Aborigines of California: An Indo-Chinese Study

A VERY intelligent lady, who had lived with her husband many years amid the placers of the Sierra Nevada, once related to me the following incident: In the ever-memorable red-letter days of ” ’49 and the spring of '50,” when the Chinese were yet a new apparition on this coast, the California Indians were greatly puzzled what to make of them. They scrutinized them sharply from queue to slippers, noted that they invariably had black hair and black eyes, like themselves, nearly as broad cheek-bones, and faces which, though lighter than their own, were darker than those of the malditos Americanos; but they could understand nothing they said. They therefore hit upon a plan to find out what manner of men they were, which presents some novel features as a mode of elucidating ethnological questions, but will be remembered by students of Guizot’s History of Civilization, as one form of the judgment of God. Whenever they caught a son of Shem in a sequestered place, where his outcries could not bring Others to his rescue, they soused him into the water. If he sank and drowned, they acknowledged him as a brother Indian; but if he managed somehow to scramble out, they repudiated him, and gave him a mauling.

This story is probably apocryphal, for I have never been able to find a second person to confirm it; and yet there is a fact well authenticated which lends it some little color of probability. This fact is, that the Concow tribe, living formerly in the vicinity of Chico, believe to this day that the Chinamen in California are “ dead Indians come back to life.” They are not good Indians, of course, but bad ones, who, in the spiritworld from which they have just returned, had their language confounded as a penalty for wickedness done in the body in a previous state of existence, so that they cannot now be understood by their brethren. Of the existence of this notion there is no doubt, for the matter was fully expounded to me by one of the “ Big Indians ” of that tribe, on the Round Valley Reservation, who believed it himself.

But, for the most part, the mere whimseys of the Indians are neither here nor there, in a rational inquiry into their genesis.

From the day of that amazing old book, called, I believe, The Star of the East, which nobody now reads, down to the times of Herr Platzmann, the question of the origin of the American aborigines has been a target; and I may therefore be permitted to have my fling at it with the rest. The California Indians only, none others. It would probably be accounted first in order, to consider the probabilities of a Chinese or Japanese junk drifting or sailing across the wide Pacific, in the early days of navigation, bringing hither living, human freight, male and female after their kind. It is not the purpose of this paper to attempt anything of that sort, for it were a task as bootless as the cruise of the Lost Galleon, in quest of the day which slipped out of the almanac into the Pacific. Concerning the ancient voyaging of the Chinese, we have little information that is more definite than the statement that Powang, in the thirtieth year of Yaon, “ set sail on a star-lit log to discover new regions.” In an introductory chapter to The Natural Wealth of California, Cronise has collected a great number of citations from old Spanish and other authors, touching this matter; traditions of ornaments found in Peru, known to have been made by an English artisan in the army of Gengis-Khan; of a Japanese junk stranded long ago on the Oregon coast; of articles of Mongolian workmanship discovered in the Aztec temples of Mexico, etc. I have read none of the originals from which these quotation are drawn. The Lower California Indians, a century and a half ago, used to relate to the Spanish padres fables of an ancient banquet held somewhere in the vague North, at which their ancestors fell to deadly quarrel; and part were thrust out, and wandered to their present habitat, where they tarried and multiplied. To this day, the dwellers about the mouth of the Columbia exhibit to the tourist hollow cylinders of bees-wax, which are occasionally thrown up by the Pacific in a great storm, and which are supposed to be the candles used by the Japanese priests, from which the wicks have rotted out. Newspaper readers have probably not forgotten that, in the autumn of 1871, three Japanese sailors were rescued from a junk, off the Alaskan coast, after having drifted helpless at sea for nine months. Once more, an American whaler was broken up on the north coast of Kamtchatka, some time before the disastrous engorgement of ice-floes in the fall of 1871, which went near to destroy the whole Arctic whaling-fleet, and which New Bedford, at least, has not yet forgotten. After living some months in Kamtchatka, they were brought off by a vessel which was a member of that doomed fleet, though they finally escaped alive to Honolulu, and their adventures were briefly narrated in a journal of that city. Among other things they related that, when they were out on one of their hunting excursions with the Kamtchatkans, they fell in with savages who had come over from the American side in quest of game.

All these particulars, whether wholly legendary, semi-historical, or of recent and undisputed occurrence, are not without their significance, as showing how the Asiatics might have got on this side centuries ago. But they build up nothing satisfactory, nothing absolute. They are scarcely of equal value with internal evidence furnished by the Indians themselves. During a recent pedestrian journey of many hundred miles through the State, evidence of the latter sort accumulated in my hand to an extent which was very gratifying.

