We need but little evidence on this head. All historians, hostile or friendly, admit the Indian to have been the finest type of physical manhood the world has ever known. None but the best, the picked, chosen and trained of the whites, had any chance with them. Had they not been crushed by overwhelming numbers, the Indians would own the continent to-day.
Grinnell says ("Indians of To-day," p. 7.):
"The struggle for existence weeded out the weak and the sickly, the slow and the stupid, and created a race physically perfect, and mentally fitted to cope with the conditions which they were forced to meet, so long as they were left to themselves".
Speaking of the Iroquois in primitive condition, Brinton says that physically "they were unsurpassed by any other on the continent, and I may even say by any other people in the world." ("The American Race," p. 82).
The most famous runner of ancient Greeee was Phi-dippides, whose record run was 152 miles in 2 days. Among our Indians such a feat would have been considered very second rate. In 1882, at Fort Ellice, I saw a young Cree who, on foot, had just brought in despatches from Fort Qu' Appelle (125 miles away) in twenty-five hours. It created almost no comment. I heard little from the traders but cool remarks like, "A good boy "; "pretty good run." It was obviously a very usual exploit, among Indians.
"The Tarahumare mail carrier from Chihuahua to Batopilas, Mexico, runs regularly more than 500 miles a week; a Hopi messenger has been known to run 120 miles in 15 hours." ("Handbook American Indians," Part II., p. 802).
The Arizona Indians are known to run down deer by sheer endurance, and every student of southwestern history will remember that Coronado's mounted men were unable to overtake the natives, when in the hill country, such was their speed and activity on foot.
We know that white men's ways, vices, and diseases have robbed them of much of their former physique, and yet, according to Dr. Daniel G. Brinton ("The American Race," 1891).
"The five Companies (500 men) recruited from the Iroquois of New York and Canada, during the Civil War, stood first on the list among all the recruits of our army, for height, vigor, and corporeal symmetry." (Grinnell's " Indian of To-day," p. 56).
The wonderful work of the Carlisle Indian School football team is a familiar example of what is meant by Indian physique, even at this late date, when the different life has done so much to bring them low.
(While this was in press the all round athletic championship of the world was won at the Olympic games (1912) by James Thorpe, a Carlisle Indian. He was at best the pick of 300,000, while against him were white men, the pick of 300,000,000).
The whole case, with its spiritual motive, is thus summed up by Eastman in his inspiring account of the religion of his people, the Dakotas:
"The moment that man conceived of a perfect body, supple, symmetrical, graceful, and enduring - in that moment he had laid the foundation of a moral life. No man can hope to maintain such a temple of the spirit beyond the period of adolescence, unless he is able to curb his indulgence in the pleasures of the senses. Upon this truth the Indian built a rigid system of physical training, a social and moral code that was the law of his life.
"There was aroused in him as a child a high ideal of manly strength and beauty, the attainment of which must depend upon strict temperance in eating and in the sexual relation, together with severe and persistent exercise. He desired to be a worthy link in the generations, and that he might not destroy by his weakness that vigor and purity of blood which had been achieved at the cost of so much self-denial by a long line of ancestors.
" He was required to fast from time to time for short periods and to work off his superfluous energy by means of hard running, swimming and the vapor bath. The bodily fatigue thus induced, especially when coupled with a reduced diet, is a reliable cure for undue sexual desires." (Eastman's "Soul of the Indian," pp. 90-92).
In their wonderful physique, the result of their life-long, age-long training, in their courage, their fortitude, their skill with weapons, their devoted patriotism, they realize more than any other modern race has done the ideal of the Spartan Greek, with this advantage; that, in his moral code, the Indian was far superior.
"I admit," says Father Lallemant, of the Hurons, "that their habits and customs are barbarous in a thousand ways, but, after all, in matters which they consider as wrong, and which their public condemns, we observe among them less criminality than in France, although here the only punishment of a crime is the shame of having committed it." ("Century of Dishonor," p. 378).
Even stronger is the summary of the Jesuit Father, J. F. Lafitau:
"They are high-minded and proud; possess a courage equal to every trial, an intrepid valor, the most heroic constancy under torments, and an equanimity which neither misfortunes nor reverses can shake. Toward each other they behave with a natural politeness and attention, entertaining a high respect for the aged, and a consideration for their equals which appears scarcely reconciliable with that freedom and independence of which they are so jealous." (Moeurs des Sauv. Amer., 1724, quoted in "Century of Dishonor" p. 378).
Long afterward the judicial Morgan in his League of the Iroquois, says, (p. 55):
"In legislation, in eloquence, in fortitude, and in military sagacity, they had no equals.
"Crimes and offences were so infrequent, under their social system, that the Iroquois can scarcely be said to have had a criminal code".
Captain John H. Bourke, who spent most of his active life as an Indian fighter, and who, by training, was an Indian hater, was at last, even in the horror of an Indian-crushing campaign, compelled to admit: