The man-eaters and other odd people. (2023)

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Title: The man-eaters and other odd people.

A popular description of singular races of man.

Author: Mayne Reid

Release Date: April 5, 2023 [eBook #70452]

Language: English

Produced by: Richard Tonsing, Barry Abrahamsen, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


The man-eaters and other odd people. (1)

The man-eaters and other odd people. (2)






With Illustrations.



813 Broadway.


Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1860, by


in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1884, by


in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

New York, January 1st, 1869.

Messrs. Fields, Osgood & Co.:—

I accept the terms offered, and hereby concede to you the exclusive right ofpublication, in the United States, of all my juvenile Tales of Adventure, knownas Boys’ Novels.







No one who has written books for the young during thepresent century ever had so large a circle of readers asCaptain Mayne Reid, or ever was so well fitted by circumstancesto write the books by which he is chiefly known.His life, which was an adventurous one, was ripened withthe experience of two Continents, and his temperament,which was an ardent one, reflected the traits of two races.Irish by birth, he was American in his sympathies withthe people of the New World, whose acquaintance hemade at an early period, among whom he lived for years,and whose battles he helped to win. He was probablymore familiar with the Southern and Western portion ofthe United States forty years ago than any native-bornAmerican of that time. A curious interest attaches to thelife of Captain Reid, but it is not of the kind that casualbiographers dwell upon. If he had written it himself itwould have charmed thousands of readers, who can nowmerely imagine what it might have been from the glimpsesof it which they obtain in his writings. It was not passedin the fierce light of publicity, but in that simple, silentobscurity which is the lot of most men, and is their happiness,if they only knew it.

Briefly related, the life of Captain Reid was as follows:He was born in 1818, in the north of Ireland, the son ofa Presbyterian clergyman, who was a type of the classwhich Goldsmith has described so freshly in the “DesertedVillage,” and was highly thought of for his labors amongthe poor of his neighborhood. An earnest, reverent man,to whom his calling was indeed a sacred one, he designedhis son Mayne for the ministry, in the hope, no doubt,that he would be his successor. But nature had somethingto say about that, as well as his good father. Hebegan to study for the ministry, but it was not long before2he was drawn in another direction. Always a great reader,his favorite books were descriptions of travel in foreignlands, particularly those which dealt with the scenery,the people, and the resources of America. The spell whichthese exercised over his imagination, joined to a love ofadventure which was inherent in his temperament, andinherited, perhaps with his race, determined his career.At the age of twenty he closed his theological tomes, andgirding up his loins with a stout heart he sailed from theshores of the Old World for the New. Following thespirit in his feet he landed at New Orleans, which wasprobably a more promising field for a young man of histalents than any Northern city, and was speedily engagedin business. The nature of this business is not stated,further than it was that of a trader; but whatever it wasit obliged this young Irishman to make long journeys intothe interior of the country, which was almost a terra incognita.Sparsely settled, where settled at all, it was stillclothed in primeval verdure—here in the endless reach ofsavannas, there in the depth of pathless woods, and faraway to the North and the West in those monotonousocean-like levels of land for which the speech of Englandhas no name—the Prairies. Its population was nomadic,not to say barbaric, consisting of tribes of Indians whosehunting grounds from time immemorial the region was;hunters and trappers, who had turned their backs uponcivilization for the free, wild life of nature; men ofdoubtful or dangerous antecedents, who had found it convenientto leave their country for their country’s good;and scattered about hardy pioneer communities from EasternStates, advancing waves of the great sea of emigrationwhich is still drawing the course of empire westward.Travelling in a country like this, and among people likethese, Mayne Reid passed five years of his early manhood.He was at home wherever he went, and never more sothan when among the Indians of the Red River territory,with whom he spent several months, learning their language,studying their customs, and enjoying the wild andbeautiful scenery of their camping grounds. Indian forthe time, he lived in their lodges, rode with them, huntedwith them, and night after night sat by their blazingcamp-fires listening to the warlike stories of the bravesand the quaint legends of the medicine men. There wasthat in the blood of Mayne Reid which fitted him to leadthis life at this time, and whether he knew it or not it3educated his genius as no other life could have done. Itfamiliarized him with a large extent of country in theSouth and West; it introduced him to men and mannerswhich existed nowhere else; and it revealed to him thesecrets of Indian life and character.

There was another side, however, to Mayne Reid thanthat we have touched upon, and this, at the end of fiveyears, drew him back to the average life of his kind. Wefind him next in Philadelphia, where he began to contributestories and sketches of travel to the newspapersand magazines. Philadelphia was then the most literatecity in the United States, the one in which a clever writerwas at once encouraged and rewarded. Frank and warm-hearted,he made many friends there among journalistsand authors. One of these friends was Edgar Allan Poe,whom he often visited at his home in Spring Garden, andconcerning whom years after, when he was dead, he wrotewith loving tenderness.

The next episode in the career of Mayne Reid was notwhat one would expect from a man of letters, though itwas just what might have been expected from a man ofhis temperament and antecedents. It grew out of thetime, which was warlike, and it drove him into the armywith which the United States speedily crushed the forcesof the sister Republic—Mexico. He obtained a commission,and served throughout the war with great braveryand distinction. This stormy episode ended with a severewound, which he received in storming the heights of Chapultepec—aterrible battle which practically ended thewar.

A second episode of a similar character, but with a morefortunate conclusion, occurred about four years later. Itgrew out of another war, which, happily for us, was not onour borders, but in the heart of Europe, where the Hungarianrace had risen in insurrection against the hated powerof Austria. Their desperate valor in the face of tremendousodds excited the sympathy of the American people,and fired the heart of Captain Mayne Reid, who buckledon his sword once more, and sailed from New York witha body of volunteers to aid the Hungarians in their strugglesfor independence. They were too late, for hardly hadthey reached Paris before they learned that all was over:Görgey had surrendered at Arad, and Hungary wascrushed. They were at once dismissed, and Captain Reidbetook himself to London.

4The life of the Mayne Reid in whom we are most interested—MayneReid, the author—began at this time,when he was in his thirty-first year, and ended only onthe day of his death, October 21, 1883. It covered one thirdof a century, and was, when compared with thatwhich had preceded it, uneventful, if not devoid of incident.There is not much that needs be told—not much,indeed, that can be told—in the life of a man of letterslike Captain Mayne Reid. It is written in his books.Mayne Reid was one of the best known authors of histime—differing in this from many authors who are popularwithout being known—and in the walk of fiction whichhe discovered for himself he is an acknowledged master.His reputation did not depend upon the admirationof the millions of young people who read his books, butupon the judgment of mature critics, to whom his delineationsof adventurous life were literature of no commonorder. His reputation as a story-teller was widely recognizedon the Continent, where he was accepted as anauthority in regard to the customs of the pioneers and theguerilla warfare of the Indian tribes, and was warmlypraised for his freshness, his novelty, and his hardy originality.The people of France and Germany delighted inthis soldier-writer. “There was not a word in his bookswhich a school-boy could not safely read aloud to hismother and sisters.” So says a late English critic, to whichanother adds, that if he has somewhat gone out of fashionof late years, the more’s the pity for the school-boy of theperiod. What Defoe is in Robinson Crusoe—realistic idylof island solitude—that, in his romantic stories of wildernesslife, is his great scholar, Captain Mayne Reid.

R. H. Stoddard.





Have I a reader who has not heard of the “Kingof the Cannibal Islands?” I think I may take it forgranted that there is not one in my large circle of boy-readerswho has not heard of that royal anthropophagist,that “mighty king” who,—

“in one hut,

Had fifty wives as black as sut,

And fifty of a double smut—

That King of the Cannibal Islands.”

And yet, strange as it may appear, the old song wasno exaggeration—neither as regards the number of hiswives, nor any other particular relating to King “Musty-fusty-shang.”On the contrary, it presents a picture ofthe life and habits of his polygamous majesty that is,alas! too ludicrously like the truth.

Though the king of the Cannibal Islands has beenlong known by reputation, people never had any verydefinite idea in what quarter of the world his majesty’sdominions lay. Being, as the name implies, an island-kingdom,it was to be looked for of course, in some partof the ocean; and the Pacific Ocean or Great South6Sea was generally regarded as that in which it wassituated; but whether it was the Tonga Islands, or theMarquesas, or the Loo-Choos, or the Soo-loos—or someother group, that was entitled to the distinction of beingthe man-eating community, with the man-eating king attheir head—was not very distinctly ascertained up toa recent period. On this head there is uncertainty nolonger. Though in several groups of South-Sea Islandsthe horrible propensity is known to exist, yet the man-eaters,par excellence, the real bona-fide followers of thehabit, are the Feegees. Beyond doubt these are thegreatest cannibals in all creation, their islands the true“Cannibal Islands,” and their king no other than “Musty-fusty-shang”himself.

Alas! the subject is too serious to jest upon, and it isnot without pain that we employ our pen upon it. Thetruth must needs be told; and there is no reason whythe world should not know how desperately wicked menmay become under the influence of a despotism thatleaves the masses in the power of the irresponsible few,with no law, either moral or physical, to restrain theirunbridled passions.

You will find the Feegee Islands, in the PacificOcean, in the latitude of 18° south. This parallelpasses nearly through the centre of the group. Theirlongitude is remarkable: it is the complement of themeridian of Greenwich—the line 180°. Therefore,when it is noon in London, it is midnight among theFeegees. Take the intersection of these two lines, 18°latitude and 180° longitude as a centre; describe animaginary circle, with a diameter of 300 miles; its circumference,with the slight exception of a small outlying7group, will enclose, in a “ring fence,” as it were, thewhole Feegee archipelago.

The group numbers, in all, no fewer than 225 islandsand islets, of which between 80 and 90 are at presentinhabited—the whole population being not much under200,000. The estimates of writers differ widely on thispoint; some state 150,000—others, more than doublethis amount. There is reason to believe that 150,000is too low. Say, then, 200,000; since the old adage;“In medias res,” is generally true.

Only two of the islands are large,—“Viti,” and“Vanua.” Viti is 90 miles long, by 50 in breadth,and Vanua 100 by 25. Some are what are known as“coral islands;” others are “volcanic,” presenting allvarieties of mountain aspect, rugged and sublime. Afew of the mountain-peaks attain the elevation of 5,000feet above sea-level, and every form is known—table-topped,dome-shaped, needle, and conical. In fact, nogroup in the Pacific affords so many varieties of formand aspect, as are to be observed in the Feegee archipelago.In sailing through these islands, the most lovelylandscapes open out before the eye, the most picturesquegroupings of rocks, ridges, and mountain-peaks,ravines filled with luxuriant vegetation, valleys coveredwith soft verdure, so divinely fair as to appear theabode, of angelic beings. “So beautiful was their aspect,”writes one who visited them, “that I could scarcelybring my mind to the realizing sense of the well-knownfact, that they were the abode of a savage,ferocious, and treacherous race of cannibals.” Such,alas! is the fact, well known, as the writer observes.

Perhaps to no part of the world has Nature been8more bountiful than to the Feegee Islands. She hashere poured out her favors in very profusion; and thecornucopiæ might be regarded as an emblem of theland. The richest products of a tropic vegetation flourishin an abundance elsewhere unknown, and thegrowth of valuable articles of food is almost spontaneous.Many kinds are really of spontaneous production;and those under cultivation are almost endlessin numbers and variety. Yams grow to the lengthof six feet, weighing one hundred pounds each! andseveral varieties are cultivated. The sweet potatoreaches the weight of five or six pounds, and the“taro” (Arum esculentum) also produces a root ofenormous size, which forms the staple article of theFeegeean’s food. Still another great tuber, weighingtwenty or thirty pounds, and used as a liquorice, is theproduce of the “massawe,” or ti-tree (dracæna terminalis);and the root of the piper methisticum often attainsthe weight of one hundred and forty pounds!This last is possessed of highly narcotic properties;and is the material universally used in the distillation,or rather brewing, of the native drink called “yaqona”—the“kava” of the South-Sea voyagers. Bread-fruitgrows in abundance: there being no less than nine varietiesof this celebrated tree upon the different islandsof the group, each producing a distinct kind of fruit;and what is equally remarkable, of the musaceæ—theplantain and banana—there are in the Feegee islesthirty different kinds, either of spontaneous growth, orcultivated! All these are well distinguished from oneanother, and bear distinct appellations. Three kindsof cocoa-palm add to the extraordinary variety of vegetable9food, as well as to the picturesqueness of thescenery; but there is no lack of lovely forms in thevegetation, where the beautiful ti-tree grows,—wherethe fern and the screw-pines flourish,—where plantainsand bananas unfold their broad bright leaves tothe sun; where arums spread their huge fronds minglingwith the thick succulent blades of the bromelia,and where pawpaws, shaddocks, orange and lime-treesexhibit every hue of foliage, from deep green to themost brilliant golden.

Fruits of a hundred species are grown in the greatestplenty; the orange and the Papuan apple, the shaddockand lemon; in short, almost every species of fruit thatwill flourish in a tropical clime. In addition, many indigenousand valuable kinds, both of roots and fruits, arepeculiar to the Feegee group, yet unknown and uncultivatedin any other part of the world. Even the verycloth of the country—and a beautiful fabric it makes—isthe product of an indigenous tree, the “malo” orpaper-mulberry (Brousonetia papyrifera), the “tapa”of voyagers. Not only the material for dresses, but thetapestry for the adornment of their temples, the curtainsand hangings of their houses, are all obtained from thisvaluable tree.

We have not space for a more detailed account of theproductions of these isles. It would fill a volume todescribe with any degree of minuteness the variousgenera and species of its plants alone. Enough hasbeen said to show how bountiful, or rather how prodigal,nature has been to the islands of the FeegeeanArchipelago.

Of the animal kingdom there is not much to be said.10Of quadrupeds there is the usual paucity of species thatis noticed everywhere throughout the Polynesian islands.Dogs and pigs are kept; the latter in considerable numbers,as the flesh forms an important article of food; butthey are not indigenous to the Feegee group, though theperiod of their introduction is unknown. Two or threesmall rodents are the only quadrupeds yet known to betrue natives of the soil. Reptiles are alike scarce inspecies,—though the turtle is common upon the coasts,and its fishery forms the regular occupation of a particularclass of the inhabitants. The species of birdsare more numerous, and there are parrots, peculiar tothe islands, of rich and beautiful plumage.

But we are not allowed to dwell upon these subjects.Interesting as may be the zoölogy and botany of theFeegeean Archipelago, both sink into insignificancewhen brought into comparison with its ethnology,—thenatural history of its human inhabitants;—a subjectof deep, but alas! of a terribly painful interest. Byinquiry into the condition and character of these people,we shall see how little they have deserved the favorswhich nature has so bounteously bestowed upon them.

In the portrait of the Feegeean you will expect somethingfrightfully hideous,—knowing, as you already do,that he is an eater of human flesh,—a man of giganticstature, swarthy skin, bloodshot eyes, gaunt, bony jaws,and terrific aspect. You will expect this man to bedescribed as being naked,—or only with the skin of awild beast upon his shoulders,—building no house,manufacturing no household or other utensils, and armedwith a huge knotted club, which he is ever ready to use:—aman who dwells in a cavern, sleeps indifferently in11the open air or under the shelter of a bush; in short, atrue savage. That is the sort of creature you expect meto describe, and I confess that just such a physical aspect—justsuch a condition of personal hideousness—wouldbe exactly in keeping with the moral deformity of theFeegeean. You would furthermore expect this savageto be almost devoid of intellectual power,—altogetherwanting in moral sense,—without knowledge of rightand wrong,—without knowledge of any kind,—withoutideas. It seems but natural you should look forsuch characteristics in a cannibal.

The portrait I am about to paint will disappoint you.I do not regret it, since it enables me to bring forwardanother testimony that man in his original nature is nota being of such desperate wickedness. That simple andprimitive state, which men glibly call savage, is not thecondition favorable to cannibalism. I know that it is tosuch people that the habit is usually ascribed, but quiteerroneously. The Andaman islander has been blamedwith it simply because he chances to go naked, andlooks, as he is, hungry and emaciated. The charge isproved false. The Bushman of South Africa has enjoyeda similar reputation. It also turns out to be alibel. The Carib long lived under the imputation, simplybecause he presented a fierce front to the Spanishtyrant, who would have enslaved him; and we haveheard the same stigma cast upon a dozen other tribes,the lowest savages being usually selected; in otherwords, those whose condition appeared the most wretched.In such cases the accusation has ever been found,upon investigation, to be erroneous.

In the most primitive state in which man appears12upon the earth, he is either without social organizationaltogether, or if any do exist, it is either patriarchal orrepublican. Neither of these conditions is favorable tothe development of vice,—much less the most horribleof all vices.

It will not do to quote the character of the Bushman,or certain other of the low tribes, to refute this statement.These are not men in their primitive stateascending upward, but a condition altogether the reverse.They are the decaying remnants of some corrupt civilization,sinking back into the dust out of which they werecreated.

No—and I am happy to say it—man, as he originallycame from the hands of the Creator, has no suchhorrid propensity as cannibalism. In his primitive statehe has never been known to practise it,—except whenthe motives have been such as have equally temptedmen professing the highest civilization,—but this cannotbe considered cannibalism. Where that exists in itstrue unmitigated form,—and unhappily it does so,—theearly stages of social organization must have beenpassed; the republican and patriarchal forms must bothhave given place to the absolute and monarchical. Thiscondition of things is absolutely necessary, before mancan obtain sufficient power to prey upon his fellow-manto the extent of eating him. There can be no “cannibal”without a “king.”

So far from the Feegeean cannibals being savages, accordingto the ordinary acceptation of the term, they arein reality the very reverse. If we adhere to the usualmeaning of the word civilization, understanding by it apeople possessing an intelligent knowledge of arts, living13in well-built houses, fabricating fine goods, tilling theirlands in a scientific and successful manner, practising thelittle politenesses and accomplishments of social life,—ifthese be the criteria of civilization, then it is no morethan the truth to say that the standard possessed by theFeegee islanders is incomparably above that of the lowerorders of most European nations.

It is startling to reflect—startling as sad—that apeople possessed of such intellectual power, and whohave ever exercised it to a wonderful extent, in arts,manufactures, and even in the accomplishing of theirown persons, should at the same time exhibit moral traitsof such an opposite character. An atrocious cruelty,—aninstinct for oppression, brutal and ferocious,—a heartpitiless as that of the fiend himself,—a hand ever readyto strike the murderous blow, even though the victim bea brother,—lips that lie in every word they speak,—atongue ever bent on barbaric boasting,—a bosom thatbeats only with sentiments of treachery and abject cowardice,—theseare the revolting characteristics of theFeegeean. Dark as is his skin, his soul is many shadesdarker.

It is time, however, to descend to a more particulardelineation of this man-eating monster; and first, weshall give a description of his personal appearance.

The Feegeeans are above the average height of Europeansor white men: men of six feet are commonamong them, though few reach the height of six feet six.Corpulent persons are not common, though large andmuscular men abound. Their figure corresponds morenearly to that of the white man than any other raceknown. The proportions of their limbs resemble those14of northern Europeans, though some are narrower acrossthe loins. Their chests are broad and sinewy, and theirstout limbs and short, well-set necks are conspicuouscharacters. The outline of the face is a good oval; themouth large, with white teeth regularly arranged—ah!those horrid teeth!—the nose is well shaped, with fullnostrils; yet quite distinct, as are the lips also, from thetype of the African negro. Indeed, with the exceptionof their color, they bear very little resemblance to thenegro,—that is, the thick-lipped, flat-nosed negro of ourfancy; for there are negro tribes in Africa whose featuresare as fine as those of the Feegeeans, or even asour own. In color of skin the Feegeean is nearly, if notquite, as dark as the negro; but it may be remarked thatthere are different shades, as there are also among pureEthiopians. In the Feegee group there are many menof mulatto color, but these are not of the original Feegeestock. They are either a mixed offspring with theTonga islander, or pure-bred Tonga islanders themselveswho for the past two hundred years have been insinuatingthemselves into the social compact of the Feegeeans.These light-colored people are mostly found on theeastern or windward side of the Feegee group,—that is,the side towards Tonga itself,—and the trade-winds willaccount for their immigration, which was at first purelyaccidental. They at present play a conspicuous part inthe affairs of the Feegeeans, being in favor with thekings and great chiefs, partly on account of their beingbetter sailors than the native Feegeeans, and partly onaccount of other services which these tyrants require themto perform. In some arts the Tongans are superior tothe Feegeeans, but not in all. In pottery, wood-carving,15making of mats or baskets, and the manufacture of thetapa cloth, the Feegeeans stand unrivalled over all thePacific Ocean.

We need say no more of the Tongans here; they areelsewhere described. Those dwelling in Feegee arenot all fixed there for life. Some are so, and these arecalled Tonga-Feegeeans; the others are only visitors,giving their services temporarily to the Feegeean chiefs,or occupied in ship-building,—in constructing thosegreat war canoes that have been the astonishment ofSouth-Sea voyagers, and which Feegee sends forth fromher dock-yards in the greatest perfection. These, whenfinished by the Tongan strangers, are used to carrythem back to their own islands, that lie about threehundred miles to the windward (southeast).

But to continue the portrait of the Feegeean. Wehave touched almost every part of it except the hair;but this requires a most elaborate limning, such as theowner himself gives it. In its natural state the headof the Feegeean is covered by a mass of black hairlong, frizzled, and bushy, sometimes encroaching on theforehead, and joined by whiskers to a thick, round, orpointed beard, to which mustaches are often added.Black is, of course, the natural color of the hair, butit is not always worn of this hue. Other colors arethought more becoming; and the hair, both of the menand women, is dyed in a variety of ways, lime burningit to a redish or whity-brown shade. A turmeric-yellow,or even a vermilion-red are not uncommon colors;but all these keep varying, according to the change offashions at court!

Commodore Wilkes, who has given a good deal of16his time to an exploration of the Feegee Islands, statesthat the Feegee hair, in its natural condition, is straight,and not “frizzled,” as described above—he says thatthe frizzling is the work of the barber; but the Commodoreis altogether mistaken in this idea. Thousandsof Feegeans, whose hair was never touched by a barber,nor dressed even by themselves, exhibit this peculiarity.We regret to add that this is only one of athousand erroneous statements which the Commodorehas made during his gigantic exploration. He mayhave been excellent at his own speciality of makingsoundings and laying down charts; but on all matterspertaining to natural history or ethnology, the worthyCommodore appears to have been purblind, and, indeed,his extensive staff of naturalists of every kind haveproduced far less than might have been expected fromsuch excellent opportunities as they enjoyed. The observationsof the Commodore will not stand the test oftime, and cannot be depended upon as safe guides, exceptingin those cases where he was an actual eyewitness.About his truthful intentions there can be nodoubt whatever.

Of one very peculiar performance among the Feegeeshe appears to have had actual demonstration,and as he has described this with sufficient minuteness,we shall copy his account; though, after whatwe have said, we should apologize largely for the liberty.The performance referred to is that of “barberizing”a barbarian monarch, and may be taken as aproof of high civilization among the Feegees. It willbe seen that, with the exception of the tabooed fingers,there is not much difference between a barber of Bond17Street and an artist of like calling in the CannibalIslands.

“The chiefs in particular,” writes Commodore Wilkes,“pay great attention to the dressing of their heads, andfor this purpose all of them have barbers, whose soleoccupation is the care of their masters’ heads. Thesebarbers are called a-vu-ni-ulu. They are attached tothe household of the chiefs in numbers of from two toa dozen. The duty is held to be of so sacred a nature,that their hands are tabooed from all other employment,and they are not even permitted to feed themselves.To dress the head of a chief requires several hours.The hair is made to spread out from the head, onevery side, to a distance that is often eight inches.The beard, which is also carefully nursed, often reachesthe breast, and when a Feegeean has these importantparts of his person well dressed, he exhibits a degreeof conceit that is not a little amusing.

“In the process of dressing the hair it is well anointedwith oil, mixed with a carbonaceous black, until it iscompletely saturated. The barber then takes the hair-pin,which is a long and slender rod, made of tortoise-shellor bone, and proceeds to twitch almost every separatehair. This causes it to frizzle and stand erect.The bush of hair is then trimmed smooth by singeingit, until it has the appearance of an immense wig.When this has been finished, a piece of tapa, so fineas to resemble tissue-paper, is wound in light foldsaround it, to protect the hair from the dew or dust.This covering, which has the look of a turban, is calledsala, and none but the chiefs are allowed to wear it;any attempt to assume this head-dress by a kai-si, or18common person, would be immediately punished withdeath. The sala, when taken proper care of, will lastthree weeks or a month, and the hair is not dressedexcept when it is removed; but the high chiefs anddandies seldom allow a day to pass without changingthe sala and having the hair put in order.”

With this account, we conclude our description ofthe Feegeean’s person. His costume is of the simplestkind, and easily described. With the men it is merelya strip of “tapa” or “malo” cloth passed several timesround the waist, and the ends left to hang down infront. The length of the hanging ends determines therank of the wearer, and only in the case of kings orgreat chiefs are they allowed to touch the ground. Aturban of the finest tapa cloth among the great mop ofhair is another badge of rank, worn only by kings andchiefs; and this head-dress, which adds greatly to thedignified appearance of the wearer, is not always coiffedin the same fashion, but each chief adapts it to his ownor the prevailing taste of the court. The dress of thewomen is a mere waist-belt, with a fringe from six toten inches in length. It is worn longer after they havebecome wives, sometimes reaching near the knee, andforming a very picturesque garment. It is called the“liku,” and many of them are manufactured with surprisingskill and neatness, the material being obtainedfrom various climbing plants of the forest. Under the“liku” the women are tattooed, and there only. Theirmen, on the contrary, do not undergo the tattoo; but ongrand occasions paint their faces and bodies in the mostfanciful colors and patterns.

The kings and some chiefs suspend from their necks19shell ornaments—often as large as a dining-plate—thathang down upon the breast. Some, instead of this,wear a necklace of whales’ teeth, carved to resembleclaws, and bearing a very close resemblance to thenecklaces of the Prairie Indians, made of the clawsof the grizzly bear. Another kind of necklace—perhapsmore appropriate to the Feegee—is a string ofhuman teeth; and this kind is not unfrequently wornby these ferocious dandies.

It must not be supposed that the scantiness of theFeegeean costume arises from poverty or stinginess onthe part of the wearer. Nothing of the kind. It issimply because such is the fashion of the time. Wereit otherwise, he could easily supply the materials, buthe does not wish it otherwise. His climate is an eternalsummer, and he has no need to encumber his bodywith extraneous clothing. With the exception of theturban upon his head, his king is as naked as himself.

You may suppose that the Feegeans have but littlenotions of modesty; but, strange as it may appear, thisis in reality not one of their failings. They regard the“malo” and “liku” as the most modest of garments;and a man or woman seen in the streets without thesescanty coverings would be in danger of being clubbedto death!

It must be acknowledged that they are not altogetherdepraved—for in this respect they present the mostastounding anomaly. Certain virtues are ascribed tothem, and as I have painted only the dark side of theircharacter, it is but fair to give the other. Indeed, it isa pleasure to do this—though there is not enough ofthe favorable to make any great alteration in the picture.20The whole character is so well described by oneof the most acute observers who has yet visited theSouth Seas—the Wesleyan missionary Williams—thatwe borrow the description.

“The aspect of the Feegeean,” says Mr. Williams,“with reference to his mental character, so far fromsupporting the decision which would thrust him almostout of mankind, presents many points of great interest,showing that, if an ordinary amount of attention werebestowed on him, he would take no mean rank in thehuman family, to which, hitherto, he has been a disgrace.Dull, barren stupidity forms no part of his character.His feelings are acute, but not lasting; hisemotions easily roused, but transient; he can love truly,and hate deeply; he can sympathize with thoroughsincerity, and feign with consummate skill; his fidelityand loyalty are strong and enduring, while his revengenever dies, but waits to avail itself of circumstances,or of the blackest treachery, to accomplish its purpose.His senses are keen, and so well employed, that heoften excels the white man in ordinary things. Tacthas been called ‘ready cash,’ and of this the native ofFeegee has a full share, enabling him to surmount at oncemany difficulties, and accomplish many tasks, that wouldhave ‘fixed’ an Englishman. Tools, cord, or packingmaterials, he finds directly, where the white man wouldbe at a loss for either; and nature seems to him but ageneral store for his use, where the article he wants isalways within reach.

“In social diplomacy the Feegeean is very cautiousand clever. That he ever paid a visit merely en passant,is hard to be believed. If no request leaves his lips, he21has brought the desire, and only waits for a good chanceto present it now, or prepare the way for its favorablereception at some other time. His face and voice areall pleasantness; and he has the rare skill of finding outjust the subject on which you most like to talk, or seesat once whether you desire silence. Rarely will he failto read your countenance; and the case must be urgentindeed which obliges him to ask a favor when he sees afrown. The more important he feels his business themore earnestly he protests that he has none at all; andthe subject uppermost in his thoughts comes last to hislips, or is not even named; for he will make a second,or even a third visit, rather than risk a failure throughprecipitancy. He seems to read other men by intuition,especially where selfishness or lust are prominent traits.If it serves his purpose, he will study difficult and peculiarcharacters, reserving the results for future use;if afterwards he wish to please them, he will knowhow, and if to annoy them, it will be done most exactly.

“His sense of hearing is acute, and by a stroke ofhis nail he judges the ripeness of fruits, or soundness ofvarious substances.”

From what source the Feegeean has sprung is purelya matter of conjecture. He has no history,—not evena tradition of when his ancestors first peopled the Archipelagoin which we now find him. Of his race we havenot a much clearer knowledge. Speculation places himin the same family as the “Papuan Negro,” and he hassome points of resemblance to this race, in the color andfrizzled hair; but there is as much difference between thewretched native of West Australia and the finely-developedFeegeean as there is between the stunted Laplander22and the stalwart Norwegian; nor is the coarse roughskin of the true Papuan to be recognized in the smooth,glossy epidermis of the Feegee Islander. This, however,may be the result of better living; and certainly amongthe mountain-tribes of the Feegees, who lead lives ofgreater privation and hardship, the approach to the Papuanappearance is observable. It is hardly necessaryto add that the Feegeean is of a race quite distinct fromthat known as the Polynesian or South-Sea Islander.This last is different not only in form, complexion, andlanguage, but also in many important mental characteristics.It is to this race the Tongans belong, and itspecularities will be sketched in treating of that people.

Were we to enter upon a minute description of themanners and customs of the Fegees,—of their modeof house and canoe building,—of their arts and manufactures,for they possess both,—of their implements ofagriculture and domestic use,—of their weapons of war,—theirceremonies of religion and court etiquette,—ourtask would require more space than is here allottedto us: it would in fact be as much as to describe thecomplete social economy of a civilized nation; and awhole volume would scarce suffice to contain such a description.In a sketch like the present, the account ofthese people requires to be given in the most condensedand synoptical form, and only those points can be touchedupon that may appear of the greatest interest.

It must be remembered that the civilization of theFeegees—of course, I allude to their proficiency inthe industrial arts—is entirely an indigenous growth.They have borrowed ideas from the Tongans,—as theTongans have also from them,—but both are native23productions of the South Sea, and not derived from anyof the so-called great centres of civilization. Such ashave sprung from these sources are of modern date, andmake but a small feature in the panorama of Feegeeanlife. The houses they build are substantial, and suitableto their necessities. We cannot stay to note the architectureminutely. The private dwellings are usuallyabout twenty-five feet long by fifteen in breadth, theinterior forming one room, but with a sort of elevateddivan at the end, sometimes screened with beautiful“tapa” curtains, and serving as the dormitory.

The ground-plan of the house is that of an oblongsquare,—or, to speak more properly, a parallelogram.The walls are constructed of timber,—being straightposts of cocoa-palm, tree-fern, bamboo, or bread-fruit,—thespaces between closely warped or otherwise filled inwith reeds of cane or calamus. The thatch is of theleaves of the wild or cultivated sugar-cane,—sometimesof a pandanus,—thickly laid on, especially near theeaves, where it is carefully cropped, exposing an edge offrom one to two feet in thickness. The roof has fourfaces,—that is, it is a “hip roof.” It is made with avery steep pitch, and comes down low, projecting farover the heads of the upright timbers. This gives a sortof shaded veranda all around the house, and throws therain quite clear of the walls. The ridge-pole is a peculiarfeature; it is fastened to the ridge of the thatch bystrong twisted ropes, that give it an ornamental appearance;and its carved ends project at both gables, orrather, over the “hip roofs,” to the length of a foot, ormore; it is further ornamented by white shells, these ofthe cyprea ovula being most used for the purpose. The24Feegee house presents altogether a picturesque and notinelegant appearance. The worst feature is the low door.There are usually two of them, neither in each housebeing over three feet in height. The Feegee assigns noreason why his door is made so low; but as he is frequentlyin expectation of a visitor, with a murderousbludgeon in his grasp, it is possible this may have somethingto do with his making the entrance so difficult.

The houses of the chiefs, and the great council-house,or temple,—called the “Bure,”—are built precisely inthe same style; only that both are larger, and the doors,walls, and ridge-poles more elaborately ornamented.The fashionable style of decoration is a plaiting of cocoafibre, or “sinnet,” which is worked and woven aroundthe posts in regular figures of “relievo.”

The house described is not universal throughout allthe group. There are many “orders” of architecture,and that prevailing in the Windward Islands is differentfrom the style of the Leeward, and altogether of a betterkind. Different districts have different forms. In oneyou may see a village looking like an assemblage ofwicker baskets, while in another you might fancy it acollection of rustic arbors. A third seems a collectionoblong hayricks, with holes in their sides; while, in afourth these ricks are conical.

It will be seen that, with this variety in house-building,it would be a tedious task to illustrate thecomplete architecture of Feegeeans. Even MasterRuskin himself would surrender it up in despair.

Equally tedious would it be to describe the variousimplements or utensils which a Feegee house contains.The furniture is simple enough. There are neither25chairs, tables, nor bedsteads. The bed is a beautifulmat spread on the däis, or divan; and in the houses ofthe rich the floors are covered with a similar carpet.These mats are of the finest texture, far superior tothose made elsewhere. The materials used are theHibiscus tiliaceus, Pandanus odoratissimus, and a speciesof rush. They are in great abundance in everyhouse,—even the poorest person having his mat to sitor lie upon; and it is they that serve for the broad-spreadingsails of the gigantic canoes. In addition tothe mats, plenty of tapa cloth may be seen, and basketsof every shape and size,—the wicker being obtainedfrom the rattan (flagellaria), and other sources. Onepiece of furniture deserves especial mention,—this isthe pillow upon which the Feegee lord lays his headwhen he goes to sleep. It presents but little claim tothe appellation of a downy pillow; since it is a merecylinder of hard polished wood, with short arched pedestalsto it, to keep it firmly in its place. Its object is tokeep the great frizzled mop from being tossed or disarranged,during the hours of repose; and Feegeeanvanity enables the owner of the mop to endure thisflinty bolster with the most uncomplaining equanimity.If he were possessed of the slightest spark of conscience,even this would be soft, compared with any pillow uponwhich he might rest his guilty head.

In addition to the baskets, other vessels meet the eye.These are of pottery, as varied in shape and size asthey are in kind. There are pots and pans, bowls,dishes, cups and saucers, jars and bottles,—many ofthem of rare and curious designs,—some red, someornamented with a glaze obtained from the gum of the26kauri pine,—for this tree is also an indigenous productionof the Feegee Islands. Though no potter’s wheelis known to the Feegees, the proportions of their vesselsare as just and true, and their polish as complete, as ifStafford had produced them. There are cooking pots tobe seen of immense size. These are jars formed withmouths wide enough to admit the largest joint. I darenot mention the kind of joint that is frequently cookedin those great caldrons. Ugh! the horrid pots!

Their implements are equally varied and numerous,—somefor manufacturing purposes, and others foragriculture. The latter are of the simplest kind. TheFeegee plough is merely a pointed stick inserted deeplyinto the ground, and kept moving about till a lump ofthe soil is broken upward. This is crushed into mould,first by a light club, and afterwards pulverized with thefingers. The process is slow, but fast enough for theFeegeean, whose farm is only a garden. He requiresno plough, neither bullocks nor horses. With taro-rootsand sweet potatoes that weigh ten pounds each, yamsand yaqonas over one hundred, and plantains producingbunches of a hundred and fifty fruits to the single head,why need he trouble himself by breaking up more surface?His single acre yields him as much vegetablewealth as fifty would to an English farmer!

It is not to be supposed that he has it all to himself;no, nor half of it either; nor yet the fifth part of it.At least four fifths of his sweat has to be expended intax or tithe; and this brings us to the form of his government.We shall not dwell long upon this subject.Suffice it to say that the great body of the people arein a condition of abject serfdom,—worse than slavery27itself. They own nothing that they can call their own,—nottheir wives,—not their daughters,—not eventheir lives! All these may be taken from them at anyhour. There is no law against despoiling them,—nocheck upon the will and pleasure of their chiefs orsuperiors; and, as these constitute a numerous body, thepoor canaille have no end of ruffian despoilers. It is anevery-day act for a chief to rob, or club to death, one ofthe common people! and no unfrequent occurrence to behimself clubbed to death by his superior, the king! Ofthese kings there are eight in Feegee,—not one, as theold song has it; but the words of the ballad will applyto each of them with sufficient appropriateness. Anyone of them will answer to the character of “Musty-fusty-shang!”

These kings have their residences on various islands,and the different parts of the group are distributed somewhatirregularly under their rule. Some islands, orparts of islands, are only tributary to them; others connectedby a sort of deferential alliance; and there arecommunities quite independent, and living under thearbitrary sway of their own chieftains. The kings arenot all of equal power or importance; but in this respectthere have been many changes, even during the Feegeeanhistorical period,—which extends back only tothe beginning of the present century. Sometimes oneis the most influential, sometimes another; and in mostcases the pre-eminence is obtained by him who possessesthe greatest amount of truculence and treachery. Hewho is most successful in murdering his rivals, and riddinghimself of opposition, by the simple application ofthe club, usually succeeds in becoming for the time head28“king of the Cannibal Islands.” I do not mean that hereigns over the whole Archipelago. No king has yetsucceeded in uniting all the islands under one government.He only gets so far as to be feared everywhere,and to have tributary presents, and all manner of debasingcompliments offered to him. These kings have alltheir courts and court etiquette, just as their “royalbrothers” elsewhere; and the ceremonials observed arequite as complicated and degrading to the dignity ofman.

The punishment for neglecting their observance israther more severe in Feegee than elsewhere. For adecided or wilful non-compliance, the skull of the delinquentis frequently crushed in by the club of hismajesty himself,—even in presence of a full “drawing-room.”Lesser or accidental mistakes, or even the exhibitionof an ungraceful gaucherie, are punished by theloss of a finger: the consequence of which is, that inFeegee there are many fingers missing! Indeed, a completeset is rather the exception than the rule. If a kingor great chief should chance to miss his foot and slipdown, it is the true ton for all those who are near oraround him to fall likewise,—the crowd coming down,literally like a “thousand of bricks!”

I might detail a thousand customs to show how farthe dignity of the human form is debased and disgracedupon Feegee soil; but the subject could be well illustratednearer home. Flunkeyism is a fashion unfortunatelynot confined to the Feegeean archipelago; andthough the forms in which it exhibits itself there may bedifferent, the sentiment is still the same. It must everappear where men are politically unequal,—whereverthere is a class possessed of hereditary privileges.

29I come to the last,—the darkest feature in the Feegeeancharacter,—the horrid crime and custom of cannibalism.I could paint a picture, and fill up the detailswith the testimony of scores of eyewitnesses,—a picturethat would cause your heart to weep. It is toohorrid to be given here. My pen declines the office;and, therefore, I must leave the painful story untold.



In our general sketch of the Amazonian Indians itwas stated that there were some few tribes who differedin certain customs from all the rest, and who might evenbe regarded as odd among the odd. One of these tribesis the Mundrucu, which, from its numbers and warlikestrength, almost deserves to be styled a nation. It is,at all events, a powerful confederacy, of different tribes,linked together in one common nationality, and includingin their league other Indians which the Mundrucusthemselves first conquered, and afterwards associatedwith themselves on terms of equality; in other words,“annexed” them. The same sort of annexation or allianceis common among the tribes of North America; asin the case of the powerful Comanche nation, who extendtheir protecting alliance over the Wacoes, Washites, andCayguäas or Kioways.

The Mahüe is the principal tribe that is patronizedin this fashion by the Mundrucus, and the two togethernumber at least 20,000 souls.

Before the days of the Portuguese slave-hunting, theMundrucus occupied the south bank of the Amazon, fromthe mouth of the Tapajos to that of the Madeira. This31infamous traffic had the effect of clearing the banks ofthe great river of its native inhabitants,—except suchof them as chose to submit to slavery, or become neophytes,by adopting the monkish faith. Neither of thesecourses appeared pleasing in the eyes of the Mundrucus,and they adopted the only alternative that was likely toinsure their independence,—by withdrawing from thedangerous proximity of the sanguinary slave-trade.

This retreat of the Mundrucus, however, was by nomeans an ignominious flight. The withdrawal was voluntaryon their part, and not compulsory, as was thecase with weaker tribes. From the earliest times theyhad presented a firm front to the Portuguese encroachments,and the latter were even forced into a sort ofnefarious alliance with them. The leaving the Amazonon the part of the Mundrucus was rather the result of anegotiation, by which they conceded their territory—betweenthe mouths of the Tapajos and Madeira—tothe Brazilian government; and to this hour they are notexactly unfriendly to Brazilian whites, though to themulattoes and negroes, who constitute a large proportionof the Brazilian population, the Mundrucu knows noother feeling than that of a deadly hostility. The originof their hatred of the Brazilian blacks is to be found ina revolt which occurred in the provinces of the LowerAmazon (at Para) in 1835. It was a caste revolutionagainst whites, but more especially against EuropeanPortuguese. In this affair the Mundrucus were employedagainst the darker-skinned rebels—the Cabanos,as they were called—and did great service in puttingdown the rebellion. Hence they retain a lingeringspark of friendship for their ci-devant white allies; or32perhaps it would be more correct to say they do notactually hate them, but carry on a little commerce withtheir traders. For all that, they occasionally cut thethroats of a few of the latter,—especially those whodo not come to deal directly with them, but who passthrough their country in going from the Amazon to thediamond mines of Brazil. These last are called Monçaos,and their business is to carry supplies from thetowns on the Amazon (Santarem and Para) to the minersof gold and washers of diamonds in the district ofMatto Grosso, of which Cuiaba is the capital. Theirroute is by water and “portage” up the Tapajos river,and through the territory of the dreaded Mundrucus,—requiringa journey of six months, as perilous and toilsomeas it is tedious.

The present residence of the Mundrucus is betweenthe Tapajos and Madeira, as formerly, but far up onboth rivers. On the Tapajos, above what are knownas the “Caxoeiras,” or Cataracts, their villages arefound. There they dwell, free from all molestation onthe part of the whites; their borders extending widelyaround them, and limited only by contact with thoseof other warlike tribes like themselves, who are theirdeadly enemies. Among these last are the Muras, whodwell at the mouths of the Madeira and Rio Negro.

The Mundrucus build the malocca, elsewhere described;only in their case it is not used as a dwelling,but rather as a grand arsenal, a council-chamber, a ball-room,and, if need be, a fortress. When fearing anattack, all sleep in it “under arms.” It is a structureof large size and great strength, usually rendered moreunassailable by being “chinked” and plastered with33clay. It is in this building that are deposited those horridtrophies which have given to the Mundrucus theirterrible title of decapitadores, or “beheaders.” Thetitle and its origin shall be presently explained.

Around the great malocca the huts are placed, forminga village, and in these the people ordinarily dwell.

The Mundrucus are not without ample means of subsistence.Like most other Amazonian tribes, they cultivatea little manioc, plantains, and even maize; andthey know how to prepare the farinha meal, and,unfortunately, also the detestable chicha, the universalbeverage of the South-American aborigines. They havetheir vessels of calabash—both of the vegetable andarborescent kinds—and a full set of implements andutensils for the field and kitchen. Their war weaponsare those common to other Amazonian tribes, and theysometimes also carry the spear. They have canoes ofhollow trees; and, of course, fishing and hunting are theemployments of the men,—the women, as almost everywhereelse among Indians, doing the drudgery,—thetilling and reaping, the “hewing of wood and the drawingof water,” the making the household utensils andusing them,—all such offices being beneath the dignityof the “lordly,” or rather lazy savage.

I have said that they carry on a commercial intercoursewith the white traders. It is not of much magnitude,and their exports consist altogether of the native andspontaneous productions of the soil, sarsaparilla beingone of the chief articles. They gather this (the womenand children do) during six months of the year. Theother six months no industry is followed,—as thisperiod is spent in hostile excursions against the neighboring34tribes. Their imports consist of iron tools andpieces for weapons; but they more especially barter theproduct of their labor for ornamental gewgaws,—suchas savages universally admire and desire. Their sarsaparillais good, and much sought for in the medicalmarket.

Every one is acquainted with the nature and characterof this valuable medicinal root, the appearance ofwhich must also be known to almost everybody,—sinceit is so very common for our druggists to display thebundles of it in their shop windows. Perhaps every oneis not acquainted with the fact, that the sarsaparilla rootis the product of a great many different species of plantsmost of them of the genus Simlax, but not a few belongingto plants of other genera, as those of Carex and Herreriathe roots of which are also sold as sarsaparilla.The species of simlax are widely distributed throughoutthe whole torrid zone, in Asia, Africa, and America, andsome kinds are found growing many degrees outside thetropics,—as is the case in Virginia and the valley ofthe Mississippi, and also on the other side of the Pacificon the great continent-island of Australia.

The best sarsaparilla, however, is that which is producedin tropical countries, and especially in moist situations,where the atmosphere is at once hot and humid.It requires these conditions to concentrate the virtue ofits sap, and render it more active.

It would be idle to give a list of the different speciesof simlax that furnish the sarsaparilla root of the pharmacopeia.There is an almost endless number of them,and they are equally varied in respect to excellence ofquality; some kinds are in reality almost worthless, and35for this reason, in using it as a medicine, great careshould be taken in the selection of the species. Likeall other articles, either of food or medicine, the valuablekinds are the scarcest; the reason in this casebeing that the best sarsaparilla is found in situationsnot only difficult of access, but where the gathering ofits root is attended with considerable danger, from theunhealthy nature of the climate and the hostility of thesavages in whose territory it grows. As to the quantitythat may be obtained, there is no limit, on thescore of any scarcity of the plant itself, since it isfound throughout all the countries of tropical Americaplenteously distributed both in species and individualplants. Such quantities of it grow along the banks ofsome South-American rivers, that the Indians have abelief that those streams known as black waters—suchas the Rio Negro and others—derive their peculiarcolor from the roots of this plant. This, however, isan erroneous supposition, as there are many of thewhite-water rivers that run through regions abundantlysupplied with the sarsaparilla root. The black water,therefore, must arise from some other cause, as yet unknown.

As observed, the sarsaparilla of the Mundrucu countryis of the very best quality. It is the Simlax papyraceaof Soiret, and is known in commerce as the“Lisbon,” or “Brazilian.” It is a climbing plant, orunder-shrub, the stem of which is flattened and angular,with rows of prickles standing along the prominentedges. Its leaves are of an oval acuminated shape,and marked with longitudinal nerves. It shoots upwithout any support, to a height of fifteen or twenty36feet, after which it embraces the surrounding branchesof trees and spreads to a great distance in every direction.The main root sends out many long tendrils, allof like thickness, covered with a brownish bark, ofsometimes of a dark-gray color. These tendrils arefibrous, and about as thick as a quill. They presenta constant tendency to become crooked, and they arealso wrinkled longitudinally, with here and there somesmaller lateral fibres branching off from the sides.

It is in the bark or epidermis of the rhizomes thatthe medicinal virtue lies; but the tendrils—both rhizomeand bark—are collected together, and no attemptis made to separate them, until they have reachedtheir commercial destination. Indeed, even these aresold together, the mode of preparing the root beingleft to the choice of the consumer, or the apothecarywho procures it.

The Mundrucus collect it during the six months ofthe rainy season, partly because during the remainingsix they are otherwise employed, and partly for thereason that, in the time of rain, the roots are moreeasily extracted from the damp soil. The process simplyconsists in digging them up or dragging them outof the earth—the latter mode especially where thetendrils lie near the surface, and they will pull upwithout breaking. If the main root be not dug out, itwill send forth new tendrils, which in a short timewould yield a new crop; but the improvident savagesmake no prudential calculations of this kind—presentconvenience forming their sole consideration; and onthis account both the root and plant are generally destroyedby them during the operation of collecting.

37As already stated, this labor devolves upon thewomen, who are also assisted in it by their children.They proceed into the depths of the forest—wherethe simlax grows in greatest abundance—and aftercollecting as much root as they can carry home withthem, they return with their bundles to the malocca.When fresh gathered the sarsaparilla is heavy enough—partlyon account of the sap which it then contains,and partly from the quantity of the mud or earth thatadheres to the corrugated surface of the roots.

It is extremely probable that in this fresh state thevirtue of the sarsaparilla, as a blood-purifier, is muchgreater than after it has passed through the channelsof commerce; and the writer of this sketch has somereason, derived from personal experience, to believethat such is the case. Certain it is, that the reputationof this invaluable drug is far less in countrieswhere the plant does not grow, than in those whereit is common and can be obtained in its fresh state.In all parts of Spanish America its virtues are unquestioned,and experience has led to a more extensiveuse of it there than elsewhere. It is probable, therefore,that the virtue exists in the juice rather thanthe cortical integument of the rhizome; and this ofcourse would be materially altered and deteriorated, ifnot altogether destroyed, in the process of exsiccation,which must necessarily take place in the time requiredfor transporting it to distant parts of the world. In theEuropean pharmacopeia it is the epidermis of the rootwhich is supposed to contain the sanitary principle; andthis, which is of a mucilaginous nature and slightly bittertaste, is employed, both in decoctions and infusions,38as a tonic and alterative. In America, however, it isgenerally taken for what is termed purifying the blood—forthe same purpose as the rhizomes of the Laurussassafras and other plants are used; but the sarsaparillais generally considered the best, and it certainly is thebest of all known medicines for this purpose. Why ithas fallen in the estimation of the Old-World practitioners,or why it never obtained so great a reputation asit has in America, may arise from two circumstances.First, that the root offered for sale is generally the productof the less valuable species; and second, that thesap, and not the rhizome, may be the part that containsthe virtuous principle.

When the collected roots have been kept for awhilethey become dry and light, and for the convenience ofstowage and carriage—an important consideration tothe trader in his eight-ton garratea—it is necessaryto have the roots done up in packages of a uniformlength and thickness. These packages are formed bylaying the roots side by side, and doubling in the endsof the longer ones. A bundle of the proper size forstowage contains an arroba of twenty-five pounds, thoughthe weight varies according to the condition of the root.Uniformity in size is the chief object aimed at, and thebundles are made of a round or cylindrical shape, aboutfive inches in diameter, and something more than a yardin length. They are trimmed off small at the ends—soas to admit of stowage without leaving any emptyspace between two tiers of them—and each bundle istightly corded round from one end to the other with a“sipo,” or creeping plant.

It has been stated that this “sipo” is a root of the39sarsaparilla itself, with the bark scraped off; and, indeed,its own root would serve well enough—were itnot that putting it to such a use would destroy its medicinalvalue, and thus cause a considerable waste of thecostly material. The sarsaparilla is not to be had fornothing even upon the banks of the Tapajos. A bundleof the best quality does not leave the hands of the Mundrucuuntil about four dollars’ worth of exchange commoditieshave been put into them, which would bringthe price of it to something over sixpence a pound.He is, therefore, a little particular about wasting amaterial that has cost him—or rather his wife andchildren—so much trouble in collecting. His cordageis obtained more cheaply, and consists of the long, flexibleroots of a species of pothos, which roots—beingwhat are termed aërial and not buried in the ground—requireno labor or digging to get at them. It is onlynecessary to stretch up the hand, and pull them downfrom the tops of lofty trees, from which they hang likestreamers, often to the length of a hundred feet. Theseare toughened by the bark being scraped off; and whenthat is done they are ready for use, and serve not only totie up the bundles of sarsaparilla, but for many otherpurposes in the domestic economy of the Mundrucus.

In addition to the sarsaparilla, the Mundrucu furnishesthe trader with several other items of commercialvalue—for his climate, although one of the most unhealthyin all the Amazon region, on account of its greatheat and humidity, is for that very reason one of themost fertile. Nearly all those tropical vegetable productswhich are characteristics of Brazilian export commercecan here be produced of the most luxuriant kind;40but it is only those that grow spontaneously at his verydoors that tempt the Mundrucu to take the trouble ofcollecting them.

There is one article, however, which he not only takessome trouble to collect, but also to manufacture into anitem of commercial exchange—a very rare item indeed.This is the guarana, which is manufactured from thefruit of a tree almost peculiar to the Mundrucu territory—sincenowhere is it found so abundantly as on theTapajos. It is so prized in the Brazilian settlementsas to command almost its weight in silver when transportedthither. It is the constituent element of a drink,which has a stimulating effect on the system, somewhatmore powerful than tea or coffee. It will prevent sleep;but its most valuable property is, that it is a good febrifuge,equal to the best quinine. Guarana is preparedfrom the seeds of an inga—one of the Mimosacæ. Itis a low, wide-spreading tree like most of the mimosafamily. The legumes are gathered, and the seedsroasted in them. The latter are then taken out, andafter being ground to powder, are mixed with waterso as to make a tough paste, which is moulded intolittle bricks, and when dried is ready for use. Thebeverage is then prepared by scraping a table-spoonfulof dust from the brick, and mixing it with about a pintof water; and the dry paste, keeping for any length oftime, is ready whenever wanted.

The guarana bush grows elsewhere in the Amazonvalley, and on some head-waters of the Orinoco, wherecertain tribes also know how to prepare the drink. Butit is sparingly distributed, and is nowhere so commonas on the upper Tapajos; hence its high price in the41markets of Brazil. The Mundrucu manufactures it, notonly for “home use,” but for “exportation.”

He prepares another singular article of luxury, andthis he makes exclusively for his own use,—not for thegratification of his lips or palate, but for his nose,—inother words, a snuff. Do not fancy, however, that it issnuff of the ordinary kind—the pulverised produce ofinnocent tobacco. No such thing; but a composition ofsuch a powerful and stimulating character, that he whoinhales it feels as if struck by an electric shock; hisbody trembles; his eyes start forward as if they wouldforsake their sockets; his limbs fail to support him;and he drops to the earth like one in a state of intoxication!For a short time he is literally mad; but thefit is soon over,—lasting usually only a few minutes,—andthen a feeling of renewed strength, courage, andjoyousness succeeds. Such are the consequences oftaking snuff with a Mundrucu.

And now to describe the nature of the substancewhich produces these powerful effects.

Like the guarana this snuff is a preparation, havingfor its basis the seeds of a leguminous tree. This time,however, it is an acacia, not an inga. It is the acacianiopo; so called because “niopo” is the name givento the snuff itself by certain tribes (the Ottomacs andothers), who, like the Mundrucus, are snuff-takers. Itis also called curupa, and the apparatus for preparingand taking it—for there is an apparatus of an extensivekind—is termed parica, in the general language(lingoa geral) of the Amazonian regions.

We shall describe the preparation, the apparatus, andthe ceremonial.

42The pods of the Acacia niopo—a small tree, withvery delicate pinnate leaves—are plucked when ripe.They are then cut into small pieces and flung into avessel of water. In this they remain until macerated,and until the seeds have turned black. These are thenpicked out, pounded in a mortar, which is usually thepericarp of the sapuçaia, or “monkey-pot” tree (Lecythisollaria). The pounding reduces them to a paste,which is taken up, clapped between the hands andformed into little cakes—but not until it has beenmixed with some manioc flour, some lime from a burntshell (a helix), and a little juice from the fresh leavesof the “abuta”—a menispermous plant of the genusCocculus. The cakes are then dried or “barbecued”upon a primitive gridiron—the bars of which are saplingsof hard wood—and when well-hardened the snuffis ready for the “box.” In a box it is actually carried—usuallyone made out of some rare and beautifulshell.

The ceremonial of taking the snuff is the most singularpart of the performance. When a Mundrucu feels inclinedfor a “pinch”—though it is something more thana pinch that he inhales when he does feel inclined—hetakes the cake out of the box, scrapes off about a spoonfulof it into a shallow, saucer-shaped vessel of the calabashkind, and then spreads the powder all over thebottom of the vessel in a regular “stratification.” Thespreading is not performed by the fingers, but with atiny, pencil-like brush made out of the bristles of thegreat ant-eater (Myrmecophaga jubata).

He is in no hurry, but takes his time,—for as youmay guess from its effects, the performance is not one so43often repeated as that of ordinary snuff-taking. Whenthe niopo dust is laid to his liking, another implement isbrought into play, the construction of which it is alsonecessary to describe. It is a “machine” of six to eightinches in length, and is made of two quills from thewing of the gaviao real, or “harpy eagle” (Harpyiadestructor). These quills are placed side by side forthe greater part of their length, forming two paralleltubes, and they are thus neatly whipped together by athread. At one end they are pressed apart so as to divergeto a width corresponding to the breadth betweenthe Mundrucu’s nostrils,—where it is intended theyshall be placed during the ceremony of snuff-taking.

And thus are they placed,—one end of each quillbeing slightly intruded within the line of the septum,while the other end rests upon the snuff, or wanders overthe surface of the saucer, till all the powder placed thereis drawn up and inhaled, producing the convulsive effectsalready detailed.

The shank-bone of a species of bird—thought to bea plover—is sometimes used instead of the quills.It is hollow, and has a forking-tube at the end. Thiskind is not common or easily obtained, for the niopo-takerwho has one, esteems it as the most valuable itemof his apparatus.

Snuffing the niopo is not exclusively confined to theMundrucu. We have seen elsewhere that it is also ahabit of the dirt-eating Ottomacs; and other tribes onthe upper Amazon practise it. But the Mahües, alreadymentioned as the allies of the Mundrucus, are the mostconfirmed snuff-takers of all.

Another odd custom of the Mundrucus is their habit44of “tatooing.” I speak of real tatooing,—that is, markingthe skin with dots and lines that cannot be effaced,in contradistinction to mere painting, or staining, whichcan easily be washed off. The Mundrucus paint also,with the anotto, huitoc, caruta, and other pigments, butin this they only follow the practice of hundreds of othertribes. The true tatoo is a far different affair, and scarcelyknown among the aborigines of America, though commonenough in the islands of the South Sea. A fewother Indian tribes practise it to a limited extent,—as iselsewhere stated,—but among the Mundrucus it is an“institution;” and painful though the process be, it hasto be endured by every one in the nation, “every mother’sson,” and daughter as well, that are cursed with aMundrucu for their father.

It is upon the young people the infliction is performed,—whenthey are about eight or ten years of age.

The tatoo has been so often described, that I shouldnot repeat it here; but there are a few “points” peculiarto Mundrucu tatooing, and a few others, not elsewhereunderstood.

The performance is usually the work of certain oldcrones, who, from long practice, have acquired great skillin the art.

The chief instrument used is a comb of thorns,—nota single thorn, as is generally stated,—but a tier or rowof them set comb-fashion. These thorns are the spinesof the “murumuru,” or “pupunha” palm (Gullielmiaspeciosa). Humboldt states that this palm is smooth andspineless, but in this the great, good man was in error.Its trunk is so covered with thorns or spines, that whenthe Indians require to climb it—for the purpose of45procuring the valuable fruits, which they eat variouslyprepared—they have to erect a staging, or rude sortof ladder, to be able to get at them.

The comb, then, is pressed down upon the skin of the“tatooee,” till all the points have penetrated the flesh,and a row of holes is laid open, from which the bloodflows profusely. As soon as this can be wiped off, ashesof a burnt gum or pitch are rubbed into the wounds,which, when healed, appear like so many dots of a deepbluish or black color. In this way the young Mundrucus,both boys and girls, get those regular rows of dottedlines, which traverse their forehead and cheeks, theirarms and limbs, breasts, and bodies in such eccentricfashion. It has often been asked how these lines of dotswere carried over the skin in such straight and symmetricalrows, forming regular parallel lines, or other geometricalpatterns. The “comb” will explain the mystery.

The tatoo, with a few strings of shell-beads or necklaces,and bracelets of monkey and jaguar teeth, is allthe dress which is permitted to the Mundrucu belle. InMundrucu-land it is the reverse of what is practisedamong civilized people: the men are the exponents ofthe fashions, and keep exclusively to themselves the cosmeticsand bijouterie. Not contented with being tatooed,these also paint their bodies, by way of “overcoat,” andalso adorn themselves with the bright feathers of birds.They wear on their heads the beautiful circlet of macawplumes, and on grand occasions appear in the magnificent“feather dress,” so long celebrated as the peculiar costumeof the tropical-forest Indian. These dresses theirwomen weave and border, at a sacrifice of much tedious46labor. They also ornament their arms and legs withrows of feathers around them, the tips turned upwardand backward.

The tatooing is confined to the Mundrucus proper,—theirallies, the Mahües not following the practice, butcontenting themselves with a simple “coat” of paint.

It is difficult to say what motive first inducted humanbeings into this singular and barbarous custom. It iseasier to tell why it is still followed, and the “why” isanswered by saying that the Mundrucus “scarify” themselves,because their fathers did so before them. Manya custom among civilized nations, but little less ridiculous,if we could only think so, rests upon a similar basis.Perhaps our modern abominable hat—though it has adifferent origin—is not less ludicrous than the tatooedpatterns of the savage. Certainly it is quite equal to itin ugliness, and is likely to rival it in permanence,—toour sorrow be it said. But even we deal slightly in thetatoo. Our jolly Jack would be nobody in the forecastlewithout “Polly,” in blue, upon his weather-beaten breast,and the foul anchor upon his arm.

But the Mundrucu baptizes his unfortunate offspringin a still more savage fashion. The tattoo may be termedthe baptism in blood, performed at the tender age of ten.When the youth—fortunately it does not extend to theweaker sex—has attained to the age of eighteen, he hasthen to undergo the tocandeira, which deserves to becalled the baptism of fire!

This too merits description. When the Mundrucuyouth would become a candidate for manhood, a pair of“gloves” is prepared for him. These consist of twopieces of a palm-tree bark, with the pith hollowed out, but47left in at one end. The hollow part is of sufficient diameterto draw over the hands loosely, and so long as toreach up to mid-arm, after the fashion of gauntlets.

The “gloves” being got ready, are nearly filled withants, not only the venomous red ants, but all other species,large or small, that can either bite or sting, of whichtropical South America possesses an endless variety.With this “lining” the “mittens” are ready for use, andthe “novice” is compelled to draw them on. Should herefuse, or even exhibit a disposition to shrink from thefiery trial, he is a lost man. From that hour he neednever hold up his head, much less offer his hand andheart, for there is not a maiden in all Mundrucu-landthat would listen to his softest speech. He is forever debarredfrom the pleasure of becoming a benedict. Ofcourse he does not refuse, but plunging his hands into the“mittens,” into the very midst of the crawling host, hesets about the ceremony.

He must keep on the gloves till he has danced beforeevery door in the village. He must sing as if from veryjoy; and there is plenty of music to accompany him,drums and fifes, and human voices,—for his parents andrelatives are by his side encouraging him with theirsongs and gestures. He is in pain,—in positive agony,—forthese venomous ants both sting and bite, andhave been busy at both, from the very first moment.Each moment his agony grows more intense, his sufferingsmore acute, for the poison is thrilling through hisveins,—he turns pale,—his eyes become blood-cast,—hisbreast quivers with emotion and his limbs tremblebeneath him; but despite all this, woe to him if he uttera cry of weakness! It would brand him with an eternal48stigma,—he would never be suffered to carry the Mundruculance to battle,—to poise upon its point the ghastlytrophy of the Beheaders. On, on, through the howlingthrong, amidst friends and relatives with faces anxiousas his own; on to the sound of the shrill-piping reedand the hoarse booming of the Indian drum; on till hestands in front of the cabin of the chief! There againthe song is sung, the “jig” is danced, both proudly prolongedtill the strength of the performer becomes completelyexhausted. Then, and not till then, the glovesare thrown aside, and the wearer falls back, into thearms of his friends, “sufficiently punished!”

This is the hour of congratulation. Girls gather roundhim, and fling their tatooed arms about his neck. Theycluster and cling upon him, singing his song of triumph;but just at that crisis he is not in the mood for soft caresses;and, escaping from their blandishments, he makesa rush towards the river. On reaching its bank he plungesbodily in, and there remains up to his neck in the water,till the cooling fluid has to some extent eased his achingarms, and tranquillized the current of his boiling blood.When he emerges from the water, he is a man, fit stufffor a Mundrucu warrior, and eligible to the hand of aMundrucu maiden.

It may be remarked that this terrible ordeal of theMundrucus, though, perhaps, peculiar among South-AmericanIndians, has its parallel among certain tribesof the north,—the Mandans and others, as detailed byCatlin, one of the most acute of ethnological observers.

The scalp trophy, too, of the Northern Indian has itsanalogy in a Mundrucu custom—that which distinguisheshim most of all, and which has won him the terribletitle of “Beheader.”

49This singular appellation is now to be explained.

When a Mundrucu has succeeded in killing an enemy,he is not, like his northern compeer, satisfied with onlythe skin of the head. He must have the whole head,scalp and skull, bones, brains, and all! And he takesall, severing the head with his knife by a clean cut acrossthe small of the neck, and leaving the trunk to the vultureking. With the ghastly trophy poised upon thepoint of his lance, he returns triumphant to the maloccato receive the greetings of his tribe and the praises ofhis chief.

But the warlike exploit requires a memento—sometoken by which he may perpetuate its fame. The art ofprinting does not exist among the Mundrucus, and thereis no friendly pen to record the deed. It has been done,—beholdthe evidence! much clearer than often accompaniesthe exploits of civilized heroes. There is the evidenceof an enemy slain; there is the grim, gory voucher,palpable both to sight and touch—proof positive thatthere is a dead body somewhere.

Of course, such evidence is sufficient for the present;but how about the future? As time passes, the feat maybe forgotten, as great deeds are elsewhere. Somebody mayeven deny it. Some slanderous tongue may whisper, orinsinuate, or openly declare that it was no exploit afterall—that there was no dead man; for the vultures bythis time would have removed the body, and the whiteants (termites) would have equally extinguished alltraces of the bones. How, then, are the proofs to bepreserved? By preserving the head! And this is thevery idea that is in the mind of the Mundrucu warrior.He is resolved not to permit his exploit to be buried in50oblivion by burying the head of his enemy. That tongue,though mute, will tell the tale to posterity; that pallidcheek, though, perhaps, it may become a little shrivelledin the “drying,” will still be smooth enough to show thatthere is no tatoo, and to be identified as the skin of an enemy.Some young Mundrucu, yet unborn, will read inthe countenance of that grinning and gory witness, thetestimony of his father’s prowess. The head, therefore,must be preserved; and it is preserved with as muchcare as the cherished portrait of a famous ancestor. Thecranial relic is even embalmed, as if out of affection forhim to whom it belonged. The brains and eye-balls areremoved, to facilitate the process of desiccation; but falseeyes are inserted, and the tongue, teeth, and ears, scalp,skull, and hair, are all retained, not only retained, but“titivated” out in the most approved style of fashion.The long hair is carefully combed out, parted, and arranged;brilliant feathers of rock-cock and macaw areplanted behind the ears and twisted in the hangingtresses. An ornamental string passes through the tongue,and by this the trophy is suspended from the beams ofthe great malocca.

It is not permitted to remain there. In some darkniche of this Golgotha—this Mundruquin Westminster—itmight be overlooked and forgotten. To preventthis it is often brought forth, and receives many an airing.On all warlike and festive occasions does it appear,poised upon the point of the warrior’s lance, and evenin peaceful times it may be seen—along with hundredsof its like—placed in the circular row around themanioc clearing, and lending its demure countenance tothe labors of the field.

51It is not a little singular that this custom of embalmingthe heads of their enemies is found among the Dyaksof Borneo, and the process in both places is ludicrouslysimilar. Another rare coincidence occurs between theAmazonian tribes and the Bornean savages, viz. in bothbeing provided with the blow-gun. The gravitana ofthe American tribes is almost identical with the sumpitanof Borneo. It furnishes a further proof of ourtheory regarding an original connection between theAmerican Indians and the savages of the great SouthSea.

The Mundrucu is rarely ill off in the way of food.When he is so, it is altogether his own fault, and chargeableto his indolent disposition. The soil of his territoryis of the most fertile kind, and produces many kindsof edible fruits spontaneously, as the nuts of the pupunhapalm and the splendid fruits of the Bertholetia excelsa,or juvia-tree, known in Europe as “Brazil-nuts.” Ofthese then are two kinds, as mentioned elsewhere, the secondbeing a tree of the genus Lecythys,—the Lecythysollaria, or “monkey-pot” tree. It obtains this trivialname from the circumstance, first, of its great pericarp,almost as large as a child’s head, having a movable topor lid, which falls off when the fruit ripens; and secondly,from the monkeys being often seen drawing the seedsor nuts out of that part of the shell which remainsattached to the tree, and which, bearing a considerableresemblance to a pot in its shape, is thus very appropriatelydesignated the pot of the monkeys. The commonIndian name of the monkey-pot tree is sapucaya,and the nuts of this species are so called in commerce,though they are also termed Brazil-nuts. They are of a52more agreeable flavor than the true Brazil-nuts, and notso easily obtained, as the Lecythys is less generally distributedover the Amazonian valley. It requires a peculiarsoil, and grows only in those tracts that are subjectto the annual inundations of the rivers.

The true Brazil-nuts are the “juvia” trees of theIndians; and the season for collecting them is one of theharvests of the Mundrucu people. The great pericarps—resemblinglarge cocoa-nuts when stripped of thefibres—do not open and shed their seeds, as is the casewith the monkey-pot tree. The whole fruit falls atonce; and as it is very heavy, and the branches onwhich it grows are often nearly a hundred feet from theground, it may easily be imagined that it comes downlike a ten-pound shot; in fact, one of them falling uponthe head of a Mundrucu would be very likely to crushhis cranium, as a bullet would an egg-shell; and suchaccidents not unfrequently occur to persons passing imprudentlyunder the branches of the Bertholetia whenits nuts are ripe. Sometimes the monkeys, when on theground looking after those that have fallen, become victimsto the like accident; but these creatures are cunningreasoners, and being by experience aware of thedanger, will scarce ever go under a juvia-tree, but whenpassing one always make a wide circuit around it. Themonkeys cannot of themselves open the great pericarp,as they do that of the “sapucuya,” but are crafty enoughto get at the precious contents, notwithstanding. Indoing this they avail themselves of the help of othercreatures, that have also a motive in opening thejuvia shells—cavies and other small rodent animals,whose teeth, formed for this very purpose, enable them53to gnaw a hole in the ligneous pericarps, hard and thickas they are. Meanwhile the monkeys, squatted around,watch the operation in a careless, nonchalant sort of way,as if they had no concern whatever in the result; but assoon as they perceive that an entrance has been effected,big enough to admit their hand, they rush forward, driveoff the weaker creature, who has been so long and laboriouslyat work, and take possession of the prize.

Neither does the Mundrucu nut-gatherer get possessionof the juvia fruit without a certain degree of dangerand toil. He has to climb the tallest trees, to secure thewhole crop at one time; and while engaged in collectingthose upon the ground, he is in danger of a blow fromodd ones that are constantly falling. To secure his skullagainst accidents, he wears upon his head a thick woodencap or helmet,—after the fashion of the hats worn byour firemen,—and he is always careful to keep his bodyin an upright attitude, stooping as seldom as he can avoiddoing so, lest he might get a thump between the shoulders,or upon the spine of his back, which would be verylikely to flatten him out upon the earth. These Brazil-nutsfurnish the Mundrucu with a portion of his food,—asthey also do many other tribes of Amazonian Indians,—andthey are also an item of Indian commerce, beingcollected from among the different tribes by the Portugueseand Spanish traders.

But the Mundrucu does not depend altogether on thespontaneous productions of the forest, which at bestfurnish only a precarious supply. He does something inthe agricultural line,—cultivating a little manioc root,with plantains, yams, and other tropical plants that producean enormous yield with the very slightest trouble54or attention; and this is exactly what suits him. A fewdays spent by the little community in the yam patch—orrather, by the women and children, for these are theagricultural laborers in Mundrucu land—is sufficient toensure an abundant supply of breadstuff for the wholeyear. With regard to flesh-meat he is net so well off,for the domestic animals, and oxen more especially, donot thrive in the Amazon country. In Mundrucu land,the carnivorous jaguar, aided by flies and vampire bats,would soon destroy them, even if the Indian had theinclination to raise them, which he has not.

Instead of beef, therefore, he contents himself withfish, and occasionally a steak from the great tapir, ora griskin of manati. Birds, too, furnish him with anoccasional meal; but the staple article of his flesh dietis obtained from the quadrumana,—the numerous speciesof monkeys with which his forests abound. Thesehe obtains by shooting them down from the trees withhis bow and arrows, and also by various other huntingdevices.

His mode of cooking them is sufficiently peculiar tobe described. A large log fire is first kindled and permittedto burn until a sufficient quantity of red cindersare produced. Over these cinders a grating is erectedwith green saplings of wood, laid parallel to each otherlike the bars of a gridiron, and upon this the “joint” islaid.

Nothing is done to the monkey before its being placedon the gridiron. Its skin is not removed, and even theintestines are not always taken out. The fire will singeoff the hair sufficiently to content a Mundrucu stomach,and the hide is broiled and eaten with the flesh. It isthus literally “carne con cuero.”

55It may be observed that this forest gridiron, or “barbecue,”as it is properly termed, is not an idea exclusivelyconfined to South America. It is in use amongthe Indians of the north, and various uncivilized tribesin other parts of the world.

Sometimes the Mundrucu does not take the trouble toconstruct the gridiron. When on the march in somewarlike expedition that will not allow time for beingparticular about the mode of cooking, the joint is broiledupon a spit over the common fire. The spit is simply astick, sharpened at both ends, one of which impales themonkey, and the other is stuck into the ground. Thestick is then set with a lean towards the fire, so as tobring the carcass over the blaze. While on the spit themonkey appears in a sitting position, with its head upward,and its long tail hanging along the sapling,—justas if it were still living, and in one of its most naturalattitudes, clinging to the branch of a tree! The sight issufficiently comical; but sometimes a painful spectaclehas been witnessed,—painful to any one but a savage:when the young of the monkey has been captured alongwith its dam, and still recognizing the form of its parent,—evenwhen all the hair has been singed off, and theskin has become calcined by the fire,—is seen rushingforward into the very flames, and with plaintive cry invitingthe maternal embrace! Such an affecting incidenthas been often witnessed amid the forests of Amazonia.

We conclude our sketch of the Mundrucus, by statingthat their form of government is despotic, though not toan extreme degree. The “tushao,” or chief, has considerablepower, though it is not absolute, and does notextend to the taking of life,—unless the object of his56displeasure be a slave, and many of these are held inabject bondage among the Mundrucus.

The Mundrucu religion resembles that of many othertribes both in North and South America. It consists inabsurd ceremonies, and appeals to the good and evilspirits of the other world, and is mixed up with a vastdeal of quackery in relation to the ills that afflict theMundrucu in this life. In other words, it is a combinationof the priest and doctor united in one, that arch-charlatanknown to the North-American Indians asthe “Medicine-man,” and among the Mundrucus as the“Puge.”



