various gentes represented were
sometimes grouped into another social unit called the phratry#
The gentes included within a phratry were usually of near kin­
ship, and in most cases this grouping was for purely social or
religious functions, providing a unit larger than the gens and
yet smaller than the tribe to facilitate the organization of
games and ceremonies#
The next social and governmental unit was the tribe,
which consisted of a group of gentes or clans speaking the
same dialect; occupying contiguous territory or a township;
possessing a common religious faith and form of worship;
and possessing a common cultural pattern#
The tribal govern­
ment consisted of a council made up of the chiefs of the gen­
tes, and, in some instances, a head chief elected from this
This council took care of all matters, civil, social,
and religious, which were not the immediate concern of the
Thus in the tribal group we have a completely organ­
ized society#
The Confederacy was a voluntary grouping of several
tribes usually speaking dialects of the same linguistic stock
and having similar cultural patterns#
Examples of this type
of federation which was formed for the purpose of maintain­
ing internal peace, giving protection against invasion, and
providing for consolidated aggression against enemy tribes,
are found throughout the Americas#
The Confederacy is cer­
tainly the highest, by this we mean most complex, form of
government found within the present boundaries of the United
A still more complex form of government was found in
Central and South America#
It was a logical step from the
confederacy form, and, for want of a better term, we shall
call it an imperialistic or Empire type of government#
usually "began with a confederacy which so grew in military
power that it was able by conquest to force tribes of un­
related linguistic stocks and different cultural patterns
to fall under its dominion*
Such a type of government the
Aztecs were well on the way to forming, and its supreme ex1
ample is found of course in the Empire of the Incas of Peru*
Thus we see that each type of American aboriginal
government grew logically out of the form proceeding it, and
underlying them all was the elans-gens system giving them a
basic unity which so bound them each together that only
through this political and social solidarity were they able
to raise each successive structure ending with the extreme
complexity of the Inca Empire*
Under the following chapter headings we shall discuss
the Creek, Iroquois, Aztec and Inca governments, and attempt
to show that they advanced to their final forms only after
having passed through each of the above-mentioned divisions
In their succession*
Since they were all sedentary agricul­
tural nations we shall omit a discussion of the elementary
division termed the nomadic band as irrelevant to the dis­
A discussion of the phratry division will also be
3-The above definitions of a confederacy and an empire
do not necessarily agree with those of our European termin­
ology, but are used here merely as descriptive of two types
of highly complex governments found in aboriginal America and
known by these names* The above definitions are given in an
attempt to clarify the situation in America, and are to be un­
derstood as applicable only in aboriginal America*
omitted in most cases, as it was purely a social and relig­
ious -unit*
So we will have first the family, from which
they all necessarily started, then the clans-gens system,
next the tribe, then the confederacy, and finally the empire*
The Creeks will illustrate the transition from the tribe to
a weak confederacy form;
the Iroquois the confederacy at its
the Aztecs the transition from the confederacy to the
and the Incas the American aboriginal empire at its
The several tribes which made up the Creek Confed­
eracy occupied an area which is now known as the Southeast­
ern portion of the United States of America*
This area
included the present states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,
and portions of Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky*
Geographically speaking, this area is a coastal plain
bordered on the east and south by the Atlantic Ocean and the
Gulf of Mexico respectively;
on the north by the Appalachian
and on the west by the Great Plains area*
ever, there were no members of this confederacy farther west
than the Mississippi River, with the possible exception of
the Natchez tribe which occasionally occupied the west bank
of this river*
The climate of this region is a typical moderate con­
tinental forest climate, with hot summers, cool winters, and
a high annual rainfall (between forty and sixty Inches a
The climate is further tempered by the presence of
the North Atlantic Gulf Stream which flows very near the
coast at this point*
The vegetation Is mainly that of a deciduous forest;
P > P P R .o x t m a r i H
f*« e a -
O v /e ft. v o h 'k h t h « . l R o § u o i s e K T E N O E t irs
- P)PPR°X 'Wiart
4- c o K p e o e B v ' i
C o h K joeiTS.
area, o u e w w h k H
W a.« s o ^ r e m e .
^ R e e K,
R o J t jiu e r iM E .
Map showing Area included within the
Creek and Iroquois Confederacies*
although pine trees are also found in this region*
cut through by many streams;
It is
the Savannah and Altamaha
rivers draining the eastern portion to the Atlantic ocean;
the Chattahoochee and the Alabama rivers draining the cent­
ral portion to the Gulf of Mexico;
and the Mississippi and
its many tributaries draining to the west*
Besides these
large rivers, there is an abundance of smaller ones*
fact the name ’Creek1 applied to the dominant tribe living
in this region Is in reference to the many creeks and riverlets which characterize the country in which they lived*
The soil along the banks of these streams is rich
aluvial deposit, while in the interior, it is a yellowish
sandy loam*
Thus the temperate climate and the rich soil
provided an excellent opportunity for the intensive agri­
culture which was the main occupation of the Indians who
lived there*
The Indians raised chiefly maize, beans, squashes,
pumpkins and tobacco*
The whiteman Introduced melons,
potatoes, and rice into this region*
To-day this area is
among the foremost In the production of cotton, tobacco,
and rayon*
Supplanting their cultivated foods was a large var­
iety of wild edible berries, nuts, seeds, roots, and wild
The animal life consisted of bear, deer, elk, pan­
ther, wildcat, beaver, otter, raccoon, squirrel, and bison*
All of these were hunted for the food and clothing which
they provided.
The bison disappeared from this country
shortly after the arrival of the white man#
Turkeys and
mallard ducks provided a further variety in diet, while
both fish and shell-fish were found in the neighboring
With the picture of a heavily forested land in
mind, rich in soil, animal life, and wild edible plants;
with a temporate but moist climate, we shall turn to a dis­
cussion of the aboriginal inhabitants#
This paper is concerned in the main with historic
Indian tribes, so suffice it to say that, archeologically
speaking, the eastern half of this area is referred to as
the South Atlantic Area, while the western half is part of
the great Mississippi-Ohio Area famous for its huge mounds
and accompanying cultural remains which suggest a connection
with those of Mexico and Central America#
As a culture
center, this region is known as the Southeastern Culture
The Creek Indians, with whom we are here mainly con­
cerned, were relatively late intruders.
They spoke a dia­
lect of the great Muskhogean Linguistic group#
They were a
relatively tall people, standing an average of 170 cm.
had dolichocephalic heads, but did not differ otherwise from
their surrounding neighbors#
As mentioned above, it is generally agreed that the
Creok Indians were late intruders into this cultural cen­
ter, and it is suggested by their various migration legends
that they came originally from the northwest*
They believed
they had their origin in the center of the earth, from which
they emerged through a cave*
From then on it is difficult
to trace their wanderings, only one point being certain, and
that is that they crossed the Mississippi river before arr­
iving at their final destination*
Apparently they split into the two groups by which we
now know them, the Upper Creeks and the Lower Creeks, at
some time shortly after their arrival*
De Soto passed through
this area In 1540, and records them as divided in this manner*
The Upper Creeks inhabited the northern part of Georgia, and
northern and central Alabama*
Their largest and most import­
ant town, Tukabahchee, reported in 1832 as containing 386
houses, was located a few miles northeast of the present site
of Montgomery, Alabama*
The Lower Creeks occupied southern
Alabama and southern Georgia*
The site of their main town,
Coweta, I unfortunately have been unable to locate*
The idea of a confederacy originated with the Lower
Creeks, and began its development, so far as we know, a short
time before the arrival of De Soto*
By a succession of wars,
agreements, and adoptions, the confederacy grew to Include all
the tribes in this area, with the exception of the Cherokee and
the Choctaw*
The Choctaws formed a weak counter-union to the
It, however, did not constitute much of a threat to
the Creek Confederacy*
From 1540 to 1700 we have reports
of various Spanish writers who passed through this country
for different reasons, and we know from these that the Con­
federacy was in existence at that time.
From 1700 on we
have French and British as well as Spanish reports on this
1753 was the date of the first British Treaty with
the Creeks.
The conference was held at Savannah, and at
that time the Creeks claimed the territory extending from
the Savannah river to the Flint river, and south to Saint
The eight tribes represented at this meeting
were the Kamita, Kasixta, Osutchi, Chiaha, HI tchit I,
Opalatchukla, Okoni, and Yufala*
James Oglethorpe, British
governor of the Carolinas conducted the meeting, and the
treaty had to do with land cession, commerce, and alliance*
During the eighteenth century we have the record of
only one insignificant war with the white settlers*
the American Revolution, the Creeks aided the British.
was at that time that Alexander McGillivray, son of a Scotch­
man, was adopted^into the Wind Clan of the Upper Creeks.
Having quickly established himself as a leader, McGillivray
proceeded to strengthen the Confederacy and reunite the Creeks
who had drifted apart since the coming of the British*
soon put down all opposition, and assuming the role of a
minor dictator, supervised the reorganization and return to
power of the Creek Confederacy.
His remarkable power was due
more to shrewdness and understanding of the Indian mind
rather than to actual force of arms*
He died in 1793, and
the Confederacy relapsed into its former state*
In 1790 and 1796 we have records of treaties with the
United States, and at this time Trading Posts and Military
Posts were set up at various points within the limits of the
Prom 1802 to 1805 there were further cessions
of land from the Creeks to the United States*
And in 1813
came the famous Creek Revolt which was primarily a result of
the continued loss of land to the government*
Tecumseh, an
Upper Creek of Tukabahchee, was the main leader of this up­
His violent orations against the United States
government incited the people to action.
One of the main
events of this war was the massacre of the garrison at Port
Several minor Insurrections followed this, but all
were subdued by General Jackson.
It is interesting to note
here that the Confederacy did not act together in this re­
volt, for the Lower Creeks aided the government against the
other half of the Confederacy.
After this war, most of the Creek land was ceded to
the United States, and by 1840 all Creek land belonged to the
government, and at this time, all but 744 Creeks moved from
the Southeast area to the seven million acre Reservation in
Oklahoma which had been provided for them by the United States.
There they continued to live as they always had, but in peace
with their neighbors*
After the Civil War, in v/hich many
Creeks participated with divided allegiance, a great council
was held by all the tribes, and a new constitution was adopt­
ed modelled after that of the United States •
The census taken in 1852 reported the Creek population
as between 25,000 and 50,000, while that of 1906 was only
However, I believe it has grown considerably since
that time*
Absolute independent government has ceased, and
considerable supervision and aid from the United States govern­
ment has taken iti^ place*
The culture pattern of the Creek
Indians shows them to be late arrivals in the Southeast, be­
cause its geographical extent acts as a kind of wedge in what
would otherv/ise be a continuous area on the Atlantic coast
characterized by an older and slightly different type of
Our sources of information on this material are chiefly
Spanish, £^?ench, and English*
These reports were made with a
variety of objects in view, some religious, some military,
some commercial, and some exploratory*
And so the ethnologi­
cal material must be separated from the other information.
This ethnological material is not particularly abundant, but
some of our best authorities are the early English writers
such as Adair, Bartram, Homans, Hawkins, Stiggins, and
There are several more recent studies of note
^Swanton, J* R* Social Organization and Usages of the
Indians of The Creek Confederacy* p. 718*
made by men working in the Interest of ethnology5
they are
Albert Gatschet, Henry S. Halbert, Frank Speck, and Swanton.
The following brief discussion of the Creek culture
pattern will be in the nature of a resume to serve merely as
a background for a study of their government*
Starting with
the material form of their culture, it is important to note
that they were primarily a sedentary, agricultural people
living in towns*
These towns had usually twenty to two hun­
dred cabins which were arranged in clusters of four to eight
around a public square.
house, or Tchuka1lako *
Facing the square was the councilThe town Itself, sometimes built on
an artificial mound, was usually protected by an earthen wall
which served as a fortification*
fields for cultivation*
Outside the town were the
The houses built of logs were rec­
tangular in shape and had as a rule curved roofs*
Each clan,
living and eating in common, inhabited its own little group
of houses.
The yard immediately surround!ng each house was
privately owned, but all the other land within the town limits
was the property of the town as a community.
Town lands were
marked by certain agreed boundaries, and the town had the ex­
clusive right to hunt**the territory immediately surrounding
Besides several small Individually-owned garden plots,
there was a large area of land outside the town wall known
as the Town Plantation*
This large section of land commun­
ally owned, was divided into strips of which each citizen or
family had his share according to desire, convenience, or
size of the family#
The whole town worked together in tend­
ing these lots, and there was a fine for shirking this duty#
But each individual did his own harvesting, and part of this
harvest was stored in the public granary known as the fKingfs
The town chieftain was in charge of this crib whose
contents went to feed travelers, supply war parties, succor
other towns, and to aid the people in case of famine#
heritance of these lots in the Town Plantation was according
to the individual owner*s will;
If no will was made, the land
went to the owner’s children or relatives#
Ownership of land
was really synonymous with occupancy#
The main agricultural tool was a rude hoe made of a
bent stick and a bison shoulder-blade or a piece of flint#
Wooden mortars and pestles were used to grind their foods*
The dishes, ladles, and spoons were of pottery, wood, bison'
horn, and shell#
They made beautiful stone implements, and
used split cane for basketry, woven mats, and cradles#
Creeks were not wholly deficient in metals, for both gold
and copper were used considerably#
Clothing for the men consisted of breechclouts, and
tunics or shawls of animal skins, feathered cloth, and woven
The women wore short skirts and mantels of the same
Ornamental headbands were worn, and the hair was
shaved on both sides of the head leaving a crest or roach of
long hair usually tinted red#
Both sexes wore moccasins and
leggings during the winter months, or for ceremonial purposes,
or for travel*
Ornaments of feathers, beads, copper, gold,
colored stones, bone, shells, and pearls completed their
Head-flattening was practiced by many smaller
tribes of the Confederacy, but the Creeks have been free
from it in historic times.
Tatooing was common, and the men
stretched their ears to immense sizes by the insertion of
copper wires*
This last custom is reminiscent of the Indians
of Mexico, Central America, and Peru*
The chief weapon was the bow and arrow*
The bow was
usually of black locust, while the arrows were of cane with
bone, stone, or shell heads.
was used*
A variety of stone war-clubs
For small game the blow-gun was preferred*
The dog was the only domesticated animal before the
arrival of the white man*
Canoes of a single hollowed log,
or of bark, and a raft of skins were their only means of
Communication was managed through smoke
signals, a rough kind of sign language, and picture-writing
usually on skins.
An outstanding example of the latter Is
the Creek Migration Myth pictured on a bison skin which was
presented to Governor Oglethorpe at the Savannah Conference
in 1733.
Records were kept by a system of knotches, commem­
orative beads, and a series of knotted cords similar to the
quipu of ancient Peru*
Musical instruments consisted of drums and rattles*
A wood drill was used to make fire*
The chief deity of the Creeks was Isakita immissi *
"Master of Life", or "Holder of Breath"*
to reside in the sky*
He was supposed
There were many lesser gods and my­
thical animals, chief among which was the snake.
tribes in this region, especially the Natchez, believed
themselves descendents of the Sun, of which their chief was
the representative on earth.
Among the Creeks there was a
group of men dedicated to priesthood;
the young men passed
through regular degrees of schooling to attain this position*
The Creeks had elaborate fertility rites of which the most
important was the annual Busk* an eight-day corn ceremony.
The 1Black Drink* taken at this time was symbolic of friend­
ship, prowess in war, and purification.
Everyone was absolv­
ed of all crimes, murder excepted, and all former quarrels
and hatreds were to be henceforth forgotten after participa­
tion in this ceremony*
Besides this rite, the Creeks had
the usual initiation and puberty ceremonies, and many others.
The Calumet ceremony was practiced, but it was imported and
not characteristic of their culture*
They had a color sym­
bolism, and the spiral ceremonial fire was charateristic•
Secondary burials were the rule;
the bones of the
higher dignitaries being placed in ossuaries*
its own burial
Each clan had
site which was sometimes a mound, but often
the bones were buried under the houses*
The forms of social institutions
ment of these
and townshipgovern­
people, which grew up as a direct result of
communal living which, in turn was the direct result of the
Introduction of the cultivation of maize, i. e. agriculture,
must be reviewed rather carefully, for it was the basis of
the Greek Confederacy which was a further necessary step to
insure safety and protection for the smaller tribal commun­
ities •
Stiggins says: nThe strongest link in their political
and social standing as a nation is their clanship or
families. By their observance of it, they are so united
that there is no part of the nation detached from another,
but they are all linked, harmonized, and consolidated as
one large connected family, for by their family perscribed rules there is no part of the nation in which a man
cannot find his clansmen or their connection11• 2
Thus the clan or gens rather than the individual was the basic
unit of government.
