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bosjesmen, or bushmen 5 


















» J. 


Perhaps no race of people has more piqued the 
curiosity of the civilized world than those little yellow 
savages of South Africa, knoAvn as the Bushmen. From 
the first hour in which European nations became ac- 
quainted with their existence, a keen interest was ex- 
cited by the stories told of their peculiar character and 
habits ; and although they have been visited by many 
travellers, and many descriptions have been given of 
them, it is but truth to say, that the interest in them 
has not yet abated, and the Bushmen of Africa are al- 
most as great a curiosity at this hour as they were 
when Di Gama first doubled the Gape. Indeed, there 
is no reason why this should not be, for the habits and 
personal appearance of these savages are just now as they 
were then, and our familiarity with them is not much 
greater. "Whatever has been added to our knowledge 
of their character, has tended rather to increase than 
diminish our curiosity. 

At first the tales related of them were supposed to be 
filled with wilful exaggerations, and the early travellers 
were accused of deahng too much in the marvellous. 
This is a very common accusation brought against the 


early travellers ; and in some instances it is a just one. 
But in regard to the accounts given of the Bushmen 
and their habits there has been far less exaggeration 
than might be suppose"d ; and the more insight we ob- 
tain into their pecuhar customs and modes of subsistence, 
the mol'e do we become satisfied that almost everything 
alleged of them is true. Li fact, it would be difficult 
for tlie most inventive genius to contrive a fanciful ac- 
count, that would be much more curious or interesting 
than the real and bond fide truth that can be told about 
this most pecuhar people. 

"Where do the Bushmen dwell ? what is their coun- 
try? These are questions not so easily answered, as 
in reality they are not supposed to possess any country 
at all, any more than the wild animals amidst which 
they roam, and upon whom they prey. There is no 
Bushman's country upon the map, though several spots 
in Southern Africa have at times received this desigr- 
nation. It is not possible, therefore, to delineate the 
boundaries 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 the 
proper sense of the word, they have a " range," and one 
of the most extensive character — since it covers the 
whole southern portion of the African continent, from 
the Cape of Good Hope to the twentieth degree of south 
latitude, extending east and west from the country of the 
Caffres to the Atlantic Ocean. Until lately .it was be- 
heved that the Bushman-range did not extend far to the 
north of the Orange river ; but this has proved an er- 
roneous idea. They have recently " turned up " in the 
land of the Dammaras, and also in the great Kalahari 

BUSmiEN. 7 

desert, hundreds of miles north from, the Orange river ; 
and it is not certain that thej do not range still nearer to 
the equatorial line — though it may be remarked that 
the countrj in that direction does not favor the suppo- 
sition, not being of the peculiar nature of a Bushman's 
countrj. The Bushman requires a desert for his dwell- 
ing-place. It is an absolute necessity of his nature, as 
it is to the ostrich and many species of animals ; and 
north of the twentieth degree of latitude. South Africa 
does not appear to be of this character. The heroic 
Livingstone has dispelled the long-cherished illusion of 
the Geography about the." Great-sanded level" of these 
interior regions ; and, instead, disclosed to the world a 
fertile land, well watered, and covered with a profuse 
and luxuriant vegetation. In such a land there will be 
no Bushmen. 

The limits we have allowed them, however, are suffi- 
ciently large, — fifteen degrees of latitude, and an equally 
extensive range from east to west. It must not be sup- 
posed, however, that they populate this vast territory. 
On the contrary, they are only distributed over if in 
spots, in httle communities, that have no relationship or 
connection with one another, but are sep^'ated by wide 
intervals, sometimes of hundreds of miles in extent. It 
is only in the desert tracts of South Africa that the 
Bushmen exist, — in the karoos, and treeless, waterless 
plams — among the barren ridges and rocky defiles — in 
the ravines formed by the beds of dried-up rivers — - in 
situations so sterile, so remote, so wild and inhospitable 
as to offer a home to no other human being save the 
Bushman himself. 

If we state more particularly the locahties where "the 


haunts of the Bushman are to be found, we may specify 
the barren lands on both sides of the Orange river, — 
inchiding most of its head-waters, and down to its mouth, 
■ — and also the Great Kalahari desert. Through all tliis 
extensive region the kraals of the Bushmen may be 
encountered. At one time they were common enough 
within the limits of the Cape colony itself, and some 
half-caste remnants still exist in the more remote dis- 
tricts ; but the cruel persecution of the hoers has had the 
effect of extirpating these unfortunate savages ; and, like 
the elephant, the ostrich, and the eland, the true wild 
Bushmaa^ now only to be met with beyond the fron- 
tiers of the colony. 

About the origin of the Bushmen we can offer no 
opinion. They are generally considered as a branch 
of the great Hottentot family; but this theory is far 
from being an established fact. Wlien South Africa 
was first discovered and colonized, both Hottentots and 
Bushmen were found there, differing from each other 
just as they differ at this day ; and though there are 
soihe striking points of resemblance between them, there 
are also points of dissimilarity that are equally as strik- 
ing, if we regard the two people as one. In personal 
appearance .there is a certain general hkeness : that is, 
both are woolly-haired, and both have a Chinese cast 
of features, especially in the form and expression of the 
eye. Their color too is nearly the same ; but, on the other 
hand, the Hottentots are larger than the Bushmen. It 
is not in their persons, however, that the most essential 
joints of dissimilarity are to be looked for, but rather in 
their mental characters ; and here we observe distinc- 
tions so marked and antithetical, that it is difiicult to 


reconcile them with the fact that these two people are 
of one race. Whether a different habit of life has pro- 
duced this distinctive character, or whether it has in- 
fluenced the habits of life, are questions not easily an- 
swered. We only know that a strange anomaly exists 
• — the anomaly of two people being personally ahke — 
that is, possessing physical characteristics that seem to 
prove them of the same race, while intellectually, as we 
shall presently see, they have scarce one character in 
common. The slight resemblance that exists between 
the languages of the two is not to be regarded as a proof 
of- their common origin. It only shows that they have 
long Hved in juxtaposition, or contiguous to each other ; 
a fact which camiot be denied. 

In giving a more particular description of the Bush- 
man, it will be seen in what respect he resembles the 
true Hottentot, and in what he differs from him, both 
physically and mentally, and this description may now 
be given. 

The Bushman is the smallest man with whom we are 
acquainted ; and if the terms " dwarf" and " pigmy " may 
be applied to any race of human beings, the South- Afri- 
can Bushmen presents the fairest claim to these titles. 
He stands only 4 feet 6 inches upon his naked soles — • 
never more than 4 feet 9, and not unfi^equently is he 
encountered of still less height — even so diminutive as 
4 feet 2. His wife is of still shorter stature, and this 
Lilliputian lady is often the mother of children when the 
crown of her head is just 3 feet 9 inches above the soles 
of her feet. It has been a very common thing to con- 
tradict the assertion that these people are such pigmies 
in stature, and even Dr. Livingstone has done so in his 
1- . 


late magnificent work. The doctor states, very jocoselj, 
that they are "not dwai"fish — that the specimens brought 
to Europe have been selected, like costermougers' dogs, 
for their extreme ugliness." 

But the doctor forgets that it is not from " the speci- 
mens brought to Europe " that the above standard of the 
Bushman's height has been derived, but from the testi- 
mony of numerous travellers — many of them as trust- 
worthy as the doctor himself — from actual measurements 
made by them upon the spot. It is hardly to be believed 
that such men as Spai-mann and Burchell, Barrow and 
Lichtenstein, Harris, Campbell, Patterson, and a dozen 
others that might be mentioned, should all give an erro- 
neous testimony on this subject. These travellers have 
differed notoriously on other points, but in this they all 
agree, that a Bushman of five feet in height is a tall man 
in his tribe. Dr. Livingstone speaks of Buslmien " six 
feet high," and these are the tribes lately discovered liv- 
ing so far north as the Lake Nagami. It is doubtful 
whether these are Bushmen at all. Indeed, the descrip- 
tion given by the doctor, not only of then* height and the 
color of their skin, but also some hints about their intel- 
lectual character, would lead to the belief that he has 
mistaken some other people for Bushmen. It must be 
remembered that the experience of this great traveller 
has been chiefly among the Becliuana tribes, and his 
knowledge of the Bushman proper does not appear to 
be either accurate or extensive. No man is expected to 
know everybody ; and amid the profusion of new facts, 
which the doctor has so hberally laid before the world, 
it would be strange if a few maccuracies should not 
occur. Perhaps we should have more confidence if this 

BUSHMEN. - 11 

was the only one we are enabled to detect ; but the doc- 
tor also denies that there is anything either terrific or 
majestic in the " roaring of the hon." Tnus speaks he : 
" The same f eeluig which has induced the modem painter 
to caricature the lion has led the sentimentalist to con- 
sider the Hon's roar as the most terrific of all earthly 
sounds. We hear of the ' majestic roar of the king of 
beasts.' To talk of the majestic roar of the hon is mere 
majestic twaddle." 

The doctor is certainly in error here. Does he sup- 
pose that any one is ignorant of the character of the 
lion's roar ? Does he fancy that no one has ever heard 
it but himself? If it be necessary to go to South Africa 
to take the true measure of a Bushman, it is not neces- 
saiy to make that long journey in order to obtam a cor- 
rect idea of the compass of the hon's voice. We can 
hear it at home in all its modulations ; and any one who 
has ever visited the Zoological Gardens in Regent's 
Park — nay, any one who chances to hve within half, a 
mile of that magnificent menagerie — will be very much 
disposed to doubt the correctness of the doctor's asser- 
tion. If there be a sound upon the earth above all 
others " majestic," a noise above all others " terrific," it 
is certainly the roar of the hon. Ask Albert Terrace 
and St. John's Wood ! 

But let us not be too severe upon the doctor. The 
world is indebted to him much more than to any other 
modern traveller, and all great men indulge occasion- 
ally in the luxury of an eccentric opinion. We have 
brought the point forward here for a special purpose, — 
to illustrate a too much neglected truth. Error is not 
ahvays on the side of exaggeration ; but is sometimes 


also found in the opposite extreme of a too-squeamish 
moderation. We find the learned Professor Lichtenstein 
ridicuhng poor old Hernandez, the natural historian of 
Mexico, for having given a description of certain fabu- 
lous animals — fabulous, he terms them, because to him 
they were odd and unknown. But it turns out that the 
old author was right, and the animals exist! How 
many similar misconceptions might be recorded of the 
BufFons, and other closet philosophers — urged, too, with 
the most bitter zeal ! Incredulity carried too far is but 
another form of credulity. 

But to return to our proper theme, and complete the 
portrait 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 only 
when a mere boy. At the age of sixteen he has reached 
all the manhood he is ever destined to attain ; and then 
his flesh disappears; his body assumes a meagre "outline; 
his arms and limbs grow thin ; the calf disappears from 
his legs ; the plumpness from his cheeks ; and altogether 
he becomes as wretched-looking an object as it is possi- 
ble to conceive in human shape. Older, his skin grows 
dry, corrugated, and scaly ; his bones protrude ; and his 
knee, elbow, and ankle-joints appear like horny knobs* 
placed at the ends of what more resemble long straight 
sticks than the arms and limbs of a human being. 

The color of this creature may be designated a yellow- 
bpown, though it is not easy to determine it to a shade. 
The Bushman appears darker than he really is ; since 
liis skin serves him for a towel, and every species of 
dirt that discommodes his fingers he gets rid of by wip- 
ing it off on his arms, sides, or breast. The result is, 

BusmiEN. 13- 

that his whale body is usually coated over with a stratum, 
of grease and filth, which has led to the behef that he 
regularly anoints himself — a custom common among 
many savage tribes. This, however, the Bushman does 
not do : the smearing toilet is merely occasional or ac- 
cidental, and consists simply in the fat of whatever flesh 
he has been eating being transferred from his fingers to 
the cuticle of his body. This is never washed off agaui 
— for water never touches the Bushman's hide. Such a 
use of water is entirely unknown to him, not even for 
washing his face. Should he have occasion to cleanse 
his hands — which the handling of gum or some like 
substance sometimes compels him to do — he performs 
the operation, not with soap and water, but with the dry 
dung of cattle or some wild animal. A httle rubbing of 
this upon his skin is all the purification the Bushman 
believes to be needed. 

Of course, the dirt darkens his complexion ; but he 
has the vanity at times to brighten it up — not by 
making it wliiter — but rather a brick-red. A little 
ochreous earth produces the color he requires ; and with 
tliis he smears his body all over — not excepting even 
the crown of his head, and the scant stock of wool that 
covers it. 

Bushmen have been washed. It requires some scrub- 
bing, and a plentiful api^lication either of soda or soap, 
to reach the true skin and brmg out the natural color ; 
but the experiment has been made, and the result proves 
that the Bushman is not so black as, under ordinary cir- 
cumstances, he appears. A yellow hue shines through 
the epidermis, somewhat like the color of the Chmese, 
or a European in the worst stage of jaundice — the eye 


only not having that complexion. Indeed, the features 
of the Bushman, as well as the Hottentot, bear a strong 
similarity" to mose of the Chinese, and the Bushman's 
eye is essentially of the Mongohan type. His hair, 
however, is entirely of another character. Instead of 
being long, straight, and lank, it is short, crisp, and 
curly, — in reality, wool. Its scantiness is a character- 
istic ; and in this respect the Bushman differs from the 
woolly-haired tribes both of Africa and Australasia. 
These generally have "ileeces" in profusion, whereas 
both Hottentot and Bushman have not enough to half 
cover their scalps ; and between the little knot-like 
" kinks " there are wide spaces without a single hair 
upon them. The Bushman's " wool " is naturally black, 
but red. ochre and the sun soon convert the color into a 
burnt reddish hue. 

The Bushman has no beard or other hairy encum- 
brances. Were they to grow, he would root them out 
as useless inconveniences. He has a low-bridged nose, 
with wide flattened nostrils ; an eye that appears a mere 
slit between the eyehds ; a pair of high cheek-bones, 
and a receding forehead. His lips are not thick, as in 
the negro, and he is furnished with a set of fine white 
teeth, wliich, as he grows older, do not decay, but pre- 
sent the singular phenomenon of being regularly worn 
down to the stumps — as occurs to the teeth of sheep 
and other ruminant animals. 

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

From the description above given, it will be inferred 
that the Bushman is no beauty. Neither is the Bush- 


woman ; but, on the contrary, both having passed the 
period of youth, become absolutely ugly, — the woman, 
if possible, more so than the man. 

And yet, strange to say, many of the Bush-girls, when 
young, have a cast of prettiness almost amounting to 
beauty. It is difficult to tell in what this beauty con- 
sists. Sometliing, perhaps, in the expression of the 
obhque almond-shaped eye, and the small well-formed 
mouth and hps, with the shinmg white teeth. Their 
limbs, too, at this early age, are often well rounded ; 
and many of them exhibit forms that might serve as 
models for a sculptor. Then' feet are especially well- 
shaped, and, in point of size, they are by far the small- 
est in the world. Had the Chmese ladies been gifted 
by nature with such little feet, they might have been 
spared the torture of compressing them. 

The foot of a Bushwoman rarely measures so much 
as six inches in length ; and full-grown girls have been 
seen, whose feet, submitted to the test of an actual 
measurement, proved but a very httle over four inches ! 

Intellectually, the Bushman does not rank so low as . 
is generally beheved. He has a quick, cheerful mmd, 
that appears ever on the alert, — as may be judged by 
the constant play of his httle piercing black eye, — 
and though he does not always display much skill in 
the manufacture of his weapons, he can do so if he 
pleases. Some tribes construct their bows, arrows, fish- 
baskets, and other implements and utensils with admi- 
rable ingenuity ; but in general the Bushman takes no 
pride in fancy weapons. He prefers having them effec- 
tive, and to this end he gives proof of his skill in the 
manufacture of most deadly poisons with which to anoint 


Ills arrows. Furthermore, he is ever active and ready 
for action ; and in this his mind is in complete contrast 
with that of the Hottentot, with whom indolence is a 
predominant and well-marked characteristic. The Bush- 
man, on the contrary, is always on the qui vive ; always 
ready to be doing where there is anything to do ; and 
there is not much opportunity for him to be idle, as he 
rarely ever knows where the next meal is to come from. 
The ingenuity which he displays in the capture of vari- 
ous kinds of game, — far exceeding that of other hunting 
tribes of Africa, — as also the cunning exhibited by him 
while engaged in cattle-stealing and other plundering 
forays, prove an intellectual capacity more than pro- 
portioned to his diminutive body ; and, in short, in 
nearly every mental characteristic does he differ from 
the supposed cognate race — the Hottentot. 

It would be hardly just to give the Bushman a char- 
acter for high courage ; but, on the other hand, it would 
be as unjust to charge him with cowardice. Small as 
he is, he shows plenty of " pluck," and when brought to 
bay, his motto is, " No surrender." He will fight to 
the death, discharging his poisoned arrows as long as 
he is able to bend a bow. Indeed, he has generally 
been treated to shooting, or clubbing to death, wher- 
ever and whenever caught, and he knows nothing of 
quarter. Just as a badger he ends his life, — his last 
struggle being an attempt to do injury to his assailant. 
This trait in his character has, no doubt, been strength- 
ened by the inhuman treatment that, for a century, he 
has been receivino- from the brutal boers of the colonial 

The costume of the Bushman is of the most primitive 

BUSmiEN. 17 

character, — differing only from that worn by our first 
parents, in that the fig-leaf used by the men is a patch 
of jackal-skin, and that of the women a sort of fringe or 
bunch of leather thongs, suspended around the waist by 
a strap, and hanging down to the knees. It is in reality 
a little apron of dressed skin ; or, to speak more accu- 
rately, two of them, one above the other, both cut into 
narrow strips or thongs, from below the waist downward. 
Other clothing than this they have none, if we except a 
little skin kaross, or cloak, which is worn over their 
shoulders ; — that of the women being provided with a bag 
or hood at the top, that answers the naked " piccaninny " 
for a nest or cradle. Sandals protect their feet from the 
sharp stones, and these are of the rudest description, — 
merely a piece of the thick hide cut a little longer and 
broader than the soles of the feet, and fastened at the 
toes and round the ankles by thongs of sinews. An 
attempt at ornament is displayed in a leathern skullcap, 
or more commonly a circlet around the head, upon which 
are sewed a number of " cowries," or small shells of the 
Cyprea moneta. 

It is difficult to say where these shells are procured, — ■ 
as they 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 they 
have passed thi'ough many hands ; but they must cost 
the Bushman dear, as he sets the highest value upon 
them. Other ornaments consist of old brass or copper 
buttons, attached to the little curls of his woolly hair ; 
and, among the women, strings of little pieces of ostrich 
egg-shells, fashioned to resemble beads ; besides a per- 
fect load of leathern bracelets on the arms, and a like 



profusion of similar circlets on the limbs, often reaching 
from the knee to the ankle-joint. 

Red oclire over the face and hair is the fashionable 
toilette, and a perfumery is obtained hj rubbing the 
skin 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 be 
highly objectionable, were it not preferable to the odor 
which they have without it. 

They do not tattoo, nor yet perforate the ears, lips, or 
nose, — practices so common among savage tribes. Some 
instances of nose-piercing have been observed, with the 
usual appendage of a piece of wood or porcupine's quill 
inserted in the septum, but this is a custom rather of the 
CafFres than Bushmen. Among the latter it is rare. A 
grand ornament is obtained by smearing the face and 
head with a shining micaceous paste, which is procured 
from a cave in one particular part of the Bushman's 
range ; but this, being a " far-fetched " article, is pro- 
portionably scarce and dear. It is only a fine belle who 
can afford to give herself a coat of hlinh-slip, — as this 
sparkling pigment is called by the colonists. Many of 
the women, and men as well, carry in their hands the 
bushy tail of a jackal. The purpose is to fan off the 
flies, and serve also as a " wipe," to disembarrass their 
bodies of perspiration when the weather chances to be 
over hot. 

The domicile of the Bushman next merits description. 
It is quite as simple and primitive as liis dress, and 
gives him about equal trouble in its construction. If 
a cave or cleft can be found in the rocks, of sufficient 
capacity to admit his own body and those of his family 


— never a very large one — lie builds no house. The 
cave contents him, be it ever so tight a squeeze. If 
there be no cave handy, an overhanging rock will an- 
swer equally as well. He regards not the open sides, 
nor the draughts. It is only the rain which he does not 
relish ; and any sort of a shed, that will shelter him from 
that, will serve him for a dwelUng. If neither cave, 
crevice, nor impending cliff can be found in the neigh- 
borhood, he then resorts to the alternative of house- 
building ; and his style of architecture does not differ 
greatly from that of the orang-outang. A bush is chosen 
that grows near to two or tlu-ee others, — the branches 
of all meeting in a common centre. Of these branches 
the builder takes advantage, fastening them together at 
the ends, and watthng some into the others. Over this 
framework a quantity of grass is scattered in such a 
fashion as to cast off a good shower of rain, and then the 
" carcass " of the building is considered complete. The 
inside work remains yet to be done, and that is next set 
about. A large roundish or oblong hole is scraped out 
in the middle of the floor. It is made wide enough and 
deep enough to hold the bodies of three or four Bush- 
people, though a single large Caffre or Dutchman would 
scarcely find room in it. Into this hole is flung a 
quantity of dry grass, and arranged so as to present the 
appearance of a gigantic nest. This nest, or lair, be- 
comes the bed of the Bushman, his wife, or wives, — for 
he frequently keeps two, — and the other members of 
his family. Coiled together like monkeys, and covered 
with their skin karosses, they all sleep in it, — whether 
" sweetly " or " soundly," I shall not take upon me to 


It is supposed to be this fasliion of literally " sleeping 
in the bush," as also the mode by which he skulks and 
hides among bushes, — invariably taking to them when 
pursued, — that has given origin to the name Bushman, 
or Bosjesman, as it is in the language of the colonial 
Dutch. This derivation is probable enough, and no 
better has been offered. 

The Bushman sometimes constructs himself a more 
elaborate dwelling ; that is, some Bushmen ; — for it 
should be remarked that there are a great many 
tribes or communities of these people, and they are not 
all so very low in the scale of civilization. None, how- 
ever, ever arrive at the building of a house, — not even 
a hut. A tent is their highest effort in the building 
line, and that is of the rudest description, scarce deserv- 
ing the name. Its covering is a mat, which they weave 
out of a species of rush that grows along some of the 
desert streams ; and in the fabrication of the covering 
they display far more ingenuity than in the planning or 
construction of the tent itself. The mat, in fact, is 
simply laid over two poles, that are bent into the form 
of an arch, by having both ends stuck into the ground. 
A second piece of matting closes up one end ; and the 
other, left open, serves for the entrance. As a door is 
not deemed necessary, no further construction is re- 
quired, and the tent is "pitched" complete. It only 
remains to scoop out the sand, and make the nest as 
already described. 

It is said that the Goths drew their ideas of archi- 
tecture from the aisles of the oak forest ; the Chinese 
from their Mongolian tents ; and the Egyptians from 
their caves in the rocks. Beyond a doubt, the Bush- 
man has borrowed his from the nest of the ostrich ! 

bush:men. 21 

It now becomes necessary to inquire how the Bush- 
man spends his time ? how he obtains subsistence ? and 
what is the nature of his food ? All these questions can 
be answered, though at first it may appear difficult to 
answer them. Dwelhng, as he always does, in the very 
heart of the desert, remote from forests that might fur- 
nish him with some sort of food — trees that might yield 
fruit, — far away from a fertile soil, with no knowledge 
of agriculture, even if it were near, — with no flocks or 
herds ; neither sheep, cattle, horses, nor swine, — no 
domestic animals but his lean, diminutive dogs, — how 
does this Bushman procure enough to eat ? What are 
his sources of supply? 

We shall see. Being neither a grazier nor a farmer, 
he has other means of subsistence, — though it must be 
confessed that they are of a precarious character, and 
often during his life does the Bushman find himself on 
the very threshold of starvation. This, however, results 
less from the parsimony of Nature than the Bushman's 
own improvident habits, — a trait in his character which 
is, perhaps, more strongly developed in him than any 
other. "We shall have occasion to refer to it presently. 

His first and cliief mode of procuring his food is by 
the chase : for, although he is surrounded by the sterile 
wilderness, he is not the only animated being who has 
chosen the desert for his home. Several species of 
birds — one the largest of all — and quadi'upeds, share 
with the Bushman the solitude and safety of tliis deso- 
late region. The rhinoceros can dwell there ; and in 
numerous streams are found the huge hippopotami ; 
whilst quaggas, zebras, and several species of antelope 
frequent the desert plains as their favorite " stamping " 


ground. Some of these animals can live almost without 
water ; but when they do require it, what to them is a 
gallop of fifty miles to some well-known " vley " or pool ? 
It will be seen, therefore, that the desert has its numer- 
ous denizens. All these are objects of the Bushman's 
pursuit, who follows them with incessant pertinacity — 
as if he were a beast of prey, furnished by Nature with 
the most carnivorous propensities. 

In the capture of these animals he displays an almost 
incredible dexterity and cunning. His mode of ap- 
proaching the sly ostrich, by disguising himself in the 
skin of one of these birds, is so well known that I need 
not describe it here ; but the ruses he adopts for captur- 
ing or killing other sorts of game are many of them 
equally ingenious. The pit-trap is one of his favorite 
contrivances ; and this, too, has been often described, — 
but often very erroneously. The pit is not a large 
hollow, — as is usually asserted, — but rather of dimen- 
sions proportioned to the size of the animal that is ex- 
pected to fall into it. For game hke the rhinoceros or 
eland antelope, it is dug of six feet in length and three 
in 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 the 
animal, once into it, gets so wedged at the narrow bot- 
tom part as to be unable to make use of its legs for the 
purpose of springing out again. Sometimes a sharp 
stake or two are used, with the view of impaling the 
victim ; but this plan is not always adopted. There is 
not much danger of a quadruped that drops in ever 
getting out again, till he is dragged out by the Bushman 
in the shape of a carcass. 

BUSmiEN. 23 

The Bushman's ingenuity does not end here. Be- 
sides the construction of the trap, it is necessary the 
game should be guided into it. Were this not done, the 
pit might remain a long time empty, and, as a necessary 
consequence, so too might the belly of the Bushman. 
In the wide plain few of the gregarious animals have a 
path which they follow habitually ; only where there is 
a pool may such beaten trails be found, and of these the 
Bushman also avails himself; but they are not enough. 
Some artificial means must be used to make the traps 
pay — for they are not constructed without much labor 
and patience. The plan adopted by the Bushman to 
accomplish this exhibits some points of originahty. He 
first chooses a part of the plain which hes between two 
mountains. No matter if these be distant from each 
other : a mile, or even two, will not deter the Bushman 
from his design. By the help of his whole tribe — men, 
women, and children — he constructs a fence from one 
mountain to the other. The material used is whatever 
may be most ready to the hand : stones, sods, brush, or 
dead timber, if this be convenient. No matter how 
rude the fence : it need not either be very high. He 
leaves several gaps in it ; and the wild animals, however 
easily they might leap over such a puny barrier, will, 
in their ordinary way, prefer to walk leisurely through 
the gaps. In each of these, however, there is a danger- 
ous hole — dangerous from its depth as weU as from the 
cunning way in wliich it is concealed from the view — 
in short, in each gap there is a pit-fall. No one — at 
least no animal except the elephant — would ever sus- 
pect its presence ; the grass seems to grow over it, and 
the sand lies unturned, just as elsewhere upon the plain. 


What quadruped could detect the cheat ? Not any one 
except the sagacious elephant. The stupid eland tum- 
bles through ; the gemsbok goes under ; and the rhi- 
noceros rushes into it as if destined to destruction. The 
Bushman sees this from his elevated perch, glides for- 
ward over the ground, and spears the strugghng victim 
with his poisoned assagai. 

Besides the above method of capturing game the 
Bushman also uses the bow and arrows. This is a 
weapon in which he is greatly skilled ; and although 
both bow and arrows ''are as tiny as if intended for 
children's toys, they are among the deadliest of weapons. 
their fatal effect lies not in the size of the wound they 
are capable of inflicting, but in the pecuhar mode in 
which the barbs of the arrows are prepared. I need 
hardly add that they are dipped in poison ; — for who 
has not heard of the poisoned arrows of the African 
Bushmen ? 

Both bow and arrows are usually rude enough in 
their construction, and would appear but a trumpery 
affair, were it not for a knowledge of their effects. The 
bow is a mere round stick, about three feet long, and 
slightly 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, and 
answering for a barb. This arrow the Bushman can 
shoot with tolerable certainty to a distance of a hundred 
yards, and he can even project it farther by giving a 
shght elevation to his aim. It signifies not whether the 
force with which it strikes the object be ever so slight, 
if it only makes an entrance. Even a scratch from its 
point will sometimes prove fatal. 

BUsmiEN. 25 

Of course the danger dwells altogether in the poison. 
"Were it not for that, the Bushman, from his dwarfish 
stature and pigmy strength, would be a harmless 
creature indeed. 

The poison he well knows how to prepare, and he 
can make it of the most " potent spell," when the " ma- 
terials " are within his reach. For this purpose he 
makes use of both vegetable and animal substances, and 
a mineral is also employed ; but the last is not a poison, 
and is only used to give consistency to the hquid, so that 
it may the better adhere to the arrow. The vegetable 
substances are of various kinds. Some are botanically 
known : the bulb of Amaryllis disticha, — the gum of a 
Euphorbia, — the sap of a species of sumac (Rhus), — 
and the nuts of a shrubby plant, by the colonists called 
Woolf-gift (Wolf-poison) . 

The animal substance is the fluid found in the fangs 
of venomous serpents, several species of which serve the 
purpose of the Bushman : as the httle " Horned Snake," 
— so called from the scales rising prominently over its 
eyes ; the " Yellow Snake," or South African Cobra 
{Nag a haje) ; the " Puff Adder," and others. From all 
these he obtains the ingredients of his deadly ointment, 
and mixes them, not all together ; for he cannot always 
procure them all in any one region of the country in 
which he dwells. He makes his poison, also, of different 
degrees of potency, according to the purpose for which 
he intends it ; whether for hunting or war. With sixty 
or seventy Httle arrows, well imbued with this fatal 
mixture, and carefully placed in his quiver of tree-bark 
or skin, — or, what is not uncommon, stuck hke a coro- 
net around his head, — he sallies forth, ready to deal 


destruction eitlier to game, animals, or to human ene- 

Of these last he has no lack. Every man, not a 
Bushman, he deems his enemy ; and he has some reason 
for thinking so. Truly may it be said of him, as of 
Ishmael, that his " hand is against every man, and every 
man's hand against him ; " and such has been his un- 
happy history for ages. Not alone have the boers been 
his pursuers and oppressors, but all others upon his 
borders who are strong enough to attack him, — colo- 
nists, Caffres, and Bechuanas, all alike, — not even ex- 
cepting his supposed kindred, the Hottentots. Not only 
does no fellow-feehng exist between Bushman and Hot- 
tentot, but, strange to say, they hate each other with the 
most rancorous hatred. The Bushman will plunder a 
Namaqua Hottentot, a Griqua, or a Gonaqua, — plunder 
and murder him with as much ruthlessness, or even 
more, than he would the hated Caffre or boer. All are 
alike his enemies, — all to be plundered and massacred, 
whenever met, and the thing appears possible. 

We are speaking of plunder. This is another source 
of supply to the Bushman, though one that is not always 
to be depended upon. It is his most dangerous method 
of obtaining a livehhood, 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, — either 
of the frontier boers, Caffres, or Hottentots, — whichever 
chance to live most convenient to his haunts. The ex- 
pedition, of course, is by night, and conducted, not as an 
open foray, but in secret, and by stealth. The cattle are 
stolen, not reeved, and driven off while the owner and his 
people are asleep. 


In tlie morning, or as soon as the loss is discovered, 
a pursuit is at once set on foot. A dozen men, mounted 
and armed with long muskets (roers), take the spoor of 
the spoilers, and follow it as fast as their horses will 
carry them. A dozen boers, or even half that number, 
is considered a match for a whole tribe of Bushmen, in 
any fight which may occur in the open plain, as the 
boers make use of their long-range guns at such a dis- 
tance that the Bushmen are shot down without being 
able to use their poisoned arrows ; and if the thieves 
have the fortune to be overtaken before they have got 
far into the desert, they stand a good chance of being 
terribly chastised. 

There is no quarter shown them. Such a thing as 
mercy is never dreamt of, — no sparing of lives any 
more than if they were a pack of hyenas. The Bush- 
men may escape to the rocks, such of them as are not 
hit by the bullets ; and there the boers know it would be 
idle to follow them. Like the klipspringer antelope, the 
little savages can bound from rock to rock, and cliff 
to cliff, or hide hke pai'tridges among crevices, where 
neither man nor horse can pursue them. Even upon 
the level plain — if it chance to be stony or intersected 
with breaks and ravines — a horseman would endeavor 
to overtake them in vain, for these yellow imps are as 
swift as ostriches. 

When the spoilers scatter thus, the boer may recover 
his cattle, but in what condition ? That he has sur- 
mised already, without going among the herd. He does 
not expect to drive home one half of them ; perhaps not 
one head. On reaching the flock he finds there is not 
one without a wound of some kind or other : a gash in 


the flank, the cut of a knife, the stab of an assagai, or a 
poisoned arrow — intended for the boer himself — stick- 
ing between the ribs. This is the sad spectacle that 
meets his ejes ; but he never reflects that it is the result 
of his own cruelty, — he never regards it in the hght of 
retribution. Had he not first hunted the Bushman to 
make him a slave, to make bondsmen and bondsmaids 
of his sons and daughters, to submit them to the ca- 
price and tyranny of his great, strapping frau^ perhaps 
his cattle would have been browsing quietly in his fields. 
The poor Bushman, in attempting to take them, followed 
but his instincts of hunger: in yielding them up he 
obeyed but the promptings of revenge. 

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

He uses stratagem also to obstruct or baffle the pur- 
suit. The route he takes is through the driest part of 
the desert, — if possible, where water does not exist at 
all. The cattle suffer from thirst, and bellow from the 
pain ; but the Bushman cares not for that, so long as he 
is himself served. But how is he served ? There is no 
water, and a Bushman can no more go without drink- 
ing than a boer : how then does he provide for himself 
on these long expeditions ? 

All has been pre-arranged. While off to the settle- 
ments, the Bushman's wife has been busy. The whole 

BUsmiEN. 29 

kraal of women — young and old — have made an ex- 
cursion half-way across the desert, each carrymg ostrich 
egg-shells, as much as her kaross will hold, each shell 
fuU of water. These have been deposited at intervals 
along the route in secret spots known by mai'ks to the 
Bushmen, and this accompHshed the women return home 
again. In this way the plunderer obtains his supply of 
water, and thus is he enabled to continue his journey 
over the arid Karroo. 

The pursuers become appalled. They are suffering 
from thirst — their horses sinking under them. Perhaps 
they have lost their way ? It would be madness to pro- 
ceed further. " Let the cattle go this time ! " and with 
this 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 a 
feast ! not one ox is slaughtered, but a score of them all 
at 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 ahnost continuously, 
— - even at night they must wake up to have a midnight 
meal ! and thus runs the tale, till every ox has been eaten. 
They have not the sHghtest idea of a provision for the fu- 
ture ; even the lower animals seem wiser in this respect. 
They do not think of keeping a few of the plundered 
cattle at pasture to serve them for a subsequent occasion. 
They give the poor brutes neither food nor drink ; but, 
having penned them up in some defile of the rocks, leave 
them to moan and bellow, to drop down and die. 