I have elsewhere stated that a broad band of independentIndian territory—that is, territory neverreally subdued or possessed by the Spaniards—traversesthe interior of South America, extending longitudinallythroughout the whole continent. Beginning atCape Horn, it ends in the peninsula of the free Goajiros,which projects into the Caribbean Sea,—in other words,it is nearly 5,000 miles in length. In breadth it variesmuch. In Patagonia and a portion of the Pampascountry it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, andit is of still wider extent on the latitude of the Amazonriver, where the whole country, from the Atlantic to thePeruvian Andes,—with the exception of some thinly-placedBrazilian settlements,—is occupied by tribes ofindependent Indians. At either point this territory willappear—upon maps—to be interrupted by tracts ofcountry possessing civilized settlements. The names oftowns and villages are set as thickly as if the countrywere well peopled; and numerous roads are traced,forming a labyrinthine network upon the paper. Abroad belt of this kind extends from the Lower Parana(La Plata) to the Andes of Chili, constituting the upper58provinces of the “Argentine Confederation;” anotherapparently joins the settlements of Bolivia and Braziland again in the north, the provinces of Venezuela appearto be united to those of New Granada.

All this, however, is more apparent than real. Thetowns upon the maps are in general mere rancherias, orcollections of huts; some of them are the names of fortifiedposts, and a large proportion are but ruins,—theruins of monkish mission settlements long since gone todestruction, and with little else than the name on themap to testify that they ever had an existence. Theroads are no roads at all, nothing more than tracings onthe chart showing the general route of travel.

Even across the Argentine provinces—where thisnomenclature appears thickest upon the map—thehorse-Indian of the Pampas extends his forays at will;his “range” meeting, and, in some cases, “dovetailing”into that of the tribes dwelling upon the northern side ofthese settlements. The latter, in their turn, carry theirplundering expeditions across to the Campos Parexis, onthe head-waters of the Amazon, whence stretches the independentterritory, far and wide to the Amazon itself;thence to the Orinoco, and across the Llanos to the shoresof the Maracaibo Gulf—the free range of the independentGoajiros.

This immense belt of territory, then, is in actual possessionof the aborigines. Although occupied at a fewpoints by the white race,—Spanish and Portuguese,—theoccupation scarce deserves the name. The settlementsare sparse and rather retrograde than progressive.The Indian ranges through and around them, whereverand whenever his inclination leads him; and only when59some humiliating treaty has secured him a temporaryrespite from hostilities does the colonist enjoy tranquillity.At other times he lives in continual dread, scarce daringto trust himself beyond the immediate vicinity of hishouse or village, both of which he has been under thenecessity of fortifying.

It is true that at one period of South-American historythings were not quite so bad. When the Spanishnation was at the zenith of its power a different conditionexisted; but even then, in the territory indicated,there were large tracts circumstanced just as at the presenthour,—tracts which the Spaniards, with all theirboasted warlike strength, were unable even to explore,much less to subdue. One of these was that whichforms the subject of our sketch, “El Gran Chaco.”

Of all the tracts of wild territory existing in SouthAmerica, and known by the different appellations ofPampas, Paramos, Campos Parexis, the Puna, the Pajonal,Llanos, and Montañas, there is none possessed of agreater interest than that of El Gran Chaco,—perhapsnot one that equals it in this respect. It is interesting,not only from having a peculiar soil, climate, and productions,but quite as much from the character and historyof its inhabitants, both of which present us withtraits and episodes truly romantic.

The “Gran Chaco” is 200,000 square miles in extent,or twice the size of the British Isles. Its eastern boundaryis well defined, being the Paraguay river, and itscontinuation the Parana, down to the point where the latterreceives one of its great western tributaries, the Salado;and this last is usually regarded as the southern andwestern boundary of the Chaco. Northward its limits60are scarcely so definite; though the highlands of Boliviaand the old missionary province of Chiquitos, formingthe water-shed between the rivers of the La Plata andthe Amazonian basins—may be geographically regardedas the termination of the Chaco in that direction. Northand south it extends through eleven degrees of latitude;east and west it is of unequal breadth,—sometimes expanding,sometimes contracting, according to the abilityof the white settlers along it borders to maintain theirfrontier. On its eastern side, as already stated, the frontieris definite, and terminates on the banks of the Paraguayand Parana. East of this line—coinciding almostwith a meridian of longitude—the Indian of the GranChaco does not roam, the well-settled province of Corrientesand the dictatorial government of Paraguay presentinga firmer front of resistance; but neither does thecolonist of these countries think of crossing to the westernbank of the boundary river to form any establishmentthere. He dares not even set his foot upon the territoryof the Chaco. For a thousand miles, up and down, thetwo races, European and American, hold the oppositebanks of this great stream. They gaze across at eachother: the one from the portico of his well-built mansion,or perhaps from the street of his town; the other,standing by his humble “toldo,” or mat-covered tent,—moreprobably, upon the back of his half-wild horse,reined up for a moment on some projecting promontorythat commands the view of the river. And thus havethese two races gazed at each other for three centuries,with little other intercourse passing between them thanthat of a deadly hostility.

The surface of the Gran Chaco is throughout of a61champaign character. It may be described as a vastplain. It is not, however, a continuation of the Pampas,since the two are separated by a more broken tract ofcountry, in which lie the sierras of Cordova and SanLuis, with the Argentine settlements already mentioned.Besides, the two great plains differ essentially in theircharacter, even to a greater extent than do the Pampasthemselves from the desert steppes of Patagonia. Onlya few of the annual and vegetable productions of theGran Chaco are identical with those of the Pampas, andits Indian inhabitants are altogether unlike the sanguinarysavages of the more southern plain. The Chaco, approachingmany degrees nearer to the equator, is moretropical in its character; in fact, the northern portion ofit is truly so, lying as it does within the torrid zone, andpresenting the aspect of a tropical vegetation. Everyinch of the Chaco is within the palm region; but in itsnorthern half these beautiful trees abound in numberlessspecies, yet unknown to the botanist, and forming thecharacteristic features of the landscape. Some grow inforests of many miles in extent, others only in “clumps,”with open, grass-covered plains between, while still otherspecies mingle their graceful fronds with the leaves andbranches of dicotyledonous trees, or clapsed in the embraceof luxuriant llianas and parasitical climbers formgroves of the most variegated verdure and fantastic outlines.With such groves the whole surface of the Chacocountry is enamelled; the intervals between being occupiedby plains of rich waving grass, now and then tractsof morass covered with tall and elegant reeds, a few aridspots bristling with singular forms of algarobia and cactus,and, in some places, isolated rocky mounds, of dome62or conical shape, rising above the general level of theplains, as if intended to be used as watch-towers for theirguardianship and safety.

Such are the landscapes which the Grand Chaco presentsto the eye—far different from the bald and uniformmonotony exhibited in the aspect of either Prairieor Pampa; far grander and lovelier than either—inpoint of scenic loveliness, perhaps, unequalled on earth.No wonder, then, that the Indian of South Americaesteems it as an earthly Elysium; no wonder that theSpaniard dreams of it as such,—though to the Spanishpriest and the Spanish soldier it has ever proved moreof a Purgatory than a Paradise. Both have enteredupon its borders, but neither has been able to dwellwithin its domain; and the attempts at its conquest,by sword and cross, have been alike unsuccessful,—equallyand fatally repulsed, throughout a period of morethan three hundred years. At this hour, as at the timeof the Peruvian conquest,—as on the day when theships of Mendoza sailed up the waters of the Parana,—theGran Chaco is an unconquered country, owned byits aboriginal inhabitants, and by them alone. It is truethat it is claimed, both by Spaniard and Portuguese;and by no less than four separate claimants belonging tothese two nationalities. Brazil and Bolivia, Paraguayand the Argentine Confederation, all assert their title toa slice of this earthly paradise; and even quarrel as tohow their boundary lines should intersect it!

There is something extremely ludicrous in theseclaims,—since neither one nor other of the four powerscan show the slightest basis for them. Not one of themcan pretend to the claim of conquest; and far less can63they rest their rights upon the basis of occupation ofpossession. So far from possessing the land, not one ofthem dare set foot over its borders; and they are onlytoo well pleased if its present occupants are contentedto remain within them. The claim, therefore, of bothSpaniard and Portuguese, has no higher title, than thatsome three hundred and fifty years ago it was giventhem by the Pope,—a title not less ludicrous than theirkissing the Pope’s toe to obtain it!

In the midst of these four conflicting claimants, thereappears a fifth, and that is the real owner,—the “redIndian” himself. His claim has “three points of thelaw” in his favor,—possession,—and perhaps thefourth, too,—the power to keep possession. At allevents, he has held it for three hundred years againstall odds and all comers; and who knows that he maynot hold it for three hundred years more?—only, it isto be hoped, for a different use, and under the influenceof a more progressive civilization.

The Indian, then, is the undoubted lord of the “GranChaco.” Let us drop in upon him, and see what sortof an Indian he is, and how he manages this majesticdomain.

After having feasted our eyes upon the rich sceneryof the land,—upon the verdant plains, mottled withcopses of “quebracho” and clumps of the Carandaypalm,—upon landscapes that resemble the most lordlyparks, we look around for the mansions and the owners.The mansion is not there, but the owner stands beforeus.

We are at once struck by his appearance: his persontall and straight as a reed, his frame muscular64his limbs round and well-proportioned, piercing coal-blackeyes, well-formed features, and slightly aquilinenose,—and perhaps we are a little surprised at the lightcolor of his skin. In this we note a decided peculiaritywhich distinguishes him from most other tribes of hisrace. It is not a red Indian we behold, nor yet a copper-coloredsavage; but a man whose complexion isscarce darker than that of the mulatto, and not at alldeeper in hue than many a Spaniard of Andalusiandescent, who boasts possession of the purest “sangreazul;” not one shade darker than thousands of Portuguesedwelling upon the other side of the Brazilian frontier.

And remember, that it is the true skin of the ChacoIndian we have before our view,—and not a paintedone,—for here, almost for the first time, do we encounterthe native complexion of the aboriginal, undisfiguredby those horrid pigments which in these pages have sooften glared before the eyes of our readers.

Of paint, the Chaco Indian scarce knows the use; or,at all events, employs it sparingly, and only at intervals,on very particular and ceremonial occasions. We arespared, therefore, the describing his escutcheon, and apositive relief it is.

It would be an interesting inquiry to trace out thecause of his thus abstaining from a custom almost universalamong his race. Why does he abjure the paint?

Is it because he cannot afford it, or that it is not procurablein his country? No; neither of these can beoffered as a reason. The “annotto” bush (Bixa orellana),and the wild-indigo, abound in his territory; andhe knows how to extract the colors of both,—for his65women do extract them, and use them in dying the yarnof their webs. Other dyewoods—a multitude of others—hecould easily obtain; and even the cochineal cactus,with its gaudy vermilion parasite, is indigenous to hisland. It cannot be the scarcity of the material that preventshim from employing it,—what then?

The cause is unexplained; but may it not be that thisromantic savage, otherwise more highly gifted than therest of his race, is endowed also with a truer sense of thebeautiful and becoming? Quien sabe?

Let it not be understood, however, that he is altogetherfree from the “taint,”—for he does paint sometimes, asalready admitted; and it must be remembered, moreover,that the Chaco Indians are not all of one tribe, norof one community. There are many associations of themscattered over the face of this vast plain, who are not allalike, either in their habits or customs, but, on the contrary,very unlike; who are not even at all times friendlywith each other, but occupied with feuds and vendettasof the most deadly description. Some of these tribespaint most frightfully, while others of them go still farther,and scarify their faces with the indelible tattoo,—acustom that in America is almost confined to the Indiansof the Chaco and a few tribes on the southerntributaries of the Amazon. Happily this custom is onthe decline: the men practise it no longer; but, by asingular perversity of taste, it is still universal amongthe women, and no Chaco belle would be esteemed beautifulwithout a cross of bluish-black dots upon her forehead,a line of like points extending from the angle ofeach eye to the ears, with a variety of similar markingsupon her cheeks, arms, and bosom. All this is done66with the point of a thorn,—the spine of a mimosa, orof the caraguatay aloe; and the dark purple color isobtained by infusing charcoal into the fresh and bleedingpunctures. It is an operation that requires days to complete,and the pain from it is of the most acute and prolongedcharacter, enduring until the poisoned woundsbecome cicatrized. And yet it is borne without a murmur,—justas people in civilized life bear the painfulapplication of hair-dyes and tweezers.

I need not say that the hair of the Chaco Indian doesnot need to be dyed,—that is, unless he were to fancyhaving it of a white, or a red, or yellow color,—not anuncommon fancy among savages.

His taste, however, does not run that way any morethan among civilized dandies, and he is contented withits natural hue, which is that of the raven’s wing. Buthe is not contented to leave it to its natural growth.Only a portion of it,—that which covers the upper partof his head,—is permitted to retain its full length andflowing glories. For the remainder, he has a peculiartonsure of his own; and the hair immediately over theforehead—and sometimes a stripe running all aroundabove the ears, to the back of the head—is either closeshaven with a sharp shell, or plucked entirely out by apair of horn tweezers of native manufacture. Were itnot that the long and luxuriant tresses that still remain,—coveringhis crown, as with a crest,—the shorn circlewould assimilate him to some orders of friars; but, notwithstandingthe similarity of tonsure, there is not muchresemblance between a Chaco Indian and a brother ofthe crucifix and cowl.

This mode of “dressing the hair” is not altogether peculiar67to the Indian of the Gran Chaco. It is also practisedby certain prairie tribes,—the Osage, Pawnee, andtwo or three others; but all these carry the “razor” alittle higher up, leaving a mere patch, or “scalp-lock,”upon the crown.

The Chaco tribes are beardless by nature; and if afew hairs chance to show themselves upon cheek or chin,they are carefully “wed” out. In a like fashion bothmen and women serve their eyebrows and lashes,—sacrificingthese undoubted ornaments, as they say, to aprinciple of utility, since they allege that they can seebetter without them! They laugh at white men, whopreserve these appendages, calling them “ostrich-eyed,”—froma resemblance which they perceive betweenhairy brows and the stiff, hair-like feathers that bristleround the eyes of the rhea, or American ostrich,—awell-known denizen of the Gran Chaco.

The costume of the Chaco Indian is one of exceedingsimplicity; and in this again we observe a peculiar traitof his mind. Instead of the tawdry and tinsel ornaments,in which most savages delight to array themselves,he is contented with a single strip of cloth, foldedtightly around his loins. It is usually either a piece ofwhite cotton, or of wool woven in a tri-color of red,white, and blue, and of hues so brilliant, as to producealtogether a pretty effect. The wear of the womenscarce differs from that of the men, and the covering ofboth, scant as it is, is neither inelegant nor immodest. Itis well adapted to their mode of life, and to their climate,which is that of an eternal spring. When cold windssweep over their grassy plains, they seek protectionunder the folds of a more ample covering, with which68they are provided,—a cloak usually made of the softfur of the “nutria,” or South-American otter, or a robeof the beautiful spotted skin of the jaguar. They wearneither head-dress nor chaussure,—neither pendants fromthe nose, nor the hideous lip ornaments seen among othertribes of South America; but many of them pierce theears; and more especially the women, who split the delicatelobes, and insert into them spiral appendages ofrolled palm-leaf, that hang dangling to their very shoulders.It will be observed, therefore, that among theChaco tribes the women disfigure themselves more thanthe men, and all, no doubt, in the interest of fashion.

It will be seen that the simple dress we have describedleaves the limbs and most part of the body bare. Tothe superficial observer it might be deemed an inelegantcostume, and perhaps so it would be among Europeans,or so-called “whites.” The deformed figures of Europeanpeople—deformed by ages of toil and monarchicalserfdom—would ill bear exposure to the light, neitherwould the tripe-colored skin, of which they are so commonlyconceited. A very different impression is producedby the rich brunette hue,—bronze, if you will,—especiallywhen, as in the case of the Chaco Indian, itcovers a body of proper shape, with arms and limbs insymmetrical proportion. Then, and then only, doescostly clothing appear superfluous, and the eye at onceadmits that there is no fashion on earth equal to that ofthe human form itself.

Above all does it appear graceful on horseback, andalmost universally in this attitude does the Chaco Indianexhibit it. Scarce ever may we meet him afoot, butalways on the back of his beautiful horse,—the two69together presenting the aspect of the Centaur. Andprobably in the resemblance he approaches nearer tothe true ideal of the Grecian myth, than any other horsemanin the world; for the Chaco Indians differ not onlyfrom other “horse-Indians” in their mode of equitation,but also from every other equestrian people. The absurdhigh-peaked saddles of Tartar and Arab, with theirgaudy trappings, are unknown to him,—unknown, too,the ridiculous paraphernalia, half-hiding the horse, in useamong Mexicans, South-American Spaniards, and eventhe Indians of other tribes,—despised by him the platedbits, the embroidered bridles, and the tinkling spurs, sotickling to the vanity of other New-World equestrians.The Chaco horseman needs no such accessories to hiselegance. Saddle he has none, or only the slightestpatch of jaguar-skin,—spurs and stirrups are alike absent.Naked he sits upon his naked horse, the beautifulcurvature of whose form is interrupted by no extraneoustrappings,—even the thong that guides him scarce observablefrom its slightness. Who then can deny hisresemblance to the centaur?

Thus mounted, with no other saddle than that described,no bridle but a thin strip of raw hide loopedaround the lower jaw of his horse, he will gallop wildlyover the plain, wheel in graceful curves to avoid the burrowsof the viscacha, pass at full speed through the close-standingand often thorny trunks of the palms, or, if needbe, stand erect upon the withers of his horse, like a “starrider” of the Hippodrome. In this attitude he looksabroad for his enemies, or the game of which he may bein search; and, thus elevated above surrounding objects,he discovers the ostrich far off upon the plain, the large70deer (cervus campestris), and the beautiful spotted roebucksthat browse in countless herds upon the grass-coveredsavannas.

The dwelling of the Chaco Indian is a tent, not coveredwith skins, but usually with mats woven from theepidermis of young leaves of a palm-tree. It is set upby two long uprights and a ridge-pole, over which themat is suspended—very much after the fashion of thetente d’abri used by Zouave soldiers. His bed is a hammock,swung between the upright poles, or oftener, betweentwo palm-trees growing near. He only seeksshelter in his tent when it rains, and he prevents its floorgetting wet by digging a trench around the outside. Hecares little for exposure to the sun; but his wife is moredelicate, and usually carries over her head a large bunchof rhea feathers, à la parasol, which protects her facefrom the hot scorching beams.

The tent does not stand long in one situation. Ampleas is the supply which Nature affords in the wilds of theChaco, it is not all poured out in any one place. Thiswould be too much convenience, and would result in anevil consequence. The receiver of such a benefit wouldsoon become indolent, from the absence of all necessityfor exertion; and not only his health, but his moralnature, would suffer from such abundance.

Fortunately no such fate is likely to befall the Indianof the Chaco. The food upon which he subsists is derivedfrom many varied sources, a few of which only areto be found in any one particular place, and each only atits own season of the year. For instance, upon the dryplains he pursues the rhea and viscacha, the jaguar, puma,and partridges; in woods and marshy places the different71species of wild hogs (peccaries). On the banks of rivershe encounters the tapir and capivara, and in their waters,fish, utrias, geese, and ducks. In the denser forest-coveredtracts he must look for the various kinds ofmonkeys, which also constitute a portion of his food.When he would gather the legumes, of the algarobias—ofseveral species—or collects the sugary sap of thecaraguatay, he must visit the tracts where the mimosæand bromelias alone flourish; and then he employs muchof his time in searching for the nests of wild bees, fromthe honey of which and the seeds of the algarobia hedistils a pleasant but highly intoxicating drink. To hiscredit, however, he uses this but sparingly, and only upongrand occasions of ceremony; how different from thebestial chicha-drinking revellers of the Pampas!

These numerous journeys, and the avocations connectwith them, hinder the Chaco Indian from falling into habitsof idleness, and preserve his health to a longevity thatis remarkable: so much so, that “to live as long as aChaco Indian,” has become a proverbial expression in thesettlements of South America.

The old Styrian monk Dobrezhoffer has chronicledthe astounding facts, that among these people a man ofeighty is reckoned to be in the prime of manhood; thata hundred years is accounted a common age; and thatmany of them are still hale and hearty at the ageof one hundred and twenty! Allowing for a little exaggerationin the statements of the monk, it is neverthelesscertain that the Indians of the Gran Chaco, partlyowing to their fine climate, and partly to their mode oflife and subsistence, enjoy health and strength to a veryold age, and to a degree unknown in less-favored regions72of the world. Of this there is ample and trustworthytestimony.

The food of the Chaco Indian is of a simple character,and he makes no use either of salt or spices. He is usuallythe owner of a small herd of cattle and a few sheep,which he has obtained by plundering the neighboring settlementsof the Spaniards. It is towards those of thesouth and west that he generally directs his hostile forays;for he is at peace with the riverine provinces,—Brazilian,Paraguayan, and Correntine.

In these excursions he travels long distances, crossingmany a fordless stream and river, and taking along withhim wife, children, tents, and utensils, in short, everythingwhich he possesses. He fords the streams by swimming,using one hand to guide his horse. With this hand hecan also propel himself, while in the other he carries hislong lance, on the top of which he poises any object hedoes not wish should be wetted. A “balza,” called “pelota,”made of bull’s hide, and more like a square boxthan a boat, carries over the house utensils and the puppies,of which there are always a large number. The“precious baby” is also a passenger by the balza. Thepelota is propelled, or rather, pulled over, by means of atiller-rope, held in the teeth of a strong swimmer, or tiedto the tail of a horse; and thus the crossing is effected.

Returning with his plunder—with herds of hornedcattle or flocks of sheep—not unfrequently with humancaptives, women and children, the crossing becomes moredifficult; but he is certain to effect it without loss, andalmost without danger of being overtaken in the pursuit.

His freebooting habits should not be censured too73gravely. Many extenuating circumstances must betaken into consideration,—his wrongs and sanguinarypersecutions. It must be remembered that the hostilitiescommenced on the opposite side; and with the Indianthe habit is not altogether indigenous, but ratherthe result of the principle of retaliation. He is nearkindred to the Incas,—in fact, some of the Chacotribes are remnants of the scattered Peruvian race, andhe still remembers the sanguinary slaughter of his ancestorsby the Pizarros and Almagros. Therefore, usingthe phraseology of the French tribunals, we may saythere are “extenuating circumstances in his favor.” Onecircumstance undoubtedly speaks trumpet-tongued for theChaco Indian; and that is, he does not torture his captives,even when white men have fallen into his hands!As to the captive women and children, their treatment israther gentle than otherwise; in fact, they are adoptedinto the tribe, and share, alike with the rest, the pleasuresas well as the hardships of a savage life.

When the Chaco Indian possesses horned cattle andsheep, he eats mutton and beef; but if these are wanting,he must resort to the chase. He captures deer andostriches by running them down with his swift steed,and piercing them with his long spear; and occasionallyhe uses the bolas. For smaller game he employs thebow and arrow, and fish are also caught by shootingthem with arrows.

The Chaco Indian is the owner of a breed of dogs,and large packs of these animals may be seen aroundhis camping-ground, or following the cavalcade in itsremoval from place to place. They are small creatures,—supposedto be derived from a European stock, but74they are wonderfully prolific, the female often bringingforth twelve puppies at a birth. They burrow in theground, and subsist on the offal of the camp. They areused in running down the spotted roebuck, in huntingthe capivara, the great ant-bear, viscachas, and othersmall animals. The tapir is taken in traps, and alsospeared, when the opportunity offers. His flesh is relishedby the Chaco Indian, but his hide is of moreconsequence, as from it bags, whips, and various otherarticles can be manufactured. The peccary of two species(dicotyles torquatus and collaris) is also pursued bythe dogs, and speared by the hunter while pausing tobay the yelping pack; and the great American tiger(jaguar) is killed in a like manner. The slaying of thisfierce and powerful quadruped is one of the feats of theChaco hunter, and both its skin and flesh are articles ofeager demand. The latter is particularly sought for;as by eating the flesh of so strong and courageous acreature the Indian fancies his own strength and couragewill be increased. When a jaguar is killed, its carcassbecomes the common property of all; and each individualof the tribe must have his slice, or “griskin,”—howeversmall the piece may be after such multipliedsubdivision! For the same reason, the flesh of the wildboar is relished; also that of the ant-bear—one of themost courageous of animals,—and of the tapir, on accountof its great strength.

The bread of the Chaco Indian is derived, as beforementioned, from several species of mimosæ, called indefinitelyalgarobias, and by the missionary monksknown as “St. John’s bread.” Palms of various kindsfurnish edible nuts; and there are many trees in the75Chaco forests that produce luscious fruits. With thesethe Indian varies his diet, and also with wild honey,—amost important article, for reasons already assigned.In the Chaco there are stingless bees, of numerous distinctspecies,—a proof of the many blossoms whichbloom as it were “unseen” in that flowery Elysium.The honey of these bees—of some of the species inparticular—is known to be of the finest and purestquality. In the Spanish settlements it commands thehighest price, and is very difficult to be obtained,—forthe Chaco Indian is but little given to commerce, andonly occasionally brings it to market. He has but fewwants to satisfy, and cares not for the tinsel of the trader:hence it is that most of the honey he gathers isreserved for his own use. He searches for the bees’nest by observing the flight of the insect, as it passesback and forward over the wild parterre; and his keennessof sight—far surpassing that of a European—enableshim to trace its movements in the air, and followit to its hoard. He alleges that he could not accomplishthis so well, were he encumbered with eyebrows andlashes, and offers this as one of his reasons for extractingthese hirsute appendages. There may be somethingin what he says,—strange as it sounds to the ear of onewho is not a bee-hunter. He finds the nest at length,—sometimesin a hollow tree, sometimes upon a branch,—thelatter kind of nest being a large mass, of a substancelike blotting-paper, and hanging suspended from thetwigs. Sometimes he traces the insect to a subterraneandwelling; but it must be remarked that all these aredifferent species of bees, that build their nests and constructthe cells of their honeycombs each in its own76favorite place, and according to its own fashion. Thebee-hunter cares not how—so long as he can find thenest; though he would prefer being guided to one builtupon a species of thick octagonal cactus, known as thehabitat of the bee “tosimi.” This preference is causedby the simple fact—that of all the honey in the Chaco,that of the bee “tosimi” is the sweetest.

It is to be regretted that, with his many virtues, andhis fine opportunity of exercising them, the Chaco Indianwill not consent to remain in peace and good-willwith all men. It seems a necessity of his nature tohave an occasional shy at some enemy, whether white orof his own complexion. But, indeed, it would be ridiculousto censure him for this, since it appears also to be avice universal among mankind; for where is the tribeor nation, savage or civilized, who does not practise it,whenever it feels bold enough or strong enough to doso? The Chaco Indian is not alone in his disregardof the sixth commandment,—not the only being onearth who too frequently goes forth to battle.

He has two distinct kinds of enemies,—one of European,the other of his own race,—almost of his ownkindred, you would say. But it must be rememberedthat there are several distinct tribes dwelling in theChaco; who, although presenting a certain similitude,are in many respects widely dissimilar; and, so far fromforming one nation, or living in harmonious alliance witheach other, are more frequently engaged in the mostdeadly hostilities. Their wars are all conducted onhorseback,—all cavalry skirmishes,—the Chaco Indiandisdaining to touch the ground with his foot. Dismountedhe would feel himself vanquished,—as muchout of his element as a fish out of water!

77His war weapons are of a primitive kind; they arethe bow and lance, and a species of club, known inSpanish phraselogy as the “macana.” This last weaponis also found in the hands of several of the Amazoniantribes, though differing slightly in its construction. The“macana” of the Chaco Indian is a short, stout pieceof heavy iron-wood,—usually a species known as thequebracha, or “axe-breaker,” which grows plentifullythroughout the Paraguayan countries. Numerous speciesare termed “quebracha” in Spanish-American countries,as there are numerous “iron-woods.” That of Paraguay,like most others that have obtained this name, isa species of ebony-wood, or lignum-vitæ,—in short, atrue guaiacum. The wood is hard, solid, and heavyalmost as metal; and therefore just the very stuff fora war-club.

The macana of the Chaco Indian is short,—not muchover two feet in length, and is used both for striking inthe hand and throwing to a distance. It is thicker, andof course heavier, at both extremities; and the mode ofgrasping it is round the narrow part in the middle. TheIndian youths, while training for war, practise throwingthe macana, as other people play at skittles or quoits.

The lazo and bolas are both in the hands of the Chacotribes, but these contrivances are used sparingly, andmore for hunting than war. They rarely trouble themselveswith them on a real war expedition.

Their chief weapons against an enemy are their longlances,—for these are far the most effective arms for aman mounted on horseback. Those of the Chaco Indianare of enormous length, their shafts being oftenfifteen feet from butt to barb. They use them also when78mounting on horseback, in a fashion peculiar to themselves.They mount by the right side, contrary to ourEuropean mode; nor is there the slightest resemblancein any other respect between the two fashions of gettinginto the saddle. With the Chaco Indian there is no puttingtoes into stirrups,—no tugging at the poor steed’swithers,—no clinging or climbing into the seat. Heplaces the butt of his lance upon the ground, grasps it alittle above his head with the right hand, and then raisinghis lithe body with an elastic spring, he drops like acat upon the spine of his well-trained steed. A word,—atouch of his knee, or other well-understood signal,—andthe animal is off like an arrow.

When the Chaco Indian goes to war against the whites,his arms are those already described. He is not yetinitiated into the use of guns and gunpowder, though heoften experiences their deadly effects. Indeed, the wonderis that he could have maintained his independence solong, with such weapons opposed to him. Gunpowderhas often given cowards the victory over brave men;but the Chaco Indian, even without gunpowder, hasmanaged somehow or other to preserve his freedom.

When he makes an expedition against the white settlements,he carries no shield or other defensive armor.He did so at one period of his history; but experiencehas taught him that these contrivances are of little useagainst leaden bullets; and he has thrown them away,taking them up again, however, when he goes to warwith enemies of his own kind.

In attacking a settlement or village of the whites, oneof his favorite strategic plans is to set the houses onfire; and in this he very often succeeds,—almost certainly79when the thatch chances to be dry. His plan isto project an arrow with a piece of blazing cotton fastenednear the head. For this purpose he uses thestrongest kind of bow, and lying upon his back, bendsit with his feet. By this means a much longer range isobtained, and the aim is of little consequence, so long asthe arrow falls upon the roof of house.

On going to war with a hostile tribe of his own kindand color, he equips himself in a manner altogether different.His face is then painted most frightfully, and inthe most hideous designs that his imagination can suggest,while his body is almost entirely covered by a completesuit of mail. The thick hide of the tapir furnishes himwith the materials for helmet, cuirass, cuisses, greaves,everything,—and underneath is a lining of jaguar-skin.Thus accoutred he is in little danger from the arrows ofthe enemy, though he is also sadly encumbered in themanagement of his horse; and were he upon a plunderingexpedition against the whites, such an encumbrancewould certainly bring him to grief. He knows that verywell, and therefore he never goes in such guise upon anyforay that is directed towards the settlements.

The Chaco Indian has now been at peace with hiseastern neighbors—both Spaniards and Portuguese—fora considerable length of time; but he still keeps uphostility with the settlements on the south,—those ofCordova and San Luis,—and often returns from thesewretched provinces laden with booty. If he shouldchance to bring away anything that is of no use tohim, or that may appear superfluous in his savage home,—aharp or guitar, a piece of costly furniture, or evena handsome horse,—he is not required to throw it away80he knows that he can find purchasers on the other sideof the river,—among the Spanish merchants of Corrientesor Paraguay, who are ready at any time tobecome the receivers of the property stolen from theirkindred of the south!

Such queer three-cornered dealings are also carried onin the northern countries of Spanish America,—in theprovinces of Chihuahua, New Leon, and New Mexico.They are there called “cosas de Mexico.” It appearsthey are equally “cosas de Paraguay.”


(Video) Visiting the Tribe that EATS HUMANS (Papua Island)


Perhaps no race of people has more piqued thecuriosity of the civilized world than those little yellowsavages of South Africa, known as the Bushmen. Fromthe first hour in which European nations became acquaintedwith their existence, a keen interest was excitedby the stories told of their peculiar character andhabits; and although they have been visited by manytravellers, and many descriptions have been given ofthem, it is but truth to say, that the interest in themhas not yet abated, and the Bushmen of Africa are almostas great a curiosity at this hour as they werewhen Di Gama first doubled the Cape. Indeed, thereis no reason why this should not be, for the habits andpersonal appearance of these savages are just now as theywere then, and our familiarity with them is not muchgreater. Whatever has been added to our knowledgeof their character, has tended rather to increase thandiminish our curiosity.

At first the tales related of them were supposed to befilled with wilful exaggerations, and the early travellerswere accused of dealing too much in the marvellous.This is a very common accusation brought against the82early travellers; and in some instances it is a just one.But in regard to the accounts given of the Bushmenand their habits there has been far less exaggerationthan might be supposed; and the more insight we obtaininto their peculiar customs and modes of subsistence,the more do we become satisfied that almost everythingalleged of them is true. In fact, it would be difficultfor the most inventive genius to contrive a fanciful account,that would be much more curious or interestingthan the real and bonâ fide truth that can be told aboutthis most peculiar people.

Where do the Bushmen dwell? what is their country?These are questions not so easily answered, asin reality they are not supposed to possess any countryat all, any more than the wild animals amidst whichthey roam, and upon whom they prey. There is noBushman’s country upon the map, though several spotsin Southern Africa have at times received this designation.It is not possible, therefore, to delineate theboundaries of their country, since it has no boundaries,any more than that of the wandering Gypsies of Europe.

If the Bushmen, however, have no country in theproper sense of the word, they have a “range,” and oneof the most extensive character—since it covers thewhole southern portion of the African continent, fromthe Cape of Good Hope to the twentieth degree of southlatitude, extending east and west from the country of theCaffres to the Atlantic Ocean. Until lately it was believedthat the Bushman-range did not extend far to thenorth of the Orange river; but this has proved an erroneousidea. They have recently “turned up” in theland of the Dammaras, and also in the great Kalahari83desert, hundreds of miles north from the Orange riverand it is not certain that they do not range still nearer tothe equatorial line—though it may be remarked thatthe country in that direction does not favor the supposition,not being of the peculiar nature of a Bushman’scountry. The Bushman requires a desert for his dwelling-place.It is an absolute necessity of his nature, asit is to the ostrich and many species of animals; andnorth of the twentieth degree of latitude, South Africadoes not appear to be of this character. The heroicLivingstone has dispelled the long-cherished illusion ofthe Geography about the “Great-sanded level” of theseinterior regions; and, instead, disclosed to the world afertile land, well watered, and covered with a profuseand luxuriant vegetation. In such a land there will beno Bushmen.

The limits we have allowed them, however, are sufficientlylarge,—fifteen degrees of latitude, and an equallyextensive range from east to west. It must not be supposed,however, that they populate this vast territory.On the contrary, they are only distributed over it inspots, in little communities, that have no relationship orconnection with one another, but are separated by wideintervals, sometimes of hundreds of miles in extent. Itis only in the desert tracts of South Africa that theBushmen exist,—in the karoos, and treeless, waterlessplains—among the barren ridges and rocky defiles—inthe ravines formed by the beds of dried-up rivers—insituations so sterile, so remote, so wild and inhospitableas to offer a home to no other human being save theBushman himself.

If we state more particularly the localities where the84haunts of the Bushman are to be found, we may specifythe barren lands on both sides of the Orange River,—includingmost of its head-waters, and down to its mouth,—andalso the Great Kalahari desert. Through all thisextensive region the kraals of the Bushmen may beencountered. At one time they were common enoughwithin the limits of the Cape colony itself, and somehalf-caste remnants still exist in the more remote districts;but the cruel persecution of the boers has had theeffect of extirpating these unfortunate savages; and, likethe elephant, the ostrich, and the eland, the true wildBushman is now only to be met with beyond the frontiersof the colony.

About the origin of the Bushmen we can offer noopinion. They are generally considered as a branchof the great Hottentot family; but this theory is farfrom being an established fact. When South Africawas first discovered and colonized, both Hottentots andBushmen were found there, differing from each otherjust as they differ at this day; and though there aresome striking points of resemblance between them, thereare also points of dissimilarity that are equally as striking,if we regard the two people as one. In personalappearance there is a certain general likeness: that is,both are woolly-haired, and both have a Chinese castof features, especially in the form and expression of theeye. Their color too is nearly the same; but, on the otherhand, the Hottentots are larger than the Bushmen. Itis not in their persons, however, that the most essentialpoints of dissimilarity are to be looked for, but rather intheir mental characters; and here we observe distinctionsso marked and antithetical, that it is difficult to85reconcile them with the fact that these two people areof one race. Whether a different habit of life has producedthis distinctive character, or whether it has influencedthe habits of life, are questions not easily answered.We only know that a strange anomaly exists—theanomaly of two people being personally alike—thatis, possessing physical characteristics that seem toprove them of the same race, while intellectually, as weshall presently see, they have scarce one character incommon. The slight resemblance that exists betweenthe languages of the two is not to be regarded as a proofof their common origin. It only shows that they havelong lived in juxtaposition, or contiguous to each other;a fact which cannot be denied.

In giving a more particular description of the Bushman,it will be seen in what respect he resembles thetrue Hottentot, and in what he differs from him, bothphysically and mentally, and this description may nowbe given.

The Bushman is the smallest man with whom we areacquainted; and if the terms “dwarf” and “pigmy” maybe applied to any race of human beings, the South-AfricanBushmen presents the fairest claim to these titles.He stands only 4 feet 6 inches upon his naked soles—nevermore than 4 feet 9, and not unfrequently is heencountered of still less height—even so diminutive as4 feet 2. His wife is of still shorter stature, and thisLilliputian lady is often the mother of children when thecrown of her head is just 3 feet 9 inches above the solesof her feet. It has been a very common thing to contradictthe assertion that these people are such pigmiesin stature, and even Dr. Livingstone has done so in his86late magnificent work. The doctor states, very jocosely,that they are “not dwarfish—that the specimens broughtto Europe have been selected, like costermongers’ dogs,for their extreme ugliness.”

But the doctor forgets that it is not from “the specimensbrought to Europe” that the above standard of theBushman’s height has been derived, but from the testimonyof numerous travellers—many of them as trustworthyas the doctor himself—from actual measurementsmade by them upon the spot. It is hardly to be believedthat such men as Sparmann and Burchell, Barrow andLichtenstein, Harris, Campbell, Patterson, and a dozenothers that might be mentioned, should all give an erroneoustestimony on this subject. These travellers havediffered notoriously on other points, but in this they allagree, that a Bushman of five feet in height is a tall manin his tribe. Dr. Livingstone speaks of Bushmen “sixfeet high,” and these are the tribes lately discovered livingso far north as the Lake Nagami. It is doubtfulwhether these are Bushmen at all. Indeed, the descriptiongiven by the doctor, not only of their height and thecolor of their skin, but also some hints about their intellectualcharacter, would lead to the belief that he hasmistaken some other people for Bushmen. It must beremembered that the experience of this great travellerhas been chiefly among the Bechuana tribes, and hisknowledge of the Bushman proper does not appear tobe either accurate or extensive. No man is expected toknow everybody; and amid the profusion of new facts,which the doctor has so liberally laid before the world,it would be strange if a few inaccuracies should notoccur. Perhaps we should have more confidence if this87was the only one we are enabled to detect; but the doctoralso denies that there is anything either terrific ormajestic in the “roaring of the lion.” Thus speaks he:“The same feeling which has induced the modern painterto caricature the lion has led the sentimentalist to considerthe lion’s roar as the most terrific of all earthlysounds. We hear of the ‘majestic roar of the king ofbeasts.’ To talk of the majestic roar of the lion is meremajestic twaddle.”

The doctor is certainly in error here. Does he supposethat any one is ignorant of the character of thelion’s roar? Does he fancy that no one has ever heardit but himself? If it be necessary to go to South Africato take the true measure of a Bushman, it is not necessaryto make that long journey in order to obtain a correctidea of the compass of the lion’s voice. We canhear it at home in all its modulations; and any one whohas ever visited the Zoölogical Gardens in Regent’sPark—nay, any one who chances to live within half amile of that magnificent menagerie—will be very muchdisposed to doubt the correctness of the doctor’s assertion.If there be a sound upon the earth above allothers “majestic,” a noise above all others “terrific,” itis certainly the roar of the lion. Ask Albert Terraceand St. John’s Wood!

But let us not be too severe upon the doctor. TheWorld is indebted to him much more than to any othermodern traveller, and all great men indulge occasionallyin the luxury of an eccentric opinion. We havebrought the point forward here for a special purpose,—toillustrate a too much neglected truth. Error is notalways on the side of exaggeration; but is sometimes88also found in the opposite extreme of a too-squeamishmoderation. We find the learned Professor Lichtensteinridiculing poor old Hernandez, the natural historian ofMexico, for having given a description of certain fabulousanimals—fabulous, he terms them, because to himthey were odd and unknown. But it turns out that theold author was right, and the animals exist! Howmany similar misconceptions might be recorded of theBuffons, and other closet philosophers—urged, too, withthe most bitter zeal! Incredulity carried too far is butanother form of credulity.

But to return to our proper theme, and complete theportrait of the Bushman. We have given his height.It is in tolerable proportion to his other dimensions.When young, he appears stout enough; but this is onlywhen a mere boy. At the age of sixteen he has reachedall the manhood he is ever destined to attain; and thenhis flesh disappears; his body assumes a meagre outline;his arms and limbs grow thin; the calf disappears fromhis legs; the plumpness from his cheeks; and altogetherhe becomes as wretched-looking an object as it is possibleto conceive in human shape. Older, his skin growsdry, corrugated, and scaly; his bones protrude; and hisknee, elbow, and ankle-joints appear like horny knobsplaced at the ends of what more resemble long straightsticks than the arms and limbs of a human being.

The color of this creature may be designated a yellow-brown,though it is not easy to determine it to a shade.The Bushman appears darker than he really is; sincehis skin serves him for a towel, and every species ofdirt that discommodes his fingers he gets rid of by wipingit off on his arms, sides, or breast. The result is,89that his whole body is usually coated over with a stratumof grease and filth, which has led to the belief that heregularly anoints himself—a custom common amongmany savage tribes. This, however, the Bushman doesnot do: the smearing toilet is merely occasional or accidental,and consists simply in the fat of whatever fleshhe has been eating being transferred from his fingers tothe cuticle of his body. This is never washed off again—forwater never touches the Bushman’s hide. Such ause of water is entirely unknown to him, not even forwashing his face. Should he have occasion to cleansehis hands—which the handling of gum or some likesubstance sometimes compels him to do—he performsthe operation, not with soap and water, but with the drydung of cattle or some wild animal. A little rubbing ofthis upon his skin is all the purification the Bushmanbelieves to be needed.

Of course, the dirt darkens his complexion; but hehas the vanity at times to brighten it up—not bymaking it whiter—but rather a brick-red. A littleochreous earth produces the color he requires; and withthis he smears his body all over—not excepting eventhe crown of his head, and the scant stock of wool thatcovers it.

Bushmen have been washed. It requires some scrubbing,and a plentiful application either of soda or soap,to reach the true skin and bring out the natural color;but the experiment has been made, and the result provesthat the Bushman is not so black as, under ordinary circumstances,he appears. A yellow hue shines throughthe epidermis, somewhat like the color of the Chinese,or a European in the worst stage of jaundice—the eye90only not having that complexion. Indeed, the featuresof the Bushman, as well as the Hottentot, bear a strongsimilarity to those of the Chinese, and the Bushman’seye is essentially of the Mongolian type. His hair,however, is entirely of another character. Instead ofbeing long, straight, and lank, it is short, crisp, andcurly,—in reality, wool. Its scantiness is a characteristic;and in this respect the Bushman differs from thewoolly-haired tribes both of Africa and Australasia.These generally have “fleeces” in profusion, whereasboth Hottentot and Bushman have not enough to halfcover their scalps; and between the little knot-like“kinks” there are wide spaces without a single hairupon them. The Bushman’s “wool” is naturally black,but red ochre and the sun soon convert the color into aburnt reddish hue.

The Bushman has no beard or other hairy encumbrances.Were they to grow, he would root them outas useless inconveniences. He has a low-bridged nose,with wide flattened nostrils; an eye that appears a mereslit between the eyelids; a pair of high cheek-bones,and a receding forehead. His lips are not thick, as inthe negro, and he is furnished with a set of fine whiteteeth, which, as he grows older, do not decay, but presentthe singular phenomenon of being regularly worndown to the stumps—as occurs to the teeth of sheepand other ruminant animals.

Notwithstanding the small stature of the Bushman,his frame is wiry and capable of great endurance. Heis also as agile as an antelope.

From the description above given, it will be inferredthat the Bushman is no beauty. Neither is the Bushwoman;91but, on the contrary, both having passed theperiod of youth, become absolutely ugly,—the woman,if possible, more so than the man.

And yet, strange to say, many of the Bush-girls, whenyoung, have a cast of prettiness almost amounting tobeauty. It is difficult to tell in what this beauty consists.Something, perhaps, in the expression of theoblique almond-shaped eye, and the small well-formedmouth and lips, with the shining white teeth. Theirlimbs, too, at this early age, are often well rounded;and many of them exhibit forms that might serve asmodels for a sculptor. Their feet are especially well shaped,and, in point of size, they are by far the smallestin the world. Had the Chinese ladies been giftedby nature with such little feet, they might have beenspared the torture of compressing them.

The foot of a Bushwoman rarely measures so muchas six inches in length; and full-grown girls have beenseen, whose feet, submitted to the test of an actualmeasurement, proved but a very little over four inches!

Intellectually, the Bushman does not rank so low asis generally believed. He has a quick, cheerful mind,that appears ever on the alert,—as may be judged bythe constant play of his little piercing black eye,—andthough he does not always display much skill inthe manufacture of his weapons, he can do so if hepleases. Some tribes construct their bows, arrows, fish-baskets,and other implements and utensils with admirableingenuity; but in general the Bushman takes nopride in fancy weapons. He prefers having them effective,and to this end he gives proof of his skill in themanufacture of most deadly poisons with which to anoint92his arrows. Furthermore, he is ever active and readyfor action; and in this his mind is in complete contrastwith that of the Hottentot, with whom indolence is apredominant and well-marked characteristic. The Bushman,on the contrary, is always on the qui vive; alwaysready to be doing where there is anything to do; andthere is not much opportunity for him to be idle, as herarely ever knows where the next meal is to come from.The ingenuity which he displays in the capture of variouskinds of game,—far exceeding that of other huntingtribes of Africa,—as also the cunning exhibited by himwhile engaged in cattle-stealing and other plunderingforays, prove an intellectual capacity more than proportionedto his diminutive body; and, in short, innearly every mental characteristic does he differ fromthe supposed cognate race—the Hottentot.

It would be hardly just to give the Bushman a characterfor high courage; but, on the other hand, it wouldbe as unjust to charge him with cowardice. Small ashe is, he shows plenty of “pluck,” and when brought tobay, his motto is, “No surrender.” He will fight tothe death, discharging his poisoned arrows as long ashe is able to bend a bow. Indeed, he has generallybeen treated to shooting, or clubbing to death, whereverand whenever caught, and he knows nothing ofquarter. Just as a badger he ends his life,—his laststruggle being an attempt to do injury to his assailant.Tins trait in his character has, no doubt, been strengthenedby the inhuman treatment that, for a century, hehas been receiving from the brutal boers of the colonialfrontier.

The man-eaters and other odd people. (3)

The costume of the Bushman is of the most primitive93character,—differing only from that worn by our firstparents, in that the fig-leaf used by the men is a patchof jackal-skin, and that of the women a sort of fringe orbunch of leather thongs, suspended around the waist bya strap, and hanging down to the knees. It is in realitya little apron of dressed skin; or, to speak more accurately,two of them, one above the other, both cut intonarrow strips or thongs, from below the waist downward.Other clothing than this they have none, if we except alittle skin kaross, or cloak, which is worn over theirshoulders;—that of the women being provided with a bagor hood at the top, that answers the naked “piccaninny”for a nest or cradle. Sandals protect their feet from thesharp stones, and these are of the rudest description,—merelya piece of the thick hide cut a little longer andbroader than the soles of the feet, and fastened at thetoes and round the ankles by thongs of sinews. Anattempt at ornament is displayed in a leathern skull-cap,or more commonly a circlet around the head, upon whichare sewed a number of “cowries,” or small shells of theCyprea moneta.

It is difficult to say where these shells are procured,—asthey are not the product of the Bushman’s country,but are only found on the far shores of the Indian Ocean.Most probably he obtains them by barter, and after theyhave passed through many hands; but they must costthe Bushman dear, as he sets the highest value uponthem. Other ornaments consist of old brass or copperbuttons, attached to the little curls of his woolly hair;and, among the women, strings of little pieces of ostrichegg-shells, fashioned to resemble beads; besides a perfectload of leathern bracelets on the arms, and a like94profusion of similar circlets on the limbs, often reachingfrom the knee to the ankle-joint.

Red ochre over the face and hair is the fashionabletoilette, and a perfumery is obtained by rubbing theskin with the powdered leaves of the “buku” plant,a species of diosma. According to a quaint old writer,this causes them to “stink like a poppy,” and would behighly objectionable, were it not preferable to the odorwhich they have without it.

They do not tattoo, nor yet perforate the ears, lips, ornose,—practices so common among savage tribes. Someinstances of nose-piercing have been observed, with theusual appendage of a piece of wood or porcupine’s quillinserted in the septum, but this is a custom rather of theCaffres than Bushmen. Among the latter it is rare. Agrand ornament is obtained by smearing the face andhead with a shining micaceous paste, which is procuredfrom a cave in one particular part of the Bushman’srange; but this, being a “far-fetched” article, is proportionablyscarce and dear. It is only a fine belle whocan afford to give herself a coat of blink-slip,—as thissparkling pigment is called by the colonists. Many ofthe women, and men as well, carry in their hands thebushy tail of a jackal. The purpose is to fan off theflies, and serve also as a “wipe,” to disembarrass theirbodies of perspiration when the weather chances to beover hot.

The domicile of the Bushman next merits description.It is quite as simple and primitive as his dress, andgives him about equal trouble in its construction. Ifa cave or cleft can be found in the rocks, of sufficientcapacity to admit his own body and those of his family—never95a very large one—he builds no house. Thecave contents him, be it ever so tight a squeeze. Ifthere be no cave handy, an overhanging rock will answerequally as well. He regards not the open sides,nor the draughts. It is only the rain which he does notrelish; and any sort of a shed, that will shelter him fromthat, will serve him for a dwelling. If neither cave,crevice, nor impending cliff can be found in the neighborhood,he then resorts to the alternative of house-building;and his style of architecture does not differgreatly from that of the orang-outang. A bush is chosenthat grows near to two or three others,—the branchesof all meeting in a common centre. Of these branchesthe builder takes advantage, fastening them together atthe ends, and wattling some into the others. Over thisframework a quantity of grass is scattered in such afashion as to cast off a good shower of rain, and then the“carcass” of the building is considered complete. Theinside work remains yet to be done, and that is next setabout. A large roundish or oblong hole is scraped outin the middle of the floor. It is made wide enough anddeep enough to hold the bodies of three or four Bush-people,though a single large Caffre or Dutchman wouldscarcely find room in it. Into this hole is flung aquantity of dry grass, and arranged so as to present theappearance of a gigantic nest. This nest, or lair, becomesthe bed of the Bushman, his wife, or wives,—forhe frequently keeps two,—and the other members ofhis family. Coiled together like monkeys, and coveredwith their skin karosses, they all sleep in it,—whether“sweetly” or “soundly,” I shall not take upon me todetermine.

96It is supposed to be this fashion of literally “sleepingin the bush,” as also the mode by which he skulks andhides among bushes,—invariably taking to them whenpursued,—that has given origin to the name Bushman,or Bosjesman, as it is in the language of the colonialDutch. This derivation is probable enough, and nobetter has been offered.

The Bushman sometimes constructs himself a moreelaborate dwelling; that is, some Bushmen;—for itshould be remarked that there are a great manytribes or communities of these people, and they are notall so very low in the scale of civilization. None, however,ever arrive at the building of a house,—not evena hut. A tent is their highest effort in the buildingline, and that is of the rudest description, scarce deservingthe name. Its covering is a mat, which they weaveout of a species of rush that grows along some of thedesert streams; and in the fabrication of the coveringthey display far more ingenuity than in the planning orconstruction of the tent itself. The mat, in fact, issimply laid over two poles, that are bent into the formof an arch, by having both ends stuck into the ground.A second piece of matting closes up one end; and theother, left open, serves for the entrance. As a door isnot deemed necessary, no further construction is required,and the tent is “pitched” complete. It onlyremains to scoop out the sand, and make the nest asalready described.

It is said that the Goths drew their ideas of architecturefrom the aisles of the oak forest; the Chinesefrom their Mongolian tents; and the Egyptians fromtheir caves in the rocks. Beyond a doubt, the Bushmanhas borrowed his from the nest of the ostrich!

97It now becomes necessary to inquire how the Bushmanspends his time? how he obtains subsistence? andwhat is the nature of his food? All these questions canbe answered, though at first it may appear difficult toanswer them. Dwelling, as he always does, in the veryheart of the desert, remote from forests that might furnishhim with some sort of food—trees that might yieldfruit,—far away from a fertile soil, with no knowledgeof agriculture, even if it were near,—with no flocks orherds; neither sheep, cattle, horses, nor swine,—nodomestic animals but his lean, diminutive dogs,—howdoes this Bushman procure enough to eat? What arehis sources of supply?

We shall see. Being neither a grazier nor a farmer,he has other means of subsistence,—though it must beconfessed that they are of a precarious character, andoften during his life does the Bushman find himself onthe very threshold of starvation. This, however, resultsless from the parsimony of Nature than the Bushman’sown improvident habits,—a trait in his character whichis, perhaps, more strongly developed in him than anyother. We shall have occasion to refer to it presently.

His first and chief mode of procuring his food is bythe chase: for, although he is surrounded by the sterilewilderness, he is not the only animated being who haschosen the desert for his home. Several species ofbirds—one the largest of all—and quadrupeds, sharewith the Bushman the solitude and safety of this desolateregion. The rhinoceros can dwell there; and innumerous streams are found the huge hippopotami;whilst quaggas, zebras, and several species of antelopefrequent the desert plains as their favorite “stamping”98ground. Some of these animals can live almost withoutwater; but when they do require it, what to them is agallop of fifty miles to some well-known “vley” or pool?It will be seen, therefore, that the desert has its numerousdenizens. All these are objects of the Bushman’spursuit, who follows them with incessant pertinacity—asif he were a beast of prey, furnished by Nature withthe most carnivorous propensities.

In the capture of these animals he displays an almostincredible dexterity and cunning. His mode of approachingthe sly ostrich, by disguising himself in theskin of one of these birds, is so well known that I neednot describe it here; but the ruses he adopts for capturingor killing other sorts of game are many of themequally ingenious. The pit-trap is one of his favoritecontrivances; and this, too, has been often described,—butoften very erroneously. The pit is not a largehollow,—as is usually asserted,—but rather of dimensionsproportioned to the size of the animal that is expectedto fall into it. For game like the rhinoceros oreland antelope, it is dug of six feet in length and threein width at the top; gradually narrowing to the bottom,where it ends in a trench of only twelve inches broad.Six or seven feet is considered deep enough; and theanimal, once into it, gets so wedged at the narrow bottompart as to be unable to make use of its legs for thepurpose of springing out again. Sometimes a sharpstake or two are used, with the view of impaling thevictim; but this plan is not always adopted. There isnot much danger of a quadruped that drops in evergetting out again, till he is dragged out by the Bushmanin the shape of a carcass.

99The Bushman’s ingenuity does not end here. Besidesthe construction of the trap, it is necessary thegame should be guided into it. Were this not done, thepit might remain a long time empty, and, as a necessaryconsequence, so too might the belly of the Bushman.In the wide plain few of the gregarious animals have apath which they follow habitually; only where there isa pool may such beaten trails be found, and of these theBushman also avails himself; but they are not enough.Some artificial means must be used to make the trapspay—for they are not constructed without much laborand patience. The plan adopted by the Bushman toaccomplish this exhibits some points of originality. Hefirst chooses a part of the plain which lies between twomountains. No matter if these be distant from eachother: a mile, or even two, will not deter the Bushmanfrom his design. By the help of his whole tribe—men,women, and children—he constructs a fence from onemountain to the other. The material used is whatevermay be most ready to the hand: stones, sods, brush, ordead timber, if this be convenient. No matter howrude the fence: it need not either be very high. Heleaves several gaps in it; and the wild animals, howevereasily they might leap over such a puny barrier, will,in their ordinary way, prefer to walk leisurely throughthe gaps. In each of these, however, there is a dangeroushole—dangerous from its depth as well as from thecunning way in which it is concealed from the view—inshort, in each gap there is a pit-fall. No one—atleast no animal except the elephant—would ever suspectits presence; the grass seems to grow over it, andthe sand lies unturned, just as elsewhere upon the plain100What quadruped could detect the cheat? Not any oneexcept the sagacious elephant. The stupid eland tumblesthrough; the gemsbok goes under; and the rhinocerosrushes into it as if destined to destruction. TheBushman sees this from his elevated perch, glides forwardover the ground, and spears the struggling victimwith his poisoned assagai.

Besides the above method of capturing game theBushman also uses the bow and arrows. This is aweapon in which he is greatly skilled; and althoughboth bow and arrows are as tiny as if intended forchildren’s toys, they are among the deadliest of weapons,their fatal effect lies not in the size of the wound theyare capable of inflicting, but in the peculiar mode inwhich the barbs of the arrows are prepared. I needhardly add that they are dipped in poison;—for whohas not heard of the poisoned arrows of the AfricanBushmen?

Both bow and arrows are usually rude enough intheir construction, and would appear but a trumperyaffair, were it not for a knowledge of their effects. Thebow is a mere round stick, about three feet long, andslightly bent by means of its string of twisted sinews.The arrows are mere reeds, tipped with pieces of bone,with a split ostrich-quill lapped behind the head, andanswering for a barb. This arrow the Bushman canshoot with tolerable certainty to a distance of a hundredyards, and he can even project it farther by giving aslight elevation to his aim. It signifies not whether theforce with which it strikes the object be ever so slight,if it only makes an entrance. Even a scratch from itspoint will sometimes prove fatal.

101Of course the danger dwells altogether in the poison.Were it not for that, the Bushman, from his dwarfishstature and pigmy strength, would be a harmlesscreature indeed.

The poison he well knows how to prepare, and hecan make it of the most “potent spell,” when the “materials”are within his reach. For this purpose hemakes use of both vegetable and animal substances, anda mineral is also employed; but the last is not a poison,and is only used to give consistency to the liquid, so thatit may the better adhere to the arrow. The vegetablesubstances are of various kinds. Some are botanicallyknown: the bulb of Amaryllis disticha,—the gum of aEuphorbia,—the sap of a species of sumac (Rhus),—andthe nuts of a shrubby plant, by the colonists calledWoolf-gift (Wolf-poison).

The animal substance is the fluid found in the fangsof venomous serpents, several species of which serve thepurpose of the Bushman: as the little “Horned Snake,”—socalled from the scales rising prominently over itseyes; the “Yellow Snake,” or South-African Cobra(Naga haje); the “Puff Adder,” and others. From allthese he obtains the ingredients of his deadly ointment,and mixes them, not all together; for he cannot alwaysprocure them all in any one region of the country inwhich he dwells. He makes his poison, also, of differentdegrees of potency, according to the purpose for whichhe intends it; whether for hunting or war. With sixtyor seventy little arrows, well imbued with this fatalmixture, and carefully placed in his quiver of tree-barkor skin,—or, what is not uncommon, stuck like a coronetaround his head,—he sallies forth, ready to deal102destruction either to game, animals, or of human enemies.

Of these last he has no lack. Every man, not aBushman, he deems his enemy; and he has some reasonfor thinking so. Truly may it be said of him, as ofIshmael, that his “hand is against every man, and everyman’s hand against him;” and such has been his unhappyhistory for ages. Not alone have the boers beenhis pursuers and oppressors, but all others upon hisborders who are strong enough to attack him,—colonists,Caffres, and Bechuanas, all alike,—not even exceptinghis supposed kindred, the Hottentots. Not onlydoes no fellow-feeling exist between Bushman and Hottentot,but, strange to say, they hate each other with themost rancorous hatred. The Bushman will plunder aNamaqua Hottentot, a Griqua, or a Gonaqua,—plunderand murder him with as much ruthlessness, or evenmore, than he would the hated Caffre or boer. All arealike his enemies,—all to be plundered and massacred,whenever met, and the thing appears possible.

We are speaking of plunder. This is another sourceof supply to the Bushman, though one that is not alwaysto be depended upon. It is his most dangerous methodof obtaining a livelihood, and often costs him his life.He only resorts to it when all other resources fail him,and food is no longer to be obtained by the chase.

He makes an expedition into the settlements,—eitherof the frontier boers, Caffres, or Hottentots,—whicheverchance to live most convenient to his haunts. The expedition,of course, is by night, and conducted, not as anopen foray but in secret, and by stealth. The cattle arestolen, not reeved, and driven off while the owner and hispeople are asleep.

103In the morning, or as soon as the loss is discovered,a pursuit is at once set on foot. A dozen men, mountedand armed with long muskets (röers), take the spoor ofthe spoilers, and follow it as fast as their horses willcarry them. A dozen boers, or even half that number,is considered a match for a whole tribe of Bushmen, inany fight which may occur in the open plain, as theboers make use of their long-range guns at such a distancethat the Bushmen are shot down without beingable to use their poisoned arrows; and if the thieveshave the fortune to be overtaken before they have gotfar into the desert, they stand a good chance of beingterribly chastised.

There is no quarter shown them. Such a thing asmercy is never dreamt of,—no sparing of lives anymore than if they were a pack of hyenas. The Bushmenmay escape to the rocks, such of them as are nothit by the bullets; and there the boers know it would beidle to follow them. Like the klipspringer antelope, thelittle savages can bound from rock to rock, and cliffto cliff, or hide like partridges among crevices, whereneither man nor horse can pursue them. Even uponthe level plain—if it chance to be stony or intersectedwith breaks and ravines—a horseman would endeavorto overtake them in vain, for these yellow imps are asswift as ostriches.

When the spoilers scatter thus, the boer may recoverhis cattle, but in what condition? That he has surmisedalready, without going among the herd. He doesnot expect to drive home one half of them; perhaps notone head. On reaching the flock he finds there is notone without a wound of some kind or other: a gash in104the flank, the cut of a knife, the stab of an assagai, or apoisoned arrow—intended for the boer himself—stickingbetween the ribs. This is the sad spectacle thatmeets his eyes; but he never reflects that it is the resultof his own cruelty,—he never regards it in the light ofretribution. Had he not first hunted the Bushman tomake him a slave, to make bondsmen and bondsmaidsof his sons and daughters, to submit them to the capriceand tyranny of his great, strapping frau, perhapshis cattle would have been browsing quietly in his fields.The poor Bushman, in attempting to take them, followedbut his instincts of hunger: in yielding them up heobeyed but the promptings of revenge.

It is not always that the Bushman is thus overtaken.He frequently succeeds in carrying the whole herd tohis desert fastness; and the skill which he exhibits ingetting them there is perfectly surprising. The cattlethemselves are more afraid of him than of a wild beast,and run at his approach; but the Bushman, swifter thanthey, can glide all around them, and keep them movingat a rapid rate.

He uses stratagem also to obstruct or baffle the pursuit.The route he takes is through the driest part ofthe desert,—if possible, where water does not exist atall. The cattle suffer from thirst, and bellow from thepain; but the Bushman cares not for that, so long as heis himself served. But how is he served? There is nowater, and a Bushman can no more go without drinkingthan a boer: how then does he provide for himselfon these long expeditions?

All has been pre-arranged. While off to the settlements,the Bushman’s wife has been busy. The whole105kraal of women—young and old—have made an excursionhalf-way across the desert, each carrying ostrichegg-shells, as much as her kaross will hold, each shellfull of water. These have been deposited at intervalsalong the route in secret spots known by marks to theBushmen, and this accomplished the women return homeagain. In this way the plunderer obtains his supply ofwater, and thus is he enabled to continue his journeyover the arid Karroo.

The pursuers become appalled. They are sufferingfrom thirst—their horses sinking under them. Perhapsthey have lost their way? It would be madness to proceedfurther. “Let the cattle go this time!” and withthis disheartening reflection they give up the pursuit,turn the heads of their horses, and ride homeward.

There is a feast at the Bushman’s kraal—and such afeast! not one ox is slaughtered, but a score of them allat once. They kill them, as if from very wantonness;and they no longer eat, but raven on the flesh.

For days the feasting is kept up almost continuously,—evenat night they must wake up to have a midnightmeal! and thus runs the tale, till every ox has been eaten.They have not the slightest idea of a provision for the future;even the lower animals seem wiser in this respect.They do not think of keeping a few of the plunderedcattle at pasture to serve them for a subsequent occasion.They give the poor brutes neither food nor drink; buthaving penned them up in some defile of the rocks, leavethem to moan and bellow, to drop down and die.

On goes the feasting, till all are finished; and even ifthe flesh has turned putrid, this forms not the slightestobjection: it is eaten all the same.

106The kraal now exhibits an altered spectacle. Thestarved meagre wretches, who were seen flitting amongits tents but a week ago, have all disappeared. Plumpbodies and distended abdomens are the order of the day;and the profile of the Bushwoman, taken from the neckto the knees, now exhibits the outline of the letter S.The little imps leap about, tearing raw flesh,—theiryellow cheeks besmeared with blood,—and the lean cursseem to have been exchanged for a pack of fat, pettedpoodles.

But this scene must some time come to an end, and atlength it does end. All the flesh is exhausted, and thebones picked clean. A complete reaction comes over thespirit of the Bushman. He falls into a state of languor,—theonly time when he knows such a feeling,—andhe keeps his kraal, and remains idle for days. Often hesleeps for twenty-four hours at a time, and wakes onlyto go to sleep again. He need not rouse himself with theidea of getting something to eat: there is not a morselin the whole kraal, and he knows it. He lies still, therefore,—weakenedwith hunger, and overcome with thedrowsiness of a terrible lassitude.

Fortunate for him, while in this state, if those boldvultures—attracted by the débris of his feast, and nowhigh wheeling in the air—be not perceived from afar;fortunate if they do not discover the whereabouts of hiskraal to the vengeful pursuer. If they should do so,he has made his last foray and his last feast.

When the absolute danger of starvation at lengthcompels our Bushman to bestir himself, he seems torecover a little of his energy, and once more takes tohunting, or, if near a stream, endeavors to catch a few107fish. Should both these resources fail, he has another,—withoutwhich he would most certainly starve,—andperhaps this may be considered his most importantsource of supply, since it is the most constant, and canbe depended on at nearly all seasons of the year. Weakenedwith hunger, then, and scarce equal to any severerlabor, he goes out hunting—this time insects, not quadrupeds.With a stout stick inserted into a stone at oneend and pointed at the other, he proceeds to the nestsof the white ants (termites), and using the point of thestick,—the stone serving by its weight to aid the forceof the blow,—he breaks open the hard, gummy clay ofwhich the hillock is formed. Unless the aard-vark andthe pangolin—two very different kinds of ant-eaters—havebeen there before him, he finds the chambers filledwith the eggs of the ants, the insects themselves, andperhaps large quantities of their larvæ. All are equallysecured by the Bushman, and either devoured on thespot, or collected into a skin bag, and carried back tohis kraal.

He hunts also another species of ants that do not buildnests or “hillocks,” but bring forth their young in hollowsunder the ground. These make long galleries orcovered ways just under the surface, and at certain periods—whichthe Bushman knows by unmistakablesigns—they become very active, and traverse theseunderground galleries in thousands. If the passageswere to be opened above, the ants would soon make off totheir caves, and but a very few could be captured. TheBushman, knowing this, adopts a stratagem. With thestick already mentioned he pierces holes of a good depthdown; and works the stick about, until the sides of the108holes are smooth and even. These he intends shall servehim as pitfalls; and they are therefore made in the coveredways along which the insects are passing. Theresult is, that the little creatures, not suspecting the existenceof these deep wells, tumble head foremost intothem, and are unable to mount up the steep smooth sidesagain, so that in a few minutes the hole will be filledwith ants, which the Bushman scoops out at his leisure.

Another source of supply which he has, and also apretty constant one, consists of various roots of thetuberous kind, but more especially bulbous roots, whichgrow in the desert. They are several species of Ixiasand Mesembryanthemums,—some of them producingbulbs of a large size, and deeply buried underground.Half the Bushman’s and Bushwoman’s time is occupiedin digging for these roots; and the spade employed isthe stone-headed staff already described.

Ostrich eggs also furnish the Bushman with many ameal; and the huge shells of these eggs serve him forwater-vessels, cups, and dishes. He is exceedingly expertin tracking up the ostrich, and discovering its nest.Sometimes he finds a nest in the absence of the birds;and in a case of this kind he pursues a course of conductthat is peculiarly Bushman. Having removed allthe eggs to a distance, and concealed them under somebush, he returns to the nest and ensconces himself in it.His diminutive body, when close squatted, cannot beperceived from a distance, especially when there are afew bushes around the nest, as there usually are. Thusconcealed he awaits the return of the birds, holdinghis bow and poisoned arrows ready to salute them assoon as they come within range. By this ruse he is109almost certain of killing either the cock or hen, and notunfrequently both—when they do not return together.

Lizards and land-tortoises often furnish the Bushmanwith a meal; and the shell of the latter serves him alsofor a dish; but his period of greatest plenty is whenthe locusts appear. Then, indeed, the Bushman is nolonger in want of a meal; and while these creatures remainwith him, he knows no hunger. He grows fat ina trice, and his curs keep pace with him—for they toogreedily devour the locusts. Were the locusts a constant,or even an annual visitor, the Bushman would bea rich man—at all events his wants would be amplysupplied. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately foreverybody else, these terrible destroyers of vegetationonly come now and then—several years often interveningbetween their visits.

The Bushmen have no religion whatever; no formof marriage—any more than mating together like wildbeasts; but they appear to have some respect for thememory of their dead, since they bury them—usuallyerecting a large pile of stones, or “cairn,” over thebody.

They are far from being of a melancholy mood.Though crouching in their dens and caves during theday, in dread of the boers and other enemies, they comeforth at night to chatter and make merry. During finemoonlights they dance all night, keeping up the ball tillmorning; and in their kraals may be seen a circularspot—beaten hard and smooth with their feet—wherethese dances are performed.

They have no form of government—not so much asa head man or chief. Even the father of the family110possesses no authority, except such as superior strengthmay give him; and when his sons are grown up andbecome as strong as he is, this of course also ceases.

They have no tribal organization; the small communitiesin which they live being merely so many individualsaccidently brought together, often quarrellingand separating from one another. These communitiesrarely number over a hundred individuals, since, fromthe nature of their country, a large number could notfind subsistence in any one place. It follows, therefore,that the Bushman race must ever remain widely scattered—solong as they pursue their present mode oflife—and no influence has ever been able to win themfrom it. Missionary efforts made among them have allproved fruitless. The desert seems to have been createdfor them, as they for the desert; and when transferredelsewhere, to dwell amidst scenes of civilized life,they always yearn to return to their wilderness home.

Truly are these pigmy savages an odd people!



In glancing at the map of the American continent,we are struck by a remarkable analogy between thegeographical features of its two great divisions—theNorth and the South,—an analogy amounting almostto a symmetrical parallelism.

Each has its “mighty” mountains—the Cordillerasof the Andes in the south, and the Cordilleras of theSierra Madre (Rocky Mountains) in the north—withall the varieties of volcano and eternal snow. Each hasits secondary chain: in the north, the Nevadas of Californiaand Oregon; in the south, the Sierras of Caraccasand the group of Guiana; and, if you wish torender the parallelism complete, descend to a lower elevation,and set the Alleghanies of the United Statesagainst the mountains of Brazil—both alike detachedfrom all the others.

In the comparison we have exhausted the mountain chainsof both divisions of the continent. If we proceedfurther, and carry it into minute detail, we shallfind the same correspondence—ridge for ridge, chainfor chain, peak for peak;—in short, a most singularequilibrium, as if there had been a design that one halfof this great continent should balance the other!

112From the mountains let us proceed to the rivers,and see how they will correspond. Here, again, we discovera like parallelism, amounting almost to a rivalry.Each continent (for it is proper to style them so) containsthe largest river in the world. If we make lengththe standard, the north claims precedence for the Mississippi;if volume of water is to be the criterion, thesouth is entitled to it upon the merits of the Amazon.Each, too, has its numerous branches, spreading into amighty “tree”; and these, either singly or combined,form a curious equipoise both in length and magnitude.We have only time to set list against list, tributaries ofthe great northern river against tributaries of its greatsouthern compeer,—the Ohio and Illinois, the Yellowstoneand Platte, the Kansas and Osage, the Arkansasand Red, against the Madeira and Purus, the Ucayaliand Huallaga, the Japura and Negro, the Xingu andTapajos.

Of other river systems, the St. Lawrence may beplaced against the La Plata, the Oregon against theOrinoco, the Mackenzie against the Magdalena, andthe Rio Bravo del Norte against the Tocantins; whilethe two Colorados—the Brazos and Alabama—findtheir respective rivals in the Essequibo, the Paranahybo,the Pedro, and the Patagonian Negro; and the SanFrancisco of California, flowing over sands of gold, isbalanced by its homonyme of Brazil, that has its originin the land of diamonds. To an endless list might thecomparison be carried.

We pass to the plains. Prairies in the north, llanosand pampas in the south, almost identical in character.Of the plateaux or table-lands, those of Mexico, La113Puebla, Perote, and silver Potosi in the north; those ofQuito, Bogota, Cusco, and gold Potosi in the south; ofthe desert plains, Utah and the Llano Estacado againstAtacama and the deserts of Patagonia. Even the GreatSalt Lake has its parallel in Titicaca; while the “Salinas”of New Mexico and the upland prairies, are representedby similar deposits in the Gran Chaco and thePampas.

We arrive finally at the forests. Though unlike inother respects, we have here also a rivalry in magnitude,—betweenthe vast timbered expanse stretchingfrom Arkansas to the Atlantic shores, and that whichcovers the valley of the Amazon. These were the twogreatest forests on the face of the earth. I say were, forone of them no longer exists; at least, it is no longer acontinuous tract, but a collection of forests, opened bythe axe, and intersected by the clearings of the colonist.The other still stands in all its virgin beauty and primevalvigor, untouched by the axe, undefiled by fire, itspath scarce trodden by human feet, its silent depths tothis hour unexplored.

It is with this forest and its denizens we have to do.Here then let us terminate the catalogue of similitudes,and concentrate our attention upon the particular subjectof our sketch.

The whole valley of the Amazon—in other words,the tract watered by this great river and its tributaries—maybe described as one unbroken forest. We nowknow the borders of this forest with considerable exactness,but to trace them here would require a too lengtheneddetail. Suffice it to say, that lengthwise it extendsfrom the mouth of the Amazon to the foot-hills of the114Peruvian Andes, a distance of 2,500 miles. In breadthit varies, beginning on the Atlantic coast with a breadthof 400 miles, which widens towards the central part ofthe continent till it attains to 1,500, and again narrowingto about 1,000, where it touches the eastern slope of theAndes.

That form of leaf known to botanists as “obovate”will give a good idea of the figure of the great Amazonforest, supposing the small end or shank to rest on theAtlantic, and the broad end to extend along the semicircularconcavity of the Andes, from Bolivia on thesouth to New Granada on the north. In all this vastexpanse of territory there is scarce an acre of openground, if we except the water-surface of the rivers andtheir bordering “lagoons,” which, were they to beartheir due proportions on a map, could scarce be representedby the narrowest lines, or the most inconspicuousdots. The grass plains which embay the forest on itssouthern edge along the banks of some of its Braziliantributaries, or those which proceed like spurs from theLlanos of Venezuela, do not in any place approach theAmazon itself, and there are many points on the greatriver which may be taken as centres, and around whichcircles may be drawn, having diameters 1,000 miles inlength, the circumferences of which will enclose nothingbut timbered land. The main stream of the Amazon,though it intersects this grand forest, does not bisect it,speaking with mathematical precision. There is rathermore timbered surface to the southward than that whichextends northward, though the inequality of the twodivisions is not great. It would not be much of an errorto say that the Amazon river cuts the forest in halves115At its mouth, however, this would not apply: since forthe first 300 miles above the embouchure of the riverthe country on the northern side is destitute of timber.This is occasioned by the projecting spurs of the Guianamountains, which on that side approach the Amazon inthe shape of naked ridges and grass-covered hills andplains.

