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Strange Peoples

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



THERE is an old saying,—

"Many men of many minds;
Many birds of many kinds;
Many fishes in the sea;
Many men who don't agree."

Peoples differ in so many ways. There are tall Patagonians and short Bushmen. There are white peoples, and black, yellow, and brown peoples. There are peoples whose bodies are so covered with hair as almost to be called furry, and there are peoples whose faces even are hairless except for eyebrows and eyelashes. There are lively peoples and there are sluggish peoples ; gay peoples and sad ones. Negroes do not think and feel like white men, and the Chinaman thinks and feels differently from either. All peoples have their own customs. When we speak of other peoples as Strange Peoples, we must never forget that we are as strange to them as they are- to us. We think it curious that the Chinese dwarf, by bandaging, the feet of their women; they think it strange, that we do not. To us the Chinese face seems much too flat; the Chinese think ours are like the face of an eagle and that they are harsh and cruel. We think the flat, wide nose of the negro is ugly; negroes think it far handsomer than ours. So we will remember that all these peoples are "strange" only because they are unlike us: that we ourselves are just as strange as they are. They have as much right to their ideas and customs as we have to ours : often indeed we might find theirs better than our own.

We begin with North America. We then pass to South America; then to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands in order. We shall find that the different peoples of the world are not scattered haphazard; on the contrary, they are quite regularly distributed by types. Thus until lately the peoples living in America were all Indians, with red-brown skin, straight and coarse black hair, and high and wide cheek bones. Europe and Northern Africa (which really belongs rather to Europe than Africa) form the land of the white peoples. South Africa—Africa proper—is the home of negroes and negroids, with dark brown, almost black, skin, narrow heads and faces, and woolly hair. The proper population of Asia is yellow peoples, with round heads, slant eyes, and straight, long, black hair. In Australia are brown peoples with curly or bushy hair. In Oceanica are several well-marked types—the little brown Malays, the dark, almost black, Melanesians with crinkly hair, and the tall, well-built, fine-featured, light Polynesians. This is, in general, the distribution of the human races. But there has been much movement. There are now both whites and blacks in America; the English whites have crowded in upon the natives of Australia ; in Asia there are white peoples, like the Ainu and Todas, who have certainly lived there a long time.

The different peoples are unlike in their culture. Some peoples live on wild food, having no cultivated plants or domestic animals. They hunt animals and catch fish; they search for birds' eggs and honey; they grub up roots and gather barks, leaves, fruits, seeds, and nuts for food. To such tribes, who usually wander in little bands from place to place, the name savage is given. The word does not mean that they are fierce and cruel in disposition; most savage tribes, to-day living, are neither. The Eskimo and Mincopies are savages, but they are quite kind and gentle. When peoples settle down to cultivate the soil and build homes, or when they raise herds of animals with which they move from time to time for new pastures, their life is easier. To such peoples-so long as they do not know how to work iron by smelting, to write by means of characters that represent sounds, and to make animals assist them in tilling the ground—the name barbarian is applied. When any peoples have learned these three great helps, they are called civilized. There are then three great stages of culture—savagery, barbarism, and civilization. The Eskimo is in savagery; the American Indians are mostly in barbarism; the Chinese are in civilization.

The way in which the life of peoples is affected by the lands in which they live is most interesting. The Eskimo lives in the cold north; there is little wood there for construction; fuels such as are used elsewhere are rare; no fibre-yielding plants grow there. Yet the Eskimo has made full use of what nature gives him. He builds his house, when necessary, of the snow itself, heats it with animal fats and oils, clothes himself in excellent garments of skins, knows the ways of all the animals and birds around him for their destruction, and has invented an ideal hunter's boat and devised a beautiful series of weapons and tools. The way in which he has fitted him-self to the place in which he lives is wonderful. The world over we notice the same thing : man everywhere ransacks his home-land to find out what is useful and turns it to his needs.

Often where two different peoples live in the same district marriage takes place between them, and mixed types arise. Where one people has long occupied a country alone the type is very well-marked, and all look alike. Thus in the Andaman Islands, the little Mincopies look so much alike. that a person needs to know them well to tell them apart. We, ourselves, are a great mixture. Even in one family there may be tall and short, light and dark, blue-eyed or brown-eyed persons. Such differences are only found where there has been much mixing between different peoples. In Mexico, once purely Indian, there has been since the coming of the Spaniards much mixture, and to-day a large part of the population is of a new type—part Indian, part Spanish. The people range in color from almost white to dark brown according to the amount of Spanish or Indian blood each has.

There are few unknown peoples left. Travellers have gone to almost all parts of the world. The spots which represent absolutely unexplored regions on our maps are now neither large nor numerous. There are many peoples about whom we know little, but there are not many who are actually unknown. Those that may be discovered hereafter will be interesting, but they are not likely to be very different from those now known.

Many of the Strange Peoples are becoming less "strange" every year. Old customs and peculiar practices are dying out in every part of the world. Travellers, missionaries, and merchants from white men's lands are taking our ideas, our tools, our weapons, our dress, our learning, our religion, and our vices to the remotest parts of the world. Some of the Strange Peoples here described have already lost most of their old customs. The Polynesians and Fijians have little of the old life (left) . . Many American Indian tribes have changed less. Some populations have still changed little. But a tribe must indeed be remote and difficult of access to actually escape our touch absolutely. Usually the change is not improvement. Other peoples more quickly adopt our vices than our virtues. Many tribes have become drunken, diseased, and depraved through the white man's influence. It is rare, indeed, that a lower people gains in happiness or virtue by contact with "higher civilization."

Many of the Strange Peoples will disappear. The Tasmanians were killed off almost like so many animals by the English. American Indian tribes have suffered almost as badly at our hands. Many tribes have gone; others are going. The Lipans were once a fairly numerous tribe. In 1892 I saw all who were left in the United States—four women and one man; six months later I saw them again—the man was dead and only four women remained. The Tonkaways are dying out at the rate of one-third each eight years. The Polynesians, strong, handsome, active, and happy as they were when James Cook visited their islands little more than one hundred years ago, have dwindled, and fifty years more may blot them from the earth. Not all American Indian tribes are dying out; it is possible too that Polynesian decline began before Cook's travels. But it is certain that on the whole the changes brought by the newcomers sealed the doom of the Indian and Polynesian.

There have always been movements of peoples from place to place. We have seen the Malays pouring their great masses of immigrants into the Philippines. There are white peoples in Asia ; there are yellow peoples in Europe. Recently plenty of whites and of blacks have poured into America. Such movements contain some danger. The fair whites will probably never be able to live in the tropical lands. A certain sort of skin, hair, nose, breathing apparatus, is necessary for men who are to live and prosper in low, hot, marshy parts of Africa. For Germans to try to colonize equatorial Africa was probably a fatal blunder. So far as we know the dark whites—Spaniards, Italians, south Frenchmen—make better tropical colonizers than we do; but even they are not successful. The negro is a had colonizer, he hardly holds his own even in our Southern states. Of all the peoples of the globe the Chinese seem to be the best able to colonize differing countries. He seems to go to hot lands and cold lands, to small islands and to great continents, but flourishes everywhere. So true is this that some writers have urged that Africa be opened up for settlement to the crowded millions of the old empire. For most peoples, however, migration, if they must migrate, is best along the lines of latitude into lands as much like the old home as possible. Many Scandinavians live to-day happily where Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan join; and they may be expected to prosper there, for land and water, soil and products, scenery and climate, are there much what they were in the fatherland.



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