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


The kraal now exhibits an ahered spectacle. The 
starved, meagre wretches, who were seen flitting among 
its tents but a week ago, have all disappeared. Plump 
bodies and distended abdomens are the order of the day ; 
and the profile of the Bushwoman, taken from the neck 
to the knees, now exhibits the outline of the letter S. 
The little imps leap about, tearing raw flesh, — their 
yellow cheeks besmeared with blood, — and the lean curs 
seem to have been exchanged for a pack of fat, petted 

But this scene must some time come to an end, and at 
length it does end. All the flesh is exhausted, and the 
bones picked clean. A complete reaction comes over the 
spirit of the Buslunan. He falls into a state of languor, 
— the only time when he knows such a feeling, — and 
he keeps his kraal, and remains idle for days. Often he 
sleeps for twenty-four hours at a time, and wakes only 
to go to sleep again. He need not rouse himself with the 
idea of getting something to eat : there is not a morsel 
in the whole kraal, and he knows it. He hes still, there- 
fore, — weakened with hunger, and overcome with the 
drowsiness of a terrible lassitude. 

Fortunate for him, while in this state, if those bold 
vultures — attracted by the debris of his feast, and now 
high wheeling in the air — be not perceived from afar ; 
fortunate if they do not discover the whereabouts of his 
kraal 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 length 
compels our Bushman to bestir himself, he seems to 
recover a little of his energy, and once more takes to 
hunting, or, if near a stream, endeavors to catch a few 


fish. Should both these resources fail, he has another, — 
without which he would most certainly starve, — and 
perhaps this maybe considered his most important 
source of supply, since it is the most constant, and can 
be depended on at nearly all seasons of the year. Weak- 
ened with hunger, then, and scai'ce equal to any severer 
labor, he goes out hunting — this time itisects, not quad- 
rupeds. With a stout stick inserted into a stone at one 
end and pointed at the other, he proceeds to the nests 
of the white ants (termites), and using the point of the 
stick, — the stone serving by its weight to aid the force 
of the blow, — he breaks open the hard, gummy clay of 
which the liillock is formed. Unless the aard-varh and 
the pangolin — two very different kinds of ant-eaters — 
have been there before him, he finds the chambers filled 
with the eggs of the ants, the insects themselves, and 
perhaps large quantities of their larvce. All are equally 
secured by the Bushman, and either devoured on the 
spot, or collected into a skin bag, and carried back to 
his kraal. 

He hunts also another species of ants that do not build 
nests or " hillocks," but bring forth their young in hol- 
lows under the ground. These make long galleries or 
covered ways just under the surface, and at certain pe- 
riods — which the Bushman knows by unmistakable 
signs — they become very active, and traverse these 
underground galleries in thousands. If the passages 
were to be opened above, the ants would soon make off to 
their caves, and but a very few could be captured. The 
Bushman, knowing this, adopts a stratagem. With the 
stick already mentioned he pierces holes of a good depth 
down ; and works the stick about, until the sides of the 


holes are smooth and even. These he mtends shall serve 
hun as pitfalls ; and thej are therefore made in the cov- 
ered ways along which the insects are passing. The 
result is, that the httle creatures, not suspecting the ex- 
istence of these deep wells, tumble head foremost into 
them, and are unable to mount up the steep smooth sides 
again, so that in a few minutes the hole will be filled 
with ants, wliich the Bushman scoops out at his leisure. 

Another source of supply which he has, and also a 
pretty constant one, consists of various roots of the 
tuberous kind, but more especially bulbous roots, which 
grow in the desert. They are several species of Ixias 
and Mesembryanthemums, — some of them producing 
bulbs of a large size, and deeply buried underground. 
Half the Buslunau's and Bushwoman's time is occupied 
in digging for these roots ; and the spade employed is 
the stone-headed staff already described. 

Ostrich eggs also furnish the Bushman with many a 
meal ; and the huge shells of these eggs serve him for 
water-vessels, cups, and dishes. He is exceedingly ex- 
pert in 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 con- 
duct that is peculiarly Bushman. Having removed all 
the eggs to a distance, and concealed them under some 
bush, he returns to the nest and ensconces himself in it. 
His diminutive body, when close squatted, cannot be 
perceived from a distance, especially when there are a 
few bushes around the nest, as there usually are. Thus 
concealed he awaits the return of the birds, holding 
his bow and poisoned arrows ready to salute them as 
soon as they come within range. By tliis ruse he is 


almost certain of killing either tlie cock or hen, and not 
unfrequently both — when thej do not return together. 

Lizards and land-tortoises often furnish the Bushman 
with a meal ; and the shell of the latter serves him also 
for a dish ; but his period of greatest plenty is when 
the locusts ap'pear. Then, indeed, the Bushman is no 
longer in want of a meal ; and while these creatures re- 
main with him, he knows no hunger. He grows fat in 
a trice, and his curs keep pace with him — for they too 
greedily devour the locusts. Were the locusts a con- 
stant, or even an annual visitor, the Bushman would be 
a rich man — at all events his wants would be amply 
supplied. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for 
everybody else, these terrible destroyers of vegetation 
only come now and then — several years often inter- 
vening between their visits. 

The Bushmen have no rehgion whatever ; no form 
of marriage — any more than mating together like wild 
beasts ; but they appear to have some respect for the 
memory of their dead, since they bury them — usually 
erecting a large pile of stones, or "cairn," over the 

They are far from being of a melancholy mood. 
Though crouching in their dens and caves during the 
day, in dread of the boers and other enemies, they come 
forth at night to chatter and make merry. During fine 
moonhghts they dance all night, keeping up the hall till 
morning ; and m their kraals may be seen a circular 
spot — beaten hai'd and smooth with theu' feet — where 
these dances are performed. 

They have no form of government — not so much as 
a head man or chief. Even the father of the family 
2* c 


possesses no authority, except such as superior strength 
may give liim ; and when his sons are grown up and 
become as strong as he is, this of course also ceases. 

Tliey have no tribal organization ; the small com- 
munities in which they live being merely so many in- 
dividuals accidently brought together, often quarrelhng 
and separating from one another. These communities 
rarely number over a hundred individuals, since, from 
the nature of their countiy, a large number could not 
find subsistence in any one place. It follows, therefore, 
that the Bushman race must ever remain widely scat- 
tered — so long as they pursue their present mode of 
life — and no influence has ever been able to v,^in them 
from it. Missionary eflTorts made among them have all 
proved fruitless. The desert seems to have been cre- 
ated for them, as they for the desert ; and wlien trans- 
ferred elsewhere, to dwell amidst scenes of civihzed hfe, 
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 bj a remarkable analogy between the 
geographical features of its two great divisions — the 
xsorth and the South, — an analogy amounting almost 
to a symmetrical parallelism. 

Each has its " mighty " mountains — the Cordilleras 
of the Andes in the south, and the Cordilleras of the 
Sierra Madre (Rocky Mountains) in the north — with 
all the varieties of volcano and eternal snow. Each has 
its secondary chain : in the north, the Nevadas of Cali- 
fornia and Oregon ; in the south, the Sierras of Carac- 
cas and the group of Guiana ; and, if you wish to 
render the parallehsm complete, descend to a lower ele- 
vation, and set the Alleghanies of the United States 
against the mountains of Brazil — both alike detached 
from all the others. 

In the comparison we have exhausted the mountain- 
chains of both divisions of the continent. If we pro- 
ceed further, and carry it mto minute detail, we shall 
find the same correspondence — ridge for ridge, chain 
for chain, peak for peak ; — in short, a most singular 
equihbrium, as if there had been a design that one half 
of this o-reat continent should balance the other ! 


From the mountains let us proceed to the rivers, 
and see how they will correspond. Here, again, we dis- 
cover a like parallelism, amounting almost to a rivahy; 
Each continent (for it is proper to style them so) con- 
tains the largest river in the world. If we make length 
the standard, the north claims precedence for the Mis- 
sissippi ; if volume of water is to be the criterion, the 
south is entitled to it upon the merits of the Amazon. 
Each, too, has its numerous branches, spreading into a 
mighty " tree " ; and these, either singly or combined, 
form a curious equipoise both in length and magnitude. 
We have only time to set Hst against list, tributaries of 
the great northern river against tributaries of its great 
southern compeer, — the Ohio and Ilhnois, the Yellow- 
stone and Platte, the Kansas and Osage, the Arkansas 
and Red, against the Madeira and Purus, the Ucayali 
and Huallaga, the Japura and Negro, the Xingu and 

Of other river systems, the St. Lawrence may be 
placed against the La Plata, the Oregon against the 
Orinoco, the Mackenzie against the Magdalena, and 
the Rio Bravo del Norte against the Tocantins ; while 
the two Colorados — the Brazos and Alabama — find 
their respective rivals in the Essequibo, the Paranahybo, 
the Pedro, and the Patagonian Negro ; and the San 
Francisco of Cahfornia, flowing over sands of gold, is 
balanced by its homonyme of Brazil, that has its origin 
in the land of diamonds. To an endless list might the 
comparison be carried. 

We pass to the plains. Prairies in the north, llanos 
and pampas in the south, almost identical in character. 
Of the plateaux or table-lands, those of Mexico, La 


Puebla, Perote, and silver Potosi in the north ; those of 
Quito, Bogota, Cusco, and gold Potosi in the south ; of 
the desert plains, Utah and the Llano Estacado against 
Atacama and the deserts of Patagonia. Even the Great 
Salt Lake has its parallel in Titicaca ; while the " Sali- 
nas " of New Mexico and the upland prairies, are rep- 
resented bj similar deposits in the Gran Chaco and the 

We arrive finally at the forests. Though unlike in 
other respects, we have here also a rivalry in magni- 
tude, — between the vast timbered expanse stretching 
from Arkansas to the Atlantic shores, and that which 
covers the valley of the Amazon. These were the two 
greatest forests on the face of the earth. I say were, for 
one of them no longer exists ; at least, it is no longer a 
continuous tract, but a collection of forests, opened by 
the axe, and intersected by the clearings of the colonist. 
The other still stands m all its virgin beauty and pri- 
meval vigor, untouched by the axe, undefiled by fire, its 
path scarce trodden by human feet, its silent depths to 
this hour unexplored. 

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

The whole valley of the Amazon — in other words, 
tlie tract watered by this great river and its tributaries 
— may be described as one unbroken forest. We now 
know the borders of this forest with considerable exact- 
ness, but to trace them here would require a too length- 
ened detail. Suffice it to say, that lengthwise it extends 
from the mouth of the Amazon to the foothills of the 


Peravian Andes, a distance of 2,500 miles. In breadth 
it vaiies, beo'innino- on the Atlantic coast with a breadth 
of 400 miles, which widens towards the central part of 
the continent till it attains to 1,500, and again narrowing 
to about 1,000, where it touches the eastern slope of the 

That form of leaf known -to botanists as " obovate " 
will give a good idea of the jfigure of the great Amazon 
forest, supposing the small end or shank to rest on the 
Atlantic, and the broad end to extend along the semi- 
circular concavity of the Andes, from Bolivia on the 
south to New Granada on the north. In all this vast 
expan'fee of territory there is scarce an acre of open 
ground, if we except the water-surface of the rivers and 
their bordering " lagoons," which, were they to bear 
their due proportions on a map, could scarce be repre- 
sented by the narrowest lines, or the most inconspicuous 
dots. The grass plains which embay the forest on its 
southern edo;e along the banks of some of its Brazilian 
tributaries, or those which proceed hke spurs from the 
Llanos of Venezuela, do not in any place approach the 
Amazon itself, and there are many points on the great 
river which may be taken as centres, and around which 
circles may be drawn, having diameters 1,000 miles in 
length, the circumferences of which will enclose nothing 
but timbered land. The main stream of the Amazon, 
though it intersects this grand forest, does not hisect it, 
speaking with mathematical precision. There is rather 
more timbered surface to the southward than that which 
extends northward, though the inequality of the two 
divisions is not great. It would not be much of an error 
to say that the Amazon river cuts the forest in halves. 


At its mouth, however, this would not apply ; since for 
the first 300 miles above the embouchure of the river, 
the country on the northern side is destitute of timber. 
This is occasioned by the projecting spurs of the Guiana 
mountains, which on that side approach the Amazon in 
the shape of naked ridges and grass-covered hills and 

It is not necessary to say that the great forest of the 
Amazon is a tropical one — since the river itself, through- 
out its whole course, almost traces the line of the equator. 
Its vegetation, therefore, is emphatically of a tropical 
character ; and in this respect it differs essentially from 
that of North America, or rather, we should say, of Can- 
ada and the United States. It is necessary to make this 
limitation, because the forests of the tropical parts of 
North America, includmg the West-Indian islands, pre- 
sent a great simihtude to that of the Amazon. It is not 
only in the genera and species of trees that the sylva of 
the temperate zone differs from that of the torrid ; but 
there is a very remarkable difference in the distribution 
of these genera and species. In a great forest of the 
north, it is not uncommon to find a large tract covered 
with a single species of trees, — as with pines, oaks, 
poplars, or the red cedar (Juniperus Virginiand). This 
arrangement is rather tlie rule than the exception ; 
whereas, in the tropical forest, the rule is reversed, ex- 
cept in the case of two or three species of palms {Mau- 
ritia and Euterpe), which sometimes exclusively cover 
laro;e tracts of surface. Of other trees, it is rare to find 
even a clump or grove standing together — often only 
two or three trees, and stUl more frequently, a single 
individual is observed, separated from those of its own 


kind by liimdreds 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 direct 
influence upon the economy of its human occupants — - 
whether these be savage or civilized. Even the habits 
of the lower animals — beasts and birds — are subject to 
a similar influence. 

It would be out of place here to enumerate the differ- 
ent kinds of trees that compose this mighty wood, — a 
bare catalogue of their names would alone fiU many 
pages, — and it would be safe to say that if the hst were 
given as now known to botanists, it would comprise 
scarce half the species that actually exist in the valley 
of the Amazon. In real truth, tliis vast Garden of God 
is yet unexplored by man. Its border walks and edges 
have alone been examined ; and the enthusiastic botanist 
need not fear that he is too late in the field. A hundred 
years will elapse before this grand parterre can be ex- 

At present, a thorough examination of the botany of 
the Amazon vaEey would be difficult, if not altogether 
impossible, even though conducted on a grand and ex- 
pensive scale. There are several reasons for this. Its 
woods are in many places absolutely impenetrable — on 
account either of the thick tangled undergrowth, or from 
the damp, spongy nature of the soil. There are no 
roads that could be traversed by horse or man ; and 
the few paths are known only to the wild savage, — not 
always passable even by him. Travelling can only be 
done by water, either upon the great rivers, or by the 
narrow creeks (igaripes) or lagoons ; and a journey per- 
formed in this fashion must needs be both tedious and 


indirect, allowing but a limited opportunity for observa- 
tion. Horses can scarce be said to exist in the country, 
and cattle are equally rare — a few only are found in 
one or two of the large Portuguese settlements on the 
main river — and the jaguars and blood-sucking bats 
offer a direct impediment to their increase. Contrary to 
the general behef, the tropical forest is not the home of 
the larger mammaha : it is not their proper habitat, nor 
are they found in it. In the Amazon forest but few 
species exist, and these not numerous in mdividuals. 
There are no vast herds — as of buffaloes on the prai- 
ries of North America, or of antelopes in Africa. The 
tapir alone attains to any considerable size, — exceeding 
that of the ass, — but its numbers are few. Three or 
four species of small deer represent the ruminants, and 
the hog of the Amazon is the peccary. Of these there 
are at least three species. Where the forest impinges 
on the mountain regions of Peru, bears are found of 
at least two kinds, but not on the lower plaius of the 
great " Montana," — for by this general designation is 
the vast expanse of the Amazon country known among 
the Peruvian people. "Montes" and "montanas," lit- 
erally signifying " mountains," are not so understood 
among Spanish Americans. With them the "montes" 
and " montanas " are tracts of forest-covered country, 
and that of the Amazon valley is the " Montana " par 

Sloths of several species, and opossums of still greater 
variety, are found all over the Montana, but both thinly 
distributed as regards the number of individuals. A 
sirmlar remark appHes to the ant-eaters or " ant-bears," 
of which there are four kinds, — to the armadillos, the 


" agoutis," and the " cavies," one of which last, the capi- 
hara, is the largest rodent upon earth. This, with its 
kindred genus, the " paca," is not so rare in individual 
numbers, but, on the contrary, appears in large herds 
upon the borders of the rivers and lagoons. A porcu- 
pine, several species of spinous rats, an otter, two or 
three kinds of badger-like animals (the potto and coatis), 
a "honey -bear" (Galera harbara), and a fox, or wild 
dog, are widely distributed tlu-oughout the Montana. 

Everywhere exists the jaguar, both the black and 
spotted varieties, and the puma has there his lurking- 
place. Smaller cats, both spotted and striped, are nu- 
merous in species, and squirrels of several kmds, with 
bats, complete the list of the terrestrial mammaha. 

Of all the lower animals, monkeys are the most 
common, for to them the Montana is a congenial home. 
They abound not only in species, but in the number 
of individuals, and their ubiquitous presence contributes 
to enhven the woods. At least tliirty different kinds 
of them exist in the Amazon valley, from the " coatas," 
and other howlers as large as baboons, to the tiny little 
" ouistitis " and " saimiris," not bigger than squuTels or 

While we must admit a paucity in the species of the 
quadrupeds of the Amazon, the same remark does not 
aj)ply to the birds. In the ornithological department of 
natural history, a fulness and richness here exist, per- 
haps not equalled elsewhere. The most singular and 
graceful forms, combined with the most briUiant plumage, 
are everywhere presented to the eye, in the parrots and 
great macaws, the toucans, trogons, and tanagers, the 
shrikes, humming-birds, and orioles ; and even in the 


vultures and eagles : for here are found tlie most beau- 
tiful of predatory birds, — the king vulture and the 
harpy eagle. Of the feathered creatures existing in 
the valley of the Amazon there are not less than one 
thousand different sj^ecies, of which only one half have 
yet been caught or described. 

Reptiles ai'e equally abundant — the serpent family 
being represented by numerous species, from the great 
water boa (anaconda), often yards in length, to the tiny 
and beautiful but venomous lachesis, or coral snake, not 
thicker than the shank of a tobacco-pipe. The hzards 
range through a like gradation, beginning with the huge 
'"jacare," or crocodile, of several species, and ending 
with the turquoise -blue anolius, not bigger than a newt. 

The waters too are rich in species of their pecuHar 
inhabitants — of which the most remarkable and valu- 
able are the manatees (two or three species), the great 
and smaller tiu-tles, the porpoises of various kinds, and 
an endless catalogue of the finny tribes that frequent the 
rivers of the tropics. It is mainly from this source, and 
not from four-footed creatures of the forest, that the 
human denizen of the great Montana draws his supply 
of food, — at least that portion of it which may be 
termed the " meaty." Were it not for the manatee, the 
great porpoise, and other large fish, he would often have 
to " eat his bread dry." 

And now it is Ms turn to be " talked about." I need 
not inform you that the aborigines who inhabit the 
valley of the Amazon, are all of the so-called Indian 
race — though there are so many distinct tribes of them 
that almost every river of any considerable magnitude 
has a tribe of its own. In some cases a number of these 


tribes belong to one nationality ; tbat is, several of them 
may be found speaking nearly the same language, though 
living apart from each other ; and of these larger di- 
visions or nationalities there are several occupying the 
different districts of the Montana. The tribes even of 
the same nationality do not always present a uniform 
appearance. There are darker and fairer tribes ; some 
in which the average standard of height is less than 
among Europeans ; and others where it equals or ex- 
ceeds this. There are tribes again where both men and 
women are ill-shaped and ill-favored — though these are 
few — - and other tribes where both sexes exhibit a con- 
siderable degree of personal beauty. Sqme tribes are 
even distinguished for their good looks, the men pre- 
senting models of manly form, while the women are 
equally attractive by the regularity of their features, 
and the graceful modesty of expression that adorns them. 
A minute detail of the many peculiarities in which 
the numerous tribes of the Amazon differ from one 
another would fill a large volume ; and in a sketch like 
the present, which is meant to include them all, it would 
not be possible to give such a detail. Nor indeed would 
it serve any good purpose ; for although there are many 
points of difference between the different tribes, yet these 
are generally of shght importance, and are far more 
than counterbalanced by the multitude of resemblances. 
So numerous are these last, as to create a strong idio- 
syncrasy in the tribes of the Amazon, which not only 
entitles them to be classed together in an ethnological 
point of view, but which separates them from all the 
other Indians of America. Of course, the non-posses- 
sion of the horse — they do not even know the anhnal 


— at once broadlj distinguishes them from the Horse 
Indians, both of the Northern and Southern divisions of 
the continent. 

It would be idle here to discuss the question as to 
whether the Amazonian Indians have all a common 
origin. It is evident thej have not. "We know that 
many of them are from Peru and Bogota — runaways 
from Spanish oppression. We know that others mi- 
grated from the south — equally fugitives from the still 
more brutal and barbarous domination of the Portu- 
guese. And still others were true aboriginals of the 
soil, 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 here 
consider them. 

Notwithstanding the different sources whence they 
sprang, we find them, as I have already said, stamped 
with a certain idiosyncrasy, the result, no doubt, of the 
like circumstances which surround them. One or two 
tribes alone, whose habits are somewhat " odder " than 
the rest, have been treated to a separate chapter ; but 
for the others, whatever is said of one, will, with very 
slight alteration, stand good for the whole of the Ama- 
zonian tribes. Let it be understood that we are dis- 
coursing only of those known as the "Indios bravos," 
the fierce, brave, savage, or wild Indians — as you may 
choose to translate the phrase, — a phrase used through- 
out all Spanish America to distinguish those tribes, or 
sections of tribes, who refused obedience to Spanish 
tyranny, and who preserve to this hour their native in- 
dependence and freedom. In contradistinction to the 
" Indios bravos " are the " Indios mansos," or " tame 


Indians," who submitted tamelj both to the cross and 
sword, and now enjoy a rude demi-semi-civiiization, un- 
der the joint protectorate of priests and soldiers. Be- 
tween these two kinds of American aborigines, there 
is as much difference as between a lord and his serf — 
the true savage representing the former and the demi- 
semi-civilized savage approximating more nearly to the 
latter. The meddling monk has made a complete fail- 
ure of it. His ends were purely political, and the result 
has proved ruinous to all concerned ; — instead of civil- 
izing the savage, he has positively demoralized him. 

It is not of his neophytes, the "Indios mansos," we 
are now writing, but of the " infidels," who would not 
hearken to his voice or listen to his teachings — those 
who 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 be 
found along the banks of the main stream, from its 
source to its mouth — but more especially on its upper 
waters, where it runs through Spanish (Peruvian) ter- 
ritory. There they dwell in little villages or collections 
of huts, ruled by the missionary monk with iron rod, 
and performing for him all the offices of the menial 
slave. Their resources are few, not even equalling those 
of their wild but independent brethren ; and their cus- 
toms and rehgion exhibit a ludicrous melange of sav- 
agery and civilization. Farther down the river, the 
" Indio manso " is a " tapuio," a hireling of the Portu- 
guese, or to speak more correctly, a slave ; for the latter 
treats him as such, considers him as such, and though 
there is a law against it, often drags him from his forest- 
home and keeps him in life-long bondage. Any human 


law AYOuld be a dead letter among such wliite-skins as 
are to be encountered upon the banks of the Amazon. 
Fortunately they are but few ; a to^Mi or two on the 
lower Amazon and Rio Negro, — some wretched vil- 
lages between, — scattered estancias along the banks — 
with here and there a paltry post of " militarios," dig- 
nified by the name of a " fort : " these alone speak the 
progress of the Portuguese civilization throughout a pe- 
riod of three centuries ! 

From all these settlements the wild Indian keeps 
away. He is never found near them — he is never 
seen by travellers, not even by the settlers. You may 
descend the mighty Amazon from its source to its mouth, 
and not once set your eyes upon the true son of the 
forest — the " Indio bravo." Coming in contact only 
vdth. the neophyte of the Spanish missionary, and the 
skulking tapuio of the Portuguese trader, you might 
bring away a very erroneous impression of the charac- 
ter of an Amazonian Indian. 

Where is he to be seen ? where dwells he ? what-hke 
is his home ? what sort of a house does he build ? His 
costume ? his arms ? his occupation ? his habits ? These 
are the questions you would put. They shall all be 
answered, but briefly as possible — since our limited 
space requires brevity. 

The wild Indian, then, is not to be found upon the 
Amazon itself, though there are long reaches of the 
river where he is free to roam — hundreds of miles 
without either town or estancia. He hunts, and occa- 
sionally fishes by the great water, but does not there 
make his dwelling — though in days gone by, its shores 
were his favorite place of residence. These happy days 


were before the time when Orellana floated do^yn past 
the door of his " malocea " — before that dark hour when 
the Brazihan slave-hunter found his way into the waters 
of the mightj Solimoes. This last event was the cause 
of his disappearance. It drove him from the shores of 
his beloved river-sea ; forced him to withdraw his dwell- 
ing from observation, and rebuild it far up, on those 
tributaries where he might live a more peaceful life, 
secure from the trafficker in human flesh. Hence it is 
that the home of the Amazonian Indian is now to be 
sought for — not on the Amazon itself, but on its tribu- 
tary streams — on the " canos " and " igaripes," the ca- 
nals and lagoons that, with a labjrinthine ramification, 
intersect the mighty forest of the Montana. Here dwells 
he, and here is he to be seen by any one bold enough to 
visit him in his fastness home. 

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

Eminently pecuhar ; for in this respect he differs from 
all 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 is 
not a tent, nor is it a hut, nor a cabin, nor a cottage, nor 
yet a cave ! His dwelling can hardly be termed a house, 
nor his village a collection of houses — since both house 
and village are one and the same, and both are so pe- 
culiar, that we have no name for such a structure in 
civilized lands, unless we should call it a " barrack." 
But even this appellation would give but an erroneous 
idea of the Amazonian dwelling ; and therefore we shall 
use that by which it is known in the " Lingoa geral," 
and call it a malocea. 


Bj such name is his house (or village rather) known 
among the tapuios and traders of the Amazon. Since 
it is both house and village at the same time, it must 
needs be a large structure ; and so is it, large enough to 
contain the whole tribe — or at least the section of it 
that has chosen one particular spot for their residence. 
It is the property of the whole community, built by the 
labor of all, and used as their common dwelling — 
though each family has its own section specially set 
apart for itself It will thus be seen that the Amazo- 
nian savage is, to some extent, a disciple of the Social- 
ist school. 

I have not space to enter into a minute account of the 
architecture of the malocca. Suffice it to say, that it is 
an immense temple-like building, raised upon timber 
uprights, so smooth and straight as to resemble columns. 
The beams and rafters are also straight and smooth, and 
are held in their places by " sipos " (tough creeping 
plants), which are whipped around the joints with a 
neatness and compactness equal to that used in the rig- 
ging of a ship. The roof is a thatch of palm-leaves, 
laid on with great regularity, and brought very low down 
at the eaves, so as to give to the whole structure the ap- 
pearance of a gigantic beehive. The walls are built of 
split palms or bamboos, placed so closely together as to 
be impervious to either bullet or arrows. 

The plan is a parallelogram, with a semicircle at one 
end ; and the building is large enough to accommodate 
the whole community, often numbering more than a 
hundi-ed individuals. On grand festive occasions several 
neighboring communities can find room enough in it — 
even for dancing — and three or four hundred individuals 
3 . D 


not unfrequentlj assemble under the roof of a single 

Inside the arrangements are curious. There is a wide 
hall or avenue in the middle — that extends from end to 
end throughout the whole length of the parallelogram 
— and on both sides of the hall is a row of partitions, 
separated from each other by split palms or canes, closely 
placed. 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 is 
used for the larger cooking utensils — such as the great 
clay ovens and pans for baking the cassava, and boiling 
the caxire or chicha. This is also a neutral ground, 
where the children play, and where the dancing is done 
on the occasion of grand " balls " and other ceremonial 

The common doorway is in the gable end, and is six 
feet wide by ten in height. It remains open during the 
day, but is closed at night by a mat of palm fibre sus- 
pended from the top. There is another and smaller 
doorway at the semicircular end; but this is for the 
private use of the chief, who appropriates the whole 
section of the semicircle to himself and his family. 

Of course the above is only the general outline of a 
malocca. A. more particular description would not an- 
swer for that of all the tribes of the Amazon. Among 
different communities, and in different parts of the Mon- 
tana, the malocco varies in size, shape, and the materials 
of which it is built ; and there are some tribes who hve 
in separate huts. These exceptions, however, are few, 
and as a general thing, that above described is the style 


of habitation tliroughout the whole Montana, from the 
confines of Peru to the shores of the Atlantic. North 
and south we encounter this singular house-village, from 
the head-waters of the Rio Negro to the highlands of 

Most of the Amazonian tribes follow agriculture, and 
understood the art of tillage before the coming of the 
Spaniards. They practise it, however, to a very hm- 
ited extent. They cultivate a little manioc, and know 
how to manufacture it into farinha or cassava bread. 
They plant the musacecR and yam, and understand the 
distillation of various drinks, both from the plantain and 
several kinds of palms. They can make pottery from 
clay, — shaping it into various forms, neither rude nor 
inelegant, — and from the trees and parasitical twiners 
that surround their dwellings, they manufacture an end- 
less variety of neat implements and utensils. 

Their canoes are hollow trunks of trees sufficiently 
well shaped, and admirably adapted to their mode of 
travelling — which is almost exclusively by water, by 
the numerous canos and igaripes, which are the roads 
and paths of their country — often as narrow and intri- 
cate as paths by land. 

The Indians of the tropic forest dress in the very light- 
est costume. Of course each tribe has its own fashion ; 
but a mere belt of cotton cloth, or the inner bark of a 
tree, passed round the waist and between the limbs, is 
all the covering they care for. It is the guayuco. Some 
wear a skirt of tree-bark, and, on grand occasions, feather 
tunics are seen, and also plume head-dresses, made of the 
brilliant wing and tail feathers of parrots and macaws. 
Circlets of these also adorn the arms and hmbs. All the 


tribes paint, using tlie anotto, caruto, and several other 
dyes which thej obtain from various kinds of trees, else- 
where more particularly described. 

There are one or two tribes who tattoo their skins ; 
but this strange practice is far less common among the 
American Indians than with the natives of the Pacific 

In the manufacture of their various household utensils 
and implements, as well as their weapons for war and the 
chase, many tribes of Amazonian Indians display an in- 
genuity that would do credit to the most accomplished 
artisans. The hammocks made by them have been ad- 
mired everywhere ; and it is from the valley of the Ama- 
zon that most of these are obtained, so much prized 
in the cities of Spanish and Portuguese America. They 
are the special manufacture of the women, the men only 
employing their mechanical skill on their weapons. 

The hammock, " rede," or " maqueira," is manufac- 
tured out of strings obtained from the young leaves of 
several species of palms. The astroearyum, or " tucum " 
palm furnishes this cordage, but a still better quality is 
obtained from the "miriti" {Mauritia jiexuosa). The 
unopened leaf, which forms a thick pointed column grow- 
ing up out of the crown of the tree, is cut off at the base, 
and this being pulled apart, is shaken dexterously until 
ithe tender leaflets faU out. These being stripped of 
their outer covering, leave behind a thin tissue of a pale- 
yellowish color, which is the fibre for making the cordage. 
After being tied in bundles this fibre is left awhile to 
dry, and is then twisted by being rolled between the hand 
and the hip or thigh. The women perform this process 
with great dexterity. Taking two strands of fibre between 


the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, they lay them 
separated a little along the thigh ; a roll downward gives 
them a twist, and then being adroitly brought together, a 
roll upwards completes the making of the cord. Fifty 
fathoms in a day is considered a good day's spinning. 
The cords are afterwards dyed of various colors, to ren- 
der them more ornamental when woven into the ma- 

The making of this is a simple process. Two horizon- 
tal rods are placed at about seven feet apart, over which 
the cord is passed some fifty or sixty times, thus forming 
the " woof." The warp is then worked in by knotting 
the cross strings at equal distances apart, until there are 
enouo-h. Two strons; cords are then inserted where the 
rods pass through, and these being firmly looped, so as 
to draw all the parallel strings together, the rod is pulled 
out, and the hammock is ready to be used. 

Of course, with very fine " redes," and those intended 
to be disposed of to the traders, much pains are taken in 
the selection of the materials, the dyeing the cord, and 
the weaving it into the hanamock. Sometimes very ex- 
pensive articles are made ornamented with the brilliant 
feathers of birds cunningly woven among the meshes and 
along the borders. 

Besides making the hammock, which is the universal 
couch of the Amazonian Indian, the women also manu- 
facture a variety of beautiful baskets. Many species of 
palms and calamus supply them with materials for this 
purpose, one of the best being the " lu " palm (Astroca- 
ryum acaule). They also make many implements and 
utensils, some for cultivating the plantains, melons, and 
manioc root, and others for manufacturing the last-named 


vegetable into their favorite "farinlia" (cassava). The 
Indians understood how to separate the poisonous juice 
of this valuable root from its wholesome farina before 
the arrival of white men among them ; and the process 
by which they accomplish this purpose has remained 
without change up to the present hour, in fact, it is almost 
the same as that practised by the Spaniards and Portu- 
guese, who simply adopted the Indian method. The 
work is performed by the women, and thus: the roots 
are brought home from the manioc " patch " in baskets, 
and then washed and peeled. The peehng is usually 
performed by the teeth ; after that the roots are grated, 
the grater being a large wooden slab about three feet 
long, a foot wide, a httle hollowed out, and the hollow 
part covered all over with sharp pieces of quartz set in 
regular diamond-shaped patterns. Sometime a cheaper 
grater is obtained by using the aerial root of the pashiuba 
palm (Iriartea exhorhiza), which, being thickly covered 
over with hard spinous protuberances, serves admirably 
for the purpose. 

The grated pulp is next placed to dry upon a sieve, 
made of the rind of a water-plant, and is afterwards put 
into a long elastic cylinder-shaped basket or net, of the 
bark of the " jacitara " palm {Desmoncus macroacan- 
thus). This i&the tipiti ; and at its lower end there is 
a strong loop, through which a stout pole is passed; 
while the tipiti itself, when filled with pulp, is hung up 
to the branch of a tree, or to a firm peg in the wall. 
One end of the pole is then rested against some project- 
ing point, that serves as a fulcrum, while the Lidian 
woman, having seated herself upon the other end, with 
her infant in her arms, or perhaps some work m her 


hands, acts as the lever power. Her weight draws the 
sides of the tipiti together, until it assumes the form 
of an inverted cone ; and thus the juice is gradually 
pressed out of the pulp, and drops into a vessel placed 
underneath to receive it. The mother must be careful 
that the httle 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 few 
minutes she would have to grieve for a lost child ; since 
the sap of the manioc root, the variety most cultivated 
by the Indians, is a deadly poison. This is the " yuc- 
ca amarga," or bitter manioc ; the " yucca dulce," or 
sweet kind, being quite hinoxious, even if eaten in its 
raw state. 