It is not necessary to say that the great forest of theAmazon is a tropical one—since the river itself, throughoutits whole course, almost traces the line of the equator.Its vegetation, therefore, is emphatically of a tropicalcharacter and in this respect it differs essentially fromthat of North America, or rather, we should say, of Canadaand the United States. It is necessary to make thislimitation, because the forests of the tropical parts ofNorth America, including the West-Indian islands, presenta great similitude to that of the Amazon. It is notonly in the genera and species of trees that the sylva ofthe temperate zone differs from that of the torrid; butthere is a very remarkable difference in the distributionof these genera and species. In a great forest of thenorth, it is not uncommon to find a large tract coveredwith a single species of trees,—as with pines, oaks,poplars, or the red cedar (Juniperus Virginiana). Thisarrangement is rather the rule than the exception;whereas, in the tropical forest, the rule is reversed, exceptin the case of two or three species of palms (Mauritiaand Euterpe), which sometimes exclusively coverlarge tracts of surface. Of other trees, it is rare to findeven a clump or grove standing together—often onlytwo or three trees, and still more frequently, a singleindividual is observed, separated from those of its own116kind by hundreds of others, all differing in order, genus,and species. I note this peculiarity of the tropic forest,because it exercises, as may easily be imagined, a directinfluence upon the economy of its human occupants—whetherthese be savage or civilized. Even the habitsof the lower animals—beasts and birds—are subject toa similar influence.

It would be out of place here to enumerate the differentkinds of trees that compose this mighty wood,—abare catalogue of their names would alone fill manypages,—and it would be safe to say that if the list weregiven as now known to botanists, it would comprisescarce half the species that actually exist in the valleyof the Amazon. In real truth, this vast Garden of Godis yet unexplored by man. Its border walks and edgeshave alone been examined; and the enthusiastic botanistneed not fear that he is too late in the field. A hundredyears will elapse before this grand parterre can be exhausted.

At present, a thorough examination of the botany ofthe Amazon valley would be difficult, if not altogetherimpossible, even though conducted on a grand and expensivescale. There are several reasons for this. Itswoods are in many places absolutely impenetrable—onaccount either of the thick tangled undergrowth, or fromthe damp, spongy nature of the soil. There are noroads that could be traversed by horse or man; andthe few paths are known only to the wild savage,—notalways passable even by him. Travelling can only bedone by water, either upon the great rivers, or by thenarrow creeks (igaripes) or lagoons; and a journey performedin this fashion must needs be both tedious and117indirect, allowing but a limited opportunity for observation.Horses can scarce be said to exist in the country,and cattle are equally rare—a few only are found inone or two of the large Portuguese settlements on themain river—and the jaguars and blood-sucking batsoffer a direct impediment to their increase. Contrary tothe general belief, the tropical forest is not the home ofthe larger mammalia: it is not their proper habitat, norare they found in it. In the Amazon forest but fewspecies exist, and these not numerous in individuals.There are no vast herds—as of buffaloes on the prairiesof North America, or of antelopes in Africa. Thetapir alone attains to any considerable size,—exceedingthat of the ass,—but its numbers are few. Three orfour species of small deer represent the ruminants, andthe hog of the Amazon is the peccary. Of these thereare at least three species. Where the forest impingeson the mountain regions of Peru, bears are found ofat least two kinds, but not on the lower plains of thegreat “Montaña,”—for by this general designation isthe vast expanse of the Amazon country known amongthe Peruvian people. “Montes” and “montañas,” literallysignifying “mountains,” are not so understoodamong Spanish Americans. With them the “montes”and “montañas” are tracts of forest-covered country,and that of the Amazon valley is the “Montaña” parexcellence.

Sloths of several species, and opossums of still greatervariety, are found all over the Montaña, but both thinlydistributed as regards the number of individuals. Asimilar remark applies to the ant-eaters or “ant-bears,”of which there are four kinds,—to the armadillos, the118“agoutis,” and the “cavies,” one of which last, the capibara,is the largest rodent upon earth. This, with itskindred genus, the “paca,” is not so rare in individualnumbers, but, on the contrary, appears in large herdsupon the borders of the rivers and lagoons. A porcupine,several species of spinous rats, an otter, two orthree kinds of badger-like animals (the potto and coatis),a “honey-bear” (Galera barbara), and a fox, or wilddog, are widely distributed throughout the Montaña.

Everywhere exists the jaguar, both the black andspotted varieties, and the puma has there his lurking-place.Smaller cats, both spotted and striped, are numerousin species, and squirrels of several kinds, withbats, complete the list of the terrestrial mammalia.

Of all the lower animals, monkeys are the mostcommon, for to them the Montaña is a congenial home.They abound not only in species, but in the numberof individuals, and their ubiquitous presence contributesto enliven the woods. At least thirty different kindsof them exist in the Amazon valley, from the “coatas,”and other howlers as large as baboons, to the tiny little“ouistitis” and “säimiris,” not bigger than squirrels orrats.

While we must admit a paucity in the species of thequadrupeds of the Amazon, the same remark does notapply to the birds. In the ornithological department ofnatural history, a fulness and richness here exist, perhapsnot equalled elsewhere. The most singular andgraceful forms, combined with the most brilliant plumage,are everywhere presented to the eye, in the parrots andgreat macaws, the toucans, trogons, and tanagers, theshrikes, humming-birds, and orioles; and even in the119vultures and eagles: for here are found the most beautifulof predatory birds,—the king vulture and theharpy eagle. Of the feathered creatures existing inthe valley of the Amazon there are not less than onethousand different species, of which only one half haveyet been caught or described.

Reptiles are equally abundant—the serpent familybeing represented by numerous species, from the greatwater boa (anaconda), of ten yards in length, to the tinyand beautiful but venomous lachesis, or coral snake, notthicker than the shank of a tobacco-pipe. The lizardsrange through a like gradation, beginning with the huge“jacare,” or crocodile, of several species, and endingwith the turquoise-blue anolius, not bigger than a newt.

The waters too are rich in species of their peculiarinhabitants—of which the most remarkable and valuableare the manatees (two or three species), the greatand smaller turtles, the porpoises of various kinds, andan endless catalogue of the finny tribes that frequent therivers of the tropics. It is mainly from this source, andnot from four-footed creatures of the forest, that thehuman denizen of the great Montaña draws his supplyof food,—at least that portion of it which may betermed the “meaty.” Were it not for the manatee, thegreat porpoise, and other large fish, he would often haveto “eat his bread dry.”

And now it is his turn to be “talked about.” I neednot inform you that the aborigines, who inhabit thevalley of the Amazon, are all of the so-called Indianrace—though there are so many distinct tribes of themthat almost every river of any considerable magnitudehas a tribe of its own. In some cases a number of these120tribes belong to one nationality; that is, several of themmay be found speaking nearly the same language, thoughliving apart from each other; and of these larger divisionsor nationalities there are several occupying thedifferent districts of the Montaña. The tribes even ofthe same nationality do not always present a uniformappearance. There are darker and fairer tribes; somein which the average standard of height is less thanamong Europeans; and others where it equals or exceedsthis. There are tribes again where both men andwomen are ill-shaped and ill-favored—though these arefew—and other tribes where both sexes exhibit a considerabledegree of personal beauty. Some tribes areeven distinguished for their good looks, the men presentingmodels of manly form, while the women areequally attractive by the regularity of their features,and the graceful modesty of expression that adorns them.

A minute detail of the many peculiarities in whichthe numerous tribes of the Amazon differ from oneanother would fill a large volume; and in a sketch likethe present, which is meant to include them all, it wouldnot be possible to give such a detail. Nor indeed wouldit serve any good purpose; for although there are manypoints of difference between the different tribes, yet theseare generally of slight importance, and are far morethan counterbalanced by the multitude of resemblances.So numerous are these last, as to create a strong idiosyncrasyin the tribes of the Amazon, which not onlyentitles them to be classed together in an ethnologicalpoint of view, but which separates them from all theother Indians of America. Of course, the non-possessionof the horse—they do not even know the animal—at121once broadly distinguishes them from the HorseIndians, both of the Northern and Southern divisions ofthe continent.

It would be idle here to discuss the question as towhether the Amazonian Indians have all a commonorigin. It is evident they have not. We know thatmany of them are from Peru and Bogota—runawaysfrom Spanish oppression. We know that others migratedfrom the south—equally fugitives from the stillmore brutal and barbarous domination of the Portuguese.And still others were true aboriginals of thesoil, or if emigrants, when and whence came they?An idle question, never to be satisfactorily answered.There they now are, and as they are only shall we hereconsider them.

Notwithstanding the different sources whence theysprang, we find them, as I have already said, stampedwith a certain idiosyncrasy, the result, no doubt, of thelike circumstances which surround them. One or twotribes alone, whose habits are somewhat “odder” thanthe rest, have been treated to a separate chapter; butfor the others, whatever is said of one, will, with veryslight alteration, stand good for the whole of the Amazoniantribes. Let it be understood that we are discoursingonly of those known as the “Indios bravos,”the fierce, brave, savage, or wild Indians—as you maychoose to translate the phrase,—a phrase used throughoutall Spanish America to distinguish those tribes, orsections of tribes, who refused obedience to Spanishtyranny, and who preserve to this hour their native independenceand freedom. In contradistinction to the“Indios bravos” are the “Indios mansos,” or “tame122Indians,” who submitted tamely both to the cross andsword, and now enjoy a rude demi-semi-civilization, underthe joint protectorate of priests and soldiers. Betweenthese two kinds of American aborigines, thereis as much difference as between a lord and his serf—thetrue savage representing the former and the demi-semi-civilizedsavage approximating more nearly to thelatter. The meddling monk has made a complete failureof it. His ends were purely political, and the resulthas proved ruinous to all concerned;—instead of civilizingthe savage, he has positively demoralized him.

It is not of his neophytes, the “Indios mansos,” weare now writing, but of the “infidels,” who would nothearken to his voice or listen to his teachings—thosewho could never be brought within “sound of the bell.”

Both “kinds” dwell within the valley of the Amazon,but in different places. The “Indios mansos” may befound along the banks of the main stream, from itssource to its mouth—but more especially on its upperwaters, where it runs through Spanish (Peruvian) territory.There they dwell in little villages or collectionsof huts, ruled by the missionary monk with iron rod,and performing for him all the offices of the menialslave. Their resources are few, not even equalling thoseof their wild but independent brethren; and their customsand religion exhibit a ludicrous mélange of savageryand civilization. Farther down the river, the“Indio manso” is a “tapuio,” a hireling of the Portuguese,or to speak more correctly, a slave; for the lattertreats him as such, considers him as such, and thoughthere is a law against it, often drags him from his forest-homeand keeps him in life-long bondage. Any human123law would be a dead letter among such white-skins asare to be encountered upon the banks of the Amazon.Fortunately they are but few; a town or two on thelower Amazon and Rio Negro,—some wretched villagesbetween,—scattered estancias along the banks—withhere and there a paltry post of “militarios,” dignifiedby the name of a “fort:” these alone speak theprogress of the Portuguese civilization throughout a periodof three centuries!

From all these settlements the wild Indian keepsaway. He is never found near them—he is neverseen by travellers, not even by the settlers. You maydescend the mighty Amazon from its source to its mouth,and not once set your eyes upon the true son of theforest—the “Indio bravo.” Coming in contact onlywith the neophyte of the Spanish missionary, and theskulking tapuio of the Portuguese trader, you mightbring away a very erroneous impression of the characterof an Amazonian Indian.

Where is he to be seen? where dwells he? what-likeis his home? what sort of a house does he build? Hiscostume? his arms? his occupation? his habits? Theseare the questions you would put. They shall all beanswered, but briefly as possible—since our limitedspace requires brevity.

The wild Indian, then, is not to be found upon theAmazon itself, though there are long reaches of theriver where he is free to roam—hundreds of mileswithout either town or estancia. He hunts, and occasionallyfishes by the great water, but does not theremake his dwelling—though in days gone by, its shoreswere his favorite place of residence. These happy days124were before the time when Orellana floated down pastthe door of his “malocca”—before that dark hour whenthe Brazilian slave-hunter found his way into the watersof the mighty Solimoes. This last event was the causeof his disappearance. It drove him from the shores ofhis beloved river-sea; forced him to withdraw his dwellingfrom observation, and rebuild it far up, on thosetributaries where he might live a more peaceful life,secure from the trafficker in human flesh. Hence it isthat the home of the Amazonian Indian is now to besought for—not on the Amazon itself, but on its tributarystreams—on the “caños” and “igaripes,” the canalsand lagoons that, with a labyrinthine ramification,intersect the mighty forest of the Montaña. Here dwellshe, and here is he to be seen by any one bold enough tovisit him in his fastness home.

How is he domiciled? Is there anything peculiarabout the style of his house or his village?

Eminently peculiar; for in this respect he differs fromall the other savage people of whom we have yet written,or of whom we may have occasion to write.

Let us proceed at once to describe his dwelling. It isnot a tent, nor is it a hut, nor a cabin, nor a cottage, noryet a cave! His dwelling can hardly be termed a house,nor his village a collection of houses—since both houseand village are one and the same, and both are so peculiar,that we have no name for such a structure incivilized lands, unless we should call it a “barrack.”But even this appellation would give but an erroneousidea of the Amazonian dwelling; and therefore we shalluse that by which it is known in the “Lingoa geral,”and call it a malocca.

125By such name is his house (or village rather) knownamong the tapuios and traders of the Amazon. Sinceit is both house and village at the same time, it mustneeds be a large structure; and so is it, large enough tocontain the whole tribe—or at least the section of itthat has chosen one particular spot for their residence.It is the property of the whole community, built by thelabor of all, and used as their common dwelling—thougheach family has its own section specially setapart for itself. It will thus be seen that the Amazoniansavage is, to some extent, a disciple of the Socialistschool.

I have not space to enter into a minute account of thearchitecture of the malocca. Suffice it to say, that it isan immense temple-like building, raised upon timberuprights, so smooth and straight as to resemble columns.The beams and rafters are also straight and smooth, andare held in their places by “sipos” (tough creepingplants), which are whipped around the joints with aneatness and compactness equal to that used in the riggingof a ship. The roof is a thatch of palm-leaves,laid on with great regularity, and brought very low downat the eaves, so as to give to the whole structure the appearanceof a gigantic beehive. The walls are built ofsplit palms or bamboos, placed so closely together as tobe impervious to either bullet or arrows.

The plan is a parallelogram, with a semicircle at oneend; and the building is large enough to accommodatethe whole community, often numbering more than ahundred individuals. On grand festive occasions severalneighboring communities can find room enough in it—evenfor dancing—and three or four hundred individuals126not unfrequently assemble under the roof of a singlemalocca.

Inside the arrangements are curious. There is a widehall or avenue in the middle—that extends from end toend throughout the whole length of the parallelogram—andon both sides of the hall is a row of partitions,separated from each other by split palms or canes, closelyplaced. Each of these sections is the abode of a family,and the place of deposit for the hammocks, clay pots,calabash-cups, dishes, baskets, weapons, and ornaments,which are the private property of each. The hall isused for the larger cooking utensils—such as the greatclay ovens and pans for baking the cassava, and boilingthe caxire or chicha. This is also a neutral ground,where the children play, and where the dancing is doneon the occasion of grand “balls” and other ceremonialfestivals.

The common doorway is in the gable end, and is sixfeet wide by ten in height. It remains open during theday, but is closed at night by a mat of palm-fibre suspendedfrom the top. There is another and smallerdoorway at the semicircular end; but this is for theprivate use of the chief, who appropriates the wholesection of the semicircle to himself and his family.

Of course the above is only the general outline of amalocca. A more particular description would not answerfor that of all the tribes of the Amazon. Amongdifferent communities, and in different parts of the Montaña,the malocco varies in size, shape, and the materialsof which it is built; and there are some tribes who livein separate huts. These exceptions, however, are few,and as a general thing, that above described is the style127of habitation throughout the whole Montaña, from theconfines of Peru to the shores of the Atlantic. Northand south we encounter this singular house-village, fromthe head-waters of the Rio Negro to the highlands ofBrazil.

Most of the Amazonian tribes follow agriculture, andunderstood the art of tillage before the coming of theSpaniards. They practise it, however, to a very limitedextent. They cultivate a little manioc, and knowhow to manufacture it into farinha or cassava bread.They plant the musaceæ and yam, and understand thedistillation of various drinks, both from the plantain andseveral kinds of palms. They can make pottery fromclay,—shaping it into various forms, neither rude norinelegant,—and from the trees and parasitical twinersthat surround their dwellings, they manufacture an endlessvariety of neat implements and utensils.

Their canoes are hollow trunks of trees sufficientlywell shaped, and admirably adapted to their mode oftravelling—which is almost exclusively by water, bythe numerous caños and igaripes, which are the roadsand paths of their country—often as narrow and intricateas paths by land.

The Indians of the tropic forest dress in the very lightestcostume. Of course each tribe has its own fashion;but a mere belt of cotton cloth, or the inner bark of atree, passed round the waist and between the limbs, isall the covering they care for. It is the guayuco. Somewear a skirt of tree-bark, and, on grand occasions, feathertunics are seen, and also plume head-dresses, made of thebrilliant wing and tail feathers of parrots and macaws.Circlets of these also adorn the arms and limbs. All the128tribes paint, using the anotto, caruto, and several otherdyes which they obtain from various kinds of trees, elsewheremore particularly described.

There are one or two tribes who tattoo their skinsbut this strange practice is far less common among theAmerican Indians than with the natives of the Pacificisles.

In the manufacture of their various household utensilsand implements, as well as their weapons for war and thechase, many tribes of Amazonian Indians display an ingenuitythat would do credit to the most accomplishedartisans. The hammocks made by them have been admiredeverywhere; and it is from the valley of the Amazonthat most of these are obtained, so much prizedin the cities of Spanish and Portuguese America. Theyare the special manufacture of the women, the men onlyemploying their mechanical skill on their weapons.

The hammock, “rede,” or “maqueira,” is manufacturedout of strings obtained from the young leaves ofseveral species of palms. The astrocaryum, or “tucum”palm furnishes this cordage, but a still better quality isobtained from the “miriti” (Mauritia flexuosa). Theunopened leaf, which forms a thick-pointed column growingup out of the crown of the tree, is cut off at the base,and this being pulled apart, is shaken dexterously untilthe tender leaflets fall out. These being stripped oftheir outer covering, leave behind a thin tissue of a pale-yellowishcolor, which is the fibre for making the cordage.After being tied in bundles this fibre is left awhile todry, and is then twisted by being rolled between the handand the hip or thigh. The women perform this processwith great dexterity. Taking two strands of fibre between129the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, they lay themseparated a little along the thigh; a roll downward givesthem a twist, and then being adroitly brought together, aroll upwards completes the making of the cord. Fiftyfathoms in a day is considered a good day’s spinning.The cords are afterwards dyed of various colors, to renderthem more ornamental when woven into the maqueira.

The making of this is a simple process. Two horizontalrods are placed at about seven feet apart, over whichthe cord is passed some fifty or sixty times, thus formingthe “woof.” The warp is then worked in by knottingthe cross strings at equal distances apart, until there areenough. Two strong cords are then inserted where therods pass through, and these being firmly looped, so asto draw all the parallel strings together, the rod is pulledout, and the hammock is ready to be used.

Of course, with very fine “redes,” and those intendedto be disposed of to the traders, much pains are taken inthe selection of the materials, the dyeing the cord, andthe weaving it into the hammock. Sometimes very expensivearticles are made ornamented with the brilliantfeathers of birds cunningly woven among the meshes andalong the borders.

Besides making the hammock, which is the universalcouch of the Amazonian Indian, the women also manufacturea variety of beautiful baskets. Many species ofpalms and calamus supply them with materials for thispurpose, one of the best being the “Iu” palm (Astrocaryum acaule). They also make many implements andutensils, some for cultivating the plantains, melons, andmanioc root, and others for manufacturing the last-named130vegetable into their favorite “farinha” (cassava). TheIndians understood how to separate the poisonous juiceof this valuable root from its wholesome farina beforethe arrival of white men among them; and the processby which they accomplish this purpose has remainedwithout change up to the present hour, in fact, it is almostthe same as that practised by the Spaniards and Portuguese,who simply adopted the Indian method. Thework is performed by the women, and thus: the rootsare brought home from the manioc “patch” in baskets,and then washed and peeled. The peeling is usuallyperformed by the teeth; after that the roots are grated,the grater being a large wooden slab about three feetlong, a foot wide, a little hollowed out, and the hollowpart covered all over with sharp pieces of quartz set inregular diamond-shaped patterns. Sometime a cheapergrater is obtained by using the aërial root of the pashiubapalm (Iriartea exhorhiza), which, being thickly coveredover with hard spinous protuberances, serves admirablyfor the purpose.

The grated pulp is next placed to dry upon a sieve,made of the rind of a water-plant, and is afterwards putinto a long elastic cylinder-shaped basket or net, of thebark of the “jacitara” palm (Desmoncus macroacanthus).This is the tipiti; and at its lower end there isa strong loop, through which a stout pole is passed;while the tipiti itself, when filled with pulp, is hung upto the branch of a tree, or to a firm peg in the wall.One end of the pole is then rested against some projectingpoint, that serves as a fulcrum, while the Indianwoman, having seated herself upon the other end, withher infant in her arms, or perhaps some work in her131hands acts as the lever power. Her weight draws thesides of the tipiti together, until it assumes the formof an inverted cone; and thus the juice is graduallypressed out of the pulp, and drops into a vessel placedunderneath to receive it. The mother must be carefulthat the little imp does not escape from under her eye,and perchance quench its thirst out of the vessel below.If such an accident were to take place, in a very fewminutes she would have to grieve for a lost child; sincethe sap of the manioc root, the variety most cultivatedby the Indians, is a deadly poison. This is the “yuccaamarga,” or bitter manioc; the “yucca dulce,” orsweet kind, being quite innoxious, even if eaten in itsraw state.

The remainder of the process consists in placing thegrated pulp—now sufficiently dry—on a large panor oven, and submitting it to the action of the fire. Itis then thought sufficiently good for Indian use; butmuch of it is afterwards prepared for commerce, underdifferent names, and sold as semonilla (erroneously calledsemolina), sago, and even as arrowroot.

At the bottom of that poisonous tub, a sediment hasall the while been forming. That is the starch of themanioc root—the tapioca of commerce: of course thatis not thrown away.

The men of the tropic forest spend their lives indoing very little. They are idle and not much disposedto work—only when war or the chase calls them forthdo they throw aside for awhile their indolent habit, andexhibit a little activity.

They hunt with the bow and arrow, and fish with aharpoon spear, nets, and sometimes by poisoning the132water with the juice of a vine called barbasco. The“peixe boy,” “vaca marina,” or “manatee,”—all threenames being synonymes—is one of the chief animals oftheir pursuit. All the waters of the Amazon valleyabound with manatees, probably of several species, andthese large creatures are captured by the harpoon, justas seals or walrus are taken. Porpoises also frequentthe South-American rivers and large fresh-water fishof numerous species. The game hunted by the AmazonianIndians can scarcely be termed noble. We haveseen that the large mammalia are few, and thinly distributedin the tropical forest. With the exception ofthe jaguar and peccary, the chase is limited to smallquadrupeds—as the capibara, the paca, agouti—tomany kinds of monkeys, and an immense variety ofbirds. The monkey is the most common game, and isnot only eaten by all the Amazonian Indians, but bymost of them considered as the choicest of food.

In procuring their game the hunters sometimes usethe common bow and arrow, but most of the tribes arein possession of a weapon which they prefer to all othersfor this particular purpose. It is an implement of deathso original in its character and so singular in its constructionas to deserve a special and minute description.

The weapon I allude to is the “blow-gun,” called“pucuna” by the Indians themselves, “gravitana” bythe Spaniards, and “cerbatana” by the Portuguese ofBrazil.

When the Amazonian Indian wishes to manufacturefor himself a pucuna he goes out into the forest andsearches for two tall, straight stems of the “pashiubamiri” palm (Iriartea setigera). These he requires of133such thickness that one can be contained within the other.Having found what he wants, he cuts both down andcarries them home to his molocca. Neither of them isof such dimensions as to render this either impossible ordifficult.

He now takes a long slender rod—already preparedfor the purpose—and with this pushes out the pithfrom both stems, just as boys do when preparing theirpop-guns from the stems of the elder-tree. The rodthus used is obtained from another species of Iriarteapalm, of which the wood is very hard and tough. Alittle tuft of fern-root, fixed upon the end of the rod, isthen drawn backward and forward through the tubes,until both are cleared of any pith which may have adheredto the interior; and both are polished by thisprocess to the smoothness of ivory. The palm ofsmaller diameter, being scraped to a proper size, is nowinserted into the tube of the larger, the object being tocorrect any crookedness in either, should there be such;and if this does not succeed, both are whipped to somestraight beam or post, and thus left till they becomestraight. One end of the bore, from the nature of thetree, is always smaller than the other; and to this endis fitted a mouth-piece of two peccary tusks to concentratethe breath of the hunter when blowing into thetube. The other end is the muzzle; and near this, onthe top, a sight is placed, usually a tooth of the “paca”or some other rodent animal. This sight is glued onwith a gum which another tropic tree furnishes. Overthe outside, when desirous of giving the weapon anornamental finish, the maker winds spirally a shiningcreeper, and then the pucuna is ready for action.

134Sometimes only a single shank of palm is used, andinstead of the pith being pushed out, the stem is splitinto two equal parts throughout its whole extent. Theheart substance being then removed, the two pieces arebrought together, like the two divisions of a cedarwoodpencil, and tightly bound with a sipo.

The pucuna is usually about an inch and a half indiameter at the thickest end, and the bore about equalto that of a pistol of ordinary calibre. In length, however,the weapon varies from eight to twelve feet.

This singular instrument is designed, not for propellinga bullet, but an arrow; but as this arrow differsaltogether from the common kind it also needs to bedescribed.

The blow-gun arrow is about fifteen or eighteeninches long, and is made of a piece of split bamboo;but when the “patawa” palm can be found, this treefurnishes a still better material, in the long spines thatgrow out from the sheathing bases of its leaves. Theseare 18 inches in length, of a black color, flattish thoughperfectly straight. Being cut to the proper length—whichmost of them are without cutting—they arewhittled at one end to a sharp point. This point isdipped about three inches deep in the celebrated“curare” poison; and just where the poison mark terminates,a notch is made, so that the head will be easilybroken off when the arrow is in the wound. Near theother end a little soft down of silky cotton (the floss ofthe bombax ceiba) is twisted around into a smooth massof the shape of a spinning-top, with its larger endtowards the nearer extremity of the arrow. The cottonis held in its place by being lightly whipped on by the135delicate thread or fibre of a bromelia, and the mass isjust big enough to fill the tube by gently pressing itinward.

The arrow thus made is inserted, and whenever thegame is within reach the Indian places his mouth to thelower end or mouth-piece, and with a strong “puff,”which practice enables him to give, he sends the littlemessenger upon its deadly errand. He can hit with unerringaim at the distance of forty or fifty paces; but heprefers to shoot in a direction nearly vertical, as in thatway he can take the surest aim. As his common game—birdsand monkeys—are usually perched upon thehigher branches of tall trees, their situation just suitshim. Of course it is not the mere wound of the arrowthat kills these creatures, but the poison, which in twoor three minutes after they have been hit, will bringeither bird or monkey to the ground. When the latteris struck he would be certain to draw out the arrow; butthe notch, already mentioned, provides against this, asthe slightest wrench serves to break off the envenomedhead.

These arrows are dangerous things,—even for themanufacturer of them to play with: they are thereforecarried in a quiver, and with great care,—the quiverconsisting either of a bamboo joint or a neat wickercase.

The weapons of war used by the forest tribes are thecommon bow and arrows, also tipped with curare, andthe “macana,” or war-club, a species peculiar to SouthAmerica, made out of the hard heavy wood of the pissabapalm. Only one or two tribes use the spear; and boththe “bolas” and lazo are quite unknown, as such136weapons would not be available among the trees of theforest. These are the proper arms of the Horse-Indian,the dweller on the open plains; but without them,for all war purposes, the forest tribes have weaponsenough, and, unfortunately, make a too frequent use ofthem.



The Andes mountains, rising in the extreme southernpoint of South America, not only extend throughout thewhole length of that continent, but continue on throughCentral America and Mexico, under the name of “Cordillerasde Sierra Madre;” and still farther north to theshores of the Arctic Sea, under the very inappropriateappellation of the “Rocky Mountains.” You must notsuppose that these stupendous mountains form one continuouselevation. At many places they furcate intovarious branches, throwing off spurs, and sometime parallel“sierras,” between which lie wide “valles,” or levelplains of great extent. It is upon these high plateaux—manyof them elevated 7,000 feet above the sea—thatthe greater part of the Spanish-American populationdwells; and on them too are found most of the largecities of Spanish South America and Mexico.

These parallel chains meet at different points, formingwhat the Peruvians term “nodas” (knots); and, aftercontinuing for a distance in one great cordillera, againbifurcate. One of the most remarkable of these bifurcationsof the Andes occurs about latitude 2° N. There thegigantic sierra separates into two great branches, forming138a shape like the letter Y, the left limb being that whichis usually regarded as the main continuation of thesemountains through the Isthmus of Panama, while theright forms the eastern boundary of the great valley ofthe Magdalena river; and then, trending in an eastwardlydirection along the whole northern coast of South Americato the extreme point of the promontory of Paria.

Each of these limbs again forks into several branchesor spurs,—the whole system forming a figure that maybe said to bear some resemblance to a genealogical treecontaining the pedigree of four or five generations.

It is only with one of the bifurcations of the right oreastern sierra that this sketch has to do. On reachingthe latitude of 7° north, this chain separates itself intotwo wings, which, after diverging widely to the east andwest, sweep round again towards each other, as if desirousto be once more united. The western wing advancesboldly to this reunion; but the eastern, after vacillatingfor a time, as if uncertain what course to take, turns itsback abruptly on its old comrade, and trends off in a dueeast direction, till it sinks into insignificance upon thepromontory of Paria.

The whole mass of the sierra, however, has not beenof one mind; for, at the time of its indecision, a largespur detaches itself from the main body, and sweepsround, as if to carry out the union with the left wingadvancing from the west. Although they get withinsight of each other, they are not permitted to meet,—bothending abruptly before the circle is completed, andforming a figure bearing a very exact resemblance tothe shoe of a racehorse. Within this curving boundaryis enclosed a vast valley,—as large as the whole of139Ireland,—the central portion of which, and occupyingabout one third of its whole extent, is a sheet of water,known from the days of the discovery of America, asthe Lake of Maracaibo.

It obtained this appellation from the name of an Indiancazique, who was met upon its shores by the first discoverers;but although this lake was known to the earliestexplorers of the New World,—although it lies contiguousto many colonial settlements both on the mainlandand the islands of the Caribbean Sea,—the lake itself,and the vast territory that surrounds it, remain almost asunknown and obscure as if they were situated among thecentral deserts of Africa.

And yet the valley of Maracaibo is one of the mostinteresting portions of the globe,—interesting not onlyas a terra incognita, but on account of the diversifiednature of its scenery and productions. It possesses afauna of a peculiar kind, and its flora is one of the richestin the world, not surpassed,—perhaps not equalled,—bythat of any other portion of the torrid zone. Togive a list of its vegetable productions would be toenumerate almost every species belonging to tropicalAmerica. Here are found the well-known medicinalplants,—the sassafras and sarsaparilla, guaiacum, copaiva,cinchona, and cuspa, or Cortex Angosturæ; hereare the deadly poisons of barbasco and mavacure, andalongside them the remedies of the “palo sano,” andmikania guaco. Here likewise grow plants and treesproducing those well-known dyes of commerce, the blueindigo, the red arnotto, the lake-colored chica, the brazilletto,and dragon’s blood; and above all, those woods ofred, gold, and ebon tints, so precious in the eyes of thecabinet and musical-instrument makers of Europe.

140Yet, strange to say, these rich resources lie, like treasuresburied in the bowels of the earth, or gems at thebottom of the sea, still undeveloped. A few small lumberingestablishments near the entrance of the lake,—hereand there a miserable village, supported by a littlecoast commerce in dye-woods, or cuttings of ebony,—nowand then a hamlet of fishermen,—a “hato” ofgoats and sheep; and at wider intervals, a “ganaderia”of cattle, or a plantation of cocoa-trees (cocale), furnishthe only evidence that man has asserted his dominionover this interesting region. These settlements, however,are sparsely distributed, and widely distant from oneanother. Between them stretch broad savannas andforests,—vast tracts, untilled and even unexplored,—avery wilderness, but a wilderness rich in natural resources.

The Lake of Maracaibo is often, though erroneously,described as an arm of the sea. This description onlyapplies to the Gulf of Maracaibo, which is in reality aportion of the Caribbean Sea. The lake itself is altogetherdifferent, and is a true fresh-water lake, separatedfrom the gulf by a narrow neck or strait. Within thisstrait—called “boca,” or mouth—the salt water doesnot extend, except during very high tides or after long-continuednortes (north winds), which have the effect ofdriving the sea-water up into the lake, and imparting tosome portions of it a saline or brackish taste. This,however, is only occasional and of temporary continuance;and the waters of the lake, supplied by a hundredstreams from the horseshoe sierra that surrounds it, soonreturn to their normal character of freshness.

The shape of Lake Maracaibo is worthy of remark.141The main body of its surface is of oval outline,—thelonger diameter running north and south,—but taken inconnection with the straits which communicate with theouter gulf, it assumes a shape somewhat like that of aJew’s-harp, or rather of a kind of guitar, most in useamong Spanish Americans, and known under the nameof “mandolin” (or “bandolon”). To this instrument dothe natives sometimes compare it.

Another peculiarity of Lake Maracaibo, is the extremeshallowness of the water along its shores. It is deepenough towards the middle part; but at many pointsaround the shore, a man may wade for miles into thewater, without getting beyond his depth. This peculiarityarises from the formation of the valley in whichit is situated. Only a few spurs of the sierras thatsurround it approach near the edge of the lake. Generallyfrom the bases of the mountains, the land slopeswith a very gentle declination,—so slight as to have theappearance of a perfectly horizontal plain,—and this iscontinued for a great way under the surface of the water.Strange enough, however, after getting to a certain distancefrom the shore, the shoal water ends as abruptly asthe escarpment of a cliff, and a depth almost unfathomablesucceeds,—as if the central part of the lake was a vastsubaqueous ravine, bounded on both sides by precipitouscliffs. Such, in reality, is it believed to be.

A singular phenomenon is observed in the Lake Maracaibo,which, since the days of Columbus, has not onlypuzzled the curious, but also the learned and scientific,who have unsuccessfully attempted to explain it. Thisphenomenon consists in the appearance of a remarkablelight, which shows itself in the middle of the night, and142at a particular part of the lake, near its southern extremity.This light bears some resemblance to the ignisfatuus of our own marshes; and most probably is aphosphorescence of a similar nature, though on a muchgrander scale,—since it is visible at a vast distanceacross the open water. As it is seen universally in thesame direction, and appears fixed in one place, it servesas a beacon for the fishermen and dye-wood traders whonavigate the waters of the lake,—its longitude beingprecisely that of the straits leading outward to the gulf.Vessels that have strayed from their course, often regulatetheir reckoning by the mysterious “Farol de Maracaibo”(Lantern of Maracaibo),—for by this name isthe natural beacon known the mariners of the lake.

Various explanations have been offered to account forthis singular phenomenon, but none seem to explain it ina satisfactory manner. It appears to be produced by theexhalations that arise from an extensive marshy tractlying around the mouth of the river Zulia, and abovewhich it universally shows itself. The atmosphere inthis quarter is usually hotter than elsewhere, and supposedto be highly charged with electricity; but whatevermay be the chemical process which produces theillumination, it acts in a perfectly silent manner. Noone has ever observed any explosion to proceed from it,or the slightest sound connected with its occurrence.

Of all the ideas suggested by the mention of LakeMaracaibo, perhaps none are so interesting as those thatrelate to its native inhabitants, whose peculiar habits andmodes of life not only astonished the early navigators,but eventually gave its name to the lake itself, and tothe extensive province in which it is situated. When143the Spanish discoverers, sailing around the shores of thegulf, arrived near the entrance of Lake Maracaibo, theysaw, to their amazement, not only single houses, butwhole villages, apparently floating upon the water! Onapproaching nearer, they perceived that these houseswere raised some feet above the surface, and supportedby posts or piles driven into the mud at the bottom.The idea of Venice—that city built upon the sea, towhich they had been long accustomed—was suggestedby these superaqueous habitations; and the name ofVenezuela (Little Venice) was at once bestowed uponthe coast, and afterwards applied to the whole provincenow known as the Republic of Venezuela.

Though the “water villages” then observed havelong since disappeared, many others of a similar kindwere afterwards discovered in Lake Maracaibo itself,some of which are in existence to the present day.Besides here and there an isolated habitation, situatedin some bay or “laguna,” there are four principal villagesupon this plan still in existence, each containingfrom fifty to a hundred habitations. The inhabitants ofsome of these villages have been “Christianized,” thatis, have submitted to the teaching of the Spanish missionaries;and one in particular is distinguished byhaving its little church—a regular water church—inthe centre, built upon piles, just as the rest of thehouses are, and only differing from the common dwellingsin being larger and of a somewhat more pretentiousstyle. From the belfry of this curious ecclesiasticaledifice a brazen bell may be heard at morn andeve tolling the “oracion” and “vespers,” and declaringover the wide waters of the lake that the authority of144the Spanish monk has replaced the power of the caziqueamong the Indians of the Lake Maracaibo. Not toall sides of the lake, however, has the cross extendedits conquest. Along its western shore roams the fierceunconquered Goajiro, who, a true warrior, still maintainshis independence; and even encroaches upon theusurped possessions both of monk and “militario.”

The water-dweller, however, although of kindred racewith the Goajiro, is very different, both in his dispositionand habits of life. He is altogether a man ofpeace, and might almost be termed a civilized being,—thatis, he follows a regular industrial calling, by whichhe subsists. This is the calling of a fisherman, and inno part of the world could he follow it with more certaintyof success, since the waters which surround hisdwelling literally swarm with fish.

Lake Maracaibo has been long noted as the resort ofnumerous and valuable species of the finny tribe, in thecapture of which the Indian fisherman finds ample occupation.He is betimes a fowler,—as we shall presentlysee,—and he also sometimes indulges, though morerarely, in the chase, finding game in the thick forestsor on the green savannas that surround the lake, orborder the banks of the numerous “riachos” (streams)running into it. On the savanna roams the gracefulroebuck and the “venado,” or South-American deer,while along the river banks stray the capibara and thestout tapir, undisturbed save by their fierce feline enemies,the puma and spotted jaguar.

But hunting excursions are not a habit of the waterIndian, whose calling, as already observed, is essentiallythat of a fisherman and “fowler,” and whose subsistence145is mainly derived from two kinds of water-dwellers, likehimself—one with fins, living below the surface, anddenominated fish; another with wings, usually restingon the surface, and known as fowl. These two creatures,of very different kinds and of many differentspecies, form the staple and daily food of the Indianof Maracaibo.

In an account of his habits we shall begin by givinga description of the mode in which he constructs hissingular dwelling.

Like other builders he begins by selecting the site.This must be a place where the water is of no greatdepth; and the farther from the shore he can find ashallow spot the better for his purpose, for he has agood reason for desiring to get to a distance from theshore, as we shall presently see. Sometimes a sort ofsubaqueous island, or elevated sandbank, is found, whichgives him the very site he is in search of. Havingpitched upon the spot, his next care is to procure acertain number of tree-trunks of the proper length andthickness to make “piles.” Not every kind of timberwill serve for this purpose, for there are not manysorts that would long resist decay and the wear andtear of the water insects, with which the lake abounds.Moreover, the building of one of these aquatic houses,although it be only a rude hut, is a work of time andlabor, and it is desirable therefore to make it as permanentas possible. For this reason great care is takenin the selection of the timber for the “piles.”

But it so chances that the forests around the lakefurnish the very thing itself, in the wood of a treeknown to the Spanish inhabitants as the “vera,” or146“palo sano,” and to the natives as “guaiac.” It isone of the zygophyls of the genus Guaiacum, of whichthere are many species, called by the names of “iron-wood”or “lignum-vitæ;” but the species in questionis the tree lignum-vitæ (Guaiacum arboreum), which attainsto a height of 100 feet, with a fine umbrella-shapedhead, and bright orange flowers. Its wood isso hard, that it will turn the edge of an axe, and thenatives believe that if it be buried for a sufficient lengthof time under the earth it will turn to iron! Thoughthis belief is not literally true, as regards the iron, itis not so much of an exaggeration as might be supposed.The “palo de fierro,” when buried in the soilof Maracaibo or immersed in the waters of the lake,in reality does undergo a somewhat similar metamorphose;in other words, it turns into stone; and thepetrified trunks of this wood are frequently met withalong the shores of the lake. What is still more singular—thepiles of the water-houses often become petrified,so that the dwelling no longer rests upon woodenposts, but upon real columns of stone!

Knowing all this by experience, the Indian selects theguaiac for his uprights, cuts them of the proper length;and then, launching them in the water, transports themto the site of his dwelling, and fixes them in their places.

Upon this a platform is erected, out of split boards ofsome less ponderous timber, usually the “ceiba,” or“silk-cotton tree” (Bombax ceiba), or the “cedro negro”(Cedrela odorata) of the order Meliaceæ. Both kindsgrow in abundance upon the shores of the lake,—andthe huge trunks of the former are also used by the waterIndian for the constructing of his canoe.

147The platform, or floor, being thus established, abouttwo or three feet above the surface of the water, it thenonly remains to erect the walls and cover them over witha roof. The former are made of the slightest materials,—lightsaplings or bamboo poles,—usually left open atthe interstices. There is no winter or cold weather here,—whyshould the walls be thick? There are heavy rains,however, at certain seasons of the year, and theserequire to be guarded against; but this is not a difficultmatter, since the broad leaves of the “enea” and “vihai”(a species of Heliconia) serve the purpose of a roof justas well as tiles, slates, or shingles. Nature in these partsis bountiful, and provides her human creatures with aspontaneous supply of every want. Even ropes andcords she furnishes, for binding the beams, joists, andrafters together, and holding on the thatch against themost furious assaults of the wind. The numerous speciesof creeping and twining plants (“llianas” or “sipos”)serve admirably for this purpose. They are applied intheir green state, and when contracted by exsiccationdraw the timbers as closely together as if held by spikesof iron. In this manner and of such materials does thewater Indian build his house.

Why he inhabits such a singular dwelling is a questionthat requires to be answered. With the terra firmaclose at hand, and equally convenient for all purposes ofhis calling, why does he not build his hut there? Somuch easier too of access would it be, for he could thenapproach it either by land or by water; whereas, in itspresent situation, he can neither go away from his houseor get back to it without the aid of his “periagua” (canoe).Moreover, by building on the beach, or by the148edge of the woods, he would spare himself the labor oftransporting those heavy piles and setting them in theirplaces,—a work, as already stated, of no ordinarymagnitude. Is it for personal security against humanenemies,—for this sometimes drives a people to seeksingular situations for their homes? No; the Indianof Maracaibo has his human foes, like all other people;but it is none of these that have forced him to adoptthis strange custom. Other enemies? wild beasts? thedreaded jaguar, perhaps? No, nothing of this kind.And yet it is in reality a living creature that drives himto this resource,—that has forced him to flee from themainland and take to the water for security against itsattack,—a creature of such small dimensions, and apparentlyso contemptible in its strength, that you willno doubt smile at the idea of its putting a strong manto flight,—a little insect exactly the size of an Englishgnat, and no bigger, but so formidable by means of itspoisonous bite, and its myriads of numbers, as to rendermany parts of the shores of Lake Maracaibo quite uninhabitable.You guess, no doubt, the insect to whichI allude? You cannot fail to recognize it as the mosquito?Just so; it is the mosquito I mean, and in nopart of South America do these insects abound in greaternumbers, and nowhere are they more bloodthirsty thanupon the borders of this great fresh-water sea. Not onlyone species of mosquito, but all the varieties known as“jejens,” “zancudos,” and “tempraneros,” here aboundin countless multitudes,—each kind making its appearanceat a particular hour of the day or night,—“mountingguard” (as the persecuted natives say of them) inturn, and allowing only short intervals of respite fromtheir bitter attacks.

149Now, it so happens, that although the various kindsof mosquitoes are peculiarly the productions of a marshyor watery region,—and rarely found where the soil ishigh and dry,—yet as rarely do they extend their excursionsto a distance from the land. They delight todwell under the shadow of leaves, or near the herbageof grass, plants, or trees, among which they were hatched.They do not stray far from the shore, and only when thebreeze carries them do they fly out over the open water.Need I say more? You have now the explanation whythe Indians of Maracaibo build their dwellings upon thewater. It is simply to escape from the “plaga de moscas”(the pest of the flies).

Like most other Indians of tropical America, and someeven of colder latitudes, those of Maracaibo go naked,wearing only the guayuco, or “waist-belt.” Those ofthem, however, who have submitted to the authority ofthe monks, have adopted a somewhat more modest garb,—consistingof a small apron of cotton or palm-fibre,suspended from the waist, and reaching down to theirknees.

We have already stated, that the water-dwelling Indianis a fisherman, and that the waters of the lakesupply him with numerous kinds of fish of excellentquality. An account of these, with the method employedin capturing them, may not prove uninteresting.

First, there is the fish known as “liza,” a species ofskate. It is of a brilliant silvery hue, with bluish corruscations.It is a small fish, being only about a footin length, but is excellent to eat, and when preservedby drying, forms an article of commerce with the West-Indianislands. Along the coasts of Cumana and Magarita,150there are many people employed in the pesca deliza (skate-fishery); but although the liza is in realitya sea fish, it abounds in the fresh waters of Maracaibo,and is there also an object of industrial pursuit. It isusually captured by seines, made out of the fibres ofthe cocui aloe (agave cocuiza), or of cords obtained fromthe unexpanded leaflets of the moriche palm (Mauritiaflexuosa), both of which useful vegetable products areindigenous to this region. The roe of the liza, whendried in the sun, is an article in high estimation, andfinds its way into the channels of commerce.

A still more delicate fish is the “pargo.” It is of awhite color tinged with rose; and of these great numbersare also captured. So, too, with the “doncella,”one of the most beautiful species, as its pretty name of“doncella” (young maiden) would indicate. These lastare so abundant in some parts of the lake, that one of itsbays is distinguished by the name of Laguna de Doncella.

A large, ugly fish, called the “vagre,” with an enormoushead and wide mouth, from each side of whichstretches a beard-like appendage, is also an object ofthe Indian’s pursuit. It is usually struck with a spear,or killed by arrows, when it shows itself near the surfaceof the water. Another monstrous creature, of nearlycircular shape, and full three feet in diameter, is the “carite,”which is harpooned in a similar fashion.

Besides these there is the “viegita,” or “old-womanfish,” which itself feeds upon lesser creatures of the finnytribe, and especially upon the smaller species of shell-fish.It has obtained its odd appellation from a singularnoise which it gives forth, and which resembles the voiceof an old woman debilitated with extreme age.

151The “dorado,” or gilded fish—so called on accountof its beautiful color—is taken by a hook, with no otherbait attached than a piece of white rag. This, however,must be kept constantly in motion, and the bait is playedby simply paddling the canoe over the surface of thelake, until the dorado, attracted by the white meteor, followsin its track, and eventually hooks itself.

Many other species of fish are taken by the water-Indians,as the “lebranche” which goes in large “schools,”and makes its breeding-place in the lagunas and up therivers, and the “guabina,” with several kinds of sardinesthat find their way into the tin boxes of Europe; for theMaracaibo fisherman is not contented with an exclusivefish diet. He likes a little “casava,” or maize-bread,along with it; besides, he has a few other wants to satisfy,and the means he readly obtains in exchange for thesurplus produce of his nets, harpoons, and arrows.

We have already stated that he is a fowler. At certainseasons of the year this is essentially his occupation.The fowling season with him is the period of northernwinter, when the migratory aquatic birds come downfrom the boreal regions of Prince Rupert’s Land to disporttheir bodies in the more agreeable waters of LakeMaracaibo. There they assemble in large flocks, darkeningthe air with their myriads of numbers, now flutteringover the lake, or, at other times, seated on its surfacesilent and motionless. Notwithstanding their great numbers,however, they are too shy to be approached nearenough for the “carry” of an Indian arrow, or a guneither; and were it not for a very cunning stratagemwhich the Indian has adopted for their capture, theymight return again to their northern haunts without beingminus an individual of their “count.”

152But they are not permitted to depart thus unscathed.During their sojourn within the limits of Lake Maracaibotheir legions get considerably thinned, and thousandsof them that settle down upon its inviting watersare destined never more to take wing.

To effect their capture, the Indian fowler, as alreadystated, makes use of a very ingenious stratagem. Somethingsimilar is described as being practised in otherparts of the world; but in no place is it carried to suchperfection as upon the Lake Maracaibo.

The fowler first provides himself with a number oflarge gourd-shells of roundish form, and each of them atleast as big as his own skull. These he can easily obtain,either from the herbaceous squash (Cucurbita lagenaris)or from the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete), bothof which grow luxuriantly on the shores of the lake.Filling his periagua with these, he proceeds out into theopen water to a certain distance from the land, or fromhis own dwelling. The distance is regulated by severalconsiderations. He must reach a place which, at allhours of the day, the ducks and other waterfowl are notafraid to frequent; and, on the other hand, he must notgo beyond such a depth as will bring the water higherthan his own chin when wading through it. This lastconsideration is not of so much importance, for the waterIndian can swim almost as well as a duck, and dive likeone, if need be; but it is connected with another matterof greater importance—the convenience of having thebirds as near as possible, to save him a too long andwearisome “wade.” It is necessary to have them sonear, that at all hours they may be under his eye.

Having found the proper situation, which the last extent153of shoal water (already mentioned) enables him todo, he proceeds to carry out his design by dropping agourd here and another there, until a large space of surfaceis covered by these floating shells. Each gourd hasa stone attached to it by means of a string, which, restingupon the bottom, brings the buoy to an anchor, andprevents it from being drifted into the deeper wateror carried entirely away.

When his decoys are all placed, the Indian paddlesback to his platform dwelling, and there, with watchfuleye, awaits the issue. The birds are at first shy of theseround yellow objects intruded upon their domain; but, asthe hours pass, and they perceive no harm in them, theyat length take courage and venture to approach. Urgedby that curiosity which is instinctive in every creature,they gradually draw nigher and nigher, until at lengththey boldly venture into the midst of the odd objects andexamine them minutely. Though puzzled to make outwhat it is all meant for, they can perceive no harmin the yellow globe-shaped things that only bob about,but make no attempt to do them any injury. Thus satisfied,their curiosity soon wears off, and the birds nolonger regarding the floating shells as objects of suspicion,swim freely about through their midst, or sit quietlyon the water side by side with them.

But the crisis has now arrived when it is necessarythe Indian should act, and for this he speedily equipshimself. He first ties a stout rope around his waist, towhich are attached many short strings or cords. He thendraws over his head a large gourd-shell, which, fittingpretty tightly, covers his whole skull, reaching down tohis neck. This shell is exactly similar to the others154already floating on the water, with the exception of havingthree holes on one side of it, two on the same levelwith the Indian’s eyes, and the third opposite his mouth,intended to serve him for a breathing-hole.

He is now ready for work; and, thus oddly accoutred,he slips quietly down from his platform, and laying himselfalong the water, swims gently in the direction ofthe ducks.

He swims only where the water is too shallow toprevent him from crouching below the surface; for werehe to stand upright, and wade,—even though he werestill distant from them,—the shy birds might have suspicionsabout his after-approaches.

When he reaches a point where the lake is sufficientlydeep, he gets upon his feet and wades, still keeping hisshoulders below the surface. He makes his advancevery slowly and warily, scarce raising a ripple on thesurface of the placid lake, and the nearer he gets tohis intended victims he proceeds with the greater caution.

The unsuspecting birds see the destroyer approachwithout having the slightest misgiving of danger. Theyfancy that the new comer is only another of those inanimateobjects by their side—another gourd-shell driftingout upon the water to join its companions. They haveno suspicion that this wooden counterfeit—like the horseof Troy—is inhabited by a terrible enemy.

Poor things! how could they? A stratagem so wellcontrived would deceive more rational intellects thantheirs; and, in fact, having no idea of danger, theyperhaps do not trouble themselves even to notice thenew arrival.

155Meanwhile the gourd has drifted silently into theirmidst, and is seen approaching the odd individuals, firstone and afterwards another, as if it had some specialbusiness with each. This business appears to be of avery mysterious character; and in each case is abruptlybrought to a conclusion, by the duck making a suddendive under the water,—not head foremost, according toits usual practice, but in the reverse way, as if jerkeddown by the feet, and so rapidly that the creature hasnot time to utter a single “quak.”

After quite a number of individuals have disappearedin this mysterious manner, the others sometimes growsuspicious of the moving calabash, and either take towing, or swim off to a less dangerous neighborhood; butif the gourd performs its office in a skilful manner, itwill be seen passing several times to and fro betweenthe birds and the water-village before this event takesplace. On each return trip, when far from the flock,and near the habitations, it will be seen to rise highabove the surface of the water. It will then be perceivedthat it covers the skull of a copper-colored savage,around whose hips may be observed a double tierof dead ducks dangling by their necks from the ropeupon his waist, and forming a sort of plumed skirt, theweight of which almost drags its wearer back into thewater.

Of course a capture is followed by a feast; and duringthe fowling season of the year the Maracaibo Indianenjoys roast-duck at discretion. He does not troublehis head much about the green peas, nor is he particularto have his ducks stuffed with sage and onions; but ahot seasoning of red pepper is one of the indispensable156ingredients of the South-American cuisine: and heusually obtains from a small patch of capsicum which hecultivates upon the adjacent shore; or, if he be not possessedof land, he procures it by barter, exchanging hisfowls or fish for that and a little maize or manioc flour,furnished by the coast-traders.

The Maracaibo Indian is not a stranger to commerce.He has been “Christianized,”—to use the phraseologyof his priestly proselytizer,—and this has introducedhim to new wants and necessities. Expenses that in hisformer pagan state were entirely unknown to him, havenow become necessary, and a commercial effort is requiredto meet them. The Church must have its dues.Such luxuries as being baptized, married, and buried, arenot to be had without expense, and the padre takes goodcare that none of these shall be had for nothing. Hehas taught his proselyte to believe that unless all theserites have been officially performed there is not theslightest chance for him in the next world; and underthe influence of this delusion, the simple savage willinglyyields up his tenth, his fifth, or, perhaps it would bemore correct to say, his all. Between fees of baptismand burial, mulcts for performance of the marriage rite,contributions towards the shows and ceremonies of diasde fiesta, extravagant prices for blessed beads, leadencrucifixes, and images of patron saints, the poor ChristianizedIndian is compelled to part with nearly thewhole of his humble gains; and the fear of not beingable to pay for Christian burial after death, is often oneof the torments of his life.

To satisfy the numerous demands of the Church, therefore,he is forced into a little action in the commercial157line. With the water-dweller of Maracaibo, fish formsone of the staples of export trade,—of course in thepreserved state, as he is too distant from any great townor metropolis to be able to make market of them whilefresh. He understands, however, the mode of curingthem,—which he accomplishes by sun-drying and smoking,—and,thus prepared, they are taken off his handsby the trader, who carries them all over the West Indies,where, with boiled rice, they form the staple food ofthousands of the dark-skinned children of Ethiopia.

The Maracaibo Indian, however, has still another resource,which occasionally supplies him with an articleof commercial export. His country—that is, the adjacentshores of the lake—produces the finest caoutchouc.There the India-rubber tree, of more than onespecies, flourishes in abundance; and the true “seringa,”that yields the finest and most valuable kind of thisgummy juice, is nowhere found in greater perfectionthan in the forests of Maracaibo. The caoutchouc ofcommerce is obtained from many other parts of America,as well as from other tropical countries; but as manyof the bottles and shoes so well known in the india-rubbershops, are manufactured by the Indians of Maracaibo,we may not find a more appropriate place to givean account of this singular production, and the mode bywhich it is prepared for the purposes of commerce andmanufacture.

As already mentioned, many species of trees yieldindia-rubber, most of them belonging either to the orderof the “Morads,” or Euphorbiaceæ. Some are speciesof ficus, but both the genera and species are too numerousto be given here. That which supplies the “bottle158india-rubber” is a euphorbiaceous plant,—the seringaabove mentioned,—whose proper botanical appellationis Siphonia elastica. It is a tall, straight, smooth-barkedtree, having a trunk of about a foot in diameter, thoughin favorable situations reaching to much larger dimensions.The process of extracting its sap—out of whichthe caoutchouc is manufactured—bears some resemblanceto the tapping of sugar-maples in the forests ofthe north.

With his small hatchet, or tomahawk, the Indian cutsa gash in the bark, and inserts into it a little wedge ofwood to keep the sides apart. Just under the gash, hefixes a small cup-shaped vessel of clay, the clay beingstill in a plastic state, so that it may be attached closelyto the bark. Into this vessel the milk-like sap of theseringa soon commences to run, and keeps on until ithas yielded about the fifth of a pint. This, however, isnot the whole yield of a tree, but only of a single wound;and it is usual to open a great many gashes, or “taps,”upon the same trunk, each being furnished with its owncup or receiver. In from four to six hours the sap ceasesto run.

The cups are then detached from the tree, and thecontents of all, poured into a large earthen vessel, arecarried to the place where the process of making thecaoutchouc is to take place,—usually some dry openspot in the middle of the forest, where a temporary camphas been formed for the purpose.

When the dwelling of the Indian is at a distance fromwhere the india-rubber tree grows,—as is the case withthose of Lake Maracaibo,—it will not do to transportthe sap thither. There must be no delay after the cups159are filled, and the process of manufacture must proceedat once, or as soon as the milky juice begins to coagulate,—whichit does almost on the instant.

Previous to reaching his camp, the “seringero” hasprovided a large quantity of palm-nuts, with which heintends to make a fire for smoking the caoutchouc.These nuts are the fruit of several kinds of palms, butthe best are those afforded by two magnificent species,—the“Inaja” (Maximiliana regia), and the “Urucuri”(Attalea excelsa).

A fire is kindled of these nuts; and an earthen pot,with a hole in the bottom, is placed mouth downwardover the pile. Through the aperture now rises a strongpungent smoke.

If it is a shoe that is intended to be made, a clay lastis already prepared, with a stick standing out of the topof it, to serve as a handle, while the operation is goingon. Taking the stick in his hand, the seringero dips thelast lightly into the milk, or with a cup pours the fluidgently over it, so as to give a regular coating to thewhole surface; and then, holding it over the smoke, hekeeps turning it, jack-fashion, till the fluid has becomedry and adhesive. Another dip is then given, and thesmoking done as before; and this goes on, till forty orfifty different coats have brought the sides and soles ofthe shoe to a proper thickness. The soles, requiringgreater weight, are, of course, oftener dipped than the“upper leather.”

The whole process of making the shoe does not occupyhalf an hour; but it has afterwards to receive some fartherattention in the way of ornament; the lines andfigures are yet to be executed, and this is done about160two days after the smoking process. They are simplytraced out with a piece of smooth wire, or oftener withthe spine obtained from some tree,—as the thorny pointof the bromelia leaf.

In about a week the shoes are ready to be taken fromthe last; and this is accomplished at the expense andutter ruin of the latter, which is broken into fragments,and then cleaned out. Water is used sometimes to softenthe last, and the inner surface of the shoe is washed afterthe clay has been taken out.

Bottles are made precisely in the same manner,—around ball, or other shaped mass of clay, serving as themould for their construction. It requires a little moretrouble to get the mould extracted from the narrow neckof the bottle.

It may be remarked that it is not the smoke of thepalm-nuts that gives to the india-rubber its peculiar darkcolor; that is the effect of age. When freshly manufactured,it is still of a whitish or cream color; and onlyattains the dark hue after it has been kept for a considerabletime.

We might add many other particulars about the modein which the Indian of Maracaibo employs his time, butperhaps enough has been said to show that his existenceis altogether an odd one.



The Esquimaux are emphatically an “odd people,”perhaps the oddest upon the earth. The peculiar characterof the regions they inhabit has naturally initiatedthem into a system of habits and modes of life differentfrom those of any other people on the face of the globe;and from the remoteness and inaccessibility of the countriesin which they dwell, not only have they remainedan unmixed people, but scarce any change has takenplace in their customs and manners during the longperiod since they were first known to civilized nations.

The Esquimaux people have been long known andtheir habits often described. Our first knowledge ofthem was obtained from Greenland,—for the nativeinhabitants of Greenland are true Esquimaux,—andhundreds of years ago accounts of them were given tothe world by the Danish colonists and missionaries—asalso by the whalers who visited the coasts of thatinhospitable land. In later times they have been madefamiliar to us through the Arctic explorers and whale-fishers,who have traversed the labyrinth of icy islandsthat extend northward from the continent of America.The Esquimaux may boast of possessing the longest162country in the world. In the first place, Greenland istheirs, and they are found along the western shores ofBaffin’s Bay. In North America proper their territorycommences at the straits of Belle Isle, which separateNewfoundland from Labrador, and thence extends allaround the shore of the Arctic Ocean, not only to Behring’sStraits, but beyond these, around the Pacific coastof Russian America, as far south as the great mountainSt. Elias. Across Behring’s Straits they are found occupyinga portion of the Asiatic coast, under the nameof Tchutski, and some of the islands in the northernangle of the Pacific Ocean are also inhabited by thesepeople, though under a different name. Furthermore,the numerous ice islands which lie between NorthAmerica and the Pole are either inhabited or visitedby Esquimaux to the highest point that discovery hasyet reached.

There can be little doubt that the Laplanders ofnorthern Europe, and the Samoyedes, and other littoralpeoples dwelling along the Siberian shores, are kindredraces of the Esquimaux; and taking this view of thequestion, it may be said that the latter possess all theline of coast of both continents facing northward; inother words, that their country extends around theglobe—though it cannot be said (as is often boastinglydeclared of the British empire) that “the sunnever sets upon it;” for, over the “empire” of theEsquimaux, the sun not only sets, but remains out ofsight of it for months at a time.

It is not usual, however, to class the Laplanders andAsiatic Arctic people with the Esquimaux. There aresome essential points of difference; and what is here163said of the Esquimaux relates only to those who inhabitthe northern coasts and islands of America, andto the native Greenlanders.

Notwithstanding the immense extent of territory thusdesignated, notwithstanding the sparseness of the Esquimauxpopulation, and the vast distances by which onelittle tribe or community is separated from another, theabsolute similarity in their habits, in their physical andintellectual conformation, and, above all, in their languages,proves incontestably that they are all originallyof one and the same race.

Whatever, therefore, may be said of a “Schelling,”or native Greenlander, will be equally applicable to anEsquimaux of Labrador, to an Esquimaux of the MackenzieRiver or Bhering’s Straits, or we might add, to aa Khadiak islander, or a Tuski of the opposite Asiaticcoast; always taking into account such differences ofcostume, dialect, modes of life, &c., as may be broughtabout by the different circumstances in which they areplaced. In all these things, however, they are wonderfullyalike; their dresses, weapons, boats, houses, andhouse implements, being almost the same in materialand construction from East Greenland to the TchutskoiNoss.

If their country be the longest in the world, it is alsothe narrowest. Of course, if we take into account thelarge islands that thickly stud the Arctic Ocean, it maybe deemed broad enough; but I am speaking ratherof the territory which they possess on the continents.This may be regarded as a mere strip following theoutline of the coast, and never extending beyond thedistance of a day’s journey inland. Indeed, they only164seek the interior in the few short weeks of summer, forthe purpose of hunting the reindeer, the musk-ox, andother animals; after each excursion, returning again tothe shores of the sea, where they have their winter housesand more permanent home. They are, trulyand emphatically, a littoral people, and it is to the seathey look for their principal means of support. Butfor this source of supply, they could not long continueto exist upon land altogether incapable of supplyingthe wants even of the most limited population.

The name Esquimaux—or, as it is sometimes written,“Eskimo,”—like many other national appellations,is of obscure origin. It is supposed to havebeen given to them by the Canadian voyageurs in theemploy of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and derivedfrom the words Ceux qui miaux (those who mew), inrelation to their screaming like cats. But the etymologyis, to say the least, suspicious. They generally callthemselves “Inuit” (pronounced enn-oo-eet), a wordwhich signifies “men;”—though different tribes ofthem have distinct tribal appellations.

The man-eaters and other odd people. (4)

In personal appearance, they cannot be regarded asat all prepossessing—though some of the youngermen and girls, when cleansed of the filth and greasewith which their skin is habitually coated, are far fromill-looking. Their natural color is not much darkerthan that of some of the southern nations of Europe—thePortuguese, for instance—and the young girlsoften have blooming cheeks, and a pleasing expressionof countenance. Their faces are generally of a broad,roundish shape, the forehead and chin both narrow andreceding, and the cheeks very prominent, though not165angular. On the contrary, they are rather fat andround. This prominence of the cheeks gives to theirnose the appearance of being low and flat; and individualsare often seen with such high cheeks, that aruler laid from one to the other would not touch thebridge of the nose between them!

As they grow older their complexion becomes darker,perhaps from exposure to the climate. Very naturally,too, both men and women grow uglier, but especially thelatter, some of whom in old age present such a hideousaspect, that the early Arctic explorers could not helpcharacterizing them as witches.

The average stature of the Esquimaux is far below thatof European nations, though individuals are sometimes metwith nearly six feet in height. These, however, are rareexceptions; and an Esquimaux of such proportions wouldbe a giant among his people. The more common heightis from four feet eight inches to five feet eight; and thewomen are still shorter, rarely attaining the standard offive feet. The shortness of both men and women appearsto be a deficiency in length of limb, for theirbodies are long enough; but, as the Esquimaux is almostconstantly in his canoe, or “kayak,” or upon hisdog-sledge, his legs have but little to do, and are consequentlystunted in their development.

A similar peculiarity is presented by the Comanche,and other Indians of the prairies, and also in the Guachosand Patagonian Indians, of the South-American Pampas,who spend most of their time on the backs of theirhorses.

The Esquimaux have no religion, unless we dignify bythat name a belief in witches, sorcerers, “Shamans,” and166good or evil spirits, with some confused notion of agood and bad place hereafter. Missionary zeal has beenexerted among them almost in vain. They exhibit anapathetic indifference to the teachings of Christianity.

Neither have they any political organization; and inthis respect they differ essentially from most savagesknown, the lowest of whom have usually their chiefs andcouncils of elders. This absence of all government,however, is no proof of their being lower in the scaleof civilization than other savages; but, perhaps, ratherthe contrary, for the very idea of chiefdom, or government,is a presumption of the existence of vice among apeople, and the necessity of coercion and repression. Toone another these rude people are believed to act in themost honest manner; and it could be shown that suchwas likewise their behavior towards strangers until theywere corrupted by excessive temptation. All Arcticvoyagers record instances of what they term petty theft,on the part of certain tribes of Esquimaux,—that is,the pilfering of nails, hatchets, pieces of iron-hoops, &c.,—butit might be worth while reflecting that thesearticles are, in the eyes of the Esquimaux, what ingotsof gold are to Europeans, and worth while inquiringif a few bars of the last-mentioned metal were laidloosely and carelessly upon the pavements of London,how long they would be in changing their owners? Theftshould be regarded along with the amount of temptation;and it appears even in these recorded cases that only afew of the Esquimaux took part in it. I apprehendthat something more than a few Londoners would befound picking up the golden ingots. How many thieveshave we among us, with no greater temptation than167a cheap cotton kerchief?—more than a few, it is to befeared.

In truth, the Esquimaux are by no means the savagesthey have been represented. The only important pointin which they at all assimilate to the purely savage stateis in the filthiness of their persons, and perhaps also in thefact of their eating much of their food (fish and flesh-meat)in a raw state. For the latter habit, however,they are partially indebted to the circumstances in whichthey are placed—fires or cookery being at times altogetherimpossible. They are not the only people whohave been forced to eat raw flesh; and Europeans whohave travelled in that inhospitable country soon get usedto the practice, at the same time getting quite cured oftheir dégoût for it.

It is certainly not correct to characterize the Esquimauxas mere savages. On the contrary, they may beregarded as a civilized people, that is, so far as civilizationis permitted by the rigorous climate in which theylive; and it would be safe to affirm that a colony of themost polished people in Europe, established as the Esquimauxare, and left solely to their own resources, wouldin a single generation exhibit a civilization not one degreehigher than that now met with among the Esquimaux.Indeed, the fact is already established: the Danish andNorwegian colonists of West Greenland, though backedby constant intercourse with their mother-land, are butlittle more civilized than the “Skellings,” who are theirneighbors.

In reality, the Esquimaux have made the most of thecircumstances in which they are placed, and continue todo so. Among them agriculture is impossible, else they168would long since have taken to it. So too is commerce;and as to manufactures, it is doubtful whether Europeanscould excel them under like circumstances. Whateverraw material their country produces, is by them bothstrongly and neatly fabricated, as indicated by the surprisingskill with which they make their dresses, theirboats, their implements for hunting and fishing; and inthese accomplishments—the only ones practicable undertheir hyperborean heaven—they are perfect adepts. Insuch arts civilized Europeans are perfect simpletons tothem, and the theories of fireside speculators, so latelypromulgated in our newspapers, that Sir John Franklinand his crew could not fail to procure a living where thesimple Esquimaux were able to make a home, betrayedonly ignorance of the condition of these people. Intruth, white men would starve, where the Esquimauxcould live in luxurious abundance, so far superior to oursis their knowledge both of fishing and the chase. It is awell-recorded fact, that while our Arctic voyagers, attheir winter stations, provided with good guns, nets,and every appliance, could but rarely kill a reindeer orcapture a seal, the Esquimaux obtained both in abundance,and apparently without an effort; and we shallpresently note the causes of their superiority in thisrespect.

The very dress of the Esquimaux is a proof of theirsuperiority over other savages. At no season of theyear do they go either naked, or even “ragged.” Theyhave their changes to suit the seasons,—their summerdress, and one of a warmer kind for winter. Both aremade in a most complicated manner; and the preparationof the material, as well as the manner by which it169is put together, prove the Esquimaux women—for theyare alike the tailors and dressmakers—to be amongthe best seamstresses in the world.

Captain Lyon, one of the most observant of Arcticvoyagers, has given a description of the costume of theEsquimaux of Savage Island, and those of Repulse Bay,where he wintered, and his account is so graphic andminute in details, that it would be idle to alter a wordof his language. His description, with slight differencesin make and material, will answer pretty accurately forthe costume of the whole race.

“The clothes of both sexes are principally composedof fine and well-prepared reindeer pelts; the skins ofbears, seals, wolves, foxes, and marmottes, are also used.The seal-skins are seldom employed for any part of thedress except boots and shoes, as being more capable ofresisting water, and of far greater durability than otherleather.

“The general winter dress of the men is an ampleouter coat of deer-skin, having no opening in front, anda large hood, which is drawn over the head at pleasure.This hood is invariably bordered with white fur fromthe thighs of the deer, and thus presents a lively contrastto the dark face which it encircles. The front orbelly part of the coat is cut off square with the upperpart of the thighs, but behind it is formed into a broadskirt, rounded at the lower end, which reaches to withina few inches of the ground. The lower edges and tailsof these dresses are in some cases bordered with bandsof fur of an opposite color to the body; and it is a favoriteornament to hang a fringe of little strips of skin beneaththe border. The embellishments give a very170pleasing appearance to the dress. It is customary inblowing weather to tie a piece of skin or cord tight roundthe waist of the coat; but in other cases the dress hangsloose.

“Within the covering I have just described is another,of precisely the same form; but though destitute of ornamentsof leather, it has frequently little strings of beadshanging to it from the shoulders or small of the back.This dress is of thinner skin, and acts as a shirt, thehairy part being placed near the body: it is the in-doorshabit. When walking, the tail is tied up by two stringsto the back, so that it may not incommode the legs. Besidesthese two coats, they have also a large cloak, or,in fact, an open deer-skin, with sleeves: this, from itssize, is more frequently used as a blanket; and I butonce saw it worn by a man at the ship, although thewomen throw it over their shoulders to shelter themselvesand children while sitting on the sledge.

“The trowsers, which are tightly tied round the loins,have no waistbands, but depend entirely by the drawing-string;they are generally of deer-skin, and ornamentedin the same manner as the coats. One of the mostfavorite patterns is an arrangement of the skins of deer’slegs, so as to form very pretty stripes. As with thejackets, there are two pair of these indispensables,reaching no lower than the knee-cap, which is a causeof great distress in cold weather, as that part is frequentlyseverely frost-bitten; yet, with all their experienceof this bad contrivance, they will not add an inchto the established length.

“The boots reach to the bottom of the breeches, whichhang loosely over them. In these, as in other parts of171the dress, are many varieties of color, material, and pattern,yet in shape they never vary. The general winterboots are of deer-skin; one having the hair next the leg,and the other with the fur outside. A pair of soft slippersof the same kind are worn between the two pair ofboots, and outside of all a strong seal-skin shoe is pulledto the height of the ankle, where it is tightly secured bya drawing-string. For hunting excursions, or in summerwhen the country is thawed, one pair of boots onlyis worn. They are of seal-skin, and so well sewed andprepared without the hair, that although completely saturated,they allow no water to pass through them. Thesoles are generally of the tough hide of the walrus, orof the large seal called Oō-ghĭoo, so that the feet arewell protected in walking over rough ground. Slippersare sometimes worn outside. In both cases the bootsare tightly fastened round the instep with a thong ofleather. The mittens in common use are of deer-skin,with the hair inside; but, in fact, every kind of skin isused for them. They are extremely comfortable whendry; but if once wetted and frozen again, in the winterafford as little protection to the hands as a case of icewould do. In summer, and in fishing, excellent seal-skinmittens are used, and have the same power of resistingwater as the boots of which I have just spoken. Thedresses I have just described are chiefly used in winter.During the summer it is customary to wear coats, boots,and even breeches, composed of the prepared skins ofducks, with the feathers next the body. These are comfortable,light, and easily prepared. The few ornamentsin their possession are worn by the men. These aresome bandeaus which encircle the head, and are composed172of various-colored leather, plaited in a mosaicpattern, and in some cases having human hair woven inthem, as a contrast to the white-skins. From the loweredge foxes’ teeth hang suspended, arranged as a fringeacross the forehead. Some wear a musk-ox tooth, a bitof ivory, or a small piece of bone.

“The clothing of the women is of the same materialsas that of the men, but in shape almost every part isdifferent from the male dress. An inner jacket is wornnext the skin, and the fur of the other is outside. Thehind-flap, or tail, is of the same form before described,but there is also a small flap in front, extending abouthalf-way down the thigh. The coats have each an immensehood, which, as well as covering the head, answersthe purpose of a child’s cradle for two or three yearsafter the birth of an infant. In order to keep the burdenof the child from drawing the dress tight across thethroat, a contrivance, in a great measure resembling theslings of a soldier’s knapsack, is affixed to the collar orneck part, whence it passes beneath the hood, crosses,and, being brought under the arms, is secured on eachside the breast by a wooden button. The shoulders ofthe women’s coat have a bag-like space, for the purposeof facilitating the removal of the child from the hoodround to the breast without taking it out of the jacket.

“A girdle is sometimes worn round the waist: it answersthe double purposes of comfort and ornament,being composed of what they consider valuable trinkets,such as foxes’ bones (those of the rableeaghioo), orsometimes of the ears of deer, which hang in pairs tothe number of twenty or thirty, and are trophies of theskill of the hunter, to whom the wearer is allied. The173inexpressibles of the women are in the same form asthose of the men, but they are not ornamented by thesame curious arrangement of colors; the front part isgenerally of white, and the back of dark fur. Themanner of securing them at the waist is also the same;but the drawing-strings are of much greater length, beingsuffered to hang down by one side, and their ends arefrequently ornamented with some pendent jewel, suchas a grinder or two of the musk-ox, a piece of ivory, asmall ball of wood, or a perforated stone.