The Creek gens traced their descent in
the female line, in fact this is one of the greatest areas in
North America in which matrilinear descent was observed*
Again the Creeks had the largest number of gens of any other
tribal group in North America.
Their marriage, inheritance, and murder laws were typi­
cal of the gens system in North America.
The only difference
being that some gens attained the position of a kind of nobili­
certain public offices being hereditary to certain spec­
ific gens.
For example, the chiefs of the town of Tukabahchee
were always chosen from the Eagle clan.
This practice tended
to raise some gens to the exclusion of others.
2Ibid., p. 114.
Vl/hether or not
the gens were divided into phratries is a moot point#
it is generally agreed that some such division did exist#
A township consisted of several gentes with their
families united under a government headed by one chief.
town, or tribe, Italua, was regarded as the next political
unit above a gens.
Within the town each gens had its own
quarter, burial spot, and sepulchral mound#
The executive officers of a township were headed by
the chief, or Miko* elected for life and from a certain gens#
He was succeeded by his next of kin in the matrilinear line,
unless some great misfortune overtook the tribe, or his part­
icular gens ran out#
In such a case, a new gens was chosen
to supply chiefs to the township#
The chief*s duties were
He superintended all public and domestic concerns;
received public character-s and listened to their speeches;
spoke as representative of the tribe;
had charge of the
council-house and the public granary;
represented the town
in foreign negotiations;
advised the town council; and rep­
resented the town in the Confederacy Council#
His position
varied in strength according to his individual ability#
could be deposed;
he could resign at will;
and he could
appoint an assistant to help him with his various duties#
Under the chief there was a body of councillors known
as the Mikalgi#
as the Miko.
These men usually belonged to the same clan
Theirs was purely an advisory body on such
matters as law, war, and peace.
They also approved the nom-
inactions for the Miko!s assistant, and with the Miko could
appoint the Great Warrior, or Tustenuggi flako, who was the
commander general of the township in case of war*
The Hini-halgi was a body of old men and advisors who
made up a kind of Department of the Interior*
They were in
charge of public buildings, and the erection of houses for
new settlers*
They directed the agricultural pursuits and
were usually good dancers, for they were in charge of all
ceremonies especially the Busk*
The last group to be mentioned is that of the Beloved
Men, or 1sti-tchakalgi* This group had no political import­
ance, but was more of an honorary fraternity of men, usually
elderly, who had distinguished themselves by long public ser­
vice of one sort or another.
Their opinion was probably
valued in questions of extreme importance to all, such as
declaration of war, or treaties of peace.
Such was the organization of the township governments*
Concerning the actual power of these officials, Gatschet says:
"Since Indian character expresses itself in the most
pronounced self-willed independence, the power of auth­
ority was more of a persuasive then of a constraining
or commanding nature.” 3.
He goes on to say that:
the law exercised by the gens
was more powerful than all these temporary rulings, and in fact,
was the real motive power in the Indian Community.”
...... ..
Gatschet, A. S., A Migration Legend of the Creek
Indians. pp* 157-158.
^Loc* cit*
Before we turn to a discussion of the Confederacy it­
self, there are two more subjects which should be noted in
connection with town government*
One is crime and punishment;
the other is the warrior class*
The law of retaliation guided
the Creeks in crime punishment *
Revenge was the duty of the
nearest relative or clansman, be the killing accidental or
Family or tribe alone have the right of taking
Thus the punishment of crime was entirely a
tribal matter, and no concern of the Confederate government*
This is true of aril North American tribes, and of especial
difficulty for the Whiteman to understand.
Murder, rape, and
a third conviction for stealing are all punishable by death*
Trial by jury was not used, and often the defendant was con­
demned without the priviledge of calling witnesses*
War was a continuous condition among the Creek Indians*
This was mostly due to their geographic position in the midst
of war-like, aggressive tribes*
After the formation of the
Confederacy, there was no internal war, but war with out­
siders continued as usual.
As is expected, this had quite an
effect upon their social structure.
And so in each township
there was a group of men, chosen irrespective of their gens,
known as the Warrior class.
In fact, there were even some
towns wholly dedicated to war known as !Red Towns1, as opposed
to purely civil towns, known as ’White
Towns* «
A young man entering the Warrior Class must pass through
a series of ordeals and privations to prove his character*
Through exhibitions of bravery and prowess he raised him­
self through the various ranks of this class;
the highest
distinction being to be chosen Great Warrior of the Town­
The principle motives for war were plunder, scalps,
slaves, and acquisition of hunting ground*
The Creeks did
not feel the need to salve their conscience with the in­
vention of specious reasons for war, they simply went out
and fought whenever the spirit or necessity moved them to
do so*
A statement of the form of the Creek Confederacy is
aptly and concisely made by Albert Gatschet:
f,The Creek Confederacy or *League of the Muscogulgee*,
was a purely political organization connecting the var­
ious and disparate elements which composed it, for com­
mon action against external aggression* It had no direct
influence on the social organization of the tribes, and
the most appropriate term for this, and other Indian con­
federacies as well, is that of a war-confederacy, warleague, or symmachy.*1 5.
As mentioned above, it is generally agreed that the
Confederacy was in existence by 1540, but in a very elemen­
tary state.
It apparently originated with the Lower Creeks,
and spread from there to include most of the tribes within
the Southeast area*
The reasons for its formation were primarily protec­
tion for the members rather than for the glorification of
p. 168.
the dominant tribe, which in this case would be the Creeks*
The gradual destruction and scattering of many
Florida and Georgia tribes due to the ravages of war served
to increase the power of the Creeks proper through the weak­
ening of their neighbors and the adding of fugitive tribes
to their numbers•
Capture by war and a system of adoption
of tribes into the Confederacy resulted in its strengthening
into a federal union, which grew as a result of pressure from
without •
The Hitchiti, Alabama, Koasati, and Tuskegee were in­
corporated into the Confederacy before the time of clear
Several smaller tribes were taken in in the period
which followed,among which were some Seminoles of Florida*
Later the Yuchi, formerly a hostile tribe and originally part
of the Shawnee group, Joined*
And finally in 1740, a part of
the Natchez tribe under the leadership of Chief Dog Warrior
entered the Confederacy.
This was the last tribe to enter
the union*
Before discussing the machinery of the Confederate
government, it is best to note the statement of Swanton, who
"No satisfactory study of the organization of the
Creek Confederate Council has come down to us".
becomes very apparent with study.
cit* p.310*
This fact
There seems to be an end-
less variety of opinion as to how the officials were appoint­
ed, how many there were, where and how often they met, and
what exactly was the scope of their legislation*
The follow­
ing discussion is based upon statements that the majority and
most reliable authorities are agreed upon*
It is agreed that the General Council of the Confeder­
acy met annually in some principle village*
In later years,
this metting place was Tukabahchee, the largest Upper Creek
The council-house of the chosen town was used for the
This counci1-house was typical of all Creek
It was rectangular in shape, and built upon a mound
in the middle of the public square*
It was composed of four
one-story buildings of equal size, facing inward*
central court, a continual fire burned.
In the
The north-east cor­
ner building was considered the council-house proper, and had
ita own ceremonial fire inside*
The officials and represent­
atives sat about it in the order of their rank, and could
speak only in their turn*
The rules of the Assembly are interesting*
After the
meeting is called to order by the Grand Chief, no one may
leave the building until the business of the nation is con­
The Grand Chief is the only exception to this rule;
he may leave for a few minutes.
During this time no one may
approach the building from the outside*
Subordinate chiefs
are allowed in to serve the members and bring them food, but
they have no voice in the discussion#
During the meeting,
the members are allowed to voice their opinions in order of
their rank*
Of these speeches Milfort says:
"Speaking in these assemblies was a high art, and was
next to success in war, the major means of social ad­
vancement# Religious sentiment was attached to it, and
before a public speech, the Creek speaker used to spit
four times with deliberation and repeat a formula* The
oratorical language was full of metaphorical allusions,
and irony and satire were resorted to rather than de­
nunciation •** 7.
The chief of the Confederacy was called "The Beloved
Man11, or "Great Warrior Chief"*
Such a man was Alexander
McGillivray, the above mentioned Scotchman.
chiefs were "Little Prince" (1814);
"Chief Dog Wairrior" (1750);
Other famous
"Big Warrior" (1800);
and "Roly Macintosh" (1815),
who was considered the greatest Creek statesman of his
This position was of Influence only when the poss-
esor was endowed with superior talent and political ability
for it was an advisory position only*
The Great Chief was;
appointed by the Confederacy Council from one of its mem­
bers, and he held office as long as he kept his good be­
The interesting part about this office is that it
apparently developed Into a position requiring two men#
One chief was elected by the Upper Creeks, and one by the
Lower Creeks;
and they presided over the meetings together
one of them holding a secondary position according to which
p. 313.
half of the nation was least powerful at the time*
The Council itself was made
up of the chiefs from
each township in the Confederacy and some minor chiefs,
making a total of about forty men*
In Hitchcock1s time,
the early part of the nineteenth century, there was still
another group known as the Committee*
This was made up of
one to two representatives elected by the people from each
The generalfeeling is that
this was a later addi­
tion, made probably as a result of the influence of Europ­
ean institutions*
All members of the Council or Committee
were elected permanently*
Vacancies occuring through death
or sickness were filled by elections in each town*
nominations were then approved by the council*
The Confederate Council gathered to discuss every­
thing of importance to the nation, internally and extern­
They had the power to declare war;
to make treaties
to make laws concerning the operation of the Confederacy;
to appoint a generalissimo War Chief for the Confederacy;
and to sell whatever land they chose within the limits of
the Confederacy.
For all land not immediately within the
limits of a township was considered the property ofj the
Any individual had the right to hunt and
range over this region, but only the Confederacy had the
right to sell or dispose of it in any manner*
Decisions on these questions in the Council were
sometimes made on the principle of majorities, and some­
times forced by the opinions of leading chiefs*
In no case
was an unanimity of vote required to settle a question.
Verbal summons had all the weight of our modern written do­
cuments »
This governing body had nothing to do with crime or
its punishment, as explained above.
There is no instance
of any taxation being levied on the people by this body.
When a tribe was taken Into the Confederacy either
through capture or adoption, the new town remained virtu­
ally self-governing.
Major C. Swan tells us:
"A maxim of
their policy was to give equal liberty and protection to
tribes conquered by themselves, as well as those vanquished
by others.,f However, we have ample proof that many of
these captives were reserved for slaves.
Gatschet says?
f,There is a tradition that when the Creek people
incorporated tribes of other nations into their Con­
federacy, these tribes never kept up their own cus­
toms and peculiarities for any length of time, but .
were subdued In such a manner as to conform with the
dominent race.11 9.
There are illustrations for and against this last state­
ment, but it seems logical from an observance of the work­
ing efficiency of the Confederacy that they continued with
their own government and their customs, which in most cases
^Gatschet, oj>. cit.» pp. 259-260
^Ibid., p. 118.
were very similar to those of the Greeks anyway, with the
possible exception of their language, which they would pro­
bably change or modify in order to better understand the
speech of their new allies.
The practical effect of the Confederate government on
the individual member of the tribe was slight.
Mutual friend­
liness and the powerful clan system were the forces which
really held the Confederacy together rather than any power
eminating from the organization itself*
It was really an extremely loose organization as is
illustrated by the light manner in which its decisions were
regarded by the various tribes.
For instance, each town
apparently could and did go to war without the aid of, or in
spite of the Confederacy.
Again, small respect was paid to
the peace treaties or the sales of territory negotiated by
the Confederacy.
The town of Coweta claimed exclusive rights
to all the territory surrounding and contiguous to her town
limits, and the Confederacy had no power to make her think
Time and again White traders discovered that the
actions of various towns were not in harmony with the agree­
ments made by the Great Council for the Confederacy.
What it did accomplish was internal peace for its
and the powerful threat of possible concerted act­
ion in case of invasion.
Its formation and organization,
such as it ..was, Is-a. credit to the Creek nation.
For it is
agreed that confederacy was the most complicated form of
government reached by the North American Indians*
the Creeks attained this loose but comparatively strong
and'permanent national union, they have become the most
noteworthy or all the historic tribes of the Southeastern
The above description of the Confederacy is true, so
far as we have been able to tell, of the organization in its
more primitive state, before the coming of the Whiteman*
Is the confederation as it was conceived and carried out by
the native Creek Indians in their original home*
To-day on
the reservation in Oklahoma, the Creek Confederacy has adopt
ed a constitution similar to that of the United States, and
its conduction of the business before the board has a dis­
tinctly parliamentary flavor.
We are interested In this
late phase only as it represents the continuation and work­
ing out of an idea originated by themselves, and assisted
rather than exterminated by the contact of an invading cul­
10rbia., p. us
The five tribes which made up the Iroquois Confeder­
acy lived within the present limits of the State of New York*
The extent of their conquests and the sphere of their influ­
ence, however, covered a much larger area, and at one time
extended from Quebec In the north to the Carolines in the
south, and from the forests of Maine In the east to the
prairies In the west*
Geographically speaking, the area in which they lived
was a coastal plain cut down the middle by the northern reach­
es of the Appalachian Mountains •
The western half was an: In­
land plain which sloped down to the Great Lakes region*
The climate of this region is that of a typical con­
tinental forest with hot summers, cold winters, and a high
annual rain-fall, (between forty and sixty inches a year)*
The vegetation Is that of a temperate deciduous forest
with birch, beech, maple, and hemlock trees predominating*
Besides these trees there are areas where chestnut, poplar,
spruce, and fir trees abound.
which drain this region;
Parkman, Francis,
p. 10*
There are three great rivers
the Hudson which flows south to the
The Conspiracy of Pontiac* Vol. I,
Atlantic ocean;
the Mohawk, an east-west tributary of the
and the Saint Lawrence which flows northeast to the
Besides these, there are many smaller rivers,
creeks, and streams;
and many lakes most notable of which
are the Finger Lakes in the west central portion, Lake Oneida
near-by, and Lake George and Lake Champlain to the north.
the west the region is bordered by two of the Great Lakes,
Lake Erie and Lake Ontario with their connecting link the
Niagara river.
Thus we see that communication, which other­
wise would have been extremely difficult in this heavily for­
ested region, was made easy by a veritable network of streams,
rivers, and lakes.
The soil of this region was predominently that of a
silty loam which, when watered by the frequent rains, was
highly productive, and still is to-day.
Intensive agricul­
ture was so made possible in this region.
Animal life was abundant, and consisted of deer, elk,
bear, racoon, porcupine, fish, turkey, duck, and innumerable
smaller edible creatures, all of which the Iroquois made use
of for dietary and clothing purposes.
Nuts, berries, seeds,
wild rice, and wild grains were also used for food by the
Indians. 'They supplimented this wild diet by raising maize,
potatoes, beans, squashes, cucumbers, melons, and tobacco.
Their manufactured foods consisted of hominy, oils and flavor­
ings made from a variety of nuts, berries, and seeds, and
sugar made from the sap of the maple tree*
To-day this
region is famous chiefly for the production of lumber and
Speaking of the ’fertile area of western New York1,
Schoolcraft says it is characterized "by its numerous
streams and interior lakes", and presents
"superficies abounding in all elements of ancient
subsistence* In its forest state, it was known to
abound in game and fish, which yielded the hunter a
ready reward for the labors of his bow and spear. Its
rich valleys were favorable to the zea maize* Geograph­
ically it possessed some very strong points to favor the
prosperity of its ancient possessors, connected as It was,
by water, with the Ohio valley, the upper lakes, and the
Atlantic ocean; and the entire superficies appears to
have been contended for, at several periods, by differ­
ent tribes or confederacies, long anterior to the remot­
est end of the discovery of the continent." 2.
Archeologically speaking, this region Is known as the
Iroquoian Area, and the material cultural remains found here
show the former inhabitants to be ancestors of the historic
Iroquoian tribes.
This older Iroquoian culture seems to
overlie one of a different form, now believed to be that
called Algonquian.
This same area classified in the terms
of historic cultural areas is known as the Eastern Woodland
The tribes which are characteristic of this cultural
group are known as the Algonkin tribes, and although the
Iroquois lived side by side with this linguistic group in
New York State, in fact their central location split the
Schoolcraft, Henry B., Notes on the Iroquois,
pp. 39-40.