The remainder of the process consists in placing the 
grated pulp — now sufficiently dry — on a large pan 
or oven, and submitting it to the action of the fire. It 
is then thought sufficiently good for Indian use ; but 
much of it is afterwards prepared for commerce, under 
different names, and sold as semonilla (erroneously called 
semoUnci), sago, and even as arrowroot. 

At the bottom of that poisonous tub, a sediment has 
all the while been forming. That is ih^ starch of the 
manioc root — the tapioca of commerce : of course that 
is not throT\Ti away. 

The men of the tropic forest spend their lives in 
doing very little. They are idle and not much disposed 
to work — only when war or the chase calls them forth 
do they throw aside for awhile theu' indolent habit, and 
exhibit a httle activity. 

They hunt with the bow and arrow, and fish with a 
harpoon spear, nets, and sometimes by poisoning the 


water with the juice of a vine called barbasco. The 
" peixe boy," " vaca marina," or " manatee," — all three 
names being sjnonymes — is one of the chief animals of 
their .pursuit. All the waters of the Amazon valley 
abound with manatees, probably of several species, and 
these large creatures are captured by the harpoon, just 
as seals or wabus are taken. Porpoises also frequent 
the South- American rivers ; and large fresh-water fish 
of numerous species. The game hunted by the Ama- 
zonian Indians can scarcely be termed noble. We have 
seen that the large mammalia are few, and thinly dis- 
tributed in the tropical forest. "With the exception of 
the jaguar and peccary, the chase is Hmited to small 
quadrupeds — as the capibara, the paca, agouti — to 
many kinds of monkeys, and an immense variety of 
birds. The monkey is the most common game, and is 
not only eaten by all the Amazonian Indians, but by 
most of them considered as the choicest of food. 

In procuring their game the hunters sometimes use 
the common bow and arrow, but most of the tribes are 
in possession of a weapon which they prefer to all others 
for this particular purpose. It is an implement of death 
so original in its character and so singular in its con- 
struction as to deserve a special and minute description. 

The weapon I allude to is the "blow-gun," called 
"pucuna" by the Indians themselves, "gravitana" by 
the Spaniards, and " cerbatana " by the Portuguese of 

When the Amazonian Indian wishes to manufacture 
for himself a pucuna he goes out into the forest and 
searches for two tall, straight stems of the "j)ashiuba 
miri" palm (Jriartea setigera). These he requh-es of 


such thickness that one can be contained within the other. 
Havmg found what he wants, he cuts both down and 
carries them home to his molocca. Neither of them is 
of such dimensions as to render this either impossible or 

He now takes a long slender rod — already prepared 
for the purpose — and with this pushes out the pith 
from both stems, just as boys do when preparing their 
pop-guns from the stems of the elder-tree. The rod 
thus used is obtamed from another species of Iriartea 
palm, of which the wood is very hard and tough, A 
little tuft of fern-root, fixed upon the end of the rod, is 
then drawn backwai'd and forward through the tubes, 
until both are cleared of any pith which may have ad- 
hered to the interior; and both are polished by this 
process to the smoothness of ivory. The palm of 
smaller diameter, being scraped to a proper size, is now 
inserted into the tube of the larger, the object being to 
correct any crookedness in either, should there be such ; 
and if this does not succeed, both are whipped to some 
straight beam or post, and thus left till they become 
straight. One end of the bore, from the nature of the 
tree, is always smaller than the other ; and to this end 
is fitted a mouth-piece of two peccary tusks to concen- 
trate the breath of the hunter when blowing into the 
tube. The other end is the muzzle ; and near this, on 
the top, a sight is placed, usually a tooth of the " paca " 
or some other rodent animal. This sight is glued on 
with a gum which another tropic tree furnishes. Over 
the outside, when desirous of giving the weapon an 
ornamental finish, the maker winds spirally a shining 
creeper, and then the pucuna is ready for action. 


Sometimes only a single shank of palm is used, and 
instead of the pith being pushed out, the stem is split 
into two equal parts throughout its whole extent. The 
heart substance being then removed, the two pieces are 
brought together, hke the two divisions of a cedarwood 
pencil, and tightly bound with a sipo. 

The pucuna is usually about an inch and a half in 
diameter at the thickest end, and the bore about equal 
to that of a pistol of ordinary cahbre. In length, how- 
ever, the weapon varies from eight to twelve feet. 

This singular instrument is designed, not for propel- 
ling a bullet, but an arrow ; but as this arrow differs 
altogether from the common kind it also needs to be 

The blow-gun arrow is about fifteen or eighteen 
inches long, and is made of a piece of spHt bamboo ; 
but when the " patawa " palm can be found, this tree 
furnishes a still better material, in the long spines that 
grow out from the sheathing bases of its leaves. These 
are 18 inches in length, of a black color, flattish though 
perfectly straight. Being cut to the proper length — 
which most of them are without cutting — they are 
whittled at one end to a sharp point. This point is 
dipped about three inches deep in the celebrated 
" curare " poison ; and just where the poison mark ter- 
minates, a notch is made, so that the head will be easily 
broken off when the arrow is in the wound. Near the 
other end a little soft down of silky cotton (the fioss of 
the hombax ceihd) is twisted around into a smooth mass 
of the shape of a spinning-top, with its larger end 
towards the nearer extremity of the arrow. The cotton 
is held in its place by being lightly wliipped on by the 


delicate thread or fibre of a hromelia, and the mass is 
just big enough to fill the tube by gently pressing it 

The arrow thus made is inserted, and whenever the 
game is within reach the Indian places his mouth to the 
lower end or mouthpiece, and with a strong " puff,'' 
which practice enables him to give, he sends the little 
messenger upon its deadly errand. He can hit with un- 
erring aim at the distance of forty or fifty paces ; but he 
prefers to shoot in a direction nearly vertical, as in that 
way he can take the surest aim. As his common game 
— birds and monkeys — are usually perched upon the 
higher branches of tall trees, their situation just suits 
him. Of course it is not the mere wound of the arrow 
that kills these creatures, but the poison, which in two 
or three minutes after they have been hit, wall bring 
either bird or monkey to the ground. When the latter 
is struck he would be certain to draw out the arrow ; but 
the notch, ah-eady mentioned, provides against this, as 
the shghtest wrench serves to break off the envenomed 

These arrows are dangerous things, — even for the 
manufacturer of them to play with : they are therefore 
carried in a quiver, and with great care, — the quiver 
consisting either of a bamboo joint or a neat wicker 

The weapons of war used by the forest tribes are the 
common bow and arrows, also tipped with curare, and 
the " macana," or war-club, a species pecuhar to South 
America, made out of the hard heavy wood of the pissaba 
palm. Only one or two tribes use the spear ; and both 
the " bolas " and lazo are quite unknown, as such 


weapons would not be available among the trees of the 
forest. These are the proper arms of the Horse In- 
dian, the dweller on the open plains ; but without them, 
for all war purposes, the forest tribes have weapons 
enough, and, unfortunately, make a too frequent use of 


The Andes mountains, rising in the extreme southern 
point of South America, not only extend throughout the 
whole length of that continent, but continue on through 
Central America and Mexico, under the name of " Cor- 
dilleras de Sierra Madre ; " and still farther north to the 
shores of the Arctic Sea, under the very inappropriate 
appellation of the " Rocky Mountains." You must not 
suppose that these stupendous mountains form one con- 
tinuous elevation. At many places they furcate into 
various branches, throwing off spurs, and sometime paral- 
lel " sierras," between which lie wide " valles," or level 
plains of great extent. It is upon these high plateaux 
— many of them elevated 7,000 feet above the sea — 
that the greater part of the Spanish- American population 
dwells ; and on them too are found most of the large 
cities of Spanish South America and Mexico. 

These parallel chains meet at different points, forming 
what the Peruvians term " nodas " (knots) ; and, after 
continuing for a distance in one great cordiUera, again 
bifurcate. One of the most remarkable of these bifurca- 
tions of the Andes occurs about latitude 2° N. There the 
gigantic sierra separates into two great branches, forming 


a shape like the letter Y, the left limb being that which 
is usually regarded as the main continuation of these 
mountains through the Isthmus of Panama, while the 
right forms the eastern boundary of the great valley of 
the Magdalena river ; and then, trending in an eastwardly 
direction along the whole northern coast of South Amer- 
ica to the extreme point of the promontory of Paria. 

Each of these limbs again forks mto several branches 
or spurs, — the whole system forming a figure that may 
be said to bear some resemblance to a genealogical tree 
containing the pedigree of four or five generations. 

It is only with one of the bifurcations of the right or 
eastern sierra that this sketch has to do. On reaching 
the latitude of 7° north, this chain separates itself into 
two wings, which, after diverging widely to the east and 
west, sweep round again towards each other, as if desir- 
ous to be once more united. The western wing advances 
boldly to this reunion ; but the eastern, after vacillating 
for a time, as if uncertain what com-se to take, turns its 
back abruptly on its old comrade, and trends off in a due 
east direction, till it sinks into insignificance upon the 
promontory of Paria. 

The whole mass of the sierra, however, has not been, 
of one mind ; for, at the time of its indecision, a large 
spur detaches itself from the main body, and sweeps 
round, as if to carry out the union with the left wing 
advancing from the west. Although they get witliin 
sight of each other, they are not permitted to meet, — 
both ending abruptly before the circle is completed, and 
forming a figure bearing a very exact resemblance to 
the shoe of a racehorse. Within tliis curving boundary 
Is enclosed a vast valley, — as large as the whole of 


Ireland, — ;the central portion of which, and occupying 
about one third of its whole extent, is a sheet of water, 
known from the days of the discovery of America, as 
the Lake of Maracaiho. 

It obtained this appellation from the name of an Indian 
cazique, who was met upon its shores by the first discov- 
erers ; but although this lake was known to the earliest 
explorers of the New "World, — although it lies contigu- 
ous to many colonial settlements both on the mainland 
and the islands of the Caribbean Sea, — the lake itself, 
and the vast territory that surrounds it, remain almost as 
unknown and obscure as if they were situated among the 
central deserts of Africa. 

And yet the valley of Maracaibo is one of the most 
interesting portions of the globe, — interesting not only 
as a terra incognita, but on account of the diversified 
nature of its scenery and productions. It possesses a 
fauna of a pecuhar kind, and its flora is one of the rich- 
est in the world, not sm-passed, — perhaps not equalled, 
— by that of any other portion of the torrid zone. To 
give a hst of its vegetable productions would be to 
enumerate almost every species belonging to tropical 
America. Here are found the well-known medicinal 
plants, — the sassafras and sarsaparilla, guaiacum, co- 
paiva, cinchona, and cuspa, or Cortex Angosturce ; here 
are the deadly poisons of hariasco and mavacure, and 
alongside them the remedies of the " palo sano," and 
mihania guaco. Here hkewise gi'ow plants and trees 
producing those well-known dyes of commerce, the blue 
indigo, the red arnotto, the lake-colored chica, the brazil- 
letto, and dragon's-blood ; and above all, those woods of 
red, gold, and ebon tints, so precious in the eyes of the 
cabinet and musical-instrument makers of Europe. 


Yet, strange to say, these rich resources lie, Hke treas- 
ures buried in the bowels of the earth, or gems at the 
bottom of the sea, still undeveloped. A few small lum- 
bering estabhshments near the entrance of the lake, — 
here and there a miserable village, supported by a little 
coast commerce in dye-woods, or cuttings of ebony, — 
now and then a hamlet of fishermen, — a " hato " of 
goats and sheep ; and at wider intervals, a " ganaderia " 
of cattle, or a plantation of cocoa-trees (cocale), furnish 
the only evidence that man has asserted his dominion 
over this interesting region. These settlements, however, 
are sparsely distributed, and widely distant from one 
another. Between them stretch broad savannas and 
forests, — vast tracts, untilled and even unexplored, — 
a very wilderness, but a wilderness rich m natural re- 

The Lake of Maracaibo is often, though erroneously, 
described as an arm of the sea. This description only 
applies to the Gulf of Maracaiho, which is in reality a 
portion of the Caribbean Sea. The lake itself is alto- 
gether diiFerent, and is a true fresh-water lake, separated 
from the gulf by a narrow neck or strait. Within this 
strait — called " boca," or mouth — the salt water does 
not extend, except during very high tides or after long- 
continued nortes (north winds), which have the eJBfect of 
driving the sea-water up into the lake, and imparting to 
some portions of it a saline or brackish taste. This, 
however, is only occasional and of temporary contin- 
uance ; and the waters of the lake, supphed by a hundred 
streams from the horseshoe sierra that surrounds it, soon 
return to their normal character of freshness. 

The shape of Lake Maracaibo is worthy of remark. 


The main body of its surface is of oval outline, — the 
longer diameter rmming north and south, — but taken in 
connection with the straits which communicate with the 
outer gulf, it assumes a shape somewhat like that of a 
Jew's-harp, or rather of a kind of guitar, most in use 
among Spanish Americans, and known under the name 
of " mandohn " (or " bandolon "). To this instrument do 
the natives sometimes compare it. 

Another pecuharity of Lake Maracaibo, is the extreme 
shallowness of the water along its shores. It is deep 
enough towards the middle part ; but at many points 
around the shore, a man may wade for miles into the 
water, without getting beyond his depth. This pecu- 
liarity ai'ises from the formation of the valley in which 
it is situated. Only a few spurs of the sierras that 
surround it approach near the edge of the lake. Gen- 
erally from the bases of the mountains, the land slopes 
with a very gentle dechnation, — so slight as to have the 
appearance of a perfectly horizontal plain, — and this is 
continued for a great way under the surface of the water. 
Strange enough, however, after getting to a certain dis- 
tance from the shore, the shoal water ends as abruptly as 
the escarpment of a chff, and a depth almost unfathomable 
succeeds, — as if the central part of the lake was a vast 
subaqueous ravine, bounded on both sides by precipitous 
cliffs. Such, in reahty, is it beheved to be. 

A singular phenomenon is observed in the Lake Mar- 
acaibo, which, since the days of Columbus, has not only 
puzzled the curious, but also the learned and scientific, 
who have unsuccessfully attempted to explain it. This 
phenomenon consists in the appearance of a remarkable 
light, which shows itself in the middle of the night, and 



at a particular part of the lake, near its southern ex- 
tremity. This hght bears some resemblance to the ignis 
fatuus of our own marshes ; and most probably is^. a 
phosphorescence of a similar nature, though on a much 
grander scale, — since it is visible at a vast distance 
across the open water. As it is seen universally in the 
same direction, and appears fixed in one place, it serves 
as a beacon for the fishermen and dye-wood traders w^ho 
navigate the waters of the lake, — its longitude bemg 
precisely that of the straits leading outward to the gulf. 
Vessels that have strayed from their course, often regu- 
late their reckoning by the mysterious " Farol de Mara- 
caibo" (Lantern of Maracaibo), — for by this name is 
the natural beacon known to the mariners of the lake. 

Various explanations have been offered to account for 
this singular phenomenon, but none seem to explain it in 
a satisfactory manner. It appears to be produced by the 
exhalations that arise from an extensive marshy tract 
lying around the mouth of the river Zulia, and above 
w^hich it universally shows itself. The atmosphere in 
this quarter is usually hotter than elsewhere, and sup- 
posed to be highly charged with electricity ; but what- 
ever may be the chemical process which produces the 
illumination, it acts in a perfectly silent manner. No 
one 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 Lake 
Maracaibo, perhaps none are so interesting as those that 
relate to its native inhabitants, whose peculiar habits ^nd 
modes of life not only astonished the early navigators, 
but eventually gave its name to the lake itself, and to 
the extensive province in which it is situated. When 


the Spanish discoverers, saihng around the shores of the 
gulf, arrived near the entrance of Lake Maracaibo, they 
saw, to their amazement, not only single houses, but 
whole villages, apparently floating upon the water ! On 
approacliing nearer, they perceived that these houses 
were raised some feet above the surface, and supported 
by posts or piles driven into the mud at the bottom. 
The idea of Venice — that city built upon the sea, to 
which they had been long accustomed — was suggested 
by these superaqueous habitations ; and the name of 
Venezuela (Little Venice) was at once bestowed upon 
the coast, and afterwards apphed to the whole province 
now known as the Repubhc of Venezuela. 

Though the "water villages" then observed have 
long since disappeared, many others of a similar kind 
were afterwards discovered in Lake Maracaibo itself, 
some of which are in existence to the present day. 
Besides here and there an isolated habitation, situated 
in some bay or " laguna," there are four principal vil- 
lages upon this plan still in existence, each containing 
from fifty to a hundi-ed habitations. The inhabitants of 
some of these villages have been " Christianized," that 
is, have submitted to the teaching of the Spanish mis- 
sionaries ; and one in particular is distinguished by 
having its httle church — a regular ivater church — in 
the centre, built upon piles, just as the rest of the 
houses are, and only differing from the common dwel- 
lings in being larger and of a somewhat more preten- 
tious style. From the belfry of this curious ecclesias- 
tical edifice a brazen bell may be heard at morn and 
eve tolhng the " oracion " and " vespers," and declaring 
over the wide waters of the lake that the authority of 


the Spanish monk has replaced the power of the cazique 
amono; the Lidians of the Lake Maracaibo. Not to 
all sides of the lake, however, has the cross extended 
its conquest. Along its western shore roams the fierce 
unconquered Goajiro, who, a true warrior, still main- 
tains his independence ; and even encroaches upon the 
usurped possessions both of monk and " militario." 

The water-dweller, however, although of kindred race 
with the Goajiro, is very different, both in his disposi- 
tion and habits of life. He is altogether a man of 
"peace, and might almost be termed a civilized being, — 
that is, he follows a regular industrial calling, by which 
he subsists. This is the calling of a fisherman, and in 
no part of the world could he follow it with more cer- 
tainty of success, since the waters which surround his 
dwelling literally swarm with fish. 

Lake Maracaibo has been long noted as the resort of 
numerous and valuable species of the finny tribe, in the 
capture of which the Indian fisherman finds ample oc- 
cupation. He is betimes a fowler, — as we shall present- 
ly see, — and he also sometimes indulges, though more 
rarely, in the chase, finding game in the thick forests 
or on the green savannas that surround the lake, or 
border the banks of the numerous " riachos " (streams) 
running into it. On the savanna roams the graceful 
roebuck and the " venado," or South- American deer, 
while along the river banks stray the capibara and the 
stout tapir, undisturbed save by their fierce fehne ene- 
mies, the puma and spotted jaguar. 

But hunting excursions are not a habit of the water 
Indian, whose calling, as already observed, is essentially 
that of a fisherman and " fowler," and whose subsistence 


IS mainly derived from two kinds of water-dwellers, like 
himself — one with fins, living below the surface, and 
denominated Jish ; another with -wings, usually resting 
on the surface, and known as fowl. These two crea- 
tures, of verj different kinds and of many different 
species, form the staple and daily food of the Lidiau 
of Maracaibo. 

In an accaunt of his habits we shall begin by giving 
a description of the mode in which he constructs his 
singular dwelling. 

Like other builders he begins by selecting the site. 
This must be a place where the water is of no great 
depth; and the farther from the shore he can find a 
shallow spot the better for his purpose, for he has a 
good reason for desiring to get to a distance from the 
shore, as we shall presently see. Sometimes a sort of 
subaqueous island, or elevated sandbank, is found, which 
gives him the very site he is in search of. Having 
pitched upon the spot, his next care is to procure a 
certain number of tree-trunks of the proper length and 
thickness to make "piles." Not every kind of timber 
will serve for this purpose, for there are not many 
sorts that would long resist decay and the wear and 
tear 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 and 
labor, and it is desirable therefore to make it as per- 
manent as possible. For this reason great care is taken 
in the selection of the timber for the " piles." 

But it so chances that the forests around the lake 
ftimish the very thing itself, in the wood of a tree 
known to the Spanish inhabitants as the "vera," or 


"palo sano," and to the natives as "guaiac." It is 
one of the zygophyls of the genus Guaiacum, of which 
there are many species, called by the -names of "iron- 
wood " or " hgnum-vitge ; " but the species in question 
is the tree lignum-vitse (^Guaiacum arhoreuni), which at- 
tains to a height of 100 feet, with a fine umbrella- 
shaped head, and bright orange flowers. Its wood is 
so hard, that it will turn the edge of an axe, and the 
natives beheve that if it be buried for a sufficient length 
of time under the earth it will turn to iron ! Though 
this befief is not hterally true, as regards the iron, it 
is not so much of an exaggeration as might be sup- 
posed. The "palo de fierro," when buried in the soil 
of Maracaibo or immersed in the waters of the lake, 
in reality does undergo a somewhat similar metamor- 
phose ; in other words, it turns into stone ; and the 
petrified trunks of this wood are frequently met with 
along the shores of the lake. What is still more singu- 
lar — the piles of the water-houses often become petri- 
fied, so that the dwelling no longer rests upon wooden 
posts, but upon real columns of stone ! 

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

Upon this a platform is erected, out of split boards of 
some less ponderous timber, usually the " ceiba," or 
" silk-cotton tree " {Bomhax ceiha), or the " cedro negro " 
(^Cedrela odoratd) of the order Meliacece. Both kinds 
grow in abundance upon the shores of the lake, — and 
the huge trunks of the former are also used by the water 
Indian for the constructing of his canoe. - 


The platfonn, or floor, being tlins established, about 
two or three feet above the surface of the water, it then 
onlj remains to erect the walls and cover them over with 
a roof. The former are made of the slightest materials, 

— hght saphngs or bamboo poles, — usually left open at 
the interstices. There is no winter or cold weather here, 

— why should the walls be thick ? There are heavy 
rains, however, at certain seasons of the year, and these 
require to be guarded against ; but this is not a difficult 
matter, since the broad leaves of the " enea " and " vihai " 
(a species of Heliconid) serve the purpose of a roof just 
as well as tiles, slates, or shingles. Nature in these parts 
is bountiful, and provides her human creatures with a 
spontaneous supply of every want. Even ropes and 
cords she furnishes, for bindmg the beams, joists, and 
rafters together, and holding on the thatch against the 
most furious assaults of the wind. The numerous spe- 
cies of creeping and twining plants (" Uianas " or " sipos ") 
serve admirably for this purpose. They are apphed in 
their green state, and when contracted by exsiccation 
di^aw the timbers as closely together as if held by spikes 
of iron. In this manner and of such materials does the 
water Indian build his house. 

Why he inhabits such a singular dwelling is a ques- 
tion that requires to be answered. With the terra Jirma 
close at hand, and equally convenient for all purposes of 
his calling, why does he not build his hut there ? So 
much easier too of access would it be, for he could then 
approach it either by land or by water ; whereas, in its 
present situation, he can neither go awa;^ from liis house 
or get back to it without the aid of his " periagua " (ca- 
noe). Moreover, by buildmg on the beach, or by the 


edge of the woods, he would spare himself the labor of 
transporting those heavy piles and setting them in their 
places, — a work, as already stated, of no ordinary 
magnitude. Is it for personal security against human 
enemies, — for this sometimes drives a people to seek 
singular situations for their homes ? No ; the Indian 
of Maracaibo has his human foes, hke all other people ; 
but it is none of these that have forced him to adopt 
this strange custom. Other enemies ? wild beasts ? the 
dreaded jaguar, perhaps ? No, nothing of this kind. 
And yet it is in reality a Hving creature that drives him 
to this resource, — that has forced him to flee from the 
mainland and take to the water for security against its 
attack, — a creature of such small dimensions, and ap-i 
parently so contemptible in its strength, that you will 
no doubt smile at the idea of its putting a strong man 
to flight, — a Httle insect exactly the size of an English 
gnat, and no bigger, but so formidable by means of its 
poisonous bite, and its myriads of numbers, as to render 
many parts of the shores of Lake Maracaibo quite un- 
inhabitable. You guess, no doubt, the insect to which 
I allude ? You cannot fail to recognize it as the mos- 
quito ? Just so ; it is the mosquito I mean, and in no 
part of South America do these insects abound in greater 
numbers, and nowhere are they more blood-thirsty than 
upon the borders of this great fresh-water sea. Not only 
one species of mosquito, but all the varieties known as 
•' jejens," " zancudos," and " tempraneros," here abound 
in countless multitudes, — each kind making its appear- 
ance at a particular hour of the day or night, — " mount- 
ing guard " (as the persecuted natives say of them) in 
turn, and allowing only short intervals of respite from 
theh' bitter attacks. 


Now, it SO happens, that aUhough the various kinds 
of mosquitoes are pecuHarly the productions of a marshy 
or watery region, — and rarely found where the soil is 
high and dry, — yet as rarely do they extend their ex- 
cursions to a distance from the land. They dehght to 
dwell under the shadow of leaves, or near the herbage 
of grass, plants, or trees, among which they were hatched. 
They do not stray far from the shore, and only when the 
breeze carries them do they fly out over the open water. 
Need I say more ? You have now the explanation why 
the Indians of Maracaibo build their dwellings upon the 
water. It is simply to escape from the " plaga de mos- 
cas" (the pest of the flies). 

Like most other Indians of tropical America, and some 
even of colder latitudes, those of Maracaibo go naked, 
wearing only the guayuco, or " waist-belt." Those of 
them, however, who have submitted to the authority of 
the monks, have adopted a somewhat more modest garb, 
— consisting of a small apron of cotton or palm-fibre, 
suspended from the waist, and reaching down to their 

We have already stated, that the water-dwelling In- 
dian is a fisherman, and that the waters of the lake 
supply him with numerous kinds of fish of excellent 
quality. An account of these, with the method employed 
in capturing them, may not prove uninteresting. 

First, there is the fish known as " hza," a species of 
skate. It is of a briUiant silvery hue, with bluish cor- 
ruscations. It is a small fish, being only about a foot 
in length, but is excellent to eat, and when preserved 
by drying, forms an article of commerce with the West- 
Indian islands. Along the coasts of Cumana and Ma- 


garita, there are many people employed in the pesca de 
liza (skate-fishery) ; but although the hza is in reality 
a sea fish, it abounds in the fresh waters of Maracaibo, 
and is there also an object of industrial pursuit. It is 
usually captured by seines, made out of the fibres of 
the cocui aloe {agave cocuizd), or of cords obtained from 
the unexpanded leaflets of the moriche palm {Mauritia 
Jlexuosa), both of which useful vegetable products are 
indigenous to this region. The roe of the liza, when 
dried in the sun, is an article in high estimation, and 
finds its way into the channels of commerce. 

A still more dehcate fish is the " pargo." It is of a 
white color tinged with rose ; and of these great num- 
bers are also captured. So, too, with the "doncella," 
one of the most beautiful species, as its pretty name of 
*' doncella " (young maiden) would indicate. These last 
are so abundant in some parts of the lake, that one of its 
bays is distinguished by the name of Laguna de Don- 

A large, ugly fish, called the " vagre," with an enor- 
mous head and wide mouth, from each side of which 
stretches a beard-like appendage, is also an object of 
the Indian's pursuit. It is usually struck with a spear, 
or killed by arrows, when it shows itself near the surface 
of the water. Another monstrous creature, of nearly 
circular shape, and full three feet in diameter, is the " ca- 
rite," which is harpooned in a similar fashion. 

Besides these there is the " viegita," or " old- woman 
fish," which itself feeds upon lesser creatures of the finny 
tribe, and especially upon the smaller species of shell- 
fish. It has obtained its odd appellation from a singular 
noise which it gives forth, and which resembles the voice 
of an old woman debilitated with extreme age. 


The '' dorado," or gilded fish — so called on account 
of its beautiful color — is taken by a hook, with no other 
bait attached than a piece of white rag. This, however, 
must be kept constantly in motion, and the bait is played 
by simply paddling the canoe over the surface of the 
lake, until the dorado, attracted by the white meteor, fol- 
lows in 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 the 
rivers, and the " guabina," with several kinds of sardines 
that find their way into the tin boxes of Europe ; for the 
Maracaibo fishennan is not contented with an exclusive 
fish diet. He likes a httle " casava," or maize-bread, 
along with it ; besides, he has a few other wants to satis- 
fy, and the means he readly obtains in exchange for the 
surplus produce of his nets, harpoons, and arrows. 

"We have already stated that he is a fowler. At cer- 
taia seasons of the year this is essentially his occupation. 
The fowHng season with him is the period of northern 
winter, when the migratory aquatic birds come down 
from the boreal regions of Prince Rupert's Land to dis- 
port their bodies iu the more agreeable waters of Lake 
Maracaibo. There they assemble in large flocks, dark- 
ening the air with their myriads of numbers, now flutter- 
ing over the lake, or, at other times, seated on its sm-face 
silent and motionless. Notwithstanding their great num- 
bers, however, they are too shy to be approached near 
enough for the "carry" of an Lidian arrow, or a gun 
either ; and were it not for a very cunning stratagem 
which the Lidian has adopted for their capture, they 
might return again to their northern haunts without being 
miniis an individual of their " count." 


But thej are not permitted to depart thus unscathed. 
During their sojourn within the lunits of Lake Mara- 
caibo their legions get considerably thinned, and thou- 
sands of them that settle down upon its inviting waters 
are destined never more to take wing. 

To effect their capture, the Indian fowler, as already 
stated, makes use of a very ingenious stratagem. Some- 
thing similar is described as being practised in other 
parts of the world ; but in no place is it carried to such 
' perfection as upon the Lake Maracaibo. 

The fowler first proyides himself with a number of 
large gourd-shells of roundish form, and each of them at 
least as big as his own skull. These he can easily ob- 
tain, either from the herbaceous squash ( Cucurbita lage- 
naris) or from the calabash tree ( Crescentia cnjete), both 
of which grow luxuriantly on the shores of the lake. 
Filling his periagua with these, he proceeds out into the 
open water to a certain distance from the land, or from 
his own dwelling. The distance is regulated by several 
considerations. He must reach a place which, at all 
hours of the day, the ducks and other waterfowl are not 
afraid to frequent ; and, on the other hand, he must not 
go beyond such a depth as will bring the water higher 
than his own chin when wading through it. This last 
consideration is not of so much importance, for the water 
Indian can swim almost as well as a duck, and dive hke 
one, if need be ; but it is connected with another matter 
of greater importance — the convenience of having the 
• birds as near as possible, to save him a too long and 
wearisome " wade." It is necessary to have them so 
near, that at all hours they may be under his eye. 

Having found the proper situation, which the vast ex- 


tent of shoal water (ali-eadj mentioned) enables In'rn to 
do, he proceeds to caiTj out his design by dropping a 
gourd here and another there, until a large space of sur- 
face is covered by these floating shells. Each goui'd has 
a stone attached to it bj means of a string, which, rest- 
mg upon the bottom, brings the buoy to an anchor, and 
prevents it from being drifted into the deeper water 
or carried entirely away. 

Wlien his decoys are all placed, the Indian paddles 
back to his platform dweUing, and there, with watchful 
eye, awaits the issue. The birds are at first shy of these 
round yellow objects intruded upon their domain ; but, as 
the hours pass, and they perceive no harm in them, they 
at length take courage and venture to approach. Urged 
by that curiosity which is instinctive in every creature, 
they gradually draw nigher and nigher, until at length 
they boldly venture into the midst of the odd objects and 
examine them minutely. Though puzzled to make out 
what it is aU meant for, they can perceive no harm 
in the yellow globe-shaped things that only bob about, 
but make no attempt to do them any injury. Thus satis- 
fied, their curiosity soon wears off, and the birds no 
longer regarduig the floating shells as objects of suspi- 
cion, s\^im freely about through their midst, or sit quietly 
on the water side by side with them. 

But the crisis has now arrived when it is necessary 
the Indian should act, and for this he speedily equips 
himself. He first ties a stout rope around his waist, to 
which are attached many short strings or cords. He then 
di-aws over his head a large gourd-shell, which, fitting 
pretty tightly, covers his whole skull, reaching down to 
his neck. This shell is exactly sunilar to the others 


already floating on the water, with the exception of hav- 
ing three holes on one side of it, two on the same level 
with the Lidian'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 shps quietly down from his platform, and laying him- 
self along the water, swims gently in the direction of 
the ducks. 

He swims only where the water is too shallow to 
prevent him from crouching below the surface ; for were 
he to stand upright, and wade, — even though he were 
still distant from them, — the shy birds might have sus- 
picions about his after-approaches. 

When he reaches a point where the lake is sufficiently 
deep, he gets upon his feet and wades, still keeping his 
shoulders below the surface. He makes his advance 
very slowly and warily, scarce raising a ripple on the 
surface of the placid lake, and the nearer he gets to 
his intended victims he proceeds with the greater cau- 

The unsuspecting birds see the destroyer approach 
without having the slightest misgiving of danger. They 
fancy that the new comer is only another of those inani- 
mate objects by their side — another gourd-shell drifting 
out upon the water to join its companions. They have 
no suspicion that this wooden counterfeit — like the horse 
of Troy — is inhabited by a terrible enemy. 

Poor things ! how could they ? A stratagem so well 
contrived would deceive more rational intellects than 
theirs ; and, in fact, having no idea of danger, they 
perhaps do not trouble themselves even to notice the 
new arrival. 


Meanwhile the gourd has drifted silently into their 
midst, and is seen approaching the odd individuals, first 
one and afterwards another, as if it had some special 
business with each. This business appears to be of a 
ver J mysterious character ; and in each case is abruptly 
brought to a conclusion, by the duck making a sudden 
dive under the water, — not head foremost, according to 
its usual practice, but m the reverse way, as if jerked 
do-wn by the feet, and so rapidly that the creature has 
not time to utter a single " quak." 

After quite a number of individuals have disappeared 
in this mysterious manner, the others sometimes grow 
suspicious of the moving calabash, and either take to 
wing, or swim off to a less dangerous neighborhood ; but 
if the gourd performs its office in a skilful manner, it 
will be seen passing several times to and fro between 
the birds and the water-village before this event takes 
place. On each return trip, when far from the flock, 
and near the habitations, it wdll be seen to rise high 
above the surface of the water. It will then be per- 
ceived that it covers the skull of a copper-colored sav- 
age, around whose hips may be observed a double tier 
of dead ducks dangling by their necks fi'om the rope 
upon his waist, and forming a sort of plumed skirt, the 
weight of which almost di-ags its wearer back into the 

Of course a capture is followed by a feast ; and during 
the fowling season of the year the Maracaibo Indian 
enjoys roast-duck at discretion. He does not trouble 
his head much about the green peas, nor is he particular 
to have his ducks stuffed with sage and onions ; but a 
hot seasoning of red pepper is one of the indispensable 


ingredients of the South American cuisine ; and this he 
usually obtains from a small patch of capsicum which he 
cultivates upon the adjacent shore ; or, if he be not pos- 
sessed of land, he procures it by barter, exchanging his 
fowls or fish for that and a httle 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 phraseology 
of his priestly proselytizer, — and this has introduced 
him to new wants and necessities. Expenses that in his 
former pagan state were entirely unknown to him, hav§ 
now become necessary, and a commercial effort is re- 
quired to meet them. The Church must have its dues. 
Such luxuries as being baptized, married, and buried, are 
not to be had without expense, and the padre takes good 
care that none of these shall be had for nothuig. He 
has taught his proselyte to beheve that unless all these 
rites have been officially performed there is not the 
slightest chance for him in the next world; and under 
the influence of this delusion, the simple savage wilhngly 
yields up his tenth, his fifth, or, perhaps it would be 
more correct to say, his all. Between fees of baptism 
and burial, mulcts for performance of the marriage rite, 
contributions towards the shows and ceremonies of dias 
de fiesta, extravagant prices for blessed beads, leaden 
crucifixes, and images of patron saints, the poor Chris- 
tianized Indian is compelled to part with nearly the 
whole of his humble gains ; and the fear of Tiot being 
able to pay for Christian burial after death, is often one 
of the torments of his hfe. 