“The boots of the fair sex are, without dispute, themost extraordinary part of their equipment, and are ofsuch an immense size as to resemble leather sacks, andto give a most deformed, and, at the same time, ludicrousappearance to the whole figure, the bulky part being atthe knee; the upper end is formed into a pointed flap,which, covering the front of the thigh, is secured by abutton or knot within the waistband of the breeches.

“Some of these ample articles of apparel are composedwith considerable taste, of various-colored skins;they also have them of parchment,—seals’ leather. Twopairs are worn; and the feet have also a pair of seal-skinslippers, which fit close, and are tightly tied roundthe ankle.

“Children have no kind of clothing, but lie naked intheir mothers’ hoods until two or three years of age,when they are stuffed into a little dress, generally offawn-skin, which has jacket and breeches in one, theback part being open; into these they are pushed, whena string or two closes all up again. A cap forms anindispensable part of the equipment, and is generally ofsome fantastical shape; the skin of a fawn’s head is a174favorite material in the composition, and is sometimesseen with the ears perfect; the nose and holes for theeyes lying along the crown of the wearer’s head, whichin consequence, looks like that of an animal.”

The same author also gives a most graphic descriptionof the curious winter dwellings of the Esquimaux, whichon many parts of the coast are built out of the onlymaterials to be had,—ice and snow! Snow for thewalls and ice for the windows! you might fancy thehouse of the Esquimaux to be a very cold dwelling;such, however, is by no means its character.

“The entrance to the dwellings,” says Captain Lyon,“was by a hole, about a yard in diameter, which ledthrough a low-arched passage of sufficient breadth fortwo to pass in a stooping posture, and about sixteen feetin length; another hole then presented itself, and ledthrough a similarly-shaped, but shorter passage, havingat its termination a round opening, about two feet across.Up this hole we crept one step, and found ourselves in adome about seven feet in height, and as many in diameter,from whence the three dwelling-places, with archedroofs, were entered. It must be observed that this is thedescription of a large hut, the smaller ones, containingone or two families, have the domes somewhat differentlyarranged.

“Each dwelling might be averaged at fourteen or sixteenfeet in diameter by six or seven in height, but assnow alone was used in their construction, and wasalways at hand, it might be supposed that there wasno particular size, that being of course at the option ofthe builder. The laying of the arch was performed in sucha manner as would have satisfied the most regular artist,175the key-piece on the top, being a large square slab. Theblocks of snow used in the buildings were from four tosix inches in thickness, and about a couple of feet inlength, carefully pared with a large knife. Where twofamilies occupied a dome, a seat was raised on eitherside, two feet in height. These raised places were usedas beds, and covered in the first place with whalebone,sprigs of andromeda, or pieces of seals’-skin, over thesewere spread deer-pelts and deer-skin clothes, which hada very warm appearance. The pelts were used as blankets,and many of them had ornamental fringes of leathersewed round their edges.

“Each dwelling-place was illumined by a broad pieceof transparent fresh-water ice, of about two feet in diameter,which formed part of the roof, and was placed overthe door. These windows gave a most pleasing light,free from glare, and something like that which is thrownthrough ground glass. We soon learned that the buildingof a house was but the work of an hour or two, andthat a couple of men—one to cut the slabs and theother to lay them—were laborers sufficient.

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“For the support of the lamps and cooking apparatus,a mound of snow is erected for each family; and whenthe master has two wives or a mother, both have anindependent place, one at each end of the bench.

“I find it impossible to attempt describing everythingat a second visit, and shall therefore only give an accountof those articles of furniture which must be always thesame, and with which, in five minutes, any one might beacquainted. A frame, composed of two or three brokenfishing-spears, supported in the first place a large hoopof wood or bone, across which an open-meshed and ill-made176net was spread or worked for the reception of wetor damp clothes, skins, etc., which could be dried by theheat of the lamp. On this contrivance the master ofeach hut placed his gloves on entering, first carefullyclearing them of snow.

“From the frame above mentioned, one or more coffin-shapedstone pots were suspended over lamps of thesame material, crescent-shaped, and having a ridgeextending along their back; the bowl part was filledwith blubber, and the oil and wicks were ranged closetogether along the edge. The wicks were made of mossand trimmed by a piece of asbestos, stone, or wood; nearat hand a large bundle of moss was hanging for a futuresupply. The lamps were supported by sticks, bones, orpieces of horn, at a sufficient height to admit an oval potof wood or whalebone beneath, in order to catch any oilthat might drop from them. The lamps varied considerablyin size, from two feet to six inches in length, andthe pots were equally irregular, holding from two orthree gallons to half a pint. Although I have mentioneda kind of scaffolding, these people did not all possess sogrand an establishment, many being contented to suspendtheir pot to a piece of bone stuck in the wall of the hut.One young woman was quite a caricature in this way:she was the inferior wife of a young man, whose seniorlady was of a large size, and had a corresponding lamp,etc., at one corner; while she herself, being short andfat, had a lamp the size of half a dessert-plate, and a potwhich held a pint only.

“Almost every family was possessed of a large woodentray, resembling those used by butchers in England;its offices, however, as we soon perceived, were177more various, some containing raw flesh of seals andblubber, and others, skins, which were steeping in urine.A quantity of variously-sized bowls of whalebone, wood,or skin, completed the list of vessels, and it was evidentthat they were made to contain anything.”

The Esquimaux use two kinds of boats,—the “oomiak”and “kayak.” The oomiak is merely a largespecies of punt, used exclusively by the women; but thekayak is a triumph in the art of naval architecture, andis as elegant as it is ingenious. It is about twenty-fivefeet in length, and less than two in breadth of beam. Inshape it has been compared to a weaver’s shuttle, thoughit tapers much more elegantly than this piece of machinery.It is decked from stem to stern, excepting acircular hole very nearly amidships, and this round hatch-wayis just large enough to admit the body of an Esquimauxin a sitting posture. Around the rim of the circleis a little ridge, sometimes higher in front than at theback, and this ridge is often ornamented with a hoop ofivory. A flat piece of wood runs along each side of theframe, and is, in fact, the only piece of any strength in akayak. Its depth in the centre is four or five inches, andits thickness about three fourths of an inch; it tapers toa point at the commencement of the stem and stern projections.Sixty-four ribs are fastened to this gunwalepiece; seven slight rods run the whole length of the bottomand outside the ribs. The bottom is rounded, andhas no keel; twenty-two little beams or cross-pieces keepthe frame on a stretch above, and one strong batten runsalong the centre, from stem to stern, being, of course, discontinuedat the seat part. The ribs are made of groundwillow, also of whalebone, or, if it can be procured, of178good-grained wood. The whole contrivance does notweigh over fifty or sixty pounds; so that a man easilycarries his kayak on his head, which, by the form of therim, he can do without the assistance of his hands.

An Esquimaux prides himself in the neat appearanceof his boat, and has a warm skin placed in its bottom tosit on. His posture with the legs pointed forward, andhe cannot change his position without the assistance ofanother person; in all cases where a weight is to belifted, an alteration of stowage, or any movement to bemade, it is customary for two kayaks to lie together; andthe paddle of each being placed across the other, theyform a steady double boat. An inflated seal’s bladderforms, invariably, part of the equipage of a canoe, andthe weapons are confined in their places by small linesof whalebone, stretched tightly across the upper covering,so as to receive the points or handles of the spearsbeneath them. Flesh is frequently stowed within thestem or stern, as are also birds and eggs; but a seal, althoughround, and easily made to roll, is so neatly balancedon the upper part of the boat as seldom to requirea lashing. When Esquimaux are not paddling, their balancemust be nicely preserved, and a trembling motion isalways observable in the boat. The most difficult positionfor managing a kayak is when going before the wind,and with a little swell running. Any inattention wouldinstantly, by exposing the broadside, overturn this frailvessel. The dexterity with which they are turned, thevelocity of their way, and the extreme elegance of formof the kayaks, render an Esquimaux of the highest interestwhen sitting independently, and urging his course towardshis prey.

179“The paddle is double-bladed, nine feet three inchesin length, small at the grasp, and widening to four inchesat the blades, which are thin, and edged with ivory forstrength as well as ornament.

“The next object of importance to the boat is thesledge, which finds occupation during at least threefourths of the year. A man who possesses both thisand a canoe is considered a person of property. Togive a particular description of the sledge would be impossible,as there are no two actually alike; and the materialsof which they are composed are as various astheir form. The best are made of the jaw-bones of thewhale, sawed to about two inches in thickness, and indepth from six inches to a foot. These are the runners,and are shod with a thin plank of the same material;the side-pieces are connected by means of bones, piecesof wood, or deers’ horns, lashed across, with a few inchesspace between each, and they yield to any great strainwhich the sledge may receive. The general breadth ofthe upper part of the sledge is about twenty inches; butthe runners lean inwards, and therefore at bottom it israther greater. The length of bone sledges is from fourfeet to fourteen. Their weight is necessarily great; andone of moderate size, that is to say, about ten or twelvefeet, was found to be two hundred and seventeen pounds.The skin of the walrus is very commonly used duringthe coldest part of the winter, as being hard-frozen, andresembling an inch board, with ten time the strength, forrunners. Another ingenious contrivance is, by casing mossand earth in seal’s skin, so that by pouring a little watera round hard bolster is easily formed. Across all thesekinds of runners there is the same arrangement of bones,180sticks, &c., on the upper part; and the surface whichpasses over the snow is coated with ice, by mixing snowwith fresh water, which assists greatly in lightening theload for the dogs, as it slides forwards with ease. Boysfrequently amuse themselves by yoking several dogs to asmall piece of seal’s skin, and sitting on it, holding bythe traces. Their plan is then to set off at full speed,and he who bears the greatest number of bumps beforehe relinquishes his hold is considered a very fine fellow.

“The Esquimaux possess various kinds of spears, buttheir difference is chiefly in consequence of the substancesof which they are composed, and not in theirgeneral form.

“One called kā-tĕ-tēek, is a large and strong-handledspear, with an ivory point made for despatching anywounded animal in the water. It is never thrown, buthas a place appropriated for it on the kayak.

“The oonak is a lighter kind than the former; alsoivory-headed. It has a bladder fastened to it, and has aloose head with a line attached; this being darted intoan animal, is instantly liberated from the handle whichgives the impetus. Some few of these weapons are constructedof the solid ivory of the unicorn’s horn, aboutfour feet in length, and remarkably well rounded andpolished.

“Ip-pŏo-tōo-yŏo, is another kind of hand-spear, varyingbut little from the one last described. It has, however,no appendages.

“The Noōgh-wit is of two kinds; but both are used forstriking birds, young animals, or fish. The first has adouble fork at the extremity, and there are three otherbarbed ones at about half its length, diverging in different181directions, so that if the end pair should miss, someof the centre ones might strike. The second kind hasonly three barbed forks at the head. All the points areof ivory, and the natural curve of the walrus tusk favorsand facilitates their construction.

“Amongst the minor instruments of the ice-huntingare a long bone feeler for plumbing any cracks throughwhich seals are suspected of breathing, and also for tryingthe safety of the road. Another contrivance is occasionallyused with the same effect as the float of a fishing-line.Its purpose is to warn the hunter, who is watchinga seal-hole, when the animal rises to the surface, so thathe may strike without seeing, or being seen, by his prey.This is a most delicate little rod of bone or ivory, ofabout a foot in length, and the thickness of a fine knitting-needle.At the lower end is a small knob like apin’s head, and the upper extremity has a fine piece ofsinew tied to it, so as to fasten it loosely to the side ofthe hole. The animal, on rising, does not perceive sosmall an object hanging in the water, and pushes it upwith his nose, when the watchful Esquimaux, observinghis little beacon in motion, strikes down, and secures hisprize.

“Small ivory pegs or pins are used to stop the holesmade by the spears in the animal’s body; thus the blood,a great luxury to the natives, is saved.

“The same want of wood which renders it necessaryto find substitutes in the construction of spears, also occasionsthe great variety of bows. The horn of themusk-ox, thinned horns of deer, or other bony substances,are as frequently used or met with as wood, in the manufactureof these weapons, in which elasticity is a very182secondary consideration. Three or four pieces of hornor wood are frequently joined together in one bow,—thestrength lying alone in a vast collection of smallplaited sinews; these, to the number of perhaps a hundred,run down the back of the bow, and being quitetight, and having the spring of catgut, cause the weapon,when unstrung, to turn the wrong way; when bent, theirunited strength and elasticity are amazing. The bow-stringis of fifteen to twenty plaits, each loose from theother, but twisted round when in use, so that a few additionalturns will at any time alter its length. Thegeneral length of the bows is about three feet and ahalf.

“The arrows are short, light, and formed according tono general rule as to length or thickness. A good onehas half the shaft of bone, and a head of hard slate, ora small piece of iron; others have sharply-pointed boneheads: none are barbed. Two feathers are used forthe end, and are tied opposite each other, with the flatsides parallel. A neatly-formed case contains the bowand a few arrows. Seal-skin is preferred for this purpose,as more effectually resisting the wet than any other.A little bag, which is attached to the side, contains a stonefor sharpening, and some spare arrow-heads carefullywrapped up in a piece of skin.

“The bow is held in a horizontal position, and thoughcapable of great force, is rarely used at a greater distancethan from twelve to twenty yards.”

Their houses, clothing, sledges, boats, utensils, andarms, being now described, it only remains to be seenin what manner these most singular people pass theirtime, how they supply themselves with food, and how183they manage to support life during the long dark winterand the scarce less hospitable summer of their rigorousclime. Their occupations from year to year are carriedon with an almost unvarying regularity, though, liketheir dresses, they change according to the season.

Their short summer is chiefly employed in hunting thereindeer, and other quadrupeds,—for the simple reasonthat it is at this season that these appear in greatest numbersamong them, migrating northward as the snow thawsfrom the valleys and hill-sides. Not but that they alsokill the reindeer in other seasons, for these animals donot all migrate southward on the approach of winter,a considerable number remaining all the year upon theshores of the Arctic Sea, as well as the islands to thenorth of them. Of course, the Esquimaux kills a reindeerwhen and where he can; and it may be here remarked,that in no part of the American continent hasthe reindeer been trained or domesticated as among theLaplanders and the people of Russian Asia. Neitherthe Northern Indians (Tinné) nor the Esquimaux haveever reached this degree in domestic civilization, andthis fact is one of the strongest points of difference betweenthe American Esquimaux and their kindred racesin the north of Asia. One tribe of true Esquimauxalone hold the reindeer in subjection, viz. the Tuski,already mentioned, on the Asiatic shore; and it mighteasily be shown that the practice reached them from thecontiguous countries of northern Asia. The AmericanEsquimaux, like those of Greenland, possess only thedog as a domesticated animal; and him they have trainedto draw their sledges in a style that exhibits the highestorder of skill, and even elegance. The Esquimaux dog184is too well known to require particular description. Heis often brought to this country in the return ships ofArctic whalers and voyagers; and his thick, stout bodycovered closely with long stiff hair of a whitish or yellowishcolor, his cocked ears and smooth muzzle, and,above all, the circle-like curling of his bushy tail, willeasily be remembered by any one who has ever seenthis valuable animal.

In summer, then, the Esquimaux desert their winterhouses upon the shore, and taking with them their tentsmake an excursion into the interior. They do not gofar from the sea—no farther than is necessary to findthe valleys browsed by the reindeer, and the fresh-waterlakes, which, at this season, are frequented by flocks ofswans, geese of various kinds, ducks, and other aquaticbirds. Hunting the reindeer forms their principal occupationat this time; but, of course, “all is fish thatcomes into the net” of an Esquimaux; and they alsoemploy themselves in capturing the wild fowl and thefresh-water fish, in which these lakes abound. Withthe wild fowl it is the breeding and moulting season,and the Esquimaux not only rob them of their eggs,but take large numbers of the young before they aresufficiently fledged to enable them to fly, and also theold ones while similarly incapacitated from their conditionof “moult.” In their swift kayaks which theyhave carried with them on their heads, they can pursuethe fluttering flocks over any part of a lake, andovertake them wherever they may go. This is a seasonof great plenty in the larder of the Inuit.

The fresh-water fish are struck with spears out ofthe kayaks, or, when there is ice on the water strong185enough to bear the weight of a man, the fish are capturedin a different manner. A hole is broken in theice, the broken fragments are skimmed off and castaside, and then the fisherman lets down a shining bauble—usuallythe white tooth of some animal—to actas a bait. This he keeps bobbing about until the fish,perceiving it afar off through the translucent water,usually approaches to reconnoitre, partly from curiosity,but more, perhaps, to see if it be anything to eat.When near enough the Esquimaux adroitly pins thevictim with his fish-spear, and lands it upon the ice.This species of fishing is usually delivered over to theboys—the time of the hunters being too valuable to bewasted in waiting for the approach of the fish to thedecoy, an event of precarious and uncertain occurrence.

In capturing the reindeer, the Esquimaux practisesno method very different from that used by “still hunters”in other parts of America. He has to dependalone upon his bow and arrows, but with these poorweapons he contrives to make more havoc among aherd of deer than would a backwoods hunter with hisredoubtable rifle. There is no mystery about his superiormanagement. It consists simply in the exhibitionof the great strategy and patience with which he makeshis approaches, crawling from point to point and usingevery available cover which the ground may afford.

But all this would be of little avail were it not for aruse which he puts in practice, and which brings theunsuspecting deer within reach of his deadly arrows.This consists in a close imitation of the cries of theanimal, so close that the sharp-eared creature itself cannotdetect the counterfeit, but, drawing nearer and186nearer to the rock or bush from which the call appearsto proceed, falls a victim to the deception. Thesilent arrow makes no audible sound; the herd, ifslightly disturbed at seeing one of their number fall,soon compose themselves, and go on browsing uponthe grass or licking up the lichen. Another is attractedby the call, and another, who fall in their turnvictims either to their curiosity or the instinct of amorouspassions.

For this species of hunting, the bow far excels anyother weapon; even the rifle is inferior to it.

Sometimes the Esquimaux take the deer in largenumbers, by hunting them with dogs, driving the herdinto some defile or cul de sac among the rocks, andthen killing them at will with their arrows and javelins.This, however, is an exceptional case, as suchnatural “pounds” are not always at hand. The Indiansfarther south construct artificial enclosures; butin the Esquimaux country there is neither time normaterial for such elaborate contrivances.

The Esquimaux who dwell in those parts frequentedby the musk-oxen, hunt these animals very much asthey do the reindeer; but killing a musk bull, or coweither, is a feat of far grander magnitude, and requiresmore address than shooting a tiny deer.

I have said that the Esquimaux do not, even inthese hunting excursions, stray very far into the interior.There is a good reason for their keeping closeto the seashore. Were they to penetrate far into theland they would be in danger of meeting with theirbitter foemen, the Tinné Indians, who in this regionalso hunt reindeer and musk-oxen. War to the knife187is the practice between these two races of people, andhas ever been since the first knowledge of either.They often meet in conflict upon the rivers inland,and these conflicts are of so cruel and sanguinary anature as to imbue each with a wholesome fear of theother. The Indians, however, dread the Esquimauxmore than the latter fear them; and up to a lateperiod took good care never to approach their coasts;but the musket and rifle have now got into the handsof some of the northern tribes, who avail themselvesof these superior weapons, not only to keep the Esquimauxat bay, but also to render them more cautiousabout extending their range towards the interior.

When the dreary winter begins to make its appearance,and the reindeer grow scarce upon the snow-coveredplains, the Esquimaux return to their wintervillages upon the coast. Quadrupeds and birds nolonger occupy their whole attention, for the drift oftheir thoughts is now turned towards the inhabitantsof the great deep. The seal and the walrus are henceforththe main objects of pursuit. Perhaps during thesummer, when the water was open, they may havevisited the shore for the purpose of capturing thatgreat giant of the icy seas—a whale. If so, and theyhave been successful in only one or two captures, theymay look forward to a winter of plenty—since theflesh of a full-grown whale, or, better still, a brace ofsuch ample creatures, would be sufficient to feed awhole tribe for months.

They have no curing process for this immense carcass;they stand in need of none. Neither salt nor smoking isrequired in their climate. Jack Frost is their provision188curer, and performs the task without putting them eitherto trouble or expense. It is only necessary for them tohoist the great flitches upon scaffolds, already erectedfor the purpose, so as to keep the meat from the wolves,wolverines, foxes, and their own half-starved dogs. Fromtheir aërial larder they can cut a piece of blubber wheneverthey feel hungry, or they have a mind to eat, andthis mind they are in so long as a morsel is left.

Their mode of capturing a whale is quite different fromthat practised by the whale-fishers. When the hugecreature is discovered near, the whole tribe sally forth,and surround it in their kayaks; they then hurl dartsinto its body, but instead of these having long lines attachedto them, they are provided with seal skins sewedup air-tight and inflated, like bladders. When a numberof these become attached to the body of the whale, theanimal, powerful though he be, finds great difficulty insinking far down, or even progressing rapidly throughthe water. He soon rises to the surface, and the seal-skinbuoys indicate his whereabouts to the occupants ofthe kayaks, who in their swift little crafts, soon dart upto him again, and shoot a fresh volley into his body. Inthis way the whale is soon “wearied out,” and then fallsa victim to their larger spears, just as in the case wherea capture is made by regular whalers.

I need scarcely add that a success of this kind is hailedas a jubilee of the tribe, since it not only brings a benefitto the whole community, but is also a piece of fortune ofsomewhat rare occurrence.

When no whales have been taken, the long, dark wintermay justly be looked forward to with some solicitude;and it is then that the Esquimaux requires to put189forth all his skill and energies for the capture of the walrusor the seal—the latter of which may be regarded asthe staff of his life, furnishing him not only with food,but with light, fuel, and clothing for his body and limbs.

Of the seals that inhabit the Polar Seas there are severalspecies; but the common seal (Calocephalus vitulina)and the harp-seal (C. Grœnlandicus) are thosemost numerous, and consequently the principal object ofpursuit.

The Esquimaux uses various stratagems for takingthese creatures, according to the circumstances in whichthey may be encountered; and simpletons as the sealsmay appear, they are by no means easy of capture.They are usually very shy and suspicious, even in placeswhere man has never been seen by them. They haveother enemies, especially in the great polar bear; andthe dread of this tyrant of the icy seas keeps them everon the alert. Notwithstanding their watchfulness, however,both the bear and the biped make great havocamong them, and each year hundreds of thousands ofthem are destroyed.

The bear, in capturing seals, exhibits a skill and cunningscarce excelled by that of the rational being himself.When this great quadruped perceives a seal baskingon the edge of an ice-field, he makes his approaches,not by rushing directly towards it, which he well knowswould defeat his purpose. If once seen by the seal, thelatter has only to betake himself to the water, where itcan soon sink or swim beyond the reach of the bear. Toprevent this, the bear gets well to leeward, and then divingbelow the surface, makes his approaches under water,now and then cautiously raising his head to get the true190bearings of his intended victim. After a number ofthese subaqueous “reaches,” he gets close in to the edgeof the floe in such a position as to cut off the seal’s retreatto the water. A single spring brings him on theice, and then, before the poor seal has time to make abrace of flounders, it finds itself locked in the deadly embraceof the bear. When seals are thus detected asleep,the Esquimaux approaches them in his kayak, takingcare to paddle cautiously and silently. If he succeed ingetting between them and the open water, he kills them inthe ordinary way—by simply knocking them on the snoutwith a club, or piercing them with a spear. Sometimes,however, the seal goes to sleep on the surface of the openwater. Then the approach is made in a similar mannerby means of the kayak, and the animal is struck with aharpoon. But a single blow does not always kill a seal,especially if it be a large one, and the blow has been ill-directed.In such cases the animal would undoubtedlymake his escape, and carry the harpoon along with it,which would be a serious loss to the owner, who does notobtain such weapons without great difficulty. To preventthis, the Esquimaux uses a contrivance similar tothat employed in the capture of the whale,—that is, heattaches a float or buoy to his harpoon by means of a cord,and this so impedes the passage of the seal through thewater, that it can neither dive nor swim to any very greatdistance. The float is usually a walrus bladder inflatedin the ordinary way, and wherever the seal may go, thefloat betrays its track, enabling the Esquimaux to followit in his shuttle-shaped kayak, and pierce it again with asurer aim.

In winter, when the sea is quite covered with ice, you191might fancy that the seal-fishery would be at an end, forthe seal is essentially a marine animal; and although itcan exist upon the ice or on dry land, it could not subsistthere. Access to the water it must have, in order toprocure its food, which consists of small fish and mollusks.Of course, when the ice forms on the surface, theseal is in its true element—the water underneath—butwhen this ice becomes, as it often does, a full yard inthickness, extending over hundreds of miles of the sea,how then is the seal to be got at? It could not bereached at all; and at such a season the Esquimauxpeople would undoubtedly starve, were it not for a habitpeculiar to this animal, which, happily for them, bringsit within their reach.

Though the seal can live under water like a fish, andprobably could pass a whole winter under the ice withoutmuch inconvenience, it likes now and then to take a littlefresh air, and have a quiet nap upon the upper surface inthe open air. With this design it breaks a hole throughthe ice, while the latter is yet thin, and this hole it keepscarefully open during the whole winter, clearing out eachnew crust as it forms. No matter to what thickness theice may attain, this hole always forms a breathing-placefor the seal, and a passage by which he may reach theupper surface, and indulge himself in his favorite siestain the open air. Knowing this habit, the Esquimauxtakes advantage of it to make the seal his captive. Whenthe animal is discovered on the ice, the hunter approacheswith the greatest stealth and caution. This is absolutelyneccessary: for if the enemy is perceived, or makes theslightest noise, the wary seal flounders rapidly into hishole, and is lost beyond redemption. If badly frightened,192he will not appear for a long time, denying himself hisopen air exercise until the patience of his persecutor isquite worn out, and the coast is again clear.

In making his approaches, the hunter uses all his art,not only taking advantage of every inequality—such assnow-drifts and ice-hillocks—to conceal himself; buthe also practises an ingenious deception by dressing himselfin the skin of a seal of like species, giving his bodythe figure of the animal, and counterfeiting its motions,by floundering clumsily over the ice, and oscillating hishead from side to side, just as seals are seen to do.

This deception often proves successful, when the hunterunder any other shape would in vain endeavor to getwithin striking distance of his prey. When seals arescarce, and the supply greatly needed, the Esquimauxoften lies patiently for hours together on the edge of aseal-hole waiting for the animal to come up. In orderto give it time to get well out upon the ice, the hunterconceals himself behind a heap of snow, which he hascollected and piled up for the purpose. A float-stick,ingeniously placed in the water of the breathing-hole,serves as a signal to tell when the seal is mountingthrough his trap-like passage, the motion of the stickbetraying its ascent. The hunter then gets himself intothe right attitude to strike, and summons all his energiesfor the encounter.

Even during the long, dark night of winter this modeof capturing the seal is practised. The hunter, havingdiscovered a breathing-hole—which its dark color enableshim to find—proceeds in the following manner:he scrapes away the snow from around it, and lifting upsome water pours it on the ice, so as to make a circle193of a darker hue around the orifice. He then makes asort of cake of pure white snow, and with this coversthe hole as with a lid. In the centre of this lid hepunches a small opening with the shaft-end of his spear,and then sits down and patiently awaits the issue.

The seal ascends unsuspiciously as before. The darkwater, bubbling up through the small central orifice,betrays its approach, which can be perceived even inthe darkest night. The hunter does not wait for itsclimbing out upon the ice. Perhaps if he did so, thesuspicious creature might detect the device, and divedown again. But it is not allowed time for reflection.Before it can turn its unwieldly body, the heavy spearof the hunter—struck through the yielding snow—descendsupon its skull, and kills it on the instant.

The great “walrus” or “morse” (Trichecus rosmarus)is another important product of the Polar Seas, andis hunted by the Esquimaux with great assiduity. Thissplendid amphibious animal is taken by contrivancesvery similar to those used for the seal; but the captureof a walrus is an event of importance, second only to thestriking of a whale. Its great carcass not only suppliesfood to a whole village, but an oil superior to that of thewhale, besides various other useful articles. Its skin,bones, and intestines are employed by the Esquimauxfor many domestic purposes,—and, in addition, thereare the huge molar tusks, that furnish one of the mostvaluable ivories of commerce, from which are manufacturedthose beautiful sets of teeth, of dazzling whiteness,that, gleaming between vermilion lips, you may oftensee at a ball or an evening party!



It is a pleasure to pass out of the company of theferocious Feegees into that of another people, which,though near neighbors of the former, are different fromthem in almost every respect,—I mean the Tongans,or Friendly Islanders. This appellation scarce requiresto be explained. Every one knows that it was bestowedupon them by the celebrated navigator Cook,—who althoughnot the actual discoverer of the Tonga groupwas the first who thoroughly explored these islands, andgave any reliable account of them to the civilized world.Tasman, who might be termed the “Dutch CaptainCook,” is allowed to be their discoverer, so long agoas 1643; though there is reason to believe that some ofthe Spanish explorers from Peru may have touched atthese islands before his time. Tasman, however, hasfixed the record of his visit, and is therefore entitled tothe credit of the discovery,—as he is also to that ofAustralia, New Zealand, Van Diemen’s Land, and othernow well-known islands of the Southwestern Pacific.Tasman bestowed upon three of the Tonga group thenames—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Middleburgh; but,fortunately, geographers have acted in this matter with195better taste than is their wont; and Tasman’s Dutchnational titles have fallen into disuse,—while the truenative names of the islands have been restored to themap. This is what should be done with other Pacificislands as well; for it is difficult to conceive anythingin worse taste than such titles as the Caroline and LoyaltyIsles, Prince William’s Land, King George’s Island,and the ten thousand Albert and Victoria Lands whichthe genius of flattery, or rather flunkeyism, has so liberallydistributed over the face of the earth. The titleof Friendly Isles, bestowed by Cook upon the Tongaarchipelago, deserves to live; since it is not only appropriate,but forms the record of a pleasant fact,—thepacific character of our earliest intercourse with theseinteresting people.

It may be here remarked, that Mr. Wylde and othersuperficial map-makers have taken a most unwarrantableliberty with this title. Instead of leaving it as bestowedby the great navigator,—applicable to the Tonga archipelagoalone,—they have stretched it to include that ofthe Samoans, and—would it be believed—that of theFeegees? It is hardly necessary to point out the extremeabsurdity of such a classification: since it would be difficultto find two nationalities much more unlike thanthose of Tonga and Feegee. That they have many customsin common, is due (unfortunately for the Tongans)to the intercourse which proximity has produced; butin an ethnological sense, white is not a greater contrastto black, nor good to evil, than that which exists betweena Tongan and a Feegeean. Cook never visited theFeegee archipelago,—he only saw some of these peoplewhile at Tonga-taboo, and heard of their country as196being a large island. Had he visited that island,—orrather that group of over two hundred islands,—it isnot at all likely he would have seen reason to extend tothem the title which the map-makers have thought fit tobestow. Instead of “Friendly Islands,” he might byway of contrast have called them the “Hostile Isles,” orgiven them that—above all others most appropriate,and which they truly deserve to bear—that old titlecelebrated in song! the “Cannibal Islands.” An observerso acute as Cook could scarce have overlookedthe appropriateness of the appellation.

The situation of the Tonga, or Friendly Isles, iseasily registered in the memory. The parallel of 20°south, and the meridian of 175° west, very nearly intersecteach other in Tofoa, which may be regarded as thecentral island of the group. It will thus be seen thattheir central point is 5° east and 2° south of the centreof the Feegeean archipelago, and the nearest islands ofthe two groups are about three hundred miles apart.

It is worthy of observation, however, that the TongaIsles have the advantage, as regards the wind. Thetrades are in their favor; and from Tonga to Feegee,if we employ a landsman’s phraseology, it is “downhill,” while it is all “up hill” in the contrary direction.The consequence is, that many Tongans are constantlymaking voyages to the Feegee group,—a large numberof them having settled there (as stated elsewhere),—whilebut a limited number of Feegeeans find their wayto the Friendly Islands. There is another reason forthis unequally-balanced migration: and that is, that theTongans are much bolder and better sailors than theirwestern neighbors; for although the Feegees far excel197way other South-Sea islanders in the art of buildingtheir canoes (or ships as they might reasonably becalled), yet they are as far behind many others in theart of sailing them.

Their superiority in ship-building may be attributed,partly, to the excellent materials which these islandsabundantly afford; though this is not the sole cause.However much we may deny to the Feegeeans thepossession of moral qualities, we are at the same timeforced to admit their great intellectual capacity,—asexhibited in the advanced state of their arts and manufactures.In intellectual capacity, however, the FriendlyIslanders are their equals; and the superiority of theFeegeeans even in “canoe architecture” is no longeracknowledged. It is true the Tongans go to the Feegeegroup for most of their large double vessels; but that isfor the reasons already stated,—the greater abundanceand superior quality of the timber and other materialsproduced there. In the Feegee “dockyards,” the Tongansbuild for themselves; and have even improvedupon the borrowed pattern.

This intercourse,—partaking somewhat of the characterof an alliance,—although in some respects advantageousto the Friendly Islanders, may be regarded,upon the whole, as unfortunate for them. If it has improvedtheir knowledge in arts and manufactures, it hasfar more than counterbalanced this advantage by thedamage done to their moral character. It is alwaysmuch easier to make proselytes to vice than to virtue,—asis proved in this instance: for his intercourse withthe ferocious Feegee has done much to deteriorate thecharacter of the Tongan. From that source he has imbibed198a fondness for war and other wicked customs; andin all probability, had this influence been permitted tocontinue uninterrupted for a few years longer, the horridhabit of cannibalism—though entirely repugnant to thenatural disposition of the Tongans—would have becomecommon among them. Indeed, there can be little doubtthat this would have been the ultimate consequence ofthe alliance; for already its precursors—human sacrificesand the vengeful immolation of enemies—hadmade their appearance upon the Friendly Islands.Happily for the Tongan, another influence—that ofthe missionaries—came just in time to avert this direcatastrophe; and, although this missionary interferencehas not been the best of its kind, it is still preferableto the paganism which it has partially succeeded insubduing.

The Tongan archipelago is much less extensive thanthat of the Feegees,—the islands being of a limitednumber, and only five or six of them of any considerablesize. Tongataboo, the largest, is about ninetymiles in circumference. From the most southern of thegroup Eoo, to Vavau at the other extremity, it stretches,northerly or northeasterly, about two hundred miles, ina nearly direct line. The islands are all, with one ortwo exceptions, low-lying, their surface being diversifiedby a few hillocks or mounds, of fifty or sixty feet inheight, most of which have the appearance of beingartificial. Some of the smaller islets, as Kao, aremountains of some six hundred feet elevation, risingdirectly out of the sea; while Tofoa, near the easternedge of the archipelago, presents the appearance of anelevated table-land. The larger number of them are199clothed with a rich tropical vegetation, both naturaland cultivated, and their botany includes most of thespecies common to the other islands of the South Sea.We find the cocoa, and three other species of palm, thepandanus, the bread-fruit in varieties, as also the usefulmusacaæ,—the plantain, and banana. The ti-tree(Dracæna terminalis), the paper-mulberry (Broussonetiapapyrifera), the sugar-cane, yams of many kinds, thetree yielding the well-known turmeric, the beautifulcasuarina, and a hundred other sorts of plants, shrubs,or trees, valuable for the product of their roots or fruits,their sap and pith, of their trunks and branches, theirleaves and the fibrous material of their bark.

As a scenic decoration to the soil, there is no part ofthe world where more lovely landscapes are producedby the aid of a luxuriant vegetation. They are perhapsnot equal in picturesque effect to those of the Feegeegroup,—where mountains form an adjunct to thescenery,—but in point of soft, quiet beauty, the landscapesof the Tonga Islands are not surpassed by anyothers in the tropical world; and with the climate theyenjoy—that of an endless summer—they might wellanswer to the description of the “abode of the Blessed.”And, indeed, when Tasman first looked upon theseislands, they perhaps merited the title more than anyother spot on the habitable globe; for, if any peopleon this earth might be esteemed happy and blessed,surely it was the inhabitants of these fair isles of thefar Southern Sea. Tasman even records the remarkablefact, that he saw no arms among them,—no weaponsof war! and perhaps, at that time, neither the detestabletrade nor its implements were known to them. Alas200in little more than a century afterwards, this peacefulaspect was no longer presented. When the great Englishnavigator visited these islands, he found the war-cluband spear in the hands of the people, both ofFeegee pattern, and undoubtedly of the same ill-omenedorigin.

The personal appearance of the Friendly Islandersdiffers not a great deal from that of the other South-Seatribes or nations. Of course we speak only of the truePolynesians of the brown complexion, without referenceto the black-skinned islanders—as the Feegees andothers of the Papuan stock. The two have neither resemblancenor relationship to one another; and it wouldnot be difficult to show that they are of a totally distinctorigin. As for the blacks, it is not even certain thatthey are themselves of one original stock; for the splendidly-developedcannibal of Feegee presents very fewfeatures in common with the wretched kangaroo-eaterof West Australia. Whether the black islanders (orMelanesians as they have been designated) originallycame from one source, is still a question for ethnologists;but there can be no doubt as to the directionwhence they entered upon the colonization of the Pacific.That was certainly upon its western border, beyondwhich they have not made much progress: sincethe Feegeean archipelago is at the present time theirmost advanced station to the eastward. The brown orPolynesian races, on the contrary, began their migrationsfrom the eastern border of the great ocean—inother words, they came from America; and the so-calledIndians of America are, in my opinion, the progenitors,not the descendants, of these people of the201Ocean world. If learned ethnologists will give theirattention to this view of the subject, and disembarrasstheir minds of that fabulous old fancy, about an originalstock situated somewhere (they know not exactly where)upon the steppes of Asia, they will perhaps arrive at amore rational hypothesis about the peopling of the so-callednew worlds, both the American and Oceanic.They will be able to prove—what might be here doneif space would permit—that the Polynesians are emigrantsfrom tropical America, and that the SandwichIslanders came originally from California, and not theCalifornians from the island homes of Hawaii.

It is of slight importance here how this question maybe viewed. Enough to know that the natives of theTonga group bear a strong resemblance to those of theother Polynesian archipelagos—to the Otaheitans andNew Zealanders, but most of all to the inhabitants ofthe Samoan or Navigators’ Islands, of whom, indeed,they may be regarded as a branch, with a separatepolitical and geographical existence. Their languagealso confirms the affinity, as it is merely a dialect ofthe common tongue spoken by all the Polynesians.

Whatever difference exists between the Tongans andother Polynesians in point of personal appearance, is infavor of the former. The men are generally regardedas the best-looking of all South-Sea Islanders, and thewomen among the fairest of their sex. Many of themwould be accounted beautiful in any part of the world;and as a general rule, they possess personal beauty in afar higher degree than the much-talked-of Otaheitans.

The Tongans are of tall stature—rather above thanunder that of European nations. Men of six feet are202common enough; though few are seen of what might betermed gigantic proportions. In fact, the true mediumsize is almost universal, and the excess in either directionforms the exception. The bulk of their bodies isin perfect proportion to their height. Unlike the blackFeegeeans—who are often bony and gaunt—the Tonganspossess well-rounded arms and limbs; and thehands and feet, especially those of the women, are smalland elegantly shaped.

To give a delineation of their features would be adifficult task—since these are so varied in differentindividuals, that it would be almost impossible to selecta good typical face. Indeed the same might be said ofnearly every nation on the face of the earth; and thedifficulty will be understood by your making an attemptto describe some face that will answer for every set offeatures in a large town, or even a small village; orstill, with greater limitation, for the different individualsof a single family. Just such a variety there will befound among the faces of the Friendly Islanders, as youmight note in the inhabitants of an English town orcounty; and hence the difficulty of making a correctlikeness. A few characteristic points, however, may begiven, both as to their features and complexion. Theirlips are scarcely ever of a thick or negro form; andalthough the noses are in general rounded at the end,this rule is not universal;—many have genuine Romannoses, and what may be termed a full set of the bestItalian features. There is also less difference betweenthe sexes in regard to their features than is usuallyseen elsewhere—those of the women being only distinguishedby their less size.

203The forms of the women constitute a more markeddistinction; and among the beauties of Tonga are manythat might be termed models in respect to shape andproportions. In color, the Tongans are lighter thanmost other South-Sea Islanders. Some of the betterclasses of women—those least exposed to the open air—showskins of a light olive tint; and the children ofall are nearly white after birth. They become brownerless from age than exposure to the sun; for, as soon asthey are able to be abroad, they scarce ever afterwardsenter under the shadow of a roof, except during thehours of night.

The Tongans have good eyes and teeth; but in thisrespect they are not superior to many other Oceanictribes—even the black Feegeeans possessing both eyesand “ivories” scarce surpassed anywhere. The Tongans,however, have the advantage of their dusky neighborsin the matter of hair—their heads being clothedwith a luxuriant growth of true hair. Sometimes it isquite straight, as among the American Indians, butoftener with a slight wave or undulation, or a curl approaching,but never quite arriving at the condition of“crisp.”

His hair in its natural color is jet black; and it is tobe regretted that the Tongans have not the good taste toleave it to its natural hue. On the contrary, their fashionis to stain it of a reddish-brown, a purple or anorange. The brown is obtained by the application ofburnt coral, the purple from a vegetable dye appliedpoultice-fashion to the hair, and the orange is producedby a copious lathering of common turmeric,—with whichthe women also sometimes anoint their bodies, and those204of their children. This fashion of hair-dyeing is alsocommon to the Feegees, and whether they obtained itfrom the Tongans, or the Tongans from them, is an unsettledpoint. The more probable hypothesis would be,that among many other ugly customs, it had its originin Feegee-land,—where, however, the people assign areason for practising it very different from the meremotive of ornament. They allege that it also serves auseful purpose, in preventing the too great fructificationof a breed of parasitic insects,—that would otherwisefind the immense mop of the frizzly Feegeean amost convenient dwelling-place, and a secure asylumfrom danger. This may have had something to do withthe origin of the custom; but once established for purposesof utility, it is now confirmed, and kept up by theTongans as a useless ornament. Their taste in the colorruns exactly counter to that of European fashionables.What a pity it is that the two could not make an exchangeof hair! Then both parties, like a pair of advertisementsin the “Times,” would exactly fit each other.

Besides the varied fashion in colors, there is also greatvariety in the styles in which the Tongans wear theirhair. Some cut it short on one side of their head, leavingit at full length on the other; some shave a smallpatch, or cut off only a single lock; while others—andthese certainly display the best taste—leave it to growout in all its full luxuriance. In this, again, we find theEuropean fashion reversed, for the women are those whowear it shortest. The men, although they are not withoutbeard, usually crop this appendage very close, orshave it off altogether,—a piece of shell, or rather apair of shells, serving them for a razor.

205The mode is to place the thin edge of one shell underneaththe hair,—just as a hair-cutter does his comb,—andwith the edge of the other applied above, thehairs are rasped through and divided. There are regularbarbers for this purpose, who by practice have beenrendered exceedingly dexterous in its performance; andthe victim of the operation alleges that there is littleor no pain produced,—at all events, it does not bringthe tears to his eyes, as a dull razor often does with uspoor thin-skinned Europeans!

The dress of the Tongans is very similar to that ofthe Otaheitans, so often described and well known; butwe cannot pass it here without remarking a notablepeculiarity on the part of the Polynesian people, asexhibited in the character of their costume. The nativetribes of almost all other warm climates content themselveswith the most scant covering,—generally withno covering at all, but rarely with anything that may betermed a skirt. In South America most tribes wear the“guayuco,”—a mere strip around the loins, and amongthe Feegees the “malo” or “masi” of the men, and thescant “liku” of the women are the only excuse for amodest garment. In Africa we find tribes equally destituteof clothing, and the same remark will apply to thetropical countries all around the globe. Here, however,amongst a people dwelling in the middle of a vast ocean,—isolatedfrom the whole civilized world, we find a naturalinstinct of modesty that does credit to their character,and is even in keeping with that character, as first observedby voyagers to the South Seas. Whatever acts ofindelicacy may be alleged against the Otaheitans, this hasbeen much exaggerated by their intercourse with immoral206white men; but none of such criminal conduct can becharged against the natives of the Friendly Isles. Onthe contrary, the behavior of these, both among themselvesand in presence of European visitors, has beenever characterized by a modesty that would shame eitherRegent Street or Ratcliffe Highway.

A description of the national costume of the Tongans,though often given, is not unworthy of a place here;and we shall give it as briefly as a proper understandingof it will allow. There is but one “garment” to be described,and that is the “pareu,” which will be betterunderstood, perhaps, by calling it a “petticoat.” Thematerial is usually of “tapa” cloth,—a fabric of nativemanufacture, to be described hereafter,—and the cuttingout is one of the simplest of performances, requiringneither a tailor for the men, nor a dressmaker for theother sex, for every one can make their own pareu. Itneeds only to clip a piece of “tapa” cloth in the formof an “oblong square”—an ample one, being abouttwo yards either way. This is wrapped round thebody,—the middle part against the small of the back,—andthen both ends brought round to the front arelapped over each other as far as they will go, producing,of course, a double fold of the cloth. A girdle is nexttied around the waist,—usually a cord of ornamentalplait; and this divides the piece of tapa into body andskirt. The latter is of such a length as to stretch belowthe calf of the leg,—sometimes down to the ankle,—andthe upper part or body would reach to the shoulders,if the weather required it, and often does when the missionariesrequire it. But not at any other time: suchan ungraceful mode of wearing the pareu was never207intended by the simple Tongans, who never dreamt ofthere being any immodesty in their fashion until told ofit by their puritanical preceptors!

Tongan-fashion, the pareu is a sort of tunic, and amost graceful garment to boot; Methodist fashion, itbecomes a gown or rather a sleeveless wrapper that resemblesa sack. But if the body part is not to be usedin this way, how, you will ask, is it to be disposed of?Is it allowed to hang down outside, like the gown of aslattern woman, who has only half got into it? No suchthing. The natural arrangement is both simple andpeculiar; and produces, moreover, a costume that is notonly characteristic but graceful to the eye that once becomesused to it. The upper half of the tapa cloth isneatly folded or turned, until it becomes a thick roll;and this roll, brought round the body, just above thegirdle, is secured in that position. The swell thus producedcauses the waist to appear smaller by contrast;and the effect of a well-formed bust, rising above theroll of tapa cloth, is undoubtedly striking and elegant.In cold weather, but more especially at night, the roll istaken out, and the shoulders are then covered; for it isto be observed that the pareu, worn by day as a dress, isalso kept on at night as a sleeping-gown, more especiallyby those who possess only a limited wardrobe. It is notalways the cold that requires it to be kept on at night.It is more used, at this time, as a protection against themosquitoes, that abound amidst the luxuriant vegetationof the Tongan Islands.

The “pareu” is not always made of the “tapa”cloth. Fine mats, woven from the fibres of the screw-pine(pandanus), are equally in vogue; and, upon festive208occasions, a full-dress pareu is embellished with redfeather-work, adding greatly to the elegance and picturesquenessof its appearance. A coarser and scantierpareu is to be seen among the poorer people, the materialof which is a rough tapa, fabricated from the barkof the bread-fruit, and not unfrequently this is only amere strip wrapped around the loins; in other words, a“malo,” “maro,” or “maso,”—as it is indifferentlywritten in the varied orthography of the voyagers.Having described this only and unique garment, wehave finished with the costume of the Tongan Islanders,both men and women,—for both wear the pareu alike.The head is almost universally uncovered; and nohead-dress is ever worn unless a cap of feathers by thegreat chiefs, and this only upon rare and grand occasions.It is a sort of chaplet encircling the head, anddeeper in front than behind. Over the forehead theplumes stand up to a height of twelve or fifteen inches,gradually lowering on each side as the ray extendsbackward beyond the ears. The main row is madewith the beautiful tail-plumes of the tropic bird Phaetonæthereus, while the front or fillet part of the cap isornamented with the scarlet feathers of a species ofparrot.

The head-dress of the women consists simply of freshflowers: a profusion of which—among others the beautifulblossoms of the orange—is always easily obtained.An ear-pendant is also worn,—a piece of ivory ofabout two inches in length, passed through two holes,pierced in the lobe of the ear for this purpose. Thependant hangs horizontally, the two holes balancing it,and keeping it in position. A necklace also of pearl-shells,209shaped into beads, is worn. Sometimes a stringof the seed of the pandanus is added, and an additionalornament is an armlet of mother-o’-pearl, fashioned intothe form of a ring. Only the men tattoo themselves;and the process is confined to that portion of the bodyfrom the waist to the thighs, which is always coveredwith the pareu. The practice of tattooing perhaps firstoriginated in the desire to equalize age with youth, andto hide an ugly physiognomy. But the Tongan Islanderhas no ugliness to conceal, and both men and womenhave had the good taste to refrain from disfiguring thefair features which nature has so bountifully bestowedupon them. The only marks of tattoo to be seen uponthe women are a few fine lines upon the palms of theirhands; nor do they disfigure their fair skins with thehideous pigments so much in use among other tribes,of what we are in the habit of terming savages.

They anoint the body with a fine oil procured fromthe cocoanut, and which is also perfumed by variouskinds of flowers that are allowed to macerate in theoil; but this toilet is somewhat expensive, and is onlypractised by the better classes of the community. All,however, both rich and poor, are addicted to habits ofextreme cleanliness, and bathing in fresh water is afrequent performance. They object to bathing in thesea; and when they do so, always finish the bath bypouring fresh water over their bodies,—a practicewhich they allege prevents the skin from becomingrough, which the sea-water would otherwise make it.

House architecture in the Tongan Islands is in rathera backward state. They have produced no Wrens norInigo Joneses; but this arises from a natural cause.210They have no need for great architects,—scarce anyneed for houses either,—and only the richer Tonganserect any dwelling more pretentious than a mere shed.A few posts of palm-trunks are set up, and upon theseare placed the cross-beams, rafters, and roof. Pandanusleaves, or those of the sugar-cane, form the thatch; andthe sides are left open underneath. In the houses ofthe chiefs and more wealthy people there are walls ofpandanus mats, fastened to the uprights; and some ofthese houses are of considerable size and neatly built.The interiors are kept scrupulously clean,—the floorsbeing covered with beautiful mats woven in coloredpatterns, and presenting all the gay appearance of costlycarpeting. There are neither chairs nor tables. Themen sit tailor-fashion, and the women in a recliningposture, with both limbs turned a little to one side andbackwards. A curious enclosure or partition is formedby setting a stiff mat, of about two feet width, upon itsedge,—the roll at each end steadying it and keeping itin an upright position.

The utensils to be observed are dishes, bowls, andcups,—usually of calabash or cocoa-shells,—and anendless variety of baskets of the most ingenious plaitand construction. The “stool-pillow” is also used; butdiffering from that of the Feegees in the horizontalpiece having a hollow to receive the head. Manykinds of musical instruments may be seen,—the Pandeanpipes, the nose-flute, and various kinds of bamboodrums, all of which have been minutely described bytravellers. I am sorry to add that war-clubs and spearsfor a similar purpose are also to be observed conspicuousamong the more useful implements of peace. Bows211and arrows, too, are common; but these are only employedfor shooting birds and small rodents, especiallyrats, that are very numerous and destructive to thecrops.

For food, the Tongans have the pig,—the samevariety as is so generally distributed throughout theOceanic Islands. It is stated that the Feegeeans obtainedthis animal from the Friendly Isles; but I amof opinion that in this case the benefit came the otherway, as the Sus Papua is more likely to have enteredthe South Sea from its leeward rather than its windwardside. In all likelihood the dog may have beenderived from the eastern edge; but the pigs and poultrywould seem to be of western origin,—western as regardsthe position of the Pacific.

The principal food of the Friendly Islanders, however,is of a vegetable nature, and consists of yams,bread-fruit, taro, plantains, sweet potatoes, and, in fact,most of those roots and fruits common to the otherislands of the Pacific. Fish also forms an importantarticle of their food. They drink the “kava,” or juiceof the Piper methisticum—or rather of its roots chewedto a pulp; but they rarely indulge to that excess observedamong the Feegees, and they are not over fondof the drink, except as a means of producing a speciesof intoxication which gives them a momentary pleasure.Many of them, especially the women, make wry faceswhile partaking of it; and no wonder they do, for it isat best a disgusting beverage.

The time of the Tongan Islanders is passed pleasantlyenough, when there is no wicked war upon hand. Themen employ themselves in cultivating the ground or212fishing; and here the woman is no longer the mereslave and drudge—as almost universally elsewhereamong savage or even semi-civilized nations. This isa great fact, which tells a wondrous tale—which speakstrumpet-tongued to the credit of the Tongan Islander.Not only do the men share the labor with their moredelicate companions, but everything else—their food,conversation, and every enjoyment of life. Both partakealike—eat together, drink together, and join atonce in the festive ceremony. In their grand dances—orballs as they might more properly be termed—thewomen play an important part; and these exhibitions,though in the open air, are got up with an eleganceand éclat that would not disgrace the most fashionableball-room in Christendom. Their dances, indeed,are far more graceful than anything ever seeneither at “Almacks” or the “Jardin Mabille.”

The principal employment of the men is in the cultivationof their yam and plantain grounds, many ofwhich extend to the size of fields, with fences thatwould almost appear to have been erected as ornaments.These are of canes, closely set, raised to theheight of six feet—wide spaces being left between thefences of different owners to serve as roads for thewhole community. In the midst of these fields standthe sheds, or houses, surrounded by splendid forms oftropic vegetation, and forming pictures of a softly beautifulcharacter.

The men also occupy themselves in the constructionof their canoes,—to procure the large ones, making avoyage as already stated, to the Feegee Islands, andsometimes remaining absent for several years.

213These, however, are usually professional boat-builders,and form but a very small proportion of the forty thousandpeople who inhabit the different islands of the Tonganarchipelago.

The men also occasionally occupy themselves in weavingmats and wicker baskets, and carving fancy toys outof wood and shells; but the chief part of the manufacturingbusiness is in the hands of the women—moreespecially the making of the tapa cloth, already so oftenmentioned. An account of the manufacture may behere introduced, with the proviso, that it is carried onnot only by the women of the Feegee group, but bythose of nearly all the other Polynesian Islands. Thereare slight differences in the mode of manufacture, aswell as in the quality of the fabric; but the accounthere given, both of the making and dyeing, will answerpretty nearly for all.

The bark of the malo-tree, or “paper-mulberry,” istaken off in strips, as long as possible, and then steepedin water, to facilitate the separation of the epidermis,which is effected by a large volute shell. In this stateit is kept for some time, although fit for immediate use.A log, flattened on the upper side, is so fixed as tospring a little, and on this the strips of bark—or masi,as it is called—are beaten with an iki, or mallet, abouttwo inches square, and grooved longitudinally on threeof its sides. Two lengths of the wet masi are generallybeaten together, in order to secure greater strength—thegluten which they contain being sufficient to keeptheir fibres united. A two-inch strip can thus be beatenout to the width of a foot and a half; but the lengthis at the same time reduced. The pieces are neatly214lapped together with the starch of the taro, or arrowroot,boiled whole; and thus reach a length of many yards.The “widths” are also joined by the same means laterally,so as to form pieces of fifteen or thirty feet square,and upon these, the ladies exhaust their ornamentingskill. The middle of the square is printed with a red-brown,by the following process:—Upon a convexboard, several feet long, are arranged parallel, at abouta finger-width apart, thin straight slips of bamboo, aquarter of an inch wide. By the side of these, curvedpieces, formed of the midrib of cocoanut leaflets, arearranged. On the board thus prepared the cloth is laid,and rubbed over with a dye obtained from the lauci(Aleurites triloba). The cloth of course, takes the dyeupon those parts which receive pressure, being supportedby the slips beneath; and thus shows the samepattern in the color employed. A stronger preparationof the same dye, laid on with a sort of brush, is used todivide the square into oblong compartments, with largeround or radiated dots in the centre. The kesa, or dye,when good, dries bright. Blank borders, two or threefeet wide, are still left on two sides of the square; andto elaborate the ornamentation of these, so as to exciteapplause, is the pride of every lady. There is now anentire change of apparatus. The operator works on aplain board; the red dye gives place to a jet black; thepattern is now formed of a strip of banana-leaf placedon the upper surface of the cloth. Out of the leaf iscut the pattern—not more than an inch long—whichthe lady wishes to print upon the border, and holds byher first and middle finger, pressing it down with thethumb. Then taking a soft pad of cloth, steeped in the215dye, in her right hand, she rubs it firmly over the stencil,and a fair, sharp figure is made. The practised fingersof the operator move quickly, but it is, after all, a tediousprocess.

I regret to add, that the men employ themselves in anart of less utility: the manufacture of war weapons—clubsand spears—which the people of the differentislands, and even those of the same, too often brandishagainst one another. This war spirit is entirely owingto their intercourse with the ferocious Feegees, whoseboasting and ambitious spirit they are too prone to emulate.In fact, their admiration of the Feegee habits issomething surprising; and can only be accounted for bythe fact, that while visiting these savages and professedwarriors, the Tongans have become imbued with a certainfear of them. They acknowledge the more recklessspirit of their allies, and are also aware that inintellectual capacity the black men are not inferior tothemselves. They certainly are inferior in courage, asin every good moral quality; but the Tongans can hardlybelieve this, since their cruel and ferocious conductseems to give color to the contrary idea. In fact, it isthis that inspires them with a kind of respect, which hasno other foundation than a vague sense of fear. Hencethey endeavor to emulate the actions that produce thisfear, and this leads them to go to war with one another.

It is to be regretted that the missionaries have suppliedthem with a motive. Their late wars are solelydue to missionary influence,—for Methodism upon theTongan Islands has adopted one of the doctrines ofMahomet, and believes in the faith being propagated bythe sword. A usurper, who wishes to be king over the216whole group, has embraced the Methodist form of Christianity,and linked himself with its teachers,—who offerto aid him with all their influence; and these formerlypeaceful islands now present the painful spectacle of adivided nationality,—the “Christian party,” and the“Devil’s party.” The object of conquest on the partof the former is to place the Devil’s party under theabsolute sovereignty of a despot, whose laws will bedictated by his missionary ministers. Of the mildnessof these laws we have already some specimens, whichof course extend only to the “Christianized.” One ofthem, which refers to the mode of wearing the pareu,has been already hinted at,—and another is a still moreoff-hand piece of legislation: being an edict that no onehereafter shall be permitted to smoke tobacco, underpain of a most severe punishment.

When it is considered that the Tongan Islander enjoysthe “weed” (and grows it too) more than almost anyother smoker in creation, the severity of the “taboo”may be understood. But it is very certain, if his Methodistmajesty were once firmly seated on his throne, bluerlaws than this would speedily be proclaimed. TheAmerican Commodore Wilkes found things in this warlikeattitude when he visited the Tongan Islands; butperceiving that the right was clearly on the side of the“Devil’s party,” declined to interfere; or rather, hisinterference, which would have speedily brought peace,was rejected by the Christian party, instigated by thesanguinary spirit of their “Christian” teachers. Notso, Captain Croker, of Her Britannic Majesty’s service,who came shortly after. This unreflecting officer—loathto believe that royalty could be in the wrong—at217once took side with the king and Christians, anddashed headlong into the affair. The melancholy resultis well known. It ended by Captain Croker leaving hisbody upon the field, alongside those of many of hisbrave tars; and a disgraceful retreat of the Christianparty beyond the reach of their enemies.

This interference of a British war-vessel in the affairsof the Tongan Islanders, offers a strong contrast to ourconduct when in presence of the Feegees. There wehave the fact recorded of British officers being eyewitnessesof the most horrid scenes,—wholesale murderand cannibalism,—with full power to stay the crimeand full authority to punish it,—that authority whichwould have been freely given them by the accord andacclamation of the whole civilized world,—and yetthey stood by, in the character of idle spectators, fearfulof breaking through the delicate icy line of non-intervention!

A strange theory it seems, that murder is no longermurder, when the murderer and his victim chance to beof a different nationality from our own! It is a distinctiontoo delicate to bear the investigation of the philosophicmind; and perhaps will yet yield to a truer appreciationof the principles of justice. There was no suchsqueamishness displayed when royalty required supportupon the Tongan Islands; nor ever is there when self-interestdemands it otherwise. Mercy and justice mayboth fail to disarrange the hypocritical fallacy of non-intervention;but the principle always breaks down atthe call of political convenience.



Asia has been remarkable, from the earliest times,for having a large population without any fixed placeof residence, but who lead a nomade or wandering life.It is not the only quarter of the globe where this kindof people are found: as there are many nomade nationsin Africa, especially in the northern division of it; andif we take the Indian race into consideration, we findthat both the North and South-American continentshave their tribes of wandering people. It is in Asia,nevertheless, that we find this unsettled mode of lifecarried out to its greatest extent,—it is there that wefind those great pastoral tribes,—or “hordes,” as theyhave been termed,—who at different historical periodshave not only increased to the numerical strength oflarge nationalities, but have also been powerful enoughto overrun adjacent empires, pushing their conquestseven into Europe itself. Such were the invasions of theMongols under Zenghis Khan, the Tartars under Timour,and the Turks, whose degenerate descendantsnow so feebly hold the vast territory won by theirwandering ancestors.

The pastoral life, indeed, has its charms, that render219it attractive to the natural disposition of man, and whereverthe opportunity offers of following it, this life willbe preferred to any other. It affords to man an abundantsupply of all his most prominent wants, withoutrequiring from him any very severe exertion, either ofmind or body; and, considering the natural indolence ofAsiatic people, it is not to be wondered at that so manyof them betake themselves to this mode of existence.Their country, moreover, is peculiarly favorable to thedevelopment of a pastoral race. Perhaps not one thirdof the surface of the Asiatic continent is adapted toagriculture. At least one half of it is occupied by treeless,waterless plains, many of which have all the charactersof a desert, where an agricultural people couldnot exist, or, at all events, where their labor wouldbe rewarded by only the most scant and precariousreturns.

Even a pastoral people in these regions would findbut a sorry subsistence, were they confined to one spot;for the luxurious herbage which, for the most part, characterizesthe great savanna plains of America, is eitheraltogether wanting upon the steppes of Asia, or at bestvery meagre and inconstant. A fixed abode is thereforeimpossible, except in the most fertile tracts or oases:elsewhere, the nomad life is a necessity arising from thecircumstances of the soil.

It would be difficult to define exactly the limits of theterritory occupied by the wandering races in Asia; butin a general way it may be said that the whole centralportion of the continent is thus peopled: indeed, muchmore than the central portion,—for, if we except therich agricultural countries of Hindostan and China, with220a small portion of Persia, Arabia, and Turkey, the wholeof Asia is of this character. The countries known asBalk and Bokara, Yarkand and Khiva, with severalothers of equal note, are merely the central points ofoases,—large towns, supported rather by commercethan by the produce of agriculture, and having nomadtribes dwelling within sight of their walls. Even thepresent boundaries of Asiatic Turkey, Arabia and Persia,contain within them a large proportion of nomadic population;and the same is true of Eastern Poland andRussia in Europe. A portion of the Affghan and Belocheecountry is also inhabited by nomad people.

These wandering people are of many different typesand races of men; but there is a certain similarity inthe habits and customs of all: as might be expectedfrom the similar circumstances in which they are placed.

It is always the more sterile steppes that are thus occupied;and this is easily accounted for: where fertiledistricts occur the nomad life is no longer necessary.Even a wandering tribe, entering upon such a tract,would no longer have a motive for leaving it, and wouldsoon become attached to the soil,—in other words, wouldcease to be wanderers; and whether they turned theirattention to the pursuit of agriculture, or not, they wouldbe certain to give up their tent-life, and fix themselvesin a permanent abode. This has been the history ofmany Asiatic tribes; but there are many others, again,who from time immemorial, have shown a repugnance tothe idea of fixing themselves to the soil. They preferthe free roving life which the desert enables them toindulge in; and wandering from place to place as thechoice of pasture guides them, occupy themselves entirely221in feeding their flocks and herds,—the sole meansof their subsistence. These never have been, and nevercould be, induced to reside in towns or villages.

Nor is it that they have been driven into these deserttracts to seek shelter from political oppression,—as isthe case with some of the native tribes of Africa andAmerica. On the contrary, these Asiatic nomads aremore often the aggressors than the objects of aggression.It is rather a matter of choice and propensity with them:as with those tribes of the Arabian race,—known as“Bedouins.”

The proportion of the Asiatic wandering populationto those who dwell in towns, or fixed habitations, variesaccording to the nature of the country. In many extensivetracts, the former greatly exceed the latter;and the more sterile steppes are almost exclusively occupiedby them. In general, they acknowledge the sovereigntyof some of the great powers,—such as theempires of China, Russia, and Turkey, the kingdom ofPersia, or that of several powerful khans, as those ofKhiva and Bokara; but this sovereignty is, for the mostpart, little more than nominal, and their allegiance isreadily thrown off, whenever they desire it. It is rarelyso strong, as to enable any of the aforesaid powers todraw a heavy tribute from them; and some of the morewarlike of the wandering tribes are much courted andcaressed,—especially when their war services are required.In general they claim an herditary right to theterritories over which they roam, and pay but little heedto the orders of either king, khan, or emperor.

As already stated, these wandering people are of differentraces; in fact, they are of nearly all the varieties222indigenous to the Asiatic continent; and a whole catalogueof names might be given, of which Mongols, Tartars,Turcomans, Usbecks, Kirghees, and Calmucks, areperhaps the most generally known. It has been alsostated that in many points they are alike; but there arealso many important particulars in which they differ,—physical,moral, and intellectual. Some of the “hordes,”or tribes, are purely pastoral in their mode of life, andof mild and hospitable dispositions, exceedingly fond ofstrangers, and kind to such as come among them. Othersagain are averse to all intercourse with others, than thoseof their own race and religion, and are shy, if not inhospitable,when visited by strangers. But there is aclass of a still less creditable character,—a large numberof tribes that are not only inhospitable, and hostileto strangers, but as ferocious and bloodthirsty as anysavages in Africa, America, or the South-Sea Islands.

As a fair specimen of this class we select the Turcomans;in fact, they may be regarded as its type; andour description henceforward may be regarded as applyingparticularly to these people.

The country of the Turcomans will be found upon themap without difficulty; but to define its exact boundarywould be an impossibility, since none such exists. Wereyou to travel along the whole northern frontier of Persia,almost from the gates of Teheran to the eastern frontierof the kingdom,—or even farther towards Balk,—youwould be pretty sure of hearing of Turcoman robbers,and in very great danger of being plundered by them,—whichlast misfortune would be of less importance, as itwould only be the prelude to your being either murderedon the spot, or carried off by them into captivity. In223making this journey along the northern frontier of Persia,you would become acquainted with the whereaboutsof the Turcoman hordes; or rather you would discoverthat the whole north part of Persia,—a good broadband of it extending hundreds of miles into its interior,—ifnot absolutely in possession of the Turcomans, isoverrun and plundered by them at will. This, however,is not their home,—it is only their “stamping-ground,”—thehome of their victims. Their place of habitualresidence lies further to the north, and is defined withtolerable accuracy by its having the whole eastern shoreof the Caspian Sea for its western border, while theAmou River (the ancient Oxus) may be generally regardedas the limit of their range towards the east.Some tribes go still further east than the Amou; butthose more particularly distinguished for their plunderinghabits dwell within the limits described,—north ofthe Elburz Mountains, and on the great steppe of Kaurezm,where they are contiguous to the Usbeck communityof Khiva.

The whole of this immense territory, stretching fromthe eastern shore of the Caspian to the Amou and AralSea, may be characterized as a true desert. Here andthere oases exist, but none of any importance, save thecountry of Khiva itself: and even that is but a mereirrigated strip, lying on both banks of the Oxus. Indeed,it is difficult to believe that this territory of Khiva,so insignificant in superficial extent, could have been theseat of a powerful empire, as it once was.

The desert, then, between the Caspian Sea and theOxus River may be regarded as the true land of theTurcomans, and is usually known as Turcomania. It224is to remembered, however, that there are somekindred tribes not included within the boundaries ofTurcomania—for the Turkistan of the geographers isa country of much larger extent; besides, an importantdivision of the Turcoman races are settlers, or ratherwanderers in Armenia. To Turcomania proper, then,and its inhabitants, we shall confine our remarks.

We shall not stay to inquire into the origin of thepeople now called Turcomans. Were we to speculateupon that point, we should make but little progress in anaccount of their habits and mode of living. They areusually regarded as of Tartar origin, or of Usbeckorigin, or of Mongolian race; and in giving this accountof them, I am certain that I add very little toyour knowledge of what they really are. The truth is,that the words Tartar and Mongol and some half-dozenother titles, used in relation to the Asiatic races, arewithout any very definite signification,—simply becausethe relative distinctions of the different nations of thatcontinent are very imperfectly known; and learned ethnologistsare ever loath to a confession of limited knowledge.One of this class, Mr. Latham,—who requiresonly a few words of their language to decide categoricallyto what variety of the human race a people belongs,—hasunfortunately added to this confusion bypronouncing nearly everybody Mongolian: placing theproud turbaned Turk in juxtaposition with the squatand stunted Laplander! Of course this is only bringingus back to the old idea, that all men are sprungfrom a single pair of first parents,—a doctrine, which,though popular, is difficult to reconcile with the rationalknowledge derived from ethnological investigation.

225It matters little to our present purpose from whatoriginal race the Turcoman has descended: whetherhe be a true Turk, as some regard him, or whether heis a descendant of the followers of the Great Khan ofthe Tartars. He possesses the Tartar physiognomy toa considerable extent—some of the tribes more thanothers being thus distinguished,—and high cheek-bones,flat noses, small oblique eyes, and scanty beards, are allcharacteristics that are very generally observed. Someof these peculiarities are more common among thewomen than the men—many of the latter being tall,stout, and well-made, while a large number may beseen who have the regular features of a Persian. Perhapsit would be safest to consider the present Turcomantribes as not belonging to a pure stock, but ratheran admixture of several; and their habit of takingslaves from other nations, which has for a long timeexisted among them, would give probability to this idea.At all events, without some such hypothesis, it is difficultto account for the wonderful variety, both in featureand form, that is found among them. Their complexionis swarthy, in some cases almost brown as that of anAmerican Indian; but constant exposure to the openair, in all sorts of weather, has much to do in darkeningthe hue of their skin. The newborn children arenearly as white as those of the Persians; and theiryoung girls exhibit a ruddy brunette tint, which someconsider even more pleasing than a perfectly white complexion.

The costume of the Turcoman, like that of most Orientalnations, is rich and picturesque. The dress of themen varies according to rank. Some of the very poorer226people wear nothing but a short woollen tunic or shirt,with a pair of coarse woollen drawers. Others, in placeof this shirt, are clad in a longer garment, a sort ofrobe or wrapper, like a gentleman’s dressing-gown, madeof camel’s-hair cloth, or some coarse brown woollenstuff. But the true Turcoman costume, and that wornby all who can afford it, consists of a garment of mixedsilk and cotton,—the baronnee,—which descends belowthe knee, and though open in front, is made to buttonover the breast quite up to the neck. A gay sash aroundthe waist adds to the effect; and below the skirt areseen trowsers of cotton or even silk. Cloth wrappersaround the legs serve in the place of boots or gaiters;and on the feet are worn slippers of Persian fashion,with socks of soft Koordish leather.

As the material of which the baronnee is made is ofgood quality—a mixture of silk and cotton—and asthe fabric is always striped or checkered in colors ofred, blue, purple, and green, the effect produced is thatof a certain picturesqueness. The head-dress adds tothis appearance—being a high fur cap, with truncatedtop, the fur being that beautiful kind obtained from theskins of the Astracan lamb, well known in commerce.These caps are of different colors, either black, red, orgray. Another style of head-dress much worn is around-topped or helmet-shaped cap, made of quiltedcotton-stuff; but this kind, although in use among theTurcomans, is a more characteristic costume of theirenemies, the “Koords,” who wear it universally.

The “jubba” is a kind of robe generally intended togo over the other garments, and is usually of woollenor camel’s-hair cloth. It is also made like a dressing-gown,227with wide sleeves,—tight, however, around thewrist. It is of ample dimensions, and one side is lappedover the other across the front, like a double-breastedcoat. The “jubba” is essentially a national garment.

The dress of the women is exceedingly picturesque.It is thus minutely described by a traveller:—

“The head-dress of these women is singular enough:most of them wear a lofty cap, with a broad crown,resembling that of a soldier’s cap called a shako. Thisis stuck upon the back of the head; and over it isthrown a silk handkerchief of very brilliant colors,which covers the top, and falls down on each side likea veil. The front of this is covered with ornaments ofsilver and gold, in various shapes; more frequently goldcoins, mohrs, or tomauns, strung in rows, with silverbells or buttons, and chains depending from them;hearts and other fanciful forms, with stones set in them.The whole gives rather the idea of gorgeous trappingsfor a horse, than ornaments for a female.

“The frames of these monstrous caps are made oflight chips of wood, or split reeds, covered with cloth;and when they do not wear these, they wrap a clotharound their heads in the same form; and carelesslythrow another, like a veil over it. The veil or curtainabove spoken of covers the mouth; descending to thebreast. Earrings are worn in the ears; and their longhair is divided, and plaited into four parts, disposed twoon each side; one of which falls down behind theshoulders and one before, and both are strung with aprofusion of gold ornaments, agates, cornelians, andother stones, according to the means and quality of thewearer. The rest of their dress consists of a long, loose228vest or shirt, with sleeves, which covers the whole persondown to the feet, and is open at the breast, in front,but buttons or ties close up to the neck: this is made ofsilk or cotton-stuff, red, blue, green, striped red, andyellow, checked, or various-colored: underneath this,are the zere-jameh, or drawers, also of silk or cotton;and some wear a short peerahn or shirt of the same.This, I believe, is all; but in the cold weather theywear, in addition, jubbas, or coats like those of the men,of striped stuff made of silk and cotton; on their feetthey generally wear slippers like those of the Persianwomen.”

The tents, or “portable houses” of the Turcomans—astheir movable dwellings rather deserve to be called—differfrom most structures of the kind in use elsewhere.They are thus described by the same intelligenttraveller:—

“The portable wooden houses of the Turcomans havebeen referred to by several writers; but I am not awarethat any exact description of their structure has beengiven. The frame is curiously constructed of lightwood, disposed in laths of about an inch broad by threequarters thick, crossing one another diagonally, but atright angles, about a foot asunder, and pinned at eachcrossing with thongs of raw hide, so as to be movable;and the whole framework may be closed up or openedin the manner of those toys for children that represent acompany of soldiers, and close or expand at will, so asto form open or close column.

“One or more pieces thus constructed being stretchedout, surround a circular space of from fifteen to twentyfeet diameter; and form the skeleton of the walls,—which229are made firm by bands of hair or woollen ropes,hitched round the end of each rod, to secure it in its position.From the upper ends of these, rods of a similar kind,bent near the wall end into somewhat less than a rightangle, are so disposed that the longer portions slope tothe centre, and being tied with ropes, form the frameworkof a roof. Over this is thrown a covering of blacknumud, leaving in the centre a large hole to give ventto the smoke, and light to the dwelling. Similar numudsare wrapped round the walls; and outside of these, tokeep all tight, is bound another frame, formed of splitreeds or cane, or of very light and tough wood, tiedtogether with strong twine, the pieces being perpendicular.This is itself secured by a strong, broad band ofwoven hair-stuff, which firmly unites. The large roundopening at top is covered, as occasion requires, by apiece of numud, which is drawn off or on by a strongcord, like a curtain. If the wind be powerful, a stick isplaced to leeward, which supports the fabric.

“In most of these houses they do not keep a carpetor numud constantly spread; but the better classes usea carpet shaped somewhat in the form of a horseshoe,having the centre cut out for the fireplace, and the endstruncated, that those of inferior condition, or who do notchoose to take off their boots, may sit down upon theground. Upon this carpet they place one or two othernumuds, as may be required, for guests of distinction.When they have women in the tent, a division of splitreeds is made for their convenience; but the richerpeople have a separate tent for their private apartments.