First in order, though perhaps of secondary importance, a general comparison between the Canton Chinaman and the typical California Indian, say of Russian River Valley.1 Canton lies in 23° 7' north latitude, Healdsburg in about 38° 30', but snow and ice are practically unknown in either, and the Indians about the latter, in their aboriginal state, found it necessary to wear nothing more than a girdle of rawhide or of braided grass about the loins. They differ in color nearly in the proportion of old brass to old bronze, though I have seen Canton Chinamen quite as swarthy as the average Indian. But the Indian’s cuticle has an oleaginous sleekness, especially in the summer heats, while the Chinaman’s tint is dusty or scorched-looking. Both have coarse, black, straight hair, the Chinese being the lanker on account of its length. The Indians cut off their hair, but it is a singular fact that, in describing their Deity, under whatever name, they invariably ascribe to him long hair, as the Chinese wore it before 1627 A. D.2 The Mongolian oblique eyelids, sloping inward, are not noticeable in the Indian. The latter’s cheekbones are a trifle broader, giving his face in old age something more of angularity, but the nose is less depressed at the root than in the Chinese, and the nares less dilated. Both races, in youth (especially the females), are inclined to extreme fatness, which makes the faces of the aged alike odiously and repulsively wrinkled, with a simian aspect which is startling. The Chinaman is very industrious, the savage indolent and phlegmatic. He has no word in his language for “lazy,” and borrows it from the Spanish — an instance of a quality known only by its opposite, which the Indian does not possess. It is an indisputable and lamentable fact of history, that human nature is constitutionally lazy. On this basis, therefore, these two diverse facts are reducible to the following statement in proportion: The immense former harvests of wild oats, and the countless myriads of salmon, coupled with the sparse population, were to the Indian’s easy indolence, as the moderate yields of China and its vast populations are to its inhabitants’ enforced industry. And yet I have seen a fancy work-basket on which a squaw had wrought at intervals for three years, and on which she had expended the plumes of eighty quails, and the scarlet down of over one hundred and fifty woodpeckers; and a veteran pioneer informed me such baskets were formerly numerous among them. As farm laborers the Indians are at least equal to Chinamen, for a California Indian has an almost Ethiopian endurance of the sunshine, but the Chinaman gets under an umbrella. It is the testimony of Southern planters who have had experience with both, that the Indians are something inferior to the negroes in endurance, but quite their equals in docility and domesticity.

There is a notable resemblance to the Chinese in their former fruitfulness, and their capacity to mass dense populations. There are official statistics at the Hoopa Reservation, showing that in 1870 there were sixty-seven and one half Indians to the square mile, for forty miles along the lower Klamath. I have heard several pioneers estimate the aboriginal population of Round Valley at various figures, all the way from five thousand to twenty thousand; but taking even the lowest estimate, there would still have been an Indian to every four acres, or one hundred and sixty to the square mile. Kelsey, the discoverer of it, says that when he looked down from the mountains into that peerless valley, the whole vast round of it was spangled with Indian camp-fires, even as the heaven above with stars. True, there were many salmon streams, and a wide circumjacent area of mast-bearing forest, of which they held usufructuary possession, while living entirely on the prairie of the valley. A pioneer pointed out to me on Van Dusen’s Fork the site of an Indian city which contained one thousand inhabitants in 1850, according to his estimate. Near Sanel, on Russian River, I have wandered over the ruins of an old Indian town which was laid out with perfect regularity, averaging eight blocks wide and twenty deep. Each wigwam constituted a block, but, owing to their patriarchal system, contained from ten to twenty inmates. The former prevalence of infanticide points unmistakably to the same over-fruitfulness and over-population which are pleaded for the atrocity in China.

Again, they are alike in their harmless character and peaceable temper, for either people will jangle endlessly among themselves, with strange, voluble oaths, without ever coming even to fisticuffs. In avarice they are one people, for there is no crime known to the Indian, how heinous and atrocious soever it be, and hardly any to the Chinaman, for which money will not buy the offender off scotfree. In fondness for dancing they are diverse, for the California Indians have a hundred dances and one acorn porridge, while the Chinese almost never dance, and for a very good reason, as stated by Williams:3 “ In tumbling and balancing, the Chinese are almost unequaled, but one would almost as soon think of associating music and medicine, as that Chinese music should be accompanied by quadrilles and cotillons, or that men with shoes like pattens could lead off women with feet like hoofs, through the turns and mazes of a waltz or fandango.”