To satisfy the numerous demands of the Church, there- 
fore, he is forced into a little action in the commercial 


line. With the water-dweller of Maracaibo, fish forms 
one of the staples of export trade, — of course in the 
preserved state, as he is too distant from any great town 
or metropohs to be able to make market of them while 
fresh. He understands, however, the mode of curing 
tliem, — which he accomphshes by sun-diying and smok- 
ing, — and, thus prepared, they are taken off his hands 
by the trader, who carries them all over the "West Indies, 
where, with boiled rice, they form the staple food of 
thousands of the dark-skinned children of Ethiopia. 

The Maracaibo Indian, however, has still another re- 
source, which occasionally supphes him with an article 
of commercial export. His country — that is, the ad- 
jacent shores of the lake — produces the finest caout- 
chouc. There the India-rubber tree, of more than one 
species, flourishes in abundance ; and the true " seringa," 
that yields the finest and most valuable kind of this 
gummy juice, is nowhere found in greater perfection 
than in the forests of Maracaibo. The caoutchouc of 
commerce is obtained from many other parts of America, 
as well as from other tropical countries ; but as many 
of the bottles and shoes so well known in the india- 
rubber shops, are manufactured by the Indians of Ma- 
racaibo, we may not find a more appropriate place to give 
an account of this singular production, and the mode by 
which it is prepared for the purposes of commerce and 

As already mentioned, many species of trees yield 
india-rubber, most of them belonging either to the order 
of the " Morads," or Euphorbiacece. Some are species 
of Jicus, but both the genera and species are too numer- 
ous to be given here. That which supplies the " bottle 
4* p 


india-rubber " is a euphorbiaceous plant, — the seringa 
above mentioned, — whose proper botanical appellation 
is Siphonia elastica. It is a tall, straight, smooth-barked 
tree, having a trunk of .about a foot in diameter, though 
in favorable situations reaching to much larger dimen- 
sions. The process of extracting its sap — out of which 
the caoutchouc is manufactured — bears some resem- 
blance to the tapping of sugar-maples in the forests of 
the north. 

"With his small hatchet, or tomahawk, the Indian cuts 
a gash in the bark, and inserts into it a little wedge of 
wood to keep the sides apart. Just under the gash, he 
fixes a small cup-shaped vessel of clay, the clay being 
still in a plastic state, so that it may be attached closely 
to the bark. Into this vessel the milk-like sap of the 
seringa soon commences to run, and keeps on until it 
has yielded about the fifth of a pint. This, however, is 
not 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 own 
cup or receiver. In from four to six hours the sap ceases 
to run. 

The cups are then detached from the tree, and the 
contents of all, poured into a large earthen vessel, are 
carried to the place where the process of making the 
caoutchouc is to take place, — usually some dry open 
spot in the middle of the forest, where a temporary camp 
has been formed for the purpose. 

When the dwelhng of the Indian is at a distance from 
where the india-rubber tree grows, — as is the case with 
those of Lake Maracaibo, — it will not do to transport 
the sap thither. There must be no delay after the cups 


are filled, and the process of manufacture must proceed 
at once, or as soon as the milky juice begins to coagu- 
late, — which it does almost on the instant. 

Previous to reaching his camp, the " seringero " has 
provided a large quantity of palm-nuts, with which he 
intends to make a fire for smoking the caoutchouc. 
These nuts are the fruit of several kinds of palms, but 
the best are those afforded by two magnificent species, 
— the "Inaja" (^Maximiliana regia), and the " Urucu- 
ri" (Attalea excelsd). 

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

If it is a shoe that is intended to be made, a clay last 
is already prepared, with a stick standing out of the top 
of it, to serve as a handle, while the operation is going 
on. Taking the stick in his hand, the seringero dips the 
last lightly into the milk, or with a cup pours the fluid 
gently over it, so as to give a regular coating to the 
whole surface ; and then, holding it over the smoke, he 
keeps turning it, jack-fashion, till the fluid has becoms 
dry and adhesive. Another dip is then given, and the 
smoking done as before ; and this goes on, till forty cr 
fifty different coats have brought the sides and soles of 
the shoe to a proper thickness. The soles, requu'ing 
greater weight, are, of course, oftener dipped than the 
"upper leather." 

The whole process of making the shoe does not occupy 
half an hour ; but it has afterwai'ds to receive some fai'- 
tlier attention in the way of ornament ; the fines and 
figures are yet to be executed, and this is done about 


two days after the smoking process. They are simply- 
traced out with a piece of smooth wire, or oftener with 
the spine obtained from some tree, — as the thorny point 
of the hromelia leaf. 

In about a week the shoes are ready to be taken from 
the last; and this is accomphshed at the expense and 
utter ruin of the latter, which is broken into fragments, 
and then cleaned out. "Water is used sometimes to soften 
the last, and the inner surface of the shoe is washed after 
the clay has been taken out. 

Bottles are made precisely in the same manner, — a 
round ball, or other shaped mass of clay, serving as the 
mould for their construction. It requires a httle more 
trouble to get the mould extracted from the narrow neck 
of the bottle. 

It may be remarked that it is not the smoke of the 
palm-nuts that gives to the india-rubber its pecuhar dark 
color ; that is the effect of age. When freshly -manufac- 
tured, it is still of a whitish or cream color ; and only 
attains the dark hue after it has been kept for a consid- 
erable time. 

We might add many other particulars about the mode 
in which the Indian of Maracaibo employs his time, but 
perhaps enough has been said to show that his existence 
is altosether an odd one. 


The Esquimaux are emphatically an "odd people," 
perhaps the oddest upon the earth. The peculiar char- 
acter of the regions they inhabit has naturally initiated 
them into a system of habits and modes of life different 
from those of any other people on the face of the globe ; 
and from the remoteness and inaccessibihty of the coun- 
tries in which they dwell, not only have they remained 
an unmixed people, but scarce any change has taken 
place in their customs and manners during the long 
period since ,they were first known to civilized nations. 

The Esquimaux people have been long kno^^^l and 
their habits often described. Our first knowledge of 
them was obtained from Greenland, — for the native 
inhabitants of Greenland are true Esquimaux, — and 
hundreds of years ago accounts of them were given to 
the world by the Danish colonists and missionai'ies — 
as also by the whalers who visited the coasts of that 
inhospitable land. In later times they have been made 
famihar to us through the Arctic explorers and whale- 
fishers, who have traversed the labyrinth of icy islands 
that extend northward from the continent of America. 
The Esquimaux may boast of possessing the longest 


country in the world. In the first place, Greenland is 
theirs, and they are found along the western shores of 
Bafiin's Bay. In North America proper their territory 
commences at the straits of Belle Isle, which separate 
Newfoundland from Labrador, and thence extends all 
around the shore of the Arctic Ocean, not only to Behr- 
ing's Straits, but beyond these, around the Pacific coast 
of Russian America, as far south as the great mountain 
St. Elias. Across Behring's Straits they are found oc- 
cupying a portion of the Asiatic coast, under the name 
of Tchutski, and some of the islands in the northern 
angle of the Pacific Ocean are also inhabited by these 
people, though under a different name. Furthermore, 
the numerous ice islands which lie between North 
America and the Pole are either inhabited or visited 
by Esquimaux to the highest point that discovery has 
yet reached. 

There can be little doubt that the Laplanders of 
northern Europe, and the Samoyedes, and other littoral 
peoples dwelling along the Siberian shores, are kindred 
races of the Esquimaux ; and taking this view of the 
question, it may be said that the latter possess all the 
line of coast of both continents facing northward ; in 
other words, that their countiy extends around the 
globe — though it cannot be said (as is often boast- 
ingly declared of the British empire) that "the sun 
never sets upon it ; " for, over the " empire " of the 
Esquimaux, the sun not only sets, but remains out of 
sight of it for months at a time. 

It is not usual, however, to class the Laplanders and 
Asiatic Arctic people with the Esquimaux. There are 
some essential points of difference ; and what is here 


said of the Esquimaux relates onlj to those who in- 
habit the northern coasts and islands of America, and 
to the native Greenlanders. 

Notwithstanding the immense extent of territory thus 
designated, notwithstanding the sparseness of the Esqui- 
maux population, and the vast distances by which one 
Uttle tribe or community is separated from another, the 
absolute similarity in their habits, in their physical and 
intellectual conformation, and, above all, in their lan- 
guages, proves incontestably that they are all originally 
of one and the same race. 

Whatever, therefore, may be said of a " ScheUing," 
or native Greenlander, will be equally apphcable to an 
Esquimaux of Labrador, to an Esquimaux of the Mac- 
kenzie River or Bhering's Straits, or we might add, to a 
a Khadiak islander, or a Tuski of the opposite Asiatic 
coast ; always taking into account such differences of 
costume, dialect, modes of life, &c., as may be brought 
about by the different circumstances in which they are 
placed. In all these things, however, they are wonder- 
fully alike ; their dresses, weapons, boats, houses, and 
house implements, being almost the same in material 
and construction from East Greenland to the Tchutskoi 

If their country be the longest in the world, it is also 
the narrowest. Of course, if we take into account the 
large islands that thickly stud the Arctic Ocean, it may 
be deemed broad enough ; but I am speaking rather 
of the territory which they possess on the continents. 
This may be regarded as a mere strip following the 
outline of the coast, and never extending beyond the 
distance of a day's journey inland. Indeed, they only 


seek the interior in the few short weeks of summer, for 
the purpose of hunting the reindeer, the musk-ox, and 
other animals ; after each excursion, returning again to 
the shores of the sea, where they have their winter- 
houses and more permanent home. They are, truly 
and emphatically, a littoral people, and it is to the sea 
they look for their principal means of support. But 
for this source of supply, they could not long continue 
to exist upon land altogether incapable of supplying 
the wants even of the most limited population. 

The name Esquimaux — or, as it is sometimes writ- 
ten, " Eskimo," — like many other national appella- 
tions, is of obscure origin. It is supposed to have 
been given to them by the Canadian voyageurs in the 
employ of the Hudson's Bay Company, and derived 
from the words Ceux qui miaux (those who mew), in 
relation to their screaming like cats. But the etymol- 
ogy is, to say the least, suspicious. They generally call 
themselves "Inuit" (pronounced enn-oo-eet), a word 
which signifies " men ; " — though different tribes of 
them have distinct tribal appellations. 

In personal appearance they cannot be regarded as 
at aU prepossessing — though some of the younger 
men and girls, when cleansed of the filth and grease 
with which their skin is habitually coated, are far from 
ill-looking. Their natural color is not much darker 
than that of some of the southern nations of Europe — 
the Portuguese, for instance — and the young girls 
often have blooming cheeks, and a pleasing expression 
of countenance. Their faces are generally of a broad, 
roundish shape, the forehead and chin both narrow and 
receding, and the cheeks very prominent, though not 


angular. On the contrary, they are rather fat and 
round. This prominence of the cheeks gives to their 
nose the appearance of being low and flat ; and indi- 
viduals are often seen with such high cheeks, that a 
ruler laid from one to the other would not touch the 
bridge of the nose between them ! 

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

The average stature of the Esquimaux is far below that 
of European nations, though individuals are sometimes met 
with nearly six feet in height. These, however, are rare 
exceptions ; and an Esquimaux of such proportions would 
be a giant among his people. The more common height 
is from four feet eight inches to five feet eight ; and the 
women are still shorter, rarely attaining the standai'd of 
five feet. The shortness of both men and women ap- 
pears to be a deficiency in length of limb, for their 
bodies are long enough ; but, as the Esquimaux is al- 
most constantly in his canoe, or " kayak," or upon his 
dog-sledge, his legs have but httle to do, and are conse- 
quently stunted in their development. 

A similar pecuharity is presented by the Comanche, 
and other Indians of the prairies, and also in the Guachos 
and Patagonian Indians, of the South American Pam- 
pas, who spend most of their time on the backs of their 

The Esquimaux have no religion, unless we dignify by 
that name a belief in witches, sorcerers, " Shamans," and 


good or evil spirits, with some confused notion of a 
good and bad place hereafter. Missionary zeal has been 
exerted among them almost in vain. They exhibit an 
apathetic indifference to the teachings of Christianity. 

Neither have they any pohtical organization ; and in 
this respect they diifer essentially from most savages 
known, the lowest of whom have usually their chiefs and 
councils of elders. This absence of all government, 
however, is no proof of their being lower in the scale 
of civihzation than other savages ; but, perhaps, rather 
the contrary, for the very idea of chiefdom, or govern- 
ment, is a presumption of the existence of vice among a 
people, and the necessity of coercion and repression. To 
one another these rude people are beheved to act in the 
most honest manner; and it could be shown that such 
was hkewise their behavior towards strangers until they 
were corrupted by excessive temptation. All Arctic 
voyagers 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., 
— but it might be worth while reflecting that these 
articles are, in the eyes of the Esquimaux, what ingots 
of gold are are to Europeans, and worth while inquir- 
ing if a few bars of the last-mentioned metal were laid 
loosely and carelessly upon the pavements of London, 
how long they would be in changing their owners ? Theft 
should be regarded along with the amount of temptation ; 
and it appears even in these recorded cases that only a 
few of the Esquimaux took part in it. I apprehend 
that something more than a few Londoners would be 
found picking up the golden ingots. How many tliieves 
have we among us, with no greater temptation than 


a cheap cotton kerchief ? — more than a few, it is to be 

In truth, the Esquimaux are by no means the savages 
they have been represented. The only important point 
in which they at all assimilate to the purely savage state 
is in the filthiness of their persons, and perhaps also in the 
fact 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 which 
they are placed — fires or cookery being at times alto- 
gether impossible. They are not the only people who 
have been forced to eat raw flesh ; and Europeans who 
have travelled in that inhospitable country soon get used 
to the practice, at the same time getting quite cured of 
their deyout for it. 

It is certainly not correct to characterize the Esqui- 
maux as mere savages. On the contrary, they may be 
regarded as a civUized people, that is, so far as civiliza- 
tion is permitted by the rigorous cHmate in which they 
hve ; and it would be safe to affirm that a colony of the 
most pohshed people in Europe, estabhshed as the' Esqui- 
maux are, and left solely to their own resources, would 
in a single generation exhibit a civilization not one degree 
higher than that now met with among the Esquimaux. 
Indeed, the fact is already estabhshed : the Danish and 
Norwegian colonists of West Greenland, though backed 
by constant intercourse with their mother-land, are but 
little more civilized than the " Skellings," who ai'e their 

In reahty, the Esquimaux have made the most of the 
circumstances in which they are placed, and continue to 
do so. Among them agriculture is impossible, else they 


would long since have taken to it. So too is commerce ; 
and as to manufactures, it is doubtful whether Europeans 
could excel them under like circumstances. Whatever 
raw material their country produces, is by them both 
strongly and neatly fabricated, as indicated by the sur- 
prising skiU with which they make their dresses, their 
boats, their implements for hunting and fishing ; and in 
these accomphshments — the only ones practicable under 
their hyperborean heaven — they are perfect adepts. In 
such arts civihzed Europeans are perfect simpletons to 
them, and the theories of fireside speculators, so lately 
promulgated in our newspapers, that Sir John Frankhn 
and his crew could not fail to procure a Hving where the 
simple Esquimaux were able to make a home, betrayed 
only ignorance of the condition of these people. In 
truth, white men would starve, where the Esquimaux 
could hve in luxurious abundance, so far superior to ours 
is their knowledge both of fishing and the chase. It is a 
weU-recorded fact, that while our Arctic voyagers, at 
their winter stations, provided with good guns, nets, 
and every apphance, could but rarely kill a reindeer or 
capture a seal, the Esquimaux obtained both in abun- 
dance, and apparently without an efibrt ; and we shall 
presently note the causes of their superiority in this 

The very dress of the Esquimaux is a proof of their 
superiority over other savages. At no season of the 
year do they go either naked, or even " ragged." They 
have their changes to suit the seasons, — their summer 
dress, and one of a warmer kind for winter. Both are 
made in a most . comphcated manner ; and the prepara- 
tion of the material, as weU as the manner by which it 


is put together, prove the Esquimaux women — for they 
are alike the tailors and dressmakers — to be among 
the best seamstresses in the world. 

Captain Lyon, one of the most observant of Arctic 
voyagers, has given a description of the costume of the 
Esquimaux of Savage Island, and those of Repulse Bay, 
where he wintered, and his account is so gi^aphic and 
minute in details, that it would be idle to alter a word 
of his language. His description, with slight differences 
in make and material, will answer pretty accurately for 
the costume of the whole race. 

" The clothes of both* sexes are principally composed 
of fine and well-prepared reindeer pelts ; the skins of 
bears, seals, wolves, foxes, and marmottes, are also used. 
The seal-skins are seldom employed for any part of the 
dress except boots and shoes, as being more capable of 
resisting water, and of far greater durabihty than other 

" The general winter dress of the men is an ample 
outer coat of deer-skin, having no opening in front, and 
a large hood, which is drawn over the head at pleasure. 
This hood is invariably bordered with white fur from 
the thighs of the deer, and thus presents a Hvely con- 
trast to the dark face which it encircles. The front or 
belly part of the coat is cut off square with the upper 
part of the thighs, but behind it is formed into a broad 
skirt, rounded at the lower end, which reaches to within 
a few inches of the ground. The lower edges and tails 
of these dresses are in some cases bordered with bands 
of fur of an opposite color to the body ; and it is a favor- 
ite ornament to hang a fi'inge of little strips of skin be- 
neath the border. The embellishment-s give a very 


pleasing appearance to the dress. It is customary in 
blowing weather to tie a piece of skin or cord tight round 
the waist of the coat ; but in other cases the dress hangs 

" Within the covering I have just described is another, 
of precisely the same form ; but though destitute of orna- 
ments of leather, it has frequently httle strings of beads 
hanging to it from the shoulders or small of the back. 
This dress is of thinner skin, and acts as a shirt, the 
hairy part being placed near the body : it is the in-doors 
habit. When walking, the tail is tied up by two strings 
to the back, so that it may not incommode the legs. Be- 
sides these two coats, they have also a large cloak, or, 
in fact, an open deer-skin, with sleeves : this, from its 
size, is more frequently used as a blanket ; and I but 
once saw it worn by a man at the ship, although the 
women throw it over their shoulders to shelter them- 
selves and children while sittino- on the sledore. 

" 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 ornamented 
in the same manner as the coats. One of the most 
favorite patterns is an arrangement of the skins of deer's 
legs, so as to form very pretty stripes. As with the 
jackets, there are two pair of these indispensables, 
reaching no lower than the knee-cap, which is a cause 
of great distress in cold weather, as that part is fre- 
quently severely frost-bitten ; yet, with all their expe- 
rience of this bad contrivance, they will not add an inch 
to the estabUshed length. 

■ " The boots reach to the bottom of the breeches, which 
hang loosely over them. In these, as in other parts of 


the dress, are many vaiieties of color, material, and pat- 
tern, jet in shape they never vary. The general winter 
boots are of deer-skin ; one havmg the hair next the leg, 
and the other with the fur outside. A pair of soft slip- 
pers of the same kmd are worn between the two pair of 
boots, and outside of all a strong seal-skin shoe is pulled 
to the height of the ankle, where it is tightly secured by 
a drawing-string. For hunting excursions, or in sum- 
mer when the country is thawed, one pair of boots only 
is worn. They are of sealskin, and so well sewed and 
prepared without the hair, that although completely sat- 
urated, they allow no water to pass through them. The 
soles are generally of the tough hide of the walrus, or 
of the large seal called Oo-ghioo, so that the feet are 
well protected in walking over rough ground. Slippers 
are sometimes worn outside. In both cases the boots 
are tightly fastened round the instep with a thong of 
leather. The mittens in common use are of deer-skin, 
(rith the hair inside ; but, in fact, every kind of skin is 
used for them. They are extremely comfortable when 
dry ; but if once wetted and frozen again, in the winter 
afford as Httle protection to the hands as a case of ice 
would do. In summer, and in fishing, excellent seal- 
skin mittens are used, and have the same power of resist- 
ing water as the boots of which I have just spoken. The 
dresses I have just described are chietiy used in winter. 
During the summer it is customary to wear coats, boots, 
and even breeches, composed of the prepared skins of 
ducks, wdth the feathers next the body. These are com- 
fortable, hght, and easily prepared. The few ornaments 
in their possession are worn by the men. These are 
some bandeaus which encircle the head, and are com- 


posed of various-colored leather, plaited in a mosaic 
pattern, and in some cases having human hair woven in 
them, as a contrast to the white skins. From the lower 
edge foxes' teeth hang suspended, arranged as a fringe 
across the forehead. Some wear a musk-ox tooth, a bit 
of ivory, or a small piece of bone. 

" The clothing of the women is of the same materials 
as that of the men, but in shape almost every part is 
different from the male dress. An inner jacket is worn 
next the skin, and the fur of the other is outside. The 
hind-flap, or tail, is of the same form before described, 
but there is also a small flap in front, extending about 
half-way down the thigh. The coats have each an im- 
mense hood, which, as well as covering the head, answers 
the purpose of a child's cradle for two or three years 
after the bii'th of an infant. In order to keep the bur- 
den of the child from drawing the dress tight across the 
throat, a contrivance, in a great measure resembling the 
shngs of a soldier's knapsack, is aflSxed to the collar or 
neck part, whence it passes beneath the hood, crosses, 
and, being brought under the arms, is secured on each 
side the breast by a wooden button. The shoulders of 
the women's coat have a bag-like space, for the purpose 
of facilitating the removal of the child from the hood 
round to the breast without taking it out of the jacket. 

" A girdle is sometimes worn round the waist : it an- 
swers the double purposes of comfort and ornament ; 
being composed of what they consider valuable trinkets, 
such as foxes' bones (those of the rableeaghioo), or 
sometimes of the ears of deer, which hang in pairs to 
the number of twenty or thirty, and are trophies of the 
skill of the hunter, to whom the wearer is allied. The 


inexpressibles of the women are in the same form as 
those of the men, but they are not ornamented bj the 
same curious arrangement of colors ; the front pait is 
generally of white, and the back of dark fur. The 
manner of securing them at the waist is also the same ; 
but the drawing-strings are of much greater length, being 
suffered to hang down by one side, and their ends are 
frequently ornamented with some pendent jewel, such 
as a grinder or two of the musk-ox, a piece of ivory, a 
small ball of wood, or a perforated stone. 

" The boots of the fair sex are, without dispute, the 
most extraordinary part of their equipment, and are of 
such an immense size as to resemble leather sacks, and 
to giye a most deformed, and, at the same time, ludicrous 
appearance to the whole figure, the bulky part being at 
the knee ; the upper end is formed into a pointed flap, 
which, covering the front of the thigh, is secured by a 
button or knot within the waistband of the breeches. 

" Some of these ample articles of apparel are com- 
posed with considerable taste, of various colored skins ; 
they also have them of parchment, — seals' leather. Two 
pairs are worn; and the feet have also a pair of seal- 
skin slippers, which fit close, and are tightly tied round 
the ankle. 

" Children have no kind of clothing, but He naked in 
their mothers' hoods until two or three years of age, 
when they are stuffed into a little dress, generally of 
fawn-skin, which has jacket and breeches in one, the 
back part being open ; into these they are pushed, when 
a string or two closes all up again. A cap forms an 
indispensable part of the equipment, and is generally of 
some fantastical shape ; the skin of a fawn's head is a 
5 6 


favorite material in the composition, and is sometimes 
seen with the ears perfect ; the nose and holes for the 
eyes lying along the crown of the wearer's head, which 
in consequence, looks like that of an animal." 

The same author also gives a most graphic description 
of the curious winter dwellings of the Esquimaux, which 
on many parts of the coast are built out of the only 
materials to be had, — ice and snow 1 Snow for the 
walls and ice for the windows ! you might fancy the 
house of the Esquimaux to be a very cold dwelhng ; 
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 led 
through a low-arched passage of sufficient breadth for 
two to pass in a stooping posture, and about sixteen feet 
in length; another hole then presented itself, and led 
through a similarly -shaped, but shorter passage, having 
at its termination a round opening, about two feet across, 
Up this hole we crept one step, and found ourselves in a 
dome about seven feet in height, and as many in diam- 
eter, from whence the three dwelling-places, with arched 
roofs, were entered. It must be observed that this is the 
description of a large hut, the smaller ones, containing 
one or two families, have the domes somewhat differently 

" Each dwelling might be averaged at fourteen or six- 
teen feet in diameter by six or seven in height, but as 
snow alone was used in their construction, and was 
always at hand, it might be supposed that there was 
no particular size, that being of course at the option of 
the builder. The laying of the arch was performed in such 
a manner as would have satisfied the most regular artist, 


the key-piece on the top, being a large square slab. The 
blocks of snow used in the buildings were from four to 
six mches in thickness, and about a couple of feet in 
length, carefully pared with a large knife. "Where two 
families occupied a dome, a seat was raised on either 
side, two feet in height. These raised places were used 
as beds, and covered in the first place with whalebone, 
sjDrigs of andromeda, or pieces of seals'-skin, over these 
were spread deer-pelts and deer-skin clothes, which had 
a very warm appearance. The pelts were used as blan- 
kets, and many of them had ornamental fringes of leather 
sewed round theu* edges. 

" Each dweUing-place was illumined by a broad piece 
of transparent fresh-water ice, of about two feet in diam- 
eter, which formed part of the roof, and was placed over 
the door. These windows gave a most pleasing hght, 
free from glare, and something like that which is thrown 
through ground glass. We soon learned that the build- 
ing of a house was but the work of an hour or two, and 
that a couple of men — one to cut the slabs and the 
other to lay them — were laborers sufficient. 

" For the support of the lamps and cooking apparatu?, 
a mound of snow is erected for each family ; and when 
the master has two wives or a mother, both have an 
independent place, one at each end of the bench. 

" I find it impossible to attempt describing everything 
at a second visit, and shall therefore only give an accoujit 
of those articles of furniture which must be always the 
same, and with which, in five minutes, any one might be 
acquainted. A frame, composed of two or three broken 
fishing-spears, supported in the first place a large hoop 
of wood or bone, across which an open-meshed and ill- 


made net was spread or worked for the reception of wet 
or damp clothes, skins, etc., which could be dried by the 
heat of the lamp. On this contrivance the master of 
each hut placed his gloves on entering, first carefully 
clearing them of snow. 

" From the frame above-mentioned, one or more coffin- 
shaped stone pots were suspended over lamps of the 
same material, crescent-shaped, and having a ridge 
extending along their back ; the bowl part was filled 
with blubber, and the oil and wicks were ranged close 
together along the edge. The wicks were made of moss 
and trimmed by a piece of asbestos, stone, or wood ; near 
at hand a large bundle of moss was hanging for a future 
supply. The lamps were supported by sticks, bones, or 
pieces of horn, at a sufficient height to admit an oval pot 
of wood or whalebone beneath, in order to catch any oil 
that might drop from them. The lamps varied consid- 
erably in size, from two feet to six inches in length, and 
the pots were equally irregular, holding from two or 
three gallons to half a pint. Although I have mentioned 
a kind of scaffialding, these people did not all possess* so 
grand an estabUshment, many being contented to suspend 
their 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 senior 
lady was of a large size, and had a corresponding lamp, 
etc., at one corner ; while she herself, being short and 
fat, had a lamp the size of half a dessert-plate, and a pot 
which held a pint only. 

" Almost every family was possessed of a large wood- 
en tray, resembling those used by butchers in Eng- 
land ; its offices, however, as we soon perceived, were 



more various, some containing raw flesh of seals and 
blubber, and others, skins, which were steeping in urine. 
A quantity of variously-sized bowls of whalebone, wood, 
or skin, completed the Hst of vessels, and it was evident 
that they were made to contain anything" 

The Esquimaux use two kinds of boats, — the " oo- 
miak " and " kayak." The oomiak is merely a large 
species of punt, used exclusively by the women ; but the 
kayak is a triumph in the art of naval architecture, and 
is as elegant as it is mgenious. It is about twenty-five 
feet in length, and less than two in breadth of beam. In 
shape it has been compared to a weaver's shuttle, though 
it tapers much more elegantly than this piece of ma- 
chinery. It is decked from stem to stem, excepting a 
circular hole very nearly amidships, and this round hatch- 
way is just large enough to admit the body of an Esqui- 
maux in a sitting posture. Around the rim of the circle 
is a httle ridge, sometimes liigher in front than at the 
back, and this ridge is often ornamented with a hoop of 
ivory. A flat piece of wood runs along each side of the 
frame, and is, in fact, the only piece of any strength in a 
kayak. Its depth in the centre is four or five incles, and 
its thickness about three fourths of an inch ; it tapers to 
a point at the commencement of the stem and stern pro- 
jections. Sixty-four ribs are fastened to this gunwale 
piece ; seven slight rods run the whole length of the bot- 
tom and outside the ribs. The bottom is rounded, and 
has no keel ; twenty-two httle beams or cross-pieces keep 
the frame on a stretch above, and one strong batten runs 
along the centre, from stem to stern, being, of course, dis- 
continued at the seat part. The ribs are made of ground 
wiUow, also of whalebone, or, if it can be procured, of 


good-grained wood. The whole contrivance does not 
weigh over fifty or sixty pounds ; so that a man easily 
carries Ms kayak on his head, which, by the form of the 
rim, he can do without the assistance of his hands. 

An Esquimaux prides himself in the neat appearance 
of his boat, and has a warm skin placed in its bottom to 
sit on. His posture is with the legs pointed forward, and 
he cannot change his position without the assistance of 
another person; in all cases where a weight is to be 
lifted, an alteration of stowage, or any movement to be 
made, it is customary for two kayaks to he together ; and 
the paddle of each being placed across the other, they 
form a steady double boat. An inflated seal's bladder 
forms, invariably, part of the equipage of a canoe, and 
the weapons are confined in their places by small lines 
of whalebone, stretched tightly across the upper cover- 
ing, so as to receive the points or handles of the spears 
beneath them. Flesh is frequently stowed within the 
stem or stern, as are also birds and eggs ; but a seal, al- 
though round, and easily made to roll, is so neatly bal- 
anced on the upper part of the boat as seldom to require 
a lashing. When Esquimaux are not paddlmg, their bal- 
ance must be nicely preserved, and a trembling motion is 
always observable m the boat. The most difficult posi- 
tion for managing a kayak is when going before the wind, 
and with a little swell running. Any inattention would 
instantly, by exposing the broadside, overturn this frail 
vessel. The dexterity with which they are tmTied, the 
velocity of their way, and the extreme elegance of form 
of the kayaks, render an Esquimaux of the highest inter- 
est when sitting mdependently, and urging his course to- 
wai'ds his prey. 


" The paddle is double-bladed, nine feet tliree inches 
in length, small at the grasp, and widening to four inches 
at the blades, which are thin, and edged with ivorj for 
strength as well as ornament. 

"The next object of importance to the boat is the 
sledge, which finds occupation dnring at least three 
fourths of the year. A man who possesses both .this 
and a canoe is considered a person of property. To 
give a particular description of the sledge would be im- 
possible, as there are no two actually alike ; and the ma- 
terials of which they are composed are as various as 
their form. The best are made of the jaw-bones of the 
whale, sawed to about two inches in thickness, and in 
depth 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, pieces 
of wood, or- deers' horns, lashed across, with a few inches 
space between each, and they yield to any great strain 
which the sledge may receive. The general breadth of 
the upper part of the sledge is about twenty mches ; but 
the runners lean inwards, and therefore at bottom it is 
father greater. The length of bone sledges is from four 
feet to fourteen. Their weight is necessarily great ; and 
one of moderate size, that is to say, about, ten or twelve 
feet, was found to be two hundred and seventeen pounds. 
The skin of the wah'us is very commonly used during 
the coldest part of the winter, as being hard-frozen, and 
resembling an inch board, witli ten time the strength, for 
runners. Another ingenious contrivance is, by casing moss 
and earth in seal's skin, so that by pouiing a little water, 
a round hard bolster is easily formed. Across all these 
kinds of runners there is the same arrangement of bones, 


sticks, &c., on the upper part ; and the surface which 
passes over the snow is coated with ice, by mixing snow 
with fresh water, which assists greatly in lightenmg the 
load for the dogs, as it sKdes forwards with ease. Boys 
frequently ainuse themselves by yoking several dogs to a 
small piece of seal's skin, and sitting on it, holding by 
the traces. Their plan is then to set off at full speed, 
and he who bears the greatest number of bumps before 
he relinquishes his hold is considered a very fine fellow. 

" The Esquimaux possess various kinds of spears, but 
their difference is chiefly in consequence of the sub- 
stances of which they are composed, and not in their 
general form. 

" One called ka-te-teek, is a large and strong-handled 
spear, with an ivory point made for despatching any 
wounded animal in the water. It is never thrown, but 
has a place appropriated for it on the kayak. 

" The oonak is a lighter kind than the former ; also 
ivory-headed. It has a bladder fastened to it, and has a 
loose head with a line attached ; this being darted into 
• an animal, is instantly hberated from the handle which 
gives the impetus. Some few of these weapons are con- 
structed of the solid ivory of the unicorn's horn, about 
four feet in length, and remarkably well rounded and 

" Ip-poo-too-yoo, is another kind of hand-spear, vary- 
ing but little from the one last described. It has, how- 
ever, no appendages. 

" The Noogh-wit is of two kinds ; but both are used for 
striking birds, young animals, or fish. The first has a 
double fork at the extremity, and there are three other 
barbed ones at about half its length, diverging in differ- 


ent directions,- so that if the end pair should miss, some 
of the centre ones might strike. The second kind has 
only three barbed forks at the head. All the points are 
of ivorj, and the natural curve of the walrus tusk favors 
and facilitates tlieu' construction. 

"■ Amongst the. minor instruments of the ice-hunting 
are a long bone feeler for plumbing any cracks through 
which seals are suspected of breathing, and also for try- 
ing the safety of the road. Another contrivance is occa- 
sionally used with the same effect as the float of a fishing- 
line. Its purpose it to warn the hunter, who is watching 
a seal-hole, when the animal rises to the surface, so that 
he may strike without seeing, or being seen, by his prey. 
This is a most dehcate little rod of bone or ivory, of 
about a foot in length, and the thickness of a fine knit- 
ting-needle. At the lower end is a small knob hke a 
pin's head, and the upper extremity has a fine piece of 
sinew tied to it, so as to fasten it loosely to the side of 
the hole. The animal, on rising, does not perceive so 
small an object hanging in the water, and pushes it up 
with his nose, when the watchful Esquimaux, observing 
his httle beacon in motion, strikes down, and secures his 

" Small ivory pegs or pins are used to stop the holes 
made 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 necessary 
to find substitutes in the construction of spears, also oc- 
casions the great variety of bows. The horn of the 
musk-ox, thinned horns of deer, or other bony substances, 
are as frequently used or met with as wood, in the man- 
ufacture of these weapons, in which elasticity is a very 


secondary consideration. Three or four pieces of horn 
or wood are frequently joined together in one bow, — • 
the strength lying alone in a vast collection of small 
plaited sinews ; these, to the number of perhaps a hun- 
dred, run down the back of the bow, and being quite 
tight, and having the spring of catgut, cause the weapon, 
when unstrung, to turn the wrong way ; when bent, their 
united strength and elasticity are amazing. The bow- 
string is of fifteen to twenty plaits, each loose from the 
other, but twisted round when in use, so that a few ad- 
ditional turns will at any time alter its length. The 
general length of the bows is about three feet and a 

" The arrows are short, h'ght, and fonned according to 
no general rule as to length or thickness. A good one 
has half the shaft of bone, and a head of hard slate, or 
a smaU piece of iron ; others have sharply-pointed bone 
heads : none are barbed. Two feathers are used for 
the end, and are tied opposite each other, with the flat 
sides parallel. A neatly-formed case contains the bow 
and a few arrows. Seal-skin is preferred for this pur- 
pose, as more effectually resisting the wet than any other. 
A little. bag, which is attached to the side, contains a stone 
for sharpening, and some spare arrow-heads carefully 
wrapped up in a piece of skin. 

