Most of our readers probably know what is meant by Indian clans. It is not more than a division of an Indian tribe into large families. We believe this custom is universal with the north American Indians. Among the Cherokees acre seven clans, such as Wolf, Deer, Paint, 'c. This simple division of the Cherokees formed the grand work by which marriages were regulated,and murder punished. A Cherokee could marry into any of the clans except two, that to which his father belongs, or all of that clan are his fathers and aunts, and that to which his mother belongs, for all of that clan are his brothers and sisters, a chid invariably inheriting the clan of its mother. This custom which originated from tie immemorial was observed with the greatest strictness. No law could be guarded and enforced with equal caution. I times past, the penalty annexed to it was not less than death. But it has scarcely, perhaps never been violated, except within a few years. Now it is invaded with impunity, though not to an equal extent with other customs of the Cherokees.
But it was the mutual law of clans as connected with murder,which rendered the custom savage and barbarous. We speak of what it was once,not as it is now,for the Cherokees, after experiencing sad effects fro it, determined to, and did about twenty years ago in a solemn council, abolished it. From that time, murder has been considered a governmental crime. Previous to that,the following were too palpably true, viz;
The Cherokee as a nation, had nothing to do with murder.
Murder was punished upon the principle of retaliation.
It belonged to the clan of the murdered to revenge his death.
If the murderer fled, his brother or nearest relative was liable to suffer i his stead.
If a man killed his brother, he was amenable to no law or clan.
If the murderer (this however is known only by tradition ) was not as respectable as the murdered, his relative, or a man of his clan of a more respectable standing was liable to suffer.
To kill, under any circumstance whatever, was considered murder,and punished accordingly.
Our readers will say, 'those were savage laws indeed.' They were, and the Cherokees were then to be pitied for the above were not mere inoperative laws, but most rigorously executed. but we can not way with pleasure, that they are all repealed, and are remembered only as vestiges of ignorance and barbarism.