"What is truth?" Pontius Pilate. This question may be said to be both the inration and quest of all science.
Not exactly disbelieving what the Amerinds hadtold me, yet I was skeptical, for it did not seem probable that an island had been the homeland of isolation where the great disharmonic cross had consolidated its racial type. I haunted shelves of the public library for days. Then began searching through the rare book sections book stores. One day I was rewarded. It was fairly thick book, in a dark red cover with gold lettering - The Traditions of Decoodah. In gold the cover was the etching of a proud Indian sachem of more than a century ago. I bought it I took it home. Reading it took my night which should have been spent sleeping.
Instead, in breathless imagery I roamed though the dark woods just beyond St. Louis, Missouri where a young surveyor had become intrigued with the "earthworks" of the Amerind. He wandered over them and finally began to survey them. He carried no food or other equipment except his survey tools and papers, a gun for obtaining food, a pan to cook it and a blanket for sleeping.
One day while working he was startled to find an Indian standing beside him silently watching what he was doing. The Indian was a tall man, straight as an arrow, though a few streaks of white in his hair showed that he was not young. Both facts here are typical of the Amerind. You will think that you are alone perhaps even entertaining the intriguing delusion that you are the first human being to have stepped upon this lonely mountain ledge or to have knelt down to drink of this lovely spring, when suddenly there he is, as if he had materialized from the mist of the morning. To your surprised greeting he will simply nod, or perhaps if you are more lucky he will smile and tell you that he has been following you for hours.
Pidgeon was not entirely naive in the ways of the Amerind, and he knew that a streak of white in the hair meant that his observer was near the century mark. I personally have seen such men
"The Joy Of Returning Spring". Original painting by Harry Epoloose, Zuni Junior High School student.
as old Marksman of the Chippewa whom, I was told was "over eighty winters" shoot a rabbit with deadly accuracy at fifty yards, run over with the agility of a youth to reach it, and hold it up grinning, showing all of his white teeth while he flung his dark braided hair from his face. However, the red man does not fare so well in our cities. He ages the same as we do. Asked why, he will usually remark: "'The air stinks, that is why." The elderly man was intrigued with the drawings Pidgeon was making. Finally using his poor command of English, he asked: " Why do you draw pictures when your people destroy?" Pidgeon answered simply that there would come a time when men would want to know about these giant mounds. "I want to put it down in a book for that time. A book talks on paper," he explained. "'It goes on talking after I am dead. I wish to talk to the people who live after the time of the destroyers." (I do not have the book before me and am quoting from memory, but in general, this is the thought he conveyed.) The old man nodded his interest and asked Pidgeon to follow him. This turned out to bean invitation to have dinner and meet his tribal friends. That night Pidgeon learned that his new friend was Decoodah, the last living man of the extinct Elk nation of the Algonkins. He was the keeper of the histories which went back for over a thousand years. His sons had died in the Black Hawk war fighting the white invaders. He had found no youth among the red men who was worthy of receiving the traditions, so he had intended to take the chants to the grave of his people. Pidgeon decided right there and then that he would learn the old man's language and try to learn more than he could at the white universities. So he invited Decoodah to go with him as he continued to "map the earthworks". Decoodah accepted, and for four months they wandered through the forests together. Decoodah led him to the most important mounds, sketched for him the parts which had been eroded away by streams, and then began to explain the meanings. Finally after the "time of waiting and know ing", Decoodah ceremonially took young Pidgeon for his son and began to give him the histories. He learned that Decoodah's detailed knowledge of these past civilizations was due to the fact he was "reading the mounds". They were indeed histories, to be read from the center outward, and the story of that city had been ended with "the mound of extinction". Each animal pictured stood for a tribe of people. One mound, or rather set of mounds in
Wisconsin, was a capitol city whose historic dynasties had a past as brilliant
and checkered as that of London - where Incidentally, Pidgeon finally published
his book over a hundred years ago. Decoodah began to tell his" son" of the
people who lived in peace along the rivers, the mound builders, trading even
with distant nations In their longboats. Their religion was peaceful, since
it had been brought to them by a long-dead saint. Together with what he told
and what one can learn from some of the explorers who first talked to such
extinct nations as the Natchez of the Mississippi river, and the tribes of
Louisiana, one can picture these cities very well. They were built in the
shape of a wheel with streets for spokes. The government buildings were on
the central mounds. When the city was captured by enemies, those mounds were
closed and the mark of extinction added. They were never destroyed. In them
were the tools and the clothing and utensils used at that time. -These large
buildings were built of hewn whole logs, painted or gilded. The grounds about
them were covered with strawberry bushes as today we use grass. Some trees
were used for shade and some for their good nuts or fruits. Built thusly,
the pyramids extend all the way into the land bordering Mexico. About the
year 700 A. D., a tremendous invasion took place from the south up the
Mississippi. Four (the sacred number) tribes came up the river. The Turtle
(the Dacotah) was leading the Snake (Iroquois) and probably the southern
tribes such as Choctah, Chickasaw, Creek Cherakee (ra meaning sun), or Muskogian
speaking and perhaps the Caddoan speaking tribes. Today we classify them
as the Atlantic tribes. They had cities on islands in the Caribbean sea which
were being devoured by the ocean. Also, one of their group were setting
themselves up as "Lords" and capturing the others as slaves (Aztecs?). They
were originally the "seven families who fled from the old red land in the
destruction" the Dacotah tell as a supplemental story to fill out the picture.