“The furniture consists of little more than that of the230camels and horses; joals, or bags in which their goodsare packed, and which are often made of a very handsomespecies of worsted velvet carpet, of rich patterns;the swords, guns, spears, bows and arrows, and otherimplements of the family, with odds and ends of everydescription, may be seen hung on the ends of the woodenrods, which form very convenient pins for the purpose.Among some tribes all the domestic utensils are madeof wood,—calleeoons, trays for presenting food, milk-vessels,&c.: among others, all these things are formedof clay or metal. Upon the black tops of the tents mayfrequently be seen large white masses of sour curd,expressed from buttermilk, and set to dry as futurestore; this, broken down and mixed with water, formsa very pleasant acidulous drink, and is used as thebasis of that intoxicating beverage called kimmiz. Themost common and most refreshing drink which they offerto the weary and over-heated traveller in the forenoon isbuttermilk, or sour curds and water; and, indeed, amodification of this, with some other simple sherbets,are the only liquors presented at their meals.

“Such are the wooden houses of the Turcomans, oneof which just makes a camel’s load. There are poorerones, of a less artificial construction, the framework ofwhich is formed of reeds.

“The encampment is generally square, enclosing anopen space, or forming a broad street, the houses beingranged on either side, with their doors towards eachother. At these may always be seen the most picturesquegroups, occupied with their various domesticduties, or smoking their simple wooden calleeoons. Themore important encampments are often surrounded by231a fence of reeds, which serve to protect the flocks frompetty thefts.”

It is now our place to inquire how the Turcomansoccupy their time. We have already described them asa pastoral and nomadic people; and, under ordinarycircumstances, their employment consists in looking aftertheir flocks. In a few of the more fertile oases theyhave habitations, or rather camps, of a more permanentcharacter, where they cultivate a little corn or barley, tosupply them with the material for bread; but these settlements,if they deserve the name, are only exceptional;and are used chiefly as a kind of head-quarters, wherethe women and property are kept, while the men themselvesare absent on their thieving expeditions. Moregenerally their herds are kept on the move, and aredriven from place to place at short intervals of a fewweeks or even days. The striking and pitching of theirtents gives them employment; to which is added that ofmilking the cattle, and making the cheese and butter.The women, moreover, fill up their idle hours in weavingthe coarse blankets, or “numuds,” in plaiting mats,and manufacturing various articles of dress or householduse. The more costly parts of their costume, however,are not of native manufacture: these are obtained bytrade. The men alone look after the camels and horses,taking special care of the latter.

Their flocks present a considerable variety of species.Besides horses, cattle, and sheep, they own many camels,and they have no less than three distinct varieties of thisvaluable animal in their possession,—the dromedary withtwo humps, and the common camel. The third sort is across breed—or “mule”—between these two. The232dromedary is slightly made, and swifter than either ofthe others, but it is not so powerful as either, and beinginferior as a beast of burden, is least cared for by theTurcomans. The one-humped camel is in more generaluse, and a good one will carry a load of six or sevenhundred pounds with ease. The mule camel is morepowerful than either of its parents, and also more docileand capable of greater endurance. It grows to a verylarge size, but is low in proportion to its bulk, with stout,bony legs, and a large quantity of coarse, shaggy hair onits haunch, shoulders, neck, and even on the crown ofits head, which gives it a strange, somewhat fantasticappearance. Its color varies from light gray to brown,though it is as often nearly black. This kind of camelwill carry a load of from eight hundred to a thousandpounds.

The Turcoman sheep are of the large-tailed breed,—theirtails often attaining enormous dimensions. Thisvariety of sheep is a true denizen of the desert, the fattail being unquestionably a provision of nature againstseasons of hunger,—just as in the single protuberance,or “hump,” upon the camel.

The horse of the Turcoman is the animal upon whichhe sets most value. The breed possessed by him is celebratedover all Eastern Asia, as that of the Arab is inthe West. They cannot be regarded, however, as handsomehorses, according to the true standard of “horsebeauty;” but the Turcoman cares less for this than forother good qualities. In point of speed and endurancethey are not excelled, if equalled, by the horses of anyother country.

Their size is that of the common English horse, but233they are very different in make. Their bodies are longin proportion to the bulk of carcass; and they do notappear to possess sufficient compactness of frame. Theirlegs are also long, generally falling off in muscular developmentbelow the knee-joint; and they would appearto an English jockey too narrow in the counter. Theyhave also long necks, with large heavy heads. Theseare the points which are generally observed in the Turcomanhorses; but it is to be remarked, that it is onlywhen in an under-condition they look so ungraceful; andin this condition their owners are accustomed to keepthem, especially when they have any very heavy serviceto perform. Feeding produces a better shape, and bringsthem much nearer to the look of a well-bred Englishhorse.

Their powers of endurance are indeed, almost incredible:when trained for a chappow, or plundering expedition,they will carry their rider and provisions for sevenor eight days together, at the rate of twenty or eventhirty fursungs—that is, from eighty to one hundredmiles—a day. Their mode of training is more likethat of our pugilistic and pedestrian performers, thanthat adopted for race-horses. When any expedition ofgreat length, and requiring the exertion of much speed, isin contemplation, they commence by running their horsesevery day for many miles together; they feed them sparinglyon barley alone, and pile numuds upon them atnight to sweat them, until every particle of fat has beenremoved, and the flesh becomes hard and tendonous.Of this they judge by the feel of the muscles, particularlyon the crest, at the back of the neck, and on thehaunches; and when these are sufficiently firm and234hard, they say in praise of the animal, that “his fleshis marble.” After this sort of training, the horse willproceed with expedition and perseverance, for almostany length of time, without either falling off in conditionor knocking up, while horses that set out fat seldom survive.They are taught a quick walk, a light trot, or asort of amble, which carries the rider on easily, at therate of six miles an hour; but they will also go at around canter, or gallop, for forty or fifty miles, withoutever drawing bridle or showing the least symptom offatigue. Their yaboos, or galloways, and large poniesare fully as remarkable, if not superior, to their horses,in their power of sustaining fatigue; they are stout,compact, spirited beasts, without the fine blood of thelarger breeds, but more within the reach of the poorerclasses, and consequently used in by far greater numbersthan the superior and more expensive horses.

“It is a common practice of the Turcomans, to teachtheir horses to fight with their heels, and thus assisttheir masters in the time of action. At the will of theirriders they will run at and lay hold with their teethof whatever man or animal may be before them. Thisacquirement is useful in the day of battle and plunder,for catching prisoners and stray cattle, but it at thesame time renders them vicious and dangerous to behandled.”

In addition to the flocks and herds, the Turcomanspossess a breed of very large fierce dogs, to assist themin keeping their cattle. These are also necessary aswatch-dogs, to protect the camp from thieves as well asmore dangerous enemies to their peace; and so welltrained are those faithful creatures, that it would be235impossible for either friend or enemy to approach a Turcomancamp without the inmates being forewarned intime. Two or three of these dogs may always be seenlying by the entrance of each tent; and throughout thenight several others keep sentry at the approaches to thecamp.

Other breeds of dogs owned by them are used forhunting,—for these wild wanderers sometimes devotetheir hours to the chase. They have two sorts,—asmooth-skinned dog, half hound half pointer, that huntschiefly by the scent; and a greyhound, of great swiftness,with a coat of long, silky hair, which they makeuse of in coursing,—hares and antelopes being theirgame.

They have a mode of hunting—also practised bythe Persians—which is peculiar. It should rather betermed hawking than hunting, as a hawk is employedfor the purpose. It is a species of falcon denominated“goork,” and is trained not only to dash at small game,such as partridges and bustards, but upon antelopes andeven the wild ass that is found in plenty upon the plainsof Turcomania. You will wonder how a bird, notlarger than the common falcon, could capture such gameas this; but it will appear simple enough when themethod has been explained. The “goork” is trained tofly at the quadruped, and fix its claws in one particularplace,—that is, upon the frontlet, just between the eyes.When thus attached, the bird, instead of closing its wingsand remaining at rest, keeps them constantly in motion,flapping them over the eyes of the quadruped. This itdoes, no doubt, to enable it to retain its perch; while theunfortunate animal, thus assailed, knows not in what236direction to run, and is soon overtaken by the pursuingsportsmen, and either speared or shot with the bow andarrow.

Wild boars are frequently hunted by the Turcomansand this, like everything else with these rude centaurs,is performed on horseback. The bow and arrow is buta poor weapon when employed against the thick, toughhide of the Hyrcanian boar (for he is literally the Hyrcanianboar), and of course the matchlock would beequally ineffective. How, then, does the Turcomansportsman manage to bag this bristly game? With allthe ease in the world. It costs him only the effort ofgalloping his horse close up to the side of the boar afterhe has been brought to by the dogs, and then suddenlywheeling the steed. The latter, well trained to the task,without further prompting, goes through the rest of theperformance, which consists in administering to the boarsuch a slap with his iron-shod heel, as to prostrate theporcine quadruped, often killing it on the instant!

Such employments and such diversions occupy onlya small portion of the Turcoman’s time. He followsanother calling of a far less creditable character, whichunfortunately he regards as the most honorable occupationof his life. This is the calling of the robber. Hispastoral pursuits are matters of only secondary consideration.He only looks to them as a means of supplyinghis daily wants,—his food and the more necessaryportion of his clothing; but he has other wants thatmay be deemed luxuries. He requires to keep up hisstock of horses and camels, and wishes to increase them.He needs costly gear for his horse, and costly garmentsfor himself,—and he is desirous of being possessed of237fine weapons, such as spears, swords, bows, matchlocks,daggers, and pistols. His most effective weapons arethe spear and sword, and these are the kinds he chieflyuses.

His spear consists of a steel head with four flutes,and edges very sharp, fixed upon a slender shaft of fromeight to ten feet in length. In using it he couches itunder the left arm, and directs it with the right hand,either straightforward, or to the right or left; if to theright, the butt of the shaft lies across the hinder partof the saddle; if to the left, the forepart of the spearrests on the horse’s neck. The Turcomans managetheir horses with the left hand, but most of these are sowell broken as to obey the movement of the knee, orthe impulse of the body. When close to their object,they frequently grasp the spear with both hands, to givegreater effect to the thrust. The horse, spurred to thefull speed of a charge, in this way, offers an attack nodoubt very formidable in appearance, but perhaps lessreally dangerous than the other, in which success dependsso greatly on skill and address. The Turcomansare all sufficiently dexterous with the sword, which isalmost universally formed in the curved Persian fashion,and very sharp; they also wear a dagger at the waist-belt.Firearms are as yet little in use among them;they possess a few, taken from the travellers they haveplundered, and procure a few more occasionally from theRussians by the way of Bokara. Some use bows andarrows, but they are by no means so dexterous as theirancestors were in the handling of those weapons.

Mounted, then, upon his matchless steed, and armedwith spear and sword, the Turcoman goes forth to practise238his favorite profession,—that of plunder. He doesnot go alone, nor with a small number of his comrades,either. The number depends altogether on the distanceor danger of the expedition; and where these are consideredgreat, a troop of five hundred, or even a thousand,usually proceed together upon their errand.

You will be inquiring to what point they direct themselves,—east,west, north, or south? That altogetherdepends upon who may be their enemies for the time, foralong with their desire for booty, there is also mixed upsomething like a sentiment of hostility. In this respect,however, the Turcoman is a true Ishmaelite, and in lackof other victim he will not hesitate to plunder the peopleof a kindred race. Indeed, several of the Turcomantribes have long been at war with one another; andtheir animosity is quite as deadly among themselves aswhen directed against strangers to their race. The butt,however, of most of the Turcoman expeditions is thenorthern part of Persia,—Korassan in particular. Itis into this province that most of their great forays aredirected, either against the peaceful citizens of the Persiantowns and villages, or as often against the merchantcaravans that are constantly passing between Teheranand the cities of the east,—Mushed, Balkh, Bokara,Herat, and Kelat. I have already stated that theseforays are pushed far into the interior of Persia; andthe fact of Persia permitting such a state of things tocontinue will perhaps surprise you; but you would notbe surprised were you better acquainted with the conditionof that kingdom. From historic associations, youbelieve Persia to be a powerful nation; and so it oncewas, both powerful and prosperous. That day is past,239and at the present hour, this decaying monarchy is notonly powerless to maintain order within its own borders,but is even threatened with annihilation from those verynomad races that have so often given laws to the greatempires of Asia. Even at this moment, the more powerfulTartar Khans turn a longing look towards thetottering throne of Nadir Shah; and he of Khiva hasmore than once made a feint at invasion. But the subjectis too extensive to be discussed here. It is onlyintroduced to explain with what facility a few hundredsof Turcoman robbers can enter and harass the land.We find a parallel in many other parts of the world,—oldas well as new. In the latter, the northern provincesof Mexico, and the southern countries of La Plata andParaguay, are in just such a condition: the weak, worn-outdescendants of the Spanish conquerors on one side,well representing the remnants of the race of NadirShah; while, on the other, the Turcoman is type enoughof the Red Indian. The comparison, however, is notjust to the latter. He, at least, is possessed of courageand prowess; while the Turcoman, notwithstanding hispropensities for plunder, and the bloodthirsty ferocityof his character, is as arrant a coward as ever carriedlance. Even the Persian can cope with him, whenfairly matched; and the merchant-caravans,—whichare usually made up of true Turks, and other racespossessing a little “pluck,” are never attacked, unlesswhen outnumbered in the ratio of three to one.

For all this, the whole northern portion of the Persiankingdom is left to the mercy of these desert-robbers.The towns and villages have each their large fortress,into which the people retire whenever the plunderers240make their appearance, and there dwell till the latterhave ridden away,—driving off their flocks and herdsto the desert fastnesses. Even the poor farmer isobliged to build a fortress in the middle of his fields,to which he may retire upon the occasion of any suddenalarm, and his laborers till the ground with theirswords by their sides, and their matchlocks lying near!

These field fortresses of Korassan are altogether socurious, both as to construction and purpose, that wecannot pass them without a word of description. Theyare usually placed in some conspicuous place, at a convenientdistance from all parts of the cultivated tract.They are built of mud, and raised to a height of fifteenor twenty feet, of a circular form,—bearing some resemblanceto the well-known round towers of Ireland.A small aperture is left open at the bottom, throughwhich those seeking shelter may just squeeze theirbodies, and this being barricaded inside, the defenceis complete. From the top—which can be reachedeasily on the inside—the farmer and his laborers canuse their matchlocks with effect; but they are nevercalled upon to do so,—as the cowardly freebooter takesgood care to give the mud tower a wide birth. He hasno weapons by which he might assail it; and, moreover,he has no time for sieges: since an hour’s delay mightbring him into danger from the force that is fast approaching.His only thought is to keep on his course,and sweep off such cattle, or make prisoners of suchpeople as he may chance to find unwarned and unarmed.Now and then he ventures upon an attack—wherethere is much booty to tempt him, and but aweak force to defend it. His enemies,—the hated241“Kuzzilbashes,” as he calls the Persians,—if defeated,have no mercy to expect from him. All who resist arekilled upon the spot, and often torture is the mode oftheir death; but if they can be made prisoners, thedesert-robber prefers letting them live, as a captive isto him a more valuable consideration than the deathof an enemy. His prisoner, once secured, knows tolerablywell what is to follow. The first thing the Turcomandoes is to bind the victim’s hands securely behindhis back; he then puts a long halter around his neck,attaching the other end of it to the tail of his horse, andin this fashion the homeward march commences. If thepoor pedestrian does not keep pace with the horse, heknows what he may expect,—to be dragged at intervalsalong the ground, and perhaps torn to pieces upon therocks. With this horrid fate before his fancy, he makesefforts almost superhuman to keep pace with the troopof his inhuman captors: though well aware that theyare leading him off into a hopeless bondage.

At night, his feet are also tied; and, thrown downupon the earth, he is covered with a coarse “numud.”Do not fancy that this is done to screen him from thecold: the object is very different indeed. The numudis placed over him in order that two of his captors maysleep upon its edges—one on each side of him—thusholding him down, and frustrating any chance of escape.

On arriving at the robber-camp, the captive is notkept long in suspense as to his future fate. His owner—forhe is now in reality a slave—wants a new sword,or a piece of silken cloth, or a camel, or some otherarticle of luxury. That he can obtain either at Khivaor Bokara, in exchange for his slave; and therefore the242new captive—or captives, as the chance may be—ismarched off to the ready market. This is no isolatednor rare incident. It is one of every-day occurrence;and it is a noted fact, that of the three hundred thousandpeople who constitute the subjects of the KhivanKhan, nearly one half are Persian slaves obtained fromthe robbers of Turcomania!

The political organization of the Turcomans is of thepatriarchal character. From necessity they dwell insmall communities that are termed “teers,” the literalsignification of which is “arrows,”—though for whatreason they are so styled does not appear. Perhaps itis on account of the rapidity of their movements: for,in hostile excursions, or moving from place to place,they proceed with a celerity that may be compared toarrows.

Over each tribe or teer there is a chief, similar to the“sheik” of the Arab tribes,—and indeed, many of theircustoms offer a close analogy to those of the wanderingBedouins of Arabia and Egypt, and the Kabyles ofMorocco and the Algerine provinces. The circumstancesof life—almost alike to both—could not fail to producemany striking resemblances.

The Turcoman tribes, as already observed, frequentlygo to war with each other, but they oftener unite to rob thecommon enemy,—the caravan or the Persian village.In these mere plundering expeditions they go in suchnumbers as the case may require; but when called forthto take side in anything like a national war, they canmuster to the strength of many thousands; and thenindeed, they become terrible,—even to the most potentsovereigns of Central Asia, by whom much diplomacy243is employed to enlist them on one side or the other. Itmatters little to them what the cause be,—he who canpromise them the largest booty in cattle or slaves is sureto have the help of their spears and swords.

The Turcomans are not Pagans,—that is, they arenot professedly so,—though, for all the regard whichthey pay to religious observances, they might as well betermed true Infidels. They profess a religion, however,and that is Mohametanism in its worst and most bigotedform,—the “Sunnite.” The Persians, as is well known,hold the milder Sheean doctrines; and as the votariesof the two, in most countries where both are practised,cordially hate each other, so it is between Turcomansand Persians. The former even scorn the Persian creed,calling its followers “Infidel” dogs, or Kuzzilbashes; andthis bigoted rancor gives them a sort of plausible excusefor the hostile attitude which they hold towards them.

Taking them upon the whole, the Turcomans may belooked upon as true savages,—savages dressed in silkinstead of in skins.



On the banks of the Orinoco, a short distance abovethe point where that mighty river makes its second greatsweep to the eastward, dwells a remarkable people,—atribe of savages that, even among savages, are remarkablefor many peculiar and singular customs. These arethe Ottomacs.

They have been long known,—and by the narrativesof the early Spanish missionaries, rendered notorious,—onaccount of some curious habits; but although themissionaries have resided among them, and endeavoredto bring them within “sound of the bell,” their effortshave met with a very partial and temporary success;and at this present hour, the Ottomacs are as savage intheir habits, and as singular in their customs, as theywere in the days of Columbus.

The Ottomacs are neither a stunted nor yet a weakrace of men. Their bodies are strong, and their armsand limbs stout and muscular; but they are remarkablyill-featured, with an expression of countenance habituallystern and vindictive.

Their costume is easily described, or rather cannot bedescribed at all, since they have none. Both sexes go245entirely naked,—if we except a little belt of three orfour inches in width, made from cotton or the bark oftrees, and called the guayuco, which they wear aroundthe waist,—but even this is worn from no motives ofmodesty.

What they regard in the light of a costume is a coatof paint, and about this they are as nice and particularas a Parisian dandy. Talk about “blooming up”a faded belle for the ball-room, or the time spent by anexquisite in adjusting the tie of his cravat! these aretrifles when compared with the lengthy and elaboratetoilette of an Ottomac lady or gentleman.

The greater part of a day is often spent by them in asingle dressing, with one or two helpers to assist in theoperation; and this is not a tattooing process, intended tolast for a lifetime, but a costume certain to be disfigured,or entirely washed off, at the first exposure to a heavyshower of rain. Add to this, that the pigments whichare used for the purpose are by no means easily obtained:the vegetable substances which furnish themare scarce in the Ottomac country; and it costs one ofthese Indians the produce of several days of his laborto purchase sufficient paint to give his whole skin a single“coat.” For this reason the Ottomac paints his bodyonly on grand occasions,—contenting himself at ordinarytimes with merely staining his face and hair.

When an Ottomac wishes to appear in “full dress”he first gives himself a “priming” of red. This consistsof the dye called “annotto,” which is obtained from thefruit pulp of the Bixa orellana, and which the Indiansknew how to prepare previous to their intercourse withEuropeans. Over this red ground is then formed a lattice-work246of lines of black, with a dot in the centre ofevery little square or diamond. The black dye is the“caruto,” also a vegetable pigment, obtained from theGenipa Americana. If the gentleman be rich enoughto possess a little “chica” which is a beautiful lake-coloredred,—also the produce of a plant,—the Bignonichica, he will then feel all the ecstatic delight of a fashionabledandy who possesses a good wardrobe; and, withhalf a pound of turtle-oil rubbed into his long blacktresses, he will regard himself as dressed “within aninch of his life.” It is not always, however, that he canafford the chica,—for it is one of the costliest materialsof which a South-American savage can manufacture hissuit.

The Ottomac takes far less trouble in the building ofhis house. Very often he builds none; but when hewishes to guard his body from the rays of the sun, orthe periodical rains, he constructs him a slight edifice—amere hut—out of saplings or bamboos, with athatch of palm-leaves.

His arms consist of the universal bow and arrows,which he manages with much dexterity; and he hasalso a harpoon which he employs in killing the manateeand the alligator. He has, besides, several otherweapons, to aid him in the chase and fishing,—the latterof which forms his principal employment as well as hischief source of subsistence.

The Ottomac belongs to one of those tribes of Indianstermed by the Spanish missionaries Indios andantes, thatis “wandering,” or “vagabond Indians,” who instead ofremaining in fixed and permanent villages, roam aboutfrom place to place, as necessity or inclination dictates.247Perhaps this arises from the peculiarity of the countrywhich they inhabit: for the Indios andantes do not livein the thick forests, but upon vast treeless savannas,which stretch along the Orinoco above its great bend.In these tracts the “juvia” trees (bertholletia and lecythys),which produce the delicious “Brazil-nuts”—andother plants that supply the savage spontaneously withfood, are sparsely found; and as the savannas are annuallyinundated for several months, the Ottomac isforced, whether he will or no, to shift his quarters andtry for subsistence elsewhere. When the inundationshave subsided and the waters become settled enough topermit of fishing, the Ottomac “winter” is over, and hecan obtain food in plenty from the alligators, the manatees,the turtles, the toninas or dolphins, and otherlarge fish that frequent the great stream upon whichhe dwells. Of these the manatee is the most importantin the eyes of the Ottomac—as it is the largest in size,and consequently furnishes him with the greatest amountof meat.

This singular semi-cetaceous creature is almost toowell known to require description. It is found in nearlyall the large rivers of tropical America, where it feedsupon the grass and aquatic plants growing along theirbanks. It is known by various names, according to theplace and people. The Spaniards call it vaca marina,or “sea-cow,” and the Portuguese peixe boi, or “fish-ox,”—bothbeing appellations equally inappropriate, andhaving their origin in a slight resemblance which thereexists between the animal’s “countenance” and that ofan ox.

The West-Indian name is the one we have given,248though the true orthography is manati, not manatee,since the word is of Indian origin. Some writers denythis, alleging that it is a derivative from the Spanishword “mano,” a hand, signifying, therefore, the fish withhands,—in allusion to the rudimentary hands whichform one of its distinguishing characteristics. This isthe account of the historian Oviedo, but another Spanishmissionary, Father Gili, offers a more correct explanationof the name,—in fact, he proves, what is neithermore nor less than the simple truth, that “manati” wasthe name given to this animal by the natives of Haytiand Cuba,—where a species is also found,—and theword has no reference whatever to the “hands” of thecreature. The resemblance to the Spanish word whichshould signify “handed,” is merely an accidental circumstance;and, as the acute Humboldt very justly remarks,according to the genius of the Spanish language, theword thus applied would have been written manudo,or manon, and not manati.

The Indians have almost as many different names forthis creature as there are rivers in which it is found;but its appellation in the “lingo ageral” of the greatAmazon valley, is “juarua.” Among the Ottomacs itis called the “apoia.” It may be safely affirmed thatthere are several species of this amphibious animal inthe rivers of tropical America; and possibly no one ofthem is identical with that of the West Indies. Allhave hitherto been regarded as belonging to the samespecies, and described under the scientific title of ManatusAmericanus—a name given to the Americanmanati, to distinguish it from the “lamantin” of Africa,and the “dugong” of the East-Indian seas. But the249West-Indian species appears to have certain characteristicdifferences, which shows that it is a separate one,or, at all events, a variety. It is of much larger sizethan those of the South-American rivers generally are—thoughthere also a large variety is found, but muchrarer than those commonly captured by the fishermen.The West-Indian manati has nails well developed uponthe outer edge of its fins, or forearms; while those onthe other kinds are either not seen at all, or only in avery rudimentary state. That there are different species,may be deduced from the accounts of the natives,who employ themselves in its capture: and the observationsof such people are usually more trustworthythan the speculations of learned anatomists. The Amazonfishermen all agree in the belief that there arethree kinds of manati in the Amazon and its numeroustributaries, that not only differ greatly in size—fromseven to twenty feet long—and in weight, from fourhundred to two thousand pounds,—but also in the colorof their skin, and the shape of their tails and fins. Thespecies found in the Orinoco, and called “apoia” by theOttomacs, is usually about twelve feet in length, andweighs from five hundred to eight hundred pounds; butnow and then a much larger individual is captured, perhapsowing to greater age, or other accidental circumstance.Humboldt heard of one that weighed eightthousand pounds; and the French naturalist D’Orbignyspeaks of one killed in the Bolivian waters of theAmazon that was twenty feet in length. This size isoften attained by the Manatus Americanus of Cuba andHayti.

The manati is shaped somewhat like a huge seal, and250has certain resemblances to a fish. Its body is of anoval oblong, with a large, flat, rounded tail, set horizontally,and which serves as a rudder to direct its coursein the water. Just behind its shoulders appear, insteadof fins, a pair of flippers, which have a certain resemblanceto hands set on to the body without arms. Ofthese it avails itself, when creeping out against the bank,and the female also uses them in carrying her young.The mammæ (for it must be remembered that this creatureis a mammiferous animal) are placed just below andbehind the flippers. The muzzle is blunt, with thicklips,—the upper projecting several inches beyond thelower, and covered with a delicate epidermis: showingevidently that it avails itself of this prominence—whichpossesses a keen sense of touch—just as the elephantof his proboscis. The lips are covered with bristles, orbeard, which impart a kind of human-like expression tothe animal’s countenance,—a circumstance more observablein the “dugongs” of the Oriental waters.“Woman-fish,” too, these have been called, and no doubtsuch creatures, along with the seals and walruses, havegiven rise to many a story of sirens and mermaids. The“cow-face,” however, from which the manati obtains itsSpanish and Portuguese epithets, is the most characteristic;and in its food we find a still greater analogyto the bovine quadruped with which it is brought incomparison. Beyond this the resemblance ceases. Thebody is that of a seal; but instead of being covered withhair, as the cetaceous animal, the manati has a smoothskin that resembles india-rubber more than anythingelse. A few short hairs are set here and there, butthey are scarce observable. The color of the manati is251that of lead, with a few mottlings of a pinkish-white hueupon the belly; but in this respect there is no uniformity.Some are seen with the whole under-parts of auniform cream-color.

The lungs of this animal present a peculiarity worthyof being noted. They are very voluminous,—beingsometimes three feet in length, and of such a porous andelastic nature as to be capable of immense extension.When blown out, they present the appearance of greatswimming bladders; and it is by means of this capacityfor containing air that, the manati is enabled to remainso long under water,—though, like the true cetaceæ, itrequires to come at intervals to the surface to obtainbreath.

The flesh of the manati is eaten by all the tribes ofIndians who can procure it,—though by some it ismore highly esteemed than by others. It was oncemuch relished in the colonial settlements of Guiana andthe West Indies, and formed a considerable article ofcommerce; but in these quarters manatis have grownscarce,—from the incessant persecution of the fishermen.The flesh has been deemed unwholesome bysome, and apt to produce fevers; but this is not thegeneral opinion. It has a greater resemblance to porkthan beef,—though it be the flesh of a cow,—and isvery savory when fresh, though neither is it bad eatingwhen salted or dried in the sun. In this way it willkeep for several months; and it has always been a stockarticle with the monks of the South-American missions,—who,in spite of its mammiferous character, find itconvenient, during the days of Lent, to regard it as afish. The skin of the manati is of exceeding thickness,—on252the back an inch and a half at least, thoughit becomes thinner as it approaches the under-parts ofthe body. It is cut into slips which serve various purposes,as for shields, cordage, and whips. “These whipsof manati leather,” says Humboldt, “are a cruel instrumentof punishment for the unhappy slaves, and evenfor the Indians of the missions, though, according to thelaws, the latter ought to be treated as freemen.”

Another valuable commodity obtained from this animalis oil, known in the missions as manati-butter (mantecade manati). This is produced by the layer of pure fat,of an inch and a half in thickness, which, lying immediatelyunder the skin, envelops the whole body of theanimal. The oil is used for lamps in the missionchurches; but among the Indians themselves it is alsoemployed in the cuisine,—as it has not that fetid smellpeculiar to the oil of whales and salt-water cetaceæ.

The food of the manati is grass exclusively, which itfinds on the banks of the lakes and rivers it frequents.Of this it will eat an enormous quantity; and its usualtime of browsing is at night,—though this habit mayhave arisen from its observance of the fact, that night isthe safest time to approach the shore. In those places,where is has been left undisturbed, it may be often seenbrowsing by day.

I have been thus particular in my account of thisanimal, because it is more nearly connected with thehistory of Ottomac habits than perhaps that of anyother tribe of South-American Indian,—the Guamosalone excepted, who may themselves be regarded asmerely a branch of the Ottomac family. Though, asalready remarked, all the tribes who dwell upon manati253rivers pursue this creature and feed upon its flesh, yetin no other part of South America is this species offishery so extensively or so dexterously carried on asamong the Ottomacs and Guamos,—the reason being,that, amidst the great grassy savannas which characterizethe Ottomac country, there are numerous streamsand lagoons that are the favorite haunts of this herbivorousanimal. In one river in particular, so great anumber are found that it has been distinguished by theappellation of the Rio de Manatis (river of manatis).The manati, when undisturbed, is gregarious in itshabits, going in troops (or “herds,” if we preserve theanalogy) of greater or less numbers, and keeping theyoung “calves” in the centre, which the mothers guardwith the tenderest affection. So attached are the parentsto their young, that if the calf be taken, the mother canbe easily approached; and the devotion is reciprocatedon the filial side; since in cases where the mother hasbeen captured and dragged ashore, the young one hasoften been known to follow the lifeless body up to thevery bank!

As the manati plays such an important part in thedomestic economy of the Ottomacs, of course the capturingof this animal is carried on upon the grandestscale among these people, and, like the “harvest ofturtle-eggs,” hereafter to be described, the manati fisheryhas its particular season. Some writers have erroneouslystated this season as being the period of inundation,and when the water is at its maximum height.This is quite contrary to the truth; since that period,both on the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, is just the timewhen all kinds of fishing is difficult and precarious.254Then is the true winter,—the “blue months” of theSouth-American river Indians; and it is then, as willpresently be seen, that the Ottomac comes nearest thepoint of starvation,—which he approaches every yearof his life.

There are manati and other kinds of fish taken at alltimes of the year; but the true season of the manati-fishingis when the waters of the great flood have considerablysubsided, and are still continuing to diminishrapidly. When the inundation is at its height, the manatipasses out of the channel current of the great river, andin search of grass it finds its way into the lakes andsurrounding marshes, remaining there to browse alongtheir banks. When the flood is rapidly passing awayfrom it, it begins to find itself a “little out of its element,”and just then is the time when it is most easilycaptured.

Sometimes the Indians assemble in a body with theircanoes, forming a large fleet; and, proceeding to thebest haunts of the “cow-fish,” carry on the fishery ina wholesale manner. The monks of the missions alsohead the tame tribes on these expeditions,—as they dowhen collecting the eggs of the turtle,—and a regularsystematic course is carried on under the eye of disciplineand authority. A camp is formed at some convenientplace on the shore. Scaffolds are erected forsun-drying the flesh and skins; and vessels and otherutensils brought upon the ground to render the fat intooil. The manatis that have been captured are all broughtin the canoes to this central point, and delivered up tobe “flensed,” cured, and cooked. There is the usualassemblage of small traders from Angostura and other255ports on the lower Orinoco, who come to barter theirIndian trinkets for the manteca de manati in the samemanner it will presently be seen they trade for themanteca de tortugas. I need not add that this is a seasonof joy and festivity, like the wine-gatherings andharvest-homes of the European peasantry.

The mode of capturing the manati is very similar tothat employed by the Esquimaux in taking the seal, andwhich has been elsewhere described. There is not muchdanger in the fishery, for no creature could be moreharmless and inoffensive than this. It makes not theslightest attempt either at defence or retaliation,—thoughthe accident sometimes occurs of a canoe beingswamped or drawn under water,—but this is nothingto the Ottomac Indian, who is almost as amphibiousas the manati itself.

At the proper hour the fisherman starts off in searchof the manati. His fishing-boat is a canoe hollowedfrom a single trunk, of that kind usually styled a “dug-out.”On perceiving the cow-fish resting upon the surfaceof the water, the Ottomac paddles towards it, observingthe greatest caution; for although the organs ofsight and hearing in this animal are, externally, but verylittle developed, it both hears and sees well; and theslightest suspicious noise would be a signal for it to diveunder, and of course escape.

When near enough to insure a good aim, the Ottomachurls his harpoon into the animal’s body; which, afterpiercing the thick hide, sticks fast. To this harpoon acord is attached, with a float, and the float remainingabove water indicates the direction in which the woundedanimal now endeavors to get off. When it is tired of256struggling, the Indian regains the cord; and taking itin, hand over hand, draws up his canoe to the side ofthe fish. If it be still too lively, he repeatedly strikesit with a spear; but he does not aim to kill it outrightuntil he has got it “aboard.” Once there, he ends thecreature’s existence by driving a wooden plug into itsnostrils, which in a moment deprives it of life.

The Ottomac now prepares himself to transport thecarcass to his home; or, if fishing in company, to thecommon rendezvous. Perhaps he has some distance totake it, and against a current; and he finds it inconvenientto tow such a heavy and cumbrous article. Toremedy this inconvenience, he adopts the expedientalready mentioned, of placing the carcass in his canoe.But how does he get it there? How can a single Indianof ordinary strength raise a weight of a thousand poundsout of the water, and lift it over the gunwale of his unsteadycraft? It is in this that he exhibits great cunningand address: for instead of raising the carcassabove the canoe, he sinks the canoe below the carcass,by first filling the vessel nearly full of water; and then,after he has got his freight aboard, he bales out thewater with his gourd-shell. He at length succeeds inadjusting his load, and then paddles homeward with hisprize.

On arriving at his village,—if it be to the village hetakes it,—he is assisted in transporting the load byothers of his tribe; but he does not carry it to his ownhouse,—for the Ottomacs are true socialists, and theproduce both of the chase and the fishery is the commonproperty of all. The chief of the village, seated in frontof his hut, receives all that is brought home, and distributes257it out to the various heads of families,—givingto each in proportion to the number of mouths that areto be fed.

The manati is flayed,—its thick hide, as already observed,serving for many useful purposes; the strata offat, or “blubber,” which lies beneath is removed, to beconverted into oil; and finally, the flesh, which is esteemedequal to pork, both in delicacy and flavor, is cutinto thin slices, either to be broiled and eaten at the time,or to be preserved for a future occasion, not by salt, ofwhich the Ottomac is entirely ignorant, but by drying inthe sun and smoking over a slow fire. Fish and theflesh of the alligator are similarly “cured;” and whenthe process is carefully done, both will keep for months.

The alligator is captured in various ways: sometimesby a baited hook with a strong cord attached,—sometimeshe is killed by a stab of the harpoon-spear, andnot unfrequently is he taken by a noose slipped over hispaw, the Ottomac diving fearlessly under him and adjustingthe snare.

Some of the Indian tribes will not eat the musky fleshof the alligator; but the Ottomacs are not thus particular.Indeed, these people refuse scarce any article offood, however nasty or disagreeable; and it is a sayingamong their neighbors—the Indians of other tribes—that“nothing is too loathsome for the stomach of anOttomac.”

Perhaps the saying will be considered as perfectlytrue when we come to describe a species of food whichthese people eat, and which, for a long time, has renderedthem famous—or rather infamous—under theappellation of “dirt-eaters.” Of them it may literally258be said that they “eat dirt,” for such, in reality, is oneof their customs.

This singular practice is chiefly resorted to duringthose months in the year when the rivers swell to theirgreatest height, and continue full. At this time allfishing ceases, and the Ottomac finds it difficult to obtaina sufficiency of food. To make up for the deficiency, hefills his stomach with a kind of unctuous clay, which hehas already stored up for the emergency, and of whichhe eats about a pound per diem! It does not constitutehis sole diet, but often for several days together it isthe only food which passes his lips! There is nothingnourishing in it,—that has been proved by analysis.It merely fills the belly,—producing a satiety, or, atleast, giving some sort of relief from the pangs of hunger.Nor has it been observed that the Ottomac grows thin orunhealthy on this unnatural viand: on the contrary, heis one of the most robust and healthy of AmericanIndians.

The earth which the Ottomac eats goes by the nameof poya. He does not eat clay of every kind: only apeculiar sort which he finds upon the banks of streams.It is soft and smooth to the touch, and unctuous, likeputty. In its natural state it is of a yellowish-graycolor; but, when hardened before the fire, it assumes atinge of red, owing to the oxide of iron which is in it.

It was for a long time believed that the Ottomacmixed this clay with cassava and turtle-oil, or someother sort of nutritive substance. Even Father Gumilla—whowas credulous enough to believe almost anything—couldnot “swallow” the story of the clay inits natural state, but believed that it was prepared with259some combination of farinha or fat. This, however, isnot the case. It is a pure earth, containing (accordingto the analysis of Vauquelin) silex and alumina, withthree or four per cent of lime!

This clay the Ottomac stores up, forming it into ballsof several inches in diameter; which, being slightly hardenedbefore the fire, he builds into little pyramids, justas cannon-balls are piled in an arsenal or fortress.When the Ottomac wishes to eat of the poya, he softensone of the balls by wetting it; and then, scraping off asmuch as he may require for his meal, returns the poyato its place on the pyramid.

The dirt-eating does not entirely end with the fallingof the waters. The practice has begot a craving for it;and the Ottomac is not contented without a little poya,even when more nutritious food may be obtained inabundance.

This habit of eating earth is not exclusively Ottomac.Other kindred tribes indulge in it, though not to so greatan extent; and we find the same unnatural practiceamong the savages of New Caledonia and the Indianarchipelago. It is also common on the west coast ofAfrica. Humboldt believed it to be exclusively a tropicalhabit. In this the great philosopher was in error, sinceit is known to be practised by some tribes of northernIndians on the frigid banks of the Mackenzie River.

When the floods subside, as already stated, the Ottomaclives better. Then he can obtain both fish andturtles in abundance. The former he captures, bothwith hooks and nets, or shoots with his arrows, whenthey rise near the surface.

The turtles of the Ottomac rivers are of two kinds:260the arau and terecay. The former is the one mostsought after, as being by far the largest. It is nearly ayard across the back, and weighs from fifty to a hundredpounds. It is a shy creature, and would be difficultto capture, were it not for a habit it has of raising itshead above the surface of the water, and thus exposingthe soft part of its throat to the Indian’s arrow. Eventhen an arrow might fail to kill it; but the Ottomactakes care to have the point well coated with curarepoison, which in a few seconds does its work, and securesthe death of the victim.

The terecay is taken in a different and still moreingenious manner. This species, floating along the surface,or even when lying still, presents no mark at whicha shaft can be aimed with the slightest chance of success.The sharpest arrow would glance off its flat shelly backas from a surface of steel. In order, therefore, to reachthe vitals of his victim, the Indian adopts an expedient,in which he exhibits a dexterity and skill that are trulyremarkable.

He aims his shaft, not at the turtle, but up into theair, describing by its course a parabolic curve, and socalculating its velocity and direction that it will dropperpendicularly, point foremost, upon the back of theunsuspecting swimmer, and pierce through the shell rightinto the vital veins of its body!

It is rare that an Indian will fail in hitting such amark; and, both on the Orinoco and Amazon, thousandsof turtles are obtained in this manner.

The great season of Ottomac festivity and rejoicing,however, is that of the cosecha de tortugas, or “turtle-crop.”As has been already observed, in relation to the261manati fishery, it is to him what the harvest-home is tothe nations of northern Europe, or the wine-gathering tothose of the south; for this is more truly the characterof the cosecha. It is then that he is enabled, not onlyto procure a supply of turtle-oil with which to lubricatehis hair and skin, but he obtains enough of this deliciousgrease wherewith to fry his dried slices of manati, and asurplus for sale to the turtle-traders from the LowerOrinoco. In this petty commerce no coin is required;harpoon-spears, and arrow-heads of iron, rude knives,and hachets; but, above all, a few cakes of annottochica, and caruto, are bartered in exchange for theturtle-oil. The thick hide of the manati,—for makingslave-whips,—the spotted skin of the jaguar, and someother pelts which the chase produces, are also items ofhis export trade.

The pigments above mentioned have already beenprocured by the trader, as the export articles of commerceof some other tribe.

The turtle-oil is the product of the eggs of the largerspecies,—the arau,—known simply by the name tortuga,or turtle. The eggs of the terecay would serveequally as well; but, from a difference in the habit ofthis animal, its eggs cannot be obtained in sufficientquantity for oil-making. There is no such thing as agrand “cosecha,” or crop of them—for the creature isnot gregarious, like its congener, but each female makesher nest apart from the others, in some solitary place,and there brings forth her young brood. Not but thatthe nests of the terecay are also found and despoiled oftheir eggs,—but this only occurs at intervals; and asthe contents of a single nest would not be sufficient for262a “churning,” no “butter” can be made of them. Theyare, therefore, gathered to be used only as eggs, and notas butter.

The arau, on the other hand, although not gregariousunder ordinary circumstances, becomes pre-eminently soduring the “laying season.” Then all the turtles in theOrinoco and its tributaries collect into three or four vastgangs—numbering in all over a million of individuals—andproceed to certain points of rendezvous whichthey have been in the habit of visiting from time immemorial.These common breeding-places are situatedbetween the cataracts of the river and the great bend,where it meets the Apure; and are simply broad beachesof sand, rising with a gentle slope from the edge ofthe water, and extending for miles along the bank.There are some small rookeries on tributary streams,but the three most noted are upon the shores of themain river, between the points already indicated. Thatfrequented by the Ottomacs is upon an island, at themouth of the Uruana River, upon which these peopleprincipally dwell.

The laying season of the arau turtle varies in thedifferent rivers of tropical America,—occurring in theAmazon and its tributaries at a different period fromthat of the Orinoco. It is regulated by the rise, orrather the fall of the inundations; and takes placewhen the waters, at their lowest stage, have laid barethe low sand-banks upon the shores. This occurs (inthe Orinoco) in March, and early in this month thegreat assemblages are complete. For weeks before,the turtles are seen, in all parts of the river near theintended breeding-places, swimming about on the surface,263or basking along the banks. As the sun growsstronger, the desire of depositing their eggs increases,—asthough the heat had something to do with theirfecundation. For some time before the final action, thecreatures may be seen ranged in a long line in front ofthe breeding-place, with their heads and necks held highabove the water; as if contemplating their intendednursery, and calculating the dangers to which they maybe exposed. It is not without reason that they maydwell upon these. Along the beach stalks the lordlyjaguar, waiting to make a meal of the first that may sethis foot on terra firma, or to fill his stomach with thedelicious “new-laid” eggs. The ugly alligator, too, isequally friand of a gigantic omelette; and not less sothe “garzas” (white cranes) and the “zamuros” (blackvultures), who hover in hundreds in the air. Hereand there, too, may be observed an Indian sentinel,keeping as much as possible out of sight of the turtlesthemselves, but endeavoring to drive off all other enemieswhose presence may give them fear. Should acanoe or boat appear upon the river, it is warned bythese sentinels to keep well off from the phalanx of theturtles,—lest these should be disturbed or alarmed,—forthe Indian well knows that if anything should occurto produce a panic among the araus, his cosecha wouldbe very much shortened thereby.

When at length the turtles have had sun enough towarm them to the work, they crawl out upon the drysand-beach, and the laying commences. It is at nightthat the operation is carried on: for then their numerousenemies—especially the vultures—are less active,Each turtle scoops out a hole, of nearly a yard in diameter264and depth; and having therein deposited from fiftyto one hundred eggs, it covers them up with the sand,smoothing the surface, and treading it firmly down.Sometimes the individuals are so crowded as to lay inone another’s nests, breaking many of the eggs, andcausing an inextricable confusion; while the creakingnoise of their shells rubbing against each other may beheard afar off, like the rushing of a cataract. Sometimesa number that have arrived late, or have been slow attheir work, continue engaged in it till after daybreak,and even after the Indians have come upon the ground—whosepresence they no longer regard. Impelled bythe instinct of philoprogenitiveness, these “mad turtles,”as the Indians call them, appear utterly regardless ofdanger, and make no effort to escape from it; but areturned over on their backs, or killed upon the spotwithout difficulty.

The beach being now deserted by the turtles, the egg-gatherersproceed to their work. As there are usuallyseveral tribes, who claim a share in the cosecha, theground is measured out, and partitioned among them.The regularity with which the nests are placed, andthe number of eggs in each being pretty nearly thesame, an average estimate of the quantity under agiven surface is easily made. By means of a pointedstick thrust into the sand, the outline of the deposit isascertained—usually running along the beach in a stripof about thirty yards in breadth.

When the allotments are determined, the work ofoil-making begins,—each tribe working by itself, andupon the social system. The covering of sand is removed,and the eggs placed in baskets, which are then265emptied into large wooden troughs, as a common receptacle.The canoes, drawn up on the sand, are frequentlymade to do duty as troughs. When a sufficientnumber of eggs have been thrown in, they are brokenand pounded together, and whipped about, as if intendedfor a gigantic omelette. Water is added; and then themixture is put into large caldrons, and boiled until theoil comes to the top; after which it is carefully skimmedoff and poured into earthern jars (“botigas,”) providedby the traders.

It takes about two weeks to complete the operations,during which time many curious scenes occur. Thesand swarms with young turtles about as big as a dollar,which have been prematurely hatched; and havecontrived to crawl out of the shell. These are chasedin all directions, and captured by the little naked Ottomacs,who devour them “body, bones, and all,” with asmuch gusto as if they were gooseberries. The cranesand vultures, and young alligators too, take a part inthis by-play—for the offspring of the poor arau has noend of enemies.

When the oil is all boiled and bottled, the trader displayshis tempting wares, and makes the best market hecan; and the savage returns to his palm-hut village,—takingwith him the articles of exchange and a fewbaskets of eggs, which he has reserved for his own eating;and so ends the cosecha de tortugas.

It is in this season that the Ottomac indulges most ingood living, and eats the smallest quantity of dirt. Thewaters afford him abundance of fish and turtle-flesh,beef from the sea-cow, and steaks from the tail of thealligator. He has his turtle and manati butter, in which266to fry all these dainties, and also to lubricate his hair andskin.

He can dress, too, “within an inch of his life,” havingobtained for his oil a fresh supply of the precious pigments.He indulges, moreover, in fits of intoxication,caused by a beverage made from maize or manioc root;but oftener produced by a species of snuff which he inhalesinto his nostrils. This is the niopo, manufacturedfrom the leaves of a mimosa, and mixed with a kind oflime, which last is obtained by burning a shell of thegenus helix, that is found in the waters of the Orinoco.The effect of the niopo resembles that produced by chewingbetel, tobacco, opium, or the narcotic coca of Peru.When freely taken, a species of intoxication or rathermania is produced; but this snuff and its effects aremore minutely described elsewhere. It is here introducedbecause, in the case of the Ottomac, the drug oftenproduces most baneful consequences. During the continuanceof his intoxication the Ottomac is quarrelsomeand disorderly. He picks a hole in the coat of hisneighbor; but if there chance to be any “old sore”between him and a rival, the vindictive feeling is sure toexhibit itself on these occasions; and not unfrequentlyends in an encounter, causing the death of one or bothof the combatants. These duels are not fought eitherwith swords or pistols, knives, clubs, nor any similarweapons. The destruction of the victim is broughtabout in a very different manner; and is the result ofa very slight scratch which he has received during thefight from the nail of his antagonist. That a wound of sotrifling a nature should prove mortal would be somethingvery mysterious, did we not know that the nail which267inflicted that scratch has been already enfiltrated withcurare,—one of the deadliest of vegetable poisons,which the Ottomac understands how to prepare in itsmost potent and virulent form.

Should it ever be your unfortunate fate therefore, toget into a “scrimmage” with an Ottomac Indian, youmust remember to keep clear of his “claws”!



Young reader, I need scarce tell you that the noblestof animals—the horse—is not indigenous toAmerica. You already know that when Columbus discoveredthe New World, no animal of the horse kindwas found there; and yet the geologist has proved incontestablythat at one time horses existed in the NewWorld,—at a period too, geologically speaking, not veryremote. The fossilized bones examined by one of themost accomplished of modern travellers—Dr. Darwin—establishthis truth beyond a doubt.

The horse that at present inhabits America, thoughnot indigenous, has proved a flourishing exotic. Notonly in a domestic state has he increased in numbers,but he has in many places escaped from the control ofman, and now runs wild upon the great plains both ofNorth and South America. Although you may find inAmerica almost every “breed” of horses known in Europe,yet the great majority belong to two very distinctkinds. The first of these is the large English horse, inhis different varieties, imported by the Anglo-Americans,and existing almost exclusively in the woodland territoryof the United States. The second kind is the Andalusian-Arab,—the269horse of the Spanish conquerors,—amuch smaller breed than the English-Arabian, but quiteequal to him in mettle and beauty of form. It is theAndalusian horse that is found throughout all SpanishAmerica,—it is he that has multiplied to such a wonderfulextent,—it is he that has “run wild.”

That the horse in his normal state is a dweller uponopen plains, is proved by his habits in America,—forin no part where the forest predominates is he foundwild,—only upon the prairies of the north, and thellanos and pampas of the south, where a timbered tractforms the exception.

He must have found these great steppes congenial tohis natural disposition,—since, only a very short timeafter the arrival of the Spaniards in the New World, wefind the horse a runaway from civilization,—not onlyexisting in a wild state upon the prairies, but in possessionof many of the Indian tribes.

It would be an interesting inquiry to trace the changeof habits which the possession of the horse must haveoccasioned among these Arabs of the Western world.However hostile they may have been to his Europeanrider, they must have welcomed the horse as a friend.No doubt they admired the bold, free spirit of the nobleanimal so analogous to their own nature. He and theysoon became inseparable companions; and have continuedso from that time to the present hour. Certain itis that the prairie, or “horse-Indians” of the presentday, are in many respects essentially different from thestaid and stoical sons of the forest so often depicted inromances; and almost equally certain is it, that the possessionof the horse has contributed much to bring about270this dissimilarity. It could not be otherwise. With thehorse new habits were introduced,—new manners andcustoms,—new modes of thought and action. Not onlythe chase, but war itself, became a changed game,—tobe played in an entirely different manner.

We shall not go back to inquire what these Indianswere when afoot. It is our purpose only to describewhat they are now that they are on horseback. Literally,may we say on horseback; for, unless at thispresent writing they are asleep, we may safely take itfor granted they are upon the backs of their horses,—youngand old of them, rich and poor,—for there isnone of them so poor as not to be the master of a“mustang” steed.

In “Prairie-land” every tribe of Indians is in possessionof the horse. On the north the Crees, Crows,and Blackfeet, the Sioux, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes;on the plains of the Platte, the Kansas, and Osage, wefind the Pawnees, the Kansas, and Osages,—all horse-Indians.West of the great mountain-range, the Apacheis mounted: so likewise the Utah, the Navajo, andthe Snake, or Shoshonee,—the latter rather sparingly.Other tribes, to a greater or less degree, possess thisvaluable animal; but the true type of the “horse-Indian”is to be found in the Comanche, the lord ofthat wide domain that extends from the Arkansas tothe Rio Grande. He it is who gives trouble to thefrontier colonists of Texas, and equally harasses theSpanish settlements of New Mexico; he it is who carrieshis forays almost into the heart of New Spain,—evento the gates of the populous Durango.

Regarding the Comanche, then, as the type of the271horse-Indians, we shall speak more particularly of him.Allowing for some slight difference in the character ofhis climate and country, his habits and customs will befound not very dissimilar to those of the other tribeswho make the prairie their home.

To say that the Comanche is the finest horseman inthe world would be to state what is not the fact. Heis not more excellent in this accomplishment than hisneighbor and bitter foeman, the Pawnee,—no betterthan the “vaquero” of California, the “ranchero” ofMexico, the “llanero” of Venezuela, the “gaucho” ofBuenos Ayres, and the horse-Indians of the “GranChaco” of Paraguay, of the Pampas, and Patagonia.He is equal, however, to any of these, and that is sayingenough,—in a word, that he takes rank among thefinest horsemen in the world.

The Comanche is on horseback almost from the hourof infancy,—transferred, as it were, from his mother’sarms to the withers of a mustang. When able to walk,he is scarce allowed to practise this natural mode ofprogression, but performs all his movements on theback of a horse. A Comanche would no more think ofmaking a journey afoot—even if it were only to thedistance of a few hundred yards—than he would ofcrawling upon his hands and knees. The horse, readysaddled and bridled, stands ever near,—it differs littlewhether there is either saddle or bridle,—and flinginghimself on the animal’s back, or his neck, or his croup,or hanging suspended along his side, the Indian guideshim to the destined spot, usually at a rapid gallop. Itis of no consequence to the rider how fast the horsemay be going: it will not hinder him from mounting or272dismounting at will. At any time, by clutching themane, he can spring upon the horse’s shoulders,—justas may be often seen in the arena of the circus.

The horse-Indian is a true type of the nomadic races,—adweller in tents, which his four-footed associateenables him to transport from place to place with theutmost facility. Some of the tribes, however, and evensome of the Comanches, have fixed residences, or “villages,”where at a certain season of the year they—orrather their women—cultivate the maize, the pumpkin,the melon, the calabash, and a few other species ofplants,—all being vegetable products indigenous to theircountry. No doubt, before the arrival of Europeans,this cultivation was carried on more extensively thanat present; but the possession of the horse has enabledthe prairie tribes to dispense with a calling which theycordially contemn: the calling of the husbandman.

These misguided savages, one and all, regard agriculturalpursuits as unworthy of men; and wherevernecessity compels them to practise them, the work fallsto the lot of the women and slaves,—for be it knownthat the Comanche is a slave-owner; and holds in bondagenot only Indians of other tribes, but also a largenumber of mestizoes and whites of the Spanish race,captured during many a sanguinary raid into the settlementsof Mexico! It would be easy to show that itis this false pride of being hunters and warriors, withits associated aversion for an agricultural life, that hasthinned the numbers of the Indian race—far morethan any persecution they have endured at the handsof the white man. This it is that starves them, thatmakes unendurable neighbors of them, and has rendered273it necessary in some instances to “civilize them off theface of the earth.”

But they are not yet all civilized from off the face ofthe earth; nor is it their destiny to disappear so readilyas short-seeing prophets have declared. Their idlehabits and internecine wars have done much to thintheir numbers,—far more than the white man’s hostility,—butwherever the white man has stepped inand put a stop to their tribal contentions,—whereverhe has succeeded in conquering their aversion to industrialpursuits,—the Indian is found not only to hold hisground, but to increase rapidly in numbers. This is thecase with many tribes,—Creeks, Choctaws, and Cherokees,—sothat I can promise you, young reader, thatby the time you get to be an old man, there will beas many Indians in the world as upon that day whenColumbus first set his foot upon “Cat” Island.

You will be inquiring how the horse could render theprairie Indian more independent of agriculture? Theanswer is simple. With this valuable auxiliary a newmode of subsistence was placed within his reach. Anarticle of food, which he had hitherto been able to obtainonly in a limited quantity, was now procurable inabundance,—the flesh of the buffalo.

The prairies of North America have their own peculiarities.They are not stocked with large droves ofruminant animals, as the plains of Southern Africa,—wherethe simplest savage may easily obtain a dinnerof flesh-meat. A few species of deer, thinly distributed,—allswift, shy animals,—the prong-horn antelope, stillswifter and shier,—and the “big-horn,” shiest of all,—werethe only ruminants of Prairie-land, with the exception274of the great bison, or buffalo, as he is generallycalled. But even this last was not so easily captured inthose days. The bison, though not a swift runner, is yetmore than a match for the biped man; and though theIndian might steal upon the great drove, and succeed inbringing down a few with his arrows, it was not alwaysa sure game. Moreover, afoot, the hunter could notfollow the buffalo in its grand migrations,—often extendingfor hundreds of miles across plains, rivers,and ravines. Once mounted, the circumstances becamechanged. The Indian hunter could not only overtakethe buffalo, but ride round him at will, and pursue him,if need be, to the most distant parts of Prairie-land.The result, therefore, of the introduction of the horsewas a plentiful supply of buffalo-meat, or, when thatfailed, the flesh of the horse himself,—upon which twoarticles of diet the prairie Indian has almost exclusivelysubsisted ever since.

The Comanche has several modes of hunting thebuffalo. If alone, and he wishes to make a grand coup,he will leave his horse at a distance,—the animal beingtrained to remain where his master has left him. Thehunter then approaches the herd with great caution,keeping to leeward,—lest he might be “winded” bythe old sentinel bulls who keep watch. Should therebe no cover to shelter the approach of the hunter, theresult would be that the bulls would discover him; and,giving out their bellow of alarm, cause the others toscamper off.

To guard against this, the Indian has already preparedhimself by adopting a ruse,—which consists indisguising himself in the skin of a buffalo, horns and275all complete, and approaching the herd, as if he weresome stray individual that had been left behind, and wasjust on the way to join its fellows. Even the motionsof the buffalo, when browsing, are closely imitated bythe red hunter; and, unless the wind be in favor of hisbeing scented by the bulls, this device will insure thesuccess of a shot. Sometimes the skin of the largewhitish-gray wolf is used in this masquerade with equalsuccess. This may appear singular, since the animalitself is one of the deadliest enemies of the buffalo: alarge pack of them hanging on the skirts of every herd,and patiently waiting for an opportunity to attack it. Butas this attack is only directed against the younger calves,—orsome disabled or decrepit individual who may lagbehind,—the strong and healthy ones have no fear ofthe wolves, and permit them to squat upon the prairiewithin a few feet of where they are browsing! Indeed,they could not hinder them, even if they wished: as thelong-legged wolf in a few springs can easily get out ofthe way of the more clumsy ruminant; and, therefore,does not dread the lowering frontlet of the most shaggyand ill-tempered bull in the herd.

Of course the hunter, in the guise of a wolf, obtainsthe like privilege of close quarters; and, when he has arrivedat the proper distance for his purpose, he prepareshimself for the work of destruction. The bow is theweapon he uses,—though the rifle is now a commonweapon in the hands of many of the horse-Indians.But the bow is preferred for the species of “still hunting”here described. The first crack of a rifle wouldscatter the gang, leaving the hunter perhaps only anempty gun for his pains; while an arrow at such close276quarters is equally as deadly in its effect; and, being asilent weapon, no alarm is given to any of the buffaloes,except that one which has felt the deadly shaft passingthrough its vitals.

Often the animal thus shot—even when the woundis a mortal one—does not immediately fall; but sinksgradually to the earth, as if lying down for a rest.Sometimes it gets only to its knees, and dies in thisattitude; at other times it remains a long while upon itslegs, spreading its feet widely apart, as if to prop itselfup, and then rocking from side to side like a ship in aground-swell, till at last, weakened by loss of blood, ityields its body to the earth. Sometimes the strugglesof a wounded individual cause the herd to “stampede,”and then the hunter has to content himself with what hemay already have shot; but not unfrequently the unsuspiciousgang keeps the ground till the Indian hasemptied his quiver. Nay, longer than that: for it oftenoccurs that the disguised buffalo or wolf (as the casemay be) approaches the bodies of those that have fallen,recovers some of his arrows, and uses them a secondtime with like deadly effect! For this purpose it is hispractice, if the aim and distance favor him, to send hisshaft clear through the body of the bison, in order thatthe barb may not hinder it from being extracted on theother side! This feat is by no means of uncommonoccurrence among the buffalo-hunters of the prairies.

Of course, a grand wholesale slaughter of the kindjust described is not an every-day matter; and can onlybe accomplished when the buffaloes are in a state ofcomparative rest, or browsing slowly. More generallythey detect the dangerous counterfeit in time to save277their skins; or else keep moving too rapidly for thehunter to follow them on foot. His only resource, then,is to ride rapidly up on horseback, fire his arrows withoutdismounting, or strike the victim with his long lancewhile galloping side by side with it. If in this way hecan obtain two or three fat cows, before his horse becomesblown, or the herd scatters beyond his reach, heconsiders that he has had good success.

But in this kind of chase the hunter is rarely alone:the whole tribe takes part in it; and, mounted on theirwell-trained mustangs, often pursue the buffalo gangs foran hour or more, before the latter can get off and hidethemselves in the distance, or behind the swells of theprairie. The clouds of dust raised in a mêlée of thiskind often afford the buffalo a chance of escaping,—especiallywhen they are running with the wind.

A “buffalo surround” is effected by a large partyof hunters riding to a great distance; deploying themselvesinto a circle around the herd; and then gallopinginward with loud yells. The buffaloes, thus attacked onall sides, become frightened and confused, and are easilydriven into a close-packed mass, around the edges ofwhich the mounted hunters wheel and deliver theirarrows, or strike those that try to escape, with their longspears. Sometimes the infuriated bulls rush upon thehorses, and gore them to death; and the hunters, thusdismounted, often run a narrow risk of meeting with thesame fate,—more than a risk, for not unfrequentlythey are killed outright. Often are they obliged to leapup on the croup of a companion’s horse, to get out ofthe way of danger; and many instances are recordedwhere a horseman, by the stumbling of his horse, has278been pitched right into the thick of the herd, and hasmade his escape by mounting on the backs of the bullsthemselves, and leaping from one to another until he hasreached clear ground again.

The buffalo is never captured in a “pound,” as largemammalia are in many countries. He is too powerful acreature to be imprisoned by anything but the strongeststockade fence; and for this the prairie country doesnot afford materials. A contrivance, however, of a somewhatsimilar character is occasionally resorted to by varioustribes of Indians. When it is known that thebuffaloes have become habituated to range in any partof the country, where the plain is intersected by deepravines,—cañons, or barrancas, as they are called,—thena grand battue is got up by driving the animalspellmell over the precipitous bluffs, which universallyform the sides of these singular ravines. To guide theherd to the point where it is intended they should takethe fatal leap, a singular contrivance is resorted to. Thisconsists in placing two rows of objects—which appearto the buffalo to be human beings—in such a mannerthat one end of each row abuts upon the edge of theprecipice, not very distant from the other, while the linesextend far out into the plain, until they have diverged intoa wide and extensive funnel. It is simply the contrivanceused for guiding animals into a pound; but, instead of apair of close log fences, the objects forming these rowsstand at a considerable distance apart; and, as alreadystated, appear to the not very discriminating eye of thebuffalo to be human beings. They are in reality designedto resemble the human form in a rude fashionand the material out of which they are constructed is279neither more nor less than the dung of the buffaloesthemselves,—the bois de vache, as it is called by theCanadian trappers, who often warm their shins, androast their buffalo ribs over a fire of this same material.

The decoy being thus set, the mounted hunters nextmake a wide sweep around the prairie,—including intheir deployment such gangs of buffaloes as may bebrowsing between their line and the mouth of the funnel.At first the buffaloes are merely guided forward,or driven slowly and with caution,—as boys in snow-timeoften drive larks toward their snares. When theanimals, however, have entered between the converginglines of mock men, a rush, accompanied by hideousyells, is made upon them from behind: the result ofwhich is, that they are impelled forward in a headlongcourse towards the precipice.

The buffalo is, at best, but a half-blind creature.Through the long, shaggy locks hanging over his frontlethe sees objects in a dubious light, or not at all. Hedepends more on his scent than his sight; but though hemay scent a living enemy, the keenness of his organdoes not warn him of the yawning chasm that opensbefore him,—not till it is too late to retire: for althoughhe may perceive the fearful leap before taking it, andwould willingly turn on his track, and refuse it, he findsit no longer possible to do so. In fact, he is not allowedtime for reflection. The dense crowd presses from behind,and he is left no choice, except that of springingforward or suffering himself to be tumbled over uponhis head. In either case it is his last leap; and, frequently,the last of a whole crowd of his companions.

280With such persecutions, I need hardly say that thebuffaloes are becoming scarcer every year; and it ispredicted that at no distant period this really valuablemammal will be altogether extinct. At present theirrange is greatly contracted within the wide boundarieswhich it formerly occupied. Going west from the Mississippi,—atany point below the mouth of the Missouri,—youwill not meet with buffalo for the first threehundred miles; and, though the herds formerly rangedto the south and west of the Rio Grande, the Comancheson the banks of that river no longer know the buffalo,except by their excursions to the grand prairie far tothe north of their country. The Great Slave Lake isthe northern terminus of the buffalo range; and westwardthe chain of the Rocky Mountains; but of lateyears stray herds have been observed at some pointswest of these,—impelled through the passes by thehunter-pressure of the horse-Indians from the eastward.Speculators have adopted several ingenious and plausiblereasons to account for the diminution of the numbersof the buffalo. There is but one cause worth assigning,—avery simple one too,—the horse.

With the disappearance of the buffalo,—or perhapswith the thinning of their numbers,—the prairie Indiansmay be induced to throw aside their roving habits.This would be a happy result both for them and theirneighbors; though it is even doubtful whether it mightfollow from such a circumstance. No doubt some changewould be effected in their mode of life; but unfortunatelythese Bedouins of the Western world can liveupon the horse, even if the buffalo were entirely extirpated.Even as it is, whole tribes of them subsist almost281exclusively upon horse-flesh, which they esteem and relishmore than any other food. But this resource would,in time, also fail them; for they have not the economyto raise a sufficient supply for the demand that wouldoccur were the buffaloes once out of the way: since thecaballadas of wild mustangs are by no means so easyto capture as the “gangs” of unwieldy and lumberingbuffaloes.

It is to be hoped, however, that before the horse-Indianshave been put to this trial, the strong arm of civilizationshall be extended over them, and, withholdingthem from those predatory incursions, which they annuallymake into the Mexican settlements, will inducethem to dismount, and turn peaceably to the tillage ofthe soil,—now so successfully practised by numeroustribes of their race, who dwell in fixed and flourishinghomes upon the eastern border of the prairies.

At this moment, however, the Comanches are in openhostility with the settlers of the Texan frontier. Thelex talionis is in active operation while we write, andevery mail brings the account of some sanguinary massacre,or some act of terrible retaliation. The deedsof blood and savage cruelty practised alike by both sides—whitesas well as Indians—have had their parallel,it is true, but they are not the less revolting to readabout. The colonists have suffered much from theseIshmaelites of the West,—these lordly savages, who regardindustry as a dishonorable calling; and who fancythat their vast territory should remain an idle hunting-ground,or rather a fortress, to which they might betakethemselves during their intervals of war and plundering.The colonists have a clear title to the land,—that title282acknowledged by all right-thinking men, who believethe good of the majority must not be sacrificed to theobstinacy of the individual, or the minority,—that titlewhich gives the right to remove the dwelling of thecitizen,—his very castle,—rather than that the publicway be impeded. All admit this right; and just such atitle has the Texan colonist to the soil of the Comanche.There may be guilt in the mode of establishing theclaim,—there may have been scenes of cruelty, andblood unnecessarily spilt,—but it is some consolationto know that there has occurred nothing yet to parallelin cold-blooded atrocity the annals of Algiers, or thesimilar acts committed in Southern Africa. The crimeof smoke-murder is yet peculiar to Pellisier and Potgieter.

In their present outbreak, the Comanches have exhibitedbut a poor, short-sighted policy. They will findthey have committed a grand error in mistaking thecourageous colonists of Texas for the weak Mexicans,—withwhom they have long been at war, and whom theyhave almost invariably conquered. The result is easilytold: much blood may be shed on both sides, but it issure to end as all such contests do; and the Comanche,like the Caffre, must “go to the wall.” Perhaps it isbetter that things should be brought to a climax,—itwill certainly be better for the wretched remnant of theSpano-Americans dwelling along the Comanche frontiers,—arace who for a hundred years have not knownpeace.

As this long-standing hostility with the Mexican nationhas been a predominant feature in the history ofthe Comanche Indian, it is necessary to give some account283of how it is usually carried on. There was atime when the Spanish nation entertained the hope ofChristianizing these rude savages,—that is, taming andtraining them to something of the condition to whichthey have brought the Aztec descendants of Montezuma,—acondition scarce differing from slavery itself. Asno gold or silver mines had been discovered in Texas, itwas not their intention to make mine-laborers of them;but rather peons, or field-laborers, and tenders of cattle,—preciselyas they had done, and were still doing, withthe tribes of California. The soldier and the sword hadproved a failure,—as in many other parts of SpanishAmerica,—in fact, everywhere, except among the degeneratedremnants of monarchical misrule found inMexico, Bogota, and Peru. In these countries wasencountered the débris of a declining civilization, andnot, as is generally believed, the children of a progressivedevelopment; and of course they gave way,—asthe people of all corrupted monarchies must in the end.

It was different with the “Indios bravos,” or warriortribes, still free and independent,—the so-called savages.Against these the soldier and the sword proved a completefailure; and it therefore became necessary to usethe other kind of conquering power,—the monk and hiscross. Among the Comanches this kind of conquest hadattained a certain amount of success. Mission-housessprung up through the whole province of Texas,—theComanche country,—though the new neophytes werenot altogether Comanches, but rather Indians of othertribes who were less warlike. Many Comanches, however,became converts; and some of the “missiones”became establishments on a grand scale,—each having,284according to Spanish missionary-fashion, its “presidio,”or garrison of troops, to keep the new believers withinsound of the bell, and to hunt and bring them backwhenever they endeavored to escape from that Christianvassalage for which they had too rashly exchanged theirpagan freedom.

All went well, so long as Spain was a power upon theearth, and the Mexican viceroyalty was rich enough tokeep the presidios stocked with troopers. The monksled as jolly a life as their prototypes of “Bolton Abbeyin the olden time.” The neophytes were simply theirslaves, receiving, in exchange for the sweat of theirbrow, baptism, absolution, little pewter crucifixes, andvarious like valuable commodities.

But there came a time when they grew tired of theexchange, and longed for their old life of roving freedom.Their brethren had obtained the horse; and thiswas an additional attraction which a prairie life presented.They grew tired of the petty tricks of theChristian superstition,—to their view less rational thantheir own,—they grew tired of the toil of constantwork, the childlike chastisements inflicted, and sick ofthe sound of that ever-clanging clapper,—the bell.In fine, they made one desperate effort, and freed themselvesforever.

The grand establishment of San Saba, on the riverof the same name, fell first. The troops were abroadon some convert-hunting expedition. The Comanchesentered the fort,—their tomahawks and war-clubs hiddenunder their great robes of buffalo-hide: the attackcommenced, and ended only with the annihilation of thesettlement.

285One monk alone escaped the slaughter,—a man renownedfor his holy zeal. He fled towards San Antonio,pursued by a savage band. A large river coursed acrossthe route it was necessary for him to take; but this didnot intercept him: its waters opened for a moment, tillthe bottom was bare from bank to bank. He crossedwithout wetting his feet. The waves closed immediatelybehind him, offering an impassable barrier to his pursuers,who could only vent their fury in idle curses.But the monk could curse too. He had, perhaps, takensome lessons at the Vatican; and, turning round, heanathematized every “mother’s son” of the red-skinnedsavages. The wholesale excommunication produced awonderful effect. Every one of the accursed fell backwhere he stood, and lay face upward upon the plain,dead as a post! The monk, after baptizing the river“Brazos de Dios” (arm of God), continued his flight,and reached San Antonio in safety,—where he dulydetailed his miraculous adventure to the credulous convertsof Bejar, and the other missions.

Such is the supposed origin of the name Brazos deDios, which the second river in Texas bears to this day.It is to be remarked, however, that the river crossed bythe monk was the present Colorado, not the Brazos: for,by a curious error of the colonists, the two rivers havemade an exchange of titles!

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The Comanches—freed from missionary rule, andnow equal to their adversaries by possession of thehorse—forthwith commenced their plundering expeditions;and, with short intervals of truce,—periods enpaz,—have continued them to the present hour. AllNorthern and Western Texas they soon recovered; but286they were not content with territory: they wanted horsesand cattle and chattels, and white wives and slaves; andit would scarce be credited, were I to state the numberof these they have taken within the last half-century.Nearly every year they have been in the habit of makingan expedition to the Mexican settlements of the provincesTamaulipas, New Leon, and Chihuahua,—everyexpedition a fresh conquest over their feeble and corruptadversaries. On every occasion they have returned withbooty, consisting of horses, cattle, sheep, household utensils,and, sad to relate, human captives. Women andchildren only do they bring back,—the men they killupon sight. The children may be either male or female,—itmatters not which, as these are to be adopted intotheir tribe, to become future warriors; and, strange torelate, many of these, when grown up, not only refuseto return to the land of their birth, but prove the mostbitter and dangerous foes to the people from whom theyhave sprung! Even the girls and women, after a period,become reconciled to their new home, and no longer desireto leave it. Some, when afterwards discovered andransomed by their kindred, have refused to accept theconditions, but prefer to continue the savage career intowhich misfortune has introduced them! Many a heart-rendingscene has been the consequence of such apparentlyunnatural predilections.

You would wonder why such a state of things hasbeen so long submitted to by a civilized people; but itis not so much to be wondered at. The selfishness thatsprings from constant revolutions has destroyed almostevery sentiment of patriotism in the Mexican nationalheart; and, indeed, many of these captives are perhaps287not much worse off under the guardianship of the braveComanches than they would have been, exposed to thepetty tyranny and robber-rule that has so long existedin Mexico. Besides, it is doubtful whether the Mexicangovernment, with all her united strength, could retakethem. The Comanche country is as inaccessible to aregular army as the territory of Timbuctoo; and it willgive even the powerful republic of the north no smalltrouble to reduce these red freebooters to subjection.Mexico had quite despaired of being able to make aneffort; and in the last treaty made between her and theUnited States, one of the articles was a special agreementon the part of the latter to restrain the Comanchesfrom future forays into the Mexican states, and alsocause them to deliver up the Mexican captives then inthe hands of the Indians!

It was computed that their number at the timeamounted to four thousand! It is with regret I haveto add, that these unfortunates are still held in bondage.The great republic, too busy with its own concerns, hasnot carried out the stipulations of the treaty; and thepresent Comanche war is but the result of this criminalnegligence. Had energetic measures been adopted atthe close of the Mexico-American war, the Comanchewould not now be harrying the settlers of Texas.

To prove the incapacity of the Mexicans to deal withthis warlike race, it only needs to consider the presentcondition of the northern Mexican states. One halfthe territory in that extensive region has returned to thecondition of a desert. The isolated “ranchos” havebeen long since abandoned,—the fields are overgrownwith weeds,—and the cattle have run wild, or been288carried off by the Comanches. Only the stronger settlementsand large fortified haciendas any longer exist;and many of these, too, have been deserted. Wherechildren once played in the security of innocence,—wheregayly-dressed cavaliers and elegant ladies amusedthemselves in the pleasant dia de campo, such scenes areno longer witnessed. The rancho is in ruins,—the doorhangs upon its hinge, broken and battered, or has beentorn off to feed the camp-fire of the savage; the dwellingis empty and silent, except when the howling wolf orcoyote wakes up the echoes of its walls.