" The bow is held in a horizontal position, and though 
capable of great force, is rarely used at a greater distance 
than from twelve to twenty yards." 

Their houses, clothing, sledges, boats, utensils, and 
arms, being now described, it only remains to be seen 
in what manner these most singular people pass their 
time, how they supply themselves with food, and how 


they manage to support life during the long dark winter, 
and the scarce less hospitable summer of their rigorous 
clime. Their occupations from year to year are carried 
on with an almost unvarying regularity, though, hke 
their di-esses, they change according to the season. 

Their short summer is chiefly employed in hunting the 
reindeer, and other quadrupeds, — for the simple reason 
that it is at this season that these appear in greatest num- 
bers among them, migrating northward as the snow thaws 
from the valleys and hill-sides. Kot but that they also 
kill the reindeer in other seasons, for these animals do 
not all migrate southward on the approach of winter, 
a considerable number remaining all the year upon the 
shores of the Arctic Sea, as well as the islands to the 
north of them. Of course, the Esquimaux kills a rein- 
deer when and where he can ; and it may be here re- 
marked, that in no part of the American continent has 
the reindeer been trained or domesticated as among the 
Laplanders and the people of Russian Asia. Neither 
the Northern Indians (Tinne) nor the Esquimaux have 
ever reached this degree in domestic civihzation, and 
this fact is one of the strongest points of diiference be- 
tween the American Esquimaux and their kindred races 
in the north of Asia. One tribe of true Esquimaux 
alone hold the reindeer in subjection, viz. the Tuski, 
already mentioned, on the Asiatic shore ; and it might 
easily be shown that the practice reached them from the 
contiguous countries of northern Asia. The American 
Esquimaux, like those of Greenland, possess only the 
dog as a domesticated animal ; and him they have trained 
to draw their sledges in a style that exhibits the highest 
order of skill, and even elegance. The Esquimaux dog 

108 THE ESQUIMAUX. ' ■ ■• ' 

is too well kHOwn to require particular description. He 
is often brought to this country in the return ships of 
Arctic whalers and voyagers ; and his thick, stout body, 
covered closely with long stiff hair of a whitish or yel- 
lowish color, his cocked ears and . smooth muzzle, and, 
above all, the circle-hke curhng of his bushy tail, will 
easily be remembered by any one who has eyer seen 
this valuable animal. 

In summer, then, the Esquimaux desert their winter 
houses upon the shore, and taking with them their tents 
make an excursion into the interior. They do not go 
far from the sea — no farther than is necessary to find 
the valleys broAvsed by the reindeer, and the fresh-water 
lakes, which, at this season, are frequented by flocks of 
swans, geese of various kinds, ducks, and other aquatic 
birds. Hunting the reindeer forms their principal oc- 
cupation at this time ; but, of course, " all is fish that 
comes into the net " of an Esquimaux ; and they also 
employ themselves in capturing the wild fowl and the 
fresh-water fish, in which these lakes abound. With 
the wild fowl it is the breedinor and moultin"; season, 
and the Esquimaux not only rob them of their eggs, 
but take large numbers of the young before they are 
sufficiently fledged to enable them to fiy, and also the 
old ones while similarly incapacitated from their con- 
dition of "moult." In their swift kayaks which they 
have carried with them on their heads, they can pur- 
sue the fluttering flocks over any part of a lake, and 
overtake them v^dierever they may go. This is a sea- 
son of great plenty in the larder of the Inidt. 

The fresh-water fish are struck with spears out of 
the kayaks, or, when there is ice on the water strong 


enough to bear the weight of a man, the fish are cap- 
tured in a different manner. A hole is broken in the 
ice, the broken fragments are skimmed off and cast 
aside, and then the fisherman lets down a shining bau- 
ble — usually the white tooth of some animal — to act 
as a bait. This he keeps bobbmg 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 the 
victim with his fish-spear, and lands it upon the ice. 
This species of fishing is usually delivered over to the 
boys — the time of the hunters being too valuable to be 
wasted in waiting for the approach of the fish to the 
decoy, an event of precarious and uncertain occurrence. 

In capturing" the reindeer, the Esquimaux practises 
no method very different from that used by " still hunt- 
ers" in other parts of America. He has to depend 
alone upon his bow and arrows, but with these poor 
weapons he contrives to make more havoc among a 
herd of deer than would a backwoods hunter with his 
redoubtable rifle. There is no mystery about his supe- 
rior management. It consists . simply in the exhibition 
of the gi'eat strategy and patience with which jie makes 
his approaches, crawling from point to point and using 
every available cover which the ground may afford. 

But all this would be of little avail were it not for a 
ruse which he puts in practice, and which brings the 
unsuspecting deer within reach of his deadly arrows. 
This consists in a close imitation of the cries of the 
animal, so close that the sharp-eared creature itself can- 
not detect the counterfeit, but, drawing nearer and 


nearer to the rock or bush from Avhich the call ap- 
pears to proceed, falls a victim to the deception. The 
.silent arrow makes no audible sound ; the herd, if 
slightly disturbed at seeing one of their number fall, 
soon compose themselves, and go ,on browsing upon 
the grass or hcking up the lichen. Another is at- 
tracted by the call, and another, who fall in their turn 
victims either to their curiosity or the instinct of amor- 
ous passions. 

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

Sometimes the Esquimaux take the deer in large 
numbers, by hunting them with dogs, driving the herd 
into some defile or cut de sac among the rocks, and 
then kilhng them at will with their arrows and jave- 
lins. This, however, is an exceptional case, as such 
natural " pounds " are not always at hand. The In- 
dians farther south construct artificial enclosures ; but 
in the Esquimaux country there is neither time nor 
material for such elaborate contrivances. 

The Esquimaux who dwell in those parts frequented 
by the musk-oxen, hunt these animals very much as 
they do the reindeer ; but kilhng a musk bull, or cow 
either, is a feat of far grander magnitude, and requires 
more address than shooting a tiny deer. 

I have said that the Esquimaux do not, even m 
these hunting excursions, stray very far into the inte- 
rior. There is a good reason for their keeping close 
to the seashore. Were they to peneti;ate far into the 
land they would be in danger of meeting with their 
bitter foemen, the Tinni Indians, who in this region 
also hunt reindeer and musk-oxen. War to the knife 


is the practice between these two races of people, and 
has ever been since the first knowledge of either. 
Thej often meet in conflict upon the rivers inland, 
and these conflicts are of so cruel and sanguinary a 
nature as to imbue each with a wholesome fear of the 
other. The Indians, however, di*ead the Esquimaux 
more than the latter fear them ; and up to a late 
period took good cai'e never to approach their coasts ; 
but the musket and rifle have now got into the hands 
of some of the northern tribes, who avail themselves 
of these superior weapons, not only to keep the Esqui- 
maux at bay, but also to render them more cautious 
about extending their range towards the interior. 

When the dreary winter begins to make its appear- 
ance, and the reindeer grow scarce upon the snow- 
covered plains, the Esquimaux return to their winter 
villages upon the coast. Quadrupeds and birds no 
longer occupy their whole attention, for the drift of 
their thoughts is now turned towards the inhabitants 
of the great deep. The seal and the wah-us are hence- 
forth the main objects of pursuit. Perhaps during the 
summer, when the water was open, they may have 
visited the shore for the purpose of capturing that 
great giant of the icy seas — a whale. If so, and they 
have been successful in only one or two captures, they 
may look forwai'd to a winter of plenty — since the 
flesh of a full-grown whale, or, better still, a brace of 
such ample creatures, would be sufiicieut to feed a 
whole tribe for pionths. 

They have no^^m'ing process for this immense carcass ; 
they stand in need of none. Neither salt nor smoking is 
required in their climate. Jack Frost is their provision 


curer, and performs tlie task without putting them either 
to trouble or expense. It is only necessary for them to 
hoist the great flitches upon scaffolds, akeady erected 
for the purpose, so as to keep the meat from the wolves, 
wolverines, foxes, and their own half-starved dogs. From 
their aerial larder they can cut a piece of blubber when- 
ever they feel hungry, or they have a mind to eat, and 
this mind they are in so long as a morsel is left. 

Their mode of capturing a whale is quite different from 
that practised by the whale-fishers. When the huge 
creature is discovered near, the whole tribe sally forth, 
and surround it in their kayaks ; they then hurl darts 
into its body, but mstead of these having long lines at- 
tached to them, they are provided with seal skins sewed 
up air-tight and inflated, like bladders. When a number 
of these become attached to the body of the whale, the 
animal, powerful though he be, finds great difficulty in'' 
sinking far down, or even progressing rapidly through 
the water. He soon rises to the surface, and the seal- 
skin buoys indicate his whereabouts to the occupants of 
the kayaks, who in their swift little crafts, soon dart up 
to him again, and shoot a fresh volley into his body. In 
this way the whale is soon " wearied out," and then falls 
a victim to their larger spears, just as m the case where 
a capture is made by regular whalers. 

I need scarcely add that a success of this kind is hailed 
as a jubilee of the tribe, since it not only brings a benefit 
to the whole community, but is also a piece of fortune of 
somewhat rare occurrence. 

Wlien no whales have been taken, the long, dark win- 
ter may justly be looked forward to with some sohci- 
tude ; and it is then that the Esquimaux requii-es to put 


forth all Ms skill and energies for the capture of the wal- 
rus or the seal — the latter of which may be regarded as 
the staff of his life, furnishing him not only with food, 
but with hght, fuel, and clothing for Ms body and limbs. 

Of the seals that inhabit the Polar Seas there are sev- 
eral species ; but the common seal ( Calocephalus vitiili- 
na) and the harp-seal ( O. Grcenlandicus) are those 
most numerous, and consequently the principal object of 

The Esquimaux uses various stratagems for takmg 
these creatures, according to the circumstances in'wMch 
they may be encountered ; and simpletons as the seals 
may appear, they are by no means easy of capture. 
They are usually very shy and suspicious, even in places 
where man has never been seen by them. They have 
other enemies, especially in the great polar bear ; and 
the dread of tMs tyrant of the icy seas ieeps them ever 
on the alert. Notwithstanding their watchfulness, how- 
ever, both the bear and the biped make great havoc 
among them, and each year hundreds of thousands of 
them are destroyed. 

The bear, in capturing seals, exhibits a skill and cun- 
nmg scarce excelled by that of the rational being him- 
self. "When tMs great quadruped perceives a seal bask- 
ing on the edge of an ice-field, he makes Ms approaches, 
not by rushing directly towards it, which he well knows 
would defeat Ms pui^ose. If once seen by the seal, the 
latter has only to betake Mmself to the water, where it 
can soon sink or swim beyond the reach of the bear. To 
prevent this, the bear gets well to leeward, and then div- 
ing below the surface, makes his approaches under water, 
now and then cautiously raising Ms head to get the true 



bearings of his intended victim. After a number of 
these subaqueous " reaches," he gets close in to the edge 
of the floe m such a position as to cut oif the seal's re- 
treat to the water. A single spring brings him on the 
ice, and then, before the poor seal has time to make a 
brace of flounders, it finds itself locked in the deadly em- 
brace of the bear. When seals are thus detected asleep, ■ 
the Esquimaux approaches them in his kajak, taking 
care to paddle cautiously and silently. If he succeed in 
getting between them and the open water, he kills them in 
the ordinary way — by simply knocking them on the snout 
with a club, or piercing them with a spear. Sometimes, 
however, the seal goes to sleep on the surface of the open 
water. Then the approach is made in a similar manner 
by means of the kayak, and the animal is struck with a 
harpoon. But a smgle 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 undoubtedly 
make his escape, and carry the harpoon along with it, 
which would be a serious loss to the owner, who does not 
obtain such weapons without great difficulty. To pre- 
vent this, the Esquimaux uses a contrivance similar to 
that employed in the capture of the whale, — that is, he 
attaches a float or buoy to his harpoon by means of a cord, 
and this so impedes the passage of the seal through the 
water, that it can neither dive nor swim to any very great 
distance. The float is usually a walrus bladder inflated 
in the ordinary way, and wherever the seal may go, the 
float betrays its track, enabling the Esquimaux to follow 
it in his shuttle-shaped kayak, and pierce it again with a 
surer aim. 

In winter, when the sea is quite covered with ice, you 


might fancy that the seal-fishery would be at an end, for 
the seal is essentially a marme animal ; and although it 
can exist upon the ice or on dry land, it could not subsist 
there. Access to the water it must have, in order to 
procure its food, wliich consists of small fish and mol- 
lusks. Of course, when the ice forms on the surface, the 
seal is in its true element — the water underneath — but 
when this ice becomes, as it often does, a full yard in 
thickness, extending over hundreds of miles of the sea, 
how then is the seal to be got at ? It could not be 
reached at all ; and at such a season the Esquimaux 
people would undoubtedly starve, were it not for a habit 
pecuUar to this animal, which, happily for them, brings 
it within their reach. 

Though the seal can live under water like a fish, and 
probably could pass a whole winter under the ice without 
much inconvenience, it likes now and then to take a httle 
fresh air, and have a quiet nap upon the upper surface m 
the open air. With this design it breaks a hole through 
the ice, while the latter is yet thin, and this hole it keeps 
carefully open during the whole winter, clearing out each 
new crust as it forms. No matter to what thickness the 
ice may attam, this hole always forms a breatliing-place 
for the seal, and a passage by which he may reach the 
upper surface, and indulge himself in his favorite siesta 
in the open air. Knowing this habit, the Esquimaux 
takes advantage of it to make the seal his captive. When 
the animal is discovered on the ice, the hunter approaches 
with the greatest stealth and caution. This is absolutely 
neccessaiy : for if the enemy is perceived, or makes the 
shghtest noise, the wary seal flounders rapidly into his 
hole, and is lost beyond redemption. If badly frightened, 


he will not appear for a long time, denying himself Ms 
open air exercise until the patience of his persecutor is 
quite 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 as 
snow-drifts and ice-hillocks — to conceal himself ; but 
he also practises an ingenious deception by dressing him- 
self in the skin of a seal of like species, giving his body 
the figure of the animal, and counterfeiting its motions, 
by floundering clumsily over the ice, and oscillating his 
head from side to side, just as seals are seen to do. 

This deception often proves successful, when the hun- 
ter under any other shape would in vain endeavor to get 
within striking distance of his prey. When seals are 
scarce, and the supply greatly needed, the Esquimaux 
often lies patiently for hours together on the edge of a 
seal-hole waiting for the animal to come up. In order 
to give it time to get well out upon the ice, the hunter 
conceals himself behind a heap of snow, which he has 
collected 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 mounting 
through his trap-hke passage, the motion of the stick 
betraying its ascent. The hunter then gets himself into 
the right attitude to strike, and summons all his energies 
for the encounter. 

Even during the long, dark night of winter this mode 
of capturing the seal is practised. The hunter, having 
discovered a breathing-hole — whifeh its dark color en- 
ables him to find — proceeds in the following manner : 
he scrapes away the snow from around it, and lifting up 
some water pours it on the ice, so as to make a cu-cle 


of a darker hue around the orifice. He then makes a 
sort of cake of pure white snow, and with this covers 
the hole as with a Ud. In the centre of this hd he 
punches 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 dark 
water, bubbling up through the small central orifice, 
betrays its approach, which can be perceived even in 
the darkest nisjht. The hunter does not wait for its 
climbing out upon the ice. Perhaps if he did so, the 
suspicious creature might detect the device, and dive 
down again. But it is not allowed time for reflection. 
Before it can turn its unwieldly body, the heavy spear 
of the hunter — struck through the yielding snow — 
descends upon its skull, and kills it on the instant. 

The great " walrus " or " morse " ( Trichecus rosma- 
rus) is another important product of the Polar Seas, and 
is hunted by the Esquimaux with great assiduity. This 
splendid amphibious animal is taken by contrivances 
very similar to those used for the seal ; but the capture 
of a walrus is an event of importance, second only to the 
striking of a whale. Its great carcass not only supplies 
food to a whole village, but an oil superior to that of the 
whale, besides various other useful articles. Its skin, 
bones, and intestines are employed by the Esquimaux 
for many domestic purposes, — and, in addition, there 
are the huge molar tusks, that furnish one of the most 
valuable ivories of commerce, from which are manufac- 
tured those beautiful sets of teeth, of dazzling whiteness, 
that, gleaming between vermilion lips, you may often 
see at a ball or an evenmg party ! 


In our general sketch of the Amazonian Lidians it 
was stated that there were some few tribes who diifered 
in certain customs from all the rest, and who might even 
be regarded as odd among the odd. One of these tribes 
is the Mimdrucu, which, from its numbers and warlike 
strength, 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 including 
in their leasrue other Indians which the Mundrucus 
themselves first conquered, and afterwards associated 
with themselves on terms of equality; in other words, 
" annexed " them. The same sort of annexation or alli- 
ance is common among the tribes of North America ; as 
in the case of the powerful Comanche nation, who extend 
their protecting alliance over the Wacoes, Washites, and 
Cayguaas or Kioways. 

The Mahile is the principal tribe that is patronized 
in this fashion by the Mundrucus, and the two together 
number at least 20,000 souls. 

Before the days of the Portuguese slave-hunting, the 
Mundi'ucus occupied the south bank of the Amazon, from 
the mouth of the Tapajos to that of the Madeira. This 


infamous traffic had the effect of clearing the banks of 
the great river of its native inhabitants, — except such 
of them as chose to submit to slavery, or become neo~ 
phyteSy by adopting the monkish faith. Neither of these 
courses appeared pleasing in the eyes of the Mundrucus, 
and they adopted the only alternative that was likely to 
msure their independence, — by withdrawing from the 
dangerous proximity of the sanguinary slave-trade. 

This retreat of the Mundrucus, however, was by no 
means an imominious flight. The withdrawal was vol- 
untary on their part, and not compulsory, as was the 
case with weaker tribes. From the earliest times they 
had presented a firm front to the Portuguese encroach- 
ments, and the latter were even forced into a sort of 
nefarious alliance with them. The leaving the'Amazon 
on the part of the Mundrucus was rather the result of a 
negotiation, by which they conceded their territory — = 
between the mouths of the Tapajos and Madeira — to 
the Brazihan government ; and to this hour they are not 
exactly unfriendly to Brazihan whites, though to the 
mulattoes and negroes, who constitute a large proportion 
of the Brazilian population, the Mundrucu knows no 
other feeling than that of a deadly hostility. The origin 
of their hatred of the Brazilian blacks is to be found in 
a revolt which occurred in the provinces of the Lower 
Amazon (at Para) in 1835. It was a caste rerolution 
against whites, but more especially against European 
Portuguese. In this affair the Mundrucus were em- 
ployed against, the darker-skinned rebels — the Cahanos, 
as they were called — and did great service in putting 
down the rebellion. Hence they retain a lingering 
spark of friendship for their ci-devant white allies ; or 


perhaps it would be more correct to say they do not 
actually hate them, but carry on a little commerce with 
their traders. For all that, they occasionally cut the 
throats of a few of the latter, — especially those who 
do not come to deal directly with them, but who pass 
through their country in going from the Amazon to the 
diamond mines of Brazil. These last are called Mon- 
gaos, and their business is to carry supplies from the 
towns on the Amazon (Santarem and Para) to the mi- 
ners of gold and washers of diamonds in the district of 
Matto Grosso, of which Cuiaba is the capital. Their 
route is by water and " portage " up the Tapajos river, 
and through the territory of the dreaded Mundrucus, — 
requiring a journey of six months, as perilous and toil- 
some as it is tedious. 

The present residence of the Mundrucus is between 
the Tapajos and Madeira, as formerly, but far up on 
both rivers. On the Tapajos, above what are known 
as the " Caxoeiras," or Cataracts, their villages are 
found. There they dwell, free from all molestation on 
the part of the whites ; their borders extending widely 
around them, and limited only by contact with those 
of other warlike tribes hke themselves, who are their 
deadly enemies. Among these last are the Muras, who 
dwell at the mouths of the Madeira and Rio Negro. 

The Mundrucus build the malocca, elsewhere de- 
scribed ; 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 an 
attack, all sleep in it " under arms." It is a structure 
of large size and great strength, usually rendered more 
unassailable by being " chinked " and plastered with 


clay. It is in this building that are deposited those hor- 
rid trophies which have given to the Mundi'ucus their 
ten'ible title of decapitadores, or " beheaders." The 
title and its origin shall be presently explained. 

Around the great malocca the huts are placed, form- 
ing a village, and in these the people ordinarily dwell. 

The Mundrucus are not without ample means of sub- 
sistence. Like most other Amazonian tribes, they cul- 
tivate a little manioc, plantains, and even maize ; and 
they know how to prepare the farinha meal, and, 
unfortunately, also the detestable chicha, the universal 
beverage of the South American aborigines. They have 
their vessels of calabash — both of the vegetable and 
arborescent kinds — and a full set of implements and 
utensils for the field and kitchen. Their war weapons 
are those common to other Amazonian tribes, and they 
sometimes also carry the spear. They have canoes of 
hollow trees ; and, of course, fishing and hunting are the 
employments of the men, — the women, as almost every- 
where else among Indians, doing the drudgery, — the 
tilling and reaping, the " hewing of wood and the draw- 
ing of water," the making the household utensils and 
using them, — all such offices being beneath the dignity 
of the " lordly," or rather lazy savage. 

I have said that they carry on a commercial inter- 
course with the white traders. It is not of much magni- 
tude, and their exports consist altogether of the native and 
spontaneous productions of the soil, sarsaparilla being 
one of the chief articles. They gather this (the women 
and children do) during six months of the year. The 
other six months no industry is followed, — as this 
period is spent in hostile excursions against the neigh- 
6 * ^ 


boring tribes. Their imports consist of iron tools and 
pieces for weapons ; but they more especially bai-ter the 
product of their labor for ornamental gewgaws, — sucii 
as savages universally admire and desire. Their sai'sa- 
parilla is good, and much sought for in the medical 

Every one is acquainted with the nature and charac- 
ter of this valuable medicinal ,root, the appearance of 
which must also be known to almost everybody, — since 
it is so very common for our druggists to display the 
bundles of it in their shop windows. Perhaps every one 
is not acquainted with the fact, that the sarsaparilla root 
is the product of a great many different species of plants, 
most of them of the genus SimJax, but not a few belong- 
ing to plants of other genera, as those of Carex and Jler- 
reria the roots of which are also sold as sarsaparilla. 
The species of simlax are widely distributed throughout 
the whole torrid zone, in Asia, Africa, and America, and 
some kinds are found growing many degrees outside the 
tropics, — as is the case in Virginia and the valley of 
the Mississippi, and also on the other side of the Pacific 
on the great continent-island of Austraha. 

The best sarsaparilla, however, is that which is pro- 
duced in tropical countries, and especially in moist situa- 
tions, where the atmosphere is at once hot and humid. 
It requires these conditions to concentrate the virtue of 
its sap, and render it more active. 

It would be idle to give a list of the different species 
of simlax that furnish the sarsaparilla root of the phar- 
macopeia. There is an almost endless number of them, 
and they are equally varied in respect to excellence of 
quahty ; some kinds are in reality almost worthless, and 


for this reason, in using it as a medicine, great care 
should be taken in the selection of the species. Like 
all other articles, either of food or medicine, the valu- 
able kinds are the scarcest ; the reason in this case 
being that the best sarsaparilla is found in situations 
not onlj difficult of access, but where the gathering of 
its root is attended with considerable danger, from the 
unhealthy" nature of the chmate and the hostihty of the 
savages in whose territory it grows. As to the quan- 
tity that may be obtained, there is no hmit, on the 
score of any scarcity of the plant itself, since it is 
found throughout all the countries of tropical America 
plenteously distributed both in species and individual 
plants. Such quantities of it grow along the banks of 
some South-American rivers, that the Indians have a 
behef that those streams known as hlach waters — svioh 
as the Rio Negro and others — derive their peculiar 
color from the roots of this plant. This, however, is 
an erroneous supposition, as there are many of the 
white-water rivers that run through regions abundant- 
ly supplied with the sarsapariUa root. The black water, 
therefore, must arise from some other cause, as yet un- 

As observed, the sarsapariUa of the Mundrucu coun- 
try is of the very best quahty. It is the Simlax pa- 
pyracea of Soiret, and is known in commerce as the 
" Lisbon," or " BraziHan." It is a chmbing plant, or 
under-shrub, the stem of which is flattened and angu- 
lar, with rows of prickles standing along the prominent 
edges. Its leaves are of an oval acuminated shape, 
and marked with longitudinal nerves. It shoots up 
without any support, to a height of fifteen or twenty 


feet, after whicli it embraces the surrounding brandies 
of trees and spreads to a great distance in every direc- 
tion. The main root sends out many long tendrils, aE 
of like thickness, covered with a brownish bark, or 
sometimes of a dark-gray color. These tendrils are 
fibrous, and about as thick as a quill. They present 
a constant tendency to become crooked, and they are 
also wrinkled longitudinally, with here and there some 
smaller lateral fibres branching off from the sides. 

It is in the bark or epidermis of the rhizomes that 
the medicinal virtue lies; but the tendrils — both rhi- 
zome and bark — are collected together, and no at- 
tempt is made to separate them, until they have reached 
their commercial destination. Indeed, even these are 
sold together, the mode of preparing the root being 
left to the choice of the consumer, or the apothecary 
who procures it. 

The Mundrucus collect it during the six months of 
the rainy season, partly because during the remaining 
six they are otherwise employed, and partly for the 
reason that, in the time of rain, the roots are more 
easily extracted from the damp soil. The process sim- 
ply consists in digging them up or dragging them out 
of the earth — the latter mode especially where the 
tendrils lie near the surface, and they will pull up 
without breaking. If the main root be not dug out, it 
will send forth new tendrils, which in a short time 
would yield a new crop ; but the improvident savages 
make no prudential calculations of this kind — present 
convenience forming their sole consideration ; and on 
this account both the root and plant are generally de- 
stroyed by them during the operation of collecting. 


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

It is extremely probable that in this fresh state the 
virtue of the sarsaparilla, as a blood-purifier, is much 
greater than after it has passed through the channels 
of commerce ; and the writer of this sketch has some 
reason, derived from personal experience, to believe 
that such is the case. Certain it is, that the reputa- 
tion of this invaluable drug is far less in countries 
where the plant does not grow, than in those where 
it is common and can be obtained in its fresh state. 
In all parts of Spanish America its virtues are un- 
questioned, and experience has led to a more extensive 
use of it there than elsewhere. It is probable, there- 
fore, that the virtue exists in the juice rather than 
the cortical integument of the rhizome; and this of 
course would be materially altered and deteriorated, if 
not altogether destroyed, in the process of exsiccation, 
which must necessarily take place in the time required 
for transporting it to distant parts of the world. In the 
European pharmacopeia it is the epidermis of the joot 
which is supposed to contain the sanitary principle ; and 
this, which is of a mucilaginous nature and slightly bit- 
ter taste, is employed, both in decoctions and infusions, 


as a tonic and alterative. In America, however, it is 
generally taken for what is termed purifying the hlood 
— for the same purpose as the rhizomes of the Laurus 
sassafras and other plants are used ; but the sarsaparilla 
is generally considered the best, and it certainly is the 
best of all known medicines for this purpose. Why it 
has fallen in the estimation of the Old "World practition- 
ers, or why it never obtained so great a reputation as 
it has in America, may arise from two circumstantjes. 
First, that the root offered for sale is generally the pro- 
duct of the less valuable species ; and second, that the 
sap, and not the rhizome, may be the part that contains 
the virtuous principle. 

When the collected roots have been kept for awhile 
they become dry and light, and for the convenience of 
stowage and carriage — an important consideration to 
the trader in his eight-ton garratea — it is necessary 
to have the roots done up in packages of a uniform 
length and thickness. These packages are formed by 
laying the roots side by side, and doubling in the ends 
of the longer ones. A bundle of the proper size for 
stowage contains an arroha of twenty-five pounds, though 
the weight varies according to the condition of the root. 
Uniformity in size is the chief object aimed at, and the 
bundles are made of a round or cylindrical shape, about 
five inches in diameter, and something more than a yard 
in length. They are trimmed off small at the ends — 
so as to admit of stowage without leaving any empty 
space between two tiers of them — and each bundle is 
tightly 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 the 


sarsaparilla itself, with the bark scraped off; and, in- 
deed, its own root would serve well enough — were it 
not that putting it to such a use would destroy its medi- 
cinal value, and thus cause a considerable waste of the 
costly material. The sarsaparilla is not to be had for 
nothing even upon the banks of the Tapajos. A bundle 
of the best quahty does not leave the hands of the Mun- 
drucu until about four dollars' worth of exchange com- 
modities have been put into them, which would bring 
the price of it to something over sixpence a pound. 
He is, therefore, a little particular about wasting a 
material that has cost him — or rather his wife and 
childi-en — so much trouble in collecting. His cordage 
is obtained more cheaply, and consists of the long, flexi- 
ble roots of a species of pothos, which roots — being 
what are termed aerial and not buried in the ground — 
require no labor or digging to get at them. It is only 
necessary to stretch up the hand, and pull them down 
from the tops of lofty trees, from which they hang hke 
streamers, often to the length of a hundred feet. These 
are toughened by the bai-k being scraped off; and when 
that is done they are ready for use, and serve not only to 
tie up the bundles of sarsaparilla, but for many other 
purposes in the domestic economy of the Mundrucus. 

In addition to the sarsaparilla, the Mundrucu fur- 
nishes the trader with several other items of commercial 
value — for his chmate, although one of the most un- 
healthy in all the Amazon region, on account of its great 
heat and humidity, is for that very reason one of the 
most fertile. Nearly all those tropical vegetable pro- 
ducts which are characteristics of Brazihan export com- 
merce can here be produced of the most luxuriant kind ; 


but it is only those that grow spontaneously at his very 
doors that tempt the Mundrucu to take the trouble of 
collecting them. 

There is one article, however, which he not only takes 
some trouble to collect, but also to manufacture into an 
item of commercial exchange — a very rare item indeed. 
This is the guarana, which is manufactured from the 
fruit of a tree almost pecuHar to the Mundrucu territory 
— since nowhere is it found so abundantly as on the 
Tapajos. It is so prized in the BraziHan settlements 
as to command almost its weight iu silver when trans- 
ported thither. It is the constituent element of a drink, 
which has a stimulating effect on the system, somewhat 
more powerful than tea or coffee. It will prevent sleep; 
but its most valuable property is, that it is a good feb- 
rifuge, equal to the best quinine. Guarana is prepared 
from the seeds of an inga — one of the MimoBacce. It 
is a low, wide-spreading tree like most of the mimosa 
family. The legumes are gathered, and the seeds 
roasted in them. The latter are then taken out, and 
after being ground to powder, are mixed with water 
so as to make a tough paste, which is moulded into 
little bricks, and when dried is ready for use. The 
beverage is then prepared by scraping a table-spoonful 
of dust from the brick, and mixing it with about a pint 
of water ; and the dry paste, keeping for any length of 
time, is ready whenever wanted. 

The guarana bush grows elswhere in the Amazon 
valley, and on some headwaters of the Orinoco, where 
certain tribes also know how to prepare the drink. But 
it is sparingly distributed, and is nowhere so common 
as on the upper Tapajos ; hence its high price in the 


markets of Brazil. The Mundi-ucu manufactures it, not 
only for " home use," but for " exportation." 

He prepares another singular article of luxury, and 
this he makes exclusively for his own use, — not for the 
gratification of his lips or palate, but for his nose, — in 
other words, a snuff. Do not fancy, however, that it is 
snuff of the ordinary kind — the pulverized produce of 
innocent tobacco. No such thing ; but a composition of 
such a powerful and stimulating character, that he who 
inhales it feels as if struck by an electric shock ; his 
body trembles ; his eyes start forward as if they would 
forsake their sockets ; his limbs fail to support him ; 
and he drops to the earth like one in a state of intoxi- 
cation ! For a short time he is Hterally mad ; but the 
fit is soon over, — lasting usually only a few minutes, — 
and then a feeling of renewed strength, courage, and 
joyousness succeeds. Such are the consequences of 
taking snuff with a Mundrucu. 

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

Like the guarana this snuff is a preparation, having 
for its basis the seeds of a leguminous tree. This time, 
however, it is an acacia, not an inga. It is the acacia 
niopo ; so called because " niopo " is the name given 
to the snuff itself by certain tribes (the Ottomacs and 
others), who, like the Mundrucus, are snuff-takers. It 
is also called curupa, and the appartus for preparing 
and taking it — for there is an apparatus of an exten- 
tensive kind — is termed parica, in the general language 
(lingoa geral) of the Amazonian regions. 

"We shall describe the preparation, the apparatus, and 
the ceremonial. 

6* I 


The pods of the Acacia niopo — a small tree, with 
very dcHcate phinate leaves — are plucked ivhen ripe. 
They are then cut into small pieces and flung into a 
vessel of water. In this they remain until macerated, 
and until the seeds have turned black. These are then 
picked out, pounded in a mortar, which is usually the 
pericarp of the sapugaia, or " monkey-pot " tree {Lecy- 
this ollaria). The pounding reduces them to a paste, 
which is taken up, clapped between the hands and 
formed into httle cakes — but not until it has been 
mixed with some manioc flour, some lime from a burnt 
shell (a helix), and a Httle juice from the fresh leaves 
of the "abuta" — a menispermous plant of the genus 
Cocculus. The cakes are then dried or "barbecued" 
upon a primitive gridiron — the bars of which are sap- 
lings of hard wood — and when well-hardened the snuff 
is ready for the " box." In a box it is actually carried 
— usually one made out of some rare and beautiful 

The ceremonial of taking the snuff is the most singular 
part of the performance. "When a Mundrucu feels in- 
clined for a " pinch " — though it is something more than 
a pinch that he inhales when he does feel inclined — he 
takes the cake out of the box, scrapes off about a spoon- 
ful of it into a shallow, saucer-shaped vessel of the cala- 
bash kind, and then spreads the powder all over the 
bottom of the vessel in a regular " stratiflcation." The 
spreading is not performed by the fingers, but with a 
tiny, pencil-like brush made out of the bristles of the 
great ant-eater {Myrmecophaga juhata). 