But both have a notable fondness for music. The Chinese make a horrible noise, but they greatly delight in it, and keep good time at least. In their multifarious dances, the Indians have wooden or bone whistles, on which they blow sincere but most monotonous blasts, and though each chants an entirely independent roundelay, in the recitative, all uniting occasionally in the chorus, they keep time wonderfully well, always having a chorister to beat time, either with a split twig on the hand, or by stamping. That is to say, both races have a good notion of time, but not of melody. It is the testimony of the Reservation agents, that the California Indian children pick up our Sunday-school melodies with the facility of the Southern pickaninnies, humming thou over and over again through the week, to the great weariness of their elders. Again, the Chinese and Indians are alike in their unmentionable abominations, and in their dark and revolting cruelties, such as infanticide. There are at least three tribes living about the mouth of Russian River who confess to the existence of this atrocity among them, and this before they had the excuse of that overpowering melancholy which has come over them in view of the sad and miserable fate inevitable since the advent of the Americans. On the other hand, in the treatment of the very aged, they are as different as darkness from light. The Chinaman is proverbial the world over for his filial piety, while some tribes of Indians (at least the Gallinoméros) put their infirm and helpless parents to death by strangulation. A poor old wretch is thrown down on his back and securely held, while a stick is placed across his throat, and two Indians sit on the ends of it until he ceases to breathe. Now, it is a proposition as true in morals as in metaphysics, that the greater includes the less. It is difficult to comprehend why any people capable of sacrificing their own offspring, should not also destroy the aged, who are no longer able to add to the family wealth, and are only a burden on the family resources. It is my belief that the Chinaman’s reverence for age is not founded on filial affection, but rather on a superstition, a worship, to be accounted for by the exceptional and extraordinary influence of the teachings of Confucius for twenty-three centuries. If there is one article in their credo more vital than another, it is that the souls of deceased ancestors are potent in heaven or in hades, to consign their posterity on earth to either. All the Chinaman’s hopes of future felicity in the pure country of Buddha, and all his possibilities of avoiding the Bloody Pond of hell, are inseparably conditioned on devotion to his ancestors. In other words, in his infanticide and his parricide, the savage is simply consistent, while the Chinaman shows his real character in the former, and is deterred from the latter only by a hoary superstition, by what I will venture to call his patrolatry. There will be occasion further on, in making note of other similitudes, to show how the untutored savage is always greatly and thoroughly consistent, while the Chinese, — the fruit of forty centuries of the most hollow-hearted, glozing, and hypocritical civilization that ever existed,—from the top of his head, to the dust beneath his feet, is a most chameleon-spotted contradiction.

But, barring this outrageous inhumanity to the aged while living, the savage shows a notable resemblance to the celestial, in the reverence with which he cherishes the memory of the dead. Among the Cahrocs the petchiárey, the simple mention of a deceased father’s name, is a deadly insult, which, though it may be compounded for with money, like all other crimes, is ranked with willful murder, and in default of the demanded blood-money, it can be atoned for only with death. Substantially the same is true of many other tribes. When I asked Tacho-colly, tatterdemalion chief of the Ta-ah-tèns, to give me the words for “ father,” etc., he shook his head mournfully and said, “ All dead, all dead; no good.” The poor savage could not distinguish between the proper names of those relatives and the abstract words; and the utter sadness of his tones was most touching. So among the Wintoons, the name of a dead person may not even be spoken in a whisper. Let a merry circle of talkers be pattering glibly the gossip of the campoody, speaking gayly of their friends and their doings, and let some one in the circle, with bated breath and the very soul of horror in his eyes, suddenly whisper that dreadful word kedátcheda (“ It is a dead person! ”), and straightway the whole assembly becomes silent, hushed, and awe-struck, as if they had heard a voice dropping out of heaven. The tribes that bury the dead generally bury them close beside their lodges, where they watch and tend them with faithful vigilance, and more than once I have been silently but strenuously beckoned away from even looking at the graves. They refrain from mentioning the names of the dead, as they have often explained to me, that they may rest peacefully in the grave.

In the gentle, harmless, sociable quality of their daily moods, the California Indians are like the Chinese again. But in their capacity for religious frenzy, they rather resemble the African races, and in their wonderful endurance of penitential fastings on certain occasions, and of self-lacerations and other mortifications of the flesh, they are rather the counterpart of the Hindoo, for the Chinese are impatient of these things. Being savages, they have the savage virtue of hospitality developed to a degree of wastelessness, which the Chinamen have not. For the same reason, they are more truthful and honorable in their dealings, than a nation who are obliged to truckle hourly to infamous officials. They are deplorably alike in their thievishness; and above all things else do they resemble each other in that sly, secretive, close-mouthed quality, which, on the one hand, will make a stabbed Chinese swear to his last breath that he committed suicide, and on the other, makes the California Indian the hardest of all savages to learn about. Lastly, they are both grossly licentious, in both sexes. The Chinese classical literature is said to be pure, compared with that of Greece and Rome; but among the common people, as among the Indians, there are songs and expressions in constant use which are unspeakably vile.