About ten years ago, the proud governor of the stateof Chihuahua—one of the most energetic soldiers ofthe Mexican republic—had a son taken captive by theComanches. Powerful though this man was, he knew itwas idle to appeal to arms; and was only too contentedto recover his child by paying a large ransom! Thisfact, more than a volume of words, will illustrate thecondition of unhappy Mexico.

The Comanche leads a gay, merry life,—he is farfrom being the Indian of Cooper’s description. In scarcelyany respect does he resemble the sombre son of theforest. He is lively, talkative, and ever ready for alaugh. His butt is the Mexican presidio soldier, whomhe holds in too just contempt. He is rarely without ameal. If the buffalo fails him, he can draw a steakfrom his spare horses, of which he possesses a largeherd: besides, there are the wild mustangs, which hecan capture on occasions. He has no work to do exceptwar and hunting: at all other times he has slaves towait upon him, and perform the domestic drudgery.When idle, he sometimes bestows great pains upon his289dress,—which is the usual deer-skin tunic of the prairieIndian, with moccasons and fringed leggings. Sometimesa head-dress of plumes is worn; sometimes one of theskin of the buffalo’s skull, with the horns left on! Therobe of buffalo pelt hangs from his shoulders, with allthe grandeur of a toga; but when he proceeds on aplundering expedition, all these fripperies are thrownaside, and his body appears naked from the waist to theears. Then only the breech-clout is worn, with leggingsand moccasons on his legs and feet. A coat of scarletpaint takes the place of the hunting-shirt,—in order torender his presence more terrific in the eyes of hisenemy. It needs not this. Without any disguise, thesight of him is sufficiently horrifying,—sufficiently suggestiveof “blood and murder.”



The vast plain known as the “Pampas” is one of thelargest tracts of level country upon the face of the earth.East and west it stretches from the mouth of the Rio dela Plata to the foot-hills of the Andes mountains. It isinterrupted on the north by a series of mountains andhill country, that cross from the Andes to the ParaguayRiver, forming the Sierras of Mendoza, San Luis, andCordova; while its southern boundary is not so definitelymarked, though it may be regarded as ending at theRio Negro, where it meets, coming up from the south,the desert plains of Patagonia.

Geologically, the Pampas (or plains, as the word signifies,in the language of the Peruvian Indians) is an alluvialformation,—the bed of an ancient sea—upheavedby some unknown cause to its present elevation, which isnot much above the ocean-level. It is not, therefore, aplateau or “table-land,” but a vast natural meadow. Thesoil is in general of a red color, argillaceous in character,and at all points filled with marine shells and other testimoniesthat the sea once rolled over it. It is in thePampas formation that many of the fossil monsters havebeen found,—the gigantic megatherium, the colossal mylodon,291and the giant armadillo (glyptodon), with manyother creatures, of such dimensions as to make it a subjectof speculation how the earth could have producedfood enough for their maintenance.

In giving to the Pampas the designation of a vastmeadow, do not suffer yourself to be misled by thisphrase,—which is here and elsewhere used in rather aloose and indefinite manner. Many large tracts in thePampas country would correspond well enough to thisdefinition,—both as regards their appearance and thecharacter of the herbage which covers them; but thereare other parts which bear not the slightest resemblanceto a meadow. There are vast tracts thicklycovered with tall thistles,—so tall as to reach to thehead of a man mounted on horseback, and so thicklyset, that neither man nor horse could enter them withouta path being first cleared for them.

Other extensive tracts are grown over with tall grassso rank as to resemble reeds or rushes more than grass;and an equally extensive surface is timbered with smalltrees, standing thinly and without underwood, like thefruit-trees in an orchard. Again, there are wide morassesand extensive lakes, many of them brackish, andsome as salt as the sea itself. In addition to these,there are “salinas,” or plains of salt,—the produce ofsalt lakes, whose waters have evaporated, leaving astratum of pure salt often over a foot in thickness, andcovering their beds to an extent of many square leagues.There are some parts, too, where the Pampas countryassumes a sterile and stony character,—correspondingto that of the great desert of Patagonia. It is not correct,therefore, to regard the Pampas as one unbroken292tract of meadow. In one character alone is it uniformin being a country without mountains,—or any considerableelevations in the way of ridges or hills,—though afew scattered sierras are found both on its northern andsouthern edges.

The Thistle Pampas, as we take the liberty of namingthem, constitute perhaps the most curious section of thisgreat plain; and not the less so that the “weed” whichcovers them is supposed not to be an indigenous production,but to have been carried there by the earlycolonists. About this, however, there is a difference ofopinion. No matter whence sprung, the thistles haveflourished luxuriantly, and at this day constitute a markedfeature in the scenery of the Pampas. Their position isupon the eastern edge of the great plain, contiguous to thebanks of the La Plata; but from this river they extendbackwards into the interior, at some points to the distanceof nearly two hundred miles. Over this vast surfacethey grow so thickly that, as already mentioned, itis not possible for either man or horse to make waythrough them. They can only be traversed by deviouspaths—already formed by constant use, and leadingthrough narrow lanes or glades, where, for some reason,the thistles do not choose to grow. Otherwise theycannot be entered even by cattle. These will not, unlesscompelled, attempt penetrating such an imperviousthicket; and if a herd driven along the paths shouldchance to be “stampeded” by any object of terror, anddriven to take to the thistles, scarce a head of the wholeflock can ever afterwards be recovered. Even the instinctsof the dumb animals do not enable them to findtheir way out again; and they usually perish, either293from thirst, or by the claws of the fierce pumas andjaguars, which alone find themselves at home in thelabyrinthine “cardonales.” The little viscacha contrivesto make its burrow among them, and must find subsistenceby feeding upon their leaves and seed, since thereis no other herbage upon the ground,—the well-armedthistle usurping the soil, and hindering the growth ofany other plants. It may be proper to remark, however,that there are two kinds of these plants, both ofwhich cover large tracts of the plain. One is a truethistle, while the other is a weed of the artichoke family,called by the Spanish Americans “cardoon.” It is aspecies of Cardunculus. The two do not mingle theirstalks, though both form thickets in a similar mannerand often in the same tract of country. The cardoonis not so tall as the thistle; and, being without spines,its “beds” are more easily penetrated; though evenamong these, it would be easy enough to get entangledand lost.

It is proper to remark here, that these thistle-thicketsdo not shut up the country all the year round. Only fora season,—from the time they have grown up and“shoot,” till their tall ripened stalks wither and fall backto the earth, where they soon moulder into decay. Theplains are then open and free to all creatures,—manamong the rest,—and the Gaucho, with his herds ofhorses, horned cattle, and sheep, or the troops of rovingIndians, spread over and take possession of them.

The young thistles now present the appearance of avast field of turnips; and their leaves, still tender, aregreedily devoured by both cattle and sheep. In thiscondition the Pampas thistles remain during their short294winter; but as spring returns, they once more “bristle”up, till, growing taller and stouter, they present a chevaux-de-frisethat at length expels all intruders fromtheir domain.

On the western selvage of this thistle tract lies thegrass-covered section of the Pampas. It is much moreextensive than that of the “cardonales,”—having anaverage width of three hundred miles, and runninglongitudinally throughout the whole northern and southernextension of the Pampas. Its chief characteristicis a covering of coarse grass,—which at different seasonsof the year is short or tall, green, brown, or yellowish,according to the different degrees of ripeness.When dry, it is sometimes fired,—either by design oraccident,—as are also the withered stems of the thistles;and on these occasions a conflagration occurs, stupendousin its effects,—often extending over vast tracts, andreducing everything to black ashes. Nothing can bemore melancholy to the eye than the aspect of a burntpampa.

The grass section is succeeded by that of the “openings,”or scanty forests, already mentioned; but thetrees in many places are more closely set; assumingthe character of thickets, or “jungles.” These tractsend among the spurs of the Andes,—which, at somepoints, are thrown out into the plain, but generally riseup from it abruptly and by a well-defined border.

The marshes and bitter lakes above mentioned arethe produce of numerous streams, which have their risein the Great Cordillera of the Andes, and run eastwardacross the Pampas. A few of these, that trend in asoutherly direction, reach the Atlantic by means of the295two great outlets,—the “Colorado” and “Negro.” Allthe others—and “their name is legion”—empty theirwaters into the morasses and lakes, or sink into the soilof the plains, at a greater or less distance from the Cordillera,according to the body of water they may carrydown. Evaporation keeps up the equilibrium.

Who are the dwellers upon the Pampas? To whomdoes this vast pasture-ground belong? Whose flocksand herds are they that browse upon it?

You will be told that the Pampas belong to the republicof Buenos Ayres, or rather to the “States of theArgentine Confederation,”—that they are inhabited bya class of citizens called “Gauchos,” who are of Spanishrace, and whose sole occupation is that of herdsmen,breeders of cattle and horses,—men famed for theirskill as horsemen, and for their dexterity in the use ofthe “lazo” and “bolas,”—two weapons borrowed fromthe aboriginal races.

All this is but partially true. The proprietorship ofthis great plain was never actually in the hands of theBuenos-Ayrean government, nor in those of their predecessors,—theSpaniards. Neither has ever owned it—eitherby conquest or otherwise—no further than byan empty boast of ownership; for, from the day whenthey first set foot upon its borders to the present hour,neither has ever been able to cross it, or penetrate anygreat distance into it, without a grand army to backtheir progress. But their possession virtually ceased atthe termination of each melancholy excursion; and theland relapsed to its original owners. With the exceptionof some scanty strips along its borders, and some widerranges, thinly occupied by the half-nomade Gauchos, the296Pampas are in reality an Indian territory, as they havealways been; and the claim of the white man is nomore than nominal,—a mere title upon the map. It isnot the only vast expanse of Spanish-American soil thatnever was Spanish.

The true owners of the Pampas, then, are the redaborigines,—the Pampas Indians; and to give someaccount of these is now our purpose.

Forming so large an extent, it is not likely it shouldall belong to one united tribe,—that would at onceelevate them into the character of a nation. But theyare not united. On the contrary, they form severaldistinct associations, with an endless number of smallersubdivisions or communities,—just in the same way asit is among their prairie cousins of the north. Theymay all, however, be referred to four grand tribal associationsor nationalities,—the Pehuenches, Puelches,Picunches, and Ranqueles.

Some add the Puilliches, who dwell on the southernrim of the Pampas; but these, although they extendtheir excursions over a portion of the great plain, aredifferent from the other Pampas Indians in many respects,—altogethera braver and better race of men,and partaking more of the character of the Patagonians,—bothin point of physique and morale,—ofwhich tribes, indeed, they are evidently only a branch,In their dealings with white men, when fairly treated,these have exhibited the same noble bearing which characterizesthe true Patagonian. I shall not, therefore,lower the standard—neither of their bodies nor theirminds—by classing them among “Pampas Indians.”

Of these tribes—one and all of them—we have,297unfortunately, a much less favorable impression; andshall therefore be able to say but little to their credit.

The different names are all native. Puelches meansthe people living to the east, from “puel,” east, andche, people. The Picunches derive this appellation, in asimilar fashion, from “picun,” signifying the north. ThePehuenches are the people of the pine-tree country, from“pehuen,” the name for the celebrated “Chili pine”(Araucaria); and the Ranqueles are the men who dwellamong the thistles, from ranquel, a thistle.

These national appellations will give some idea of thelocality which each tribe inhabits. The Ranqueles dwell,not among the thistles,—for that would be an unpleasantresidence, even to a red-skin; but along the westernborder of this tract. To the westward of them, and upinto the clefts of the Cordilleras extends the country ofthe Pehuenches; and northward of both lies the land ofthe Picunches. Their boundary in that direction shouldbe the frontiers of the quasi-civilized provinces of SanLuis and Cordova, but they are not; for the Picunchecan at will extend his plundering forays as far north ashe pleases: even to dovetailing them into the similarexcursions of his Guaycuru kinsmen from the “GranChaco” on the north.

The Puelche territory is on the eastern side of thePampas, and south from Buenos Ayres. At one timethese people occupied the country to the banks of theLa Plata; and no doubt it was they who first met theSpaniards in hostile array. Even up to a late periodtheir forays extended almost to Buenos Ayres itself; butRosas, tyrant as he may have been, was nevertheless atrue soldier, and in a grand military expedition against298them swept their country, and inflicted such a terriblechastisement upon both them and the neighboring tribes,as they had not suffered since the days of Mendoza.The result has been a retirement of the Puelche frontierto a much greater distance from Buenos Ayres; buthow long it may continue stationary is a question,—nolonger than some strong arm—such as that of Rosas—isheld threateningly over them.

It is usual to inquire whence come a people; and thequestion has been asked of the Pampas Indians. It isnot difficult to answer. They came from the land ofArauco. Yes, they are the kindred of that famed peoplewhom the Spaniards could never subdue,—evenwith all their strength put forth in the effort. They arenear kindred too,—the Pehuenches especially,—whosecountry is only separated from that of the Araucaniansby the great Cordillera of Chili; and with whom, as wellas the Spaniards on the Chilian side, they have constantand friendly intercourse.

But it must be admitted, that the Araucanians havehad far more than their just meed of praise. The romanticstories, in that endless epic of the rhymer Ercilla,have crept into history; and the credulous Molina hasendorsed them: so that the true character of the AraucanianIndian has never been understood. Brave he hasshown himself, beyond doubt, in defending his countryagainst Spanish aggression; but so, too, has the Cariband Guaraon,—so, too, has the Comanche and Apache,the Yaqui of Sonora, the savage of the Mosquito shore,the Guaycuru of the Gran Chaco, and a score of otherIndian tribes,—in whose territory the Spaniard hasnever dared to fix a settlement. Brave is the Araucanian;299but, beyond this, he has few virtues indeed.He is cruel in the extreme,—uncivil and selfish,—filthyand indolent,—a polygamist in the most approvedfashion,—a very tyrant over his own,—in short, takingrank among the beastliest of semi-civilized savages,—forit may be here observed, that he is not exactlywhat is termed a savage: that is, he does not go naked,and sleep in the open air. On the contrary, he clotheshimself in stuff of his own weaving,—or rather, that ofhis slave-wives,—and lives in a hut which they buildfor him. He owns land, too,—beautiful fields,—ofwhich he makes no use: except to browse a few horses,and sheep, and cattle. For the rest, he is too indolentto pursue agriculture; and spends most of his time indrinking chicha, or tyrannizing over his wives. Thisis the heroic Araucanian who inhabits the plains andvalleys of Southern Chili.

Unfortunately, by passing to the other side of theAndes, he has not improved his manners. The air ofthe Pampas does not appear to be conducive to virtue;and upon that side of the mountains it can scarce besaid to exist,—even in the shape of personal courage.The men of the pines and thistles seem to have lost thisquality, while passing through the snows of the Cordilleras,or left it behind them, as they have also left theincipient civilization of their race. On the Pampas wefind them once more in the character of the true savage:living by the chase or by plunder; and bartering theproduce of the latter for the trappings and trinkets ofpersonal adornment, supplied them by the unprincipledwhite trader. Puelches and Picunches, Pehuenchesand Ranqueles, all share this character alike,—all aretreacherous, quarrelsome, and cowardly.

300But we shall now speak more particularly of theircustoms and modes of life, and we may take the “pinepeople” as our text,—since these are supposed to bemost nearly related to the true Araucanians,—and, indeed,many of their “ways” are exactly the same asthose of that “heroic nation.”

The “people of the pines” are of the ordinary statureof North-American Indians, or of Europeans; and theirnatural color is a dark coppery hue. But it is not oftenyou can see them in their natural color: for the PampasIndians, like nearly all the aboriginal tribes, are “painters.”They have pigments of black and white, blue,red, and yellow,—all of which they obtain from differentcolored stones, found in the streams of the Cordilleras.“Yama,” they call the black stone; “colo,” thered; “palan,” the white; and “codin,” the blue; theyellow they obtain from a sort of argillaceous earth.The stones of each color they submit to a rubbing orgrinding process, until a quantity of dust is produced;which, being mixed with suet, constitutes the paint,ready for being laid on.

The Pampas Indians do not confine themselves toany particular “escutcheon.” In this respect their fancyis allowed a wide scope, and their fashions change. Aface quite black, or red, is a common countenanceamong them; and often may be seen a single band,of about two inches in width, extending from ear to earacross the eyes and nose. On war excursions they painthideous figures: not only on their own faces and bodies,but on their trappings, and even upon the bodies of theirhorses,—aiming to render themselves as appalling aspossible in the sight of their enemies. The same trick301is employed by the warriors of the prairies, as well asin many other parts of the world. Under ordinarycircumstances, the Pampas Indian is not a naked savage.On the contrary, he is well clad; and, so far from obtainingthe material of his garments from the looms ofcivilized nations, he weaves it for himself,—that is, hiswives weave it; and in such quantity that he has notonly enough for his own “wear,” but more than enough,a surplus for trade. The cloth is usually a stuff spunand woven from sheep’s wool. It is coarse, but durable;and in the shape of blankets or “ponchos,” is eagerlypurchased by the Spanish traders. Silver spurs, long,pointed knives, lance-heads, and a few other iron commodities,constitute the articles of exchange, with variousornamental articles, as beads, rings, bracelets, and large-headedsilver bodkins to fasten their cloaks around theshoulders of his “ladies.” Nor is he contented withmere tinsel, as other savages are,—he can tell thedifference between the real metal and the counterfeit, aswell as the most expert assayer; and if he should fancyto have a pair of silver spurs, not even a Jew pedlercould put off upon him the plated “article.” In thisrespect the Araucanian Indian has been distinguished,since his earliest intercourse with Europeans; and hisPampas kindred are equally subtle in their appreciation.

The Pampas Indian, when well dressed, has a cloakupon his shoulders of the thick woollen stuff alreadydescribed. It is usually woven in colors; and is notunlike the “poncho” worn by the “gauchos” of BuenosAyres, or the “serape” of the Mexicans. Besides thecloak, his dress consists of a mere skirt,—also of colored302woollen stuff, being an oblong piece swathed around hisloins, and reaching to the knee. A sash or belt—sometimeselaborately ornamented—binds the cloth aroundthe waist. Boots of a peculiar construction completethe costume. These are manufactured in a very simplemanner. The fresh skin taken from a horse’s hind legis drawn on—just as if it were a stocking—until theheel rests in that part which covered the hock-joint ofthe original wearer. The superfluous portion is thentrimmed to accommodate itself as a covering for thefoot; and the boot is not only finished, but put on,—thereto remain until it is worn out, and a new onerequired! If it should be a little loose at first, that doesnot matter. The hot sun, combined with the warmthof the wearer’s leg, soon contracts the hide, and brings itto “fit like a glove.” The head is often left uncovered;but as often a sort of skull-cap or helmet of horse-skin isworn; and not unfrequently a high, conical hat of palm-fibre.This last is not a native production, but an importationof the traders. So also is a pair of enormousrings of brass, which are worn in the ears; and are asbulky as a pair of padlocks. In this costume, mountedon horseback with his long lance in hand, the PampasIndian would be a picturesque object; and really is so,when clean; but that is only on the very rarest occasions,—onlywhen he has donned a new suit. At allother times, not only his face and the skin of his body,but every rag upon his back, are covered with greaseand filth,—so as to produce an effect rather “tatterdemalion”than picturesque.

The “squaw” is costumed somewhat differently.First she has a long “robe,” which covers her from303neck to heels, leaving only her neck and arms bare.The robe is of red or blue woollen stuff of her ownweaving. This garment is the “quedeto.” A belt,embroidered with beads, called “quepique,” holds itaround the waist, by means of a large silver buckle.This belt is an article of first fashion. Over the shouldershangs the “iquilla,” which is a square piece ofsimilar stuff,—but usually of a different dye; andwhich is fastened in front by a pin with a large silverhead, called the “tupo.” The shock of thick, black hair—afterhaving received the usual anointment of mare’stallow, the fashionable hair-oil of the Pampas Indians—iskept in its place by a sort of cap or coiffure, likea shallow dish inverted, and bristling all over withtrader’s beads. To this a little bell is fastened; orsometimes a brace of them are worn as ear-rings. Thesetinkle so agreeably in the ears of the wearer, that shecan scarce for a moment hold her head at rest, butkeeps rocking it from side to side, as a Spanish coquettewould play with her fan.

In addition to this varied wardrobe, the Pampas bellecarries a large stock of bijouterie,—such as beads andbangles upon her neck, rings and circlets upon her arms,ankles, and fingers; and, to set her snaky locks in order,she separates them by means of a stiff brush, made fromthe fibrous roots of a reed. She is picturesque enough,but never pretty. Nature has given the Araucanianwoman a plain face; and all the adornment in the worldcannot hide its homeliness.

The Pehuenche builds no house. He is a true nomade,and dwells in a tent, though one of the rudestconstruction. As it differs entirely from the tent of304the prairie Indians, it may be worth while describingit.

Its framework is of reeds,—of the same kind asare used for the long lances so often mentioned; andwhich resemble bambusa canes. They grow in plentythroughout the Pampas, especially near the mountains,—wherethey form impenetrable thickets on the bordersof the marshy lakes. Any other flexible poles willserve as well, when the canes are not “handy.”

The poles being procured, one is first bent into asemicircle, and in this shape both ends are stuck intothe ground, so as to form an arch about three feet inheight. This arch afterwards becomes the doorway orentrance to the tent. The remaining poles are attachedto this first one at one end, and at right angles; andbeing carried backward with a slight bend, their otherends are inserted into the turf. This forms the skeletonof the tent; and its covering is a horse-skin, or rathera number of horse-skins stitched together, making asort of large tarpaulin. The skins are sewed with thesinews of the horse or ox,—which are first chewed bythe women, until their fibres become separated likehemp, and are afterwards spun by them into twine.

The tent is not tall enough to admit of a man standingerect; and in it the Pehuenche crouches, wheneverit snows, rains, or blows cold. He has sheep-skins spreadto sleep upon, and other skins to serve as bed-clothes,—allin so filthy a condition, that but for the cold, he mightfind it far more comfortable to sleep in the open air. Henever attempts to sweep out this miserable lair; butwhen the spot becomes very filthy, he “takes up hissticks” and shifts his penates to a fresh “location.” He305is generally, however, too indolent to make a “remove,”—untilthe dirt has accumulated so as to “be in theway.”

The Pampas Indian is less of a hunter than mostother tribes of savages. He has less need to be,—atleast, in modern days; for he is in possession of threekinds of valuable domestic animals, upon which he cansubsist without hunting,—horses, horned cattle, andsheep. Of course, these are of colonial origin. Hehunts, nevertheless, for amusement, and to vary his food.The larger ostrich (rhea Americana), the guanaco, andthe great “gama” stag of the Pampas (cervus campestris)are his usual game. These he captures with thebolas,—which is his chief implement for the chase. Inthe flesh of the stag he may find a variety, but not adelicacy. Its venison would scarce tempt a Lucullianpalate,—since even the hungriest Gaucho will not eatit. It is a large beast, often weighing above three hundredpounds; and infecting the air with such a rankodor, that dogs decline to follow it in the chase. Thisodor is generated in a pair of glands situated near theeyes; and it has the power of projecting it at will,—justas skunks and polecats when closely chased by an enemy.If these glands are cut out immediately after theanimal is killed, the flesh tastes well enough: otherwiseit is too rank to be eatable. The Indians cure it ofthe “bad smell” by burying it for several days in theground; which has the effect of “sweetening” it, whileat the same time it makes it more tender.

But the Pampas Indian does not rely upon the chasefor his subsistence. He is a small grazier in his wayand is usually accompanied in his wanderings by a herd306of horned cattle and sheep. He has also his stud ofhorses; which furnish the staple of his food,—for wheneverhe hungers, a horse is “slaughtered.” Strictlyspeaking, it is not a horse; for it is the mare that is usedfor this purpose. In no part of the Pampas region,—noteven in the white settlement,—are the mares usedfor riding. It would be considered derogatory to thecharacter of either Gaucho or Indian to mount a mare;and these are kept only for breeding purposes. Notthat the Indian is much of a horse-breeder. He keepsup his stock in quite another way,—by stealing. Thesame remark will apply to the mode by which he recruitshis herds of horned cattle, and his flocks of sheep. Thelast he values only for their wool; out of which his garmentsare woven; and which has replaced the scantierfleece of the vicuña and guanaco,—the material usedby him in days gone by.

From whom does he steal these valuable animals,—andin such numbers as almost to subsist upon them?That is a question that can be easily answered; thoughit is not exact language to say that he steals them.Rather say that he takes them, by main force and inopen daylight,—takes them from the Creole Spaniard,—theGaucho and estanciero. Nay, he does not contenthimself always with four-footed plunder; but oftenreturns from his forays with a crowd of captives,—womenand children, with white skins and ruddy cheeks,—afterwardsto be converted into his drudges and slaves.Not alone to the frontier does he extend these plunderingexpeditions; but even into the heart of the Spanish settlements,—tothe estancias of grandees, and the gatesof fortified towns; and, strange as it may read, this condition307of things has been in existence, not for years, but,at intervals, extending over a century!

But what may read stranger still—and I can vouchfor it as true—is, that white men actually purchase thisplunder from him,—not the human part of it, but thefour-footed and the furniture,—for this, too, sometimesforms part of his booty. Yes, the surplus, of which theIndian can make no use or cares nothing about,—moreespecially the large droves of fine horses, taken fromthe Spaniards of Buenos Ayres,—are driven throughthe passes of the Cordilleras, and sold to the Spaniardsof Chili! the people of one province actually encouragingthe robbery of their kindred race in another!The very same condition of things exists in NorthAmerica. The Comanche steals, or rather takes, fromthe white settler of Tamaulipas and New Leon,—theApache rieves from the white settler of Chihuahua andSonora: both sell to the white settlers, who dwell alongthe banks of the Rio del Norte! And all these settlersare of one race,—one country,—one kindred! Thesethings have hitherto been styled cosas de Mexico. Theirsignification may be extended to South America: sincethey are equally cosas de las Pampas.

We are not permitted to doubt the truth of these appallingfacts,—neither as regards the nefarious traffic,nor the captive women and children. At this very hour,not less than four thousand individuals of Spanish-Mexicanrace are held captives by the prairie tribes; andwhen Rosas swept the Pampas, he released fifteen hundredof similar unfortunates from their worse than Egyptiantaskmasters,—the Puelches!

With such facts as these before our eyes, who can308doubt the decline of the Spanish power? the utter enfeeblementof that once noble race? Who can contradictthe hypothetical prophecy—more than once offeredin these pages—that if the two races be left to themselves,the aboriginal, before the lapse of a single century,will once more recover the soil; and his haughtyvictor be swept from the face of the American continent?

Nor need such a change be too keenly regretted. TheSpanish occupation of America has been an utter failure.It has served no high human purpose, but the contrary.It has only corrupted and encowardiced a once braveand noble race; and, savage as may be the character ofthat which would supplant it, still that savage has withinhim the elements of a future civilization.

Not so the Spaniard. The fire of his civilization hasblared up with a high but fitful gleam. It has passedlike the lightning’s flash. Its sparks have fallen anddied out,—never to be rekindled again.

The man-eaters and other odd people. (5)



It is now pretty generally known that there are manydeserts in North America,—as wild, waste, and inhospitableas the famed Sahara of Africa. These deserts occupya large portion of the central regions of that greatcontinent—extending, north and south, from Mexico tothe shores of the Arctic Sea; and east and west for severalhundred miles, on each side of the great vertebralchain of the Rocky Mountains. It is true that in thevast territory thus indicated, the desert is not continuous;but it is equally true that the fertile stripes orvalleys that intersect it, bear but a very small proportionto the whole surface. Many tracts are there, oflarger area than all the British Islands, where the desertis scarce varied by an oasis, and where the very riverspursue their course amidst rocks and barren sands, withouta blade of vegetation on their banks. Usually, however,a narrow selvage of green—caused by the growthof cottonwoods, willows, and a few humbler plants—denotesthe course of a stream,—a glad sight at all timesto the weary and thirsting traveller.

These desert wastes are not all alike, but differ muchin character. In one point only do they agree,—they310are all deserts. Otherwise they exhibit many varieties,—bothof aspect and nature. Some of them are levelplains, with scarce a hill to break the monotony of theview: and of this character is the greater portion of thedesert country extending eastward from the RockyMountains to about 100° of west longitude. At thispoint the soil gradually becomes more fertile,—assumingthe character of timbered tracts, with prairie openingbetween,—at length terminating in the vast, unbrokenforests of the Mississippi.

This eastern desert extends parallel with the RockyMountains,—throughout nearly the whole of their length,—fromthe Rio Grande in Mexico, northward to theMackenzie River. One tract of it deserves particularmention. It is that known as the Llano estacado, or“staked plain.” It lies in Northwestern Texas, and consistsof a barren plateau, of several thousand square milesin extent, the surface of which is raised nearly a thousandfeet above the level of the surrounding plains.Geologists have endeavored to account for this singularformation, but in vain. The table-like elevation of theLlano estacado still remains a puzzle. Its name, however,is easier of explanation. In the days of Spanishsupremacy over this part of Prairie-land, caravans frequentlyjourneyed from Santa Fé in New Mexico, toSan Antonio in Texas. The most direct route betweenthese two provincial capitals lay across the Llano estacado;but as there were neither mountains nor otherlandmarks to guide the traveller, he often wanderedfrom the right path,—a mistake that frequently endedin the most terrible suffering from thirst, and very oftenin the loss of life. To prevent such catastrophes, stakes311were set up at such intervals as to be seen from oneanother, like so many “telegraph posts;” and althoughthese have long since disappeared, the great plain stillbears the name, given to it from this circumstance.

Besides the contour of surface, there are other respectsin which the desert tracts of North America differ fromone another. In their vegetation—if it deserves thename—they are unlike. Some have no vegetationwhatever; but exhibit a surface of pure sand, or sandand pebbles; others are covered with a stratum of soda,of snow-white color, and still others with a layer of commonsalt, equally white and pure. Many of these saltand soda “prairies”—as the trappers term them—arehundreds of square miles in extent. Again, there aredeserts of scoria, of lava, and pumice-stone,—the “cut-rockprairies” of the trappers,—a perfect contrast incolor to the above mentioned. All these are absolutelywithout vegetation of any sort.

On some of the wastes—those of southern latitudes,—thecactus appears of several species, and also thewild agave, or “pita” plant; but these plants are inreality but emblems of the desert itself. So, also, isthe yucca, which thinly stands over many of the greatplains, in the southwestern part of the desert region,—itsstiff, shaggy foliage in no way relieving the sterilelandscape, but rather rendering its aspect more horridand austere.

Again, there are the deserts known as “chapparals,”—extensivejungles of brush and low trees, all of athorny character, among which the “mezquite” of severalspecies (mimosas and acacias), the “stink-wood”or creosote plant (kœberlinia), the “grease-bush” (obiona canescens),312several kinds of prosopis, and now and then,as if to gratify the eye of the tired traveller, the tallflowering spike of the scarlet fouquiera. Further tothe north—especially throughout the upper section ofthe Great Salt Lake territory—are vast tracts, uponwhich scarce any vegetation appears, except the artemisiaplant, and other kindred products of a sterile soil.

Of all the desert tracts upon the North-Americancontinent, perhaps none possesses greater interest forthe student of cosmography than that known as the“Great Basin.” It has been so styled from the factof its possessing a hydrographic system of its own,—lakesand rivers that have no communication with thesea; but whose waters spend themselves within thelimits of the desert itself, and are kept in equilibriumby evaporation,—as is the case with many water systemsof the continents of the Old World, both in Asiaand Africa.

The largest lake of the “Basin” is the “Great SaltLake,”—of late so celebrated in Mormon story: sincenear its southern shore the chief city of the “Latter-daySaints” is situated. But there are other large lakeswithin the limits of the Great Basin, both fresh andsaline,—most of them entirely unconnected with theGreat Salt Lake, and some of them having a completesystem of waters of their own. There are “Utah”and “Humboldt,” “Walker’s” and “Pyramid” lakes,with a long list of others, whose names have been butrecently entered upon the map, by the numerous veryintelligent explorers employed by the government of theUnited States.

Large rivers, too, run in all directions through this313central desert, some of them falling into the GreatSalt Lake, as the “Bear” river, the “Weber,” the“Utah,” from Utah Lake,—upon which the Mormonmetropolis stands,—and which stream has been absurdlybaptized by these free-living fanatics as the“Jordan!” Other rivers are the “Timpanogos,” emptyinginto Lake Utah; the “Humboldt,” that runs tothe lake of that name; the “Carson” river; besidesmany of lesser note.

The limits assigned to the Great Basin are tolerablywell defined. Its western rim is the Sierra Nevada, or“snowy range” of California; while the Rocky andWahsatch mountains are its boundaries on the east.Several cross-ranges, and spurs of ranges, separate itfrom the system of waters that empty northward intothe Columbia River of Oregon; while upon its southernedge there is a more indefinite “divide” between itand the great desert region of the western “Colorado.”Strictly speaking, the desert of the Great Basin mightbe regarded as only a portion of that vast tract of sterile,and almost treeless soil, which stretches from the Mexicanstate of Sonora to the upper waters of Oregon; butthe deserts of the Colorado on the south, and those ofthe “forks” of the Columbia on the north, are generallytreated as distinct territories; and the Great Basin, withthe limits already assigned, is suffered to stand byitself. As a separate country, then, we shall here considerit.

From its name, you might fancy that the Great Basinwas a low-lying tract of country. This, however, isfar from being the case. On the contrary, nearly all ofit is of the nature of an elevated table-land, even its lakes314lying several thousand feet above the level of the sea.It is only by its “rim,” of still more elevated mountainridges, that it can lay claim to be considered as a“basin;” but, indeed, the name—given by the somewhatspeculative explorer, Fremont—is not very appropriate,since later investigations show that this rimis in many places neither definite nor regular,—especiallyon its northern and southern sides, where the“Great Basin” may be said to be badly cracked, andeven to have some pieces chipped out of its edge.

Besides the mountain chains that surround it, manyothers run into and intersect it in all directions. Someare spurs of the main ranges; while others form “sierras”—asthe Spaniards term them—distinct in themselves.These sierras are of all shapes and of everyaltitude,—from the low-lying ridge scarce rising abovethe plain, to peaks and summits of over ten thousandfeet in elevation. Their forms are as varied as theirheight. Some are round or dome-shaped; others shootup little turrets or “needles”; and still others mountinto the sky in shapeless masses,—as if they had beenflung upon the earth, and upon one another, in somestruggle of Titans, who have left them lying in chaoticconfusion. A very singular mountain form is heroobserved,—though it is not peculiar to this regionsince it is found elsewhere, beyond the limits of theGreat Basin, and is also common in many parts ofAfrica. This is the formation known among the Spaniardsas mesas, or “table-mountains,” and by this veryname it is distinguished among the colonists of theCape.

The Llano estacado, already mentioned, is often315styled a “mesa,” but its elevation is inconsiderablewhen compared with the mesa mountains that occur inthe regions west of the great Rocky chain,—both inthe Basin and on the deserts of the Colorado. Manyof these are of great height,—rising several thousandfeet above the general level; and, with their squaretruncated table-like tops, lend a peculiar character tothe landscape.

The characteristic vegetation of the Great Basin isvery similar to that of the other central regions of theNorth-American continent. Only near the banks of therivers and some of the fresh-water lakes, is there anyevidence of a fertile soil; and even in these situationsthe timber is usually scarce and stunted. Of course,there are tracts that are exceptional,—oases, as theyare geographically styled. Of this character is thecountry of the Mormons on the Jordan, their settlementson the Utah and Bear Rivers, in Tuilla and Ogdenvalleys, and elsewhere at more remote points. Thereare also isolated tracts on the banks of the smallerstreams and the shores of lakes not yet “located” bythe colonist; and only frequented by the original dwellersof the desert, the red aborigines. In these oasesare usually found cottonwood-trees, of several distinctspecies,—one or other of which is the characteristicvegetation on nearly every stream from the Mississippito the mountains of California.

Willows of many species also appear; and now andthen, in stunted forms, the oak, the elm, maples, andsycamores. But all these last are very rarely encounteredwithin the limits of the desert region. On themountain, and more frequently in the mountain ravines316pines of many species—some of which produce ediblecones—grow in such numbers as to merit the name offorests, of greater or less extent. Among these, or apartfrom them, may be distinguished the darker foliage ofthe cedar (juniperus) of several varieties, distinct fromthe juniperus virginiana of the States.

The arid plains are generally without the semblanceof vegetation. When any appears upon them, it is ofthe character of the “chapparal,” already described; itsprincipal growth being “tornilla,” or “screw-wood,” andother varieties of mezquite; all of them species of theextensive order of the leguminosæ, and belonging to theseveral genera of acacias, mimosas, and robinias. Inmany places cactacæ appear of an endless variety offorms; and some,—as the “pitahaya” (cereus giganteus),and the “tree” and “cochineal” cacti (opuntias),—ofgigantesque proportions. These, however, are only developedto their full size in the regions further south,—onthe deserts of the Colorado and Gila,—where alsothe “tree yuccas” abound, covering tracts of largeextent, and presenting the appearance of forests ofpalms.

Perhaps the most characteristic vegetation of theGreat Basin—that is, if it deserve the name of avegetation—is the wild sage, or artemisia. With thisplant vast plains are covered, as far as the eye can reach;not presenting a hue of green, as the grass prairies do,but a uniform aspect of grayish white, as monotonous asif the earth were without a leaf to cover it. Instead ofrelieving the eye of the traveller, the artemisia ratheradds to the dreariness of a desert landscape,—for itspresence promises food neither to man nor horse, not317water for them to drink, but indicates the absence ofboth. Upon the hill-sides also is it seen, along thesloping declivities of the sierras, marbling the darkvolcanic rocks with its hoary frondage.

More than one species of this wild sage occurs throughoutthe American desert: there are four or five kinds, differingvery considerably from each other, and known to thetrappers by such names as “worm wood,” “grease-bush,”“stink-plant,” and “rabbit-bush.” Some of the speciesattain to a considerable height,—their tops often risingabove the head of the traveller on horseback,—whileanother kind scarce reaches the knee of the pedestrian.

In some places the plains are so thickly covered withthis vegetation, that it is difficult for either man or horseto make way through them,—the gnarled and crookedbranches twisting into each other and forming an impenetrablewattle. At other places, and especially wherethe larger species grow, the plants stand apart like apple-treesin an orchard, and bear a considerable resemblanceto shrubs or small trees.

Both man and horse refuse the artemisia as food; andso, too, the less fastidious mule. Even a donkey willnot eat it. There are animals, however,—both birdsand beasts, as will be seen hereafter,—that relish thesage-plant; and not only eat of it, but subsist almostexclusively on its stalks, leaves, and berries.

The denizens of the Great Basin desert—I mean itshuman denizens—are comprehended in two great familiesof the aboriginal race,—the Utahs and Snakes, orShoshonees. Of the white inhabitants—the Mormonsand trap-settlers—we have nothing to say here. Noryet much respecting the above-mentioned Indians, the318Utahs and Snakes. It will be enough for our purposeto make known that these two tribes are distinctfrom each other,—that there are many communities orsub-tribes of both,—that each claims ownership of alarge tract of the central region, lying between theRocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada; and thattheir limits are not coterminal with those of the GreatBasin: since the range of the Snakes extends into Oregonupon the north, while that of the Utahs runs downinto the valley of the Rio del Norte upon the south.Furthermore, that both are in possession of the horse,—theUtahs owning large numbers,—that both are ofroving and predatory habits, and quite as wicked andwarlike as the generality of their red brethren.

They are also as well to do in the world as most Indians;but there are many degrees in their “civilization,”or rather in the comforts of their life, depending uponthe situation in which they may be placed. When dwellingupon a good “salmon-stream,” or among the rockymountain “parks,” that abound in game, they manageto pass a portion of the year in luxuriant abundance.In other places, however, and at other times, their existenceis irksome enough,—often bordering upon actualstarvation.

It may be further observed, that the Utahs and Snakesusually occupy the larger and more fertile oases of thedesert,—wherever a tract is found of sufficient size tosubsist a community. With this observation I shall dismissboth these tribes; for it is not of them that ourpresent sketch is intended to treat.

This is specially designed for a far odder people thaneither,—for the Yamparicos, or “Root-Diggers;” and319having described their country, I shall now proceed togive some account of themselves.

It may be necessary here to remark that the name“Diggers,” has of late been very improperly applied,—notonly by the settlers of California, but by some ofthe exploring officers of the United States government.Every tribe or community throughout the desert, foundexisting in a state of special wretchedness, has been sostyled; and a learned ethnologist (!), writing in the“Examiner,” newspaper, gravely explains the name, byderiving it from the gold-diggers of California! This“conceit” of the London editor is a palpable absurdity,—sincethe Digger Indians were so designated, longbefore the first gold-digger of California put spade intoits soil. The name is of “trapper” origin; bestowedupon these people from the observation of one of theirmost common practices,—viz., the digging for roots,which form an essential portion of their subsistence. Theterm “yamparico,” is from a Spanish source, and has avery similar meaning to that of “Root-digger.” It isliterally “Yampa-rooter,” or “Yampa-root eater,” theroot of the “yampah” (anethum graviolens) being theirfavorite food. The true “Diggers” are not found inCalifornia west of the Sierra Nevada; though certaintribes of ill-used Indians in that quarter are called bythe name. The great deserts extending between theNevada and the Rocky Mountains are their locality;and their limits are more or less cotemporaneous withthose of the Shoshonees or Snakes, and the Utahs,—ofboth of which tribes they are supposed to be a sort ofoutcast kindred. This hypothesis, however, rests only ona slight foundation: that of some resemblance in habits320and language, which are very uncertain criteria wheretwo people dwell within the same boundaries,—as, forinstance, the whites and blacks in Virginia. In fact, thelanguage of the Diggers can scarce be called a languageat all: being a sort of gibberish like the growling of adog, eked out by a copious vocabulary of signs: andperhaps, here and there, by an odd word from the Shoshoneeor Utah,—not unlikely, introduced by the associationof the Diggers with these last-mentioned tribes.

In the western and southern division of the GreatBasin, the Digger exists under the name of Paiute, ormore properly, Pah-Utah,—so-called from his supposedrelationship with the tribe of the Utahs. In some respectsthe Pah-Utahs differ from the Shoshokee, orSnake-Diggers; though in most of their characteristichabits they are very similar to each other. There mightbe no anomaly committed by considering them as onepeople; for in personal appearance and habits of lifethe Pah-Utah, and the “Shoshokee”—this last is thenational appellation of the yampah-eater,—are as likeeach other as eggs. We shall here speak however,principally of the Shoshokees: leaving it to be understood,that their neighbors the “Paiutes” will equallyanswer the description.

Although the Shoshokees, as already observed, dwellwithin the same limits as their supposed kindred theShoshonees, they rarely or never associate with the latter.On the contrary, they keep well out of their way,—inhabitingonly those districts of country where thelarger Shoshonee communities could not dwell. Thevery smallest oasis, or the tiniest stream, affords all thefertility that is required for the support of a Digger321family; and rarely are these people found living morethan one, or at most, two or three families together.The very necessity of their circumstances precludes thepossibility of a more extensive association; for on thedeserts where they dwell, neither the earth nor the air,nor yet the water, affords a sufficient supply of food tosupport even the smallest “tribe.” Not in tribes, then,but in single families, or little groups of two or three, dothe Digger Indians dwell,—not in the larger and morefertile valleys, but in those small and secluded; in themidst of the sage-plains, or more frequently in the rockydefiles of the mountains that stand thickly over the“Basin.”

The Shoshokee is no nomade, but the very reverse.A single and isolated mountain is often the abode of hisgroup or family; and beyond this his wanderings extendnot. There he is at home, knowing every nook and rat-holein his own neighborhood; but as ignorant of theworld beyond as the “sand-rats” themselves,—whosepursuit occupies the greater portion of his time.

In respect to his “settled” mode of life, the Shoshokeeoffers a striking contrast to the Shoshonee. Many of thelatter are Indians of noble type,—warriors who havetamed the horse, and who extend their incursions, bothhunting and hostile, into the very heart of the RockyMountains,—up their fertile valleys, and across theirsplendid “parks,” often bringing back with them thescalps of the savage and redoubtable Blackfeet.

Far different is the character of the wretched Shoshokeee,—themere semblance of a human being,—whorarely strays out of the ravine in which he wasbrought forth; and who, at sight of a human face—be322it of friend or enemy—flies to his crag or cave like ahunted beast!

The Pah-Utah Diggers, however, are of a more warlikedisposition; or rather a more wicked and hostileone,—hostile to whites, or even to such other Indians asmay have occasion to travel through the deserts theyinhabit. These people are found scattered throughoutthe whole southern and southwestern portion of theGreat Basin,—and also in the northwestern part of theColorado desert,—especially about the Sevier River, andon several of the tributaries of the great Colorado itselfof the west. It was through this part of the countrythat the caravans from California to New Mexico usedto make their annual “trips,”—long before Alta Calaforniabecame a possession of the United States,—andthe route by which they travelled is known as the Spanishtrail. The object of these caravans was the importof horses, mules, and other animals,—from the fertilevalleys of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, to themore sterile settlements of New Mexico. Several kindsof goods were also carried into these interior countries.

This Spanish trail was far from running in a directline. The sandy, waterless plain—known more particularlyas the Colorado desert—could not be crossedwith safety, and the caravan-route was forced far to thenorth; and entered within the limits of the Great Basin—thusbringing it through the county inhabited by thePah-Utah Diggers. The consequence was, that thesesavages looked out annually for its arrival; and, wheneveran opportunity offered, stole the animals that accompaniedit, or murdered any of the men who might befound straggling from the main body. When bent on323such purposes, these Diggers for a time threw aside theirsolitary habits,—assembling in large bands of severalhundred each, and following the caravan travellers, likewolves upon the track of a gang of buffaloes. They nevermade their attacks upon the main body, or when thewhite men were in any considerable force. Only smallgroups who had lagged behind, or gone too rashly inadvance, had to fear from these merciless marauders,—whonever thought of such a thing as making captives,but murdered indiscriminately all who fell into theirhands. When horses or mules were captured, it wasnever done with the intention of keeping them to rideupon. Scarcely ever do the Pah-Utahs make such ause of the horse. Only for food were these stolen orplundered from their owners; and when a booty of thiskind was obtained, the animals were driven to someremote defile among the mountains, and there slaughteredoutright. So long as a morsel of horse or muleflesh remained upon the bones, the Diggers kept up ascene of feasting and merriment—precisely similar tothe carnivals of the African Bushmen, after a successfulforay upon the cattle of the Dutch settlers near the Cape.Indeed there is such a very striking resemblance betweenthe Bushmen of Africa and these Digger Indians ofNorth America; that, were it not for the distinction ofrace, and some slight differences in personal appearance,they might pass as one people. In nearly every habitand custom, the two people resemble each other; andin many mental characteristics they appear truly identical.

The Pah-Utah Diggers have not yet laid aside theirhostile and predatory habits. They are at the present324hour engaged in plundering forays,—acting towardsthe emigrant trains of Californian adventurers just asthey did towards the Spanish caravans. But theyusually meet with a very different reception from themore daring Saxon travellers, who constitute the“trains” now crossing their country; and not unfrequentlya terrible punishment is the reward of theiraudacity. For all that, many of the emigrants, whohave been so imprudent as to travel in small parties,have suffered at their hands, losing not only their property,but their lives; since hundreds of the bravest menhave fallen by the arrows of these insignificant savages!Even the exploring parties of the United States government,accompanied by troops, have been attacked bythem; and more than one officer has fallen a victim totheir Ishmaelitish propensities.

It is not in open warfare that there is any dread ofthem. The smallest party of whites need not fear toencounter a hundred of them at once; but their attacksare made by stealth, and under cover of the night; and,as soon as they have succeeded in separating the horsesor other animals from the travellers’ camp, they drivethem off so adroitly that pursuit is impossible. Whenevera grand blow has been struck—that is, a travellerhas been murdered—they all disappear as if by magic;and for several days after not one is to be seen, uponwhom revenge might be taken. The numerous “smokes,”rising up out of the rocky defiles of the mountains, arethen the only evidence that human beings are in theneighborhood of the travellers’ camp.

The Digger is different from other North-AmericanIndians,—both in physical organization and intellectual325character. So low is he in the scale of both, as todispute with the African Bushman, the Andaman Islander,and the starving savage of Tierra del Fuego, theclaim to that point in the transition, which is supposedto separate the monkey from the man. It has beenvariously awarded by ethnologists, and I as one havehad my doubts, as to which of the three is deservingof the distinction. Upon mature consideration, however,I have come to the conclusion that the Digger is entitledto it.

This miserable creature is of a dark-brown or coppercolor,—the hue so generally known as characteristicof the American aborigines. He stands about five feetin height,—often under but rarely over this standard,—andhis body is thin and meagre, resembling that of afrog stretched upon a fish-hook. The skin that covers it—especiallythat of an old Digger—is wrinkled andcorrugated like the hide of an Asiatic rhinoceros,—witha surface as dry as parched buck-skin. His feet, turnedin at the toes,—as with all the aborigines of America,—havesome resemblance to human feet; but in thelegs this resemblance ends. The lower limbs are almostdestitute of calves, and the knee-pans are of immensesize,—resembling a pair of pads or callosities, like thoseupon goats and antelopes. The face is broad and angular,with high cheek-bones; the eyes small, black, andsunken, and sparkle in their hollow sockets, not withtrue intelligence, but that sort of vivacity which mayoften be observed in the lower animals, especially inseveral species of monkeys. Throughout the wholephysical composition of the Digger, there is only onething that appeals luxuriant,—and that is his hair.326Like all Indians he is amply endowed in this respect,and long, black tresses—sometimes embrowned by thesun, and matted together with mud or other filth—hangover his naked shoulders. Generally he crops them.

In the summer months, the Digger’s costume is extremelysimple,—after the fashion of that worn byour common parents, Adam and Eve. In winter, however,the climate of his desert home is rigorous in theextreme,—the mountains over his head, and the plainsunder his feet, being often covered with snow. At thisseason he requires a garment to shelter his body fromthe piercing blast; and this he obtains by stitching togethera few skins of the sage-hare, so as to form a kindof shirt or body-coat. He is not always rich enough tohave even a good coat of this simple material; and itsscanty skirt too often exposes his wrinkled limbs to thebiting frost.

Between the Digger and his wife, or “squaw,” thereis not much difference either in costume or character.The latter may be distinguished, by being of less stature,rather than by any feminine graces in her physical orintellectual conformation. She might be recognized,too, by watching the employment of the family; for itis she who does nearly all the work, stitches the rabbit-skinshirt, digs the “yampa” and “kamas” roots,gathers the “mezquite” pods, and gets together thelarder of “prairie-crickets.” Though lowest of allAmerican Indians in the scale of civilization, the Diggerresembles them all in this,—he regards himself as lordand master, and the woman as his slave.

As already observed, there is no such thing as a tribeof Diggers,—nothing of the nature of a political organization;327and the chief of their miserable little community—forsometimes there is a head man—is onlyhe who is most regarded for his strength. Indeed, thenature of their country would not admit of a large numberof them living together. The little valleys or“oases”—that occur at intervals along the banks ofsome lone desert stream,—would not, any one of them,furnish subsistence to more than a few individuals,—especiallyto savages ignorant of agriculture,—that is,not knowing how to plant or sow. The Diggers, however,if they know not how to sow, may be said to understandsomething about how to reap, since root-diggingis one of their most essential employments,—thatoccupation from which they have obtained their distinctiveappellation, in the language of the trappers.

Not being agriculturists, you will naturally concludethat they are either a pastoral people, or else a nationof hunters. But in truth they are neither one northe other. They have no domestic animal,—many ofthem not even the universal dog; and as to hunting,there is no large game in their country. The buffalodoes not range so far west; and if he did, it is not likelythey could either kill or capture so formidable a creature;while the prong-horned antelope, which does inhabittheir plains, is altogether too swift a creature, tobe taken by any wiles a Digger might invent. The“big-horn,” and the black and white-tailed species ofdeer, are also too shy and too fleet for their punyweapons; and as to the grizzly bear, the very sightof one is enough to give a Digger Indian the “chills.”

If, then, they do not cultivate the ground, nor rearsome kind of animals, nor yet live by the chase, how328do these people manage to obtain subsistence? Theanswer to this question appears a dilemma,—since ithas been already stated, that their country produceslittle else than the wild and worthless sage-plant.

Were we speaking of an Indian of tropical America,or a native of the lovely islands of the great South Sea,there would be no difficulty whatever in accounting forhis subsistence,—even though he neither planted norsowed, tended cattle, nor yet followed the chase. Inthese regions of luxuriant vegetation, nature has beenbountiful to her children; and, it may be almost literallyalleged that the loaf of bread grows spontaneously onthe tree. But the very reverse is the case in the countryof the Digger Indian. Even the hand of cultivationcould scarce wring a crop from the sterile soil; andNature has provided hardly one article that deservesthe name of food.

Perhaps you may fancy that the Digger is a fisherman;and obtains his living from the stream, by theside of which he makes his dwelling. Not even thisis permitted to him. It is true that his supposed kindred,the Shoshonees, occasionally follow the occupationof fishermen upon the banks of the Great Snake River,—whichat certain seasons of the year swarms withthe finest salmon; but the poor Digger has no share inthe finny spoil. The streams, that traverse his deserthome, empty their waters into the briny bosom of theGreat Salt Lake,—a true Dead Sea, where neithersalmon, nor any other fish could live for an instant.

How then does the Digger obtain his food? Is he amanufacturer,—and perforce a merchant,—who exchangeswith some other tribe his manufactured goods329for provisions and “raw material?” Nothing of thesort. Least of all is he a manufacturer. The hare-skinshirt is his highest effort in the line of textile fabrics;and his poor weak bow, and flint-tipped arrows, are theonly tools he is capable of making. Sometimes he iseven without these weapons; and may be seen withanother,—a long stick, with a hook at one end,—thehook itself being the stump of a lopped branch, withits natural inclination to that which forms the stick.The object and purpose of this simple weapon we shallpresently describe.

The Digger’s wife may be seen with a weaponequally simple in its construction. This is also a stick—buta much shorter one—pointed at one end, andbearing some resemblance to a gardener’s “dibble.”Sometimes it is tipped with horn,—when this can beprocured,—but otherwise the hard point is producedby calcining it in the fire. This tool is essentially animplement of husbandry,—as will presently appear.

Let us now clear up the mystery, and explain howthe Digger maintains himself. There is not muchmystery after all. Although, as already stated, hiscountry produces nothing that could fairly be termedfood, yet there are a few articles within his reach uponwhich a human being might subsist,—that is, mightjust keep body and soul together. One of these articlesis the bean, or legume of the “mezquite” tree, of whichthere are many kinds throughout the desert region.They are known to Spanish Americans as algarobiatrees; and, in the southern parts of the desert, grow toa considerable size,—often attaining the dimension oftwenty to twenty-five feet in height.

330They produce a large legume, filled with seeds and apulp of sweetish-acid taste,—similar to that of the“honey-locust.” These beans are collected in largequantities, by the squaw of the Digger, stowed away ingrass-woven baskets, or sometimes only in heaps in acorner of his cave, or hovel, if he chance to have one.If so, it is a mere wattle of artemisia, thatched and“chinked” with grass.

The mezquite seeds, then, are the bread of the Digger;but, bad as is the quality, the supply is often farbehind the demands of his hungry stomach. For vegetables,he has the “yampah” root, an umbelliferousplant, which grows along the banks of the streams.This, with another kind, known as “kamas” or “quamash”(Camassia esculenta), is a spontaneous production;and the digging for these roots forms, at a certainseason of the year, the principal occupation of thewomen. The “dibble”-like instrument already describedis the root-digger. The roots here mentioned,before being eaten, have to undergo a process of cooking.The yampah is boiled in a very ingenious manner;but this piece of ingenuity is not native to theShoshokees, and has been obtained from their moreclever kindred, the Snakes. The pot is a wooden one;and yet they can boil meat in it, or make soup if theywish! Moreover, it is only a basket, a mere vessel ofwicker-work! How, then, can water be boiled in it?If you had not been already told how it is done, itwould no doubt puzzle you to find out.

But most likely you have read of a somewhat similarvessel among the Chippewa Indians,—especially thetribe known as the “Assineboins,” or ‘stone-boilers’—who331cook their fish or flesh in pots made of birch-bark.The phrase stone-boilers will suggest to you how thedifficulty is got over. The birch-bark pot is not set overfire; but stones are heated and thrown into it,—ofcourse already filled with water. The hot stones sooncause the water to simmer, and fresh ones are addeduntil it boils, and the meat is sufficiently cooked. Byjust such a process the “Snakes” cook their salmonand deer’s flesh,—their wicker pots being woven of soclose a texture that not even water can pass through theinterstices.

It is not often, however, that the Digger is rich enoughto have one of these wicker pots,—and when he has,he is often without anything to put into it.

The kamas roots are usually baked in a hole dug inthe earth, and heated by stones taken from the fire. Itrequires nearly two days to bake them properly; andthen, when taken out of the “oven,” the mass bears astrong resemblance to soft glue or size, and has a sweetand rather agreeable taste,—likened to that of bakedpears or quinces.

I have not yet specified the whole of the Digger’slarder. Were he to depend altogether on the roots andseeds already mentioned, he would often have to starve,—andin reality he often does starve,—for, even withthe additional supplies which his sterile soil scantily furnisheshim, he is frequently the victim of famine.

There may be a bad season of the mezquite-crop, andthe bears—who are as cunning “diggers” as he—sometimesdestroy his “plantations” of yampah andkamas. He finds a resource, however, in the prairie-cricket,an insect—or reptile, you may call it—of the332gryllus tribe, of a dark-brown color, and more like a bugthan any other crawler. These, at certain seasons ofthe year, make their appearance upon the desert plains,and in such numbers that the ground appears to be alivewith them. An allied species has of late years becomecelebrated: on account of a visit paid by vast numbersof them to the Mormon plantations; where, as may beremembered, they devastated the crops,—just as thelocusts do in Africa,—causing a very severe season offamine among these isolated people. It may be rememberedalso, that flocks of white birds followed the movementsof these American locusts,—preying upon them,and thinning their multitudinous hosts.

These birds were of the gull genus (Larus), and oneof the most beautiful of the species. They frequent theshores and islands of the rivers of Prairie-land, livingchiefly upon such insects as are found in the neighborhoodof their waters. It was but natural, therefore, theyshould follow the locusts, or “grasshoppers,” as the Mormonstermed them; but the pseudo-prophet of these deludedpeople could not suffer to pass such a fine opportunityof proving his divine inspiration: which he didby audaciously declaring that the birds were “heaven-born,”and had been sent by the Almighty (in obedienceto a prayer from him, the prophet) to rid the country ofthe pest of the grasshoppers!

These prairie-crickets are of a dark-brown color,—notunlike the gryllus migratorius of Africa, and with verysimilar habits. When settled thickly upon the ground,the whole surface assumes a darkish hue, as if coveredwith crape; and when they are all in motion,—creepingto and fro in search of their food,—a very singular333effect is produced. At this time they do not take towing; though they attempt to get out of the way, bymaking short hops from place to place, and crawlingwith great rapidity. Notwithstanding their efforts toescape, hundreds of them are “squashed” beneaththe foot of the pedestrian, or hoofs of the traveller’shorse.

These crickets, with several bug-like insects of differentspecies, furnish the Digger with an importantarticle of food. It may appear a strange provenderfor a human stomach; but there is nothing unnaturalabout it,—any more than about the eating of shrimpsor prawns; and it will be remembered that the Bushmen,and many other tribes of South Africa eat thegryllus migratorius; while, in the northern part of thatsame continent, many nations regard them as a properarticle of food. Though some writers have asserted,that it was the legume of the locust-tree (an acacia)which was eaten by St. John the Baptist in the wilderness,it is easily proved that such was not the case.That his food was the locust (gryllus migratorius) andwild honey, is strictly and literally true; and at thepresent day, were you to visit the “wilderness” mentionedby the Apostle, you might see people living upon“locusts and wild-honey,” just as they did eighteen hundredyears ago.

The Diggers cook their crickets sometimes by boilingthem in the pots aforementioned, and sometimes by“roasting.” They also mix them with the mezquiteseeds and pulp,—the whole forming a kind of plum-pudding,or “cricket-pasty,”—or, as it is jocosely termedby the trappers, “cricket-cake.”

334Their mode of collecting the grasshoppers is not withoutsome display of ingenuity. When the insects arein abundance, there is not much difficulty in obtaining asufficient supply; but this is not always the case. Sometimesthey appear very sparsely upon the plains; and,being nimble in their movements, are not easily laid holdof. Only one could be taken at a time; and, by gleaningin this way, a very limited supply would be obtained.To remedy this, the Diggers have invented a somewhatingenious contrivance for capturing them wholesale,—whichis effected in the following manner:—When thewhereabouts of the grasshoppers has been discovered, around hole—of three or four feet in diameter, and ofabout equal depth—is scooped out in the centre of theplain. It is shaped somewhat after the fashion of akiln; and the earth, that has been taken out, is carriedout of the way.

The Digger community then all turn out—men, women,and children—and deploy themselves into a widecircle, enclosing as large a tract as their numbers willpermit. Each individual is armed with a stick, withwhich he beats the sage-bushes, and makes other violentdemonstrations: the object being to frighten thegrasshoppers, and cause them to move inward towardsthe pit that has been dug. The insects, thus beset,move as directed,—gradually approaching the centre,—whilethe “beaters” follow in a circle constantlylessening in circumference. After a time the crickets,before only thinly scattered over the plain,—growmore crowded as the space becomes contracted; untilat length the surface is covered with a black movingswarm, and the beaters, still pressing upon them, and335driving them onward, force the whole body pellmellover the edges of the pit.

Bunches of grass, already provided are now flung overthem, and upon that a few shovelfuls of earth or sand;and then—horrible to relate!—a large pile of artemisia stalksis heaped upon the top and set on fire! The resultis that, in a few minutes, the poor grasshoppers aresmoked to death, and parched at the same time—so asto be ready for eating, whenever the débris of the firehas been removed.

The prairie-cricket is not the only article of the flesh-meatkind, found in the larder of the Digger. Anotheranimal furnishes him with an occasional meal. This isthe “sage-hare,” known to hunters as the “sage-rabbit,”but to naturalists as the lepus artemisia. It is a verysmall animal,—less in size than the common rabbit,—thoughit is in reality a true hare. It is of a silvery, orwhitish-gray color—which adapts it to the hue of theartemisia bushes on the stalks and berries of which itfeeds.

It is from the skins of this animal, that the Diggerwomen manufacture the rabbit-skin shirts, already described.Its flesh would not be very agreeable to aEuropean palate,—even with the addition of an onion,—forit has the sage flavor to such a degree, as to beas bitter as wormwood itself. An onion with it wouldnot be tasted! But tastes differ, and by the Digger theflesh of the sage-hare is esteemed one of the nicest delicacies.He hunts it, therefore, with the greatest assiduity;and the chase of this insignificant animal is to theDigger, what the hunt of the stag, the elephant, or thewild boar, is to hunters of a more pretentious ambition.

336With his bow and arrows he frequently succeeds inkilling a single hare; but this is not always so easy,—sincethe sage-hare, like all of its kind, is shy, swift, andcunning. Its color, closely resembling the hue of theartemisia foliage, is a considerable protection to it; andit can hide among these bushes, where they grow thickly—asthey generally do—over the surface of theground.

But the Digger is not satisfied with the scanty anduncertain supply, which his weak bow and arrows wouldenable him to obtain. As in the case of the grasshoppers,he has contrived a plan for capturing the sage-haresby wholesale.

This he accomplishes by making a “surround,” anddriving the animals, not into a pit, but into a pound.The pound is constructed something after the same fashionas that used by the Chippewas, and other northernIndians, for capturing the herds of reindeer; in otherwords, it is an enclosure, entered by a narrow mouth—fromthe jaws of which mouth, two fences are carried farout into the plain, in a gradually diverging direction.For the deer and other large animals, the fences of thepound—as also those of the funnel that conducts to it,require to be made of strong stakes, stockaded side byside; but this work, as well as the timber with which toconstruct it, is far beyond the reach of the Digger. Hisenclosure consists of a mere wattle of artemisia stalksand branches, woven into a row of those already standing—withhere and there a patching of rude nets, madeof roots and grass. The height is not over three feetand the sage-hare might easily spring over it; but thestupid creature, when once “in the pound,” never thinks337of looking upward; but continues to dash its little skullagainst the wattle, until it is either “clubbed” by theDigger, or impaled upon one of his obsidian arrows.

Other quadrupeds, constituting a portion of the Digger’sfood, are several species of “gophers,” or sand-rats,ground-squirrels, and marmots. In many parts of theGreat Basin, the small rodents abound: dwelling betweenthe crevices of rocks, or honeycombing the dryplains with their countless burrows. The Digger capturesthem by various wiles. One method is by shootingthem with blunt arrows; but the more successful planis, by setting a trap at the entrance to their earthencaves. It is the “figure of 4 trap,” which the Diggeremploys for this purpose, and which he constructs withingenuity,—placing a great many around a “warren,”and often taking as many as fifty or sixty “rats” in asingle day!

In weather too cold for the gophers to come out oftheir caves, the Digger then “digs” for them: thus furtherentitling him to his special appellation.

That magnificent bird, the “cock of the plains,” sometimesfurnishes the Digger with “fowl” for his dinner.This is a bird of the grouse family (tetrao urophasianus),and the largest species that is known,—exceeding insize the famed “cock of the woods” of northern Europe.A full-fledged cock of the plains is as large as an eagle;and, unlike most of the grouse kind, has a long, narrowbody. His plumage is of a silvery gray color—producedby a mottle of black and white,—no doubt, givenhim by a nature to assimilate him to the hue of the artemisia,—amidstwhich he habitually dwells, and the berriesof which furnish him with most of his food.

338He is remarkable for two large goitre-like swellings onthe breast, covered with a sort of hair instead of feathers;but, though a fine-looking large bird, and a grousetoo, his flesh is bitter and unpalatable—even more sothan that of the sage-hare. For all that, it is a delicacyto the Digger, and a rare one; for the cock of the plainsis neither plentiful, nor easily captured when seen.

There are several other small animals—both quadrupedsand birds—inhabiting Digger-land, upon whichan occasional meal is made. Indeed, the food of theDigger is sufficiently varied. It is not in the qualitybut the quantity he finds most cause of complaint: forwith all his energies he never gets enough. In the summerseason, however, he is less stinted. Then the berriesof the buffalo-bush are ripe; and these, resemblingcurrants, he collects in large quantities,—placinghis rabbit-skin wrapper under the bush, and shakingdown the ripe fruit in showers. A mélange of prairie-cricketsand buffalo-berries is esteemed by the Digger,as much as would be the best specimen of a “currant-cake”in any nursery in Christendom!

The Digger finds a very curious species of edible bug,which builds its nest on the ledges of the cliffs,—especiallythose that overhang a stream. These nests areof a conical or pine-apple shape, and about the size ofthis fruit.

This bug,—not yet classified or described by entomologists,—isof a dark brown color, about the size ofthe ordinary cockroach; and when boiled is considereda proper article of food,—not only by the unfastidiousDiggers, but by Indians of a more epicurean goût.

Besides the yampah and kamas, there are several339other edible roots found in the Digger country. Amongothers may be mentioned a species of thistle (cirsium virginiarum),—theroot of which grows to the size of anordinary carrot, and is almost as well flavored. It requiresa great deal of roasting, or boiling, before it issufficiently cooked to be eaten.

The kooyah is another article of food still more popularamong Digger gourmands. This is the root of thevaleriana edulis. It is of a bright-yellow color, andgrows to a considerable size. It has the characteristicodor of the well-known plant; but not so strong as inthe prepared substance of valerian. The plant itselfdoes not grow in the arid soil of the desert, but ratherin the rich fertile bottoms of the streams, or along theshores of marshy lakes,—in company with the kamasand yampah. It is when these roots are in season, thatthe Shoshokees most frequent such localities; and, indeed,this same season is the time when all other articlesof Digger food are plenteous enough,—the summer.The winter months are to him the “tight times.”

In some parts of the desert country, as already observed,grow species of pines, with edible cones,—orrather edible seeds which the cones contain. Theseseeds resemble nuts, and are about the size of the commonfilberts.

More than one species of pine produces this sort offood; but in the language of the Spanish Californiansand New Mexicans, they are all indifferently termedpiñon, and the seeds simply piñones, or “piñons.” Wherethese are within the reach of the Digger,—as they arein some districts,—he is then well provided for; sincethe piñons, when roasted, not only form an agreeable340and nutritious article of food, but can be stored up as awinter stock,—that will keep for a considerable time,without danger of spoiling, or growing too stale.

Such is the commissariat of the Digger Indian; and,poor in quality though it be, there are times when hecannot obtain a sufficient supply of it. At such timeshe has recourse to food of a still meaner kind,—toroots, scarce eatable, and even to the seeds of severalspecies of grass! Worms, grubs, the agama cornuta, or“horned-frog of the prairies,” with other species of lizards,become his sole resource; and in the search andcapture of these he occupies himself from morning tonight.

It is in this employment that he finds use for the longsapling, with the hooked end upon it,—the hook beingused for dragging the lizards out of clefts in the rocks,within which they have sought shelter. In the accomplishmentof this, the Digger displays an adroitness thatastonishes the traveller: often “jerking” the reptile outof some dark crevice within which it might be supposedto have found a retreat secure from all intruders.

Many other curious habits might be related of thisabject and miserable race of human beings; but perhapsenough has been detailed, to secure them a placein the list of our “odd people.”



Young reader, I may take it for granted that youhave heard of the great river Orinoco,—one of thelargest rivers not only of South America, but in theworld. By entering at its mouth, and ascending to itssource, you would have to make a journey of about onethousand five hundred miles; but this journey, so farfrom being direct, or in a straight line, would carry youin a kind of spiral curve,—very much like the figure 6,the apex of the figure representing the mouth of theriver. In other words, the Orinoco, rising in the unexploredmountains of Spanish Guiana, first runs eastward;and then, having turned gradually to every point of thecompass, resumes its easterly course, continuing in thisdirection till it empties its mighty flood into the AtlanticOcean.

Not by one mouth, however. On the contrary, longbefore the Orinoco approaches the sea, its channel separatesinto a great many branches (or “caños,” as theyare called in the language of the country), each of which,slowly meandering in its own course, reaches the coastby a separate mouth, or “boca.” Of these caños thereare about fifty, embracing within their ramifications a342“delta” nearly half as large as England! Though theyhave all been distinguished by separate names, only threeor four of them are navigable by ships of any considerablesize; and, except to the few pilots whose dutyit is to conduct vessels into that main channel of theriver, the whole delta of the Orinoco may be regardedas a country still unexplored, and almost unknown. Indeed,the same remark might be made of the wholeriver, were it not for the magnificent monument left bythe great traveller Von Humboldt,—whose narrativeof the exploration of the Orinoco is, beyond all comparison,the finest book of travels yet given to the world.To him are we chiefly indebted for our knowledge ofthe Orinoco; since the Spanish nation, who, for morethan three centuries, have held undisputed possession ofthis mighty stream, have left us scarce a line about itworth either credit or record.

It is now more than half a century, since the dateof Humboldt’s “Personal Narrative;” and yet, strangeto say, during all that period, scarce an item has beenadded to our knowledge of the Orinoco, beyond whatthis scientific traveller had already told us. Indeed,there is not much to say: for there has been littlechange in the river since then,—either in the aspect ofnature, or the condition of man. What change therehas been possesses rather a retrograde, than a progressivecharacter. Still, now, as then, on the banksof the Orinoco, we behold a languid commerce,—characteristicof the decaying Spano-American race,—andthe declining efforts of a selfish and bigoted missionaryzeal, whose boasted aim of “christianizing and civilizing”has ended only in producing a greater brutalization.343After three centuries of paternosters and bell-ringing,the red savage of the Orinoco returns to the worshipof his ancestral gods,—or to no worship at all,—andfor this backsliding he can, perhaps, give a sufficientreason.

Pardon me, young reader, for this digression. It isnot my purpose to discuss the polemical relations ofthose who inhabit the banks of the Orinoco; but to giveyou some account of a very singular people who dwellnear its mouth,—upon the numerous caños, alreadymentioned as constituting its delta. These are the“Guaraons,”—a tribe of Indians,—usually consideredas a branch of the Great Carib family, but forming acommunity among themselves of seven or eight thousandsouls; and differing so much from most othersavages in their habits and mode of life, as fairly toentitle them to the appellation of an “Odd People.”

The Orinoco, like many other large rivers, is subjectto a periodical rise and fall; that is, once every year, theriver swells to a great height above its ordinary level.The swelling or “flood” was for a long time supposedto proceed from the melting of snow upon the cordillerasof the Andes,—in which mountains several of thetributaries of the Orinoco have their rise. This hypothesis,however, has been shown to be an incorrectone: since the main stream of the Orinoco does notproceed from the Andes, nor from any other snow-cappedmountains; but has its origin, as already stated,in the sierras of Guiana. The true cause of its periodicalrising, therefore, is the vast amount of rain whichfalls within the tropics; and this is itself occasioned bythe sun’s course across the torrid zone, which is also the344cause of its being periodical or “annual.” So exact isthe time at which these rains fall, and produce the floodsof the Orinoco, that the inhabitants of the river cantell, within a few days, when the rising will commence,and when the waters will reach their lowest!

The flood season very nearly corresponds to our ownsummer,—the rise commencing in April, and the riverbeing at its maximum height in August,—while theminimum is again reached in December. The heightto which the Orinoco rises has been variously estimatedby travellers: some alleging it to be nearly onehundred feet; while others estimate it to be onlyfifty, or even less! The reason of this discrepancymay be, that the measurements have been made atdifferent points,—at each of which, the actual heightto which the flood attains, may be greater or lessthan at the others. At any one place, however, therise is the same—or very nearly so—in successiveyears. This is proved by observations made at thetown of Angostura,—the lowest Spanish settlement ofany importance upon the Orinoco. There, nearly infront of the town, a little rocky islet towers up in themiddle of the river; the top of which is just fifty feetabove the bed of the stream, when the volume of wateris at its minimum. A solitary tree stands upon thepinnacle of this rock; and each year, when the wateris in full flood, the tree alone is visible,—the islet beingentirely submerged. From this peculiar circumstance,the little islet has obtained the name of “Orinocometer,”or measurer of the Orinoco.

The rise here indicated is about fifty feet; but itdoes not follow from this, that throughout its whole345course the river should annually rise to so great aheight. In reality it does not.

At Angostura, as the name imports, the river isnarrowed to less than half its usual width,—beingthere confined between high banks that impinge uponits channel. Above and below, it widens again; and,no doubt, in proportion to this widening will the annualrise be greater or less. In fact, at many places, thewidth of the stream is no longer that of its ordinarychannel; but, on the contrary, a vast “freshet” or inundation,covering the country for hundreds of miles,—hereflooding over immense marshes or grassy plains,and hiding them altogether,—there flowing amongforests of tall trees, the tops of which alone projectabove the tumult of waters! These inundations arepeculiarly observable in the delta of the Orinoco,—whereevery year, in the months of July and August,the whole surface of the country becomes changed intoa grand fresh-water sea: the tops of the trees alonerising above the flood, and proclaiming that there island at the bottom.

At this season the ordinary channels, or caños, wouldbe obliterated; and navigation through them becomedifficult or impossible, but for the tree-tops; which, afterthe manner of “buoys” and signal-marks, serve to guidethe pilots through the intricate mazes of the “bocas delOrinoco.”

Now it is this annual inundation, and the semi-submergenceof these trees under the flood, that has givenorigin to the peculiar people of whom we are about tospeak,—the Guaraons; or, perhaps, we should rathersay, from these causes have arisen their strange habits346and modes of life which entitle them to be consideredan “odd people.”

