Page:The American Indian.djvu/25

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3
INTRODUCTION

whose own cultural achievements were too virile and too finely adjusted to local geographical conditions to be obliterated.

Further, the chief concern of scientific anthropology is to solve the very questions of origin that actuate the popular mind. As applied to the New World, the sole objective of anthropology is to discover the origin and conditions which have produced the Indian and his culture. Such questions of origin look simple and innocent enough but, my dear Reader, here are problems whose final solution shall surely put the intellect of man and his scientific methods to a supreme test. Positive and complete answers can not now be given to any of these questions, yet anthropology has something definite to offer on every point, though so far this information lies hidden from the uninitiated reader in the accumulated mass of published data and special literature for the reason that no formal attempt has as yet been made to summarize or to present a general review of New World anthropology as a whole. It is to make up in some measure for this deficiency that the following handbook of the subject is projected.

At the outset, we shall introduce the reader to what appear to be the most important facts in the culture of the native peoples. Such facts are conveniently comprehended under three main headings: Material Traits of Culture (Chapters I to VIII), the Fine Arts (Chapter IX), and Social Traits (Chapters X to XIII). The thirteen chapters devoted to these topics are offered as a review of the data necessary to a more searching and constructive view of our subject. Turning from this descriptive task, we shall first consider the classifications under which all these data may be assembled. The historical development of anthropology as a whole, commits us to a historical and geographical point of view, consequently the basic principle of classification in every case will be geographical distribution. Hence, we take up in turn the problems of the grouping of the living tribes according to culture; the evidences for the distribution of the extinct tribes, if such there be; the distribution of languages; and finally, the problem of somatic types. The completion of this task should leave us with a systematic view of the New World as a whole.