He is in no hurry, but takes his time, — for as you 
may guess from its effects, the performance is not one so 


often repeated as that of ordinary snuff-taking. When 
the niopo dust is laid to his hking, another implement is 
brought into play, the construction of which it is alio 
necessary to describe. It is a " machine " of six to eight 
inches in length, and is made of two quills from the 
wing of the gaviao real, or "harpy eagle" {Harpyia 
destructor). These quills are placed side by side for 
the greater part of their length, forming two parallel 
tubes, and they are thus neatly whipped together by a 
thread. At one end they are pressed apart so as to di- 
verge to a width corresponding to the breadth between 
the Mundrucu's nostrils, — where it is intended they 
shall be placed during the ceremony of snuff-taking. 

And thus are they placed, — one end of each quill 
being shghtly intruded within the line of the septum, 
while the other end rests upon the" snuff, or wanders over 
the surface of the saucer, till all the powder placed there 
is drawn up and inhaled, producing the convulsive effects 
already detailed. 

The shank-bone of a species of bird — thought to be 
be a plover — is sometimes used instead of the quills. 
It is hoUow, and has a forking-tube at the end. This 
kind is not common or easily obtained, for the niopo- 
taker who has one, esteems it as the most valuable item 
of his apparatus. 

SnuflSng the niopo is not exclusively confined to the 
Mundi'ucu. We have seen elsewhere that it is also a 
habit of the dirt-eating Ottomacs ; and other tribes on 
the upper Amazon practise it. But the Mahiies, already 
mentioned as the allies of the Mundi'ucus, are the most > 
confirmed snuff-takers of aU. 

Another odd custom of the Mundrucus is their habit 


of " tatooing." I speak of real tatooing, — that is, mark- 
ing the skin with dots and lines that cannot be effaced, 
in contradistinction to mere painting, or staining, which-^ 
can easily be washed off. The Mundrucus paint also, 
with the anotto, huitoc, caruta, and other pigments, but 
in this they only follow the practice of hundreds of other 
tribes. The true tatoo is a far different affair, and scarce- 
ly known among the aborigines of America, though com- 
mon enouofh in the islands of the South Sea. A few 
other Indian tribes practise it to a hmited extent, — as is 
elsewhere stated, — but among the Mundrucus it is an 
" institution ; " and painful though the process be, it has 
to be endured by every one in the nation, " every moth- 
er's son,"" and daughter as well, that are cursed with a 
Mundrucu for their father. 

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

The tatoo has been so often described, that I should 
not repeat it here ; but there are a few " points " peculiar 
to Mundrucu tatooing, and a few others, not elsewhere 

The performance is usually the work of certain old 
crones, who, from long practice, have acquired great sldll 
in the art. 

The chief instrument used is a comb of thorns, — not 
a single thorn, as is generally stated, — but a tier or row 
of them set comb-fashion. These thorns are the spines 
of the "murumuru," or "pupunha" palm {GuUielmia 
speciosa). Humboldt states that this pahn is smooth and 
spineless, but in this the great, good man was in error. 
Its trunk is so covered with thorns or spines, that when 
the Indians require to chmb it — for the purpose of 


procuring the valuable fruits, ^hich they eat variously 
prepared — they have to erect a staging, or rude sort 
of 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 blood 
flows profusely. As soon as this can be wiped off, ashes 
of a burnt gum or pitch are rubbed mto the wounds, 
which, when healed, appear like so many dots of a deep 
bluish or black color. In this way the young Mundru- 
cus, both boys and girls, get those regular rows of dotted 
lines, which traverse their forehead and cheeks, their 
arms and limbs, breasts, and bodies in such eccentric 
fashion. It has often been asked how these lines of dots 
were carried over the skin in such straight and symmet- 
rical rows, forming regular parallel hues, or other geo- 
metrical patterns. The " comb " will explain the mys- 

The tatoo, with a few strings of shell-beads or neck- 
laces, and bracelets of monkey and jaguar teeth, is all 
the di'ess which is permitted to the Mundrucu belle. In 
Mundrucu-land it is the reverse of what is practised 
among civilized people : the men are the exponents of 
the fasliions, and keep exclusively to themselves the cos- 
metics and bijouterie. Not contented with being tatooed, 
these also paint their bodies, by way of " overcoat," and 
also adorn themselves with the bright feathers of birds. 
Thev wear on their heads the beautiful circlet of macaw- 
plumes, and on grand occasions appear in the magnificent 
" feather dress," so long celebrated as the pecuhar cos- 
tume of the tropical-forest Indian. These dresses their 
women weave and border, at a sacrifice of much tedious 


labor. They also ornament their arms and legs with 
rows of feathers around them, the tips turned upward 
and backward. 

The tatooing is confined to the Mundrucus proper, — 
their alhes, the Mahiies not following the practice, but 
contenting themselves with a simple " coat " of paint. 

It is difficult to say what motive first inducted human 
beings into this singular and barbarous custom. It is 
easier to tell why it is still followed, and the " why " is 
answered by saying that the Mundrucus " scarify " them- 
selves, because their fathers did so before them. Many 
a custom among civilized nations, but httle less ridicu- 
lous, if we could only think so, rests upon a similar basis. 
Perhaps our modern abominable hat — though it has a 
different origin — is not less ludicrous than the tatooed 
patterns of the savage. Certainly it is quite equal to it 
in ugliness, and is Hkely to rival it in permanence, — to 
our sorrow be it said. But even we deal slightly in the 
tatoo. Our jolly Jack would be nobody in the forecastle 
without " Polly," in blue, upon his weather-beaten breast, 
and the foul anchor upon his arm. 

But the Mundrucu baptizes his unfortunate offspring 
in a still more savage fashion. The tattoo may be termed 
the baptism in hlood, performed at the tender age of ten. 
When the youth — fortunately it does not extend to the 
weaker sex — has attained to the age of eighteen, he has 
then to undergo the tocandeira, which deserves to be 
called the laptism of fire! 

This too merits description. When the Mundrucu 
youth would become a candidate for manhood, a pair of 
" gloves " is prepared for him. These consist of two 
pieces of a pahn-tree bark, with the pith hollowed out, but 


left in at one end. The hollow part is of sufficient diam- 
eter to draw over the hands loosely, and so long as to 
reach up to mid-arm, after the fashion of gauntlets. 

The " gloves " being got ready, are nearly filled with 
ants, not only the venomous red ants, but all other spe- 
cies, large or small, that can either bite or sting, of which 
tropical South America possesses an endless variety. 
With this " lining " the " mittens " are ready for use, and 
the " novice " is compelled to draw them on. Should he 
refuse, or even exhibit a disposition to shrink from the 
fiery trial, he is a lost man. From that hour he need 
never hold up his head, much less ofier his hand and 
heart, for there is not a maiden in all Mundrucu-land 
that would hsten to his softest speech. He is forever de- 
barred from the pleasure of becoming a benedict. Of 
course he does not refuse, but plunging his hands into the 
" mittens," into the very midst of the crawling host, ke 
sets about the ceremony. 

He must keep on the gloves till he has danced before 
every door in the village. He must sing as if from very 
joy; and there is plenty of music to accompany him, 
drums and fifes, and human voices, — for his parents and 
relatives are by his side encouraging him with their 
songs and gestures. He is hi pain, — in positive agony, 
— for these venomous ants both sting and bite, and 
have been busy at both from the veiy first moment. 
Each moment his agony grows more intense, his suf- 
ferings more acute, for the poison is thrilling through his 
veins, — he turns pale, — his eyes become blood-cast, — ■ 
his breast quivers with emotion and his limbs tremble 
beneath him ; but despite all this, woe to him if he utter 
a cry of weakness ! It would brand him with an eternal 


Stigma, — lie would never be suffered to cany the Mun- 
di'ucu lance to battle, — to poise upon its point the ghast- 
ly trophy of the Beheaders. On, on, thi'ough the howHng 
throng, amidst friends and relatives with faces anxious 
as his own ; on to the sound of the shrill-piping reed 
and the hoarse booming of the Indian drum ; on till he 
stands in front of the cabin of the chief! There again 
the song is sung, the " jig " is danced, both proudly pro- 
longed till the strength of the performer becomes com- 
pletely exhausted. Then, and not till then, the gloves 
are thrown aside, and the wearer falls back, into the 
arms of his friends, " sufficiently punished ! " 

This is the hour of congratulation. Gu'ls gather round 
him, and fling their tatooed arms about his neck. They 
cluster and cling upon him, singing his song of triumph ; 
but just at that crisis he is not in the mood for soft ca- 
r^ses ; and, escaping from their blandishments, he makes 
a rush towards the river. On reaching its bank he plunges 
bodily in, and there remains up to his neck in the water, 
tUl the coohng fluid has to some extent eased his aching 
arms, and tranquillized the current of his boihng blood. 
'Wlien he emerges from the water, he is a man, fit stuff 
for a Mundrucu wai'rior, and ehgible to the hand of a 
Mundi'ucu maiden. 

It may be remai-ked that this terrible ordjeal of the 
Mundrucus, though, perhaps, pecuhar among South- 
American Indians, has its parallel among certain tribes 
of the north, — the Mandans and others, as detailed by 
Catlin, one of the most acute of ethnological observers. 

The scalp trophy, too, of the Northern Indian has its 
analogy in a Mundrucu custom — that which distinguish- 
es him most of all, and wliich has v/on for limi the terri- 
ble title of " Beheader." 


This singular appellation is now to be explained. 

When a Mundrucu has succeeded in kilhng an enemy, 
he is not, like his northern compeer, satisfied with only 
the skin of the head. He must have the whole head, 
scalp and skull, bones, brains, and all ! And he takes 
aU, severing the head with his knife by a clean cut across 
the small of the neck, and leaving the trunk to the vul- 
ture king. "With the ghastly trophy poised upon the 
point of his lance, he returns triumphant to the malocca 
to receive the greetings of his tribe and the praises of 
his chief. 

But the warlike exploit requires a memento — some 
token by which he may perpetuate its fame. The art of 
printing does not exist among the Mundrucus, and there 
is no friendly pen to record the deed. It has been done, 
— behold the evidence ! much clearer than often accom- 
panies the exploits of civihzed heroes. There is the evi- 
dence of an enemy slain ; there is the grim, gory voucher, 
palpable both to sight and touch — proof positive that 
there is a dead body somewhere. 

Of course, such evidence is sufficient for the present ; 
but how about the future ? As time passes, the feat may 
be forgotten, as great deeds are elsewhere. Somebody may 
even deny it. Some slanderous tongue may whisper, or 
insinuate, or openly declare that it was no exploit after 
all — that there was no dead man ; for the vultures by 
this time would have removed the body, and the white 
ants (termites) would have equally extinguished all 
traces of the bones. How, then, are the proofs to be 
preserved ? By preserving the head ! And tliis is the 
very idea that is in the rniad of the Mundrucu warrior. 
He is resolved not to permit his exploit to be buried in 


oblivion by burying the head of his enemy. That tongue, 
though mute, will tell the tale to posterity ; that pallid 
cheek, though, perhaps, it may become a little shrivelled 
in the " drying," will still be smooth enough to show that 
there is no tatoo, and to be identified as the skin of an en- 
emy. Some young Mundrucu, yet unborn, will read in 
the countenance of that grinning and gory witness, the 
testimony of his father's prowess. The head, therefore, 
must be preserved ; and it is preserved with as much 
care as the cherished portrait of a famous ancestor. The 
cranial relic is even embalmed, as if out of affection for 
him to whom it belonged. The brains and eye-balls are 
removed, to facilitate the process of desiccation ; but false 
eyes 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 ar- 
ranged ; brilliant feathers of rock-cock and macaw are 
planted behind the ears and twisted in the hanging 
tresses. An ornamental string passes through the tongue, 
and by this the trophy is suspended from the beams of 
the great malocca. 

It is not permitted to remain there. In some dark 
niche of this Golgotha — this Mundruquin Westminster 
— it might be overlooked and forgotten. To prevent 
this it is often brought forth, and receives many an air- 
ing. On all warHke and festive occasions does it appear, 
poised upon the point of the warrior's lance ; and even 
in peaceful times it may be seen — along with hundreds 
of its like — placed in the circular row around the 
manioc clearing, and lending its demure countenance to 
the labors of the field. t 


It is not a little singular that this custom of embalm- 
ing the heads of their enemies is found among the Djaks 
of Borneo, and the process in both places is ludicrously 
similar. Another rare coincidence occurs between the 
Amtazonian tribes and the Bornean savages, viz. in both 
bemg provided with the blow-gun. The gravitana of 
the American tribes is almost identical with the sum- 
pitan of Borneo. It furnishes a further proof of our 
theory regarding an original connection between the 
American Indians and the savages of the great South 

The Mundrucu is rarely ill off in the way of food. 
When he is so, it is altogether his own fault, and charge- 
able to his indolent disposition. The soil of his territory 
is of the most fertile kind, and produces many kinds 
of edible fruits spontaneously, as the nuts of the pupunha 
palm and the splendid fruits of the Bertholetia excelsa, 
or juvia-tree, known in Europe as " Brazil nuts." Of 
these then are two kinds, as mentioned elsewhere, the sec- 
ond being a tree of the genus Lecythys, — the Lecyihys 
ollaria, or " monkey -pot " tree. It obtains this trivial 
name from the circumstance, first, of its great pericarp, 
almost as large as a child's head, having a movable top 
or hd, which falls off when the fruit ripens ; and second- 
ly, from the monkeys being often seen drawing the seeds 
or nuts out of that part of the shell which remains 
attached to the tree, and which, bearing a considerable 
resemblance to a pot in its shape, is thus very appro- 
priately designated the pot of the monkeys. The com- 
mon Indian name of the monkey -pot ti^ee is sapucayay 
and the nuts of this species are so called in commerce, 
though they are also termed Brazil-nuts. They ai"e of a 


more agreeable flavor than the true Brazil-nuts, and not 
so easily obtained, as the Lecythys is less generally dis- 
tributed over the Amazonian valley. It requires a pecu- 
liar soil, and grows only in those tracts that are subject 
to the annual inundations of the rivers. 

The true Brazil-nuts are the "juvia" trees of the 
Indians ; and the season for collecting them is one of the 
harvests of the Mundrucu people. The great pericarps 
— resembling large cocoa-nuts when stripped of the 
fibres — do not open and shed their seeds, as is the case 
with the monkey-pot tree. The whole fruit falls at 
once ; and as it is very heavy, and the branches on 
which it grows are often nearly a hundred feet from the 
ground, it may easily be imagined that it comes down 
like a ten-pound shot ; in fact, one of them faUing upon 
the head of a Mundrucu would be very hkely to crush 
his cranium, as a bullet would an egg-shell ; and such 
accidents not unfrequently occur to persons passing im- 
prudently under the branches of the Bertholetia when 
its nuts are ripe. Sometimes the monkeys, when on the 
ground looking after those that have fallen, become vic- 
tims to the like accident ; but these creatures are cun- 
ning reasoners, and being by experience aware of the 
danger, wUl scarce ever go under a juvia-tree, but when 
passing one always make a wide circuit around it. The 
monkeys cannot of themselves open the great pericarp, 
as they do that of the '' sapucuya," but are crafty enough 
to get at the precious contents, notwithstanding. In 
doing this they avail themselves of the help of other 
creatures, that have also a motive in opening the 
juvia shells — cavies and other small rodent animals, 
whose teeth, formed for this very purpose, enable them 


to gnaw a hole in the ligneous pericarps, hard and thick 
as they are. Meanwhile the monkeys, squatted ai-ound, 
Avatch the operation in a careless, nonchalant sort of way, 
as if they had no concern whatever in the result ; but as 
soon as they perceive that an entrance has been effected, 
big enough to admit their hand, they rush forward, drive 
off the weaker creature, who has been so long and la- 
boriously at work, and take possession of the prize. 

Neither does the Mundi'ucu nut-gatherer get posses- 
sion of the juvia fruit without a certain degree of danger 
and toil. He has to chmb the tallest trees, to secure the 
whole crop at one time ; and while engaged in collecting 
those upon the ground, he is in danger of a blow from 
odd ones that ai-e constantly falling. To secure his ,skuU 
against accidents, he wears upon his head a thick wooden 
cap or helmet, — after the fashion of the hats worn by 
our firemen, — and he is always careful to keep his body 
in an upright attitude, stooping as seldom as he can avoid 
doing so, lest he might get a thump between the shoul- 
ders, or upon the spine of his back, which would be very 
hkely to flatten him out upon the earth. These Brazil- 
nuts furnish the Mundi-ucu with a portion of his food, — 
as they also do many other tribes of Amazonian Indians, 
— and they are also an item of Indian commerce, being 
collected from among the different tribes by the Portu- 
guese and Spanish traders. 

But the Mundrucu does not depend altogether on the 
spontaneous productions of the forest, which at best 
furnish only a precarious supply. He does somethmg in 
the agricultural hne, — cultivating a little manioc root, 
with plantains, yams, and other tropical plants that pro- 
duce an enormous yield with the very slightest trouble 


or attention ; and this is exactly what suits him. A few 
days spent by the Uttle community in the yam patch — 
or rather, by the women and cliildren, for these are the 
agricuUural laborers in Mundrucu land — is sufficient to 
ensure an abundant supply of breadstuff for the whole 
year. With regard to flesh-meat he is not so well off, 
for the domestic animals, and oxen more especially, do 
not 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 the 
inclination to raise them, which he has not. 

Instead of beef, therefore, he contents himself with 
fish, and occasionally a steak from the great tapir, or 
a griskin of manati. Birds, too, furnish him with an 
occasional meal ; but the staple article of his flesh diet 
is obtained from the quadrumana, — the numerous spe- 
cies of monkeys with which his forests abound. These 
he obtains by shooting them down from the trees with 
his bow and arrows, and also by various other hunting 

His mode of cooking them is sufficiently peculiar to 
be described. A large log fire is first kindled and per- 
mitted to burn until a sufficient quantity of red cinders 
are produced. Over these cinders a grating is erected 
with green saplings of wood, laid parallel to each other 
like the bars of a gridiron, and upon this the "joint" is 

Nothing is done to the monkey before its being placed 
on the gridiron. Its skin is not removed, and even the 
intestines are not always taken out. The fire will singe 
off the hair sufficiently to content a Mundrucu stomach, 
and the hide is broiled and eaten with the flesh. It is 
thus literally " carne con cuero." 


It may be observed that this forest gridiron, or " bar- 
becue," as it is properly termed, is not an idea exclu- 
sively confined to South America. It is in use among 
the Indians of the north, and various uncivilized tribes 
in other parts of the world. 

Sometimes the Mundrucu does not take the trouble to 
construct the gridiron. When on the march in some 
warhke expedition that will not allow time for being 
particular about the mode of cooking, the joint is broiled 
upon a spit over the common fire. The spit is simply a 
stick, sharpened at both ends, one of which impales the 
monkey, and the other is stuck into the ground. The 
stick is then set with a lean towards the fire, so as to 
bring the carcass over the blaze. While on the spit the 
monkey appears in a sitting position, with its head up- 
ward, and its long tail hanging along the sapling, — just 
as if it were still living, and in one of its most natural 
attitudes, cHnging to the branch of a tree ! The sight is 
sufficiently comical ; but sometimes a painful spectacle 
has been witnessed, — painful to any one but a savage : 
when the young of the monkey has been captured along 
with its dam, and still recognizing the form of its parent, 
— even when all the hair has been singed ofi*, and the 
skin has become calcined by the fire, — is seen rushing 
forward into the very flames, and with plaintive cry in- 
vitinor the maternal embrace ! Such an affecting incident 
has been often witnessed amid the forests of Amazonia. 

We conclude our sketch of the Mundrucus, by stating 
that their form of government is despotic, though not to 
an extreme degree. The " tushao," or chief, has con- 
siderable power, though it is not absolute, and does not 
extend to the taking of life, — unless the object of his 


displeasure be a slave, and many of these are held in 
abject bondage among the Mundrucus. 

The Mundrucu religion resembles that of many other 
tribes both in North and South America. It consists in 
absurd ceremonies, and appeals to the good and evil 
spirits of the other world, and is mixed up with a vast 
deal of quackery in relation to the ills that afflict the 
Mundrucu in this life. In other words, it is a combina- 
tion of the priest and doctor united in one, that arch- 
charlatan known to the North-American Indians as 
the " Medicine-man," and among the Mundrucus as the 
« Puge." 



I HA YE elsewhere stated that a broad band of in- 
dependent Indian territory — that is, territory never 
really subdued or possessed by the Spaniards — trav- 
erses the interior of South America, extending longitu- 
dinally throughout the whole continent. Beginning at 
Cape Horn, it ends in the peninsula of the free Goajiros, 
which projects mto the Caribbean Sea, — in other words, 
it is nearly 5,000 miles in length. In breadth it varies 
much. In Patagonia and a portion of the Pampas 
country it extends jfrom the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 
it is of still wider extent on the latitude of the Amazon 
river, where the whole country, from the Atlantic to the 
Peruvian Andes, — with the exception of some thinly- 
placed Brazilian settlements, — is occupied by tribes of 
independent Indians. At either point this territory will 
appear — upon maps — to be interrupted by tracts of 
country possessing civiHzed settlements. The names of 
towns and villages are set as thickly as if the country 
were well peopled ; and numerous roads are traced, 
forming a labyrinthine network upon the paper. A 
broad belt of this kmd extends from the Lower Parana 
(La Plata) to the Andes of Chili, constituting the upper 
7 J 


provinces of the " Argentine Confederation ; " another 
apparently joins the settlements of Bolivia and Brazil ; 
and again in the north, the provinces of Venezuela ap- 
pear to be united to those of New Granada. 

All this, however, is more apparent than real. The 
towns upon the maps are in general mere rancherias, or 
collections of huts ; some of them are the names of forti- 
fied posts, and a large proportion are but ruins, — the 
ruins of monkish mission settlements long since gone to 
destruction, and with little else than the name on the 
map to testify that they ever had an existence. The 
roads are no roads at all, nothing more than tracings on 
the chart showing the general route of travel. 

Even across the Argentine provinces — where this 
nomenclature appears thickest upon the map — the 
horse-Indian of the Pampas extends his forays at will ; 
his " range " meeting, and, in some cases, " dove-taihng " 
into that of the tribes dwelhng upon the northern side of 
these settlements. The latter, in their turn, carry their 
plundering expeditions across to the Campos Parexis, on 
the head-waters of the Amazon, whence stretches the in- 
dependent territory, far and wide to the Amazon itself ; 
thence to the Orinoco, and across the Llanos to the shores 
of the Maracaibo Gulf — the free range of the independ- 
ent Goajiros. 

This immense belt of territory, then, is in actual pos- 
session of the aborigines. Although occupied at a few 
points by the white race, — Spanish and Portuguese, — 
the occupation scarce dese]:ves the name. The settle- 
ments are sparse and rather retrograde than progressive. 
The Indian ranges through and around them, wherever 
and whenever his inclination leads liim ; and only when 


some hiuniliating treaty has secured Mm a temporary 
respite from hostilities does the colonist enjoy tranquilhty. 
At other times he lives in continual dread, scarce darino" 
to trust himself beyond the immediate vicinity of his 
house or village, both of which he has been under the 
necessity of fortifying. 

It is true that at one period of South American his- 
tory things were not quite so bad. When the Spanish 
nation was at the zenith of its power a different condi- 
tion existed ; but even then, in the territory indicated, 
there were large tracts circumstanced just as at the pres- 
ent hour, — tracts which the Spaniards, with all their 
boasted warlike strength, were unable even to explore, 
much less to subdue. One of these was that which 
forms the subject of our sketch, " El Gran Chaco." 

Of all the tracts of wild territory existing in South 
America, and known by the different appellations of 
Pampas, Paramos, Campos Parexis, the Puna, the Pa~ 
jonal, Llanos, and 3fontanas, there is none possessed of a 
greater interest than that of El Gran Chaco, — perhaps 
not one- that equals it in this respect. It is interesting, 
not only from having a peculiar soil, climate, and pro- 
ductions, but quite as much from the character and his- 
tory of its inhabitants, both of which present us with 
traits and episodes truly romantic. 

The " Gran Chaco " is 200,000 square miles in extent, 
or twice the size of the British Isles. Its eastern boun- 
daiy is well defined, being the Paraguay river, and its 
continuation the Parana, down to the point where the lat- 
ter receives one of its great western tributaries, the Sala- 
do ; and this last is usually regarded as the southern and 
western boundary of the Chaco. Northward its limits 


are scarcely so definite ; though the highlands of Bolivia 
and the old missionary province of Chiquitos, forming 
the water-shed between the rivers of the La Plata and 
the Amazonian basins — may be geographically regarded 
as the termination of the Chaco in that direction. North 
and south it extends through eleven degrees of latitude ; 
east and west it is of unequal breadth, — ■ sometimes ex- 
panding, sometimes contracting, according to the abihty 
of the white settlers along it borders to maintain their 
frontier. On its eastern side, as already stated, the fron- 
tier is definite, and terminates on the banks of the Para- 
guay and Parana. East of this fine — coinciding almost 
with a meridian of longitude — the Indian of the Gran 
Chaco does not roam, the well-settled province of Corri- 
entes and the dictatorial government of Paraguay pre- 
senting a firmer front of resistance ; but neither does the 
colonist of these countries think of crossing to the west- 
ern bank of the boundary river to form any establishment 
there. He dares not even set his foot upon the territory 
of the Chaco. For a thousand miles, up and down, the 
two races, European and American, hold the opposite 
banks of this great stream. They gaze across at each 
other : the one from the portico of his well-built man- 
sion, or perhaps from the street of his town ; the other, 
standing by his humble " toldo," or mat-covered tent, — 
more probably, upon the back of liis half-wild horse, 
reined up for a moment on some projecting promontory 
that commands the view of the river. And thus have 
these two races gazed at each other for three centuries, 
Avith little other intercourse passing between them than 
that of a deadly hostihty. 

The surface of the Gran Chaco is throudiout of a 


champaign character. It may be described as a vast 
plain. It is not, however, a continuation of the Pampas, 
since the two are separated by a more broken tract of 
country, in which lie the sierras of Cordova and San 
Luis, with the Argentine settlements already mentioned. 
Besides, the two great plains differ essentially in their 
character, even to a greater extent than do the Pampas 
themselves from the desert steppes of Patagonia. Only 
a few of the animal and vegetable productions of the 
Gran Chaco are identical with those of the Pampas, and 
its Indian inhabitants are altogether unhke the sanguinary 
savages of the more southern plain. The Chaco, ap- 
proaching many degrees nearer to the equator, is more 
tropical in its character ; in fact, the northern portion of 
it is truly so, lying as it does within the torrid zone, and 
presenting the aspect of a tropical vegetation. Every 
inch of the Chaco is within the palm region ; but in its 
northern half these beautiful trees abound in numberless 
species, yet unknown to the botanist, and forming the 
characteristic features of the landscape. Some grow in 
forests of many miles in extent, others only in " clumps," 
with open, grass-covered plains between, while still other 
species mingle their graceful fronds with the leaves and 
branches of dicotyledonous trees, or elapsed in the em- 
brace of luxuriant Ihanas and parasitical climbers form 
groves of the most variegated verdure and fantastic out- 
lines. With such groves the whole surface of the Chaco 
country is enamelled ; the intervals between being occu- 
pied by plains of rich waving grass, now and then tracts 
of morass covered with tall and elegant reeds, a few arid 
spots bristling with singular forms of algarohia and cac- 
tus, and, in some places, isolated rocky mounds, of dome 


or conical shape, rising above tlie general level of the 
plains, as if intended to be used as watch-towers for their 
guardianship and safety. 

Such are the landscapes which the Grand Chaco pre- 
sents to the eye — far different from the bald and uni- 
form monotony exhibited in the aspect of either Prairie 
or Pampa ; far grander and loveHer than either — in 
point of scenic loveliness, perhaps, unequalled on earth. 
No wonder, then, that the Indian of South America 
esteems it as an earthly Elysium ; no wonder that the 
Spaniard dreams of it as such, — though to the Spanish 
priest and the Spanish soldier it has ever proved more 
of a Purgatory than a Paradise. Both have entered 
upon its borders, but neither has been able to dwell 
within its domain ; and the attempts at its conquest, 
by sword and cross, have been ahke unsuccessful, — 
equally and fatally repulsed, throughout a period of more 
than three hundred years. At this hour, as at the time 
of the Peruvian conquest, — as on the day when the 
ships of Mendoza sailed up the waters of the Parana, — 
the Gran Chaco is an unconquered country, owned by 
its aboriginal inhabitants, and by them alone. It is true 
that it is claimed, both by Spaniard and Portuguese; 
and by no less than four separate claimants belonging to 
these two nationahties. Brazil and Bolivia, Paraguay 
and the Argentine Confederation, all assert their title to 
a slice of this earthly paradise ; and even quarrel as to 
how their boundary hues should intersect it ! 

There is something extremely ludicrous in these 
claims, — since neither one nor other of the four powers 
can show the shghtest basis for them. Not one of them 
can pretend to the claim of conquest ; and far less can 


they rest their rights upon the basis of occupation or 
possession. So far from possessing the land, not one of 
them dare set foot over its borders ; and they are only 
too well pleased if its present occupants are contented 
to remain within them. The claim, therefore, of both 
Spaniard and Portuguese, has no higher title, than that 
some three hundred and fifty years ago it was given 
them by the Pope, — a title not less ludicrous than their 
kissing the Pope's toe to obtain it ! 

In the midst of these four conflicting claimants, there 
appears a fifth, and that is the real owner, — the " red 
Indian " himself. His claim has " three points of the 
law " in his favor, — possession, — and perhaps the 
fourth, too, — the power to keep possession. At all 
events, he has held it for three hundred years against 
all odds and all comers ; and who knows that he may 
not hold it for three hundred years more ? — only, it is 
to be hoped, for a different use, and under the influence 
of a more progressive civihzation. 

The Indian, then, is the undoubted.lord of the " Gran 
Chaco." Let us drop in upon him, and see what sort 
of an Indian he is, and how he manages this majestic 

After having feasted our eyes upon the rich scenery 
of the land, — upon the verdant plains, mottled with 
copses of " quebracho " and clumps of the Caranday 
palm, — upon landscapes that resemble the most lordly 
parks, we look around for the mansions and the owners. 
The mansion is not there, but the owner stands before 

. "We are at once struck by his appearance : his per- 
son tall, and straight -as a reed, his frame muscular, 


his limbs round and well-proportioned, piercing coal- 
black eyes, well-formed features, and slightly aquihne 
nose, — and perhaps we are a httle surprised at the light 
color of his skin. In this we note a decided peculiarity 
which distinguishes him from most other tribes of his 
race. It is not a red Indian we behold, nor yet a cop- 
per-colored savage ; but a man whose complexion is 
scarce darker than that of the mulatto, and not at all 
deeper in hue than many a Spaniard of Andalusian 
descent, who boasts possession of the purest " sangre 
azul;" not one shade darker, than thousands of Portu- 
guese dwelliQg upon the other side of the Brazilian fron- 

And remember, that it is the true skin of the Chaco 
Indian we have before our view, — and not a painted 
one, — for here, almost for the first time, do we encoun- 
ter the native complexion of the aboriginal, undisfigured 
by those horrid pigments which in these pages have so 
often 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 are 
spared, therefore, the describing his escutcheon, and a 
positive relief it is. 

It would be an interesting inquiry to trace out the 
cause of his thus abstaining from a custom almost uni- 
versal among his race. Why does he abjure the paiut ? 

Is it because he cannot afford it, or that it is not pro- 
curable in his country ? No ; neither of these can be 
offered as a reason. The "annotto" bush (Bixa orel- 
lana), and the wild-indigo, abound in his territory ; and 
he knows how to extract the colors of both, — for his 


women do extract them, and use them in dying the yarn 
of theu' webs. Other dyewoods — a mukitude of others 
— he couid easily obtain ; and even the cochineal cactus, 
with its gaudy vermilion parasite, is indigenous to his 
land. It cannot be the scarcity of the material that pre- 
vents him from employmg it, — what then ? 

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

Let it not be understood, however, that he is altogether 
free from the " taint," — for he does paint sometimes, as 
already admitted ; and it must be remembered, more- 
over, that the Chaco Indians are not all of one tribe, nor 
of one community. There are many associations of them 
scattered over the face of this vast plain, who are not all 
alike, either in their habits or customs, but, on the con- 
trary, very unlike ; who are not even at all times friendly 
with each other, but occupied with feuds and vendettas 
of the most deadly description. Some of these tribes 
paint most frightfully, while others of them go still far- 
ther, and scarify their faces with the indelible tattoo, — 
a custom that in America is almost confined to the In- 
dians of the Chaco and a few tribes on the southern 
tributaries of the Amazon. Happily this custom is on 
the decline : the men practise it no longer ; but, by a 
singular perversity of taste, it is still universal among 
the women, and no Chaco belle would be esteemed beau- 
tiful without a cross of bluish-black dots upon her fore- 
head, a hne of like points extending from the angle of 
each eye to the ears, with a variety of similar markings 
upon her cheeks, arms, and bosom. All this is done 
■ 7* 


with the point of a thorn, — the spme of a mimosa, or 
of the caraguatay aloe ; and the dark purple color is 
obtained by infusing charcoal into the fresh and bleeding 
punctures. It is an operation that requires days to com- 
plete, and the pain from it is of the most acute and pro- 
longed character, enduring until- the poisoned wounds 
become cicatrized. And yet it is borne without a mur- 
mur, — just as people in civilized life bear the painful 
application of hair-dyes and tweezers. 

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

His taste, however, does not run that way any more 
than among civihzed dandies, and he is contented with 
its natural hue, which is that of the raven's wing. But 
he is not contented to leave it to its natural growth. 
Only a portion of it, — that which covers the upper part 
of his head, — is permitted to retain its full length and 
flowing glories. For the remainder, he has a peculiar 
tonsure of his own ; and the hair immediately over the 
forehead — and sometimes a stripe running all around 
above the ears, to the back of the head — is either close 
shaven with a sharp shell, or plucked entirely out by a 
pair of horn tweezers of native manufacture. Were it 
not that the long and luxuriant tresses that still remain, 
— covering his crown, as with a crest, — the shorn circle 
would assimilate him to some orders of friars ; but, not- 
withstanding the similarity of tonsure, there is not much 
resemblance between a Chaco Indian and a brother of 
the crucifix and cowl. 

This mode of " dressing the hair " is not altogether pe- 


culiar to the Indian of the Gran Chaco. It is also prac- 
tised by certain prairie tribes, — the Osage, Pawnee, and 
two or three others ; but all these carrj the " razor " a 
little higher up, leaving a mere patch, or " scalp-lock," 
upon the crown. 

The Chaco tribes are beardless by nature ; and if a 
few bail's chance to show themselves upon cheek or chin, 
they are carefully " wed " out. In a hke fashion both 
men and women serve their eyebrows and lashes, — sac- 
rificing these undoubted ornaments, as they say, to a 
principle of utihty, since they allege that they can see 
better without them! They laugh at white men, who 
preserve these appendages, calling them " ostrich-eyed," 
— from a resemblance which they perceive between 
hairy brows and the stiff, hair-like feathers that bristle 
round the eyes of the rhea, or American ostrich, — a 
well-kno^vn denizen of the Gran Chaco. 

