From Joseph Trimble Rothrock to Asa Gray 31 March 1867
Mch 31st 1867
My Dear Doctor
Some of Mr Darwins questions I feel safe in answering, Such only I attempt Any reply to.1 all parties add that the Answers apply especially to the Atnahs and Espyox tribes on the Nasse River of North So Western N.Aa.2 Neither tribe had much previous acquaintance with the Whites.— in fact the Espyox had not previous to my going among them seen half a dozen whites. You will observe I found the indians much like other men. I must say I nowhere saw the ideal, taciturn immovable indian of Mr Coopers conception.3
Question 1. Yes
" 2 —
" 3 Many of them do, Not all
" 4 Yes
" 5 —
" 6 Yes
" 7 Sometimes. Generally in fact. Among the
Siceanees4—a tribe adjoining the
Atnahs Question 8 Yes, decidedly5
" 9 —
" 10 —
" 11 Exactly So.
" 12 Laughter is often excessive, tho I know of but one instance in which tears were shed from that cause, real or feigned grief produce them often enough from the women. Question 13 —
" 14 Yes, just as a white child6
" 15 Yes, and these knowing indians, look for these
" 16 —
17 Vertical nod is usual, lateral not so common though I have seen it.
Mr Darwin may depend on the correctness of these Answers, I am sure of them
On my return home from the North West, I was unable to reconcile my views with those of the late Dr Morton, but disliked to adopt those opposed to his. I knew him to be an authority on the subject, and therefore kept the matter in a mental status quo. He says that “sixteen years of almost daily comparisons have only confirmed him in the opinions announced in his Crania Americana, that all the American nations are of one race (excepting the Esquimaux) and that this race is peculiar and distinct from all others.”7 Col Hamilton Smith says it is vain to assert that all American races excepting the Esquimaux have sprung originally from one stock.8
If by this Smith means that Indians differ from one another as much as Europeans do, I at once adopt his view. J Aitken Meigs of Philad in a paper Read before the Philadelphia Acad. of Nat. Sci. May 1866 to my mind completely upsets Mortons opinion, and is I think in the main correct. If Mr D. has not this paper I am sure he would be interested in it.9 Meigs is unable to understand why the Stickine river indians and some of those farther north do not always flatten the infant skull. The reason is plain, these tribes are warlike, and come south among the flat-headed tribes for slaves. Finding their captives regard the compressed skull as a mark of aristocratic blood; they (the Northern tribes) in contempt flatten the heads sometimes of their own female children, and usually the heads of both sexes when born in slavery. Hence the deformed cranium among them is the mark of inferiority and the sign of a slave.10 Should there happen to be any other facts in my possession relating to the ends, which would interest you or Mr D. I beg that you will command them. Did you receive about 150 Species of NW. plants from me some months ago? I sent them by Adams Express.11
Yours Always | J. Trimble Rothrock
I shall soon have some answers from Wyman—12 from memory— And he will send copies of your queries South to trusty persons
Answers to CD’s questions on expressions among the Atnah and Espyox Indians of Nass River [see Expression, pp. 22, 232, 252, 260].
Discusses the debate in America over the relationship among Indian tribes. JTR does not believe Indians are all of one race; they are as varied as Europeans.
[Forwarded to CD by Asa Gray.]
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5478,” accessed on 21 January 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5478