At this stage, let me assume for convenience what will be approximately proved further on, namely, that the Gallinoméro tribe, living in the vicinity of Healdsburg on the lower reaches of Russian River, are the connecting link between California and China; and that their habitat marks the probable site of the earliest Chinese colony in America. Furthermore, that this coast was peopled by two migrations: one, of Tungusic tribes coming by Behring’s Straits, or at least by a passage much to the north of California; and the other, of the Chinese, coming probably from about Canton across the Pacific; and that the dividing line between these two independent migrations is discernible to this day about on the meridian of Mount Shasta and the Klamath River. This for the sake of comparing the Indians north and south of this assumed line.

1. Probably the most important of the differences is that, north of this line and on the Klamath, the languages are conspicuously harsh, guttural, and abounding in such hard, consonantal combinations as ks, tsk, ps, sk, etc., as seen in the following words in the Yreka and Modoc languages: Ksup, tsesup, skahgiss, niswatska, snawatska (five, father, mine, man, woman). Also these from the Euroc on the lower Klamath: mepche, meluthl, metska, corr-ke-cork (tongue, head, foot, ten). On the contrary, south of this line, the languages are harmonious and musical, like the Chinese, and indeed, as will be demonstrated further on, some of them seem to sacrifice nearly all syntax to the demands of euphony. As you cross the Mount Shasta watershed and begin to descend the Sacramento, or as you come below the Klamath west of the Coast Range, the transition is very abrupt, much more abrupt than can be explained by the very gradual softening in the climate. I know nothing of the Tungusic languages from actual study, and only presume to compare with them the vocables of these seven tribes in extreme Northern California, on account of the resemblance of many of them to the geographical names around Lake Baikal in Irkutsk, and in Kamtchatka.

2. The deep, circular cellar (not a cellar proper, but part of the dwelling), which is found in the lodges north of Mount Shasta and on the Klamath, indicates a long residence of the makers’ ancestors in a rigorous climate, and agrees with the known habits of the North Asian tribes to-day. But directly you come south of the line above mentioned, this subterranean feature ceases abruptly, the wigwam being built on the surface, with only a hollow scooped out sufficiently to bank out the rain in a storm. This change, too, is quite too sudden to be explained by the greater warmth of the climate. On the Klamath and north of it, the sweat-house, or sudatory, is wholly underground, but south of it everywhere, it is wholly above, though covered with a layer of earth.

3. Among the Indians north of Mount Shasta, including seven tribes within California, a great majority of the powwows, or physicians, are women, and the sex has influence accordingly; but south they are almost totally excluded from the medical profession, and are in other regards treated more in accordance with Chinese notions.

4. These seven tribes north of the line, and more especially the Oregon Indians, are notably fond of horses; while the typical California Indian, like the Chinaman, basely kills the noble beast and consumes the flesh, and displays no liking for horsemanship until you go far enough south to find a touch of Spanish blood in his veins, and the long influence of Spanish teaching and example. In other words, these few northern tribes, though now settled and tranquil, show their North Asian, semi-nomadic origin, while the California Indian’s ancestors appear to have been peaceful, domestic, and plodding.

5. In leaving the Yrekas, Cahrocs, etc., and crossing over the Mount Shasta divide, among the Wintoons of Sacramento Valley, you transfer yourself suddenly from a people of wit and valor to one of cowardice. These few northern tribes, together with the Oregon Indians, are as superior to the representative California Indians as are the Manchoos and the fierce and cruel hordes of GengisKhan to the Chinese.