The costume of the Chaco Indian is one of exceeding 
simphcity ; and in this again we observe a pecuHar trait 
of his mind. Instead of the tawdiy and tinsel orna- 
ments, in which most savages dehght to array them- 
selves, he is contented with a single strip of cloth, folded 
tightly around his loins. It is usually either a piece of 
white cotton, or of wool w^oven in a tri-color of red, 
white, and blue, and of hues so brilhant, as to produce 
altogether a pretty effect. The wear of the women 
scarce differs from that of the men, and the covering of 
both, scant as it is, is neither inelegant nor immodest. It 
is well adapted to their mode of life, and to their cUmate, 
which is that of an eternal spring. When cold winds 
sweep over their grassy plains, they seek protection 
under the folds of a more ample covering, with which 


the J are provided, — a cloak usually made of the soft 
fur of the " nutria," or South American otter, or a robe 
of the beautiful spotted skin of the jaguar. They wear 
neither head-dress nor chaussure, — neither pendants from 
the nose, nor the hideous lip ornaments seen among other 
tribes of South America ; but many of them pierce the 
ears ; and more especially the women, who spht the deh- 
cate lobes, and insert into them spiral appendages of 
rolled palm-leafj that hang dangling to their very shoul- 
ders. It will be observed, therefore, that among the 
Chaco tribes the women disfigure themselves more than 
the men, and all, no doubt, in the interest of fashion. 

It will be seen that the simple dress we have described 
leaves the limbs and most part of the body bare. To 
the superficial observer it might be deemed an inelegant 
costume, and perhaps so it- would be among Europeans, 
or so-called " whites." The deformed figures of Euro- 
j)ean people — deformed by ages of toil and monarchical 
serfdom — would ill bear exposure to the light, neither 
would the tripe-colored skin, of which they are so com- 
rCionly conceited. A very difierent impression is pro- 
duced by the rich brunette hue, — bronze, if you v/ili, — 
especially when, as in the case of the Chaco Indian, it 
covers a body of proper shape, with arms and limbs in 
symmetrical proportion. Then, and then only, does 
costly clothing appear superfluous,. and the eye at once 
admits that there is no fashion on earth equal to that of 
the human form itself. 

Above all does it appear graceful on horseback, and 
almost universally in this attitude does the Chaco Indian 
exhibit it. Scarce ever may we meet him afoot, but 
always on the back of his beautiful horse, — the two 


together presenting the aspect of the Centaur. And 
probably in the resemblance he approaches nearer to 
the true ide^l of the Grecian myth,' than any other horse- 
man in the world ; for the Chaco Lidians differ not only 
from other " horse Indians " in their mode of equitation, 
but also from every other equestrian people. The ab- 
surd high-peaked saddles of Tartar and Arab, with their 
gaudy trappings, are unknown to him, — unknown, too, 
the ridiculous paraphernalia, half-hiding the horse, in use 
among Mexicans, South- American Spaniards, and even 
the Indians of other tribes, — despised by him the plated 
bits, the embroidered bridles, and the tinkhng spurs, so 
tickhng to the vanity of other New- World equestrians. 
The Chaco horseman needs no such accessories to his 
elegance. Saddle he has none, or only the sHghtest 
patch of jaguar-skin, — spurs and stirrups are alike ab- 
sent. Naked he sits upon his naked horse, the beautiful 
curvature of whose form is interrupted by no extraneous 
trappings, — even the thong that guides him scarce ob- 
servable from its slightness. Who then can deny his 
resemblance to the centaur ? 

Thus mounted, with no other saddle than that de- 
scribed, no bridle but a thin strip of raw hide looped 
around the lower jaw of his horse, he will gallop wildly 
over the plain, wheel in graceful curves to avoid the bur- 
rows of the viscacha, pass at full speed through the close- 
standing and often thorny trunks of the palms, or, if need 
be, stand erect upon the withers of his horse, like a " star 
rider " of the Hippodrome. In this attitude he looks 
abroad for his enemies, or the game of which he may be 
in search ; and, thus elevated above surrounding objects, 
he discovers the ostrich far off upon the plain, the large 


deer (cervus campesiris), and the beautiful spotted roe- 
bucks that browse in countless herds upon the grass-cov- 
ered savannas. 

The dAvellmg of the Chaco Indian is a tent, not cov- 
ered with skins, but usually with mats woven from the 
epidermis of young leaves of a pahn-tree. It is set up 
by two long uprights and a ridge-pole, over which the 
mat is suspended — very much after the fashion of the 
tente d'abri used by Zouave soldiers. His bed is a ham- 
mock, swung between the upright poles, or oftener, be- 
tween two palm-trees growing near. He only seeks 
shelter in his tent when it rains, and he prevents its floor 
getting wet by digging a trench around the outside. He 
cares httle for exposure to the sun ; but his wife is more 
dehcate, and usually carries over her head a large bunch 
of rhea feathers, a la parasol, which protects her face 
from the hot scorching beams. 

The tent does not stand long in one situation. Ample 
as is the supply which Nature affords in the wilds of the 
Chaco, it is not all poured out in any one place. This 
would be too much convenience, and would result m an 
evil consequence. The receiver of such a benefit would 
soon become indolent, from the absence of all necessity 
for exertion ; and not only his health, but liis moral 
nature, would suffer from such abundance. 

Fortunately no such fate is likely to befall the Indian 
of the Chaco. The food upon which he subsists is de- 
rived from many varied sources, a few of Avhich only are 
to be found in any one particular place, and each only at 
its own season of the year. For instance, upon the dry 
plains he pursues the rhea and viscacha, the jaguar, puma, 
and partridges ; in woods and marshy places the different 


species of wild hogs (peccaries). • On the banks of rivers 
he encounters the tapir and capivara, and in their wa- 
ters, fish, utrias, geese, and ducks. In the denser forest- 
covered tracts he must look for the various kinds of 
monkeys, which also constitute a portion of his food. 
When he would gather the legumes, of the algarvblas — 
of several species — or collects the sugary sap of the 
caraguatay, he must visit the tracts where the mimosce 
and hromelias alone flourish ; and then he employs much 
of his time in searching for the nests of wild bees, from 
the honey of which and the seeds of the algarohia he 
distils a pleasant but highly intoxicating drink. To his 
credit, however, he uses this but sparmgly, and only upon 
grand occasions of ceremony ; how different from the 
bestial chicha-drmking revellers of the Pampas ! 

These numerous journeys, and the avocations connect- 
with them, hinder the Chaco Indian from falling mto hab- 
its of idleness, and preserve his health to a longevity that 
is remarkable : so much so, that " to hve as long as a 
Chaco Indian," has become a proverbial expression ia the 
settlements of South America. 

The old Styrian monk Dobrezhoffer has chronicled 
the astounding facts, that among these people a man of 
eighty is reckoned to be in the prime of manhood ; that 
a hundred years is accounted a common age ; and that 
many of them are still hale and hearty at the age 
of one hundred and twenty ! Allowing for a httle ex- 
aggeration in the statements of the monk, it is neverthe- 
less certain that the Indians of the Gran Chaco, partly 
owing to their fine chmate, and partly to their mode of 
life and subsistence, enjoy health and strength to a very 
old age, and to a degree unknown in less-favored regions 


of the world. Of this there is ample and trustworthy 

The food of the Chaco Indian is of a simple character, 
and he makes no use either of salt or spices. He is usu- 
ally the owner of a small herd of cattle and a few sheep, 
wliich he has obtained by plundering the neighboring set- 
tlements of the Spaniards. It is towards those of the 
south and west that he generally directs his hostile fo- 
rays ; for he is at peace with the riverine provinces, — 
BrazUian, Paraguayan, and Correntine. 

In these excursions he travels long distances, crossing 
many a fordless stream and river, and taking along with 
him wife, children, tents, and utensils, iu short, everything 
which he possesses. He fords the streams by swimming, 
using one hand to guide his horse. With this hand he 
can also propel himself, while in the other he carries his 
long lance, on the top of which he poises any object he 
does not wish should be wetted. A " balza," called " pe- 
lota," made of bull's hide, and more like a square box 
than a boat, carries over the house utensils and the pup- 
pies, of which there are always a large number. The 
" precious baby " is also a passenger by the balza. The 
pelota is propelled, or rather, pulled over, by means of a 
tiller-rope, iheld in the teeth of a strong swimmer, or tied 
to the tail of a horse ; and thus the crossing is effected. 

Returning with his plunder — with herds of homed 
cattle or flocks of sheep — not unfrequently with human 
captives, women and children, the crossing becomes more 
difficult ; but he is certain to effect it without loss, and 
almost without danger of being overtaken in the pur- 

His freebooting habits should not be censured too^; 


gi'avelj. Many extenuating circumstances must be 
taken into consideration, — his wrongs and sanguinary 
persecutions. It must be remembered that the hostili- 
ties commenced on the opposite side ; and with the In- 
dian the habit is not altogether indigenous, but rather 
the result of the principle of retahation. He is near 
kindred to the Incas, — in fact, some of the Chaco 
tribes are remnants of the scattered Peruvian race, and 
he still remembers the sanguhmry slaughter of his an- 
cestors by the Pizarros and Almagros. Therefore, using 
the phraseology of the French tribunals, we may say 
there are " extenuating circumstances in his favor." One 
circumstance undoubtedly speaks trumpet-tongued for the 
Chaco Indian ; and that is, he does not torture his cap- 
tives, even when white men have fallen into his hands ! 
As to the captive women and childi'en, their treatment is 
rather gentle than otherwise ; in fact, they are adopted 
into the tribe, and share, alike with the rest, the pleas- 
ures as well as the hardships of a savage life. 

When the Chaco Indian possesses homed cattle and 
sheep, he eats mutton and beef; but if these are want- 
ing, he must resort to the chase. He captures deer and 
ostriches by running them down with his swift steed, 
and piercing them with his long spear ; and occasionally 
he uses the holas. For smaller game he employs the 
bow and arrow, and fish are also caught by shooting 
them with arrows. 

The Chaco Indian is the owner of a breed of dogs, 
and large packs of these animals may be seen around 
his camping-ground, or following the cavalcade in its 
removal from place to place. They are small creatures, 
— supposed to be derived from a European stock, but 



they are wonderfullj prolific, the female often bringing 
forth twelve puppies at a birth. Thej burrow in the 
ground, and subsist on the offal of the camp. They are 
used in running down the spotted roebuck, in hunting 
the capivara, the great ant-bear, viscachas, and other 
small animals. The tapir is taken in traps, and also 
speared, when the opportunity offers. His flesh is rel- 
ished by the Chaco Indian, but his hide is of more 
consequence, as from it bags, whips, and various other 
articles can be manufactured. The peccary of two spe- 
cies {dicotyles torquatus and collaris) is also pursued by 
the dogs, and speared by the hunter while pausing to 
bay the yelping pack; and the great American tiger 
(jaguar) is kUled in a like manner. The slaying of this 
fierce and powerful quadruped is one of the. feats of the 
Chaco hunter, and both its skin and flesh are articles of 
eager demand. The latter is particularly sought for ; 
as by eating the flesh of so strong and courageous a 
creature the Indian fancies his own strength and courage 
will be increased. When a jaguar is killed, its carcass 
becomes the common property of all; and each indi- 
vidual of the tribe must have his slice, or " griskin," — 
however small the piece may be after such multiplied 
subdivision ! For the same reason, the flesh of the wild 
boar is relished ; also that of the ant-bear — one of the 
most courageous of animals, — and of the tapir, on ac- 
count of its great strength. 

The bread of the Chaco Indian is derived, as before 
mentioned, from several species of mimosse, called in- 
definitely algarohias, and by the missionary monks 
known as " St. John's bread." Palms of various kinds 
furnish edible nuts ; and there are many trees in the 


Chaco forests that produce luscious fruits. "With these 
the Indian varies his diet, and also with wild honey, — 
a most important article, for reasons already assigned. 
In the Chaco there are stingless bees, of numerous dis- 
tinct species, — a proof of the many blossoms which 
bloom as it were " unseen " in that flowery Elysium. 
The honey of these bees — of some of the species in 
particular — is known to be of the finest and purest 
quality. In the Spanish settlements it commands the 
highest price, and is very difficult to be obtained, — for 
the Chaco Indian is but little given to commerce, and 
Only occasionally brings it to market. He has but few 
wants to satisfy, and cares not for the tinsel of the tra- 
der : hence it is that most of the honey he gathers is 
reserved for his own use. He searches for the bees' 
nest by observing the flight of the insect, as it passes 
back and forward over the wild parterre ; and his keen- 
ness of sight — far surpassing that of a European — 
enables him to trace its movements in the air, and follow 
it to its hoard. He alleges that he could not accomplish 
this so well, were he encumbered with eyebrows and 
lashes, and offers this as one of his reasons for extract- 
ing these hirsute appendages. There may be something 
in what he says, — strange as it sounds to the ear of one 
who is not a bee-hunter. He finds the nest at length, — 
sometimes in a hollow tree, sometimes upon a branch, — 
the latter kind of nest being a large mass, of a substance 
like blotting-paper, and hanging suspended from the 
twigs. Sometimes he traces the insect to a subterranean 
dwelling; but it must be remarked that aU these are 
different species of bees, that build their nests and con- 
struct the cells of their honeycombs each in its own 


favorite place, and according to its own fashion. The 
bee-hunter cares not how — so long as he can find the 
nest ; though he would prefer being guided to one built 
upon a species of thick octagonal cactus, known as the 
habitat of the bee " tosimi." This preference is caused 
by 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, and 
his fine opportunity of exercising them, the Chaco In- 
dian will not consent to remain in peace and good-will 
with all men. It seems a necessity of his nature to 
have an occasional shy at some enemy, whether white or 
of his own complexion. But, indeed, it would be ridicu- 
lous to censure him for this, since it appears also to be a 
vice universal among mankind ; for where is the tribe 
or nation, savage or civihzed, who does not practise it, 
whenever it feels bold enough or strong enough to do 
so ? The Chaco Indian is not alone in his disregard of 
of the sixth commandment, — not the only being on 
earth who too frequently goes forth to battle. 

He has two distinct kinds of enemies, — one of Euro- 
pean, the other of his own race, — almost of his own 
kindred, you would say. But it must be remembered 
that there are several distinct tribes dwelling in the 
Chaco ; who, although presenting a certain similitude, 
are in many respects widely dissimilar ; and, so far from 
forming one nation, or Hving in harmonious alhance with 
each other, are more frequently engaged in the most 
deadly hostilities. Their wars are all conducted on 
horseback, — all cavalry skirmishes, — the Chaco Indian 
disdaining to touch the ground with his foot. Dis- 
mounted he would feel himself vanquished, — as much 
out of his element as a fish out of water ! 


EGs war weapons are of a primitive kind ; they are 
the bow and lance, and a species of club, known in 
Spanish phraselogj as the " macaaa." This last weapon 
is also found in the hands of several of the Amazonian 
tribes, though differing shghtly in its construction. The 
" macana " of the Chaco Indian is a short, stout piece 
of heavy ii'on-wood, — usually a species known as the 
quehracha, or " axe-breaker," which grows plentifully 
thi'oughout the Paraguayan countries. Numerous spe- 
cies are termed " quebracha " in Spanish- American coun- 
tries, as there are numerous " iron-woods." That of Par- 
aguay, like most others that have obtained this name, is 
a species of ebony-wood, or hgnum vitae, — in short, a 
true guaiacum. The wood is hard, solid, and heavy 
almost as metal ; and therefore just the very stuff for 
a war-club. 

The macana of the Chaco Indian is short, — not much 
over two feet in length, and is used both for striking in 
the hand and throwing to a distance. It is thicker, and 
of course heavier, at both extremities ; and the mode of 
grasping it is round the narrow part in the middle. The 
Indian youths, wliile traming for war, practise thi'owing 
the macana, as other people play at skittles or quoits. 

The lazo and tolas are both in the hands of the Chaco 
tribes, but these contrivances are used sparingly, and 
more for hunting than war. They rarely trouble them- 
selves with them on a real war expedition. 

Their chief weapons against an enemy are their long 
lances, — for these are far the most effective arms for a 
man mounted on horseback. Those of the Chaco In- 
dian are of enormous length, then' shafts being often 
fifteen feet from butt to barb. They use them also when 


mounting on horseback, in a fashion peculiar to them- 
selves. They mount by the right side, contrary to our 
European mode ; nor is there the slightest resemblance 
in any other respect between the two fashions of getting 
into the saddle. With the Chaco Indian there is no put- 
ting toes into stirrups, — no tugging at the poor steed's 
withers, — no chnging or chmbing into the seat. He 
places the butt of his lance upon the ground-, grasps it a 
little above his head with the right hand, and then rais- 
ing his lithe body with an elastic spring, he drops Hke a 
cat upon the spine of his well-trained steed. A word, — 
a touch of his knee, or other well-understood signal, — 
and the 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 yet 
initiated into the use of guns and gunpowder, though he 
often experiences their deadly effects. Indeed, the won- 
der is that he could have maintained his independence so 
long, with such weapons opposed to him. Gunpowder 
has often given cowards the victory over brave men ; 
but the Chaco Indian, even without gunpowder, has 
managed somehow or other to preserve his freedom. 

When he makes an expedition against the white set- 
tlements, he carries no shield or other defensive armor. 
He did so at one period of his history ; but experience 
has taught him that these contrivances are of httle use 
against leaden bullets ; and he has thrown them away, 
taking them up again, however, when he goes to war 
with enemies of his own kind. 

In attacking a settlement or village of the whites, one 
of his favorite strategic plans is to set the houses on 
fire ; and in this he very often succeeds, — almost cer- 


tainly when the thatch chances to be dry. His plan is 
to project an arrow with a piece of blazing cotton fas- 
tened near the head. For this purpose he uses the 
strongest kind of bow, and lying upon his back, bends 
it with his feet. By this means a much longer range is 
obtained, and the aim is of Uttle consequence, so long as 
the arrow falls upon the roof a house. 

On going to war with a hostile tribe of his own kind 
and color, he equips himself in a manner altogether dif- 
ferent. His face is then painted most frightfully, and in 
the most hideous designs that his imagination can suggest, 
while his body is almost entirely covered by a complete 
suit of mail. The thick hide of the tapir furnishes him 
with 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 of 
the enemy, though he is also sadly encumbered in the 
management of his horse ; and were he upon a plunder- 
ing expedition against the whites, such an encumbrance 
would certainly bring him to grief. He knows that very 
well, and therefore he never goes in such guise upon any 
foray that is directed towards the settlements. 

The Chaco Indian has now been at peace with his 
eastern neighbors — both Spaniards and Portuguese — 
for a considerable length of time ; but he still keeps up 
hostihty with the settlements on the south, — those of 
Cordova and San Luis, — and often returns from these 
wretched provinces laden with booty. If he should 
chance to bring away anything that is of no use to 
him, or that may appear superfluous in his savage home, 
— a harp or guitar, a piece of costly furniture, or even 
a handsome horse, — he is not required to throw it away ; 


he knows that he can find purchasers on the other side 
of the river, — among the Spanish merchants of Cor- 
rientes or Paraguay, who are ready at any time to 
become the receivers of the property stolen from their 
kindred of the south ! 

Such queer three-cornered dealings are also carried on 
in the northern countries of Spanish America, — in the 
provinces of Chihuahua, New Leon, and New Mexico. 
They are there called " cosas de Mexico." It appears 
they are equally " cosas de Paraguay." 



Have I a reader who has not heard of the " King 
of the Cannibal Islands ? " I think I may take it for 
granted that there is not one in my large circle of boy- 
readers who has not heard of that royal anthropopha- 
gist, 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 was 
no exaggeration — neither as regards the number of his 
wives, nor any other particular relating to King " Musty- 
fusty-shang." On the contrary, it presents a picture of 
the hfe and habits of his polygamous majesty that is, 
alas ! too ludicrously like the truth. 

Though the king of the Cannibal Islands has been 
long known by reputation, people never had any very 
definite idea in what quarter of the world his majesty's 
dominions lay. Being, as the name imphes, an island- 
kingdom, it was to be looked for of course, in some part 
of the ocean ; and the Pacific Ocean or Great South 


Sea was generally regarded as that in which it was 
situated ; but whether it was the Tonga Islands, or the 
Marquesas, or the Loo-Choos, or the Soo-loos — or sovae. 
other group, that was entitled to the distinction of being 
the man-eating community, with the man-eating king at 
their head — was not very distinctly ascertained up to 
a recent period. On this head there is uncertainty no 
longer. Though in several groups of South-Sea Islands 
the horrible propensity is known to exist, yet the man- 
eaters, par excellence, the real hona-fide followers of the 
habit, are the Feegees. Beyond doubt these are the 
greatest cannibals in all creation, their islands the true 
" Cannibal Islands," and their king no other than " Mus- 
ty-fusty-shang " himself. 

Alas ! the subject is too serious to jest upon, and it is 
not without pain that we employ our pen upon it. The 
truth must needs be told ; and there is no reason why 
the world should not know how desperately wicked men 
may become under the influence of a despotism that 
leaves the masses in the power of the irresponsible few, 
with no law, either moral or physical, to restrain their 
unbridled passions. 

You will find the Feegee Islands, in the Pacific 
Ocean, in the latitude of 18° south. This parallel 
passes nearly through the centre of the group. Their 
longitude is remarkable : it is the complement of the 
meridian of Greenwich — the line 180°. Therefore, 
when it is noon in London, it is midnight among the 
Feegees. Take the intersection of these two lines, 18° 
latitude and 180° longitude as a centre; describe an 
imaginary circle, with a diameter of 300 miles ; its cir- 
cumference, with the slight exception of a small outly- 


ing group, vnJl enclose, in a "ring fence," as it were, the 
whole Feegee archipelago. 

The group numbers, in all, no fewer than 225 islands 
and islets, of which between 80 and 90 are at present 
inhabited — the whole population being not much under 
200,000. The estimates of writers differ widely on this 
point; some state 150,000 — others, more than double 
this amount. There is reason to believe that 150,000 
is too low. Say, then, 200,000 ; since the old adage ; 
" In medias res," is generally true. 

Only two of the islands are large, — "Yiti," and 
"Yanua." Yiti is 90 miles long, by 50 in breadth, 
and Yanua 100 by 25. Some are what are known as 
" coral islands ; " others are " volcanic," presenting all 
varieties of mountain aspect, rugged and sublime. A 
few of the mountain -peaks attain the elevation of 5,000 
feet above sea-level, and every form is known — table- 
topped, dome-shaped, needle, and conical. In fact, no 
group in the Pacific affords so many varieties of fonn 
and aspect, as are to be observed in the Feegee archi- 
pelago. In sailing through these islands, the most love- 
ly landscapes open out before the eye, the most pictu- 
resque groupings of rocks, ridges, and mountain-peaks,' 
ravines filled with luxuriant vegetation, valleys covered 
with soft verdure, so divinely fair as to appear the 
abode of angehc beings. " So beautiful was their as- 
pect," writes one who visited them, " that I could scarce- 
ly bring my mind to the realizing sense of the well- 
known fact, 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 been 


more bountiful than to the Feegee Islands. She has 
here poured out her favors in ver j profusion ; and the 
cornucopice might be regarded as an emblem of liie 
land. The richest products of a tropic vegetation flour- 
ish in an abundance elsewhere unknown, and the 
growth of valuable articles of food is almost spon- 
taneous. Many kinds are really of spontaneous pro- 
duction ; and those under cultivation are almost end- 
less in numbers and variety. Yams grow to the length 
of six feet, weigliing one hundred pounds each ! and 
several varieties are cultivated. The sweet potato 
reaches the weight of five or six pomids, and the 
" taro " (Arum esculentum) also produces a root of 
enormous size, which forms the staple article of the 
Feegeean's food. Still another great tuber, weighing 
twenty or thirty pounds, and used as a liquorice, is the 
produce of the " massawe," or ti-tree {draccena termi- 
nalis) ; and the root of the piper methisticum often at- 
tains the 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-fruit 
grows in abundance : there being no less than nine va- 
rieties of this celebrated tree upon the different islands 
of the group, each producing a distinct kind of fruit ; 
and what is equally remarkable, of the musacece — the 
plantain and banana — there are in the Feegee isles 
thirty different kinds, either of spontaneous growth, or 
cultivated ! All these are well distinguished from one 
another, and bear distinct appellations. Three kinds 
of cocoa-palm add to the extraordinary variety of vege- 


table food, as well as to the picturesqueness of the 
sceneiy ; but there is no lack of lovely forms in the 
vegetation, where the beautiful ti-tree grows, — where 
the fern and the screw-pines flourish, — where plan- 
tains and bananas unfold their broad bright leaves to 
the sun ; where arums spread theu' huge fronds min- 
gling with the thick succulent blades of the bromeha, 
and where pawpaws, shaddocks, orange and lime-trees 
exhibit every hue of foliage, from deep green to the 
most briUiant golden. 

Fruits of a hundred species are grown in the greatest 
plenty ; the orange and the Papuan apple, the shaddock 
and lemon ; in short, almost every species of fruit that 
will flourish in a tropical clime. In addition, many in- 
digenous and valuable kinds, both of roots and fruits, are 
peculiar to the Feegee group, yet unknown and unculti- 
vated in any other part of the world. Even the very 
cloth of the country — and a beautiful fabric it makes — 
is the product of an indigenous tree,, the " malo " or 
paper-mulberry {Brousonetia papyriferd), the "tapa" 
of voyagers. Not only the material for dresses, but the 
tapestry for the adornment of theic temples, the curtains 
and hangings of their houses, are all obtaiued from this 
valuable tree. 

We have not space for a more detailed account of the 
productions of these isles. It would fill a volume to 
describe with any degree of minuteness the various 
genera and species of its plants alone. Enough has 
been said to show how bountiful, or rather how prodi- 
gal, nature has been to the islands of the Feegeean 

Of the animal kingdom there is not much to be said. 


Of quadrupeds there is the usual paucity of species that 
is noticed everywhere throughout the Polynesian islands. 
Dogs and pigs are kept ; the latter in considerable num- 
bers, as the flesh forms an important article of food ; but 
they are not indigenous to the Feegee group, though the 
period of their introduction is unknown. Two or three 
small rodents are the only quadrupeds yet known to be 
true natives of the soil. Reptiles are alike scarce in 
species, — though the turtle is common upon the coasts, 
and its fishery forms the regular occupation of a par- 
ticular class of the inhabitants. The species of birds 
are more numerous, and there are parrots, pecuhar to 
the islands, of rich and beautiful plumage. 

But we are not allowed to dwell upon these subjects. 
Interesting as may be the zoology and botany of the 
Feegeean Archipelago, both sink into insignificance 
when brought into comparison ,with its ethnology, — the 
natural history of its human inhabitants ; — a subject 
of deep, but alas ! of a terribly painful interest. By 
inquuy into the condition and character of these people, 
we shall see how little they have deserved the favors 
which nature has so bounteously bestowed upon them. 

In the portrait of the Feegeean you will expect some- 
thing frightfully hideous, — knowing, as you already do, 
that he is an eater of human flesh, — a man of gigantic 
stature, swarthy skin, bloodshot eyes, gaunt, bony jaws, 
and terrific aspect. You will expect this man to be 
described as being naked, — or only with the skin of a 
wild beast upon his shoulders, — building no house, 
manufacturing no household or other utensils, and armed 
with a huge knotted club, which he is ever ready to use : 
— a man who dwells in a cavern, sleeps indifferently in 


the open air or under the shelter of a bush ; in short, a 
true savage. That is the sort of creature you expect me 
to describe, and I confess that just such a physical aspect 
— just such a condition of personal hideousness — would 
be exactly in keeping with the moral deformity of the 
Feegeean. You would furthermore expect this savage 
to be almost devoid of intellectual power, — altogether 
wanting in moral sense, — without knowledge of right 
and wrong, — without knowledge of any kind, — with- 
out ideas. It seems but natural you should look for 
such characteristics in a cannihal. 

The portrait I am about to paint will disappoint you. 
I do not regret it, since it enables me to bmig forward 
another testimony that man in liis original nature is not 
a being of such desperate wickedness. That simple and 
primitive state, which men gUbly call savage, is not the 
condition favorable to cannibalism. I know that it is to 
such people that the habit is usually ascribed, but quite 
erroneously. The Andaman islander has been blamed 
with it simply becauses he chances to go naked, and 
looks, as he is, hungry and emaciated. The charge is 
proved false. The Bushman of South Africa has en- 
joyed a similar reputation. It also turns out to be a 
libel. The Carib long lived under the imputation, sim- 
ply because he presented a fierce front to the Spanish 
tyrant, who would have enslaved him ; and we have 
heard the same stigma cast upon a dozen other tribes, 
the lowest savages being usually selected ; in other 
words, those whose condition appeared the most wretch- 
ed. " In such cases the accusation has ever been found, 
upon investigation, to be erroneous. 

In the most primitive state in which man appears 


upon the earth, he is either without social organization 
altogether, or if any do exist, it is either patriarchal or 
republican. Neither of these conditions is favorable to 
the development of vice, — much less the most horrible 
of all vices. 

It will not do to quote the character of the Bushman, 
or certain other of the low tribes, to refute this state- 
ment. These are not men in their primitive state 
ascending upward, but a condition altogether the reverse. 
They are the decaying remnants of some corrupt civili- 
zation, sinking back into the dust out of which they were 

No — and I am happy to say it — man, as he origi- 
nally came from the hands of the Creator, has no such 
horrid propensity as cannibaHsm. In his primitive state 
he has never been known to practise it, — except when 
the motives have been such as have equally tempted 
men professing the highest civilization, — but this cannot 
be considered cannibahsm. Where that exists in its 
true unmitigated form, — and unhappily it does so, — 
the early stages of social organization must have been 
passed ; the republican and patriarchal forms must both 
have given place to the absolute and monarchical. This 
condition of things is absolutely necessary, before man 
can obtain sufficient power to prey upon his fellow-man 
to the extent of eating liim. There can be no " canni- 
bal " without a " king." 

So far from the Feegeean cannibals being savages, ac- 
cording to the ordinary acceptation of the term, they are 
in reahty the very reverse. If we adhere to the usual 
meaning of the word civihzation, understanding by it a 
people possessing an intelUgent knowledge of arts, Hving 


in well-built houses, fabricating fine goods, tilling their 
lands in a scientific and successful manner, practising the 
little politenesses and accomplishments of social life, — if 
these be the criteria of civihzation, then it is no more 
than the truth to say that the standai'd possessed by the 
Feegee islanders is incomparably above that of the lower 
orders of most European nations. 

It is startling to reflect — startling as sad — that a 
people possessed of such intellectual power, and who 
have ever exercised it to a wonderful extent, in arts, 
manufactures, and even in the accomplishing of their 
own persons, should at the same time exhibit moral traits 
of such an opposite character. An atrocious cruelty, — 
■ an instinct for oppression, brutal and ferocious, — a heart 
pitiless as that of the fiend himself, — a hand ever ready 
to strike the murderous blow, even though the victim be 
a brother, — hps that lie in every word they sj)eak, — a 
tongue ever bent on bai'baric boasting, — a bosom that 
beats only with sentiments of treachery and abject cow- 
ardice, — these are the revolting characteristics of the 
Feegeean. Dark as is his skin, his soul is many shades 

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

The Feegeeans are above the average height of Eu- 
ropeans or white men : men of six feet are common 
among them, though few reach the height of six feet six. 
Corpulent persons are not common, though large and 
muscular men abound. Their figure corresponds more 
nearly to that of the white man than any other race 
known. The proportions of their limbs resemble those 
8* ■ t 


of northern Europeans, though some are narrower across 
the loins. Their chests are broad and sinewy, and their 
stout limbs and short, well-set necks are conspicuous 
characters. The outline of the face is a good oval ; the 
mouth large, with white teeth regularly arranged — ah ! 
those horrid teeth ! — the nose is well-shaped, with full 
nostrils ; yet quite distinct, as are the lips also, from the 
type of the African negro. Indeed, with the exception 
of their color, they bear very httle resemblance to the 
negro, — that is, the thick-lipped, flat-nosed negro of our 
fancy ; for there are negro tribes in Africa whose fea- 
tures are as fine as those of the Feegeeans, or even as 
our own. In color of skin the Feegeean is nearly, if not 
quite, as dark as the negro ; but it may be remarked that 
there are different shades, as there are also among pure 
Ethiopians. In the Feegee group there are many men 
of mulatto color, but these are not of the original Fee- 
gee stock. They are either a mixed offspring with the 
Tonga islander, or pure-bred Tonga islanders themselves 
who for the past two hundred years have been insinuat- 
ing themselves into the social compact of the Feegee- 
ans. These light-colored people are mostly found on the 
eastern or windward side of the Feegee group, — that is, 
the side towards Tonga itself, — and the trade-winds wiU 
account for their immigration, which was at first purely 
accidental. They at present play a conspicuous part in 
the affairs of the Feegeeans, being in favor with the 
kings and great chiefs, partly on account of their being 
better sailors than the native Feegeeans, and partly on 
account of other services which these tyrants require them 
to perform. In some arts the Tongans are superior to 
the Feegeeans, but not in all. In pottery, wood-carving. 



making of mats or baskets, and the manufactm-e of the 
tapa cloth, the Feegeeans stand unrivalled over all the 
Pacific Ocean. 

We need say no more of the Tongans here ; thej are 
elsewhere described. Those dwelhng in Feegee are 
not all fixed there for life. Some are so, and these are 
called Tonga-Feegeeans ; the others are only visitors, 
giving their services temporarily to the Feegeean chiefs, 
or occupied in ship-building, — in constructing those 
great war canoes that have been the astonishment of 
South-Sea voyagers, and which Feegee sends forth from 
her dock-yards in the greatest perfection. These, when 
finished by the Tongan strangers, are used to carry 
them back to their own islands, that lie about three 
hundred miles to the windward (southeast). 

But to continue the portrait of the Feegeean. We 
have touched almost every part of it except the hair ; 
but this requires a most elaborate limning, such as the 
owner himself gives it. In its natural state the head 
of the Feegeean is covered by a mass of black hair, 
long, frizzled, and bushy, sometimes encroaching on the 
forehead, and joined by whiskers to a thick, round, or 
pointed beard, to which mustaches are often added. 
Black is, of course, the natural color of the hair, but 
it is not always worn of this hue. Other colors are 
thought more becoming ; and the hair, both of the men 
and women, is dyed in a variety of ways, lime burning 
it to a redish or whity-brown shade. A turmeric-yel- 
low, or even a vermilion-red are not uncommon colors ; ' 
but all these keep varying, according to the change of 
fashions at court ! 

Commodore Wilkes, who has given a good deal of 


his time to an exploration of the Feegee Islands, states 
that the Feegee hair, in its natural condition, is straight, 
and not "frizzled," as described above — he says that 
the frizzhng is the work of the barber; but the Com- 
modore is altogether mistaken in this idea. Thousands 
of Feegeans, whose hair was never touched by a bar- 
ber, nor dressed even by themselves, exhibit this pecu- 
liarity. We regret to add that this is only one of a 
thousand erroneous statements which the Conunodore 
has made during his gigantic exploration. He may 
have been excellent at his own speciality of making 
soundings and laying down charts ; but on all matters 
pertaining to natural history or ethnology, the worthy 
Commodore appears to have been purbhnd, and, indeed, 
his extensive staff of naturalists of every kind have 
produced far less than might have been expected from 
such excellent opportunities as they enjoyed. The ob- 
servations of the Commodore will not stand the test of 
time, and cannot be depended upon as safe guides, ex- 
cepting in those cases where he was an actual eye- 
v,^itne,ss. About his truthful intentions there can be no 
doubt whatever. 

