THE terms savage and civilized, as applied to races of men, are relative and not absolute terms. At best these words mark only-broad shifting stages in human progress; the one near the point of departure, the other farther on toward the unattainable end. This progress is one and universal, though of varying rapidity and extent; there are degrees in savagism, and there are degrees in civilization; indeed, though placed in opposition, the one is but a degree of the other. The Haidah, whom we call savage, is as much superior to the Shoshone, the lowest of Americans, as the Aztec is superior to the Haidah, or the European to the Aztec. Looking back some thousands of ages, we of to-day are civilized; looking forward through the same duration of time, we are savages.
Nor is it, in the absence of fixed conditions, and amid the many shades of difference presented by the nations along our Western sea-board, an easy matter to tell where even comparative savagism ends and civilization begins. In the common acceptation of these terms, we may safely call the Central Californians savage, and the Quichés of Guatemala civilized; but between these two extremes are hundreds of peoples, each of which presents some claim for both distinctions. Thus, if the domestication of ruminants, or some knowledge of arts and metals, constitutes civilization, then are the ingenious but half-torpid hyperboreans civilized, for the Esquimaux tame reindeer, and the Thlinkeets are skillful carvers and make use of copper; if the cultivation of the soil, the building of substantial houses of adobe, wood, and stone, with the manufacture of cloth and pottery, denote an exodus from savagism, then are the Pueblos of New Mexico no longer savages; yet in both these instances enough may be seen, either of stupidity or brutishness, to forbid our ranking them with the more advanced Aztecs, Mayas, and Quiches.
We know what savages are; how, like wild animals, they depend for food and raiment upon the spontaneous products of Nature, migrating with the beasts and birds and fishes, burrowing beneath the ground, hiding in caves, or throwing over themselves a shelter of bark, or skins, or branches, or boards, eating or starving as food is abundant or scarce; nevertheless, all of them have made some advancement from their original naked, helpless condition, and have acquired some aids in the procurement of their poor necessities. Primeval man, the only real point of departure, and hence the only true savage, nowhere exists on the globe to-day. Be the animal man ever so low—lower in skill and wisdom than the brute, less active in obtaining food, less ingenious in building his den—the first step out of his houseless, com-
- From vol. ii. of "Native Races of the Pacific States."