A general comparison having already been made between the Chinese and the California aboriginals, it remains now to note some points of special resemblance. First, I will describe a great anniversary observed by the Concow tribe, whose habitat extends between Chico and Marysville. It is called the Dance for the Dead, and corresponds somewhat to the All-Souls’ Day of the Catholics. I know not if the tribe regulate the precise day by any savage ephemeris, but it always occurs toward the last of August, beginning in the evening and lasting until daybreak. They bring together a great quantity of clothing, food, beads, bows and arrows, baskets, and whatsoever other things they believe the dead require in another world, and hang them on espaliers planted in the ground in a semicircle around a fire. On the opposite side, or hard by, are the graves. Habited in their usual garments, — if anything more sordid than common, —they seat themselves on the graves, men and squaws together, as the twilight closes in around them, and. begin a mournful wailing, crying, and ululation for the dead. After a time they arise and form a circle around the fire, between it and the semicircle of poles, and commence a solemn dance, accompanied by that hoarse, deathly rattle of the Indian shout, which sounds so eldritch and so terrible to the civilized ear. Heavily the dancing and the singing go on from hour to hour, and now and then a pound or two of provisions, a string of beads, or some small article is taken down from the espaliers and cast into the flames. All through the black and sultry night the funereal dance goes on without cessation; wilder and more frantic grows the chanting, swifter becomes the motion of the dancers, and faster and faster the sacrificial offerings to the dead are hurled upon the blazing heap. The savage transports wax amain. With frenzied yells and whoops they leap in the flickering shadows like demons — a weird, awful, and lurid spectacle. Now some squaw, if not restrained, would fling herself headlong into the burning mass. Another one will lie down and calmly sleep amid the extraordinary commotion for two hours, then arise and join more wildly than before in the frightful orgies. But still the espaliers are not half emptied, and as the morning stars grow dim, and daybreak is close at hand, with one frantic rush, yelling, they tear down the residue of the clothing and whirl it into the flames, lest daylight should arrive before the ghosts' year-long hunger is satisfied.

Two trustworthy Americans who witnessed this ceremony in the August of 1871, on Round Valley Reservation, gave me, as their careful estimate, that the Indians destroyed $2000 worth of property. One of them, to test their earnestness, offered an Indian $60 for a pair of blankets he was about to cast into the flames; but the frenzied savage, otherwise so avaricious, hurled him aside with a yell of execration, and dashed the blankets into the fire.

I now subjoin the following description of a Chinese observance: 4 " There is another festival in August, connected with this, called shau i, or ‘burning clothes,’ at which pieces of paper folded in the form of jackets, trousers, gowns, and other garments, are burned for the use of the suffering ghosts, besides a large quantity of paper money. Paper houses with proper furniture, and puppets to represent household servants, are likewise made; and Medhurst adds ‘ that writings are drawn up and signed in the presence of witnesses, to certify the conveyance of the property, stipulating that, on its arrival in hades, it shall be duly made over to the individuals specified in the bond; the houses, servants, clothes, money, and all, are then burned with the bond, the worshipers feeling confident that their friends obtain the benefit of what they have sent them.’ ” The Indian in his savagery has kept the old honesty of his soul, and the fullness of the sacrifice as it was when he left China long ages by-gone, burning to the dead the best of his best; but the pettifogging and perfidious Chinaman, grown civilized enough to perceive the folly of the matter, yet not daring to abandon it, thinks to delude the gods, and the spirits of his ancestors, by burning to them paper clothing and paper money. Sir John Davis very well calls this a “ wise economy.”

The name of the Concows also demands attention. I do not know the meaning of the first syllable, but cow or chow prevails among several tribes in this vicinity, and is found in the geography in Hetten Chow (miscalled by the whites Ketten Chow), in which it signifies " place. " Now, the proper Chinese name of Canton is Kwang Chow, which is interpreted “wide city.” But chow means properly a division of the empire which Williams renders by “district,” though in the early history of the language it probably meant simply “ region,” or “place.” From these facts, and from the remarkable coincidences above described, I am led to believe that we have in “ Concow ” a lineal descendant of “ Kwang Chow,” and in the tribe the posterity of the ancient Cantonese.

The Concows are not alone in feeding the spirits of the departed. Both the Yokias and the Sanèls go every day, for a year, to some place hallowed by the memory of the dead, and there sprinkle pinole on the ground. The Sanèl mother repairs daily to the spot where her infant was burned, weeping, and scatters the pinole while she leaps or dances to a wild, weird measure that means nothing: —

“Hel-lel-leely,
Hol-lel-lo,
Hel-lel-loo.”

So, when a Yokia mother has lost her babe, she visits daily some place where her little one played, and with sad and piteous wailing and vain calling upon it to return, milks her breasts into the air.

