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Documentary History of the Rio Grande Pueblos of New Mexico; I. Bibliographic Introduction Papers of the School of American Archaeology, No. 13   By: (1840-1914)

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Archaeological Institute of America

Papers of the School of American Archaeology

Number Thirteen









Seventeen years have elapsed since I was in the territory in which the events in the early history of the Rio Grande Pueblos transpired, and twenty nine years since I first entered the field of research among those Pueblos under the auspices of the Archæological Institute of America. I am now called upon by the Institute to do for the Indians of the Rio Grande villages what I did nearly two decades ago for the Zuñi tribe, namely, to record their documentary history.

I shall follow the method employed by me in the case of the documentary history of Zuñi, by giving the events with strict adherence to documentary sources, so far as may be possible, and shall employ the correlated information of other branches only when absolutely indispensable to the elucidation of the documentary material.

The geographical features of the region to be treated are too well known to require mention. Neither can folklore and tradition, notwithstanding their decisive importance in a great many cases, be touched upon except when alluded to in the sources themselves. I am fully aware, as I stated in presenting the history of the Zuñi tribe, that a history based exclusively on documents, whether printed or written, must necessarily be imperfect because it is not impartial, since it summarizes the views of those who saw and understood but one side of the question, and judged it only from their own standpoint. This defect cannot be remedied, as it underlies the very nature of the task, and the greater therefore is the necessity of carefully studying the folklore of the Indians in order to check and complete as well as to correct the picture presented by people acquainted with the art of writing.

In this Introduction I forego the employment of quotations, reserving such for the main work. Quotations and footnotes are not, as it has been imagined, a mere display of erudition they are a duty towards the source from which they are taken, and a duty to its author; moreover, they are a duty towards the reader, who as far as possible should be placed in a position himself to judge the value and nature of the information presented, and, finally, they are a necessary indication of the extent of the author's responsibility. If the sources are given clearly and circumstantially, yet happen to be wrong, the author is exonerated from blame for resting upon their authority, provided, as it not infrequently happens, he has no way of correcting them by means of other information.

In entering the field of documentary research the first task is to become thoroughly acquainted with the languages in which the documents are recorded. To be able to read cursorily a language in its present form is not sufficient. Spanish, for example, has changed comparatively less than German since the sixteenth century, yet there are locutions as well as words found in early documents pertaining to America that have fallen into disuse and hence are not commonly understood. Provincialisms abound, hence the history of the author and the environment in which he was reared should be taken into account, for sometimes there are phrases that are unintelligible without a knowledge of the writer's early surroundings. Translations as a rule should be consulted only with allowance, for to the best of them the Italian saying "Traduttore, tradittore" is applicable. With the greatest sincerity and honesty on the part of the translator, he is liable to an imperfect interpretation of an original text. There are of course instances when the original has disappeared and translations alone are available. Such is the case, for instance, with the Life of Columbus, written by his son Fernando and published in Italian in 1571; and the highly important report on the voyage of Cabral to Brazil in 1500, written by his pilot Vas da Cominho and others... Continue reading book >>

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