Algonkian group into an eastern and a central division,
the Iroquois had a culture more typical of the Southeast­
ern Cultural area described above as typical of the Creek
This fact would indicate a southern origin for the
Iroquoian tribes, and mark them as intruders Into the region
formally occupied by the Algonquian people*
A glance at
Iroquois migration legends would lead us to believe that they
entered this region from the north, presumably via Quebec,
but a further study suggests that they originally travelled
from.the south following the Mississippi river.north, circl­
ing Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which is the center of the
older Iroquoian archeological area, and entered Canada,
occupying both banks of the Saint Lawrence river as far
north as Quebec*
From there they moved south into the
Algonquian area of New York State where they took up their
historic residence, and where the Dutch discovered them in
This theory seems compatable both with their migra­
tion legends and with their archeological culture remains*
Although the tribes subjugated by the Confederacy
belonged to a variety of linguistic groups, the five mem­
bers themselves spoke dialects of the Iroquoian Stock*
Physically they were fine specimens, the average height of
the men being around six feet*
skulls *
They had dolichocephalic
As mentioned above, the Iroquois cultural pattern
is similar to that of the Creeks, but because it is fairly
distinctive in itself it warrants a discussion here*
One of the principle resemblences to the culture of
the Creeks is found in their type of dwelling*
The towns,
usually circular or oval in shape, were protected by high
palisadal walls of earth and logs, with holes for defense
A system for conducting water into the village
had been invented to facilitate the extinquishing of fires
which often occured during raids*
The area enclosed with­
in the village walls was sometimes several acres in extent*
The dwellings which were arranged in order within this area,
were often as long as one hundred feet*
They were made of
layers of elm bark superimposed upon a rectangular frame­
work of poles*
They had curved roofs*
Several families
usually belonging to the same gens lived communially in each
Separate fires for each family were built along the
central space, while partitions arranged along each side
afforded a measure of privacy.
Each compartment had a
raised floor covered with strips of bark, and rude benches
lined the walls*
These buildings were called fLong Houses*,
and bear a close resemblance to the Creek dwellings.
Again, as with the Creeks, all land within the vill­
age limits and also the cultivated fields surrounding It
were communially owned*
Strips of land for raizing crops
were apportioned annually to each family, and the plant­
ing, and harvesting of these strips was a community enterprize*
Each tribe in the Confederacy had clearly de­
fined boundaries within which any member of the tribe could
hunt at will*
Their hunting, while it was important, did
not classify them as nomadie hunters, for they were primar­
ily sedentary agricultural people*
Their staple crops, beans, squash, and maize, were
all planted in the same fields, and were cultivated with a
rude type of hoe similar to that of the Creeks*
They had no
knowledge of irregation*
Pottery-making was a highly developed art with the
They had a variety of pottery shapes, among which
the most unique was the square-topped pot which was charac­
teristic with them*
of pottery*
Ladles, pipes, and dishes were also made
They also made vessels, bowls, pitchers, ladles,
and masks of elaborately carved wood*
The masks were for use
in the ceremonies of their various secret societies, and those
of the Seneca tribe are especially famous for their aesthetic
Basketry of splint, flag, and corn-husks was a feature
of their culture;
mats, storage vessels, selves, and cradles
being the predominating forms•
They did superior work in
bone and stone*
Their chief weapon was the bow and arrow which was made
from a variety of woods•
The arrowheads were of chert or
Bone knives, a full-grooved axe, and a variety of
war-club, which later developed into the 1tomahawk*, were
their other weapons.
The blow-gun was used by the Iroquois
for shooting small game.
This weapon was also used by the
Creeks, and this was the most northern extent of its usage.
Means of transportation were the log canoe, the bark
canoe, the snowshoe, and the tobaggan.
Ropes and dishes
were also made of bark.
The Iroquois costume consisted ot Breechclouts,
tunics, leggings, and moccasins for the men;
and long skirts,
tunics, shawls, leggings and moccasins for the women.
garments were chiefly of skins highly decorated with featherwork, and porcupine-quill work.
After the arrival of the
Whiteman, bead-v/ork was introduced at which the Iroquois
became highly proficient.
Painting and tatooing were prac­
ticed for ornamental and ceremonial purposes.
Wampum belts
of beads made from concha-shells were highly prized, and
were used chiefly for exchange between tribes as symbolic of
peace pledges or announcements of war or other civil events.
Many ornaments including headbands and a variety of other
objects were worn by these Indians.
Musical instruments were mainly percussion, although
the Iroquois also made flutes.
These were usually about
twelve inches long and had six stops.
The Iroquois believed In a Great Spirit of human
form, and also his counterpart, an Evil Spirit, also of
human form#
Besides these two they believed in a multitude
of lesser spirits, chief among which were He-no. Spirit of
Ga-oh. Spirit of the winds;
and the Three Sisters
"Our Supporters", Spirits of the Maize, the Bean, and the
They believed in the immortality of the soul and a
future life*
They practiced secondary burials, the bones of
the deceased being placed either in common ossuaries or un4
der the houses*
They had the usual annual agricultural cere
monies of which the most important was the Green Corn Fes­
Before entering into a discussion of the tribal gov­
ernment of the Iroquois, we should note, as we did with the
Creeks, that these are a sedentary agricultural people#
Their communal living, which was the result of the introduc­
tion of agriculture, created a need for a governmental sys­
tem which later grew more complicated as the result of the
union of the five tribes, and always the purpose was for
the insurance of peace and a protection against their war­
like neighbors.
Again, as with the Creeks, we find the
government based upon the clan system which traced its des­
cent in the matrilinear line#
And here again, "the gens
was the unit of the social and governmental system*"
Morgan, Lev/is,
Ancient Society*
p. 85.
Within each tribe, the various Iroquoian clans, (of
which there were eight), had their own council*
Each clan
member from every town, women included, had a voice in this
they elected and deposed their chiefs and second­
ary chiefs;
and settled all problems growing out of the
rights, priviledges, and duties of the clan*
The laws of
marriage and inheritance, as well as the rights and priviledges of these clans were typical of the clan-gens sys­
tem in North America*
The punishment of crime, here as with
the Creeks, was a matter purely the concern of the clan*
Among the Iroquois tribes we find the division of the
various clans into phratries or moities*
Usually four clans
within a tribe combine to make a phratry, while the remain­
ing clans (usually four In number) combine to make a fcousin*
This grouping was created because of the need for
a larger grouping than a clan and yet smaller than the tribe
in order to facilitate the organizing of social functions
and religious ceremonies.
The phratries had no political
power, and were equal in grade, character and priviledges*
However, they had one duty which might be almost termed
political, and that was the right to confirm or veto the
election of each new gens chief or secondary chief.
Iroquois* use of the phratry evidently was of long standing,
and preceded the formation of the Confederacy.
As mentioned
above, the use of this grouping among the Creeks is question-
ed, and if it did exist, it apparently was of little con­
The tribal council consisted of all the chiefs and
secondary chiefs of the various gentes of the tribe.
were eight different gentes represented in the five tribes
of the Confederacy, but not every tribe had all eight gen­
tes represented in its group*
The tribal council was fur­
ther augmented by the several sachems who represented the
tribe in the Confederacy Council.
All the above-mentioned
offices were elective and for life unless public opinion
demanded that the holder be removed from office*
No tri­
bal head-chief was recognized*
The duties of this council were to guard and prot­
ect the common interests of the tribe;
to declare war and
make peace (these duties were removed to the higher Confed­
eracy Council after the formation of the League and became
those of the tribal council only upon the decision of that
higher body);
to send and receive ambassadors;
to make
and to perform those duties which were outside
the jurisdiction of the clans*
”It exercised all the powers
needful in a government so simple and limited in its affairs.11
Business between tribes was carried on through a delegation
of wise men and chiefs appointed by this body.
p. 118.
The council
had the right to depose any chief it chose, and its power
in this respect was above that of the clan*
Under the Confederacy, each tribe had its own in­
dividual government;
only matters involving foreign pow­
ers or requiring the concerted action of the League were
the business of the Confederate Council*
The tribal council
meetings were open to all members of the tribe, and any in­
dividual, man or woman, could address it on public questions*
Hence it was practically certain to act under popular in­
Everyone could express their opinions, but the de­
cision was made by the council, and unanimity was a fund­
amental law of action*
Raiding parties were usually left to the action of
the voluntary principle*
Any individual could form a war-
party of volunteers at any time*
Defense was usually under
the leadership of a tribal war-chief and a council of warparty captains, elected especially for that purpose*
etically each tribe was at war with every other tribe with
whom it had not actually formed a peace treaty*
Thus we see
the five members of the Iroquoian League were at peace among
themselves, nor is there any record of military strife of
any sort between them*
Dellenbaugh remarks upon this when
he sayss
MOne great drawback to American progress, interne­
cine wars, was entirely obliterated by the masterly
organization of the Iroquois League, while at the same
time they gained by their union a strength for offence
or defense that, together with their fertile and wellwatered domain, rendered their organization impregn­
able •” 5
The individual tribes often undertook private skirmishes
with neighboring enemy tribes, but the ability of the Lea­
gue to organize and conduct concerted military action ag­
ainst an enemy was a power which made it the leading abor­
iginal power, politically speaking, on the eastern coast*
It is the more remarkable because North American Indian
tribes and confederacies were notoriously weak organiza­
tions for military operations*
As illustrative of the above-mentioned Iroquoian
talent,the history of the League after its formation in
about the middle of the fifteenth century, consists of a
long series of successful military campaigns which were
carried on over an area bordered on the east by the
Atlantic Ocean;
on the north by the Great Lakes and the
Saint Lawrence river;
on the west by the eastern shores of
Lake Michigan and the Wabash river in Indiana;
and on the
south by the Ohio river in the western portion, and the
northern border of the state of South Carolina In the east-
Dellenbaugh,Fredrick S*,
p. 427*
North Americans of Yester­
Morgan gives the date of the formation of the Confed­
eracy as anywhere between 1400 and 1450 A* D. Parkman and
others give it as 1500 or later* Morgan*s choice Is usually
accepted on the basis of his extensive work among the
Iroquois which would better qualify him as judge*
ern portion*
This huge area includes portions of eight­
een of the present United States, and parts of Canada*
This amazing fact is attested to in the reports of
Cadwalader Colden, commissioner to the Iroquois in 1747;
Lewis Evans, map-maker in 1735;
and Schoolcraft, who men­
tions the two first-named authorities in his work entitled
Indian Tribes Of The United States*
According to legend the three original tribes;
Mohawks, the Onondagas, and the Senecas;
entered Hew York
State from Canada via Lake Champlain at sometime previous
to the forming of the League which occurred around 1450 A*D.
Settling in the central part of the State they displaced the
Algonkian tribes whose former home it was*
After their arr­
ival, two other tribes were formed as offshoots of the three
these new tribes were known as the Oneida and
These five tribes spread over the central part of
New York State, choosing sites for their new homes, but al­
ways keeping in close contact with one another, and often
banding together in common action against the original in­
This frequent formation of a temporary war-
league, whose benefits they readily appreciated, was their
first step toward a solid, enduring political union*
The most popular legend of the origin of the Confed­
eracy, and the one generally referred to by the Iroquois
^Schoolcraft,Henry R.,
States* p* 196*
Indian Tribes of the United
themselves, is the one telling of Hiawatha, or Ha-yo-wentha, and his interpreter Da-ga-no-we-da#
It is believed that
a council of wise-men and chiefs from the five tribes met,
for the purpose of forming the Confederacy, in the north
shore of Lake Onondaga near the present site of Syracuse#
Here Hiawatha suddenly appeared from the Lake in a canoe,
and, choosing Da-ga-no-we-da, and Onondaga, as his interpre­
ter, gave to them in one long session, the structure and
principles of the organization of the Confederacy#
which, he was born upward and out of sight in a white canoe#
The Confederacy, perfect in every detail, was set in imm­
ediate operation#
This legend has probably a good deal of truth in it#
Because these five tribes, having several common gentes;
occupying contiguous territory, speaking dialects of the
same language;
and having made successfully previous all­
iances for mutual defense and offence, were at a point where
the formation of a confederation was to them the next logic­
al step#
This may have been so obvious to them, that a group
of chiefs could have met, and in "one long session" set up in
working order the organization of the Confederacy#
This or­
ganization, as will be seen, was nothing more complicated
than the logical projection of the well-understood tribal
government into a higher sphere#
That one man'could have
done it, and so be-deified for his work, is also possible#
Or again, Hiawatha may be a composite of characters which
later was made into one Iroquoian Culture Hero as a result
of their suspicion that they had done something fine and
far above the ordinary in the creation of their Confederacy#
After the formation of the league, the Iroquois rose
rapidly in power and influence*
This was accomplished
through added numbers of warriors, concentration of effort,
and a firm establishment due to their new union*
,rOne of the first results of their federal system was
a universal spirit of
Thus by 1555 their war
to expel the Algonkians from central New York State was over,
and a short period of peace followed*
In 1609 the Dutch arrived in the Albany region and in
1615 they established a trading post on the present site of
From the very first, the Iroquois and the Dutch
were friendly and soon there developed a large trade between
One of the most Important articles the Iroquois receiv­
ed from the Dutch at this time was fire-arms •
This gave a
final touch to the supremacy of the League over other tribes,
for the Iroquois soon became more than proficient with their
new and deadly weapon#
In 1664 the Dutch surrendered the Albany post to the
English who further cultivated the trade and friendship of
the Iroquois*
This friendship was to stand them in good
stead In the coming struggle with the French for the pOSSeSSCS
Morgan, Lewis,
League of the Iroquois*
p. 8*
ion of the New World*
In fact, it is said that so evenly
matched were these two European contestants that it was
only the power of the Iroquois League, who were enemies of
the French from the first, that turned the scale in favor
of the English, and finally caused the defeat of the French
in America*
From 1600 to 1700, the Iroquois were involved in al­
most uninterrupted warfare.
In 1643 they expelled the
Neuter Nation from the Niagara Peninsula;
tually destroyed the Wyandot tribe;
in 1649 they vir­
in 1653 they did the
same to the Eries, and gained them western New York and
northern Ohio;
and by 1672 they had completely subjugated
the Hurons, Adirondacks, and Andastes which gave them the
territory between Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario, and the
north bank of the Saint Lawrence River far east as Montreal.
Meanwhile they made constant Inroads upon the New England
Indians who were reduced by terror to a state of complete
In 1680 a group of Seneca Indians invaded the
country of the Illinois as far west as the Mississippi
river, conquering as they went*
Soon after, the Lenape and
the Ottawa Indians were subjected by these warriors*
By 1700 the Iroquois League was at its peak as a
political power*
They had either destroyed or subdued all
the principle Indian nations occupying the vast territory
whose boundaries were described above*
Besides these
battles with their aboriginal neighbors, they had been
carrying on a continuous war with the French who had their
strongholds at Montreal and Quebec*
The French were ob­
viously getting the worst or the battle*
In 1714 the
Tuscaroras, members of the Iroquoian Linguistic group Joined
the Confederacy as the Sixth Nation*
They had been forced
by the white settlers to leave their home in the south, and
now moved to southern New York to enjoy the protection of
the powerful League*
Although they were allowed to have rep­
resentatives in the Confederacy Council, they had no power
of vote in this body, and so may be regarded as inactive
The five Tribes had now reached a point, all opposi­
tion having been put down, where they were ready to develop
the civil and social sides of their government*
the continued, bitter war with the French prevented this
next step*
Between 1700 and 1760, when the British finally
managed to subdue the French, the number of Iroquois warriors
had been diminished by half due to this terrific struggle*
No sooner had peace been established on this side,
than the American Revolution broke out*
The Iroquois being
allies of the British finally Joined them against the Rev­
olutionists, but only after a long debate in the Council in
which they were unable to reach a unanimous decision*
As a
result, it was decided that those tribes who wished, could
take part In the war at their own risk*
The OneIdas led the
group who decided that a non-participant policy was best*
The fall of the Confederacy came v/lth the defeat of
the British in 1785.
The Mohawk tribe had already moved to
Canada, and from 1790 on, the League dispersed itself in
little groups to the various reservations provided for them
in Canada, Hew York State, and other nearby locations.
original land claimed by the League was deeded to the Hew
United States or sold to individual settlers.
It is inter­
esting to note that their last campaign was entered into,
not with any prospect of gain for themselves, but because of
their respected alliance with Great Britain.
In this the
Confederacy suffered its first and last defeat.
In 1847, the Iroquoian population was reported as a
total of 5,912, which was considered quite a drop from for­
mer days.
However as with the Creeks, the Iroquois are now
increasing under the inlightened and humane treatment of the
United States Government*
In the various reservations, the
Confederate Council is still existent, but is active only
in social and religious fields.
Before discussing the form of the Iroquois Confeder­
acy, a word should be said concerning the authorities for
this field of study.
Lewis Morgan is considered the best
source for factual material on the Iroquois.
Parkman, who has written so much about the early history
of the colonization of the United States and Canada, is an­
other important source of information.
Golden is also quite reliable.