During the period of the inundation, if you should sailup the southern or principal caño of the Orinoco,—knownas the “boca de navios,” or “ships’ mouth,”—andkeep your face to the northward, you would beholdthe singular spectacle of a forest growing out of thewater! In some places you would perceive single trees,with the upper portion of their straight, branchless trunksrising vertically above the surface, and crowned by abouta dozen great fan-shaped leaves, radiating outwards fromtheir summits. At other places, you would see manycrowded together, their huge fronds meeting, and formingclose clumps, or “water groves,” whose deep-greencolor contrasts finely as it flings its reflection on the glisteningsurface below.

Were it night,—and your course led you through oneof the smaller caños in the northern part of the delta,—youwould behold a spectacle yet more singular, andmore difficult to be explained; a spectacle that astoundedand almost terrified the bold navigators, who first venturedto explore these intricate coasts. You would notonly perceive a forest, growing out of the water; but,high up among the tops of the trees, you would beholdblazing fires,—not the conflagration of the trees themselves,as if the forest were in flames,—but fires regularlybuilt, glowing as from so many furnaces, and castingtheir red glare upwards upon the broad green leaves,and downwards upon the silvery surface of the water!

If you should chance to be near enough to these fires,you would see cooking utensils suspended over them;human forms, both of men and women, seated or squatting347around them; other human forms, flitting like shadowsamong the tops of the trees; and down below, uponthe surface of the water, a fleet of canoes (periaguas),fastened with their mooring-ropes to the trunks. Allthis would surprise you,—as it did the early navigators,—and,very naturally, you would inquire what it couldmean. Fires apparently suspended in the air! humanbeings moving about among the tops of the trees, talking,laughing, and gesticulating! in a word, acting just as anyother savages would do,—for these human beings aresavages,—amidst the tents of their encampment, or thehouses of their village. In reality it is a village uponwhich you are gazing,—a village suspended in the air,—avillage of the Guaraon Indians!

Let us approach nearer; let us steal into this water-village—forit would not be always safe to enter it,except by stealth—and see how its singular habitationsare constructed, as also in what way their occupantsmanage to get their living. The village under our observationis now,—at the period of inundation,—nearlya hundred miles from shore, or from any dry land: itwill be months before the waters can subside; and, eventhen, the country around will partake more of the natureof a quagmire, than of firm soil; impassable to anyhuman being,—though not to a Guaraon, as we shallpresently see. It is true, the canoes, already mentioned,might enable their owners to reach the firm shores beyondthe delta; and so they do at times; but it wouldbe a voyage too long and too arduous to be made often,—asfor the supply of food and other daily wants,—andit is not for this purpose the canoes are kept. Nothese Guaraons visit terra firma only at intervals; and348then for purposes of trade with a portion of their own andother tribes who dwell there; but they permanently residewithin the area of the inundated forests; where they areindependent, not only of foreign aggression, but also fortheir supply of all the necessaries of life. In these forests,whether flooded or not, they procure everything ofwhich they stand in need,—they there find, to use anold-fashioned phrase, “meat, drink, washing, and lodging.”In other words: were the inundation to continueforever, and were the Guaraons entirely prohibited fromintercourse with the dry land, they could still find subsistencein this, their home upon the waters.

Whence comes their subsistence? No doubt you willsay that fish is their food; and drink, of course, theyhave in abundance; but this would not be the true explanation.It is true they eat fish, and turtle, and theflesh of the manatee, or “fish-cow,”—since the capturingof these aquatic creatures is one of the chief occupationsof the Guaraons,—but they are oft times entirelywithout such food; for, it is to be observed, that, duringthe period of the inundations fish are not easily caught,sometimes not at all. At these times the Guaraonswould starve—since, like all other savages, they areimprovident—were it not that the singular region theyinhabit supplies them with another article of food,—onethat is inexhaustible.

What is this food, and from whence derived? It willscarce surprise you to hear that it is the produce of thetrees already mentioned; but perhaps you will deem itsingular when I tell you that the trees of this great water-forestare all of one kind,—all of the same species,—sothat here we have the remarkable fact of a single349species of vegetable, growing without care or cultivation,and supplying all the wants of man,—his food, clothing,fuel, utensils, ropes, houses, and boats,—not even drinkexcepted, as will presently be seen.

The name of this wonderful tree? “Itá,” the Guaraonscall it; though it is more generally known as“morichi” among the Spanish inhabitants of the Orinoco;but I shall here give my young reader an accountof it, from which he will learn something more than itsname.

The itá is a true palm-tree, belonging to the genusmauritia; and, I may remark, that notwithstanding theresemblance in sound, the name of the genus is not derivedfrom the words “morichi,” “murichi,” or “muriti,”all of which are different Indian appellations of this tree.Mauritia is simply a Latinized designation borrowedfrom the name of Prince Maurice of Nassau, in whosehonor the genus was named. The resemblance, therefore,is merely accidental. I may add, too, that there aremany species of mauritia growing in different parts oftropical America,—some of them palms of large size,and towering height, with straight, smooth trunks; whileothers are only tiny little trees, scarce taller than a man,and with their trunks thickly covered with conical protuberancesor spines.

Some of them, moreover, affect a high, dry soil, beyondthe reach of floods; while others do not prosper,except on tracts habitually marshy, or annually coveredwith inundations. Of these latter, the itá is perhaps themost conspicuous; since we have already stated, thatfor nearly six months of the year it grows literally outof the water.

350Like all its congeners, the itá is a “fan-palm;” thatis, its leaves, instead of being pinnately divided, as inmost species of palms, or altogether entire, as in somefew, radiate from the midrib of the leaf-stalk, intoa broad palmated shape, bearing considerable resemblanceto a fan when opened to its full extent. At thetips these leaflets droop slightly, but at that end wherethey spring out of the midrib, they are stiff and rigid.The petiole, or leafstalk itself, is long, straight, andthick; and where it clasps the stem or trunk, is swollenout to a foot in width, hollowed, or concave on the upperside. A full-grown leaf, with its petiole, is a wonderfulobject to look upon. The stalk is a solid beam fulltwelve feet in length, and the leaf has a diameter ofnearly as much. Leaf and stalk together make a load,just as much as one man can carry upon his shoulders!

Set about a dozen of these enormous leaves on thesummit of a tall cylindrical column of five feet in circumference,and about one hundred in height,—placethem with their stalks clasping or sheathing its top,—sothat the spreading fans will point in every directionoutwards, inclining slightly upwards; do this, and youwill have the great morichi palm. Perhaps, you maysee the trunk swollen at its middle or near the top,—sothat its lower part is thinner than above,—but moreoften the huge stem is a perfect cylinder. Perhaps youmay see several of the leaves drooping downward, asif threatening to fall from the tree; you may even seethem upon the ground where they have fallen, and asplendid ruin they appear. You may see again risingupward out of the very centre of the crown of foliage,a straight, thick-pointed column. This is the young leaf351in process of development,—its tender leaflets yet unopened,and closely clasped together. But the fervidtropical sun soon produces expansion; and a new fantakes the place of the one that has served its time andfallen to the earth,—there to decay, or to be sweptoff by the flood of waters.

Still more may be noticed, while regarding this noblepalm. Out of that part of the trunk,—where it isembraced by the sheathing bases of the petioles,—at acertain season of the year, a large spathe will be seento protrude itself, until it has attained a length of severalfeet. This spathe is a bract-like sheath, of an imperfecttubular form. It bursts open; and then appears thehuge spadix of flowers, of a whitish-green color, arrangedalong the flower-stalk in rows,—pinnately. Itwill be observed, moreover, that these spadices are differentupon different trees; for it must be rememberedthat the mauritia palm is diœcious,—that is, having thefemale flowers on one tree, and the male or staminiferousflowers upon another. After the former haveglowed for a time in the heat of the sun, and receivedthe fertilizing pollen wafted to them by the breeze,—carriedby bee or bird, or transported by some unknownand mysterious agency of nature,—the fruits take formand ripen. These, when fully ripe, have attained tothe size of a small apple, and are of a very similar form.They are covered with small brown, smooth scales,—givingthem somewhat the appearance of fir-cones, exceptthat they are roundish instead of being cone-shaped.Underneath the scales there is a thinnish layer of pulp,and then the stone or nut. A single spadix willcarry several hundreds—thousands, I might say—of352these nuts; and the whole bunch is a load equal to thestrength of two ordinary men!

Such is the itá palm. Now for its uses,—the usesto which it is put by the Guaraons.

When the Guaraon wishes to build himself a habitation,he does not begin by digging a foundation in theearth. In the spongy soil on which he stands, thatwould be absurd. At a few inches below the surfacehe would reach water; and he might dig to a vast depthwithout finding firm ground. But he has no idea oflaying a foundation upon the ground, or of building ahouse there. He knows that in a few weeks the riverwill be rising; and would overtop his roof, howeverhigh he might make it. His foundation, therefore, insteadof being laid in the ground, is placed far above it,—justso far, that when the inundation is at its heightthe floor of his dwelling will be a foot or two above it.He does not take this height from guesswork. Thatwould be a perilous speculation. He is guided by certainmarks upon the trunks of palm-trees,—notcheswhich he has himself made on the preceding year, orthe natural watermark, which he is able to distinguishby certain appearances on the trees. This point oncedetermined, he proceeds to the building of his house.

A few trunks are selected, cut down, and then splitinto beams of sufficient length. Four fine trees, standingin a quadrangle, have already been selected to formthe corner-posts. In each of these, just above thewatermark, is cut a deep notch with a horizontal base toserve as a rest for the cross-beams that are to form thefoundation of the structure. Into these notches thebeams are hoisted,—by means of ropes,—and there353securely tied. To reach the point where the platformis to be erected—sometimes a very high elevation—laddersare necessary; and these are of native manufacture,—beingsimply the trunk of a palm-tree, withnotches cut in it for the toes of the climber. Theseafterwards serve as a means of ascending and descendingto the surface of the water, during the period ofits rise and fall. The main timbers having been firmlysecured in their places, cross-beams are laid upon them,the latter being either pieces of the split trunks, or,what is usually easier to obtain, the petioles of the greatleaves,—each of which, as already stated, forms ofitself a large beam, twelve feet in length and from sixto twelves inches in breadth. These are next securedat both ends by ropes of the palm-fibre.

Next comes a layer of palm-leaves, the strong, toughleaflets serving admirably as laths to uphold the coatingof mud, which is laid thickly over them. The mud isobtained from below, without difficulty, and in any quantityrequired; and when trowelled smooth, and dry,—whichit soon becomes under the hot sun,—constitutesan excellent floor, where a fire may be kindled withoutdanger of burning either the laths or joists underneath.

As yet the Guaraon has completed only the floor ofhis dwelling, but that is his principal labor. He caresnot for walls,—neither sides nor gables. There is nocold, frosty weather to chill him in his tropical home,—nosnow to be kept out. The rain alone, usually fallingin a vertical direction, has to be guarded against; andfrom this he secures himself by a second platform oflighter materials, covered with mats, which he has354already woven for the purpose, and with palm-leafletsso placed as to cast off the heaviest shower. This alsoshelters him against the burning sun,—an enemywhich he dreads even more than the rain.

His house is now finished; and, with the exception ofthe mud floor, is all of itá palm,—beams, cross-timbers,laths, ropes, and mats. The ropes he has obtained bystripping off the epidermis of the full-grown leaflets,and then twisting it into cordage of any thickness required.For this purpose it is equal to hemp. Themats he has made from the same material,—and welldoes he, or rather his wife—for this is usually the workof the females—know how to plait and weave them.

Having completed the building of his aerial dwelling,the Guaraon would eat. He has fish, which has beencaught in the neighboring caño,—perhaps turtle,—perhapsthe flesh of the manatee, or the alligator,—forhis palate is by no means of a delicate fineness, andwill not refuse a steak from the tail of the Americancrocodile. But when the flood time is on, fish becomescarce, or cannot be had at all,—no more can turtles,or sea-cows, or alligators. Besides, scarce or plenty,something else is wanted to vary the diet. Bread iswanted; and for this the Guaraon has not far to go.The itá again befriends him, for he finds, upon splittingopen its trunk, a large deposit of medullary pith orfecula; which, when submitted to the process of bruisingor grating, and afterwards stirred in water, forms asediment at the bottom of the vessel, a substance notonly eatable, but equal in excellence to the well-knownproduce of the sago palm.

This farinaceous pith, formed into cakes and roasted355over the fire,—the fuel being supplied by leaves andleafstalks,—constitutes the yuruma,—the daily breadof the Guaraon.

The yuruma, or rather the sago out of which it ismade, is not obtainable at all times. It is the malepalm which produces it; and it must be extracted justas the tree is about to expand its spadix of flowers.The same curious fact is observed with regard to themaguey, or great American aloe, which produces thedrink called “pulque.” To procure the sap in anyconsiderable quantity, the maguey must be tapped juston that day when the flower-stalk is about to shootupward from among the leaves.

The Guaraon, having eaten his yuruma, would drink.Does he have recourse to the water which flows inabundance beneath his dwelling? No. On ordinaryoccasions he may quench his thirst in that way; but hewishes for some beverage more cheering. Again theitá yields it without stint, and even gives him a choice.He may tap the trunk, and draw forth the sap; which,after being submitted to a process of fermentation, becomesa wine,—“ßmurichi wine,” a beverage which, ifthe Guaraon be so inclined, and drink to excess, willmake him “as drunk as a lord”!

But he may indulge in a less dangerous, and moredelicate drink, also furnished by his favorite itá. Thishe obtains by flinging a few of the nuts into a vesselof water, and leaving them awhile to ferment; thenbeating them with a pestle, until the scales and pulpare detached; and, lastly, passing the water through asieve of palm-fibre. This done, the drink is ready to bequaffed. For all these purposes tools and utensils are356required, but the itá also furnishes them. The trunkcan be scooped out into dishes; or cut into spoons,ladles, and trenchers. The flower “spathe” also giveshim cups and saucers. Iron tools, such as hatchets andknives, he has obtained from commerce with Europeans;but, before their arrival in the New World, the Guaraonhad his hatchet of flint, and his knife-blade of obsidian;and even now, if necessary, he could manage withoutmetal of any kind.

The bow and arrows which he uses are obtained fromthe tough, sinewy petiole of the leaf; so is the harpoon-spearwith which he strikes the great manatee, the porpoise,and the alligator; the canoe, light as cork, whichcarries him through the intricate channels of the delta,is the hollow trunk of a morichi palm. His nets andlines, and the cloth which he wears around his loins,are all plaited or woven from the young leaflets beforethey have expanded into the fan-like leaf.

Like other beings, the Guaraon must at times sleep.Where does he stretch his body,—on the floor?—on amat? No. He has already provided himself with amore luxurious couch,—the “rede,” or hammock, whichhe suspends between two trees; and in this he reclines,not only during the night, but by day, when the sun istoo hot to admit of violent exertion. His wife haswoven the hammock most ingeniously. She has cut offthe column of young leaves, that projects above thecrown of the morichi. This she has shaken, until thetender leaflets become detached from each other andfall apart. Each she now strips of its outer covering,—athin, ribbon-like pellicle of a pale-yellow color,—whichshrivels up almost like a thread. These she ties357into bundles, leaving them to dry awhile; after whichshe spins them into strings, or, if need be, twists theminto larger cords. She then places two horizontal rodsor poles about six feet apart, and doubles the string overthem some forty or fifty times. This constitutes thewoof; and the warp is obtained by cross-strings twistedor tied to each of the longitudinal ones, at intervals ofseven or eight inches. A strong cord, made from theepidermis of the full-grown leaves, is now passed throughthe loop of all the strings, drawn together at both ends,and the poles are then pulled out. The hammock, beingfinished and hung up between two trees, provides thenaked Indian with a couch, upon which he may reposeas luxuriantly as a monarch on his bed of down. Thus,then, does a single tree furnish everything which man,in his primitive simplicity, may require. No wonderthat the enthusiastic missionaries have given to themorichi-palm the designation of “arbol de vida” (treeof life).

It may be asked why does the Guaraon live in such astrange fashion,—especially when on all sides aroundhim there are vast tracts of terra firma upon which hemight make his dwelling, and where he could, with farless difficulty, procure all the necessaries, and many ofthe luxuries of life? The question is easily answered;and this answer will be best given by asking others inreturn. Why do the Esquimaux and Laplanders clingto their inhospitable home upon the icy coasts of theArctic Sea? Why do tribes of men take to the cold,barren mountains, and dwell there, within sight of lovelyand fertile plains? Why do others betake themselvesto the arid steppes and dreary recesses of the desert?

358No doubt the Guaraon, by powerful enemies forcedfrom his aboriginal home upon the firm soil, first soughtrefuge in the marshy flats where we now encounter him;there he found security from pursuit and oppression;there—even at the expense of other luxuries—hewas enabled to enjoy the sweetest of all,—the luxuryof liberty.

What was only a necessity at first, soon became ahabit; and that habit is now an essential part of hisnature. Indeed, it is not so long since the necessityitself has been removed.

Even at the present hour, the Guaraon would not besecure, were he to stray too far from his shelteringmarshes,—for, sad though it be to say so, the poorIndian, when beyond the protection of his tribe, is inmany parts of South America still treated as a slave.In the delta he feels secure. No slave-hunter,—noenemy can follow him there. Even the foeman of hisown race cannot compete with him in crossing the wideflats of spongy quagmire,—over which, from long habit,he is enabled to glide with the lightness and fleetness ofa bird. During the season of overflow, or when thewaters have fallen to their lowest, he is equally securefrom aggression or pursuit; and, no doubt, in spite ofmissionary zeal,—in spite of the general progress ofcivilization,—in this savage security he will long remain.



One of the oldest “odd” people with which we areacquainted are the Laps or Laplanders. For many centuriesthe more civilized nations of Europe have listenedto strange accounts, told by travellers of these strangepeople; many of these accounts being exaggerated, andothers totally untrue. Some of the old travellers, beingmisled by the deer-skin dresses worn by the Laps, believed,or endeavored to make others believe, that theywere born with hairy skins like wild beasts; and onetraveller represented that they had only a single eye,and that in the middle of the breast! This very absurdconception about a one-eyed people gained credit, evenso late as the time of Sir Walter Raleigh,—with thisdifference, that the locality of these gentry with the odd“optic” was South America instead of Northern Europe.

In the case of the poor Laplander, not the slightestexaggeration is needed to render him an interestingstudy, either to the student of ethnology, or to themerely curious reader. He needs neither the odd eyenor the hairy pelt. In his personal appearance, dress,dwelling, mode of occupation, and subsistence, he is so360different from almost every other tribe or nation of people,as to furnish ample matter for a monograph at onceunique and amusing.

I shall not stay to inquire whence originated this oddspecimen of humanity. Such speculations are moresuited to those so-called learned ethnologists, who, resemblingthe anatomists in other branches of naturalhistory, delight to deal in the mere pedantry of science,—who,from the mere coincidence of a few words, canprove that two peoples utterly unlike have sprung froma common source: precisely as Monsieur Cuvier, by theexamination of a single tooth, has proved that a rabbitwas a rhinoceros!

I shall not, therefore, waste time in this way, in huntingup the origin of the miserable Laplander; nor doesit matter much where he sprang from. He either camefrom somewhere else, or was created in Lapland,—oneof the two; and I defy all the philosophers in creationto say which: since there is no account extant of whenhe first arrived in that cold northern land,—not a wordto contradict the idea of his having been there since thefirst creation of the human race. We find him therenow; and that is all that we have to do with his originat present. Were we to speculate, as to what races arekindred to him, and to which he bears the greatest resemblance,we should say that he was of either the sameor similar origin with the Esquimaux of North America,the Greenlanders of Greenland, and the Samoeids, Tuski,and other tribes dwelling along the northern shores ofAsia. Among all these nations of little men, there is avery great similarity, both in personal appearance andhabits of life; but it would not be safe to say that they361all came from one common stock. The resemblancesmay be the result of a similarity in the circumstances,by which they are surrounded. As for language,—somuch relied upon by the scientific ethnologist,—therecould scarce be a more unreliable guide. The blacknegro of Carolina, the fair blue-eyed Saxon, and thered-skinned, red-polled Hibernian, all speak one language;the descendants of all three, thousands of yearshence, will speak the same,—perhaps when they arewidely scattered apart,—and the superficial philosopherof those future times will, no doubt, ascribe to them allone common origin!

Language, of itself, is no proof of the natural affinitiesof two peoples. It is evidence of their once having beenin juxtaposition,—not much more. Of course whenother points correspond, similarity of speech becomes avaluable corroboration. It is not our purpose, then, toinquire whence the Laplander came,—only where heis now, and what he is how. Where is he now?

If you take your map of Europe, and draw a line fromthe Gulf of Kandalax, in the White Sea, to the middleof the Loffoden Isles, on the Norwegian coast, you willcut off the country which is now properly called Lapland.The country at present inhabited by the people calledLaplanders, will be found north of this line. It is aboundary more imaginary than real: for in truth thereis no political division known as Lapland, nor has therebeen for hundreds of years. It is said there once wasa kingdom of Lapland, and a nation of Laplanders; butthere is no proof that either one or the other ever existed.There was a peculiar people, whom we now style Laplanders,scattered over the whole northern part of the362Scandinavian peninsula, and wandering as far south asthe shores of the Gulf of Bothnia; but, that this peoplehad ever any general compact, or union, deserving thename of government or nation, there is no proof. Thereis no evidence that they ever enjoyed a higher degree ofcivilization than they do at present; and that is not oneiota higher than exists among the Esquimaux of NorthAmerica,—notwithstanding the advantage which theLaplander has in the domestication of a ruminatingquadruped and a knowledge of the Christian religion.

The tract of country which I have above assigned tothe modern Laplander, is to be regarded rather as meaningthat portion of Northern Europe, which can scarcelybe said to be in the occupation of any other people.True Laplanders may be found dwelling, or rather wandering,much to the south of the line here indicated,—almostto the head of the Bothnian Gulf,—but in thesesouthern districts, he no longer has the range clear tohimself. The Finn—a creature of a very differentkind—here meets him; constantly encroaching as acolonist on that territory which once belonged to theLaplander alone.

It becomes necessary to say a few words about thenames we are using: since a perfect chaos of confusionhas arisen among travellers and writers, in relation tothe nomenclature of these two people,—the Finns andthe Laplanders.

In the first place, then, there is in reality no such apeople as Laplanders in Northern Europe. The wordis a mere geographical invention, or “synonyme,” if youwish. The people to whom we apply the name, callthemselves “Samlash;” the Danes and Norwegians363term them “Finns;” and the Swedes and Russiansstyle them “Laps.” The people whom we know asFinns—and who are not Laplanders in any sense—havereceived the appellation of Finns erroneously.These Finns have for a long period been making progress,as colonists, in the territory once occupied by thetrue Finns, or Laplanders; and have nothing in commonwith these last people. They are agriculturists,and dwell in fixed settlements; not pastoral and nomadic,as the Laplanders eminently are. Besides, there aremany other essential points of difference between thetwo,—in mind,—in personal appearance, in habits, inalmost everything. I am particular upon this point,—becausethe wrong application of the name Finns, tothis last-mentioned race, has led writers into a world oferror; and descriptions given of them and their habitshave been applied to the people who are the subjects ofthe present chapter,—leading, of course, to the mosterroneous conclusions. It would be like exhibiting thepicture of a Caffre as the likeness of a Hottentot orBushman!

The Finns, as geography now designates them,—andwhich also assigns to them a country called Finland,—are,therefore, not Finns at all. Where they are foundin the old Lapland territory as colonists, they are calledQüans; and this name is given them alike by Russians,Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians.

To return to our Laplanders, who are the true Finns.I have said that they are called by different names; bythe Danes and Norwegians “Finns,” and by the Russiansand Swedes simply “Laps.” No known meaningis attached to either name; nor can it be discovered at364what period either came into use. Enough to know thatthese are the designations by which they are now knownto those four nations who have had chiefly to deal withthem.

Since these people have received so many appellations,—andespecially one that leads to much confusion,—perhapsit is better, for geography’s sake, to acceptthe error: to leave the new Finns to their usurped title,and to give the old Finns that distinctive name bywhich they are best known to the world, viz. Laplanders.So long as it is remembered, that this is merely a geographicaltitle, no harm can result from employing it;and should the word Finns occur hereafter, it is to beconsidered as meaning not the Finns of NorwegianFinmark, but the Qüans of Finland, on the Gulf ofBothnia.

I have spoken of the country of the Laplanders, asif they had a country. They have not. There is aterritory in which they dwell; but it is not theirs.Long, long ago the lordship of the soil was taken fromthem; and divided between three powerful neighbors.Russia took her largest slice from the east; Swedenfell in for its southern part; and Norway claimed thatnorthern and western portion, lying along the Atlanticand Arctic Oceans. This afterwards became the propertyof Denmark: when Norway herself ceased to beindependent.

The country, therefore, which I have defined as Lapland,in modern times is so styled, merely because it isalmost exclusively occupied by these people: it notbeing worth the while of their Danish, Swedish, orRussian masters to colonize it. All three, however,365claim their share of it,—have their regular boundarylines,—and each mulcts the miserable Laplander of anannual tribute, in the shape of a small poll-tax. Each,too, has forced his own peculiar views of Christianityon those within his borders,—the Russian has shapedthe Lap into a Greek Christian; while, under Swedishinfluence, he is a disciple of Martin Luther. His faith,however, is not very rational, one way or the other;and, in out-of-the-way corners of his chaotic country,he still adheres to some of his old mythic customs ofsorcery and witchcraft: in other words, he is a “pagan.”

Before proceeding to describe the Laplander, eitherpersonally or intellectually, a word about the country inwhich he dwells. I have called it a chaotic land. Ithas been described as a “huge congeries of frightfulrocks and stupendous mountains, with many pleasantvalleys, watered by an infinite number of rivulets, thatrun into the rivers and lakes.” Some of the lakes areof large extent, containing a countless number of islands;one alone—the Lake Enaro—having so many, that ithas been said no Laplander has lived long enough tovisit each particular island. There is a great variety inthe surface of the land. In some parts of the countrythe eye rests only on peaks and ridges of bleak, barrenmountains,—on summits covered with never-meltingsnow,—on bold, rocky cliffs or wooded slopes, whereonly the firs and birches can flourish. In other partsthere are dusky forests of pines, intersected here andthere by wide morasses or bogs. Elsewhere, are extensivetracts of treeless champaign, covered with the whitereindeer-lichen, as if they were under a fall of snow!

During summer there are many green and beautiful366spots, where even the rose sheds its fragrance around,and many berry-bearing bushes blossom brightly; butthe summer is of short duration, and in those partswhere it is most attractive, the pest of gnats, mosquitoes,and gad-flies, renders the country uninhabitable to theLaplander. We shall see presently, that, in the summermonths, he flees from such lowland scenes, as from apestilence; and betakes himself and his herd to thebleak, barren mountains.

Having given this short sketch of the country inhabitedby the Laplander, we proceed to a descriptionof himself.

He is short,—not more than five feet five inches,average height,—squat and stoutish,—rarely corpulent,—thoughthere is a difference in all these respects,between those who inhabit different parts of the country.The Laps of Norwegian Lapland are taller than thosein the Russian and Swedish territory.

His features are small, his eyes elongated, or slit-like,as among the Mongolian tribes; his cheek-bones prominent,—hismouth large and wide, and his chin sharplypointed. His hair is black, or sometimes brownish;though among some tribes settled along the coasts lighthair is not uncommon. It is probable that this mayhave originated in some admixture of blood with Norwegian,Russian, and other fishermen who frequentthese coasts.

The Laplander has little or no beard; and in thisrespect he resembles the Greenlander and Esquimaux.His body is ill made, bony and muscular, and strongerthan would be expected from his pigmy stature. Heis active, and capable of enduring extreme fatigue and367privation; though it is a mistake to suppose that he isthe agile creature he has been represented,—this errorarising no doubt from the surprising speed with whichhabit has enabled him to skate over the frozen snow;and which, to a person unused to it, would appear toprove an extraordinary degree of agility. The handsand feet are small,—another point in common with theEsquimaux. The Laplander’s voice is far from being amanly one. On the contrary, it is of small compass,weak, and of a squeaking tone. The complexion of theLaplander is generally regarded as dark. Its naturalhue is perhaps not much darker than that of the Norwegian.Certainly not darker than many Portugueseor Spaniards; but, as he is seen, he appears as swarthas an Indian. This, however, arises from the long andalmost constant exposure to smoke: in the midst ofwhich the miserable creature spends more than halfof his time.

It may again be observed, that those dwelling on thesea-shore are of lighter complexion; but perhaps thatis also due to a foreign admixture.

We have given a picture of the Laplander’s person;now a word or two about his mind.

Both his intellectual and moral man are peculiar,—evenmore so than his physical,—differing essentiallyfrom that of all the other nationalities with which he isbrought in contact. He is cold-hearted, selfish, andmorose. To love he is almost a stranger; and whensuch a feeling does exist within his bosom, it is rather asa spark than a passion. His courtship and marriage arepure matters of business,—rarely having any othermotive than self-interest. One woman will do for his368wife as well as another; and better, if she be richerby half a dozen reindeer!

Hospitality is a virtue equally unknown to him. Hewishes to see no stranger; and even wonders why astranger should stray into his wild, bleak country. Heis ever suspicious of the traveller through his land;unless that traveller chance to come in the guise of aRussian or Norwegian merchant, to exchange strongbrandy for his reindeer-skins, or the furs of the animalshe may have trapped. In his dealings he exhibits asufficient degree of cunning,—much more than mightbe expected from the low standard of his intellect; andhe will take no paper-money or any kind of “scrip” inexchange. This caution, however, he has acquiredfrom a terrible experience, which he once had in dealingwith paper-money; and he is determined that the follyshall never again be repeated. Even in his out-of-theway corner of the globe, there was at one time a bankspeculation of the “Anglo-Bengalee” character, ofwhich the poor Lap was made an especial victim.

He has no courage whatever. He will not resistoppression. The stranger—Russ or Norwegian—maystrike, kick, or cuff him,—he will not return the blow.Belike he will burst into tears!

And yet, under some circumstances, he shows a feelingakin to courage. He is cool in moments of dangerfrom the elements, or when opposed to fierce animals, asthe wolf or the bear. He is also capable of enduringfatigue to an extreme degree; and it is known historicallythat he was once warlike,—at least much moreso than at present. Now, there is not a drop of warriorblood in his veins. On the contrary, he is timid and369pacific, and rarely quarrels. He carries constantly uponhis person a long ugly knife, of Norwegian manufacture;but he has never been known to draw it,—never knownto commit murder with it.

These are certainly virtues; but it is to be feared thatwith him they owe their origin to timidity and the dreadof consequences. Now and then he has a quarrel withone of his fellows; but the knife is never used; and the“punishment” consists in giving and receiving variouskicks, scratches, pullings of the hair and ears: genuineblows, however, are not attempted, and the long knifenever leaves its sheath.

In the olden time he was a great believer in witches;in fact, noted for his faith in sorcery. Christianity, suchas it is, has done much to eradicate this belief; but he isstill troubled with a host of superstitions.

Of filial and parental affection his stock is but scanty.The son shifts for himself, as soon as he is able to do so;and but little anxiety is exhibited about him afterwards.The daughter goes to the highest bidder,—to him whois most liberal in presents of brandy to the parent. Jealousyis little known. How could it be felt, where thereis no love?

One of the worst vices of the Laplander is his fondnessfor drink,—amounting almost to a passion. It isone of his costliest, too: since he often consumes theproduce of his industry in its indulgence. His favoritebeverage is strong, bad brandy,—a staple article keptby the traders, to exchange for the commodities whichthe country affords. As these men care little for theresult, and have a far greater influence over the Laplanderthan either the government officials, or the lazy,370timeserving missionaries, it is not probable that temperancewill ever be introduced among these wretched people.Fortunately, only the coast Laplanders are at alltimes subject to this influence. The mountain peopleor those who dwell most of their time in the interior,are too distant from the “tap” to be so grievously affectedby it. It is only on their short annual visits tothe merchant stations on the coast, that they fall extensivelyinto the jaws of this degrading vice.

The dress of the Laplander is now to be described.

The men wear on their heads tall caps, of a conicalform, usually of a cloth called wadmal, or some speciesof kersey furnished by the merchants. This cap has atassel at top, and around the bottom is turned up severalinches,—where it is strengthened by a band of reindeer-skin,or the fur of the otter. The coat is a loose garmentor frock: made of the skin of the reindeer, withthe hairy side out, and fastened around the waist with abroad leathern belt.

In this belt is stuck the pointed knife, and a pouch ortwo, for pipe, tobacco, and spoon, are also suspendedfrom it. Breeches of reindeer-skin—the hide of theyoung fawns—reach to the ankles; and buskins, orrather stockings, of the same material cover the feet.These are gartered over the ends of the breeches, insuch a way that no snow can get in; and since thereis neither shirt nor drawers worn, we have given everyarticle of a Laplander’s dress. No. There are the gloves,or mittens, which must not be forgotten,—as they areone of the things most essential to his comfort. Theseare also the universal deer-hide.

Simple as is this dress of the Lapland men, it is not371more simple than that of the Lapland women, since bothone and the other are exactly alike. A slight differenceis observable in the shape of the bonnet; but for therest, the lady wears the deer-skin frock, the breeches,and boots,—and like her liege lord, she scorns to includelinen in her wardrobe. This plain dress, however,is the every-day winter costume. The summer one, andespecially upon grand occasions, is somewhat different,and altogether gayer. The shape is much the same;but the tunic or frock is of cloth, sometimes plain, coarsewadmal; but in the case of the richer proprietors, offine colored cloth,—even scarlet being sometimes worn.No matter what the quality of the cloth, however, thetrimmings are always of rich, bright-colored stuffs; andconsist of bands or cords around the skirt, sleeves, andcollar, elaborately stitched by the females,—who are inall cases the tailors. The leathern belt, worn with thisdress, is loaded with ornaments,—little square and triangularplates of brass or white metal, and often ofheavy, solid silver. The belt is an esteemed article,—asmuch so as his wampum to a North-American savage,—andit requires a large sum to tempt a Laplander topart with the precious equipment. A finer cap is alsoworn, on these summer and holiday occasions. Notunfrequently, however, the Laplander—especially themountain Lap—sticks to his deer-skin coat, the paesk,through all weathers, and throughout all seasons,—whenit is too hot simply taking off the belt, and leaving theflaps loose and open. In cold weather, and especiallywhen riding in his sledge, an additional garment is worn.This is a fur “tippet,” which covers his shoulders downto the elbows. It is made from the shaggy skin of the372brown bear,—with the claws left on and hanging downin front of the breast.

Before proceeding to describe the mode of life andoccupation of the Laplander, it is necessary to state thatall of the people known as Laplanders, are not occupiedalike. On the contrary, they may be separated intothree distinct classes, according to the lives which theylead; and it is absolutely necessary to make this classificationin the illustration of their habits. They are allalike in race and national characteristics,—all Laplanders,—andthey differ but little in their style of dressing;but, in other respects, what might be said of onewould not be true of the other two. I proceed, therefore,to point out the distinction.

The first to be noticed are those we have alreadymentioned under the title of “Coast,” or “Shore Laplanders.”The name will give an idea of their habitat,—asalso their mode of life and subsistence. Theydwell along the Norwegian coasts, round to the NorthCape, and even beyond it. They build their gammes,or sod-thatched dwellings, in little villages around thenumerous creeks and “fiords” that intersect this rock-boundshore.

Their calling is that of fishermen. They subsistalmost entirely upon fish; and live by selling their surplusto the merchants and Russian traders. They keepa few sheep, sometimes a poor cow, but rarely own thereindeer. The life they lead is entirely different fromthat of their kindred, who dwell habitually in the interior.As it differs little from that of poor fishermenelsewhere, I shall dismiss the coast Laplander withoutanother word.

373The second kind of Lap who merits our consideration,is that known as the “Wood Laplander,” or, morecommonly, “Wood Lap.” He is less known than eitherof the two other varieties; but, as already stated, hediffers from them principally on account of his occupation.His home is to be found upon the extensive plaincountry of Russian Lapland, and not near the sea. Heis a dweller in the pine and fir-forests; and builds hima rude hut, very similar to the gamme of the coast Lap;but he is in possession of some reindeer,—not enough,however, to support him,—and he ekes out a subsistenceby fishing in the rivers and fresh-water lakes ofthe interior, by shooting the elk and wild reindeer,and trapping the fur-bearing animals,—the ermine, thesable, the miniver-squirrel, the badger, glutton, foxes,and wolves.

As his calling is chiefly that of a hunter and trapper,and therefore very similar to like occupations in manyother parts of the world, we need not enter into detailsof it here. For the present, therefore, we must shelvethe Wood Lap along with his kinsman of the coast.

This brings us to the third class,—the “Mountain,”or, as he is often called, the “Reindeer Laplander:”since it is the possession of this animal that chiefly distinguisheshim from the other two classes of his countrymen.

His mode of life is altogether different from either,—infact, resembling theirs in but few particulars. True,he fishes a little, and occasionally does a bit of amateurhunting; but these are mere adjuncts or pastimes. Hismain support is his antlered flock: it would be moretruthful to call it his sole support. By the reindeer he374lives, by the reindeer he moves, by the reindeer he hashis being.

His life is purely pastoral; he is a nomade,—a wanderer.All the world knows this; but all the worlddoes not know why he wanders. Writers have assertedthat it was to seek new pasture for his flocks,—the oldground having been eaten bare. Nothing of the sort.He leaves the fertile plains, just as the willows areputting forth their succulent shoots,—just as the richgrass begins to spring fresh and green,—and betakeshimself to the bleak sides of the mountains. That doesnot look like seeking for a better pasture. It has nothingto do with it.

Let us follow him, however, throughout his wanderings,—throughthe circuit of a single year,—and, perhaps,we shall find out the motive that inducts him intothe roving habit.

First, then, to be a “Reindeer Laplander,” he mustbe the owner of one hundred head of deer; fewer thanthat will be of no use. If he have only fifty, he mustsell out, and betake himself to some settlement of Qüansor Norwegians,—there to give his service for hire,—orelse turn Coast Laplander and fisherman,—a callingwhich he despises. This would be a sinking in thesocial scale; but, if he has been imprudent or unfortunate,and his flock has got reduced to fifty head, thereis no help for it. If he have one hundred, however, hemay manage with great economy to rub on; and keepup his character as a free Reindeer Lap. With threehundred he can live comfortably; better with five hundred;but a thousand would render him affluent. Withfifteen hundred he would be a grandee, and two thousand375would give him the rank of a millionaire! Thereare very few millionaires in Lapland, and not manygrandees. Proprietors of even a thousand head arescarce; there are more whose herds number from threehundred to five hundred each.

And here, I may remark, that there is no government,—notribal organization. The owner of eachherd is the head of a family; over them he is patriarch,but his power extends no further. It is not evengreat so far, if there chance to be grown-up unrulysons sharing the common tent.

I have used the word tent. That is the ReindeerLaplander’s home,—winter and summer alike. Notwithstandingthe severity of his clime, he builds nohouse; and even his tent is of the very rudest kindknown among tenting tribes. It consists of some birchsaplings set up in the snow, bent towards each other,and then covered over with a piece of coarse cloth,—thewadmal. This he prefers to a covering of skins;and obtains it from the Norwegian or Russ trader inexchange for the latter. The tent, when standing, isonly six feet high, and not much more in diameter. Inthis circumscribed space his whole family, wife, daughters,sons, often a retainer or two, and about a dozendogs find shelter from the piercing blast,—seated, orlying beside, or on top of one another, higgledy-piggledy,any way they can. There is room found besides for alarge iron or brass cooking-pot, some dishes and bowlsof birch, a rude stone furnace, and a fire in the middleof the floor. Above the fire, a rack forms a shelf forcountless tough cheeses, pieces of reindeers’ flesh, bowlsof milk, bladders of deer’s blood, and a multiplicity ofilike objects.

376The spring is just opening; the frost has thawedfrom the trees,—for the winter home is in the midstof a forest,—the ground is bare of snow, and alreadysmiling with a carpet of green, enamelled by manybrilliant flowers. It is time, therefore, for the ReindeerLaplander to decamp from the spot, and seek some otherscene less inviting to the eye. You will naturally inquirewhy he does this? and perhaps you will expresssome surprise at a man showing so little judgment as totake leave of the fertile plain,—just now promising toyield him a rich pasture for his herds,—and transporthis whole stock to the cold declivity of a bleak mountain?Yes, it is natural this should astonish you,—not,however, when you have heard the explanation.

Were he to stay in that plain—in that wood wherehe has wintered—a month longer, he would run therisk of losing half of his precious herd: perhaps inone season find himself reduced to the necessity of becominga Coast Lap. The reason is simple,—the greatgad-fly (Æstrus tarandi), with numerous other tormentors,are about to spring forth from the morass; and,as soon as the hot sun has blown them into full strengthand vitality, commence their work of desolation uponthe deer. In a few short days or hours their eggs wouldbe deposited in the skin,—even in the nostrils of theantlered creature,—there to germinate and producedisease and death. Indeed, the torment of biting gnatsand other insects would of itself materially injure thehealth and condition of the animals; and if not drivento the mountains, they would “stampede,” and go thereof their own accord. It becomes a necessity, then,for the Reindeer Lap to remove his habitation; and,377having gathered a few necessary utensils, and packedthem on his stoutest bucks, he is off to the mountains.

He does not take the whole of his penates along withhim. That would be difficult, for the snow is now gone,and he cannot use his proper mode of travelling,—thesledge. This he leaves behind him; as well as all otherimplements and articles of household use, which he cando without in his summer quarters. The cooking-pot,and a few bowls and dishes, go along with him,—alsothe tent-cloth, and some skins for bedding. The smallerarticles are deposited in panniers of wicker, which areslung over the backs of a number of pack-deer; and, ifa balance be required, the infant Lap, in its little boat-likecradle, forms the adjusting medium.

The journey is often of immense length. There maybe highlands near, but these are not to the Laplander’sliking. Nothing will satisfy him but the bold mountain-rangethat overlooks the sea, trending along the wholeNorwegian coast: only on the declivities of this, or onone of the thousand elevated rocky isles that guard thisextensive seaboard, does the Laplander believe that hisdeer will enjoy proper health. He has a belief, moreover,that at least once every year, the reindeer shoulddrink sea-water to keep them in condition. Certain itis, that on reaching the sea, these animals rush eagerlyinto the water, and drink the briny fluid; and yet everafter, during the same season, they refuse to taste it! Itis the general opinion that the solitary draught thustaken has the effect of destroying such larvæ, as mayhave already formed in their skins.

This journey often costs the Laplander great fatigueand trouble. It is not uncommon for him to go two378hundred miles to the Norwegian coast; for although thehabitual home may lie much nearer to the shores of theBothnian gulf, it would not serve his purpose to take hisflock there. The forest on that side grows to the water’sedge; and the gadfly is as abundant there, as in thewooded districts of the interior.

On reaching his destination, the Laplander chooseshis grazing-ground, sometimes on the mountains of themainland; but he prefers one of the elevated islets sonumerous along the shore. This insures him against alldanger from the flies, and also saves him much troublein herding his deer. The islet may be two miles fromthe main, or any other land. That does not signify.The reindeer can swim like ducks, and the herd is soondriven over. The wadmal tent is then pitched, and thework of the summer begins. This consists in milking,cheese-making, and looking after the young deer; and alittle fishing adds to the keep of the family: for it is atthis time that foreign support is most required. Theseason of summer is with the mountain Lap his seasonof scarcity! He does not dream of killing his deer atthis season,—that would be sheer waste,—nor does hedrink their milk, only in very little quantity. It goes tothe making of cheese, and the owner of the herd contentshimself with the whey. Butter is not made at allby the Reindeer Lap, though the Qüans and Norwegiansmake some. The Lap would have no use for it,—sincehe eats no bread,—and it would not keep so well, noryet be so safe an article of merchandise as the cheese.The latter he regards as his staple article of profit. Hesells it to the coast-merchant: receiving in exchange hisfavorite dram-stuff, and a few pieces of coarse cloth, or379utensils. The merchant is near at hand: for just forthis very purpose are several small ports and settlementskept in existence along the otherwise desert shores ofNorway. Deer-skins and dried fish, oils of the seal,furs and pelts of various kinds, have drawn these littlesettlements to the coast. Otherwise they would not bethere.

When the heat of the summer is over, the reindeerLaplander commences his return to his winter abode,—backto the place whence he came. The gadflies arenow gone, and he can drive his deer back with safety;and just as he travelled to the coast, he wends his wayhome again: for it is to be observed that he regards thewinter residence as the real home, and the summer oneonly as a place of temporary sojourn. He does not lookupon it, as we at such a season. To him it is no pleasantexcursion: rather is it his period of toil and dearth,—histightest time.

Once home again, he has nothing to do but erect hiswadmal tent and look after his deer,—that now findfood upon their favorite lichen. It is buried inches deepunder the snow. They care not for that. They can soonuncover the pasture with their broad hoofs; and theirkeen scent never allows them to scrape up the snowwithout finding the lichen underneath. Upon it theythrive, and at this season are in the best condition forthe knife.

The Laplander now also enjoys life. If rich, he hasfresh venison every day; but even if only moderatelywell off, he “kills” two or three times a week. Hismode of slaughtering is original. He sticks his longknife-blade into the throat of the animal, leaving it there380till the creature is dead! This precaution he takes toprevent waste. Were he to pull out the blade, the bloodwould flow and be lost. The knife acts as a stopper tothe wound it has made. The blood is preserved andcarefully put away,—the bladder being used as thevessel to contain it.

You must not imagine that the Reindeer Lap remainsall the winter in one place; on the contrary, he movesrepeatedly, always taking his tent and tent-utensils alongwith him. The tent is as easily set up as taken down.The ground in all sheltered places is, at this season, coveredwith snow. It is only necessary to shovel it off,clearing a circular space about the size of the ground-planof the tent. The snow, thus removed, produces asort of elevated ring or snow-dyke all round the barespot; and into this the tent-poles are hammered. Theyare then bent inward, tied near the tops, and the wadmalbeing laid on as before, the tent is ready for use.

Fresh branches of evergreen pines, and other trees,are strewed over the floor; and on top of these are laidthe deer-skins that serve for beds, chairs, tables, andblankets. These, with the iron cooking-pot, a large ironor brass pail to hold melted snow-water for drinking,and a few other utensils, are the only furniture of thedwelling. I have already stated that the fire is built inthe centre of the tent,—on some large stones, forminga rudely-constructed hearth. A hole in the roof is intendedfor a chimney; but its draught is so bad, that thetent is almost always filled with a cloud of bitter smoke,—sothick as to render objects invisible. In this atmosphereno other European, excepting a Lap, couldpossibly exist; and travellers, passing through the Lapland381country, have often preferred braving the cold frostof the night air, to being half smothered by the smoke:and have consequently taken shelter under a neighboringtree. The Laplander himself feels but little inconveniencedby the very thickest smoke.

Habit is everything, and to this habit has he beenused from his infancy. His eyes, however, are not soindifferent to the annoyance. These suffer from it; andthe consequence is that the eyes of the Laplanders arealmost universally sore and watery. This is a notablecharacteristic of the race. Smoke, however, is not thesole cause of it. The Esquimaux equally suffer fromsore eyes; and these, burning oil in their houses insteadof wood, are seldom troubled with smoke. More likelyit is the snow-glare to which the Laplander, as well asthe Esquimaux, is much exposed, that brings about thiscopious watering of the eyes.

The Laplander cooks the reindeer flesh by boiling.A large piece is put into the great family pot, and nothingadded but a quantity of water. In this the meatboils and simmers till it is done tender. The oily fatis then skimmed off, and put into a separate vessel; andthe meat is “dished” in a large tray or bowl of birch-bark

A piece is then cut off, for each individual of thefamily; and handed around the circle. It is eaten withoutbread, and even salt is dispensed with. A dip inthe bowl of skim-fat is all the seasoning it gets; and itis washed down with the “liquor” in which it has beenboiled, and which is nothing but greasy water, withoutvegetables or any other “lining.” It has the flavor ofthe fat venison, however; and is by no means ill-tasted382The angelica flourishes in the country of the Laplander,and of this vegetable he makes occasional use, not eatingthe roots, but the stalks and leaves, usually raw andwithout any preparation. Perhaps he is led to use it,by a knowledge of the antiscorbutic properties of theplant.

(Video) Face to face with a cannibalistic sect

Several species of berry-producing bushes also furnishhim with an occasional meal of fruit. There are wildcurrants, the cranberry, whortle, and bilberries. Thefruits of these trees do not fall in the autumn, as withus; but remain all winter upon the branches. Buriedunder the snow, they are preserved in perfect condition,until the thaw of the following spring once more bringsthem into view. At this time they are sweet and mellow;and are gathered in large quantities by the Lapwomen. Sometimes they are eaten, as they come fromthe tree; but it is more usual to make them into a“plum-pudding:” that is, they are mixed with a kindof curdled milk, and stored away in bladders. Whenwanted, a slice is cut from the mass,—including a pieceof the bladder, within which they have now attained tothe stiffness and consistence of a “cream-cheese.”

Another great luxury of the Laplander, is the reindeer’smilk frozen into an “ice.” This is easily obtained;and the process consists simply in filling a birchenbowl with milk, and exposing it to the open airduring frost. It is soon converted into solid ice; andin this condition will keep perfectly sweet throughoutthe whole of the winter. As the reindeer are nevermilked in the depth of the winter season, the Laplandertakes care, before that period approaches, to lay in astock of ice-milk: so that he may have a drink of it at383all times, by simply setting one of his birchen bowlswithin reach of the fire. He even makes a merchandiseof this article: for the frozen reindeer milk is highlyprized by the foreign merchants; who are ready, at anytime, to exchange for the delicious article a dram oftheir devilish fire-water.

It is at this season that the Laplander moves aboutboth on foot and in his sledge. He not only travelsfrom place to place, in a circuit of twenty miles,—roundthe little solitary church which the Swedish missionaryhas built for him,—but he makes an occasionaljourney to the distant coast.

In his sledge, or even afoot, a hundred miles are tohim as nothing: for the frozen snow enables him to performsuch a distance in an incredibly short time. Onhis “skies,” or snow-skates he could do a hundred milesin a couple of days; even though the paths led him overhills, mountains, lakes, and rivers. All are now alike,—allconcealed under the common covering of a deepsnow. The lakes and rivers are frozen and bridged forhim; and the mountain declivities are rendered smoothand easily traversed,—either by the sledge or the“skies.” With the former he would think little of ahundred miles in a single day; and if the occasion werea “killing” one, and relays could be had upon the route,twice that enormous distance he could easily accomplish.

The mode of sleigh-travelling by the Reindeer Laplander,as also his snow-skimming, or skating, have beenboth often and elaborately described. I have only spacehere to present the more salient points of the picture.

This sleigh or sledge is termed by him “pulka;” buthe has three varieties of this article,—two for travelling,384and the third for carrying luggage. The two firstkinds are nearly alike; and, in fact, differ only in a littleextra “furniture,” which one of them has upon it,—thatis, a covering over the top, to keep more comfortable thefeet and legs of the traveller. In other respects it isonly the common pulk, being similar to the latter inshape, size, atelage, and everything.

To get an idea of the Laplander’s sledge, you mustfancy a little boat, about six feet long, and sixteen inchesin breadth of beam. This is the width at the stern,where it is broadest; but from the stern it narrows allthe way forward, until, on reaching the stem, it hastapered almost to a point. Its sides are exactly likethose of a boat; and it rests upon a “keel” of aboutfour inches breadth, which keel is the one and only“runner.” A strong board boxes up the stern end, infront of which is the seat; and the board itself servesto support the back of the rider. His legs and feet arestretched out longitudinally; filling up the space betweenthe quarter-deck and the “for’ard” part of thelittle craft; and, thus fixed, the Laplander is ready forthe road.

In the best class of “pulk”—that used by the Russand Swedish traders and travellers—the forward partis covered with a sort of half-deck of skins or leather;but the Laplander does not often fancy this. It giveshim too much trouble to get out and in; as he is oftencompelled to do to look after his train of deer. Hispulk, therefore, is open from stem to stern; and hisdeer-skin coverings keep his legs warm enough.

Only one deer is used; and the mode of harnessingis of primitive simplicity. A band of skin acts as a385collar round the neck of the animal; and from the lowestpoint of this a piece falls downwards below theanimal’s breast,—striking in on the counter like thependants of a martingale. To this piece is attachedthe trace,—there is but one,—which, passing betweenthe forelegs, and afterwards the hind ones, is loopedinto an iron ring upon the stem of the sledge. Uponthis trace, which is a strong strap of raw hide orleather, the whole draught-power is exerted. A broadsurcingle—usually of cloth, neatly stitched and ornamented—passesround the deer’s body. Its use is tohold up the trace underneath the belly, and prevent itfrom dragging the ground, or getting among the animal’sfeet. A similar band of cloth passes round its neck,giving a fine appearance to the noble creature. A singlerein attached to the left horn, or fixed halter-fashionaround the deer’s head, is all that is necessary to guideit along; the movements of this, aided by the accentsof its master’s voice, are understood by this well-trainedanimal.

For all that, the deer does not always travel kindly.Frequently he takes a fit of obstinacy or anger; andwill then turn upon his trainer,—presenting his antleredfront in an attitude of attack. On such occasionsthe Lap takes shelter behind his “pulk,” raising it inhis arms, and holding it as a shield wherewith to defendhimself; until he can pacify, or otherwise subdue, theirritated buck.

The tumbling of the sledge, and consequent spillingof its load, is a thing of frequent occurrence, owing tothe narrow base upon which the vehicle is supported,but the Laplander thinks nothing of a trifling mishap386of this nature. In a trice the “snow-boat” is righted,the voyager in his seat again, and off over the frozensnow with the speed of lightning.

The reindeer can travel nearly twenty English milesan hour! This rate of speed has been proved andtested; and with fresh relays along the route, over fourhundred miles might be made in a day. But the samething could be done with horses,—that is, upon adesperate emergency.

The luggage “pulk” of the Laplander differs onlyfrom the other kinds of sledges in being longer, broader,deeper, and consequently of more capacity to carrygoods. It is used for transporting the skins and othermerchantable commodities, from the interior to the tradingdepots on the coast.

The skies or snow-skates require very little description.They are on the same principle as the snow-shoesin use among the North-American Indians, though fromthese they differ materially in construction. They aremerely two long pieces of smooth board, a few inchesin breadth, and slightly turned up at the ends. One isfull six feet,—the right one; the left is about twelve inchesshorter. Near the middle they are lashed firmlyto the feet by strong pieces of hide; and by means ofthese curious appendages, when the snow is crustedover, the Laplander can skim over its surface with greatrapidity. He uses a long pole to guide and assist himin his movements; and this pole has a piece of circularboard, or a round ball, near its point,—to prevent itfrom sinking too deeply in the snow. Going up hillupon the skies is not so easy; but the practised skatercan ascend even the steep acclivities of the mountains387with less difficulty than might be imagined. This isaccomplished in zigzag lines,—each leading to a higherelevation. Down hill, the course upon skies is rapidalmost as the flight of an arrow; and, by means of thelong pole, rocks, ravines, and precipices, are shunnedwith a dexterity that is quite surprising. Altogether aLaplander, either in his reindeer sledge, or upon hislong wooden “skies,” is as interesting a sight as maybe seen anywhere.

After all that has been said, it will appear prettyclearly, that the Laplander, though dwelling so verynear to civilized lands, is still very far distant fromtrue civilization.



On the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal lies acluster, or archipelago, of islands known as the “Andamans.”They form a long string running nearly northwardand southward; and with the Nicobar group, stillfurther to the south, they appear like a series of stepping-stonesconnecting Cape Negrais, in the Burmesecountry, with the island of Sumatra. Independent ofthe Nicobar Islands, the Andamans themselves have anextent of several hundred miles in length; while theirbreadth is nowhere over about twenty miles. Until oflate the greater portion of the group was supposed toform only one island,—known as the “Great Andaman;”but, in the year 1792, this was discovered tohave a channel across it that divided it into two distinctparts.

The discovery of this channel was accidental; and theaccident was attended with melancholy consequences.A vessel from Madras had entered between the GreatAndaman, and the opposite coast of Burmah. Thisvessel was laden with provisions, intended for the supplyof Port Cornwallis,—a convict settlement, whichthe British had formed the preceding year on the eastern389side of the island. The master of the vessel, notknowing the position of Port Cornwallis, sent a boat toexplore an opening which he saw in the land,—fancyingthat it might be the entrance to the harbor. It wasnot this, however; but the mouth of the channel abovementioned. The crew of the boat consisted of two Europeansand six Lascars. It was late in the afternoonwhen they stood into the entrance; and, as it soon felldark upon them, they lost their way, and found themselvescarried along by a rapid current that set towardsthe Bay of Bengal. The northeast monsoon was blowingat the time with great violence; and this, togetherwith the rapid current, soon carried the boat through thechannel; and, in spite of their efforts, they were drivenout into the Indian Ocean, far beyond sight of land.Here for eighteen days the unfortunate crew were buffetedabout; until they were picked up by a Frenchship, almost under the equinoctial line, many hundredsof miles from the channel they had thus involuntarilydiscovered! The sad part of the story remains to betold. When relieved by the French vessel, the twoEuropeans and three of the Lascars were still living;the other three Lascars had disappeared. Shocking torelate, they had been killed and eaten by their companions!

The convict settlement above mentioned was carriedon only for a few years, and then abandoned,—in consequenceof the unhealthiness of the climate, by whichthe Sepoy guards of the establishment perished in greatnumbers.

Notwithstanding this, the Andaman Islands present avery attractive aspect. A ridge of mountains runs nearly390throughout their whole extent, rising in some placesto a height of between two and three thousand feet.These mountains are covered to their tops by denseforests, that might be called primeval,—since no traceof clearing or cultivation is to be found on the wholesurface of the islands; nor has any ever existed withinthe memory of man, excepting that of the convict settlementreferred to. Some of the forest trees are of greatsize and height; and numerous species are intermixed.Mangroves line the shores; and prickly ferns and wildrattans form an impenetrable brake on the sides of thehills; bamboos are also common, and the “gambier”or “cutch” tree (Agathis), from which is extracted theTerra Japonica of commerce. There are others thatyield dyes, and a curious species of screw-pine (pandanus),—knownas the “Nicobar bread-fruit.”

Notwithstanding their favorable situation, the zoölogyof these islands is extremely limited in species. Theonly quadrupeds known to exist upon them are wildhogs, dogs, and rats; and a variety of the monkey tribeinhabits the forests of the interior. The land-birds arefew,—consisting of pigeons, doves, small parrots, and theIndian crow; while hawks are seen occasionally hoveringover the trees; and a species of humming-bird fliesabout at night, uttering a soft cry that resembles thecooing of doves. There are owls of several species;and the cliffs that front the coast are frequented by asingular swallow,—the hirundo esculenta, whose nestsare eaten by the wealthy mandarins of China. Alongthe shores there are gulls, kingfishers, and other aquaticbirds. A large lizard of the guana species is common,with several others; and a green snake, of the most391venomous description, renders it dangerous to penetratethe jungle thickets that cover the whole surface of thecountry.

In all these matters there is not much that is remarkable,—ifwe accept the extreme paucity of the zoölogy;and this is really a peculiarity,—considering that theAndaman Islands lie within less than eighty leagues ofthe Burman territory, a country so rich in mammalia;considering, too, that they are covered with immenseforests, almost impenetrable to human beings, on accountof their thick intertwining of underwood and parasiticalplants,—the very home, one would suppose for wildbeasts of many kinds! And withal we find only threespecies of quadrupeds, and these small ones, thinly distributedalong the skirts of the forest. In truth, theAndaman Islands and their fauna have long been apuzzle to the zoölogist.

But longer still, and to a far greater extent, have theirhuman inhabitants perplexed the ethnologist; and herewe arrive at the true peculiarity of the Andaman Islands,—thatis to say, the people who inhabit them. Withperhaps no exception, these people are the most trulysavage of any on the face of the globe; and this hasbeen their character from the earliest times: for theyhave been known to the ancients as far back as the timeof Ptolemy. Ptolemy mentions them under the title ofanthropophagi (man-eaters); and the Arabs of the ninthcentury, who navigated the Indian Ocean, have given asimilar account of them. Marco Polo adopts this statement,and what is still more surprising, one of the mostnoted ethnologists of our own time—Dr. Latham—hasgiven way to a like credulity, and puts the poor392Andamaners down as “pagan cannibals.” It is an error;they are not cannibals in any sense of the word; and ifthey have ever eaten human flesh,—of which there isno proof,—it has been when impelled by famine. Underlike circumstances, some of every nation on earthhave done the same,—Englishmen, Germans, Frenchmen,Americans,—of late years frequently,—in themountains of New Mexico and California.

The charge of cannibalism against these miserable beingsrests on no other foundation than the allegations ofChinese sailors, and the vague statements of Ptolemyand the Arabs above mentioned.

The Chinese have occasion now and then to visit theAndaman Islands in their junks, to collect the ediblenests of the swallow (hirundo esculenta),—which birdshave extensive breeding-places on the cliffs that overhangthe coast of the Great Andaman. The “trepang,”or sea-slug, is also found in large quantities upon therocks near the shore; and this is equally an object ofcommerce, and esteemed an article of the greatest luxury,among the mandarins, and other rich celestials whocan afford to indulge in it.

Now and then, a junk has been wrecked among theserocks; and its miserable crew have fallen a victim tothe hostility of the natives: just as they might havedone on more civilized coasts, where no cannibalism wasever suspected to exist. Crews of junks have been totallydestroyed,—murdered, if you please,—but itwould not be difficult to show, that this was done morefrom motives of revenge than from a mere sanguinary instinctor disposition; but there is no proof whatever ofeven a single case, of true cannibalism. Indeed, there393are strong reasons for our disbelief in this horrid, custom,—sofar as regards the poor savages of the Andamans.An incident, that seems to give a flat contradiction to itoccurred during the occupancy of the island by the East-IndiaCompany in the year 1793; and other proofs ofnon-cannibalism have been obtained at a still more recentperiod, to which we shall presently allude.

The incident of 1793 was as follows: A party offishers belonging to the settlement enticed an Andamanwoman to come near, by holding out presents of food.The woman was made captive by these treacherous men;who, instead of relieving her hunger, proceeded to behaveto her in the most brutal and unfeeling manner.The cries of the poor creature brought a numerous troopof her people to the spot; who, rushing out of the thicketsfrom every side, collected around the fishermen; and,having attacked them with spears and arrows, succeededin killing two of their number. The rest with difficultyescaped to the settlement; and, having obtained assistance,a large party set out to search for the bodies oftheir companions. There was but little expectation thatthese would be recovered: as all were under the beliefthat the savages must have carried them away for thepurpose of making a cannibal feast upon them. Therehad been ample time for the removing of them: sincethe scene of the struggle was at a considerable distancefrom the fort.

The searchers, therefore, were somewhat astonishedit finding both bodies on the spot where they had fallin, and the enemy entirely gone from the ground! Thebodies were disfigured in the most shocking manner.The flesh was pierced in every part,—by spears, no394doubt,—and the bones had been pounded with heavystones, until they were mashed into fragments; but nota bit of flesh was removed, not even an arm or limb hadbeen severed!

The other instance to which we have promised toallude occurred at a much more recent period,—solate, in fact, as the period of the King of Delhi’s imprisonment.It will be fresh in the memory of myreaders, that his Hindoo majesty was carried to theisland of Great Andaman, along with a number of “Sepoy”rebels, who had been taken prisoners during thelate Indian revolt. The convict settlement was restored,especially for this purpose; and a detachment of “East-IndiaCompany’s troops” was sent along with the rebelsepoys to guard them. It was supposed that the troopswould have great difficulty in the performance of theirduty: since the number of their prisoners was largerthan could be fairly looked after; and, it was wellknown, that, if a prisoner could once get clear of thewalls of the fort, it would be altogether idle to pursuehim. The chase after a fugitive through the tangledforests of the Andamans would be emphatically a “wild-goose”chase; and there would be ten chances to oneagainst his being recaptured.

Such, in reality, did it appear, for the first week ortwo, after the settlement was re-established. Numerousprisoners escaped into the woods, and as it was deemedidle to follow them, they were given up as “lost birds.”

In the end, however, it proved that they were not alllost,—though some of them were. After a week ortwo had expired, they began to straggle back to the fort,and voluntarily deliver themselves up to their old guards,—now395one, now another, or two or three at a time,—butall of them in the most forlorn and deplorable condition.They had enjoyed a little liberty on the Andamanisles; but a taste of it had proved sufficient to satisfythem that captivity in a well-rationed guard-housewas ever preferable to freedom with a hungry stomach,added to the risk which they ran every hour of the dayof being impaled upon the spears of the savages. Manyof them actually met with this fate; and others onlyescaped half dead from the hostile treatment they hadreceived at the hands of the islanders. There was noaccount, however, that any of them had been eaten,—noevidence that their implacable enemies were cannibals.

Such are a few arguments that seem to controvert theaccusation of Ptolemy and the two Arab merchants,—inwhose travels the statement is found, and afterwardscopied by the famous Marco Polo. Probably the Arabsobtained their idea from Ptolemy, Marco Polo from theArabs, and Dr. Latham from Marco Polo. Indeed, it isby no means certain that Ptolemy meant the AndamanIslands by his Islæ bonæ Fortunæ, or “Good-luck Isles,”—certainlya most inappropriate appellation. He mayhave referred to Sumatra and its Battas,—who arecannibals beyond a doubt. And, after all, what couldPtolemy know about the matter except from vague report,or, more likely still, more vague speculation,—aprocess of reasoning practised in Ptolemy’s time, just asat the present day. We are too ready to adopt theerrors of the ancient writers,—as if men were moreinfallible then than they are now; and, on the otherhand, we are equally prone to incredulity,—often rejectingtheir testimony when it would conduct to truth.

396I believe there is no historic testimony—ancient ormodern—before us, to prove that the Andaman islandersare cannibals; and yet, with all the testimony to thecontrary, there is one fact, or rather a hypothesis, whichshall be presently adduced, that would point to the probabilityof their being so.

If they are not cannibals, however, they are not theless unmitigated savages, of the very lowest grade anddegree. They are unacquainted with almost the veryhumblest arts of social life; and are not even so faradvanced in the scale as to have an organization. Inthis respect they are upon a par with the Bushmen ofAfrica and the Diggers of North America: still moredo they resemble the wretched starvelings of Tierra delFuego. They have no tribal tie; but dwell in scatteredgroups or gangs,—just as monkeys or other animalsof a gregarious nature.

In person, the Andaman is one of the very “ugliest”of known savages. He is of short stature, attaining tothe height of only five feet; and his wife is a headshorter than himself. Both are as black as pitch, couldtheir natural color be discovered; but the skin is usuallyhidden under a mask of rare material, which we shallpresently have occasion to describe.

The upper half of the Andamaner’s body is stronglyand compactly built, and his arms are muscular enough.It is below, in the limbs, where he is most lacking indevelopment. His legs are osseous and thin; and, onlywhen he is in fine condition, is there the slightest swellon them that would indicate the presence of a calf. Hisfeet are of monstrous length, and without any symmetry,—theheel projecting far backwards, in the fashion397usually styled “lark-heeled.” It is just possible that agood deal of practice, by running over mud-banks andquicksands in search of his shell-fish subsistence, mayhave added to the natural development of his pedal extremities;for there can be no longer any doubt, thatlike effects have been produced by such causes,—effectsthat are indeed, after all, more natural than artificial.

The Andamaner exhibits the protuberance of bellynoticed among other savages, who lead a starving life;and his countenance is usually marked with an expressionthat betrays a mixture of ferocity and famine.

It is worthy of remark, however, that though thesestunted proportions are generally observable among thenatives of the Andaman Islands, they do not appear tobe universal. It is chiefly on the island of the GreatAndaman that the most wretched of these savages arefound. The Little Andaman seems to produce a betterbreed: since parties have been met with on this last-namedisland, in which many individuals were observednearly six feet in height, and stout in proportion. Oneof these parties, and the incident of meeting with it,are thus described by an officer who was present:—

“We had not gone far, when, at an angle of thejungle, which covers the island to within a few yardsof the water’s edge, we came suddenly upon a party ofthe natives, lying upon their bellies behind the bushes,armed with spears, arrows, and long-bows, which theybent at us in a threatening manner. Our Lascars, assoon as they saw them, fell back in great consternation,levelling their muskets and running into the sea towardsthe boats. It was with great difficulty we could preventour cowardly rascals from firing; the tyndal was the398only one who stood by the chief mate and myself. Weadvanced within a few paces of the natives, and madesigns of drinking, to intimate the purpose of our visit.The tyndal salaamed to them, according to the differentoriental modes of salutation,—he spoke to them inMalay, and other languages; but they returned noanswer, and continued in their crouching attitude, pointingtheir weapons at us whenever we turned. I heldout my handkerchief, but they would not come from behindthe bushes to take it. I placed it upon the ground;and we returned, in order to allow them an opportunityof picking it up: still they would not move.

“I counted sixteen strong and able-bodied men oppositeto us, many of them very lusty; and further on,six more. They were very different in appearance fromwhat the natives of the Great Andaman are representedto be,—that is, of a puny race. The whole party wascompletely naked, with the exception of one,—a stoutman nearly six feet in height, who was standing upalong with two or three women in the rear. He woreon his head a red cloth with white spots.

“They were the most ferocious and wild-looking beingsI ever beheld. Those parts of their bodies thatwere not besmeared with mud, were of a sooty blackcolor. Their faces seemed to be painted with a redochre.”

Notwithstanding the difference in stature and otherrespects,—the result no doubt of a better condition ofexistence,—the inhabitants of both islands, Great andLittle Andaman, are the same race of people; and inthe portrait, the faces of both may be considered as oneand the same. This brings us to the strangest fact in399whole history of the Andaman islander. Insteadof a Hindoo face, or a Chinese Mongolian face, or thatof a Malay,—any of which we might reasonably expectto find in an aboriginal of the Bay of Bengal,—wetrace in the Andaman islander the true physiognomyof a negro. Not only have we the flat nose and thicklips, but the curly hair, the sooty complexion, and allthe other negro characteristics. And the most ill-favoredvariety at that; for, in addition to the ungracefulfeatures already mentioned, we find a head large beyondall proportion, and a pair of small, red eyes deeplysunken in their sockets. Truly the Andaman islanderhas few pretensions to being a beauty!

Wretched, however, as the Andaman islander mayappear, and of little importance as he certainly is in thegreat social family of the human race, he is, ethnologicallyspeaking, one of its most interesting varieties.From the earliest times he has been a subject of speculation,or rather his presence in that particular part ofthe world where he is now found: for, since it is thegeneral belief that he is entirely isolated from the twoacknowledged negro races, and surrounded by othertypes of the human family, far different from either,the wonder is how he came to be there.

Perhaps no other two thousand people on earth—forthat is about the number of Andaman islanders—havebeen honored with a greater amount of speculationin regard to their origin. Some ethnologists assign tothem an African origin, and account for their presenceupon the Andaman Islands by a singular story: that aPortuguese ship laden with African slaves, and proceedingto the Indian colonies, was wrecked in the Bay400of Bengal, and, of course, off the coast of the Andamansthat the crew were murdered by the slaves; who, setfree by this circumstance, became the inhabitants of theisland. This story is supported by the argument, thatthe hostility which the natives now so notoriously exhibit,had its origin in a spirit of revenge: that stillremembering the cruel treatment received on the “middlepassage” at the hands of their Portuguese masters,they have resolved never to be enslaved again; but toretaliate upon the white man, whenever he may fall intotheir power!

Certainly the circumstances would seem to give somecolor to the tale, if it had any foundation; but it hasnone. Were we to credit it, it would be necessary tothrow Ptolemy and the Arab merchants overboard, andMarco Polo to boot. All these have recorded the existenceof the Andaman islanders, long before ever aPortuguese keel cleft the waters of the Indian Ocean,—longeven before Di Gama doubled the Cape!

But without either the aid of Ptolemy or the testimonyof the Arabian explorers, it can be establishedthat the Andaman Islands were inhabited before the eraof the Portuguese in India; and by the same race ofsavages as now dwell upon them.

Another theory is: that it was an Arabian slave-shipthat was wrecked, and not a Portuguese; and this wouldplace the peopling of the islands at a much earlier period.There is no positive fact, however, to supportthis theory,—which, like the other, rests only on merespeculation.

The error of these hypotheses lies in their mistakendata; for, although we have stated that the Andaman401islanders are undoubtedly a negro race, they are not thatnegro race to which the speculation points,—in otherwords, they are not African negroes. Beyond certainmarked features, as the flat nose and thick lips, theyhave nothing in common with these last. Their hair ismore of the kind called “frizzly,” than of the “woolly”texture of that of the Ethiopian negro; and in this respectthey assimilate closely to the “Papuan,” or NewGuinea “negrillo,” which every one knows is a verydifferent being from the African negro.

Their moral characteristics—such as there has beenan opportunity of observing among them—are also anadditional proof that they are not of African origin;while these point unmistakably to a kinship with theother side of the Indian Ocean. Even some of theirfashions, as we shall presently have occasion to notice,have a like tendency to confirm the belief that the Andamanis a “negrillo,” and not a “negro.” The onlyobstacle to this belief has hitherto been the fact of theirisolated situation: since it is alleged—rather hastilyas we shall see—that the whole of the opposite continentof the Burmese and other empires, is peopled byraces entirely distinct: that none of the adjacent islands—theNicobars and Sumatra—have any negro or negrilloinhabitants: and that the Andamaners are thus cut off, asit were, from any possible line of migration which theycould have followed in entering the Bay of Bengal.Ethnologists, however, seem to have overlooked the circumstancethat this allegation is not strictly true. TheSamangs—a tribe inhabiting the mountainous parts ofthe Maylayan peninsula—are also a negro or negrillorace; a fact which at once establishes a link in the chain402of a supposed migration from the great Indian archipelago.

This lets the Andaman islander into the Great ChinaSea; or rather, coming from that sea, it forms the stepping-stoneto his present residence in the Bay of Bengal.Who can say that he was not at one time theowner of the Maylayan peninsula? How can we accountfor the strange fact, that figures of Boodh—the Guadmaof the Burmese and Siamese—are often seen inIndia beyond the Ganges, delineated with the curly hairand other characteristic features of the negro?

The theory that the Samang and Andaman islanderonce ruled the Malay peninsula; that they themselvescame from eastward,—from the great islands of theMelanesian group, the centre and source of the negrillorace,—will in some measure account for this singularmonumental testimony. The probability, moreover, isalways in favor of a migration westward within thetropics. Beyond the tropics, the rule is sometimes reversed.

A coincidence of personal habit, between the Andamanislander and the Melanesian, is also observed. Theformer dyes his head of a brown or reddish color,—thevery fashion of the Feegee!

Suppose, then, that the Samang and Andaman islandercame down the trades, at a period too remote for eventradition to deal with it: suppose they occupied the Malaypeninsula, no matter how long; and that at a muchmore recent period, they were pushed out of place,—theone returning to the Andaman Islands, the other tothe mountains of the Quedah: suppose also that theparty pushing them off were Malays,—who had themselves403been drifted for hundreds of years down the tradesfrom the far shores of America (for this is our “speculation”):suppose all these circumstances to have takenplace, and you will be able to account for two facts thathave for a long time puzzled the ethnologist. One isthe presence of negroes on the islands of Andaman,—andthe other of Malays in the southeastern corner ofAsia. We might bring forward many arguments to upholdthe probability of these hypotheses, had we spaceand time. Both, however, compel us to return to themore particular subject of our sketch; and we shall doso after having made a remark, promised above, andwhich relates to the probability of the Andaman islanderbeing a cannibal. This, then, would lie in the fact ofhis being a Papuan negro. And yet, again, it is only aseeming; for it might be shown that with the Papuancannibalism is not a natural instinct. It is only wherehe has reached a high degree of civilization, as in thecase of the Feegee islander. Call the latter a monsterif you will; but, as may be learnt from our account ofhim, he is anything but a savage, in the usual acceptationof the term. In fact, language has no epithet sufficientlyvile to characterize such an anomalous animalas he.