They fled north, preferring to learn the knowledge of the woods to living
in slavery. They were fire worshippers. They remembered a sacred dragon and
giant caves where he had once lived. Was he the personification of lava?
Perhaps. They brought with them the memory of pyramids and of ancient writings.
They carried fire in their long boats which they burned out of a single giant
tree trunk. They carried their history in the form of chants and sometimes
in the knotting of colored threads. They held sacred the memory of a giant
bird who had a tuft
of white feathers about his naked neck, because they had once been told to wear these above the eyebrows, so that long after the terror, they might recognize one another. This bird had a dolorous cry, as if weeping for the lost land, and it flew through the lightnings. They carried he memory of a sacred calendar and a reverence for the twin stars of night and morning or summer and winter. All these things were carried in the chants of the tall, powerful redskinned people who were coming up from the south in the year 700 A.D. They drove the Algonkins with their guttural language, farther north (Not that Decoodah remembered all these cultural details about the invaders they themelves have helped me out with these memories.) Decoodah tells how the great mound of the serpent being led by the oval symbol of the vulture was built along the banks of the Mississippi, the father of waters", to commemorate this invasion. The Algonkins simply moved further north and established another capitol city while the black tortoise emperor took over their old capitol at St. Louis, Missouri. The Algonkins closed their mounds and the tortoise began their own from this point. The black tortoise had a very beautiful court and the people dressed in great elegance. (Why as he called "black"? Because that is one of the colors of the fire god. It is the shade of very ancient lava.) The emperor then divided his kingdom into four parts. The Mississippi was the dividing line. Two parts were north and two parts the south. These he put into the hands of his four sons, and about their necks was hung the badge of royalty" which made of them one of the "great suns". All went well then until in the southern court was born a grandson who was much like the black Tortoise himself. As he grew up, another wave of southerners was welling up the Mississippi in their long boats. The youth saw these people being peacefully absorbed by the other kingdoms d realized that they were of his own people. listened to their stories of their troubles in the southland. He also listened to scouts coming from the west where small islands of very cient people were being surrounded and over by invaders coming down the sunset ocean from the north, aided in their marching by fierce own dogs with bushy outstanding fur and black mouths (Curiously enough, some of the Atlantic tribes still have some wild descendents of these mongrelized chows, whom they call "dog soldiers" since their ancestors were captives of battle. They are sometimes ceremonially eaten to thus gain the courage of their ancient enemies). The young man then tried to overthrow the kingdom by conspiring with these new refugees. He did not succeed, but threw the kingdom into a turmoil because the four sons were faithful to the old emperor. However, there was in the court of the aged black tortoise, a brilliant captain of the armies, named Dacotah. He had a much better idea than the youth from the south. He took a leave of absence and went to the Algonkins. His idea was to weld them into an army, capture the old kingdom and then turn his entire attention upon the west, making one powerful kingdom from sea to sea. This happened about the year 900 to 1000 A.D. Dacotah was able to weld the Algonkins into a fighting force and by the brilliance of his military strategy to take the black tortoise capitol. However, the sub kings began to rally their troops and the most fierce type of civil war broke out. It finally went into complete anarchy, and in order to exist, the people had to abandon their cities and join the guerrilla bands who were sacrificing captives to the old fire god. When the white man came, this had been going on for several hundred years. When I closed this most enlightening book, I wrote a long letter to Dr. Wissler. He had been ill, but his letter was full of the old enthusiasm. "That is the find of the century!" he wrote. "Don't send it to me as you said that you wished to do. I will come to Los Angeles and pick it up. I want to republish it, of course. Suddenly the language map of North America begins to make sense. The Algonkins obviously once held the land and there were obviously some invasions from Asia down the Pacific bringing in the Atha paskan speakers. But these Atlantic tribes were a great mystery. There is a very old similarity in tongues, but it is of tremendous antiquity so old that they must communicate by hand signs. Dr. Hrdlicka has spent his life insisting that they all came down from Asia broke through thou sands of miles of enemy tongues without leaving any islanded groups like the Asiatics. did to trace them back to their source. Besides where did the Chickasaws get their South American plum? And where do they all get their worship of what evi dently is a South American bird the condor sometimes seen as far north as New Orleans, although there are some smaller descendants in California? How much more obvious to say that they came up from the south, than to try to insist that they broke through thousands of miles of Athapaskan and Algonkin speakers without leav ing a single clue behind?"