The third, Cadwalader
Schoolcraft, Brinton, Bancroft,
and Heckewelder, are others which should not be overlook­
ed, but they all draw heavily upon the first mentioned three
for the greater part of their information#
In a statement on the form of the Iroquoian Confedercay, Morgan says:
f,Although oligarchical in form, the govern9
ment was a representative democracy*”
In another place he
”The substitutian of the female line for the male,
effecting thereby the disheritance of the son, the po­
litically elective character of the Sachemships, the
absense of all landed estates, and the power of depos­
ing lodged with the tribes, are reasons conclusive for
regarding the government of the Iroquois as anoligarchy
rather than as an aristocracy*” 10
It was ”**•.essentially democratical; because it was
composed of gentes each of which was organized upon the
common principles of democracy, not the highest but of
the primitive type, and because the tribes reserved the
right of local self-government*” 11
However, it would seem simpler to think of it as a
League of linguistically related tribes whose governments
as well as that of the league were based upon the primitive
type of representative democracy characteristic of American
Indian tribes, in which only two of the three branches of
government were developed;
the legislative, and the execu­
Its purpose was for security against outward attack,
triumph upon the war-path, and internal tranquillity*
was formed as a result of the voluntary action of the Five
Lewis, Ancient Society,
p. 117*
Lewis, League of the Iroquois,
Lewis, Anclent Society,
p* 149*
p. 138*
original members*
These members, as mentioned above, were
the Mohawks, the OneIdas, the Onondagaa, the Cayugas, the
Senecas, the later the Tuscaroras*
The date of its forma­
tion was somewhere between 1400 and 1450 A. D*
Neither the Tribe nor the Confederacy recognized a
continuous executive head in their respective bodies*
Confederacy council was made up of forty-eight Sachems, or
The Mohawks were represented by nine Sachems
from their tribe;
the Oneidas by nine;
the Cayugas by ten;
the Onondagas by
and the Senecas by eight.
This uneven distribution did not give any one tribe an ad­
vantage, for in the council the representatives of each
tribe voted as one*
And a unanimity of tribal votes was
necessary for any action*
If this unanimity could not be
obtained, the matter was dropped until such a time as an
agreement could be reached*
Sachems were elected for life
to their position from certain clans within each tribe to
which the office was hereditary*
These clans had the power
to fill vacancies as often as they occurred by election
from among their members;
they could also depose their
Sachem at will*
Concerning the authority and character of these
Sachems, Colden says:
The Authority of these Rulers is gain’d by, and
consists wholly in the Opinion the rest of the Nation
have of the Wisdom and Integrity* They never execute
their Resolutions by Force upon any of their people*
Honour and Esteem are their principle Rewards; as
Sham© and being despised their Punishments •11
ffThere is not a man in the Ministry of the Five
Nations, who has gain’d his Office, otherwise than
by Merit; there is not the least Salary, or any Sort
of Profit, annexed to any Office to tempt the Covetous
or Sordid; but, on the Contrary, every unworthy Action
is unavoidably attended whith the Forfeiture of their
Commission; for their Authority is only the Esteem of 13
the people, and ceases the Moment that Esteem is lost.”
The Iroquoian term for Sachem was Bo-yar-no-go-war,
and translates Counsellor of the People”*
Each Sachem had
an aide elected in the same manner as himself and from the
same clan.
The aidefs duty was to stand behind his superior
on all occasions of ceremony;
act as his messenger; and in
general to be subject to his directions.
He was called a
chief, and was the probable successor of his Sachem.
There were two other officials who sat in the Confed­
erate Council, they were known as the Bos—ga—a-geh-da-go^wa9
or ”Great War Soldiers.”
These two offices were created
soon after the formation of the Confederacy because there
was discovered the need of someone to execute the military
commands of the Confederacy.
two specific Seneca clans.
The offices were elective from
The reason for choosing Senecas
for this office was the especial danger of attack from the
west which was the location of the Seneca tribe in relation
to the rest of the Confederacy.
They chose two War Chiefs
in order to evenly distribute and balance the power of this
office, thus preventing anyone from becoming an absolute
Colden, Cadwallader,
p. 16
p. 17
History of the Five Indian
These officers, although they sat In the Council,
could not vote, and the position never became very influencial*
In regard to their duties, Morgan says:
f,as gen­
eral commanders they had charge of the military affairs of
the Confederacy, and the command of its joint forces when
united In a general expedition*11
As a rule the Confederate Council met annually in
autumn at the Great Council House, or rfLong-house”, in the
valley of the Onondaga*
A special meeting could be called
at any time by anyone of the Five members, and it was not
necessarily held at Onondaga*
bol of the Confederacy*
The ”Long-house” was the sym­
The convention of the Great Council
was accomplished and conducted with much ceremony In which
the building of Ceremonial fires and the smoking of the cal­
umet pipe figured highly*
The Sachems of the three origi­
nal tribes, (Mohawks, Onondagas, and Senecas), were seat­
ed on one side of the central ceremonial fire, and constit­
uted a phratry of the Father Tribes, which the Sachems of
the Oneida and Cayuga, and later the Tuscarora tribes sat
on the opposite side of the fire and were considered a phra­
try of the Son Tribes*
Parkman tells us ”••••the order of
debate was prescribed by time-honored customs, and, in the
fiercest heat of controversey, the assembly maintained its
op* cit* p* 147*
Conspiracy of Pontiac * Vol* I,p* 12
The record of all acts of the Council was kept by a sys­
tem of Wampum belts which served as a reminder of the act,
and also as a pledge of faith for its execution*
council meetings were open to the public;
and orators
were encouraged to discuss public questions before the
Council, but only the Council could make the final decision
The duties of the council concerned all matters In­
volving foreign powers, or involving the confederacy as a
They sent and received ambassadors;
adjusted alliances;
they made and
they discussed and regulated all mat­
ters of general Interest;
they declared war and made peace
and they reserved the power to invest both Sachems and
Tribal Chiefs Into their new positions, which elections
without the sanction of the General Council were considered
null and void*
As mentioned before, the Council had no judicial
the punishment of crime being the duty of the clan*
The treatment of conquered tribes varied according
to the situation.
For instance, the Delaware Tribe was
held in subjection, but were allowed to keep its own govern
As an example of the opposite treatment, some
tribes, i*e. the Neuter Nations, were virtually extinguish­
Parkman describes this in a paragraph;
"When their vengence was glutted by the sacrifice
of a sufficient number of captives, they spared the
Morgan, op.c i t p. 149.
lives of the remainder, and adopted them as members
of their confederate tribes, separating wives from
husbands, and children from parents, and distribut­
ing them among different villages, in order that all
ties and associations might be more completely broken
up•” 17
In no case were any members other than the Five or­
iginal tribes admitted into the confederacy with equal pow­
Even the Tuscaroras, who joined in 1715, had no power
of vote in the council.
The subjugation of all these tribes
added nothing to the original strength of the confederacy
itself except in the case of adoption of captives into one
of the member Tribes which would give a slight increase in
man power.
Taxation of these conquered tribes was practic­
ed to some extent, but the system could hardly be called
organized and was more in the nature of tribute as a token
of continued subservience.
One point of interest we find carelessly mentioned
by Morgan, who says:
”ln the conquered territories they
(Iroquois) often established settlements or colonies of
their own people, to exercise a species of superintendence
over their acquired possessions*ft
This immediately calls
to mind the same practice of the Incas of Peru, which Is
discussed below In Chapter V.
The Incas also used the same
notion conversely, and imported troublesome colonies into
areas peopled by loyal Incan citizens where they could do
* Parkman, op. cit♦ p. 30.
League of the Iroquois.
p. 15.
no harm*© colonies were called Mitimaes.
Another point of interest, is the apparent need of
the Iroquois for an excuse to fight;
an excuse which would
justify to their consciences in the attack upon, and possib­
le massacre, of a neighboring tribe*
Psychologically, such
a need to salve their consciences is an indication of advance­
ment toward “higher civilization.”
We find it among the Incas
who excused their campaigns by the Divine Order to spread the
worship of the sun among the ’barbarous tribes1.
The Iroquois
have an equally interesting excuse.
They declared that the
real objective of the League was to maintain peace.
In the
name of peace, therefore, they would suggest that a tribe be­
come a subject of the confederacy.
When the tribe, for per­
fectly understandable reasons, often refused;
leapt upon them, and massacred them.
the Iroquois
We have reports of the
Iroquois practicing this method of approach on both the Erie
and Neuter Nation Tribes.
amazing statement:
Observing this, Morgan makes this
“Such an insight into the highest ob-
jects of government is creditable to their intelligence.”
We feel that Morgan has missed the point completely.
In the course of time, the increase in numbers and
increase in negotiations with other tribes caused the coun­
cil to distinguish between two miain branches of duties.
calling of a ’Civil Council’ meant that the business to be
handled was the declaring of war;
' 19
Morgan, Lewis,
^ L o c . cit.
making of peace;
Ancient Society,
p. 149.
ing or receiving embassies;
with subjugated tribes;
making treaties;
or making further measures to
insure the general welfare.
The calling of a *Mourning
Council* meant the business at hand was the investiture
of a new Sachem, which was a five day ceremony in which
the deceased Sachem was mourned and his successor welcomed
into the council amid general ceremony.
The other duty un­
dertaken by a 1Mourning Council* was the organization and
observance of general religious ceremonies in which the
Five Confederate Tribes participated.
These two councils
were composed of the same Sachems, and the purpose of
giving them different names was simply to indicate which
type of business, social or civil, they were to concern
themselves with at that particular convention*
The mainstay of the Confederacy was the clan sys­
Again, as in the case of the Creeks, the eight
Iroquois clans, common to all five tribes, bound the con­
federacy in an eight-fold bond giving it elastic strength
and a guarantee of internal peace.
Tribal boundaries were
clearly defined and religiously observed, removing one of
the main causes of internal strife.
Guaranteed equality
of the Five tribes in the Confederate Council kept them
well-disposed toward one another and removed another cause
for friction.
Thus, in a discussion of its efficiency, we
see that through the aid of the clan system suppliment by
intelligent rulings internal peace was theirs.
In the en-
tir© history of the Confederacy there is no instance of
anarchy or revolution within itself*
The vast extent of
its conquests speaks eloquently of the prowess of the
League in martial matters*
And it is the firm belief of
such men as Schoolcraft, Morgan, and Dellenbaugh, that had
there been no interruption as that caused by the advent of
the whiteman and all that that coming implied, the Iroquois
would have climbed to amazing heights In the field of pol­
itical and civil government, which would have been unpara­
lleled In North America*
The position of the Individual member of the Tribe
under the Iroquoian Confederacy was a responsible one*
Upon his vote depended the election of the officials of the
Nation and upon his opinion depended a great deal of the
action of the Confederacy, for, as explained above, their
type of government Is strongly influenced by public opin­
For the government, although in the hands of a few,
was really controlled by the many, and it was the direct
responsibility of each individual member of the Tribes*
In closing, a summary of the Iroquois Confederacy
formulated by Morgan Is given below:
”1* The confederacy was a union of Five Tribes,
composed of common gentes, under one government on
the basis of equality; each tribe remaining Indep­
endent in all matters pertaining to local self-govern­
2# It created a general Council of Sachems, who
were limited in number, equal in rank and authority,
and invested with supreme powers over all matters
pertaining to the Confederacy*
3* Fifth Sachemships were created and named In
perpetuity in certain gentes of the several tribes;
with power in these gentes to fill vacancies, a$
often as they occurred, by election from among their
respective members, and with the further power to de­
pose from office for cause; but the right to invest
these Sachems with office was reserved to the general
4. The Sachems of the Confederacy were also Sachems
in their respective tribes, and with the Chiefs of
these tribes formed the council of each, which was sup­
reme over all matters pertaining to the tribe exclusively.
5* Unanimity in the Council of the Confederacy was
made essentual to every public act#
6# In the general Council the Sachems voted by
tribes; which gave to each tribe a negative upon the
others •
7. The council of each tribe had the power to con­
vene the general Council; but the latter had no pow­
er to convene itself.
8 . The general Council was open to the orators of
the people for the discussion of public questions;
but the council alone decided#
9# The Confederacy had no chief Executive Magis­
trate, or official head#
10# Experiencing the necessity for a General
Military Commander, they created the office in dual
form, that one might neutralize the other# The two
principle war-chiefs created were made equal In pow­
er s.,, 21
pp. 128-129*
The three tribes, namely the Texcocoans, the Tlacopans
and the Aztecs, v/hich composed the Aztec Confederacy inhabit­
ed a region of Central Mexico known as the ^valley of Mexico*
The sphere of their influence and the extent of their con­
quests covered an area considerably larger and extending
north, south, east, and west of this centrally located valley
This region included the present states of Vera Cruz, Mexico,
Oaxaca, Guerro, Pueblo, Tlaxcala, and parts of Hidalgo, and
was about sixteen square leagues in extent*
The Confederacy
subdued and extracted tribute from all of the leading tribes
within this area*
They sent waring and trading parties be­
yond these boundaries often as far south as Nicaragua, but
the sphere of their jurisdiction cannot justly be said to
have extended beyond them*
The above defined area falls Into three geographic
The first is that of a tropical rain forest, and
extends In a narrow strip along both the Atlantic and Pacific
coasts of Central and Southern Mexico*
It is characterized
by high temperature, abundant rainfall, and the dense inpenetrable vegetation of an equtorial jungle.
Prescott,W. H*,
p* 3.
A variety of
History of the Conquest of Mexico.
a t »ts p e m
Map showing extent of the Aztec Confederacy*
tropical fevers rage through this region, and it is gen­
erally an unhealty spot in which to live#
This coastal
strip of low-land jungle is ahout sixty miles in width,
and is known as the tierra caliente#
Ahout four thousand
feet above this region is the next geographical region
known as the tierra templade #
This is a flat steppe coun­
try of mild climate with a tropical savannah vegetation#
As a rule it is extremely humid*
After leaving this re­
gion and ascending about six thousand feet above sealevel, one enters the third and last geographical area
known as the tierra fria#
It is a high table-land char­
acterized by dry, rarified air, and a continually mild
The summer rains are sufficient to maintain a
vegetation of sagebrush, scrub, and sturdy pine and oak
A continuous curving chain of snow-covered vol­
canic peaks breaks up this region into a series of high
flat-bottomed valleys#
these table-land basins#
The Valley of Mexico is one of
It is about seven thousand five
hundred feet above sea-level, oval in shape, and complete­
ly surrounded by a range of mountains which protect it
from attack#
The area of the valley is about sixteen
thousand square miles, making it slightly larger than the
state of Rhode Island#
The soil of this region is highly
productive when cultivated, and even to-day yields a
large variety of products although much of the soil is
bare and encrusted with salt due to the receding lake waters
There are five lakes on the floor of this valley from which
there is no outlet#
Of these, lakes Xochimilco, Chaleo, and
Tezcuco are the most important#
Archeologically speaking this is known as the area of
Intensive Agriculture*
In the time of the Aztecs, maize,
beans, peppers, gourds, cotton, fruits, tobacco, cocoa, and
many other semi-tropical plants were grown throughout this
To-day agriculture and stock-raising are still the
principle occupations of the native Mexican, and it is one
of the chief geographical regions for the raising of tropi­
cal products#
The three tribes with whom we are concerned, were
members of the Nahua linguistic stock#
Physically they
were short and stocky with braehyeephalic heads#
Their pre-history is uncertain, but from their leg­
ends we are given to understand that they came from the
north, entering the Valley of Mexico about 1300 A, D*, after
many years of wandering.
They had been preceded into this
valley by a variety of different tribes of whom the most im­
portant were the Toltecs.
They spoke a language essentually
the same as the Aztecs#
They had been residents of the
valley for several hundred years before the arrival of the
Aztecs, and had developed a culture characterized by agri­
cultural pursuits, clever metal work, monumental buildings,
Spinden,H#, Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and
Central America, p# 170.
and the use of a calendar.
All these features were taken
over and Incorporated into the culture patterns of the var­
ious tribes who followed them.
For a long period of time before the arrival of the
Aztecs, Nahua-speaking tribes had been trickling into the
coveted Valley of Mexico.
When the Aztecs arrived they did
not settle immediately, but moved about engaging in wars
with their various neighbors.
Finally in 1364 they made
their first settlement on the site of the future city of
Tenochtitlan, which to-day is the site of Mexico City.
to this time, their wars had not always been successful, but
after the settling of Tenochtitlan, they began to develop in­
to a formidable power, and by the slow spread of their influ­
ence began to pave the way for the future confederacy.
1376, Acamapictli was elected the first war-chief of the new
city, and from then on we have the complete list of Aztec
rulers whose dates are still slightly debatable due to the
difficulty of matching the Aztec calendar with our own.
names with their dates are given below according to Spinden.
Montezuma I
Montezuma , II
p. 208.
Aztec history up to this time had consisted of a
series of continual wars with their neighbors.