But there is another feature of this Dance for the Dead which the Concows use that is still more remarkable. Though occurring in August, it marks their New Year, and is therefore seized upon as a proper time for settling their accounts, wiping out all old debts, and making a clean ledger for the coming year. So, amid all these frenzied orgies and ululations about the fire, while the air is filled with the stench of burning and fizzing woolens, those Indians who are not presently engaged in the dance may be seen squatted all about the fire in twos, busily computing and reckoning their scores, tying and untying their rosaries, counting off beads, etc. On this eventful night, too, are made the marriage contracts for the year. These things I state on the authority of Messrs, P. G. Tuttle and F. A. Gibson, the latter being chief clerk of the reservation.

The white fillet worn by the Chinese in mourning is preserved by the Yokias in the following singular manner : They first cut the hair off close to the head, then mingle the ashes of the burned body with pitch, making a white tar or unguent, with which they smear a band about two inches wide all around the edge of the head, so that at a distance it resembles a white chaplet.

Cremation is by no means universal among the Indians, neither is interment in China, as is shown by the sections of the Book of Rites forbidding incineration. Cremation seems to be largely influenced by the variations of California climate. Thus, in the hot western foothills of the Sierra Nevada it extends as far north as Lower Klamath Lake (lat. 42°), while in the cooler Coast Range it reaches only to the sources of Russian River (39° 30') though it extends down the warm valley of Eel River nearly to the foot of Humboldt Bay (40° 30'). In those regions where a mixed practice prevails it is a general rule, though not without exceptions, that the mountain tribes bury and the valley tribes burn. But the most significant fact of all is observed in the practice of those, not Romanized, who yet have been persuaded by the whites to abandon cremation. Thus, for instance, the Rios (so called by the Spaniards), living at the mouth of Russian River, in quitting their ancient custom, recurred, not to the American usage, but to the Chinese. That is, instead of laying the body horizontally in the grave, they place it in the posture it would occupy when sitting in a chair, with the head pointing upward, and this is substantially the usage of nearly all the tribes who practiced burial from the first. In the southern provinces of China the grave is generally made in the shape of the Greek letter Ω; the Indians usually dig it round. In the province of Fuhkien in South China (from which part the ancestors of the Indians appear to have come), a piece of silver is placed in the mouth of the corpse. Not long ago, on the occasion of the death of a rich Sanèl chief, two gold coins were put in his mouth, as he lay on the funeral pyre (this is given on the testimony of a worthy farmer, Mr. Willard, who witnessed it), and other smaller coins were placed in his ears, in his hands, on his breast, etc., which, together with the other property burned, were estimated at $500 value. The California Indians are worthy of their State in one regard at least; they are no niggards. And it is this extraordinary regard for the dead, coupled with their indifference and even cruelty to the living, which stamps them so strongly as of Chinese origin.

Other proofs, such as the almost universal belief in a Happy Western Land beyond the sea, awaiting the good, and transmigration of souls or even annihilation (some of the Concows have this notion) in reserve for the wicked; their strong yearning to be burned or buried each in his native valley; the practice followed by some tribes of beheading the slain instead of scalping them; their pantheism, or rather, what may be called their pandemonism; the frequent convertibility of the words for “ God ” and “ heaven ” — all of which point towards China—must be passed over with a bare mention, in order that space may be left for the last and greatest evidence of all, that of grammar and language.

With a Chinese vocabulary of about two thousand words on my knee, and an intelligent Indian before me,

I would cause him to speak in his own tongue while I noted the Chinese analogues. Groping about over the State with this magnet in my hand, I touched the languages with it here and there, to see if it, betrayed any attractions. Now and then a Chinese word appeared, but they were not numerous. After many weeks, coming over from Eel River to Russian River, among a different family of tribes, I saw the number was increasing.

As above premised, it is the Gallinoméro language, which prevails along Russian River for about fifteen miles below Healdsburg, that seems to be the connecting link between California and China. My teachers in this tongue were the chiefs Ventura, Andres, and Pintino, of whom the two former spoke Spanish, and the latter English and Spanish. One rule of grammar after another and one word after another came to sight, bearing a marked resemblance to the Chinese. After getting some preliminary insight into the language, I devoted several days to a more careful study of Summers’ Grammar, then prepared a new list of words and phrases, and returning, found that the unwitting savages sometimes almost spoke in Chinese.

First, I append a table of numerals, in the Mandarin dialect of the Chinese and the Gallinoméro respectively : —

Chinese. Gallinoméro.

One, yih, chah.

Two, ar, aco.

Three, san, mesibbo.

Four, se, metah.

Five, wu, tooshuh,

Six, luh, lancha.

Seven, tsih, latco.

Eight, pah, cométah.

Nine, kiu, chcheo.

Ten, shih, chasúto.