It was the last letter I ever received from Dr. Wissler. His death came as a real blow to me, and although we had never talked face to face, I think of him as one of my best friends and one of the most inspiring minds it has been my great pleasure to know. So I continued my search of the truth and a lead through the labyrinth of Atlantic mysteries without the keen insight of Dr. Wissler. However, I did find a real legacy among his writings. In studying his method of finding the center of the sun dance rite or the pole dance, which not only spills over into Mexico as he once pointed out to me, but also into our own Maypole dance, I found his method a very good pattern to follow. He found the sun dance was used and apparently revered as an ancient rite by two or three unrelated language groups. He began to list the steps of the rite, making note of all possible parts. For example, one part concerned a girl who was called "beautiful enemy". Another part was that the tree which was to become the
pole had to be scouted for by a certain number warriors. His reasoning was this: that if be #1 had traits A and B, tribe #2 had A and while tribe #3 had B and D, these scattered parts had once fit an entire ancient rite. Thus the tribe which had the most and was the closest the center was certainly nearer to the origin lint than the tribes which were apparently but fringe contacts. Therefore he began; 1) the tree was scouted; 2) there had to be a specified number of warriors doing this; 3) there must be a lovely young girl in the party who was to be called "beautiful enemy". etc. The end of this long piece of research was that although the Dacotah-Sioux were best known for this colorful rite, the Algonkin speakers were closer to the center and therefore he decided it was an early Algonkin ritual, while the Sioux was an early contact. It interesting that my Siouan speaking friends deny this, saying that it was theirs "way back at the dawn!" It is just as possible that like the secondary burial rite, much was forgotten in the interceding years of war and migration. However, the method is quite excellent in tracing down people and their animals. For example, many races had domesticated animals. Who had them first and what animals did each group have? Of course there is the almost unanswerable argument that they were to be found wild at such and such a location, but beyond that one has to I "peel back the onion", as he once wrote to me - look at the previous people. Whatever culture traits they had, or animals they had are theirs and become just contacts when taken over by the conquerors. The conquerors are seldom the civilizers. They only absorb the civilization which they find - unless is trait is not to be found in the conquered people. Thus we do not become bogged down in an embarrassing morass of culture traits. Especially when we are seeking the nation of the greatest antiquity as we are attempting to do in the Atlantic puzzle. Who first tamed the mysterious ibex and brought the animal itself or the memories of it to the Americas? Where is it be found wild today? On the Atlas range is a species, but the main animal is to be found on the Pyrenees mountains (Greek - fire mountains) which extend to Switzerland and the Alps. Then which was the earliest group in the Swiss Alps who had goats? Apparently the long headed harmonics who lived in the Kitchen Midden villages above the lakes during the Pleistocene. There is, however, a similar animal which as tamed by the ancient Egyptians and kept in herds to be milked and used for meat. This long horned elk today runs wild in herds above the Ah Hoggar mountains of the Sahara. Coincidence? Not entirely. The Egyptian was a dolicephalic harmonic. We must therefore place this as a doli tamed animal unless later finds contradict this conclusion. The scimitar horned golden animal of the Saharan desert is the oryx. Near it, and sometimes sharing the same desert foliage, is the addax. This is a long horned animal also, except the horns have waves in them. One of the most interesting and puzzling culture traits of both the Cro Magnon type Atlantic tribes of the Amerind and the Azilian - Egyptians is the circular medallion worn around the neck of the great sun, or the emperor of the tribe. It is hereditary, and is passed down from generation to generation from an unknown antiquity. It is usually fashioned of bronze. After I had published my last book (He Walked the Americas - Amherst Press, 1963), 1 was fortunate enough to receive a letter from a woman living in Texas who had found such a medallion on her land near what remained of an Indian mound. Mrs. Frank Kidd, Box 950, Brady, Texas, wrote me along description of the medallion and finally sent me two photographs. The most fascinating aspect about this object is the writing which is similar to Egyptian hieratic and also similar in the seated figure to some the war bonnet feathers streaming down the back. The main figure is apparently seated in a chair with cat (or tiger) arms and carries the sun disc enclosed within horns upon his head. The other side of the medallion seems to resemble a sphinx-like animal with three pyramids in the background, and a rainbow-like fire, perhaps the rising sun, to the animal's back. The medallion was, as I had suspected, made of bronze, Mrs. Kidd assured me. The only reason I could imagine for the medallion being cast aside into the dirt was the fact that the young chieftain who was wearing it, fearing death or capture, did not want to be found with it upon his body and hurriedly cast it aside where he thought he might retrieve it on a later date. it was found, I understand, well over half a century ago. Now here is a puzzle - the medallion, claimed by both the Atlantic tribes and by the Azilians, is the symbol of royalty. Which had it first? Is there any way we can obtain even an educated guess? Let us go on farther into the puzzle of the ante-diluvian world, and see if we can learn more.