In 1427
a climax was reached when the Aztecs joined the Texcocoans
as allies to assist in the overthrow of the Tepanecas, who
up to this time had been superior to the Aztecs In power*
After this defeat the two allies, the Aztecs and the
Texcocoans, formed a league with a third tribe, the Tlacopans,
for the purpose of both offence and defense.
Soon the united powers of these tribes dominated the
valley of Mexico, and began to spread beyond the encircling
And by the arrival of Cortez in 1518, Tlaxcola
was the only important city in 48,000 square miles that was
not under the dominion of the Aztec Confederacy.
The swift defeat of the Aztecs at the hands of the
Spaniards is credited to a number of things*
First of all
their method of subjugation and taxation of conquered tribes
was evidently such that it aroused discontent and enmity to
such an extent that open rebellion was ever threatening.
Hence the Spaniards found many willing allies of whose ser­
vices they promptly made use.
Second the Aztec method of
warfare was primarily for the taking of prisoners for sac­
rificial purposes, and consisted mainly of hand to hand
The Spanish long-range fighting with firearms put
the Aztecs very much to a disadvantage, and their bows and
arrows were of little avail against Spanish armor.
the Aztec ruler at the time of the conquest, Montezuma II,
was evidently a man incapable of quick decision*
he procrastinated and ignored the advice of his council,
his warriors lost heart, and when he finally led them to
battle their spirit was so undermined by his waiting and
indecision that they were practically beaten before they
The fourth reason for their defeat is the well
known legend which predicted the return of an Aztec myth­
ical hero, Quetzalcoatl, for whom the Spaniards were first
Through this error the Spaniards were allowed
to land and to gain a firm foothold in Mexico*
There is
still another factor which aided the Spaniards, and that
was that the Aztec government was controlled by a few in­
dividuals who had gained their positions through superior
The massacre of these ruling few left the
country leaderless and incapable of organizing an effect­
ive movement against the Spaniards*
The subsequent history of Mexico is a tale of the
gradual loss of Spanish power due to the unhappy state of
the mother country*
The Napoleonic wars put the final
touch on the waining power of Spain, and in 1810 there
was a revolution in Mexico*
It was put down, but only
for a minute, and in 1823 we had the first Mexican Rep­
In 1861, France intervened and placed Maximillian
on the throne.
In 1867 he was murdered, and the Republic
was again formed*
Since then Mexico, as have all the other
Republics of Central and South America, has been rent and
stunted in its growth, by constant revolt and political dissention, and it is only recently that it has begun to settle
down and develop its resources and industries to its own ad­
vantage •
The natives of Mexico have led a bewildering life as
a result of all this.
The most intelligent class, as ex­
plained above, was for the most part utterly exterminated by
the Spaniards, and with them went the Confederation and most
of the learning acquired through all their cultural develop­
The modern native is only now begining to take his
place again after three centuries of supression and servi­
tude under foreign dominion.
The European conquest in both
Central and South America brought with it disease, modern
industry, and the Catholic religion, all of which threatened
to submerge native life, talent, and industry.
he has been able to survive the diseases, ignore the spread
and capability of modern industry and continue with his old
arts for the most part, and to combine Catholicism with his
ancient religions, without losing much of the charm and use­
fulness of either.
The present government of Mexico is a
Republic based upon representive democracy and modelled
after that of the United States.
The culture of the Aztec, Texcocoan, and Tlacopan
Indians was that of a sedentary people practising intensive
So much has been written about the Aztec Ini
dians that a brief resume will serve our purpose here# The
culture patterns of the two other members of the Confed­
eracy were similar to if not identical with that of the
Aztecs, so the following discussion will be considered
characteristic of them all unless specific notation to
the contrary is made*
Our sources of information are in the main the re­
ports of the early Spanish Chroniclers, and later, trans­
lations of the Aztec codices*
Much of this invaluable
material has been lost to us through neglect and wanton
destruction of the early*conquerors•
The Chroniclers*
reports are considered fairly faithful in regard to mat­
erial culture, ceremonies, and other practises, but in
the matter of government and social organization they were
seriously handicapped by their attempt to interpret all
they saw in terms of European culture.
For this reason
we must always be on the alert to separate fact from theo­
ry and we must always remember that their terminology was
inspired by their European background, and not necessarily
by what they found in the social organization peculiar to
the natives of Mexico*
The Aztecs, being a sedentary agricultural people,
lived in villages, or pueblos, of varying sizes*
One of
the largest, Tenochtitlan, the chief city of the tribe,
was located on a group of islands, some artificially con­
structed, on Lake Tezcoco*
ed, it with the mainland;
Four dyked causeways connect­
these causeways were equiped
with draw-bridges to protect the city from attack.
city itself showed evidence of skilled city-planning.
was divided into four quarters by two broad highways which
intersected each other in the center of the city,
A net­
work of canals between the artificially constructed Is­
lands served as smaller thoroughfares and gave the city a
1Venice-like1 appearence,
Each quarter had its market­
place, and in the center of the city was the Tecpan, or
ceremonial plaza, which to-day is the civic center of
Mexico City,
The Tecpan was originally surrounded by a
high wall, and within the enclosure stood the high trun* cated stepped-pyramid surmounted by several temples de­
dicated to a variety of deities.
The houses of the city
were of adobe covered v/Ith a whitish plaster.
They were
one-storied and had flat roofs covered with growing flow­
ers »
The larger houses were of red stone.
The colorful
city with its impressive temples and winding canals must
have been a beautiful sight, and because of its peculiar
location, admirably protected from attack.
The agricult­
ural fields, communially owned and annually alloted to
each household, were located on the shores of the main­
Other material forms of culture besides the arch­
itecture, showed a highly skilled craftsmanship and a
well developed sense of design.
It Is said that some of
their most perfect and beautiful examples of handicraft
and art are to be found in their fighting gear, for war
was a continual and highly lauded occupation with them*
Special schools trained the youths in military tactics,
and every man of eligible age was liable to military
Their weapons, the doubled-edged sword,bow and
arrow, and spear, were usually of highly decorated wood
made more effective by the addition of obsidion points
and blades*
Their costume, chiefly of fine woven cotton,
was decorated with beautiful feather mosaic applied by the
glue method*
In Tenochtitlan a special aviary was main­
tained for the purpose of supplying a variety of colored
feathers for this work*
Sandies were worn, and the war­
rior completed his attire with quilted cotton armor, a
thick rawhide shield, and a form of helmet.
Personal or­
namentation and general decoration was accomplished by
beautiful mosaic work of turquoise, metal, mother-ofpearl, precious and semi-precious stones upon a base of
wood, shell, bone, metal, or hide*
Woven wicket basketry, pottery, and carved shell,
bone, wood, and stone made the various vessels and tools
which they used*
The pottery, beautiful and distinctive,
was decorated in both geometric and conventionalized
animal, human, and floral designs*
The predominating
colors used were red, black, and orange#
The most char­
acteristic shape was the tri-legged, flat-bottomed vessel#
They had a variety of wind and percussion musical instru­
ments of varying degrees of complexity*
The religion of the Aztecs was a polytheism in which
the forces of nature were deified and became the same agri­
cultural gods found the world-over in the religions of pri­
mitive peoples who depended upon the soil for their liveli­
Earth Mother, Sky Father, the Sun, the Moon, the
Jaguar, and the Serpent, were among the chief deities*
Qmeteuctli, the Lord of Duality, addressed occasionally as
the ’Cause of All*, was an approach toward the conception
of a Supreme Deity*
These gods tended toward the anthro­
pomorphic, and showed the dualistic character of Aztec re­
ligion in their constant struggles between good and evil*
Ceremonialism was intensely developed and fiercely supported*
Their religious calendar year was complicated and extensive,
the majority of the ceremonies having an agricultural sign­
A large class of priests, specially trained,
conducted these rites;
the ruler himself being considered
the religious as well as the military head of the tribe*
Human sacrifice was practiced;
prisoners of war, and
occasionally slaves were the chief victims*
The Aztecs had a system of writing partly pictor­
ial and partly phonetic which they had borrowed along with
many other inventions from their predecessors, the Mayas*
The social organization of the Aztec tribe has been
a subject of much controvercy*
The earlier school consist­
ing notably of the Chroniclers, and later Prescott, inter-
preted the tribal government as an absolute Monarchy sup­
ported by a nobility.
For awhile this theory held until
the extensive research of Morgan and Bandelier swung the
pendulum to the opposite extreme by introducing the idea
that the Aztec tribal organization was a simple democracy
headed by the usual elected war-chief and based upon the
gens-clan system typical of North America.
Through the
confusion that followed, prominent men working in this
field have picked out the salient facts found among the
early reports which seem to give clues to the type of
social organization employed by the Aztecs, and from them
they have reconstructed a scheme that is mid-way between
those of Prescott and Bandelier.
Such authorities as
Spinden, Brinton, Wissler, Hewett, and Thompson, all of
whom are recognized to-day as the men most prominent in
the field of Mexican archeology, subscribe to the follow­
ing theory as that most consistent with both early reports
and later research on this matter.
Since the work of the
original Chroniclers is often misleading and theorectical
in this subject we are forced to rely upon the deductions
and judgement of these later men.
It should be pointed
out that their conclusions are thoroughly in keeping with
the general scheme of social organization among the
American Indians, that based upon the clan-gens and tribal
groups, which has been carefully studied and reported upon
in other localities in both North and South America, and
therefore these theories seem the more logical when app­
lied to Aztec government#
The earlier notions of absolute monarchy, it must
be remembered, were introduced by men who had only their
knowledge of existing European culture upon which to go.
They had had no contact with American aboriginal social
Again it must be said that the chief fault
lay in their use of European terminology, and a careful
sifting of their work often reveals clues to the real
state of affairs#
The opposite interpretation of their
organization as one of extreme simplicity is also wrong,
for these people, due to their cultural advancement and
habit of living in large urban groups,(Tenochtitlan is
reported by some to have had a population as high as
60,000 at one time), demanded a more complicated and more
highly organized system of government than was necessary
among the smaller tribal groups of North America#
this their frequent and extended military campaigns, which
were under the direction of an elective war-chief, whose
office was- hereditary to one special family, gave a power,
dignity, and responsibility to that one individual which
was well on the way to making him an absolute monarch#
According to the present accepted theory of Aztec
government, the geographical division of the tribe into
twenty calpulli, which was in practice at the time of the
conquest, was simply a re-organization of the clan-gens
system with which we are so familiar in North America.
Descent in Mexico is traced through the father, or pat­
rilineal line.
These twenty calpulli were the remains
of the twenty original gens, which under the Aztec govern­
ment had become geographical units rather than kinship
Marriage was permitted within the calpulli, but as
in the clans-gens system, the calpulli functioned as an in­
dependent entity within the tribe, electing its own officials
and transacting its own local government.
The calpulli held
title to a certain amount of land, the boundaries of which
were carefully designated, which was annually alloted to the
different families which composed it.
A man was considered
in possession of his plot as long as he worked it.
In the
event of death, the land was inherited by his children.
there were no heirs, or if the owner failed to work his
land, the plot returned to the communal ownership of the
Each calpulli had its own patron god, reminis­
cent of the totem of the clan-gens system, its own place of
worship, and its own market place.
The calpulli council was
made up of a group of elders, supposedly elected by the mem­
bers, and two officials.
It met once a month in a large
communal house which also served as a men*s club.
*calpulli* translates 1Great House1•
The term
One of the two council
officials mentioned above was a military leader, or war-chief
who led the warriors of his calpulli as a regimental division
under the supreme leadership of the Aztec Tribal Chief.
other calpulli official was a civil officer whose main duty
was to dispose of the produce of those sections of the cal­
pulli1s lands worked in common for religious and state needs*
So far we find a close resemblence between the calpulli and
the clans-gens system*
However we find one main difference
in its organization, and that is the permission of marriage
within the calpulli, although the members claimed a distant
but common origin.
The other difference will be found in
the judicial system, which under the Aztecs was a state not
a clan concern.
Thompson sums up the calpullis situation
rather well when he says:
f,The twenty calpullis that formed the Aztec nation
at the time of the Spanish conquest were probably de­
rived from original exogamous clans•* *....•.., but by
the time of the Aztec collapse the calpulli function­
ed more as a geographic organization than as one based
on kinship.11 4
“Mexican society can truthfully be described as
having been founded on the calpulli*w 5
These twenty calpulli were organized into four lar­
ger divisions known as 1quarters*•
This higher organiza­
tion seems to have been geographic also, besides claiming
to have been based upon a loose relationship through com­
mon descent.
North America.
It could be compared to the phratries of
Each of the four quarters had its ov/n
special deities, temple, and market-place.
A war-chief,
chosen from the same family as the Aztec Tribal Chief, was
Thompson, John Eric,
p. 107.
Mexico Before Cortez,
p. 105.
at the head of each quarter#
They were considered second
only to the ruler, and it was this group that was mistaken
for the Tnobility* by the early Spanish#
Although we know
little about it, it is assumed that the organization of
each quarter probably did not differ essentially from its
components, the calpulli#
At the head of the Aztec tribe was the ruler, whose
title was probably that of Grand War-chief*
He was elected
to this position for life by an assembly of calpulli chiefs,
old leaders, and leading priests, whose vote must be un­
animous • He was chosen from the same family as his predec­
essor, and was more often a younger brother or nephew of the
deceased than his son*
his position#
He must show good qualifications for
The council could also depose this ruler un­
der certain conditions#
For example, after the Spanish
made a captive of Montezuma II, the Aztec council deposed
him and elected another in his place for he was of no use as
a military leader when prisoner in the enemy camp#
The council which elected and deposed the Great Warchief, or Teuctli# was apparently merely a board of electors#
The council which acted in both an advisory and executive
capacity for the Teuctli was composed of one representative
from each of the twenty calpulli, and probably some other
It met every twenty days, and could be summon­
ed more frequently in case of emergency#
This council re­
flected public opinion and the Teuctli was probably consid-
erably influenced by its advice*
The Teuctli it is assumed probably had power acc­
ording to his personal ability as a leader.
With a weak
council and high personal ability, he could approach the
position of an absolute monarch*
With a strong council
and little personal ability he would have little authority*
However, the dignity and importance of his position is ill­
ustrated by the high honor accorded him*
was an event of much pomp and ceremony*
His investiture
He was always app­
roached with downcast eyes and uncovered feet.
He wore an
elaborate and highly ornamented costume and travelled in a
litter carried only by the highest dignitaries• His feet
were never allowed to touch the ground.
These and many
other honors which were paid the Aztec Teuctli were a
source of great interest to the early Spanish Chroniclers,
and they wrote voluminously on the subject*
Hence we are
well acquainted with the pomp and ceremony of the Aztec
Tcourt1, and since this individual must indeed have held a
position of highest importance we are not surprised that
they mistook him for a king*
His position as head of the
tribe was further enhanced by the fact that the Aztecs were
the most powerful of the three confederate tribes and the
Aztec ruler was always Commander-in-chief of the Confederate
military forces.
As mentioned above, the judicial system of the Aztec
tribe was a state concern.
Trial by jury was practised, and
the judgement of criminal cases was the business of an or­
ganized hierarchy of judges based upon the calpulli system
and headed by a court of thirteen supreme judges who sat
with the Teuctli at stated intervals for the review of un­
usually important cases*
Robbery, adultery, murder, witch­
craft, and tampering with boundaries were punishable by
This judicial system allowed appeal to the higher
courts, and was apparently a highly organized and complicat­
ed affair.
Slavery was an alternate punishment with death,
but the severity of punishment kept crime at a minimum.
Both the judges and a group of men who acted as policemen
were elected by members of the calpulli, but we do not know
the method by which the thirteen supreme judges attained
their position.
Thompson sums up the situation when he says:
“Despite this picture of fundamental calpullec form­
ing four quarters and federated under the chief Aztec
ruler to form the Aztec city-state organization, there
are many gaps in our knowledge of the social organiza­
tion of the Aztecs. For instance we have no information
as to the relationship of members of the nobility to
their calpulli.” 6
About the confederacy, which we have noted was formed
in 1427, we know even less.
Again deductions and research
have revealed certain clues and from these we have evolved
the following picture.
It was a voluntary union of three
Nahuat-speaking tribes, the Aztecs, the Texcocoans, and the
Tlacopans, formed for the purpose of offense and defense
p. 108
with an agreed proportional distribution of the spoils of
Under the Confederacy each tribe continued its local
self-government independently*
of this league we know nothing*
Of the structure and method
However, one point is clear,
and that is that the Aztec tribe was the undisputed head of
the Confederacy*.
