Modern education has not given us men who write better epitaphs or men who build better houses. It has given us men who are afraid to write epitaphs and leave it to the vicar. It has given us men who are afraid to build houses and leave it to the architect. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Barbarous Indians

The Indians east of the Rocky Mountains knew a little more than the savage Indians, so they are called the barbarous Indians. Besides hunting and fishing, they dug up roots with stone hoes, or with shells, and planted corn, beans, pumpkins, squashes, tomatoes, tobacco, and sun-flowers. Of course they did not have neat fields and gardens, such as you see now; but they scratched a hole wherever the ground seemed good enough, dropped a few seeds into it, and covering them over, left them to grow without further care.

The barbarous Indians were not content, like the savage Indians in the West, to fling a skin around them to keep off the cold, merely fastening it with a big thorn to hold it together. So they made winter garments by sewing skins together with sinews or plant fibers. In summer they had lighter clothes, rudely woven out of cotton or plant fibers. They, too, wove baskets, made beautiful birch-bark canoes, and after fashioning pots and pans out of clay, hardened them in the fire, so that they could use them in cooking.

[Illustration] from Story of the Thirteen Colonies by Helene Guerber

These Indians had tools and weapons made of finely polished stone or bone, and they liked to live in villages. Instead of wigwams, many of them built houses of wood, or basket work and clay, roofed over with strips of bark. Sometimes the roof was a very thick layer of long grass, laid on rude rafters, and held down by poles to form a kind of thatch.

The houses thus built were generally very long and rather narrow, with a door at either end, and a passageway running through the center. On either side of this hall there were little rooms, each occupied by a family. At intervals along the passage the ground was hollowed out, and a clay or earthen fireplace was built, where four families cooked their meals. Above the fireplace there was a hole in the roof to serve as chimney. The rooms near the doors were generally used as storerooms for food and fuel. When several of these long houses were built together, they were often surrounded by a wooden wall, or palisade, to keep out the wild beasts and to serve as protection in time of war.

A long house

The Indians who once lived in New York and in the valley of the St. Lawrence lived in long houses, but the Missouri Indians had round houses, built of the same materials. In the round houses the fireplace was in the middle, and families lived in rooms shaped like cuts of a pie. Many of these round houses were built close together, and then surrounded by a palisade made of tree trunks. These were driven into the ground so close together that they formed a very strong fence.

Although Indians did not have family names, such as we have now, each great family, or clan, had a special sign whereby it was known, such as a bear, a turtle, or a beaver. This sign was often marked upon their bodies in bright colors, and they carved and scratched it on all their belongings. From this sign the family was known as the bear, the turtle, or the beaver clan. Each clan selected a ruler, called sachem, or sagamore, whose orders all obeyed, and they also chose a chief to lead them in time of war.

The Indians had never been told about the God we love, so they worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, the lightning and thunder, the wind and rain, and said that one great spirit, called Manito, was always watching over them. They also believed that when they died they would be carried off to a place where they could hunt and fish forever, and they called this heaven the happy hunting grounds.

Their religious ceremonies were usually performed by Indians called medicine men. These pretended to be very wise, and frightened the others by dancing and yelling wildly, and using strange words and signs. They said this would please their gods, and drive away the evil spirits of sickness, storm, or drought. The Indians were so simple that they believed all this nonsense, and they were so afraid of evil spirits that they often begged an animal's pardon for killing it. You see, they thought the spirit of a wolf or bear might else be so angry as to torment them in their dreams!

A papoose

The men spent their time hunting, fishing, and fighting, but left all the rest of the work to the women. When they moved from one place to another, the squaws had to carry all the household goods, as well as the papooses, or babies. But the men carried only their bows and arrows, hunting knives, and the hatchets called tomahawks, which they threw with great force and skill.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell