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THE fact of our sunny South being known in several countries of the Old World under the significant apellation of White-man's Land or Ireland the Great evidently suggests the idea that, long since, it had been visited or even settled by some European nation, by the Irish; and this induction is fully sustained by several particulars upon which we have touched already.
We have noticed, indeed," that when Thorfinn Karlsefne had settled in the southern parts of Vinland (consequently in the relative proximity of Great Ireland), he hung out his emblem of peace—a white shield —at the sudden appearance of a multitude of savage natives; and these perfectly understood the signal, as well as afterwards the contrary meaning of Thorfinn's red buckler.” This incident has doubtless puzzled many a reader, but the Scandinavian commander supposed or knew that the military signals of the Northmen, so much dreaded on every European coast, had been explained to, and probably made use of by, the settlers of White-man's Land in their intercourse with the American natives of their neighborhood. If the Skraelings recognized the European military tokens, they must, in some way, have previously come in contact with representatives of European civilization; and this, as far as we can presume, had been possible only in the colony of the White men. It is, moreover, a curious fact that the signal-colors of peace and of
* Supra, pp. 85, 86. * See Document XXXIV., c.
war used in the northwestern countries of Europe were not only understood in the northern continent of America, but were also admitted in the ancient kingdom of Peru; as if the Scandinavians or the Irish should have, at one time, extended their excursions as far south as the land of the Incas. The American aborigines did not, however, possess, nor did they even know the value of, European implements of war. They sent forth volleys of flint-headed arrows and of flattened stones, but they fought with no iron hammers nor steel swords and battle-axes, throwing the latter away when seeing that they would not cleave a stone.” It is well known that in no part of our continent did the natives understand how to utilize iron or steel at the time of the Spanish discovery. We shall not produce Björn Asbrandson's present to Kjartan of Frodha as a proof of the existence of steel weapons and implements in the colony of Great Ireland; * but that in olden times iron tools had been used in that country clearly follows from the tradition of the Shawanese Indians who migrated from Florida to Ohio in the year 1754, and testify that the former State had at one time been inhabited by a white people that had come across the ocean and made use of iron implements. Black Hoof, one of their chiefs, and about ninety years old, said, in A.D. 1819, that he remembered having heard, when a boy, his parents relate how they had seen pieces of wood worked with tools of iron.” The tradition further states that when, long ago, their ancestors first landed in Florida they found there buildings and customs very unlike their own." Did the European settlers mix with this tribe” We could not assert, but it is remarkable that the Shawanese are the only Indians who claim a foreign origin; and until lately they celebrated a yearly festival in commemoration of their forefathers' happy arrival from a transmarine country. It is furthermore worth noticing that this tribe is the only one of our country which offers sacrifices to obtain the good will and assistance of the Great Spirit before entering into treaties with foreigners or deciding upon any matter of importance. In such cases they sacrifice the best of their game.” This Indian testimony is highly interesting, yet some authors justly notice the possibility of its relating to the Spaniards who landed in Florida towards the middle of the sixteenth century, rather than to European immigrants anterior to the eleventh; and, therefore, we consider as more conclusive, in regard to Great Ireland, the argument derived from a lapidary inscription unearthed, in the year 1839, at Grave Creek Mound, Marshall County, Virginia. The inscription has not been satisfactorily deciphered yet, but our learned antiquarian Schoolcraft considers it most probable, and Rafn has no doubt, that the chiselling was done before the close of the tenth century by the Celts either from Iberia or from Ireland.” An evidence, plainer and more authentic than the Grave Creek tombstone, of the relative progress and culture of Great Ireland is what we might call another monument, as unique as, though more unpretending than, the former, and likewise found within the limits of the White people's territory. We mean the wooden corn-shed" which the companions of Thorwald, on their five months' exploring cruise to the south and southwest of Rhode Island, discovered in one of the most western isles to which they proceeded.” While the barbarous natives of the whole eastern coast had not one house to live in, but lay down in caverns and holes;” while, until this day, our Indian tribes dwell in miserable tents of sods, poles, and skins; there, in the fine climate of the South, is found a regular edifice, indicative of a certain degree of mechanism and of architecture as well as of wise providence, destined for the shelter and preservation of food for man and beast. De Costa “justly remarks that “a building of this character would point to Europeans, who, according to the minor narratives of the sagas, preceded the Icelanders in America.” Had Thorwald's men explored better the adjacent continent, it is likely that they would have met with good comfortable residences of the foreign immigrants; for, in the “Episode of Thorfinn Karlsefne,” we read that these took a decent care of their persons, dressing in such clothing as testifies to no mean progress" in various arts, such as spinning and weaving. The latest discoverers noticed in Florida a higher degree of civilization than in any other part of North America, if Mexico be excepted. When, in A.D. 1539, De Soto landed in the bay of Espiritu Santo (now Tampa Bay), he found the residence of the natives’ chief, “the lord's house,” good enough to establish himself in it; while the other buildings of the aboriginal town offered to his soldiers sufficient material
* Prescott, Conquest of Peru, ent state of the Indian tribes
vol. i. p. 119. inhabiting Ohio, in Archaeologia * Supra, p. 86; Rafn, Antiq. Americana, t. i. p. 273, ap. MoosAmer., p. 155. müller, S. 150; Beamish, Discov* Supra, p. 83. ery, p. 209; Assal, Nachrichten,
‘Johnston, Account of the pres- S. 87.
1 Nadaillac, America, p. 526. * Mémoires des Antiq., 1840–44, * Assal, Nachrichten, S. 87. pp. 126, 158.
for the erection of their barracks." Farther north, at the large town of Cale, in the southern portion of Alachua County, he met with tokens of thrift and providence; for it is said that his troops fell upon the stored provisions and ravaged the fields of maize with the eagerness of famished men.” As he moved northward he saw signs of more advanced industry. The houses of Toalli were covered with roofs of small canes, placed so neatly together that they offered an appearance of tiles. The walls of some were made of poles interwoven and covered in such an artistic manner that these walls seemed to be built of stone and lime. The dwellings of the caciques were roomy and commodious, and distinguished from the others by the modern luxury of a balcony over the entrance. Great skill was shown by the north Floridan people in the manufacture of cloth from grass or fibrous bark; and the deer-skins, of which they made leggings and other articles, were admirably well dressed and dyed.” Brownell states that the Indians of Florida are represented by all early historians as a high-spirited race, showing considerable skill in agriculture and exhibiting marks of far greater civilization than those of the North." Some authors are of the opinion that the Floridan tribes, exhibiting signs of a culture unknown in all the rest of our United States, must at some late period have immigrated from civilized Mexico. We, however, think that they were rather the abandoned and fallen descendants of the Irish colonies slowly absorbed by the American aborigines. In regard to clothing, the people of the southeastern parts of the present United States, at the beginning of
* Brownell, p. 113. * Ibid., p. 121. * Ibid., p. 117. * P. 111.