It was the most powerful tribe of the three
and the proportion of spoil division was definitely in its
The Aztec chief, as mentioned above, was always lead­
er of their combined military force, which gives us another
indication of the supremacy of the Aztecs*
It was evident­
ly a rather one-sided affair in which the distribution of
power among the members was not balanced*
However, we have
no record of any quarrel of any sort between them, and- the
success of their campaigns is witness to the fact that their
league was at least an efficient organization in that respect
Their treatment of conquered tribes eventually proved
their undoing*
Apparently they made no attempt to reorganize
or incorporate them into the Confederacy*
The main object of
their warfare was to obtain prisoners for sacrificial pur­
poses, and to extract tribute*
Occasionally they used these
conquered forces to swell the numbers of their own armies,
but their practice of excessive taxation so embittered the
conquered people that the Confederacy was constantly ham­
pered and .threatened by revolt*
In some cases It even be­
came necessary for them to maintain garrisons of troops in
these Insurgent city-states*
Communication was carried on within the Confederacy
by a system of runners similar to that of the Incas of Peru*
These men were specially trained for speed and endurance and
stations were set up at given intervals where these men were
kept in constant readiness to carry reports.
The imperialistic tendencies of the Confederacy may
be readily noted*
After its formation, defence was a minor
Conquest for material gain was now the motivating
power behind their warfare*
The peculiar position of the
Aztec chief as virtual head of the Confederacy, suggests the
idea that he might conceivably have attained the position of
absolute ruler had the Spaniards been a little late in their
arrival in the New World.
However, the lack of interest in
the organization of conquered tribes into a working whole
would always be a factor in the prevention of their building
up an Empire as complicated and thorough as that of the Incas•
Their imperialistic tendencies, more complicated system of
government, and near approach to an absolute ruler, placed
them midway between the true democracy of the North American
aboriginal confederacy as represented by that of the Iroquois
and the despotic imperialism represented by that of the Incas
of Peru*
The territory included in the land of the Incas may
he geographically defined to-day as the republics of Ecuador,
Peru, and Bolivia, together with adjacent portions of
Columbia, Argentina, and Chile#
Geographically speaking, it is divided into three
the coast, or los llanos;
the highlands, or sierra#
including the main ranges of the Andes and the lofty table­
lands between them;
and the forests, or montana, lying on
the eastern slopes of the Andes and stretching indefinitely
toward the rising sun*
The coast is split into many river valleys with long
stretches of barren desert between#
To the north these
valleys tend to be larger and more fertile, while the far­
ther south one goes the shorter and more shut in the valley®
Thus we find the more highly developed coastal cul­
tural areas In the northern valleys, that is, Chimu and
These valleys are watered by both perennial and sea­
sonal streams.
Their banks are formed of silt deposits and
are consequently very rich and fertile#
Means, P. A.,
Intensive agricul-
Ancient Civilizations of the Andes,
ture, further aided by irrigation systems, flourished there
in early times, potatoes, maize, squash, beans, sweet potat­
oes, and peppers being the main products*
These foods fur­
ther supplemented by small game, birds, fish and fruits and
It was an ideal
ggle to raise food
spot in which
live forthe stru­
was not such that
took allof one’s .en­
ergies, and yet the climate was not too enervating, the re­
sult being a perfect combination for the advancement of cul­
tural attainment*
Hence it is
not surprising to
famous cultures of
the Andean region
find two ofthe most
these coastal river
Chimu to the north, and Uasca farther to the south*
In the period from 100 B* C. to about 600 A* D*, we
see the gradual rise of early Chimu and early Nasca cultures
on the coast, and a corresponding development in the high­
lands known as Tiahuanaco I culture*
During this period
the coast cultures built up elaborate well-planned cities
with irrigation systems, reservoirs, aquaducts, palaces,
terraces, and squares, which were governed by hereditary
chieftains according to highly developed social codes*
artistic achievement they were masters of their materials
and tools*
Each of these two cultural centers developed a
characteristic art which had its circle of Influence among
the surrounding river-valleys.
It is said the Chimus, who
are named after their hereditary chieftain known as the
Grand Chimu, extended both their political and artistic in-
fluence over 22,500 square miles of coastal strip*
Quite a distance south, of Chan-Chan, the seat of the
Chimu culture, we come to the river valleys of Chincha, Pisco,
lea, and Nasca, the last mentioned being the seat of that par­
ticular type of culture*
Governmentally, socially, and rel­
igiously, it was similar to that of the Chimus, but their art
was of a different nature*
The line where the cultures of
Nasca and Chimu meet may be drawn at the Bimac river valley
which is now the site of the city of Lima, the capital of
Turning to the sierra region we find the same segre­
gation of cultural groups, only this time it is due to high
passes and steep mountain ranges*
The two most important
sites of cultural development are the Cuzco valley and the
Titicaca basin which are separated by La Raya pass about
15,000 feet above sea level*
It is quite fertile, and when
properly irrigated and tended, yields large crops of maize,
potatoes, cereals, and several kinds of roots*
One or two
varieties of tough stunted trees resembling olive trees grow
at this altitude;
natural vegetation*
grass, reeds, and bushes complete the
Llamas, alpacas, and vicunas are the
wool-bearing animals of the highlands, the first two of which
have been domesticated.
This domestication of animals, dogs?
included, as well as the specialization of the crops, maize
p. 87.
and potatoes, are indications or the great age of the cul­
tures found in the Andean region*
Deer, edible rodents,
and guinea pigs complete the diet of the highlander*
abundance of work-stone and metals, such as gold, silver,
tin, copper, mercury, and lead are found in this region*
Groups of Quechua speaking natives have lived in this val­
ley for a long period of time and have left behind them
such megalithic structures as the Port of Sacsahuaman*
was in this valley that the Inca tribe began its formation
of the great Empire for which they are justly famous*
Before we say more of the Incaic culture, however,
we should mention the highland culture which was flourish­
ing at the same moment as that of Early' Chimu and Early
Nasca on the coast*
Evidences of this culture have been
found all over the highland region but more specifically
in the Tiahuanaco I culture*
To date, little is known
concerning it except that it was that of a people gradually
passing through the archaic culture*s successive stages and
preparing to pass beyond it*
That they did pass beyond it
is evidenced in the cultural remains labeled as Tiahuanaco II,
which flourished in the highlands of Peru between the years
600 and 900 A.D*
The center of this culture appears to be
about Lake Titicaca which is about 12,600 feet above sea
The fall of the Tiahuanocoan Empire is credited to
several things£
namely, barbaric invasions, changes of
climate, epidemics, and earthquakes.
The barbaric inva­
sions are the most logical answer, and some have even
gone so Tar as to name the present archaic-cultured people
of* the Desaguadero river valley, the Urus, as the ancient
destroyers of Tiahuanaco because they appear to have mi­
grated from the Amazonian region in ancient times*
its floruit, which lasted three hundred years, Tiahuanaco
influenced the art of all the coast and highland cultures,
and culture groups in Argentine, Chile, and Ecuador*
After the wave of cultural invasion from the high­
lands had swept by, the cultural centers on the coast fell
into a period of decline which lasted until about 1100 A.D.
Then they began to pick up and entered into a second per­
iod or floruit from 1100 to 1400 when a second cultural and
political invasion from the highlands in the form of the
Incas ended in their complete subjugation*
This second
floruit is known as Late Chimu and Late Nasca*
The Chincha
confederacy of which included the city of Nasca appeared at
this time*
In the highlands the decline after the break-up of
the Tiahuanaco Empire was even greater and more lasting.
The tribes for the most part fell back to a neo-archaic
state for they had not the tradition of achievement to sus­
tain them as did the Nasca and Chimu.
advent of the Inca tribe*
Relief came in the
The most generally accepted
legend of their origin Is that they had taken refuge in
some spot, presumably Machu Picchu, after the breaking up
of the Tiahuanaco Empire, from whence they emerged when
they felt themselves to he strong enough to conquer and
hold the desirable site of Cuzco*
They were a Quechua-
speaking people with a remarkable flare for organization
and statesmanship*
Physically, they were of a short
stocky build with dark hair and skin, and brachycephalic
in head form*
Their history considered from a political
angle is a long series of brilliant campaigns and conquests
in which they spread their sway over an empire of some
3000,000 square miles of territory and as many as seven
different cultural centers*
From the reports of the
chroniclers, we have been able to get a complete list of
the Incas and their dates:
Sinchi Roca (1105-1140)
Lloque Yupanqui (1140-1195)
Mayta Capac (1195-1230)
Capac Yupanque (1230-1250)
Inca Roca (1250-1315)
Yahuar Huaccac (1315-1347)
Inca Viracocha (1347-1400)
Inca Pachacutec (1400-1448)
Inca Tupac Yupanque (1448-1482)
Inca Huayna Capac (1482-1529)
} (1529-1550)
Each one of these Incas, with the exception of one,
Yahuar Huaccac, was a man of outstanding ability.
a remarkable thing in a dynasty of this length*
This is
The growth
and organization of the Empire was accomplished in the
reigns of the first six Incas*
During the reigns of Inca
Viracocha and Pachacutec, it reached its floruit.
From then
on it assumes the character of a more or less completed en-
l.C a.p&c Yop3.M<joC.
IZ3 0
c a. "Baca.
IU 3.C-C S-t_
/'S/S'- /3V^.
Y. l^'fta.coc
^ "Pd.cHa.cvjticc
Map showing expansion of the Inca Empire
terprise, and soon dissolution begins to take an active form
in the bitter civil war between Huascar, the legitimate heir,
and Atahualpa, the favorite but illegitimate son of Inca
Huayna Capac.
This struggle in which Atahualpa was the ul­
timate victor, was finished up by the Spaniards.
They cap­
tured and murdered the new Inca, and then quickly disposed of
all the other influential members of the ruling tribe.
government, deprived of its ruling head, soon went to pieces.
Of this conquest Means says;
f,It is enough to say that the Empire of the Incas
collapsed in a cloud of golden dust through which flit­
ted the dismayed ghosts of Inaciac aspirations, pursued
remorselessly by the steel-clad myrmidons of an Emperor
even mightier than Huayna Capac.11 3
A word should be said concerning the most famous of
the Incas, Pachacutec, considered by many to be the great4
est native American that ever lived.
Besides conducting
brilliant campaigns, beautifying Cuzco, making innumerable
internal improvements, and patronizing the arts and sciences,
he is famous for various intellectual achievements In the
fields of religion and philosophy.
His sayings, which have
been preserved for us by Father Bias Valera and Garcilasso,
are filled with wisdom and deep insight.
He touches 'the
keynote of governmental success when he says:
pp. 278-279
p. 254
”When the
subjects, captains, and curacas cordially obey the king,
then the kingdom enjoys perfect peace and quiet*11
But it was not so easy to do away with Incaic cul­
it lingers yet in the descendents of these hardy
warrior-statesmen, and seems only to be waiting for favor­
able conditions to flower again in the Andean Highlands*
The; culture of the Incas will be briefly discussed
under the following headings;
religion, architecture and
engineering, ceramics, textiles, metal-work, stone-work,
wood-carving, and music*
There seem to have been three distinct phases of
religion among the people of the Inca Empire*
The first,
for want of a better term, we shall call *huaca-worship1•
The second, which was the state religion supported by the
Incas, may be called *Sun-worship*•
The third phase,
which was confined to the higher intellectuals and amautas *
wise-men, was the recognition and worship of a Supreme
Being under the name of Viracocha* the God-Creator*
worship* was the basic element, for it was universal before
and during the Empire*
*Huaca* signifies a sacred thing,
and the term was applied indiscriminately to fetishes,
mummies, sacred spots, rocks, animals, birds, fish, or
It was believed that all things In nature have
a *spiritual essence* to which prayers and offerings should
p. 262
b© given.
The dead were buried in a fully flexed position,
wrapped in clothing, then placed in a sealed cave with
articles and provisions necessary for a comfortable future
Ancestor-worship, which was an important phase of
Huaco-worship, was the basis of the state religion, or Sunworship#
For the Sun was considered the First Ancestor of
the Inca tribe*
The Incas, or fchildren of the Sun1 have a variety of
Myths proving their descent from the Sun and explaining the
reason for their existence which Is to spread the enlighten­
ed cult of the Sun among the barbarous people who live in
ignorance and darkness*
This, by the way, was the reason
they gave for their extended conquests and subjugation of
tribes all the way from Ecuador to Chile.
It has, as a mo­
tive for warfare, an interesting counterpart in our own
European history, for example the Crusades, or even the
present Germanic war.
Because the Incas became the ruling
tribe, their father the Sun took precedent over all ances­
tors, and so his cult became the State religion*
The Incas
wordered them to worship the sun as principle God, persuad­
ing them that it was right to do so, by reason of its
beauty and splendor”.
This idea of a state religion which
had its special priests, officials (of which the Inca was
the head, and was personally worshiped as the representative
Garcilasso de la Vega, Royal Commentaries of the Incas,
Vol.I, p. 101.
of the Sun on earth), temples, ceremonies, and tribute, did
a great deal to hold the empire together*
The ceremonies
were of an agricultural kind, and were held annually accord­
ing to a calendar which divided the year into twelve lunar
months of thirty days each*
The worship of a Supreme Being was confined to the
higher intellectuals who recognized the presence of a
Being superior to the Sun, and who therefore was an ab­
stract power which gave order to the universe*
This phase
of their religion is extremely interesting, but as it was
that of only a very small group, it is not of importance
in this discussion*
The architectual and engineering feats of the Incas
are well known, and stand to-day as monuments of their civ­
The huge temples of stone, the irrigation ditch­
es many of which carried water one hundred and fifty miles,
the bridges, the terraces for land conservation and agri­
cultural purposes, and the well-planned network of roads all
served to bind the Empire together and to exhalt the genius
of the Inca people above that of any other tribe in the
The arts of ceramics and textiles were highly devel­
oped among the Incas♦
The pottery is characterized by un­
usual symmetry and simplicity of design*
They developed
several forms of shich the stately and graceful aryballus,
or water-jar, is the most characteristic*
In ceramics as
well as textiles, the designs are predominantly geometric,
and the colors are rich and somber, dark reds and browns
Cotton and camelus wool were used in the
main for v/eaving, and their costume consisted of tunics,
breechclots, skirts, belts, pointed caps, shawls, and
sandels of braided vegetable fiber*
The Incas did a great deal of work with metals, bone,
wood, and various kinds of stone*
Among the metals, gold,
copper, tin, silver, iron, and platinum were mined and used*
Tools, ornaments, weapons, figurines, surgical instruments,
spangles, and inumerable other objects were carved or cast
from these materials*
Bronze was the only compound metal
known to these people, and whether it was a result of con­
scious combining of metals or not is still a moot point*
The Incas had both wind and percussion musical ins­
Of these the most important are the flute and the
pan-pipe, because they show a knowledge of scale and its
The tunes which have come down to us to-day are
characterized by beauty and simplicity of line, and because
they are mainly in the key of B Minor, they seem to us
rather sad and melancholy*
This last mentioned characteris­
tic is, however, true of archaic primitive melodies all over
the world*
After this brief discussion of the Inca culture, we
will turn to what may perhaps be called the greatest expres­
sion of their particular genius;
their government*
The Incas are famous for the system of imperial ad­
ministration which they evolved out of pre-existing con­
ditions for the maintenance of the largest native empire
the Hew World has ever seen.
The following is a brief des­
cription of the form and activities of this system.
information we are forced to rely for the most part upon
the accounts of the early Spanish Chroniclers in which we
must be ever watchful of exaggerations and mis-statements.
Because of the incompleteness of these reports and also of
Enthnologieal research, many of the notions set forth in
this discussion are tentative in character.
The first principle to be noted in the study of Inca
government is the fact that the tribe, not the individual,
was the basic unit of government.
Under the Incas, the
tribe or ayllu was a unit of one hundred households.
must not be supposed that this division was wholly artifi­
cial for it was not.
the ayllu has been, and still is, the
fundamental social group common to all Andean societies,
great and small, ancient and modern.
Under the Incas It
simply received a numerical regularity.
There seem to have been four main forms of govern­
ment in Peru, both in Inca and pre-Inca times.
The simpl­
est and smallest form consisted of a group of households
united into an ayllu which elected a chief, or Sinchi, in
times of danger.
This type, a village community, was pro-
Means, op.cit..
p. 286.
bably limited geographically*
For example, all the house­
holds in a hamlet or river valley would unite in a group
for common aid and protection*
The next form, a little more advanced, was a group of
several ayllus under a permanent chief, or Curaca, whose
authority was hereditary*
This might be called a federal
These two types are almost always found to be in
an archaic stage of culture*
The third form, still more advanced both as to type
and as to culture, was a kind of compound state composed of
several curaca-ruled states held together by some form of
Examples of these compound states are the Colla
confederacy in the Titicaca basinj
the Ghanca confederacy
in the highlands, and the Chincha confederacy on the coast*
The fourth form was that which might be styled an
imperial federation because of the imposing and intricate
organization of the government guided by a single ruler who
sprang from an imperial family*
Examples of this type are
the kingdom of the Grand Chimu on the coast, and the king­
dom of Quito in Ecuador*
An interesting parallel might be drawn between the
stages of development of the Athenian state and the forms
of government found in Peru*
The first form might be par­
alleled in any one of the tribes of Attica*
Later these
tribes gathered together under the rule of the Tyrants to
form a city-state*
After the wars with the Persians, the
Delian League was formed which would be analogous to the
leagues or alliances in Peru, such as the Chincha confed­
When Athens, by virtue of her position as treas­
urer, eventually made herself head of the League, the form
of government became an imperial federation such as that of
the Grand Chimu in Peru*
A similar parallel may be traced
in the development of the Roman state.