It is unjust to judge the words as they stand in this category, without any reference to the changes they may have suffered during the uncomputed period of their separation. Let us take the word mesibbo, for instance, and examine it a little. In the first place, the syllable me is only a dialectic prefix, for the Pomo for “ three ” is sibbo. Second " b " is convertible with “ m, ” as we see in the formation of the pronominal adjective wébakey from the pronoun wemo. Third, san in the Mandarin dialect becomes sam in the Canton dialect, as seen in the well-known word for “whisky” (samshoo, thrice fired). Hence we have, finally, the two words sam and simmo, which are less unlike than they at first appeared. It is quite as probable that the latter is derived from the former as that “eight” is from ashtan. By a similar process the two words for “ four ” become se and sa. In the Canton dialect “ one ” is yat, and “ ten ” is shap, which bear a closer resemblance to the Indian words than do the Mandarin. If we possessed all the dialectic changes and historic facts, as we have those intervening between Sanskrit and English, we might be able to prove these two sets of numerals almost identical, though not quite, for, as the reader will notice, the Indian has no single word for “eight,” but uses “ twice four ” instead.

I have before me a list of thirty-six words, not including the numerals, in all of which the resemblance to the Chinese is marked, and in some approaches so near to identity that I fear I shall seem to prove too much. This is not the proper place where to give the entire list, and a few examples must suffice. Thus, do or make, Chinese, tso; Indian tseena. Fire, ho, oho. Dog, kinen, hiyu. Log, mu-teu, moosu. Outside, wai-teu, wayto. Day, jih, majih. There, na-le, male. Say, hwa, kwa. Strength, che-lih, cha, etc. The Chinese locative adverbs, as “here,” etc., all end in the syllable le ; so do the Indian. The Indian for “ this ” and “ that ” is the same: namely, mamo; the Chinese for “ that ” is na. Here is manifestly the same radical, hut the syllable mo is retained in the Indian, while it has been dropped in Chinese, except in the words for “thus” and “what,” that is, che-mo and shin-mo. There is another Chinese root for “ that,” namely, ki or ku (now obsolete except in the book language), which has an unmistakable parallel in the Indian ka, also now no longer used except in composite or agglutinated words, as ámeka (amaka), “Is that you?” (the common form of Indian salutation). But perhaps the most remarkable parallelism is found in the mode of forming the reflexive pronouns ending in “self.” The Chinese adds the syllable ke, and the Gallinoméro key, which are pronounced very nearly alike. Thus, wo and ah are the respective words for “I,” and from the first the Chinese forms wo-ke, “myself,”and the Indian chackey. In the oblique cases the identity of these pronominal roots becomes manifest, as wo-ki-tih, “of myself, for which the corresponding Indian is owkey, the two letters of the root being simply reversed. This word owkey also denotes “ mine,” while the Chinese is wo-tih. The identity of the other pronouns is also easily shown. The Chinese for “you” is ne; the Indian is ama; in the accusative, meto. So also ta; Indian, hamo or wemo, “he.” The Indian has retained the syllable mo, above mentioned, which the Chinese has dropped from all words of this class except two.

A few illustrations will make good the assertion that the Gallinoméro today utters now and then a short sentence which the Emperor Tung Chi could almost understand. He says of his arrow, tseena owkey, “ I make it for myself;” the Chinese is, too tih-wo-ke. The Indian says, male bata moosu, “There is a large log;” the Chinaman, na-le ta mu-teu. The Indian, mamo hiyu owkey, “ That dog is mine;" the Chinaman, na kinen wo-tih. The Indian, meto chadúna benta, “I will see you to-day;” the Chinaman, ne ch.ausiün kin-tien, etc. A close study of the Indian reveals Chinese analogues where they did not appear to exist. Thus, the Chinese for “ great ” is ta, while the Indian is bata ; but in agglutinated words the true radical appears, as atata (ata ta), “great house,” which is the Indian for “people” or “clan,” the Gallinoméros being patriarchal in their social organization.

After all the verbal resemblances and analogies have been taken note of, there still remains the more important evidence of grammatical structure. This part of my article must necessarily be very much abridged.

Nouns. The languages are alike in that there are no endings to denote either gender, number, or case. They are dissimilar in that every substantive in Indian has an independent meaning; but there is another California language, the Concow, which bears a very interesting resemblance to the Chinese in its dual system of nouns. I am not acquainted with it, but am told by a gentleman who understands it, that there are many words, as in Chinese, which are unintelligible when spoken alone, even to a Concow, and acquire significance only by being spoken in couples.