I have endeavored to clear the Andaman islander ofthe charge of this guilt; and, since appearances are somuch against him, he ought to feel grateful. It is doubtfulwhether he would, should this fall into his hands, andhe be able to read it. The portrait of his face withoutthat stain upon it, he might regard as ugly enough; andthat of his habits, which now follows, is not much moreflattering.

404His house is little better than the den of a wild beast,and far inferior in ingenuity of construction to thosewhich beavers build. A few poles stuck in the groundare leant towards each other, and tied together at thetop. Over these a wattle of reeds and rattan-leavesforms the roof; and on the floor a “shake-down” ofwithered leaves makes his bed, or, perhaps it shouldrather be called his “lair.” This, it will be perceived,is just the house built by Diggers, Bushmen, and Fuegians.There are no culinary utensils,—only a drinking-cupof the nautilus shell; but implements of war andthe chase in plenty: for such are found even amongstthe lowest of savages. They consist of bows, arrows,and a species of javelin or dart. The bows are verylong, and made of the bamboo cane,—as are also thedarts. The arrows are usually pointed with the tusksof the small wild hogs which inhabit the islands. Thesethey occasionally capture in the chase, hanging up theskulls in their huts as trophies and ornaments. Withstrings of the hog’s teeth also they sometimes ornamenttheir bodies; but they are not very vain in this respect.Sometimes pieces of iron are found among them,—nailsflattened to form the blades of knives, or to make anedge for their adzes, the heads of which are of hardwood. These pieces of iron they have no doubt obtainedfrom wrecked vessels, or in the occasional intercoursewhich they have had with the convict establishment;but there is no regular commerce with them,—infact, no commerce whatever,—as even the Malaytraders, that go everywhere, do not visit the Andamaners,from dread of their well-known Ishmaelitish character.Some of the communities, more forward in civilization,405possess articles of more ingenious construction,—suchas baskets to hold fruits and shell-fish, well-madebows, and arrows with several heads, for shooting fish.The only other article they possess of their own manufacture,is a rude kind of canoe, hollowed out of thetrunk of a tree, by means of fire and their poor adze.A bamboo raft, of still ruder structure, enables themto cross the narrow bays and creeks by which their coastis indented.

Their habitual dwelling-place is upon the shore. Theyrarely penetrate the thick forests of the interior, wherethere is nothing to tempt them: for the wild hog, towhich they sometimes give chase, is found only alongthe coasts where the forest is thinner and more straggling,or among the mangrove-bushes,—on the fruits ofwhich these animals feed. Strange to say, the forest,though luxuriant in species, affords but few trees thatbear edible fruits. The cocoa-palm—abundant in allother parts of the East-Indian territories, and even uponthe Cocos Islands, that lie a little north of the Andamans—doesnot grow upon these mountain islands.Since the savages know nothing of cultivation, of coursetheir dependence upon a vegetable diet would be exceedinglyprecarious. A few fruits and roots are eatenby them. The pandanus, above mentioned, bears a finecone-shaped fruit, often weighing between thirty andforty pounds; and this, under the name of mellori, or“Nicobar bread-fruit,” forms part of their food. But itrequires a process of cooking, which, being quite unknownto the Andamaners, must make it to them a“bitter fruit” even when roasted in the ashes of theirfires, which is their mode of preparing it. They eat406also the fruit of the mangrove, and of some other trees,but these are not obtainable at all seasons, or in suchquantity as to afford them a subsistence. They dependprincipally upon fish, which they broil in a primitivemanner over a gridiron of bamboos, sometimes not waitingtill they are half done. They especially subsistupon shell-fish, several kinds abounding on their coasts,which they obtain among the rocks after the tide hasgone out. To gather these is the work of the women,while the men employ themselves in fishing or in thechase of the wild hog. The species of shell-fish mostcommon are the murex tribulus, trochus telescopium,cypræa caurica, and muscles. They are dexterous incapturing other fish with their darts, which they strikedown upon the finny prey, either from their rafts, or bywading up to their knees in the water. They also takefish by torchlight,—that is, by kindling dry grass, theblaze of which attracts certain species into the shallowwater, where the fishers stand in wait for them.

When the fishery fails them, and the oysters and musclesbecome scarce, they are often driven to sad extremities,and will then eat anything that will sustain life,—lizards,insects, worms,—perhaps even human flesh.They are not unfrequently in such straits; and instancesare recorded, where they have been found lying uponthe shore in the last stages of starvation.

An instance of this kind is related in connection withthe convict settlement of 1793. A coasting-party oneday discovered two Andamaners lying upon the beach.They were at first believed to be dead, but as it proved,they were only debilitated from hunger: being then inthe very last stages of famine. They were an old man407and a boy; and having been carried at once to the fort,every means that humanity could suggest was used torecover them. With the boy this result was accomplished;but the old man could not be restored: hisstrength was too far gone; and he died, shortly afterbeing brought to the settlement.

Two women or young girls were also found far gonewith hunger; so far, that a piece of fish held out wassufficient to allure them into the presence of a boat’screw that had landed on the shore. They were taken onboard the ship, and treated with the utmost humanity.In a short time they got rid of all fears of violence beingoffered them; but seemed, at the same time, to be sensibleof modesty to a great degree. They had a small apartmentallotted to them; and though they could hardly havehad any real cause for apprehension, yet it was remarkedthat the two never went to sleep at the same time:one always kept watch while the other slept! Whentime made them more familiar with the good intentionstowards them, they became exceedingly cheerful, chatteredwith freedom, and were amused above all thingsat the sight of their own persons in a mirror. Theyallowed clothes to be put on them; but took them offagain, whenever they thought they were not watched,and threw them away as a useless encumbrance! Theywere fond of singing; sometimes in a melancholy recitative,and sometimes in a lively key; and they oftengave exhibitions of dancing around the deck, in thefashion peculiar to the Andamans. They would notdrink either wine or any spirituous liquor; but wereimmoderately fond of fish and sugar. They also aterice when it was offered to them. They remained, or408rather were retained, several weeks on board the shipand had become so smooth and plump, under the liberaldiet they indulged in, that they were scarce recognizableas the half-starved creatures that had been broughtaboard so recently. It was evident, however, that theywere not contented. Liberty, even with starvation alliedto it, appeared sweeter to them than captivity in themidst of luxury and ease. The result proved that thissentiment was no stranger to them: for one night, whenall but the watchman were asleep, they stole silentlythrough the captain’s cabin, jumped out of the sternwindows into the sea, and swam to an island full half amile distant from the ship! It was thought idle to pursuethem; but, indeed, there was no intention of doingso. The object was to retain them by kindness, and trywhat effect might thus be produced on their wild companions,when they should return to them. Strange tosay, this mode of dealing with the Andaman islandershas been made repeatedly, and always with the samefruitless result. Whatever may have been the originalcause that interrupted their intercourse with the restof mankind, they seem determined that this intercourseshall never be renewed.

When plenty reigns among them, and there has beena good take of fish, they act like other starved wretchesand yield themselves up to feasting and gorging, till nota morsel remains. At such times they give way to excessivemirth,—dancing for hours together, and chatteringall the while like as many apes.

They are extremely fond of “tripping it on the lightfantastic toe;” and their dance is peculiar. It is carriedon by the dancers forming a ring, and leaping about,409each at intervals saluting his own posteriors with a slapfrom his foot,—a feat which both the men and womenperform with great dexterity. Not unfrequently this modeof salutation is passed from one to the other, aroundthe whole ring,—causing unbounded merriment amongthe spectators.

Their fashion of dress is, perhaps, the most peculiarof all known costumes. As to clothing, they care nothingabout it,—the females only wearing a sort of narrowfringe around the waist,—not from motives ofmodesty, but simply as an ornament; and in this scantgarment we have a resemblance to the liku of theFeegeeans. It can hardly be said, however, that eithermen or women go entirely naked; for each morning,after rising from his couch of leaves, the Andamanerplasters the whole of his body with a thick coat ofmud, which he wears throughout the day. Whereverthis cracks from getting dry by the sun, the place ispatched or mended up with a fresh layer. The blackmop upon his head is not permitted to wear its naturalhue; but, as already mentioned, is colored by meansof a red ochreous earth, which is found in plenty uponthe islands. This reddening of his poll is the onlyattempt which the Andamaner makes at personal adornment;for his livery of mud is assumed for a purposeof utility,—to protect his body from the numerousmosquitoes, and other biting insects, whose myriads infestthe lowland coast upon which he dwells.

A startling peculiarity of these islanders is the unmitigatedhostility which they exhibit, and have alwaysexhibited, towards every people with whom they havecome in contact. It is not the white man alone whom410they hate and harass; but they also murder the Malay,whose skin is almost as dark as their own. This wouldseem to contradict the hypothesis of a tradition of hostilitypreserved amongst them, and directed against whitemen who enslaved their ancestors; but, indeed, thatstory has been sufficiently refuted. A far more probablecause of their universal hatred is, that, at some periodof their history, they have been grossly abused; somuch so as to render suspicion and treachery almostan instinct of their nature.

In these very characteristic moral features we findanother of those striking analogies that would seem toconnect them with the negrillo races of the EasternArchipelago; but, whether they are or are not connectedwith them, their appearance upon the Andamans is nogreater mystery, than the solitary “fox-wolf” on theFalkland Islands, or the smallest wingless insect insome lone islet of the Ocean?



Who has not heard of the giants of Patagonia?From the days of Magellan, when they were first seen,many a tale has been told, and many a speculation indulgedin about these colossal men: some representingthem as very Titans, of twelve feet in height, and stoutin proportion: that, when standing a little astride, anordinary-sized man could pass between their legs withouteven stooping his head! So talked the early navigatorsof the Great South Sea.

Since the time when these people were first seen byEuropeans, up to the present hour,—in all, three hundredand thirty years ago,—it is astonishing how littlehas been added to our knowledge of them; the more so,that almost every voyager who has since passed throughthe Straits of Magellan, has had some intercourse withthem;—the more so, that Spanish people have had settlementson the confines of their country; and one—anunsuccessful one, however—in the very heart ofit! But these Spanish settlements have all decayed, orare fast decaying; and when the Spanish race disappearsfrom America,—which sooner or later it willmost certainly do,—it will leave behind it a greater412paucity of monumental record, than perhaps any civilizednation ever before transmitted to posterity.

Little, however, as we have learnt about the customsof the Patagonian people, we have at least obtained amore definite idea of their height. They have been measured.The twelve-feet giants can no longer be found;they never existed, except in the fertile imaginations ofsome of the old navigators,—whose embodied testimony,nevertheless, it is difficult to disbelieve. Otherand more reliable witnesses have done away with theTitans; but still we are unable to reduce the stature ofthe Patagonians to that of ordinary men. If not actualgiants, they are, at all events, very tall men,—manyof them standing seven feet in their boots of guanaco-leather,few less than six, and a like few rising nearly toeight! These measurements are definite and certain;and although the whole number of the Indians that inhabitthe plains of Patagonia may not reach the abovestandard there are tribes of smaller men called by thecommon name Patagonians,—yet many individuals certainlyexist who come up to it.

If not positive giants, then, it is safe enough to considerthe Patagonians as among the “tallest” of humanbeings,—perhaps the very tallest that exist, or everexisted, upon the face of the earth; and for this reason,if for no other, they are entitled to be regarded as an“odd people.” But they have other claims to this distinction;for their habits and customs, although in generalcorresponding to those of other tribes of AmericanIndians, present us with many points that are peculiar.

It may be remarked that the Patagonian women, althoughnot so tall as their men, are in the usual proportion413observable between the sexes. Many of them aremore corpulent than the men; and if the latter be calledgiants, the former have every claim to the appellation ofgiantesses!

We have observed, elsewhere, the very remarkabledifference between the two territories, lying respectivelynorth and south of the Magellan Straits,—the Patagonianon the north, and the Fuegian on the south. Notwo lands could exhibit a greater contrast than these,—theformer with its dry sterile treeless plains,—the latteralmost entirely without plains; and, excepting a portionof its eastern end, without one level spot of an acrein breadth; but a grand chaos of humid forest-clad ravinesand snow-covered mountains. Yet these two dissimilarregions are only separated by a narrow sea-channel,—deep,it is true; but so narrow, that a cannon-shotmay be projected from one shore to the other. Not lessdissimilar are the people who inhabit these oppositeshores; and one might fancy a strange picture of contrastpresented in the Straits of Magellan: on someprojecting bluff on the northern shore, a stalwart Patagonian,eight feet in height, with his ample guanaco-skinfloating from his shoulders, and his long spear toweringten feet above his head;—on the southern promontory,the dwarfed and shrivelled figure of a Fuegian,—scarcefive feet tall,—with tiny bow and arrows in hand, andshivering under his patch of greasy seal-skin!—and yetso near each other, that the stentorian voice of the giantmay thunder in the ears of the dwarf; while the hen-likecackle of the latter may even reach those of hiscolossal vis-à-vis!

Notwithstanding this proximity, there is no converse414between them; for, unlike as are their persons, they arenot more dissimilar than their thoughts, habits, and actions.The one is an aquatic animal, the other essentiallyterrestrial; and, strange to say, in this peculiaritythe weaker creature has the advantage: since the Fuegiancan cross in his bark canoe to the territory of hisgigantic neighbor, while the latter has no canoe norwater-craft of any kind, and therefore never thinks ofextending his excursions to the “land of fire,” exceptingat one very narrow place where he has effected a crossing.In many other respects, more particularly detailedelsewhere,—in their natural dispositions and modes oflife, these two peoples are equally dissimilar; and althoughlearned craniologists may prove from their skulls,that both belong to one division of the human family,this fact proves also that craniology, like anatomy, is buta blind guide in the illustration of scientific truth,—whetherthe subject be the skull of a man or an animal.Despite all the revelations of craniologic skill, an Indianof Patagonia bears about the same resemblance to anIndian of Tierra del Fuego, as may be found between abull and a bluebottle!

Before proceeding to describe the modes of life practisedby the Patagonian giants, a word or two about thecountry they inhabit.

It may be generally described as occupying the wholesouthern part of South America,—from the frontier ofthe Spanish settlements to the Straits of Magellan,—andbounded east and west by the two great oceans.Now, the most southern Spanish (Buenos-Ayrean) settlementis at the mouth of Rio Negro; therefore, theRio Negro—which is the largest river south of the415La Plata—may be taken as the northern boundary ofPatagonia. Not that the weak, vitiated Spanish Americanextends his sway from the Atlantic to the Andes:on the contrary, the Indian aborigines, under one nameor another, are masters of the whole interior,—not onlyto the north of the Rio Negro, but to the very shores ofthe Caribbean Sea! Yes, the broad inland of SouthAmerica, from Cape Horn to the sea of the Antilles, isnow, as it always has been, the domain of the Red Indian;who, so far from having ever been reduced byconquest, has not only resisted the power of the Spanishsword, and the blandishments of the Spanish cross; butat this hour is encroaching, with constant and rapidstrides, upon the blood-stained territory wrested fromhim by that Christian conquest!

And this is the man who is so rapidly to disappearfrom the face of the earth! If so, it is not the punySpaniard who is destined to push him off. If he is todisappear, it will be at such a time, that no Spaniard willbe living to witness his extermination.

Let us take Patagonia proper, then, as bordered uponthe north by the Rio Negro, and extending from theAtlantic to the Pacific. In that case it is a country ofeight hundred miles in length, with a breadth of at leasttwo hundred,—a country larger than either France orSpain. Patagonia is usually described as a continuationof the great plains, known as the “Pampas,” which extendfrom the La Plata River to the eastern slope of theAndes. This idea is altogether erroneous. It is truethat Patagonia is a country of plains,—excepting thatportion of it occupied by the Andes, which is, of course,a mountain tract, much of it resembling Tierra del Fuego416in character more than Patagonia. Indeed, Patagoniaproper can hardly be regarded as including this mountainstrip: since the Patagonian Indians only inhabit theplains properly so called. These plains differ essentiallyfrom those of the Pampas. The latter are based upon acalcareous formation: and produce a rank, rich herbage,—hereof gigantic thistles and wild artichokes,—thereof tall grasses; and, still nearer the mountains, they arethinly covered with copses of low trees. The plains ofPatagonia on the other hand, are of tertiary formation,covered all over with a shingly pebble of porphyry andbasalt, and almost destitute of vegetation. Here andthere are some tufts of scanty grass with a few stuntedbushes in the valleys of the streams, but nothing thatcan be called a tree. A surface drear and arid, in placesmottled with “salinas” or salt-lakes; with fresh wateronly found at long intervals, and, when found, of scantysupply. There are many hilly tracts, but nothing thatcan be called mountains,—excepting the snow-coveredCordilleras in the west. The Patagonian plain is noteverywhere of equal elevation: it rises by steps, as youfollow it westward, beginning from the sea-level of theAtlantic shore; until, having reached the piedmont ofthe Andes, you still find yourself on a plain, but onewhich is elevated three thousand feet above the pointfrom which you started. At all elevations, however, itpresents the same sterile aspect; and you perceive thatPatagonia is a true desert,—as much so as Atacama, inPeru, the desert of the Colorado in the north, the “barrengrounds” of Hudson’s Bay, the Sahara and Kalahari,Gobi, or the steppe of Kaurezm. To the South-Africandeserts it bears a more striking resemblance than to any417of the others,—a resemblance heightened by the presenceof that most remarkable of birds,—the ostrich. Twospecies stalk over the plains of Patagonia,—the struthiorhea and struthio Darwinii. The former extendsnorthward over the Pampas, but not southward to theStraits of Magellan; the latter reaches the Straits, but isnever seen upon the Pampas. The ranges of both meetand overlap near the middle of the Patagonian plain.

In addition to the ostrich, there are other large birdsthat frequent the steppes of Patagonia. The great condorhere crosses the continent, and appears upon theAtlantic shores. He perches upon the cliffs of the sea,—aswell as those that overhang the inland streams,—andbuilds his nest upon the bare rock. Two speciesof polyborus, or vulture-eagles,—the “carrancha” and“chiniango,”—fly side by side with the condor; andthe black turkey-vultures are also denizens of this desertland. The red puma, too, has his home here; the foxof Azara; and several species of hawks and eagles.

With the exception of the first-mentioned—the ostrich—allthese beasts and birds are predatory creatures;and require flesh for their subsistence. Wheredo they get it? Upon what do they all prey? Surelynot upon the ostrich: since this bird is bigger than anyof the birds of prey, and able to defend itself evenagainst the great condor. There are only one or twoother species of birds upon which the eagles might subsist,—apartridge and two kinds of plover; but thevultures could not get a living out of partridges andplovers. Small quadrupeds are alike scarce. There areonly two or three species; and very small creatures theyare,—one a sort of mole, “terutero,” and several kinds418of mice. The latter are, indeed, numerous enough insome places,—swarming over the ground in tracts sosterile, that it is difficult to understand upon what theysubsist. But vultures do not relish food, which theyrequire to kill for themselves. They are too indolentfor that; and wherever they are found, there must besome source of supply,—some large quadrupeds toprovide them with their favorite food,—carrion. Otherwise,in this desert land, how should the ravenouspuma maintain himself?—how the vultures and vulture-eagles?and, above all, upon what does the Patagonianhimself subsist,—a man of such great bulk, asnaturally to require more than the ordinary amount offood? The answer to all these questions, then, is, thata quadruped does exist in the deserts of Patagonia;which, if it furnish not all these creatures with their fulldiet supplies, does a large proportion of it. This quadrupedis the guanaco.

Before proceeding to give an account of the guanaco,let us paint the portrait of the Patagonian himself.

As already observed, he is nearly seven feet in height,without any exaggeration in the way of a hat. Hewears none, but suffers his long black hair to hang looselyover his shoulders, or, more frequently, gathers it intoa knot or club upon the crown of his head. To keep itfrom straggling into his eyes, he usually wears a narrowstrap of guanaco-skin around his forehead, or a plaitedband of the hair of the same animal; but, although possessingostrich-feathers at discretion, he rarely indulgesin the fashion of wearing a plume,—he knows he istall enough without one. Over his shoulders, and hangingnearly to his heels, he wears a loose mantle of guanaco skins;419which is of sufficient width to wrap round hisbody, and meet over his breast,—should he feel coldenough to require it. But he is not of a chilly nature;and he often throws this mantle entirely aside to givehim the freedom of his arms; or more generally tiesa girdle round it, and leaves the upper part to fall backfrom his shoulders, and hang down over the girdle. Thismantle—with the exception of a small pouch-like apronin front—is the only “garment,” the Patagonian wearsupon his body; but his lower limbs have a covering oftheir own. These are encased in a sort of boots ormoccasons,—but differing from all other boots andmoccasons, in the fact of their being without soles!They are made of the same material as the mantle,—thatis, of the skin of the guanaco,—but sometimesalso of the skin of a horse’s shank,—for the Patagonian,like the Pampas Indian, is in possession of this valuableanimal.

This soleless boot covers the leg all round from belowthe knee, passing over the top of the foot like a gaiter;it extends also around the heel, and a little under it,but not so far as the instep, thus leaving the greaterpart of the sole bare, and the toes peeping out in front!They are, in reality, nothing more or less than gaiters,but gaiters of guanaco-skin, with the hair turned outward,and worn, not over a pair of boots or shoes, asgaiters usually are, but upon the naked shanks.

I have been thus particular in my description of thePatagonian chaussure; but you will understand myreasons, when I tell you that, from this trifling circumstance,not only has a vast territory of country, but thepeople who inhabit it, obtained the appellation by which420both have long been known to the civilized world, thatis, Patagonian.

When the sailors who accompanied Magellan firstsaw these colossal men, they noticed a peculiar circumstancein relation to their feet. The flaps, or “uppers,”of the gaiters, extending loosely across the topsof their feet, and exaggerated in breadth by the longhair that fringed out from their edges, gave to theseIndians the appearance of having paws or “patas;”and the name patagones, or “duck-feet,” was given themby the sailors,—ever prone to the bestowal of a ludicrousepithet. This name, in a slightly altered form,they have borne ever since,—so that Patagonia meansthe country of the duck-footed men.

The gaiters of the Patagonians have their peculiarpurpose. They are not worn merely for the sake ofkeeping the legs warm, but also as a protection againstthe thorny shrubs which in Patagonia, as in all desertlands, are exceedingly abundant.

The mantle and moccasons, then, constitute the Patagonian’scostume; and it does not differ so widely fromthat of his neighbor the Fuegian,—the chief points ofdifference being in the size and material.

Of course the guanaco-skin is much larger than thatof the common seal; and a good Patagonian cloakwould furnish “doublets” for a whole tribe of the diminutiveFuegians. Perhaps his ample garment hassomething to do in producing the exaggerated accountsthat have been given of the stature of the Patagonians.Certain it is, that a man thus apparelled looks largerthan he otherwise would do; and presents altogether amore imposing appearance. The Caffre, in his civet-cat421“kaross,” and the Pawnee Indian, in his robe ofshaggy buffalo-hide, loom very large upon karroo andprairie,—much larger in appearance than they reallyare. It is but natural, therefore, to suppose that thePatagonian, attired in his guanaco mantle, and seenagainst the sky, standing upon the summit of a conspicuouscliff, would present a truly gigantic appearance.

When first seen in this position he was on foot. Itwas in the year 1520,—before the Spaniards had setfoot upon South-American soil,—and of course beforethe horse became naturalized to that continent. In lessthan thirty years afterward, he appeared upon thesesame cliffs bestriding a steed: for this noble animal hadextended his range over the plains of America,—evenat an earlier period than his European owner. Whenthe Spaniards, in their after-attempts at conquering theIndians of the Pampas and those of the northern prairies,entered upon these great plains, they encountered,to their great astonishment, their red enemies uponhorseback, brandishing long lances, and managing fierychargers with a skill equal to their own!

Among the earliest tribes that obtained possessionof the horse, were those of the Pampas: since the firstof these animals that ran wild on the plains of Americawere those landed in the La Plata expedition of Mendoza,—whencethey became scattered over the adjacentpampas of Buenos Ayres.

From the banks of the La Plata, the horse passedrapidly southward to the Straits of Magellan; and fromthat hour the Patagonian walked no more. With theexception of a spur,—usually a sharp stick of wood,422upon his heel,—the only additional article of his“wear,” the horse has made no change in his costume,nor in the fashion of his toilet. He still paints his face,as Magellan first saw it,—with a white ring encirclingone eye, and a black or red one around theother; with one half of his body colored black, and awhite sun delineated upon it, while the other half iswhite, forming the “ground” for a black moon! Scarcetwo individuals, however, wear the same escutcheon;for the fashion of having eyes, arms, and legs of twodifferent colors—just as our ancestors used to weartheir doublets and hose—is that followed by the Patagonians.

Notwithstanding this queer custom,—usually regardedas savage,—it would be unjust to call the Patagoniana savage. If we overlook the circumstance of hispainting himself,—which, after all, is scarce more absurdthan numberless practices of civilized life,—if weexcuse him for too scantily covering the nakedness ofhis person, and relishing his food a little “underdone,”we find little else, either in his habits or his moralnature that would entitle him to be termed a savage.On the contrary, from all the testimony that can beobtained,—in all the intercourse which white men havehad with him,—there is scarce an act recorded, thatwould hinder his claim to being considered as civilizedas they. Honorable and amiable, brave and generous,he has ever proved himself; and never has he exhibitedthose traits of vindictive ferocity supposed to be characteristicof the untutored man. He has not even harboredmalice for the wrongs done him by the unprincipledadventurer Magellan: who, in his treatment of423these people, proved himself more of a savage thanthey. But the Patagonian restrained his vengeance;and apparently burying the outrage in oblivion, hasever since that time treated the white man with a generousand dignified friendship. Those who have beenshipwrecked upon his solitary shores, have had no reasonto complain of the treatment they have received at hishands. He is neither cannibal, nor yet barbarian,—butin truth a gentleman,—or, if you prefer it, a gentlemansavage.

But how does this gentleman maintain himself? Wehave already seen that he is not a fisherman,—for heowns no species of boat; and without that his chancesof capturing fish would be slight and uncertain. Wehave stated, moreover, that his country is a steriledesert; and so it is,—producing only the scantiest ofherbage; neither plant, nor tree, that would furnishfood; and incapable of being cultivated with any success.But he does not attempt cultivation,—he has noknowledge of it; nor is it likely he would feel the inclination,even if tempted by the most fertile soil. Neitheris he pastoral in his habits: he has no flocks norherds. The horse and dog are his only domestic animals;and these he requires for other purposes thanfood. The former enables him to pass easily over thewide tracts of his sterile land, and both assist him in thechase,—which is his true and only calling. One of thechief objects of his pursuit is the ostrich; and he eatsthe flesh of this fine desert bird. He eats it, wheneverhe can procure it; but he could not live solely uponsuch food: since he could not obtain it in sufficientquantity; and were this bird the only means he had for424supplying his larder, he would soon be in danger ofstarvation. True, the ostrich lays a great many eggs,and brings forth a large brood of young; but there area great many hungry mouths, and a great many largestomachs among the Patagonian people. The ostrichcould never supply them all; and were it their onlyresource, the bird would soon disappear from the plainsof Patagonia, and, perhaps, the race of Patagoniangiants along with it.

Fortunately for the Patagonian, his country furnisheshim with another kind of game, from which he obtainsa more sufficient supply; and that is the guanaco. Beholdyonder herd of stately creatures! There areseveral hundreds of them in all. Their bodies are coveredwith long, woolly hair of a reddish-brown color.If they had antlers upon their heads, you might mistakethem for stags,—for they are just about the size of themale of the red deer. But they have no horns; andotherwise they are unlike these animals,—in their longslender necks, and coat of woolly hair. They are notdeer of any kind,—they are guanacos. These, then,are the herds of the Patagonian Indian; they are thegame he chiefly pursues; and their flesh the food, uponwhich he is mainly subsisted.

I need not here give the natural history of the guanaco.Suffice it to say that it is one of the four (perhapsfive) species of llamas or “camel-sheep” peculiarto the continent of South America,—the other threeof which are the vicuña, the true llama, and the paco,or alpaca. The llama and alpaca are domesticated; butthe vicuña, the most graceful of all, exists only in awild state, like the guanaco. The four kinds inhabit the425table-lands of the Andes, from Colombia to Chili; butthe guanaco has extended its range across to the Atlanticside of the continent: this only in the territory southof the La Plata River. On the plains of Patagonia itis the characteristic quadruped: rarely out of sight, andusually seen in herds of twenty or thirty individuals;but sometimes in large droves, numbering as many asfive hundred. There the puma—after the Indian ofcourse—is its greatest enemy,—and the débris of hisfeast constitutes the food of the vultures and vulture-eagles,—thusaccounting for the presence of these greatbirds in such a desert land.

The guanaco is among the shyest of quadrupeds; andits capture would be difficult to any one unacquaintedwith its habits. But these betray them to the skilledPatagonian hunter,—who is well acquainted with everyfact in the natural history of the animal.

The Patagonian mode of capturing these creatures isnot without many peculiarities in hunting practice. Hisfirst care is to find out their whereabouts: for the hauntswhich the guanacos most affect are not the level plains,where they might be seen from afar, but rather thoseplaces where the ground is hilly or rolling. There theyare to be met with, ranged in extended lines along thesides of the hills, with an old male keeping watch uponthe summit of some eminence that overlooks the flock.Should the sentinel espy any danger, or even suspect it,he gives the alarm by uttering a shrill, whistling cry,somewhat resembling a neigh. On hearing this well-knownsignal, the others at once take to flight, andgallop straight for the side of some other hill,—wherethey all halt in line, and stand waiting to see if they are426followed. Very often the first intimation which thehunter has of their presence, is by hearing their strangesignal of flight,—which may be described as a sortof triangular cross between squealing, neighing, andwhistling.

Shy as they are, and difficult to be approached, theyhave the strange peculiarity of losing all their senseswhen put into confusion. On these occasions they behaveexactly like a flock of sheep: not knowing whichway to run; now dashing to one side, then to the other,and often rushing into the very teeth of that dangerfrom which they are trying to escape!

Knowing their stupidity in this respect, the Patagonianhunter acts accordingly. He does not go out tohunt the guanacos alone, but in company with othersof his tribe, the hunting-party often comprising thewhole tribe. Armed with their “chuzos,”—light canespears of eighteen feet in length,—and mounted ontheir well-trained steeds, they sally forth from their encampment,and proceed to the favorite pasturing-groundof the guanacos. Their purpose is, if possible, to effectthe “surround” of a whole herd; and to accomplishthis, it is necessary to proceed with great skill and caution.The animals are found at length; and, by meansof a deployment of dogs and horsemen, are driventowards some hill which may be convenient to the pasture.The instinct of the animal guiding it thither,renders this part of the performance easy enough. Onreaching the hill, the guanacos dash onward, up to itssummit; and there, halting in a compact crowd, makefront towards their pursuers. These meanwhile havegalloped into a circle,—surrounding the eminence or427all sides; and, advancing upwards amidst loud yells andthe yelping of their dogs, close finally around the herd,and rush forward to the attack.

The long chuzos do their work with rapidity; and,in a few minutes, numbers of the guanacos lie lifelessamong the rocks. The dogs, with some men, form anouter circle of assailants; and should any guanacosescape through the line of horsemen, they are seizedupon by the dogs, and pinned to the spot,—for it isanother sheep-like trait in the character of this animal,that the moment a dog—even though he be the merestcur—seizes hold of it, it neither attempts further flightnor resistence, but remains “pinned” to the spot as ifunder a paralysis of terror. They sometimes give battle,however, though never to a dog; and their mode ofassault is by kicking behind them,—not with their hoofsas horses do, but with the knee-joints, the hind legs beingboth raised at once. Among themselves the malesfight terrible battles: biting each other with their teeth,and often inflicting cruel acerations.

Strange to say, when the guanacos are found solitary,or only two or three together, they are far less shy thanwhen assembled in large herds. At such times, the feelingof curiosity seems stronger than that of fear withinthem; and the hunter can easily approach within a dozenpaces of one, by simply cutting a few capers, or holdingup something that may be new to it,—such as a stripof colored rag, or some showy article of any kind. Itwas by such devices that the Patagonian captured thesecreatures, before possession of the horse enabled him toeffect their destruction in the more wholesale fashion ofthe “surround.”

428By tumbling about over the ground, he was enabledto bring the game within reach,—not of his bow andarrows; nor yet of his long spear,—for he did not useit for such a purpose,—and, of course, not of a gun, forhe never had heard of such a weapon. Within reachof what then? Of a weapon peculiarly his own,—aweapon of singular construction and deadly effect; whichhe knew how to employ before ever the white man cameupon his shores, and which the Spaniards who dwell inthe Pampas country have found both pride and profit inadopting. This weapon is the “bolas.”

It is simple and easily described. Two round stones,—thewomen make them round by grinding the oneagainst the other,—two round stones are covered witha piece of guanaco raw hide, presenting very much theappearance of cricket-balls, though of unequal size,—onebeing considerably smaller than the other. Twothongs are cut; and one end of each is firmly attachedto one of the balls.

The other ends of the thongs are knotted to eachother; and when the strings are at full stretch, the ballswill then be about eight feet apart,—in other words,each thong should be four feet in length. The bolasare now made, and ready for use. The chief difficultyin their manufacture lies in the rounding of the stones;which, as above observed, is the work of the women;and at least two days are required to grind a pair ofbola-stones to the proper spherical shape. To handlethem requires long practice; and this the Patagonianhas had: for, ever since the young giant was able tostand upon his feet, he has been in the habit of playingwith the bolas. They have been the toy of his childhood;429and to display skill in their management has beenthe pride of his boyish days; therefore, on arriving atfull maturity, no wonder he exhibits great dexterity intheir use. He can then project them to a distance offifty yards,—with such precision as to strike the legs ofeither man or quadruped, and with such force, that thethong not only whips itself around the object struck, butoften leaves a deep weal in the skin and flesh. Themode of throwing them is well known. The right handonly is used; and this grasps the thongs at their pointof union, about half-way between the ends. The ballsare then whirled in a circular motion around the headand, when sufficient centrifugal power has been obtained,the weapon is launched at the object to be captured.The aim is a matter of nice calculation,—in which arm,eye, and mind, all bear a part,—and so true is this aim,in Patagonian practice, that the hunter seldom fails tobring down or otherwise cripple his game,—be it ostrich,cavy, or guanaco.

By these bolas, then, did the Patagonian hunter capturethe guanaco and ostrich in times past; and by thesame weapon does he still capture them: for he can useit even better on horseback than on foot. Either thebird or the quadruped, within fifty yards, has no chanceof escape from his unerring aim.

The bolas, in some districts, have been improved uponby the introduction of a third ball; but this the Patagoniandoes not consider an improvement. Wooden ballsare sometimes employed; and iron ones, where they canbe had,—the last sort can be projected to the greatestdistance.

The Patagonian takes the young guanacos alive; and430brings them up in a state of domestication. The littlecreatures may often be observed, standing outside thetents of a Patagonian encampment,—either tied by astring, or held in hand by some “infant giant” of thetribe. It is not solely for the pleasure of making petsof them, that the young guanacos are thus cherished;nor yet to raise them for food. The object aimed athas a very different signification. These young guanacosare intended to be used as decoys: for the purpose of attractingtheir own relatives,—fathers, mothers, sisters,brothers, uncles, and aunts, even to the most distantthirty-second cousinship,—within reach of the terriblebolas!

This is effected by tying the innocent little creatureto some bush,—behind which the hunter conceals himself,—andthen imitating the mother’s call; which theIndian hunter can do with all the skill of a ventriloquist.The young captive responds with the plaintive cry ofcaptivity,—the parents are soon attracted to the spot,and fall victims to their instinct of natural affection.Were it not for this, and similar stratagems adopted bythe Patagonian hunter, he would pursue the guanaco invain. Even with the help of his pack of dogs, andmounted upon the fleet Spanish horse, the guanaco cannotbe hunted with success. Nature, in denying to theseanimals almost every means of defence, has also bestowedupon them a gift which enables them to escape frommany kinds of danger. Of mild and inoffensive habits,—defencelessas the hare,—they are also possessed ofa like swiftness. Indeed, there is perhaps no quadruped—noteven the antelope—can get over the ground asspeedily as the guanaco or its kindred species the vicuña,431Both are swift as the wind; and the eye, followingeither in its retreat over the level plain, or up the declivityof a hill, is deluded into the fancy that it is watchingsome great bird upon the wing.

There are certain seasons during which the guanacois much more difficult to approach than at other times;but this is true of almost every species of animal,—whetherbird or quadruped. Of course, the tame seasonis that of sexual intercourse, when even the wild beastsbecome reckless under the influence of passion. Atother times the guanacos are generally very shy; andsometimes extremely so. It is not uncommon for a herdof them to take the alarm, and scamper off from thehunter, even before the latter has approached nearenough to be himself within sight of them! They possessgreat keenness of scent, but it is the eye whichusually proves their friend, warning them of the approachof an enemy—especially if that enemy be aman upon horseback—before the latter is aware oftheir proximity. Often a cloud of dust, rising afar offover the plain, is the only proof the hunter can obtain,that there was game within the range of his vision.It is a curious circumstance connected with huntingon these great plains,—both on the Pampas and inPatagonia,—that a man on foot can approach muchnearer to any game than if he were mounted upon ahorse. This is true not only in relation to the guanacoand ostrich, but also of the large Pampas deer (cervuscampestris); and indeed of almost every animal thatinhabits these regions. The reason is simple enough.All these creatures are accustomed to seeing their humanenemy only on horseback: for “still hunting,” or hunting432afoot, is rarely or never practised upon the plains.Not only that, but a man on foot, would be a rare sighteither to an ostrich or guanaco; and they would scarcerecognize him as an enemy! Curiosity would be theirleading sentiment; and, being influenced by this, thehunter on foot can often approach them without difficulty.The Patagonian, knowing this peculiarity, notinfrequently takes advantage of it, to kill or captureboth the bird and the quadruped.

This sentiment of the brute creation, on the plainsof Patagonia, is directly the reverse of what may beobserved in our own fields. The sly crow shows butlittle of this shyness, so long as you approach it on ahorse’s back; but only attempt to steal up to it onfoot,—even with a thick hawthorn hedge to screenyou,—and every fowler knows how wary the birdcan prove itself. Some people pronounce this instinct.If so, instinct and reason must be one and the samething.

Besides hunting the guanaco, much of the Patagonian’stime is spent in the chase of the ostrich; and, tocircumvent this shy creature, he adopts various ruses.The American ostrich, or more properly rhea, has manyhabits in common with its African congener. One ofthese is, when pursued it runs in a straight track, and, ifpossible, against the wind. Aware of this habit, thePatagonians pursue it on horseback,—taking the precautionto place some of their party in ambush in thedirection which the bird is most likely to run. Theythen gallop hastily up to the line of flight, and eitherintercept the rhea altogether, or succeed in “hoppling”it with the bolas. The moment these touch its long legs,433both are drawn suddenly together; and the bird goesdown as if shot!

Drake and other voyagers have recorded the statementthat the Patagonians attract the rhea within reach,by disguising themselves in a skin of this bird. This isevidently an untruth; and the error, whether wilful orotherwise, derives its origin from the fact, that a stratagemof the kind is adopted by the Bushmen of Africato deceive the ostrich. But what is practicable and possiblebetween a pigmy Bushman and a gigantic Africanostrich, becomes altogether impracticable and improbable,when the dramatis personæ are a gigantic Patagonianand an American rhea. Moreover, it is alsoworthy of remark, that the rhea of the Patagonianplains is not the larger of the two species of Americanostrich, but the smaller one (rhea Darwinii), whichhas been lately specifically named after the celebratednaturalist. And justly does Mr. Darwin merit the honor:since he was the first to give a scientific description ofthe bird. He was not the first, however,—as he appearshimself to believe,—to discover its existence, orto give a record of it in writing. The old Styrian monk,Dobrizhoffer, two centuries before Mr. Darwin was born,in his “History of the Abipones” clearly points to thefact that there were two distinct species of the “avestruz,”or South-American ostrich.

Mr. Darwin, however, has confirmed Dobrizhoffer’saccount; and brought both birds home with him; andhe, who chooses to reflect upon the subject, will easilyperceive how impossible it would be for a Patagonianto conceal his bulky corpus under the skin of a rheaDarwinii, or even that of its larger congener, the rhea434Americana. The skin of either would be little morethan large enough to form a cap for the colossus of thePatagonian plains.

In the more fertile parts of Patagonia, the large deer(cervus campestris) is found. These are also hunted bythe Patagonian, and their flesh is esteemed excellentfood; not, however, until it has lain several days buriedunderground,—for it requires this funereal process, torid it of the rank, goat-like smell, so peculiar to thespecies. The mode of hunting this deer—at least thatmost likely to insure success—is by stealing forward toit on foot.

Sometimes a man may approach it, within the distanceof a few yards,—even when there is no cover to shelterhim,—by walking gently up to it. Of all the otherquadrupeds of the Pampas,—and these plains are itsfavorite habitat,—the cervus campestris most dreads thehorseman:—since its enemy always appears in thatguise; and it has learnt the destructive power of bothlazo and bolas, by having witnessed their effects upon itscomrades. The hunter dismounted has no terrors for it;and if he will only keep lazo and bolas out of sight,—forthese it can distinguish, as our crow does the gun,—hemay get near enough to fling either one or the otherwith a fatal precision.

The “agouti” (cavia Patagonica) frequently furnishesthe Patagonian with a meal. This species is a truedenizen of the desert plains of Patagonia; and formsone of the characteristic features of their landscape. Ineed not describe its generic characters; and specificallyit has been long known as the “Patagonian cavy.” Itshabits differ very little from the other South-American435animals of this rodent genus,—except that, unlike thegreat capivare, it does not affect to dwell near the water.It is altogether a denizen of dry plains, in which it burrows,and upon which it may be seen browsing, or hoppingat intervals from one point to another, like a giganticrabbit or hare. In fact, the cavies appear to be theSouth-American representatives of the hare family,—takingtheir place upon all occasions; and, though ofmany different species,—according to climate, soil, andother circumstances,—yet agreeing with the hares inmost of their characteristic habits. So much do some ofthe species assimilate to these last, that colonial sportsmenare accustomed to give them the Old-World appellationof the celebrated swift-footed rodent. The Patagoniancavies are much larger than English hares,—one ofthem will weigh twenty-five pounds,—but, in other respects,there is a great deal of resemblance. On a fineevening, three or four cavies may be seen squatted neareach other, or hopping about over the plains, one followingthe other in a direct line, as if they were all proceedingon the same errand! Just such a habit is frequentlyobserved among hares and rabbits in a field of youngcorn or fallow.

The Patagonian boys and women often employ themselvesin seeking out the ostriches’ nests, and robbingthem of their eggs,—which last they find good eating.In the nests of the smaller species which we have alreadystated to be the most common in the Patagoniancountry,—they are not rewarded so liberally for theirtrouble. Only from sixteen to twenty eggs are hatchedby the rhea Darwinii and about twenty-five to thirty bythe rhea Americana. It will be seen, that this is far436below the number obtained from the nest of the Africanostrich (struthio camelus),—in which as many as sixtyor seventy eggs are frequently found. It would appear,therefore, that the greater the size of the bird, belongingto this genus the greater the number of its brood. Boththe American rheas follow the peculiar habit of the trueostrich: that is, several hens deposit their eggs in thesame nest; and the male bird assists in the process ofincubation. Indeed, in almost every respect—exceptsize and general color of plumage—the American andAfrican ostriches resemble each other very closely; andthere is no reason in the world why a pedantic compilershould have bestowed upon them distinct generic names.Both are true camel birds: both alike the offspring, asthey are the ornament, of the desert land.

Another occupation in which the Patagonian engages—andwhich sometimes rewards him with a meal—isthe snaring of the Pampas partridge (nothuria major).This is usually the employment of the more youthfulgiants; and is performed both on foot and on horseback.A small species of partridge is taken on foot; but thelarger kind can be snared best from the back of a horse.The mode is not altogether peculiar to Patagonia: sinceit is also practised in other parts of America,—bothnorth and south,—and the bustard is similarly capturedupon the karoos of Africa. During the noon hours ofthe day, the performance takes place: that is, when thesun no longer casts a shadow. The locality of the birdbeing first ascertained, the fowler approaches it, as nearas it will allow. He then commences riding round, andround, and round,—being all the while watched by thefoolish bird, that, in constantly turning its head, appears437to grow giddy, and loses all dread of danger. The Indianeach moment keeps lessening his circle; or, in otherwords, approaches by a spiral line, continually closingupon its centre. His only weapon is a long light reed,—somethinglike the common kind of cane fishing-rod,seen in the hands of rustic youth in our own country. Onthe end of this reed he has adjusted a stiff snare; thenoose of which is made from the epidermis of an ostrichplume, or a piece of the split quill; and which, beingboth stiff and elastic, serves admirably for the purposefor which it is designed.

Having at length arrived within a proper distance toreach the beguiled bird, the boy softly stops his horse,bends gently sideward, and, adroitly passing his nooseover the neck of the partridge, jerks the silly creatureinto the air. In this way an Indian boy will capture adozen of these birds in a few hours; and might obtainfar more, if the sun would only stay all day in the zenith.But as the bright orb sinks westward, the elongatedshadow of the horseman passes over the partridge beforethe latter is within reach of the snare; and this alarmingthe creature, causes it to take flight.

The Patagonian builds no house; nor does he remainlong in one place at a time. The sterile soil upon whichhe dwells requires him to lead a nomade life; passingfrom place to place in search of game. A tent is thereforehis home; and this is of the simplest kind: the tent-clothconsisting of a number of guanaco skins stitchedtogether, and the poles being such as he can obtain fromthe nearest tract of thicket or chapparal. The poles areset bow-fashion in the ground, and over these the skincovering is spread,—one of the bent poles being left uncovered,438to serve as a doorway. Most of the Patagonian’stime is occupied in procuring game: which, as wehave seen, is his sole sustenance; and when he has anyleisure moments, they are given to the care of his horse,or to the making or repairing his weapons for the chase.Above all, the bolas are his especial pride, and ever presentwith him. When not in actual use, they are suspendedfrom his girdle, or tied sash-like around his waist,—theballs dangling down like a pair of tassels.

Only during his hours of sleep, is this national weaponever out of the hands of the Patagonian giant. Hadthe wonderful giant of our nurseries been provided withsuch a sling, it is probable that little Jack would havefound in him an adversary more difficult to subdue!



The great continent of South America, tapering likea tongue to the southward, ends abruptly on the Straitsof Magellan. These straits may be regarded as a sortof natural canal, connecting the Atlantic with the PacificOcean, winding between high rocky shores, andindented with numerous bays and inlets. Though thewater is of great depth, the Straits themselves are sonarrow that a ship passing through need never losesight of land on either side; and in many places a shell,projected from an ordinary howitzer, would pitch clearacross them from shore to shore! The country extendingnorthward from these straits is, as already seen,called Patagonia; that which lies on their southernside is the famed “land of fire,” Tierra del Fuego.

The canal, or channel, of the Straits of Magellandoes not run in a direct line from the Atlantic to thePacific. On the contrary, a ship entering from theformer, instead of passing due west, must first run ina southwest direction,—rather more south than west.This course will continue, until the ship is about half-waybetween the two oceans. She will then head almostat a right angle to her former course; and keep440this direction—which is nearly due northwest—untilshe emerges into the Pacific.

It will thus be seen, that the Straits form an anglenear their middle; and the point of land which projectsinto the vertex of this angle, and known to navigatorsas Cape Forward, is the most southern land of theAmerican continent. Of course this is not meant toapply to the most southern point of American land,—sinceTierra del Fuego must be considered as part ofSouth America. The far-famed “Cape Horn” is thepart of America nearest to the South Pole; and this isa promontory on one of the small elevated islands lyingoff the southern coast of Tierra del Fuego itself. Tierradel Fuego was for a long time regarded as a singleisland; though, even in the voyage of Magellan, severallarge inlets, that resembled channels, were observedrunning into the land; and it was suspected by thatnavigator, that these inlets might be passages leadingthrough to the ocean. Later surveys have proved thatthe conjectures of the Spano-Portuguese voyager werewell founded; and it is now known that instead of asingle island, the country called Tierra del Fuego is acongeries of many islands, of different shapes and sizes,—separatedfrom one another by deep and narrowchannels, or arms of the sea, with an endless ramificationof sounds and inlets. In the western part—andoccupying more than three fourths of their whole territory—theseclose-lying islands are nothing else thanmountains,—several of them rising five thousand feetabove the level of the water, and stepping directly downto it, without any foot-hills intervening! Some of themhave their lower declivities covered with sombre forests441while, farther up, nothing appears but the bare brownrocks, varied with blue glaciers, or mottled with massesof snow. The more elevated peaks are covered withsnow that never melts; since their summits rise considerablyabove the snow-line of this cold region.

These mountain-islands of Tierra del Fuego continueon to Cape Horn, and eastward to the Straits of LeMaire, and the bleak islet of Staaten Land. They may,in fact, be considered as the continuation of the greatchain of the Andes, if we regard the intersecting channels—includingthat of Magellan itself—as mere cleftsor ravines, the bottoms of which, lying below the levelof the sea, have been filled with sea-water. Indeed, wemay rationally take this view of the case: since thesechannels bear a very great resemblance to the stupendousravines termed “barrancas” and “quebradas,”which intersect the Cordilleras of the Andes in otherparts of South America,—as also in the northern divisionof the American continent.

Regarding the Straits of Magellan, then, and theother channels of Tierra del Fuego, as great water-barrancas,we may consider the Andes as terminating atCape Horn itself, or rather at Staaten Land: since thatisland is a still more distant extension of this, the longestchain of mountains on the globe.

Another point may be here adduced, in proof of therationality of this theory. The western, or mountainouspart of Tierra del Fuego bears a strong resemblance tothe western section of the continent,—that is, the partoccupied by the Andes. For a considerable distance tothe north of the Magellan Straits, nearly one half ofthe continental land is of a mountainous character. It442is also indented by numerous sounds and inlets, resemblingthose of Tierra del Fuego; while the mountainsthat hang over these deep-water ravines are either timbered,or bare of trees and snow-covered, exhibitingglacier valleys, like those farther south. The wholephysical character is similar; and, what is a still moresingular fact, we find that in the western, or mountainouspart of Patagonia, there are no true Patagonians;but that there the water-Indians, or Fuegians, frequentthe creeks and inlets.

Again, upon the east,—or rather northeast of Tierradel Fuego,—that angular division of it, which lies tothe north of the Sabastian channel presents us withphysical features that correspond more nearly with thoseof the plains of Patagonia; and upon this part we findtribes of Indians that beyond doubt are true Patagonians,—andnot Fuegians, as they have been described. Thiswill account for the fact that some navigators have seenpeople on the Fuegian side that were large-bodied men,clothed in guanaco skins, and exhibiting none of thosewretched traits which characterize the Fuegians; while,on the other hand, miserable, stunted men are known tooccupy the mountainous western part of Patagonia. Itamounts to this,—that the Patagonians have crossed theStraits of Magellan; and it is this people, and not Fuegians,who are usually seen upon the champaign landsnorth of the Sebastian channel. Even the guanaco hascrossed at the same place,—for this quadruped, as wellas a species of deer, is found in the eastern division ofTierra del Fuego. Perhaps it was the camel-sheep—whichappears to be almost a necessity of the Patagonian’sexistence—that first induced these water-hating443giants to make so extensive a voyage as that of crossingthe Straits at Cape Orange!

At Cape Orange the channel is so narrow, one mightfancy that the Patagonians, if they possessed one halfthe pedestrian stretch attributed to the giants of old,might have stepped from shore to shore without wettingtheir great feet!

Perhaps there are no two people on earth, living sonear each other as the Patagonians and Fuegians, whoare more unlike. Except in the color of the skin andhair, there is hardly a point of resemblance betweenthem. The former seems to hate the sea: at all eventshe never goes out upon, nor even approaches its shore,except in pursuit of such game as may wander thatway. He neither dwells near, nor does he draw anyportion of his subsistence from the waters of the greatdeep,—fish constituting no part of his food.

All this is directly the reverse with the Fuegian.The beach is the situation he chooses for his dwelling-place,and the sea or its shore is his proper element.He is more than half his time, either on it, or in it,—onit in his canoe, and in it, while wading among thetidal shoals in search of fish, muscles, and limpets, whichconstitute very nearly the whole of his subsistence.

It is very curious, therefore, while noting the differencebetween these two tribes of Indians, to observehow each confines its range to that part of the Magellanicland that appears best adapted to their own peculiarhabits,—those of the Patagonian being altogetherterrestrial, while those of the Fuegian are essentiallyaquatic.

We have stated elsewhere the limits of the Patagonian444territory; and shown that, ethnologically speaking,they do not occupy the whole northern shore of theMagellan Straits, but only the eastern half of it. Westwardtowards the Pacific the aspect of the land, on bothsides of this famous channel, may be regarded as of thesame character, though altogether different from thatwhich is seen at the entrance, or eastern end.

West of Cape Negro on one side, and the Sebastianpassage on the other, bleak mountain summits, with narrowwooded valleys intervening, become the characteristicfeatures. There we behold an incongruous labyrinthof peaks and ridges, of singular and fantastic forms,—manyof them reaching above the limits of perpetualsnow,—which, in this cold climate descends to theheight of four thousand feet. We have seen that thesemountains are separated from each other,—not byplains, nor even valleys, in the ordinary understandingof the term; but by ravines, the steep sides of whichare covered with sombre forests up to a height of onethousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea:at which point vegetation terminates with a uniformityas exact as that of the snow-line itself! These forestsgrow out of a wet, peaty soil,—in many places impassableon account of its boggy nature; and of this characteris almost the whole surface of the different islands.The trees composing the forests are few in species,—thoseof the greatest size and numbers being the “winter’sbark” (drymys), of the order magnoliacæ, a birch,and, more abundantly, a species of beech-tree, the fagusbetuloides. These last-named trees are many of themof great size; and might almost be called evergreens:since they retain part of their foliage throughout the445whole year; but it would be more appropriate to stylethem ever-yellows: since at no period do they exhibit averdure, anything like the forests of other countries.They are always clad in the same sombre livery of dullyellow, rendering the mountain landscape around them,if possible, more dreary and desolate.

The forests of Tierra del Fuego are essentially worthlessforests; their timber offering but a limited contributionto the necessities of man, and producing scarce anyfood for his subsistence.

Many of the ravines are so deep as to end, as alreadystated, in becoming arms or inlets of the sea; while othersagain are filled up with stupendous glaciers, that appearlike cataracts suddenly arrested in their fall, bybeing frozen into solid ice! Most of these inlets are ofgreat depth,—so deep that the largest ship may ploughthrough them with safety. They intersect the islands inevery direction,—cutting them up into numerous peninsulasof the most fantastic forms; while some of thechannels are narrow sounds, and stretch across the landof Tierra del Fuego from ocean to ocean.

The “Land of Fire” is therefore not an island,—asit was long regarded,—but rather a collection of islands,terminated by precipitous cliffs that frown within gun-shotof each other. Ofttimes vast masses of rock, orstill larger masses of glacier ice, fall from these cliffsinto the profound abysses of the inlets below; the concussion,as they strike the water, reverberating to thedistance of miles; while the water itself, stirred to itslowest depths, rises in grand surging waves, that oftenengulf the canoe of the unwary savage.

“Tierra del Fuego” is simply the Spanish phrase for446“Land of Fire.” It was so called by Magellan onaccount of the numerous fires seen at night upon itsshores,—while he and his people were passing throughthe Straits. These were signal fires, kindled by thenatives,—no doubt to telegraph to one another thearrival of those strange leviathans, the Spanish ships,then seen by them for the first time.

The name is inappropriate. A more fit appellationwould be the “land of water;” for, certainly, in nopart of the earth is water more abundant: both rainand snow supplying it almost continually. Water is thevery plague of the island; it lies stagnant or runs everywhere,—formingswamps, wherever there is a spot oflevel ground, and rendering even the declivities of themountains as spongy as a peat-bog.

The climate throughout the whole year is excessivelycold; for, though the winter is perhaps not more rigorousthan in the same latitude of a northern land, yetthe summer is almost as severe as the winter; and itwould be a misnomer to call it summer at all. Snowfalls throughout the whole year; and even in the midsummerof Tierra del Fuego men have actually perishedfrom cold, at no great elevation above the level of thesea!

Under these circumstances, it would scarce be expectedthat Tierra del Fuego should be inhabited,—eitherby men or animals of any kind; but no countryhas yet been reached, too cold for the existence of both.No part of the earth seems to have been created in vain;and both men and beasts are found dwelling under thechill skies of Tierra del Fuego.

The land-animals, as well as the birds, are few in447species, as in numbers. The guanaco is found upon theislands; but whether indigenous, or carried across fromthe Patagonian shore, can never be determined: since itwas an inhabitant of the islands long anterior to thearrival of Magellan. It frequents only the eastern sideof the cluster,—where the ground is firmer, and a fewlevel spots appear that might be termed plains or meadows.A species of deer inhabits the same districts;and besides these, there are two kinds of fox-wolves(canis Megellanicus and canis Azaræ), three or fourkinds of mice, and a species of bat.

Of water-mammalia there is a greater abundance;these comprising the whale, seals, sea-lions, and thesea-otter.

But few birds have been observed; only the white-tuftedflycatcher, a large black woodpecker with scarletcrest, a creeper, a wren, a thrush, a starling, hawks,owls, and four or five kinds of finches.

The water-birds, like the water-mammalia, muster ingreater numbers. Of these there are ducks of variouskinds, sea-divers, and penguins, the albatross, and sheer-water,and, more beautiful than all, the “painted” or“Magellan goose.”

Reptiles do not exist, and insects are exceedinglyrare. A few flies and butterflies are seen; but themosquito—the plague of other parts of South America—doesnot venture into the cold, humid atmosphere ofthe Land of Fire.

We now arrive at the human inhabitants of this desolateregion.

As might be expected, these exhibit no very highcondition of either physical or mental development but448the contrary. The character of their civilization is incomplete correspondence with that of their dreary dwelling-place,—atthe very bottom of the scale. Yes, atthe very bottom, according to most ethnologists; evenlower down than that of the Digger Indian, the Andamanislander, the Bushman of Africa, or the Esquimauxof the Arctic Ocean: in fact, any comparison of a Fuegianwith the last-mentioned would be ridiculous, asregards either their moral or physical condition. Belowthe Esquimaux, the Fuegian certainly is, and by manya long degree.

In height, the tallest Fuegian stands about five feet,—notin his boots, for he wears none; but on his nakedsoles. His wife is just six inches shorter than himself,—adifference which is not a bad proportion betweenthe sexes, but in other respects they are much alike.Both have small, misshapen limbs, with large knee-caps,and but little calf; both have long masses of coarsetangled hair, hanging like bunches of black snakes overtheir shoulders; and both are as naked as the hour inwhich they were born,—unless we call that a dress,—thatbit of stinking seal-skin which is slung at the back,and covers about a fifth part of the whole body! Hairyside turned inward, it extends only from the nape of theneck to a few inches below the hollow of the back; andis fastened in front by means of a thong or skewer passingover the breast. It is rarely so ample as to admitof being “skewered;” and with this scanty covering,in rain and snow, frost and blow,—some one of whichis continuously going on,—the shivering wretch is contented.Nay, more; if there should happen an intervalof mild weather, or the wearer be at work in paddling449his canoe, he flings this unique garment aside, as if itswarmth were an incumbrance! When the weather isparticularly cold, he shifts the seal-skin to that side ofhis body which may chance to be exposed to the blast!

The Fuegian wears neither hat, nor shirt, waistcoat,nor breeches,—no shoes, no stockings,—nothing intendedfor clothing but the bit of stinking skin. Hisvanity, however, is exhibited, if not in his dress, to someextent in his adornments. Like all savages and manycivilized people, he paints certain portions of his person;and his “escutcheon” is peculiar. It would be difficultdetail its complicated labyrinth of “crossings” and“quarterings.” We shall content ourselves by statingthat black lines and blotches upon a white ground constituteits chief characteristic. Red, too, is sometimesseen, of a dark or “bricky” color. The black is simplycharcoal; while the white-ground coat is obtained froma species of infusorial clay, which he finds at the bottomof the peaty streams, that pour down the ravines of themountains. As additional ornaments, he wears stringsof fish-teeth, or pieces of bone, about his wrists andankles. His wife carries the same upon her neck; andboth, when they can procure it, tie a plain band aroundthe head, of a reddish-brown color,—the material ofwhich is the long hair of the guanaco. The “cloak,”already described, is sometimes of sea-otter instead ofseal-skin; and on some of the islands, where the deerdwells, the hide of that animal affords a more amplecovering. In most cases, however, the size of the garmentis that of a pocket handkerchief; and affords aboutas much protection against the weather as a kerchiefwould.

450Though the Fuegian has abundance of hair upon hishead, there is none, or almost none on any part of hisbody. He is beardless and whiskerless as an Esquimaux;though his features,—without the adornmentof hair,—are sufficiently fierce in their expression.

He not only looks ferocious, but in reality is so,—deformedin mind, as he is hideous in person. He is notonly ungrateful for kindness done, but unwilling to rememberit; and he is cruel and vindictive in the extreme.Beyond a doubt he is a cannibal; not habituallyperhaps, but in times of scarcity and famine,—a truecannibal, for he does not confine himself to eating hisenemies, but his friends, if need be,—and especially theold women of his tribe, who fall the first victims, in thosecrises produced by the terrible requirements of an impendingstarvation. Unfortunately the fact is too wellauthenticated to admit of either doubt or denial; and,even while we write, the account of a massacre of aship’s crew by these hostile savages is going the roundsof the press,—that ship, too, a missionary vessel, thathad landed on their shores with the humane object ofameliorating their condition.

Of course such unnatural food is only partaken of atlong and rare intervals,—by many communities never,—andthere is no proof that the wretched Fuegian hasacquired an appetite for it: like the Feegee and someother savage tribes. It is to be hoped that he indulgesin the horrid habit, only when forced to it by the necessitiesof extreme hunger.

His ordinary subsistence is shell-fish; though he eatsalso the flesh of the seal and sea-otter; of birds, especiallythe penguin and Magellanic goose, when he can451capture them. His stomach will not “turn” at the blubberof a whale,—when by good chance one of theseleviathans gets stranded on his coast,—even though thegreat carcass be far gone in the stages of decomposition!The only vegetable diet in which he indulges is theberry of a shrub—a species of arbutus—which growsabundantly on the peaty soil; and a fungus of a verycurious kind, that is produced upon the trunks of thebeech-tree. This fungus is of a globular form, and pale-yellowcolor. When young, it is elastic and turgid, witha smooth surface; but as it matures it becomes shrunken,grows tougher in its texture, and presents the pitted appearanceof a honeycomb. When fully ripe, the Fuegianscollect it in large quantities, eating it without cookingor other preparation. It is tough between the teeth;but soon changes into pulp, with a sweetish taste andflavor,—somewhat resembling that of our common mushroom.

These two vegetables—a berry and a cryptogamicplant—are almost the only ones eaten by the nativesof Tierra del Fuego. There are others upon the islandthat might enable them to eke out their miserable existence:there are two especially sought after by suchEuropeans as visit this dreary land,—the “wild celery”(apium antarcticum), and the “scurvy grass” (cardamineantiscorbutica); but for these the Fuegian caresnot. He even knows not their uses.

In speaking of other “odd people,” I have usuallydescribed the mode of building their house; but aboutthe house of the Fuegian I have almost “no story totell.” It would be idle to call that a house, which farmore resembles the lair of a wild beast; and is, in reality,452little better than the den made by the orang-outangin the forests of Borneo. Such as it is, howeverI shall describe it.

Having procured a number of long saplings or branches,—notalways straight ones,—the Fuegian sharpensthem at one end by means of his muscle-shell knife; andthen sticking the sharpened ends into the ground in akind of circle, he brings the tops all together, and tiesthem in a bunch,—so as to form a rude hemisphericalframe. Upon this he lays some smaller branches; andover these a few armfuls of long coarse grass, and thehouse is “built.” One side—that to leeward of theprevailing wind—is left open, to allow for an entranceand the escape of smoke. As this opening is usuallyabout an eighth part of the whole circumference, thehouse is, in reality, nothing more than a shed or lair.Its furniture does not contradict the idea; but, on thecontrary, only strengthens the comparison. There is notable, no chair, no bedstead: a “shake-down” of dampgrass answers for all. There are no implements orutensils,—if we except a rude basket used for holdingthe arbutus berries, and a seal-skin bag, in which theshell-fish are collected. A bladder, filled with water,hangs upon some forking stuck against the side: in thetop of this bladder is a hole, from which each memberof the family takes a “suck,” when thirst inclines themto drink!

The “tools” observable are a bow and arrow, the latterheaded with flint; a fish spear with a forked point,made from a bone of the sea-lion; a short stick,—awoman’s implement for knocking the limpets from therocks; and some knives, the blades of which are sharpened453shells of the muscle,—a very large species of whichis found along the coast. These knives are simply manufactured.The brittle edge of the shell—which is fiveor six inches in length—is first chipped off, and anew edge formed by grinding the shell upon the rocks.When thus prepared, it will cut not only the hardestwood, but even the bones of fish; and serves the Fuegianfor all purposes.

Outside the hut, you may see the canoe,—near athand too,—for the shieling of the Fuegian universallystands upon the beach. He never dwells in the interiorof his island; and but rarely roams there,—the womenonly making such excursions as are necessary to procurethe berry and the mushroom. The woods have nocharms for him, except to afford him a little fuel; theyare difficult to be traversed on account of the miry soilout of which the trees grow; and, otherwise, there isabsolutely nothing to be found amidst their gloomydepths, that would in any way contribute to his comfortor sustenance. He is therefore essentially a dweller onthe shore; and even there he is not free to come and goas he might choose. From the bold character of hiscoast, there are here and there long reaches, where thebeach cannot be followed by land,—places where thewater’s edge can only be reached, and the shell-fish collected,by means of some sort of navigable craft. Forthis purpose the Fuegian requires a canoe; and thenecessity of his life makes him a waterman. His skill,however, both in the construction of his craft, and themanagement of it, is of a very inferior order,—infinitelyinferior to that exhibited either by the Esquimauxor the Water-Indians of the North.

454His canoe is usually made of the bark of a tree,—thebirch already mentioned. Sometimes it is so rudelyshaped, as to be merely a large piece of bark shelledfrom a single trunk, closed at each end, and tied tightlywith thong of seal-skin. A few cross-sticks prevent thesides from pressing inward; while as many stays ofthong keep them from “bulging” in the contrary direction.If there are cracks in the bark, these are calkedwith rushes and a species of resin, which the woodsfurnish.

With this rude vessel the Fuegian ventures forth,upon the numerous straits and inlets that intersect hisland; but he rarely trusts himself to a tempestuoussea.

If rich or industrious, he sometimes becomes the possessorof a craft superior to this. It is also a bark canoe,but not made of a single “flitch.” On the contrary,there are many choice pieces used in its construction:for it is fifteen feet in length and three in width amidships.Its “build” also is better,—with a high prowand stern, and cross-pieces regularly set and secured atthe ends. The pieces of bark are united by a stitchingof thongs; and the seams carefully calked, so thatno water can enter. In this vessel, the Fuegian mayembark with his whole family,—and his whole furnitureto boot,—and voyage to any part of his coastAnd this in reality he does; for the “shanty” abovedescribed, is to him only a temporary home. Thenecessities of his life require him to be continuallychanging it; and a “removal,” with the building ofa new domicile, is a circumstance of frequent recurrence.

455Not unfrequently, in removing from one part of thecoast to another, he finds it safer making a land-journey,to avoid the dangers of the deep. In times of highwind, it is necessary for him to adopt this course,—elsehis frail bark might be dashed against the rocks andriven to pieces. In the land-journey he carries thecanoe along with him; and in order to do this withconvenience, he has so contrived it, that the planks composingthe little vessel can be taken apart, and put togetheragain without much difficulty,—the seams onlyrequiring to be freshly calked. In the transport acrossland, each member of the family carries a part ofthe canoe: the stronger individuals taking the heavierpieces,—as the side and bottom planks,—while theribs and light beams are borne by the younger andweaker.

The necessity of removal arises from a very naturalcause. A few days spent at a particular place,—on acreek or bay,—even though the community be a smallone, soon exhausts the chief store of food,—the muscle-bankupon the beach,—and, of course, another mustbe sought for. This may lie at some distance; perhapscan only be reached by a tedious, and sometimes perilouswater-journey; and under these circumstances the Fuegiandeems it less trouble to carry the mountain to Mahomet,than carry Mahomet so often to the mountain.The transporting his whole ménage, is just as easyas bringing home a load of limpets; and as to thebuilding of a new house, that is a mere bagatelle, whichtakes little labor, and no more time than the erection ofa tent. Some Fuegians actually possess a tent, coveredwith the skins of animals; but this is a rare and exceptional456advantage; and the tent itself of the rudest kindThe Fuegian has his own mode of procuring fire. Heis provided with a piece of “mundic,” or iron pyriteswhich he finds high up upon the sides of his mountains.This struck by a pebble will produce sparks. These hecatches upon a tinder of moss, or the “punk” of a deadtree, which he knows how to prepare. The tinder onceignited, is placed within a roundish ball of dry grass;and, this being waved about in circles, sets the grass ina blaze. It is then only necessary to communicate theflame to a bundle of sticks; and the work is complete.The process, though easy enough in a climate where“punk” is plenty, and dry grass and sticks can bereadily procured, is nevertheless difficult enough in thehumid atmosphere of Tierra del Fuego,—where mossis like a wet sponge, and grass, sticks, and logs, canhardly be found dry enough to burn. Well knowingthis, the Fuegian is habitually careful of his fire: scarceever permitting it to go out; and even while travellingin his canoe, in search of a “new home,” side by sidewith his other “penates” he carries the fire along withhim.

Notwithstanding the abundance of fuel with whichhis country provides him, he seems never to be thoroughlywarm. Having no close walls to surround him,and no clothing to cover his body, he suffers almost incessantlyfrom cold. Wherever met, he presents himselfwith a shivering aspect, like one undergoing a severefit of the ague!

The Fuegians live in small communities, which scarcedeserve the name of “tribes:” since they have no politicalleader, nor chief of any description. The conjuror—and457they have him—is the only individualthat differs in any degree from the other members of thecommunity; but his power is very slight and limited;nor does it extend to the exercise of any physical force.Religion they have none,—at least, none more sacredor sanctified than a vague belief in devils and otherevil spirits.

Although without leaders, they are far from being apeaceful people. The various communities often quarreland wage cruel and vindictive war against one another;and were it not that the boundaries of each associationare well defined, by deep ravines and inlets of the sea,as well as by the impassable barriers of snow-coveredmountains, these warlike dwarfs would thin one another’snumbers to a far greater extent than they now do,—perhapsto a mutual extermination. Fortunately thepeculiar nature of their country hinders them from comingvery often within fighting distance.

Their whole system of life is abject in the extreme.Although provided with fires, their food is eaten raw;and a fish taken from the water will be swallowed uponthe instant,—almost before the life is gone out of it.Seal and penguin flesh are devoured in the same manner;and the blubber of the whale is also a raw repast.When one of these is found dead upon the beach,—forthey have neither the skill nor courage to capture thewhale,—the lucky accident brings a season of rejoicingA fleet of canoes—if it is to be reached only by water—atonce paddle towards the place; or, if it be anoverland journey, the whole community—man, woman,and child—start forth on foot. In an hour or two theymay be seen returning to their hut-village, each with a458large “flitch” of blubber flapping over the shoulders,and the head just appearing above, through a hole cutin the centre of the piece,—just as a Mexican rancherowears his “serape,” or a denizen of the Pampas hiswoollen “poncho.” A feast follows this singular procession.

Like the Esquimaux of the north, the Fuegian isvery skilful in capturing the seal. His mode of capturingthis creature, however, is very different fromthat employed by the “sealer” of the Arctic Seas;and consists simply in stealing as near as possible in hiscanoe, when he sees the animal asleep upon the surface,and striking it with a javelin,—which he throws withan unerring aim.

We have already observed that the principal subsistenceof the Fuegian is supplied by the sea; andshell-fish forms the most important item of his food.These are muscles, limpets, oysters, and other kinds ofshell-fish, and so many are annually consumed by asingle family, that an immense heap of the shells maybe seen not only in front of every hut, but all along thecoast of the islands, above high-water mark,—wherevera tribe has made its temporary sojourn.

There is a singular fact connected with these conglomerationsof shells, which appears to have escapedthe observations of the Magellanic voyagers. It is notby mere accident they are thus collected in piles. Thereis a certain amount of superstition in the matter. TheFuegian believes that, were the shells scattered negligentlyabout, ill-luck would follow; and, above all, ifthe emptied ones were thrown back into the sea: sincethis would be a warning of destruction that would frighten459the living bivalves in their “beds,” and drive themaway from the coast! Hence it is that the shell-heapsare so carefully kept together.

In collecting these shell-fish, the women are the chieflaborers. They do not always gather them from therocks, after the tide has gone out; though that is theusual time. But there are some species not found inshallow water, and therefore only to be obtained bydiving to the bottom after them. Of this kind is aspecies of echinus, or “sea-urchin,” of the shape of anorange, and about twice the bulk of one,—the wholeoutside surface being thickly set with spines, or protuberances.These curious shell-fish are called “sea-eggs”by the sailor navigators; and constitute an importantarticle of the food of the Fuegian. It is often necessaryto dive for them to a great depth; and this isdone by the Fuegian women, who are as expert inplunging as the pearl-divers of California or the Indianseas.

Fish is another article of Fuegian diet; and manykinds are captured upon their coasts, some of excellentquality. They sometimes obtain the fish by shootingthem with their arrows, or striking them with a dart;but they have a mode of catching the finny creatures,which is altogether peculiar: that is to say, huntingthem with dogs! The Fuegians possess a breedof small fox-like dogs, mean, wretched looking curs,usually on the very verge of starvation,—since theirowners take not the slightest care of them, and hardlyever trouble themselves about feeding them. Notwithstandingthis neglect, the Fuegian dogs are not withoutcertain good qualities; and become important auxiliaries460to the Fuegian fisherman. They are trained to pursuethe fish through the water, and drive them into a net,or some enclosed creek or inlet, shallow enough for themto be shot with the arrow. In doing this the dogs diveto the bottom; and follow the fish to and fro, as if theywere amphibious carnivora, like the seals and otters.For this useful service the poor brutes receive a veryinadequate reward,—getting only the bones as theirportion. They would undoubtedly starve, were it notthat, being left to shift for themselves, they have learnthow to procure their own food; and understand how tocatch a fish now and then on their own account. Theirprincipal food, however, consists in shell-fish, which theyfind along the shores, with polypi, and such other animalsubstances as the sea leaves uncovered upon the beachafter the tide has retired. A certain kind of sea-weedalso furnishes them with an occasional meal, as it doestheir masters,—often as hungry and starving as themselves.

In his personal habits no human being is more filthythan the Fuegian. He never uses water for washingpurposes; nor cleans the dirt from his skin in any way.He has no more idea of putting water to such use, thanhe has of drowning himself in it; and in respect tocleanliness, he is not only below most other savages,but below the brutes themselves: since even these aretaught cleanliness by instinct. But no such instinctexists in the mind of the Fuegian; and he lives in themidst of filth. The smell of his body can be perceivedat a considerable distance; and Hotspur’s fop mighthave had reasonable grounds of complaint, had it beena Fuegian who came between the “wind and his nobility.”461To use the pithy language of one of the oldnavigators, “The Fuegian stinks like a fox.”

Fairly examined, then, in all his bearings,—fairlyjudged by his habits and actions,—the Fuegian mayclaim the credit of being the most wretched of ourrace.


  • Transcriber’s Notes:
    • The original printed book was rife with words missing letters, missing punctuation, incorrect spelling and incorrect botanical names. It was not always possible to discern the correct letter or word. If a spelling was consistently different from modern spelling, it was left as is.
    • Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    • Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    • Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only when a predominant form was found in this book.


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