These forms had existed many years before the Incas
came into power*
And continued to exist until they finally
were united into one centralized empire.
tics should be observed*
Two characteris­
First, each rested upon the ayllu
as the basis of its system*
Second, each held communially
all land, which was distributed periodically among the heads
of families*
The Incas are often credited with bringing their
governmental system in its entirety into being*
But in the
light of recent discoveries and further understanding of the
situation, it is realized that the foundation of their pol8
ity was laid long before they rose to power*
So rather than
credit them with the creation of the elements of their sys­
tem, let us rather credit them with the remarkable organ­
ization and statesmanship that resulted In the welding to­
gether of such a variety and number of elements into a form
that was purely Incaic*
8 Ibid.,
p. 286.
The description of Inca government which follows is
according to its form during the reign of Inca Pachacutec
This period was in many ways the apogee of the
Inca Empire*
At its largest extent, the Empire covered
about 4000,000 square miles with a population of about
16,000,000 Indians ot more,
and it was called Ttahuantinsuyu, ffThe Land of the Four Quarters1*•
The capital was Cuzco,
a city of ancient megalithic origin located at the head of
the Urubamba river in the highlands*
It was stratigically
situated in the center of the Empire, and from it four roads
stretched out to the four quarters.
The climate was tem­
perate and the fields were fertile*
Altogether, with its
large squares and many buildings, it was an excellent site
for the seat of government*
With Cuzco as the central point, the Ttahuantin-suyu
was divided into four provinces;
the Anti-suyu to the east,
the Cunti-suyu to the west, the Chincha-suyu to the north,
and the Co11a-suyu to the south*
All of the provinces were
named after an important tribe or confederation living in
that section, and were ruled by a governor-general or
Apu-cuna *
Each province was divided into sections of forty
p* 264*
p 296.
thousand households, and each section had a governing off­
icial termed Tu-cuiricuc-cuna, which translated means,
‘‘They who see all11*
Each of these sections was divided in­
to four samll parts of 10,000 households, each with its offic ial, or Hunu-camayu-cuna•
Divisions in this fashion continues until the small­
est governmental unit of ten households is reached*
division has its supervising official who is responsible
only to the official directly above him*
In this manner
there was no contact between officials of the same rank*
The duties of the decurions, or rulers over the house­
holds, were several*
They were supposed to see to the needs
of their people and to the distribution of government aid and
relief wherever it was necessary*
They were required to re­
port the slightest offense to a higher official for trial
and punishment*
They were responsible for the paying of all
taxes in their respective units, and had to keep an accurate
census of people, live-stock, and crops, for reference in
regard to relief supplies and amount of tribute required
from each section*
Neglect in office was severely punished.
Usually the superior official was punished too, because it
was said he had neglected his duty in checking up on the
doings of his under-officer.
This closely interwoven system of officials with the
ayllu as its basic unit formed a kind of pyramid of author­
ity which culminated In the Inca himself, supreme-ruler of
the Empire#
It provided its own check system in as much as
each official was responsible for the deeds of those off­
icials under him, and no one man had too much power#
It is
easy to see how this system had been caused to evolve out of
the ancient forms of government which had always been present
among these Indians by simply reducing them to exact units of
government, numerically regular, and setting an official over
The ease with which this was accomplished Is illus­
trated by the custom of Inserting a whole new conquered pro­
vince into the frame of government with only a few minor
changes intended to give numerical regularity to the tribal
Often the chief and the other tribal rulers were
allowed to keep their positions, but as officials of their
new ruler, the Inca.
This minimum amount of friction in the
adoption of new peoples into the empire was one of the prin­
ciples which led to the great success of the Incas in organ­
izing and maintaining their vast empire#
The same policy
may be observed In their religious conversions#
The other element which the Incas borrowed from ex­
isting conditions and incorporated so successfully into their
polity was that of communal land ownership.
This policy had
existed among the Indians of both coast and the highlands
since ancient pre-Inca times.
Indeed, it may always have
been with them as a natural development from the communal
ownership of hunting grounds during the nomadic stage of
their culture.
The Incas neither invented nor introduced
the idea, they merely regulated it as to land distribution
and produce.
This characteristic has been the inspiration
for many theories and attempted comparisons of the Inca
Empire and the European ideal of a socialistic community.
However, one profound difference could be pointed out at the
While the European ideal of a socialistic state arose
as a response to certain conditions brought on in the main by
the industrial revolution and while it was to be an artific­
ially imposed order, the Inca socialism had none of the pro­
blems of an industrial civilization to cope with.
it was a natural development based upon an agrarian culture
and in fact a characteristic of most primitive peoples.
The method by which the practice of communal land
ownership was applied by the Incas in their empire was the
In a newly acquired village the Inca took over
all the land for a short period of time during which it was
appraised as to its extent and condition.
Then the quantity
of arable land was increased by reclaiming as much as possible
of nearby swampy or barren land.
This was accomplished by
irrigation-, draining, fertilizing, and terracing.
The Incas
were extremely frugal and went to great trouble to reclaim
even the smallest bit of land.
Their beautifully construct­
ed terraces may still be seen clinging to the sides of ex­
tremely steep mountains, and often the highest terrace
Wissler, C.,
120 .
An Introduction to Social Anthropology,
would have room for only three rows of corn*
In many places
water was conducted by their irrigation ditches as far as
twenty leagues so that a few acres of land might not be lost*
All the arable land was then divided into three parts,
the first part was for the sustenance of the village, the
second for the Inca, and the third for the support of the
state religion.
The first part was always sufficient to
supply the needs of the people, and as the population in­
creased more was added from the other two.
The religion and
the government usually took only the reclaimed land.
the king took only for himself and for the Sun such lands as
would otherwise remain desert and without an owner.”
The part that belonged to the villagers was common
Each year the governor of the village portioned it
out among the people.
The unit of measurement was called a
tupu. and although we do not know how much it actually stood
for, we do know that one tupu was sufficient to support two
In the family one tupu went to the man and his wife,
one tupu for each son, and one-half tupu for each daughter.
IShen a son married he kept his one tupu.
In the case of a
daughter marrying, her one-half tupu stayed with the family
or reverted to the common ground*
This method of the divi­
sion of the common land was practiced all over the Empire,
Garcllasso, op. cit*
A Ibid.,
Vol.II, p* 5.
p. 10.
Vol.II, p.2.
and no person had any private right to any one piece of it*
When private estates were granted by the Inca for recogni­
tion of some sort of service, they were taken from his por­
tion and the amount was according to the number of wives
and servants the receiver had*
In the care of land there were special rules for the
use of the irrigation system and the use of fertilizer*
government supplied seeds to the needy from government stor­
age houses*
In the dryer parts of the country, great care
was taken not to exceed the supply of water, so the irriga­
tion of each man’s tupu was arranged in the following manner*
They knew how long it took to irrigate one tupu, and so they
would give, with no regard to rank for preference, the re­
quired number of hours of flow to one man* If he neglected
to irrigate them, he was flogged*
In the use of fertilizer,
a certain amount from the general supply was allowed each man
and he was punished if he took more*
Everything that was
supplied the people was fixed by rule and measurement so that
each got his just amount from the community stock*
The Inca’s portion of land went towards the support of
his family, the court, and the army*
What was left over was
stored for use in the relief work*
The lands devoted to the Sun were for the support of
JCbidj,, Vol*II, p. 14
16Ibid., Vol.II, p. 14
the many priests and priestesses and servants in the state
They stored what they did not need, and it was
used to help the Inca out if the government supply ran low.
Land, in the Inca Empire, was the measure of value,
and in this capacity it was the basis of the social and ec­
onomic structure of the Inca state.
There was a certain amount of tribute or tax extract­
ed from each individual for the upkeep and amintenance of the
Since land represented value to them, but only when
it produced, they extracted the tax from each individual in
the form of manual labor on government lands• Each man was
expected to put in a certain amount of labor on government
property according to his age and capacity.
In order that
the work be suited to the individual, the members of a
household were divided into the following classes according
to their ability.
Punac-rucu (old man sleeping) 60 years up
Chaupi-rucu (half old) 50-60 light work
Puric (able bodied) 25-50 tribute-payer
and head of family
Ima-huayna (almost a youth) 20-25 worker
Cuca-pallac (coca-picker) 16-20 light work
Puc1lac-huamrac 8-16 light work
frtanta-raquizjc 6-8 (bread receiver)
Macta-puric under 6
Saya.-huamrac able to stand,„
Mosoo-caparic baby in arms
In tending the fields a certain order of precedence
was followed.
First to be cultivated were the fields of the
Means,P. A.,
p. 294#
Ancient Civilizations of the Andes,
then those of the Sun;
sick, or absent;
third, those of the aged,
fourth, those of the heads of houses;
fifth, those of the chief of the district;
and lastly,
those of the Inca.
The produce from the lands of the Inca were stored
In granaries built to hold a certain given amount.
windows were cut at various heights from the ground to let
the grain out down to certain levels by which fashion they
could measure the remaining amount.
These granaries sup­
plied the court and the army, and were kept in readiness
for government relief in case of famines.
There are a set of laws concerning the paying of
tribute which were collected by one of our most reliable
sources, Father Bias Valera. These laws are quoted by
Garcilasso de la Vega,
and also by Means.
I shall
quote the latter source here because It Is more condensed*
Mo person exempted from tribute could ever be
called upon for any contribution of merchan­
dise or of work.
The exempted classes were;
A. All persons of the blood imperial, and
all Curacas- and their families.
B. All officers of the army down to the
rank of centurions, and their sons and
C. All subaltern officials, if sprung from
the people; while in office.
D. All soldiers while on active service
E. All males under 25 years of age.
o jd
ojd. c i t ♦,
Vol. II, Chaps. XV and XVI.
pp. 299-301.
All men over fifty* (But Youtlas and Elderly
Men were expected to help their kinsmen
with their tasks•)
G* All women*
H* All sick persons*
I* All incapable persons (blind, lame, or maimed)
The deaf and dumb were given work suited to
J* All priests of the Sun*
Tribute was to consist solely of labor, time, or skill
as a workman or artisan, or as a soldier* All men were
equal in this respect, he being held to be rich who had
children to aid him in making up his appointed amount
of tribute, and he who had none being considered to be
Except for work as a husbandman or as a soldier, for
which any puric might be called upon, no man was com­
pelled to work at any craft save his own*
If tribute took the form of merchandise produced by
the payer*s labor only the produce of his own region
could be demanded of him, it being held to be unjust
to demand from him fruits that his own land did not
Every craftsman who labored in the service of the Inca
or of his Curaca must be provided with all the raw mat­
erials for his labor, so that his contribution consist­
ed only of his time, work, and dexterity* His employ­
ment in this way was not to be more than two or three
months in the year*
A craftsman was to be supplied with food, clothes, and
medicine at need while he was working, and if his wife
and children were aiding him, they were to be supplied
with those things also* In this sort of work not time,
but a special stint of accomplishment was required of
the tribute-payer, so that if he had help from his fam­
ily, he could finish his task sooner than by himself,
and could not be called upon again that year*
This law was on the subject of clooecting the tribute*
At a certain time the collectors and accountants ass­
embled in the chief village of each province, with the
quipu-camayoc-cuna (knot-record keepers), and by the
means of the quipus and also of little pebbles the acc­
ounts and reckonings were cast up with perfect accuracy
in the presence of the official in charge,,probably a
hunu-camayoc or a Tucuirlcuc* Father Valera says as
follows on this score: *They saw, by the knots, the
amount of labour that the Indians had performed, the
crafts they had worked at, the roads they had travell­
ed over by order of their superiors, and other tasks
on which they had been employed. All this was deduct­
ed from the tribute that was due* Then they showed the
collectors and the governor each thing by itself that
was stored in the royal depots, such as the provisions,
pepper, clothes, shoes, arms, and all other things that
the Indians gave as tribute, down to the gold, silver,
precious stones, and copper belonging to the King and
the Sun, each item being recorded separately# They
also reported what was in store in the depots of each
village* The law ordained that the Inca governor of
the province should have a duplicate of the accounts in
his own custody, to check any error on the part either
of the collectors or of the payers of tribute.1
The surplus of the tribute, after the royal wants had
been satisfied, were placed on deposit and drawn upon
for the good of the people as required# Certain spec­
ially prized goods, such as gold, silver, copper, pre­
cious stones, feathers, paints, and dye-stuffs, were
restricted to the use of the Imperial caste and to such
favored curacas as might be honored with permission to
use them#
In special cases tribute was paid in the form of work
upon the roads, upon the temples, palaces, aqueducts,
bridges, store-houses, or other public works# In other
cases the tribute-payers were called upon to serve as
chasqui-cuna (post-runners) or as litter-bearers or as
Means says of these laws:
ffI think my readers will agree
with me that the world has never seen a code of laws more
exquisitely logical nor more sublimely just."
The Incas had several means of binding the Empire to­
gether and checking it so as always to be completely Inform­
ed as to the conditions of things#
This they accomplished
by a system of governmental roads, a system of posts and
runners, and a system of official inspectors#
The last men­
tioned were called llacta-comayus and were responsible dir­
ectly to the Inca.
When the Empire was just begining, the
Inca himself was able to visit all his subjects and check
p. 301.
everything personally#
But as the Empire grew, it became
necessary to have a system of inspectors who would do this
work for him* They kept all their records by quipu knots
which were checked with the yearly quipu reports of the
various ruling officials*
The judicial side of the Inca government, considered
according to our standards, was a bit ferocious*
It has
been stated that uthe most common punishment was death.n
Pecuniary fines, or confiscation of goods were never im­
posed because !fthey said that to do so, and at the same
time allow the delinquent to live, was not to rid the com­
monwealth of an evil, but only to deprive an evil-doer of
his property, leaving him with liberty to do more evil*!f
An added diseouragment to the commission of crime was the
belief that all laws had been laid down by the Sun, and
thus to break a law was to commit a sacrilege which was a
frightful thing to do*
Treason, disobedience, and thievery
were punishable by death*
In the latter case, however,
Locke, L* L*, The Ancient Quipu♦ Records were
kept by a system of multi-colored ropes of various lengths
called quipus * Each strand had a set of knots arranged
decimally* These records were used primarily for record­
ing numbers and not as systems of writing as some suppose*
They often served as a sort of reminder for the poets when
reciting a story, but they are essentially numerical in
nature* There were men trained especially in the keeping
and reading of these records*
op. sit* , Vol.I,
p. 146
p* 145.
allowances were made for the motive of the crime*
Among the higher officers minor crimes were more
often punished by public reprimand than physical chastise­
The penalties were severe because they were based
upon the natural love of life and hatred of death in men
as the greatest restraint to the commission of crimes#
"Thus it was that, in the whole Empire of the Yncas, there
was scarcely a crime to be punished in the year*ft
least their penal code had good results#
Another matter of governmental concern was that of
There were several schools and a college in
The latter was founded by the Inca Roca, and was
enlarged and improved upon by Inca Pachacutec#
It was here
that all the wisdom of the amautas and other Intellects was
centered, and it was here that the youths of the higher
classes all over the Empire came to study*
Garcilasso says
that i
"In the Indian language they call the schools Yachahuasi, which means *the house of teaching1* Here lived
the wise men and masters of that commonwealth, called
Amautas, or philosophers, and the Haravecs or poets.
They were much esteemed by the Incas and by all the
people* Many disciples lived with them, chiefly of the
royal blood*" 25
The course consisted of four years of study#
they studied the Quechua language;
The first year
the second year they
p. 148*
pp. 247-248.
studied theology and ritual;
to read Quipu records;
the third year they learned
and the fourth year they studied
what was contained in these records*
The policy of having
the heirs of provincial chiefs educated in Cuzco was an aid
to the spread of Inca language, culture, and general pro­
paganda »
The college was supported by the governmant.
policy of education was stated by its founder, Inca Hoca,
who says:
11that the children of the common people should
not learn the sciences, which should be known only by the
nobles, lest the lower classes should become proud and en26
danger the commonwealth*11
The rapid spread of the Inca Empire necessitated
some system of dealing with new provinces*
Perhaps in this
field alone Inca statesmanship reached its apex of strategy,
efficiency, and organization#
As they went along they dev­
eloped a system of conquest combining guile and diplomacy
with military aggression, which is briefly described in the
Before actually declaring war upon a province, the
Inca would send the message “requiring them to submit to and
obey the child of the Sun, abandoning their own vain and
evil sacrifices, and bestial customs*”
For the need of a
motive other than mere plunder was evidently necessary to
p. 336.