Verbs. As in Chinese, there are no irregular forms; no endings to denote mood, voice, number, or person (except in the imperative, which has three persons) ; and the tenses are indicated by the agglutination of another verb to the radical. There are only two oblique tenses, the imperfect and future, which are denoted by forms equivalent to the following expressions, “ lovedo,” imperfect, and “ love want,” future. The simple verb may mean either “ to love,” “loving,” “ love,” or “ lovely.” The adverb “not” is interpolated into the verb, as if we should write “ transnotgress.”

Pronouns. There is a trace of the Chinese usage which requires a different form of the pronoun to be used, according to the social rank of the person addressed. The honorary syllable me or jin is prefixed to the name of everything or everybody belonging to the chief, and sometimes a different and longer word is used in his honor. The multitude of the pronominal forms also seems to be a relic of the same custom. The Indian uses expressions equivalent to all these: “ Ihand,” “my hand,” “mehand,” and “ myhand.” He also has this form, “ (I) strikeyou,” and this, “ (I) you love.” A relative or participial clause is formed by agglutination, as in Chinese; thus, “ manhousein,” for “ the man who is in the house.”

Adjectives. All adjectives are really substantives. Thus, “good,” “goodness,” “ well,” “ very,” are all denoted by the same word. Comparison is made by means of particles.

Prepositions. As in Chinese, the preposition is incorporated into the verb, so that the same word, for instance, signifies “ in ” and “to be in.” In adverbs proper this barbaric language is really richer than the Chinese. Of conjunctions there are none whatever.

The two cardinal principles which govern the Gallinoméro in constructing sentences are euphony and brevity. After no little diligent study of the language, I can discover no fixed order of words whatever which the savage will not at anytime violate, if necessary, to construct a mellifluous and harmonic sentence. Sound rules as absolutely in the language as in Chinese, but in a different manner; in Chinese sound gives the meaning, in this language it gives the syntax. But there is another feature in which they agree more closely, and that is, in their love of dualism or parallelism. For instance, the chief will say to his tribe, “ If we wish to build a wigwam, we must work. If we wish to build a wigwam, we must all work. If we wish to build a wigwam, we must work hard,” etc.

What, then, are the final conclusions from the whole survey? Of fifteen or sixteen vocabularies and sets of numerals which I have taken down, that of the Gallinoméros approaches closest to the Chinese; and the resemblance shades away from valley to valley, from dialect to dialect, as you penetrate the State southward, eastward, or northward; and ceases abruptly near Mount Shasta, as you enter among those tribes which I have very imperfectly sought to prove are the result of another and more northerly migration. Assuming a point on the lower Russian River, say Healdsburg, as the focus or seat of the original Chinese colony, we find the etymological lines radiating over the State in every direction, and the Chinese analogues constantly growing fewer as one goes outward. Let a few examples suffice. In the Canton dialect “ one ” is yat; at Healdsburg, chah; on upper Eel River, clyhy; in the extreme north of California, chlah. In Chinese “dog” is kinen; at Healdsburg, hiyu ; at Red Bluff, chumeh; on the lower Klamath, mego kumuh; at Marysville, shumeh; on the upper Trinity, shetel, where it has almost lost its identity. The Chinese for “ log ” is mu-teu; at Healdsburg, moosu, in Potter Valley, mahsoo, etc. But the pronouns, which are perhaps more unchangeable than any other words, are so nearly alike in the various dialects of the State as to prove a common Turanian origin. Thus, Chinese for “ you ” is ne; at Healdsburg, ama; elsewhere, me, mai, na, no, ninc, mick, etc.

As a final general proposition, therefore, which it does not seem too bold to deduce from the premises, etymological and other, above recited, we may set down Healdsburg as the approximate site of a Chinese colony planted in the far past, voluntarily or involuntarily, which spread into the interior, south, east, and north, meeting an earlier Tungusic migration near Mount Shasta, that is, on the southernmost of the great, watersheds between the Columbia and the Sacramento. This would make the California Indians proper, and possibly also the Arizonian and Mexican Aztecs, of Chinese origin; and the Indians of Oregon, the Plains, and the Atlantic States, Tungusic.

Stephen Powers.

  1. The name " Digger " is opprobrious and unjust, equally as much as it is to describe all Chinamen as rat-eaters. The principal root which the Indians dig is cammas, but that does not constitute a fourth part of their food. A more appropriate name would be " Wild-Oat People,” which they call themselves in Potter Valley, that cereal having been, next to acorns, their great staple in former times.
  2. Williams The Middle Kingdom, ii. p. 30.
  3. Op. cit. ii. p. 173
  4. Williams, op. cit. ii. p. 275.