The Aboriginal Inhabitants of North America Part II


Pages: 20-21

Linguistic Grouping of the Tribes

Many varieties of language were spoken by the native American tribes, most of which, still preserved among the survivors of the race, have been studied with care, especially since the formation of the Bureau of Ethnology, which directs those studies in a systematic way. The result has been to find relationships of language, or " families of speech," which classify the numerous
tribes within the present territory of the United States into fifty-seven groups, the tribes in each group speaking dialects of the same tongue. These linguistic families or stocks are mostly small, more than half of the whole number being, located in little districts on the Pacific coast. Some, however, were originally very large, and were spread over wide areas of the country ; among such the following stood first:

1. The Algonquian stock. The many large tribes of this group were spread over the whole North Atlantic coast, as far south as North Carolina, and the whole interior westward to the Mississippi (including Canada almost entire to the Rocky Mountains), excepting a region occupied by the Iroquois, or Huron-Iroquois, as described below.

2. The Iroquoian stock. The fierce, aggressive tribes of the Iroquois had forced their way into the heart of the Algonquian domain, and, when first known, were in possession of territory covering the present State of New York (except on the lower Hudson) and most of Pennsylvania, with part of Maryland, northern Ohio, eastern Michigan, the Canadian border of lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and the upper waters of the St. Lawrence River. Their footing on the St. Lawrence was not maintained. The tribe in possession of the Canadian peninsula, between lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, known as the Hurons or Wyandots, was Iroquoian, but at enmity with the Iroquoians south of the lakes. In some respects, especially in political organization, the Ioquois were the most capable and the most advanced of all the natives found within the territory now covered by the United States. The five tribes (commonly called the Five Nations) of New York (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas) were united in a remarkable league of federal government, which might have given birth to a great dominating power, the seat and centre of an independent civilization, if European intruders had not broken in upon its development when they did. According to Iroquois traditions, this league of the Five Nations (afterward made Six Nations when the Tuscaroras were taken in) had existed but a short time when Columbus and those who followed him came first to these shores. It is believed to have been formed about the middle of the fifteenth century, by Hiawatha, a famous chief of the Onondagas, who deserves to be ranked among the great statesmen of the world.

3. The Muskogean or Maskoki stock. This held most of the country south of the Tennessee and east of the Mississippi, to the Atlantic and the Gulf. Its greater tribes were the Creeks, the Cha'htas or Choctaws, and the Chickasaws.

4. The Siouan or Dakota family, whose large domain embraced nearly the entire western watershed of the Mississippi, from the Arkansas northward, and extended beyond to the Saskatchewan.

5. The Caddoan or Pawnee family, whose territory was mostly south of the Siouan, in Louisiana, eastern Texas, and Arkansas.

6. The Shoshonean stock, the Shoshonean, Ute, and Comanche tribes of which ranged over a great part of the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada; from northern Mexico to Oregon.

The tribes encountered by early European settlers and explorers, within the territory now embraced in the United States and Canada, were mostly those belonging to the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Muskogean groups.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of North America Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A History of the United States for Secondary Schools by J.N. Larned; Houghton, Mifflin and Company New York 1903
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