Alexander, H. B*,
Races, Vol. XI, p* 244.
“Latin America”, Mythology of All
their more developed conscience.
Bringing in the religious
element gave them a suitable motive, for it reminded them
that they were 1children of the Sun* placed upon the earth
to lead all peoples from darkness into the way of light
which was the way of the Sun#
The economic and political
motives were thus carefully hidden in their minds#
More often than not the people in question did not
care to frabandon their own vain sacrifices and bestial cus­
toms” and even preferred to fight for their preservation#
The Incas, moved by a religious zeal to spread their faith,
then declared war and moved in#
The results of the cam­
paigns were always in favor of the Incas although the time
limit for conquests varied greatly#
Garcilasso assures us
that no pillaging accompanied these invasions#
After the conquest the Inca went to work immediately
on 1Incaizing1 the new province.
It was an Inca policy to
make the control over newly acquired provinces complete be­
fore moving on to another conquest#
Quechua was made the
official language, and the Inca state religion and system
of government were set up immediately.
If the chief had
submitted willingly, he was allov/ed to remain in command
of his territory, but his son was hustled off to Cuzco for
an education, and incidently, as a hostage for his father*s
good behavior#
A thorough-going report concerning the land,
people, animals, crops, etc#, was drawn up and sent to Cuzco
to be filed for future reference on tribute or relief work*
With as little friction or change as possible, the new govern­
ment was set in working order and left with a garrison of sol­
diers to watch over it for a while*
The benefits which may be
obtained for a province through annexation to the Empire may
be seen in the following quotation*
f,Having established a governor, with garrisons of sol­
diers, the army then advanced, and if the new province
were large, it was presently ordered that a temple of the
Sun should be built, and women collected for its service,
and that a palace should be erected for the lord* Tribute
was collected, care being taken that too much was not ex­
acted, and that no injustice was done in anything; but
that the new subjects were made acquainted with the imper­
ial policy, and with the art of building, of clothing
themselves, and of living together in towns* And if they
needed anything, care was taken to supply it, and to teach
them how to sow and cultivate their lands* So thoroughly
was this policy carried into effect, that we know of many
places where there were no flocks originally, but where
there has been abundance since they were subjugated by
the Incasj and others where formerly there was no maize,
but where now they have large crops* In many provinces
they went about like savages, badly clothed, and bare­
footed, until they came under the sway of the Incas;
and from that time they have worn shirts and mantles,
both men and women, so that they always hold the change
in their memories•” 28
A system which grew up in connection with dealing
with newly acquired provinces is that of the mitimaes* or
It became a practice among the Incas that when a
tribe, or group, of newly conquered people showed signs of
giving trouble, the whole colony was removed to another part
of the Empire where they were surrounded by people loyal to
the Inca and where they had little chance of causing upset*
Means, P. A.,
p* 351*
Ancient Civilizations of the Andes,
This system worked conversely too, for often a colony of
subjects faithful to the Inca was transplanted Into the
midst of a newly acquired province where they were to
spread the state language, religion, and customs, and to
inspire loyalty to the Inca through general propaganda. It
has been suggested that this moving of colonies about the
Empire was a source of weakness as well as strength.
is contended that this bred discontent and unhappiness due
to homesickness and unfamiliarity of surroundings.
I believe its advantage both political and economic offset
its other aspect.
It may be noted that the Assyrians used
this same method to discourage rebellion.
A familiar ex­
ample is the famous Babylonian captivity of the Jews.
The care of the army during campaigns was a problem
of considerable proportion.
Wise measures in this respect
are responsible for the success of long and difficult cam­
paigns far from home.
Aware of the effects of altitude
and climate upon the health of the soldiers, the Inca div­
ided the army into relays, each of which was subject to
only a few months of active service in difficult regions
and was then sent home to rest.
Thus they could conduct
a campaign on the coast using highland slodiers with no
ill effects.
Works of engineering ability and skill in
the form of roads and bridges made easier moving the army
from one part of the Empire to the other*
Along these roads,
at intervals of three leagues, huge storehouses were built
and maintained at the expense of the government*
Each of
them was capable of outfitting 20,000 to 30,000 men*
These buildings supplied food, clothing, and ammunition to
the troops and so eliminated the discomforts of living off
of the towns*
In fact there was a severe law against sol­
diers damaging property of any kind while passing through
villages *
A careful census was kept of the army, and the offi­
cers acted as protectors and guardians of the troops who
were their responsibility*
Thus a huge standing army was
maintained at the minimum of discomfort to all, and it is
quite probable that the campaigns of the Incas scarcely
touched the every day life and duties of the average cit­
' In economics, the government was again omnipresent,
guiding, regulating, and organizing all activities*
household was more or less self-sufficient, but, as was
natural, there was often a surplus of one article and a
deficit of another*
Markets, consequently, were general
and frequent under the Inca regime*
Garcilasso states that
Inca Pachacutec in his laws on economics proclaimed that
there should be three large markets a month.
These markets
were held in an open square*
Each seller sat down and
o£• cit*,
p. 206.
Vol* II,
p* 25*
spread her wares on a piece of textile.
The buyer then
approached and sat down near by, and made a little pile
of what she wished to barter.
The bargain was not com­
plete until the seller agreed by a nod of the head that
the exchange was even.
No value or standard guided these
it was left to the satisfaction of the parties
The markets in the Peruvian highlands to-day
are conducted in an exactly similar fashion.
That there was much commerce between the coast, the
highlands, and the forests, is well supported both in re­
cords and in archaeological remains•
Such exchange would
be more in the nature of luxuries than necessities, how­
This trading was further encouraged by the system
of mitimaes which served as focal points for exchange be­
tween the homeland and the new territory.
Culturally the Incas and their Empire have a great
deal to offer.
Most notable is their system of government.
Here is an example of a successful combination of communal
land-ownership along with the inexorable despotism of a
ruling family.
Combined with this was the problem of hold­
ing together in a working unit a variety of peoples, lan­
guages, religions, customs, and culture.
The Incas devised
a system of administration which delt admirably with these
So efficient was this government that it con­
tinued to work by itself for several years after its rul­
ing tribe, the Incas, had ceased to exist in that capacity.
This system has been criticised for its suppression of the
individual into a mere automatic agent.
We are not compe­
tent, through lack of information, to judge the mental
happiness of the natives of the Inca Empire.
But it seems
highly probable that arts and crafts would have flourished
to the extent that they did if the individual was not allow­
ed a certain freedom of expression and consequent mental
In his chapter on Government, Markham states that the
government was the result of a combination of circumstances
which may never occur again.
These circumstances he fur­
ther defines as an inexorable despotism, absolute absence
of outside influence, a peculiar and remarkable people in an
early stage of civilization, and an extraordinary combina­
tion of skilful statesmanship.
Markham,C. R.,
The Incas of Peru,
p. 102
The four Nations which have been discussed in the
preceding chapters have, as regards their social and
governmental organizations, several points in common.
First of all it may be said correctly that these
four made their most notable contributions to cultural
advancement in the field of organization and government*
In the Americas, the most complex forms of social organ­
ization are found among people practicing intensive agri­
Two of these Nations, the Aztecs and the Incas,
fall in the area of Intensive Agriculture and of the four
produced the most complex forms of government.
The other
two Nations, the Creeks and the Iroquois, belonged to that
area known as the Eastern Maize Area, which indicates that
they too practiced agriculture, but not on such an exten­
sive scale.
We find that their governments are not so
complex as those of the other two.
This relationship be­
tween complexity of government and degree of intensity of
agriculture Is noted here as a fact pertaining to these
four Nations, and it does not necessarily follow that such
a relationship is always found among the American aborigi­
nal peoples, although in the main it seems to be true.
Intensive agriculture requires a sedentary popula­
tion, and these four tribes were sedentary people living
in well-planned villages.
Communal land-holding was a
point in common to them all.
Wissler says:
nThe social
structure upon which they rested was communistic.•••..*a
fundamental characteristic common to all the governments
of the area of higher culture.”
Everywhere we find the
annual allotment of fields to the households of the group.
In each of these four Nations we find the govern­
mental organization based upon a group of people rather
than the individual as a social unit.
Among the Creeks and
the Iroquois this group has been definitely established aa
the gens, or clan.
Among the Aztecs and the Incas, our in­
formation on the subject being incomplete, we are forced
to make assumptions upon whatever evidence we can glean.
Spinden sayss
” .•.we must remember that no clear case of
kinship clans has been reported south of the area of the
United States.”
However, the calpulli of the Aztecs and
the ayllu of the Incas, have been recognized as the basic
unit of their governmental systems, and in present-day op­
inion there is a strong case for the belief that these
units had their origin in the clan-gens system.
case, as Wissler says:
In which
”It is fair to raise the question
as to whether the real basic unity that made possible
these aboriginal political states did not rest with their
^Wissler, Clark,
The American Indian,
p. 156
Spinden,H., Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and
Central America, p. 211.
clan and gentile relations, since in these they had a def3
inite bond*”
If this is true, as indeed it seems to be,
we have a point in common for these four governments which,
because of its fundamentalism, is one of vaste importance
in the support of the hypothesis in favor of a close ethnic
relationship between the four Nations*
Ronald Olson who has submitted a recent and thorough
study of clan and moiety in the Americas, says as regards
the Aztecs:
"Obviously the case for a clan system among the
Aztecs is one of doubt* The most reasonable and con­
servative attitude is one which allows the possibility
but not the certainty of a unilateral kinship organiza­
tion which saw considerable modification with the rise
to a high political estate*” 4
This Considerable modification1 to which Mr* Olson refers
seems to be in the main the transformation of the original
clan or gens into a geographic unit, with the probable pre­
sence of kinship ultimately treated as an incidental fea­
ture of it*
The Incas carried this modification even fur­
ther by giving this geographical unit a numerical regular­
Thus we see that both the Aztecs and the Incas highly
systematized the working of these fundamental concepts*
Their organization of government based upon geographic
rather than kinship units enables them to be recognized as
having evolved political states in the modern sense of the
...... g" '
p* 369*
o£* cit*,
Olson, Ronald,
p* 165*
Clan and Moiety in Native America,
word •
All the offices of the Creeks, the Iroquois, and the
Aztecs, as well as the lower positions held under the Inca
system, were elective irrespective of the fact that in some
cases they were confined to a specific family or gens*
fact would support the notion that these governments were
based upon a representative democracy*
The presence of an
hereditary ruler or ruling few would not necessarily change
this basic feature, as is seen in the present government of
Great Britain*
Thus a summary of the important basic features of
government common to all four Nations would contain the fol­
lowing principlesj
sedentary livings
communal land-ownership;
intensive agricul­
the clan or gens, or at
least a regulated group of persons, as the basic unit of
and the use of an elective representative
The main points of difference are not fundamental ones,
but rather they are the outgrowth of the purposes of the or­
ganization as conceived by the different Nations, and the
methods by which they met the demands made by the growing
complexities of their political machines*
In a review of
the Creek Confederacy we find that it was formed primarily
for defence against encroaching tribes*
This defence, once
assured by the mere increase in numbers, soon ceased to act
as a stimulent for further organization*
Hence we have the
Creek Confederacy a loose voluntary union of tribes tied to­
gether mainly by linguistic affinity, kinship relation, and
common cultural patterns.
It was a step beyond the tribal
group, but due to cessation of demand for development and
lack of ambition on the part of the members it remained in
this transitory stage midway between the tribal government
and a true Confederacy.
The Iroquois Confederacy grew like that of the Creeks
out of a group of tribes linguistically related, possessing
common gens, and having similar cultural patterns.
was voluntary, and formed originally for defence.
The union
The neigh­
boring tribes, being more active and stronger than those of
the Creeks, created a situation demanding a more highly or­
ganized union from the Iroquois.
With this development
came increased power, and with it offensive warfare which
soon became their main occupation.
It seems fair to say that
constant warfare with the French also tended to strengthen
this union, for the organized power of the European colonists
required a corresponding organization on the part of the
Iroquois if they wished to survive.
It could be argued that
the Iroquoian League having attained this power began to show
the imperialistic tendencies which would place in the same
class as that of the Aztecs.
However I believe that among
the Iroquois the motive for conquest was more for personal
glory than for materialistic gain.
Their treatment of con­
quered tribes would show this to be true as their taxation
was spasmodic and they showed no attempt to realize the mat-
erial advantages of their position*
In the highly organ­
ized and complex form of the Iroquois Confederacy we find
the height of that type of government in the United States*
With the presence of the Aztec Teuctli as virtual
head of the Aztec Confederacy, we find a new element in our
governmental study.
The Iroquois it will be remembered had
no such individual at the head of their league, and the dual
position found in,the Creek league was one of little or no
authority and can hardly be compared with that of the Aztecs
outside of the fact that with the Creeks such an office did
The Aztec League too was composed of tribes linguist­
ically related;
with common cultural patterns;
a kind of kinship relation.
and bound by
Although we know little of the
organization of this League, we do know that it had consider­
able power as a military force.
As an organization it was
evidently less thorough than that of the Incas, and was more
a matter of military rule arbitrary and absolute.
It show­
ed a definite trend toward imperialism, but failed to make
use of its opportunity to seize the entire social machinery
of production as was so aptly accomplished by the Incas of
However through the evidence of its practice of heavy
taxation, we see that its conquests were primarily for mat­
erial gain, although it lacked the ability or opportunity to
organize conquered territory to the best advantage.
Wissler, ojD* cit.,
p. 157.
In the
position or the Teuctli we see an indication that this or­
ganization was on its way to a hereditary monarchy which if
combined with colonial organization, would have developed
eventually into a form similar to that of the Incas*
arrival of the Spaniards put an end to all advancement, and
we are left to wonder if the Aztecs would ever have been cap­
able of evolving a system as complicated as that of the Incas*
The chances seem to be against this, for they had made little
progress beyond the outward form of a confederacy as defined
in Chapter I,
although they had had one hundred years in
which to make a start*
Thus we see that imperialistic ten­
dencies plus the presence of a near absolute hereditary
ruler superimposed upon a confederate type of government
show a nice transition from the true Confederacy of the
Iroquois to the true Empire of the Incas*
We know that tribal and confederate forms of govern­
ment existed in Peru before the arrival of the Incas, and
so we may correctly assume that they too had passed through
the same, steps as the above mentioned tribes, and passing
through the transition stage of the Aztecs climbed to the
peak of complex aboriginal government in America*
organization for want of a better term has been called an
This is really a suitable term for it, as it was
a government which practiced the conquest and reorganiza-*
tion of colonies for material gain*
Added to this was a
hereditary ruler, who might justly be said to be absolute
in his power*
The various tribes and confederacies encor-
porated within the Empire were seldom willing members, but
were forced by the superior military power of the Incas to
join and reorganize their social structure to conform with
that of the Incas*
These members belonged to a variety of
linguistic stocks, had different cultural patterns, and, In
fact, had very little in common with one another.
The re­
organization of these peoples by the Incas was accomplished
deftly and with dispatch as described above.
language, Quechua;
the official religion;
The official
and the Inca
social organization all were superimposed upon their cul­
tures with great success*
Of the Ingenious and highly
complex organization of the Incas, WIssler says:
thoroughness and efficiency of the Inca system was notor-
ious for It left practically nothing to the individual.1*
So carefully was every detail worked out that it seems
probable that the Inca Empire had reached Its peak before
the arrival of the Spaniards.
As is the case with most
highly developed and complicated systems, downfall through
jealousy and civil strife probably would have been its lot
in the course of time*
In conclusion we see that the differences were not
fundamental, but the natural results of growth and acquisi­
tion of power*
Brinton speaking of the Incas and the Aztecs
p. 156.
"The government of these states did not differ in
principle from that of the northern tribes, though its
development had reached a later stage."
Wissler describ­
es all four by saying:
"They differed from each other in
the ways in which the ruling family group built up its
power and organized its military machine."
The main dissimilarities of these four leagues are
the following:
purpose of formation;
(voluntary or otherwise);
presence of a ruling head;
pose behind offensive warfare;
method of formation
treatment of conquered
and degree of complexity reached.
Thus we see that from a simple basic type these four
governments in the Americas progressed logically along the
same path to various stages of complexity, and from their
fundamental similarities would indicate relationship to the
same ethnic group*
Brinton, D* G.,
American Race,
op. cit*,
p. 156.
p. 130.
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