Of one very peculiar performance among the Fee- 
gees he appears to have had actual demonstration, 
and as he has described this with sufficient minute- 
ness, we shall copy his account ; though, after what 
we have said, we should apologize largely for the lib- 
erty. The performance referred to is that of "bai-ber- 
izing " a barbarian monarch, and may be taken as a 
proof of high civihzation among the Feegees. It will 
be seen that, with the exception of the tabooed fingers, 
there is not much difference between a barber of Bond 

' MAN-EATERS. 181 

Street and an artist of like calling in the Cannibal 

" The chiefs in particular," writes Commodore Wilkes, 
" pay great attention to the dressing of their heads, and 
for this purpose all of them have barbers, whose sole 
occupation is the care of their masters' heads. These 
barbers are called a-vu-ni-ulu. They are attached to 
the household of the chiefs in numbers of from two to 
a 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, on 
every side, to a distance that is often eight inches. 
The beard, which is also carefully nursed, often reaches 
the breast, and when a Feegeean has these important 
parts of his person well dressed, he exhibits a degree 
of conceit that is not a little amusing. 

" In the process of dressing the hair it is well anointed 
with oil, mixed with a carbonaceous black, until it is 
completely saturated. The barber then takes the hair- 
pin, which is a long and slender rod, made of tortoise- 
shell or bone, and proceeds to twitch almost every sepa- 
rate hair. This causes it to frizzle and . stand erect. 
The bush of hair is then trimmed smooth by singeing 
it, until it has the appearance of an immense wig. 
When this has been finished, a piece of tapa, so fine 
as to resemble tissue-paper, is wound in light folds 
around it, to protect the hair from the dew or dust. 
This covering, which has the look of a turban, is called 
scda^ and none but the chiefs are allowed to wear it ; 
any attempt to assume this head-dress by a kai-sij or 


common person, would be immediately punished with 
death. The sala, when taken proper care of, will last 
three weeks or a month, and the hau- is not dressed 
except when it is removed; but the high chiefs and 
dandies seldom allow a day to pass without changing 
the sala and having the hair put in order." 

With this account, we conclude our description of 
the Feegeean's person. His costume is of the simplest 
kind, and easily described. "With the men it is merely 
a strip of " tapa " or " malo " cloth passed several times 
round the waist, and the ends left to hang down in 
front. The length of the hanging ends determines the 
rank of the wearer, and only in the case of kings or 
great chiefs are they allowed to touch the gromid. A 
turban of the. finest tapa cloth among the great mop of 
hair is another badge of rank, worn only by kings and 
chiefs ; and this head-dress, which adds greatly to the 
dignified appearance of the wearer, is not always coified 
in the same fashion, but each chief 'adapts it to his own 
or the prevailing taste of the court. The dress of the 
women is a mere waist-belt, with a fringe from six to 
ten inches in length. It is worn longer after they have 
become wives, sometimes reaching near the knee, and 
forming a very picturesque garment. It is called the 
" liku," and many of them are manufactured with sur- 
prising skill and neatness, the material being obtained 
from various chmbing plants of the forest. Under the 
" liku " the women are tattooed, and there only. Their 
men, on the contrary, do not undergo the tattoo ; but on 
grand occasions paint their faces and bodies in the most 
fanciful colors and patterns. 

The kings and some chiefs suspend from their necks 


shell ornaments — often as large as a dining-plate — that 
hang down upon the breast. Some, instead of tliis, 
Tvear a necklace of whales' teeth, carved to resemble 
claws, and bearing a very close resemblance to the 
necklaces of the Prairie Indians, made of the claws 
of the grizzly bear. Another kmd of necklace — per- 
haps more appropriate to the Feegee — is a string of 
human teeth ; and this kind is not unfrequently worn 
by these ferocious dandies. 

It must not be supposed that the scantiness of the 
Feegeean costume arises from poverty or stinginess on 
the part of the wearer. Nothing of the kind. It is 
simply because such is the fashion of the time. "Were 
it otherwise, he could easily supply the materials, but 
he does not wish it otherwise. His climate is an eter- 
nal sum-mer, and he has no need to encumber his body 
with extraneous clothing. "With the exception of the 
turban upon his head, his king is as naked as himself. 

You may suppose that the Feegeans have but Httle 
notions of modesty ; but, strange as it may appear, this 
is m reality not one of their faihngs. They regard the 
" malo " and " hku " as the most modest of garments ; 
and a man or woman seen in the streets without these 
scanty coverings would be in danger of being clubbed 
to death ! 

It must be acknowledged that they are not altogether 
depraved — for in this respect they present the most 
astounding anomaly. Certain virtues are ascribed to 
them, and as I have painted only the dark side of their 
character, it is but fair to give the other. Indeed, it is 
a pleasure to do this — though there is not enough of 
the favorable to make any great alteration in the pic- 


ture. The whole character is so well described by one 
of the most acute observers who has yet visited the 
South Seas — the Wesleyan missionary Williams — i^t 
we borrow the description. 

"The aspect of the Feegeean," says Mr. WilHams, 
" with reference to his mental character, so far from 
supporting the decision which would tlirust him almost 
out of mankind, presents many points of great interest, 
showing that, if an ordinary amount of attention were 
bestowed on him, he would take no mean rank in the 
human family, to which, hitherto, he has been a dis- 
grace. Dull, barren stupidity forms no part of his char- 
acter. His feelings are acute, but not lasting ; his 
emotions easily roused, but transient ; he can love tru- 
ly, and hate deeply ; he can sympathize with thorough 
sincerity, and feign with consummate skill ; his fideHty 
and loyalty are strong and enduring, while his revenge 
never 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 he 
often excels the white man in ordinary things. Tact 
has been called ' ready cash,' and of this the native of 
Feegee has a full share, enabling him to surmount at once 
many difficulties, and accomphsh many tasks, that would 
have 'fixed' an EngUshman. Tools, cord, or packing 
materials, he finds directly, where the white man would 
be at a loss for either ; and nature seems to him but a 
general store for his use, where the article he wants is 
always witliin reach. 

" In social diplomacy the Feegeean is very cautious 
and clever. That he ever paid a visit merely en passant, 
is hard to be believed. If no request leaves his hps, he 


has brought the desire, and only waits for a good chance 
to present it now, or prepai'e the way for its favorable 
reception at some other time. His face and voice are 
all pleasantness ; and he has the rare skill of finding out 
just the subject on which you most like to talk, or sees 
at once whether you desire silence. Rarely will he fail 
to read your countenance ; and the case must be urgent 
indeed which obhges him to ask a favor when he sees a 
frown. The more important he feels his busmess the 
more earnestly he protests that he has none at all ; and 
the subject uppermost in his thoughts comes last to his 
lips, or is not even named ; for he will make a second, 
or even a third visit, rather than risk a failure through 
precipitancy. 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 pe- 
culiar characters, reserving the results for future use ; 
if afterwards he wish to please them, he will know 
how, and if to annoy them, it will be done most exactly. 

" His sense of hearing is acute, and by a stroke of 
his nail he judges the ripeness of fruits, or soundness of 
various substances." 

From what source the Feegeean has sprung is purely 
a matter of conjecture. He has no history, — not even 
a tradition of when his ancestors first peopled the Archi- 
pelago in which we now find him. Of his race we have 
not a much clearer knowledge. Speculation places him 
in the family as the " Papuan "Negro," and he hag 
some points of resemblance to this race, in the color and 
frizzled hair ; but there is as much difference between the 
wretched native of West Australia and the finely-devel- 
oped Feegeean as there is between the stunted Laplander 


and the stalwart Norwegian ; nor is the coarse rough 
skin of the true Papuan to be recognized in the smooth, 
glossy epidermis of the Feegee Islander. This, however, 
may be the result of better hving ; and certainly among 
the mountain-tribes of the Feegees, who lead hves of 
greater privation and hardship, the approach to the Pa- 
puan appearance is observable. It is hardly necessary 
to add that the Feegeean is of a race quite distinct from 
that known as the Polynesian or South-Sea Islander. 
This last is different not only in form, complexion, and 
language, but also in many important mental character- 
istics. It is to this race the Tongans belong, and its 
pecularities will be sketched in treating of that people. 

Were we to enter upon a minute description of the 
manners and customs of the Fegees, — of their mode 
of house and canoe building, — of their arts and manu- 
factures, for they possess both, — of their implements of 
agriculture and domestic use, — of their weapons of war, 
— their ceremonies of religion and court etiquette, — • 
our task would require more space than is here allotted 
to us : it would in fact be as much as to describe the 
complete social economy of a civihzed nation ; and a 
whole volume would scarce suffice to contain such a de- 
scription. In a sketch like the present, the account of 
these people requires to be given in the most condensed 
and synoptical form, and only those points can be touched 
upon that may appear of the greatest interest. 

It must be remembered that the civilization of the 
Feegees — of course, I allude to their proficiency in 
the industrial arts — is entirely an indigenous growth. 
They have borrowed ideas from the Tongans, — as the 
Tongans have also from them, — but both are native 


productions of the South Sea, and not derived from any 
of the so-called great centres of civilization. Such as 
have sprung from these sources are of modern date, and 
make but a small feature in the panorama of Feegeean 
life. The houses thej build are substantial, and suitable 
to their necessities. We cannot stay to note the archi- 
tecture minutely. The private dwelhngs are usually 
about twenty ^ve feet long by fifteen in breadth, the 
Ulterior forming one room, but with a sort of elevated 
divan at the end, sometimes screened with beautiful 
" tapa " curtains, and serving as the dormitory. 

The ground-plan of the house is that of an oblong 
square, — or, to speak more properly, a pai-allelogram. 
The walls are constructed of timber, — being straiofht 
posts of cocoa-pakn, tree-fern, bamboo, or bread-fruit, — 
the spaces between closely warped or otherwise filled in 
with reeds of cane or calamus. The thatch is of the 
leaves of the wild or cultivated sugar-cane, — sometimes 
of a pandaniis, — thickly laid on, especially near the 
eaves, where it is carefully cropped, exposing an edge of 
from one to two feet in thickness. The roof has four 
faces, — that is, it is a " hip roof." It is made with a 
very steep pitch, and comes down low, projectmg far 
over the heads of the upright timbers. This gives a sort 
of shaded veranda all around the house, and throws the 
rain quite clear of the walls. The ridge-pole is a pecu- 
liar feature ; it is fastened to the ridge of the thatch by 
strong twisted ropes, that give it an ornamental appear- 
ance ; and its carved ends project at both gables, or 
rather, over the " hip roofs," to the length of a foot, or 
more ; it is further ornamented by white shells, those of 
the cyprea ovula being most used for the purpose. The 


Feegee house presents altogetlier a picturesque and not 
inelegant appearance. The worst feature is the low door. 
There are usually two of them, neither in each house 
being over three feet in height. The Feegee assigns no 
reason why his door is made so low ; but as he is fre- 
quently in expectation of a visitor, with a murderous 
bludgeon in his grasp, it is possible this may have some- 
thing to do with his making the entrance so difl&cult. 

The houses of the chiefs, and the great council-house, 
or temple, — called the " Bure," — are built precisely in 
the 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 cocoa- 
fibre, or " sinnet," which is worked and woven around 
the posts in regular figures of " relievo." 

The house described is not universal throughout all 
the group. There are many " orders " of architecture, 
and that prevailing in the Windward Islands is different 
from the style of the Leeward, and altogether of a better 
kind. Different districts have different forms. In one 
you may see a village looking hke an assemblage of 
wicker baskets, while in another you might fancy it a 
collection of rustic arbors. A third seems a collection 
oblong hayricks, with holes in their sides ; while, in a 
fourth these ricks are conical. 

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

Equally tedious would it be to describe the various 
implements or utensils which a Feegee house contains. 
The furniture is simple enough. There are neither 


chairs, tables, nor bedsteads. The bed is a beautiful 
mat spread on the dais, or divan ; and in the houses of 
the rich the floors are covered with a similar carpet. 
These mats are of the finest texture, far sujDerior to 
those made elsewhere. The materials used are the 
Hibiscus tiliaceus, JPandanus odoratissimus, and a spe- 
cies of rush. They are in gi'eat abundance -in every 
house, — even the poorest person having his mat to sit 
or he upon ; and it is they that serve for the broad- 
spreading sails of the gigantic canoes. In addition to 
the mats, plenty of tapa-cloth may be seen, and baskets 
of every shape and size, — the wicker being obtained 
from the rattan (^ flagellar id) ^ and other sources. One 
piece of furniture deserves especial mention, — this is 
the pillow upon which the Feegee lord lays his head 
when he goes to sleep. It presents but httle claim to 
the appellation of a downy pillow ; since it is a mere 
cylinder of hard polished wood, with short arched pedes- 
tals to it, to keep it firmly in its place. Its object is to 
keep the great frizzled mop from being tossed or dis- 
arranged, during the hours of repose ; and Feegeean 
vanity enables the owner of the mop to endm-e this 
flinty 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 upon 
which 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 as 
they are in kind. There are pots and pans, bowls, 
dishes, cups and saucers, jars and bottles, — many of 
them of rare and curious designs, — some' red, some 
ornamented with a glaze obtained from the gum of the 


hauri pine, — for this tree is also an indigenous produc- 
tion of the Feegee Islands. Though no potter's wheeF 
is known to the Feegees, the proportions of their vessels 
are as just and true, and their polish as complete, as if 
Stafford had produced them. There are cooking-pots to 
be seen of immense size. These are jars formed with 
mouths wide enough to admit the largest joint. I dare 
not mention the kind of joint that is frequently cooked 
in those great caldrons. Ugh ! the horrid pots ! 

Their implements are equally varied and numerous, 
— some for manufacturing purposes, and others for 
agriculture. The latter are of the simplest kind. The 
Feegee plough is merely a pointed stick inserted deeply 
into the ground, and kept moving about till a lump of 
the soil is broken upward. This is crushed into mould, 
first by a light club, and afterwards pulverized with the 
fingers. The process is slow, but fast enough for the 
Feegeean, whose farm is only a garden. He requires 
no plough, neither bullocks nor horses. With taro-roots 
and sweet potatoes that weigh ten pounds each, yams 
and yaqonas over one hundred, and plantains producing 
bunches of a hundred and fifty fruits to the single head, 
why need he trouble himself by breaking up more sur- 
face ? His single acre yields him as much vegetable 
wealth 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 in 
tax or tithe ; and this brings us to the form of his gov- 
ernment. We shall not dwell long upon this subject. 
Suffice it to say that the great body of the people are 
in a condition of abject serfdo.m, — worse than slavery 


itself. Thej own nothing that they can call their own, 
— not their wives, — not their daughters, — not even 
then' hves ! All these may be taken from them at any 
hour. There is no law against despoihng them, — no 
check upon the will and pleasure of their chiefs or 
superiors ; and, as these constitute a numerous body, the 
poor canaille have no end of ruffian despoilers. It is an 
every-day act for a chief to rob, or club to death, one of 
the common people ! and no unfrequent occurrence to be 
himself clubbed to death by his superior, the king ! Of 
these kitigs there are eight in Feegee, — not one, as the 
old song has it ; but the words of the ballad wiU apply 
to each of them with sufficient appropriateness. Any 
one 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 some- 
what irregularly under their rule. Some islands, or 
pai*ts of islands, are only tributary to them ; others con- 
nected by a sort of deferential alliance ; and there are 
communities quite independent, and hving under the 
arbitrary sway of their own chieftains. The kings are 
not all of equal power or importance ; but in this respect 
there have been many changes, even during the Fee- 
geean historical period, — which extends back only to 
the beginning of the present century. Sometimes one 
is the most influential, sometimes another ; and in most 
cases the pre-eminence is obtained by him who possesses 
the greatest amount of truculence and treachery. He 
who is most successful in murdering his rivals, and rid- 
ding himself of opposition, by the simple application of 
the club, usually succeed3 in becoming for the time head 


" king of the Cannibal Islands." I do not mean that he 
reigns over the whole Archipelago. No king has yet 
succeeded in uniting all the islands under one govern- 
ment. He only gets so far as to be feared everywhere, 
and to have tributary presents, and all manner of debas- 
ing compliments offered to him. These kings have all 
their courts and court etiquette, just as their " royal 
brothers " elsewhere ; and the ceremonials observed are 
quite as complicated and degrading to the dignity of 

The punishment for neglecting their observance is 
rather more severe in Feegee than elsewhere. For a 
decided or wilful non-compliance, the skuU of the de- 
linquent is frequently crushed in by the club of his 
majesty himself, — even in presence of a fuU " drawing- 
room." Lesser or accidental mistakes, or even the ex- 
hibition of an ungraceful gaucherie, are punished by the 
loss of a finger : the consequence of which is, that in 
Feegee there are many fingers missing ! Indeed, a com- 
plete set is rather the exception than the rule. If a king 
or great chief should chance to miss his foot and sHp 
down, it is the true ton for all those who are near or 
around him to fall likewise, — the crowd coming down, 
literally hke a " thousand of bricks ! " 

I might detail a thousand customs to show how far 
the dignity of the human form is debased and disgraced 
upon Feegee soil ; but the subject could be weU illus- 
trated nearer home. Flunkeyism is a fashion unfortu- 
nately not confined to the Feegeean archipelago ; and 
though the forms in which it exhibits itself there may be 
different, the sentiment is still the same. It must ever 
appear where men are politically unequal, — wherever 
there is a class possessed of hereditary privileges. 


I come to the last, — the darkest feature in the Fee- 
geean character, — the horrid crime and custom of can- 
nibahsm. I could paint a picture, and fill up the details 
with the testimony of scores of eyewitnesses, — a pic- 
ture that would cause your heart to weep. It is too 
horrid to be given here. My pen declines the office ; 
and, therefore, I must leave the painful story untold. 



It is a pleasure to pass out of the company of the 
ferocious Feegees into that of another people, which, 
though near neighbors of the former, are different from 
them in almost every respect, — I mean the Tongans, 
or Friendly Islanders. This appellation scarce requires 
to be explained. Every one knows that it was bestowed 
upon them by the celebrated navigator Cook, — who al- 
though not the actual discoverer of the Tonga group, 
was the first who thoroughly explored these islands, and 
gave any reliable account of them to the civilized world. 
Tasman, who might be termed the " Dutch Captain 
Cook," is allowed to be their discoverer, so long ago 
as 1643 ; though there is reason to believe that some of 
the Spanish explorers from Peru may have touched at 
these islands before his time. Tasman, however, has 
fixed the record of his visit, and is therefore entitled to 
the credit of the discovery, — as he is also to that of 
Austraha, New Zealand, Van Diemen's iiand, and other 
now well-known islands of the Southwestern Pacific. 
Tasman bestowed upon three of the Tonga group the 
names — Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Middleburgh ; but, 
fortunately, geographers have acted in this matter with 


better taste than is their wont ; and Tasman's Dutch 
national titles have fallen into disuse, — while the true 
native names of the islands have been restored to the 
map. This is what should be done with other Pacific 
islands as weU ; for it is difficult to conceive anything 
in worse taste than such titles as the Carohne and Loy- 
alty Isles, Prince "WilHam's Land, King George's Island, 
and the ten thousand Albert and Victoria Lands which 
the genius of flattery, or rather flunkeyism, has so lib- 
erally distributed over the face of the earth. The title 
of Friendly Isles, bestowed by Cook upon the Tonga 
archipelago, deserves to live ; since it is not only appro- 
priate, but forms the record of a pleasant fact, — the 
pacific character of our earliest intercourse with these 
interesting people. 

It may be here remarked, that Mr. TVylde and other 
superficial map-makers have taken a most unwarrantable 
liberty with this title. Instead of leaving it as bestowed 
by the great navigator, — applicable to the Tonga archi- 
pelago alone, — they have stretched it to include that of 
the Samoans, and — would it be beheved — that of the 
Feegees ? It is hardly necessary to point out the extreme 
absurdity of such a classification : since it would be diffi- 
cult to 'find two nationahties much more unhke than 
those of Tonga and Feegee. That they have many cus- 
toms in common, is due (unfortunately for the Tongans) 
to the intercourse which proximity has produced ; but 
in an ethnological sense, white is not a greater contrast 
to black, nor good to evil, than that which exists between 
a Tonoran and a Feegeean. Cook never visited the 
Feegee archipelago, — he only saw some of these peo- 
ple while at Tonga-taboo, and heard of their country as 


being a large island. Had he visited that island, — or 
rather that group of over two hundred islands, — it is 
not at all hkely he would have seen reason to extend to 
them the title which the map-makers have thought fit to 
bestow. Instead of " Friendly Islands," he might by 
way of contrast have called them the " Hostile Isles," or 
given them that — above all others most appropriate, 
and which they truly deserve to bear — that old title 
celebrated in song ! the " Cannibal Islands." An ob- 
server so acute as Cook could scarce have overlooked 
the appropriateness of the appellation. 

The situation of the Tonga, or Friendly Isles, is 
easily registered in the memory. The parallel of 20° 
south, and the meridian of 175°. west, very nearly inter- 
sect each other in Tofoa, which may be regarded as the 
central island of the group. It will thus be seen that 
their central point is 5° east and 2° south of the centre 
of the Feegeean archipelago, and the nearest islands of 
the two groups are about three hundred miles apart. 

It is worthy of observation, however, that the Tonga 
Isles have the advantage, as regards the wind. The 
trades are in their favor ; and from Tonga to Feegee, 
if we employ a landsman's phraseology, it is " down 
hill," while it is all " up hill " in the contrary direction. 
The consequence is, that man^^ Tongans are constantly 
making voyages to the Feegee group, — a large number 
of them having settled there (as stated elsewhere), — 
while but a hmited number of Feegeeans find their way 
to the Friendly Islands. There is another reason for 
this unequally-balanced migration ; and that is, that the 
Tongans are much bolder and better sailors than their 
western neighbors ; for although the Feegees far excel 


any other South-Sea islanders in the art of huilding 
their canoes (or sliips as they might reasonably be 
called), yet they are as far behind many others in the 
art of sailing them. 

Thei* superiority in ship-building may be attributed, 
partly, to the excellent materials which these islands 
abundantly afford ; though this is not the sole cause. 
However much we may deny to the Feegeeans the 
possession of moral quahties, we are at the same time 
forced to- admit their great intellectual capacity, — as 
exhibited in the advanced state of their arts and manu- 
factures. In intellectual capacity, however, the Friendly 
Islanders are their equals ; and the superiority of the 
Feegeeans even in " canoe architecture " is no longer 
acknowledged. It is true the Tongans go to the Feegee 
group for most of their large double vessels ; but that is 
for the reasons already stated, — the greater abundance 
and superior quality of the thnber and other materials 
produced there. In the Feegee " dockyards," the Ton- 
gans build for themselves ; and have even improved 
upon the borrowed pattern. 

This intercourse, — partaking somewhat of the char- 
acter of an alliance, — although in some respects advan- 
tageous to the Friendly Islanders, may be regarded, 
upon the whole, as unfortunate for them. If it has im- 
proved their knowledge in arts and manufactures, it has 
far more than counterbalanced this advantage by the 
damage done to their moral character. It is always 
much easier to make proselytes to vice than to vu'tue, — 
as is proved in this instance : for his intercourse with 
the ferocious Feegree has done much to deteriorate the 
character of the Tonoran. From that source he has im- 


bibed a fondness for war and other wicked customs ; and, 
in all probability, bad this influence been permitted to 
continue uninterrupted for a few years longer, the horrid 
habit of cannibahsm — though entirely repugnant to the 
natural disposition of the Tongans — would have become 
common among them. Indeed, there can be little doubt 
that this would have been the ultimate consequence of 
the alliance ; for already its precursors — human sacri- 
fices and the vengeful immolation of enemies — had 
made their appearance upon the Friendly Islands. 
Happily for the Tongan, another influence — that of 
the missionaries — came just in time to avert this dire 
catastrophe ; and, although this missionary interference 
has not been the best of its kind, it is still preferable 
to the paganism which it has partially succeeded in 

The Tongan archipelago is much less extensive than 
that of the Feegees, — the islands being of a Hmited 
number, and only five or six of them of any consid- 
erable size. Tongataboo, the largest, is about ninety 
miles in circumference. From the most southern of the 
group Eoo, to Yavau at the other extremity, it stretches, 
northerly or northeasterly, about two hundred miles, in 
•a nearly direct line. The islands are all, with one or 
two exceptions, low-lying, their surface being diversified 
by a few hillocks or mounds, of fifty or sixty feet in 
height, most of which have the appearance of being 
artificial. Some of the smaller islets, as Kao, are 
mountains of some six hundred feet elevation, rising 
directly out of the sea ; while Tofoa, near the eastern 
edge of the archipelago, presents the appearance of an 
elevated table-land. The larger number of them are 


clothed with a rich tropical vegetation, both natural 
and cultivated, and their botany includes most of the 
species common to the other islands of the South Sea. 
We find the cocoa, and three other species of palm, the 
pandanus, the bread-fruit in varieties, as also the use- 
ful musacaae, — the plantain, and banana. The ti-tree 
{Draccena terminalis), the paper-mulberrj (Broussonetia 
papyrifera), the sugar-cane, yams of many kinds, the 
tree yielding the well-known turmeric, the beautiful 
casuarina, and a hundi'ed 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, their 
leaves and the fibrous material of their bark. 

As a scenic decoration to the soil, there is no part of 
the world where more lovely landscapes are produced 
by the aid of a luxuriant vegetation. They are perhaps 
not equal in picturesque effect to those of the Feegee 
group, — where mountains form an adjunct to the 
scenery, — but in point of soft, quiet beauty, the land- 
scapes of the Tonga Islands are not surpassed by any 
others in the tropical world ; and with the climate they 
enjoy — that of an endless summer — they might well 
answer to the description of the " abode of the Blessed." 
And, indeed, when Tasman first looked upon these 
islands, they perhaps merited the title more than any 
other spot on the habitable globe ; for, if any people 
on this earth might be esteemed happy and blessed, 
surely it was the inhabitants of these fair isles of the 
far Southern Sea. Tasman even records the remarkable 
fact, that he saw no arms among them, — no weapons 
of war ! and perhaps, at that time, neither the detestable 
trade nor its implements were known to them. Alas ! 


in little more than a centuiy afterwards, this peaceful 
aspect was no longer presented. When the great Eng- 
lish navigator visited these islands, he found the war- 
club and spear in the hands of the people, both of 
Feegee pattern, and undoubtedly of the same ill-omened 

The personal appearance of the Friendly Islanders 
differs not a great deal from that of the other South-Sea 
tribes or nations. Of course we speak only of the true 
Polynesians of the brown complexion, without reference 
to the black-skinned islanders — as the Feegees and 
others of the Papuan stock. The two have neither re- 
semblance nor relationship to one another ; and it would 
not be diflBcult to show that they are of a totally distinct 
origin. As for the blacks, it is not even certain that 
they are themselves of one original stock ; for the splen- 
didly-developed cannibal of Feegee presents very few 
features in common with the wretched kangaroo-eater 
of "West Austraha. "Whether the black islanders (or 
Melanesians as they have been designated) originally 
came from one source, is still a question for ethnolo- 
gists ; but there can be no doubt as to the direction 
whence they entered upon the colonization of the Pa- 
cific. That was certainly upon its western border, be- 
3^ond which they have not made much progress : since 
the Feegeean archipelago is at the present time their 
most advanced station to the eastward. The brown or 
Polynesian races, on the contrary, began their migra- 
tions from the eastern border of the great ocean — in 
other words, they came from America ; and the so- 
called Indians of America are, in my opinion, the pro- 
genitors, not the descendants, of these people of the 


Ocean world. If learned ethnolooi:ist3 will give their 
attention to this view of the subject, and disembarrass 
their minds of that fabulous old fancy, about an original 
stock situated somev^'here (thej know not exactly where) 
upon the stejDpes of Asia, they will perhaps arrive at a 
more rational hypothesis about the peopling of the so- 
called new worlds, both the American and Oceanic. 
They will be able to prove — what might be here done 
if space would permit — that the Polynesians are emi- 
grants from tropical America, and that the Sandwich 
Islanders came originally from California, and not the 
Cahfornians from the island homes of Hawaii. 

It is of sKght importance here how this question may 
be viewed. Enough to know that the natives of the 
Tonga group bear a strong resemblance to those of the 
other Pohiiesian archipelagos — to the Otaheitans and 
New Zealanders, but most of all to the inhabitants of 
the Samoan or Navigators' Islands, of whom, indeed, 
they may be regarded as a branch, with a separate 
political and geographical existence. Then* language 
also confirms the affinity, as it is merely a dialect of 
the common tongue spoken by all the' Polynesians. 

Whatever difference exists between the Tongans and 
other Polynesians in point of personal appearance, is in 
favor of the fomier. The men are generally regarded 
as the best-looking of all South-Sea Islanders, and the 
women among the fairest of their sex. Many of them 
would be accounted beautiful in any part of t^e world ; 
and as a general rule, they possess personal beauty in a 
far hisrher desree than the much-talked-of Otaheitans. 

The Tongans are of tall stature — rather above than 
under that of European nations. Men of six feet are 


common enough ; tliougli few are seen of what might be 
termed gigantic proportions. In fact, the true medium 
size is almost universal, and the excess in either direc- 
tion forms the exception. The bulk of their bodies is 
in perfect proportion to theu' height. Unhke the black 
Feegeeans — who are often boriy and gaunt — the Ton- 
gans possess well-rounded arms and limbs ; and the 
hands and feet, especially those of the women, are small 
and elegantly shaped. 

To give a delineation of their features would be a 
difficult task — since these are so varied in different 
individuals, that it would be almost impossible to select 
a good typical face. Indeed the same might be said of 
nearly every nation on the face of the earth ; and the 
difficulty will be understood by your making an attempt 
to describe some face that will -answer for every set of 
features in a large town, or even a small village ; or 
still, with greater limitation, for the different individuals 
of a single family. Just such a variety there will be 
found among the faces of the Friendly Islanders, as you 
might note in the inhabitants of an Enghsh town or 
county; and hence the difficulty of making a correct 
likeness. A few characteristic points, however, may be 
given, both as to their features and complexion. Their 
lips are scarcely ever of a thick or negro form ; and 
although the noses are in general rounded at the end, 
this rule is not universal ; — many have genuine Eoman 
noses, and what may be termed a full set of the best 
Itahan features. There is also less difference between 
the sexes in regard to their features than is usually 
seen elsewhere — those of the women being only dis- 
tinguished by their less size. 


The forms of the women constitute a more marked 
distinction ; and among the beauties of Tonga are many 
that might be termed models in respect to shape and 
proportions. In color, the Tongans are lighter than 
most other South-Sea Islanders. Some of the better 
classes of women — those least exposed to the open air 
— show skins of a light olive tint ; and the childi'en of 
all are nearly white after bu'th. They become browner 
less from age than exposure to the sun ; for, as soon as 
they are able to be abroad, they scarce ever afterwards 
enter under the shadow of a roof, except during the 
hours of night. 

The Tongans have good eyes and teeth ; but in this 
respect they are not superior to many other Oceanic 
tribes — even the black Feegeeans possessing both eyes 
and " ivories " scarce surpassed anywhere. The Ton- 
gans, however, have the advantage of their dusky neigh- 
bors in the matter of hair — their heads being clothed 
with a luxuriant growth of true hair. Sometimes it is 
quite straight, as among the American Indians, but 
oftener with a shght wave or undulation, or a curl ap- 
proaching, but never quite arriving at the condition of 
" crisp." 

His hair in its natural col6r is jet black ; and it is to 
be regretted that the Tongans have not the good taste to 
leave it to its natural hue. On the contrary, their fash- 
ion is to stain it of a reddish-brown, a purple or an 
orange. The brown is obtained by the application of 
burnt coral, the purple from a vegetable dye applied 
poultice-fashion to the hair, and the orange is produced 
by a copious lathering of common tunneric, — with which 
the women also sometimes anoint their bodies, and those 


of their cliildren. This fashion of hair-djeing is also 
common to the Feegees, and whether they obtained it 
from the Tongans, or the Tongans from them, is an un- 
settled point. The more probable hypothesis would be, 
that among many other ugly customs, it had its origin 
in Feegee-land, — where, however, the people assign a 
reason for practising it very different from the mere 
motive of ornament: They allege that it also serves a 
useful purpose, in preventing the too great fructification 
of a breed of parasitic insects, — that would other- 
wise find the immense mop of the frizzly Feegeean a 
most convenient dwelhng-place, and a secure asylum 
from danger. This may have had something to do with 
the origin of the custom ; but once established for pur- 
poses of utility, it is now confirmed, and kept up by the 
Tongans as a useless ornament. Their taste in the color 
runs exactly counter to that/ of European fashionables. 
What a pity it is that the two could not make an ex- 
change of hair ! Then both parties, like a pair of adver- 
tisements in the "Times," would exactly j^^ each other. 

Besides the varied fashion in colors, there is also great 
variety in the styles in which the Tongans wear their 
hau'. Some cut it short on one side of their head, leav- 
ing it at full length on the other ; some shave a small 
patch, or cut off only a single lock ; Avhile others — and 
these certainly display the best taste — leave it to grow 
out in alLits full luxuriance. In this, again, we find tlie 
European fashion reversed, for the women are those who 
wear it shortest. The men, although they are not with- 
out beard, usually crop this appendage very close, or 
shave it off altogether, — a piece of shell, or rather a 
pair of shells, serving them for. a razor. 


The mode is to place the thin edge of one shell un- 
derneath the hair, — just as a hair-cutter does his comb, 

— and with the edge of the other applied above, the 
hairs are rasped through and divided. There are regu- 
lar barbers for this purpose, who by practice have been 
rendered exceedingly dexterous in its performance ; and 
the victim of the operation alleges that there is httie 
or no pain produced, — at all events, it does not bring 
the tears to his eyes, as a dull razor often does with us 
poor thin-skinned Europeans ! 

The dress of the Tongans is very similar to that of 
the Otaheitans, so often described and well known ; but 
we cannot pass it here without remarkmg a notable 
peculiarity on the part of the Polynesian people, as 
exhibited in the character of their costume. The native 
tribes of almost all other warm climates content them- 
selves with the most scant covering, — generally with 
no covering at all, but rarely with anything that may be 
termed a skirt. In South America most tribes wear the 
" gua}Tico," — a mere strip around the loins, and among 
the Feegees the " malo " or " masi " of the men, and the 
scant " liku " of the women are the only excuse for a 
modest garment. In Africa we find tribes equally des- 
titute of clothing, and the same remark will apply to the 
tropical countries all around the globe. Here, however, 
amongst a people dwelling in the middle of a vast ocean, 

— isolated from the whole civilized world, we find a nat- 
ural instinct of modesty that does credit to their character, 
and is even in keeping with that character, as fii'st ob- 
served by voyagers to the South Seas. "Whatever acts of 
indelicacy may be alleged against the Otaheitans, this has 
been much exaggerated by their intercourse with immoral 


white men ; but none of such criminal conduct can be 
charged against the natives of the Friendly Isles. On 
the contrary, the behavior of these, both among them^ 
selves and in presence of European visitors, has been 
ever characterized by a modesty that would shame either 
Regent 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 understanding 
of it will allow. There is but one " garment " to be de- 
scribed, and that is the "pareu," which will be better 
understood, perhaps, by calling it a " petticoat." The 
material is usually of " tapa " cloth, — a fabric of native 
manufacture, to be described hereafter, — and the cut- 
ting out is one of the simplest of performances, requiring 
neither a tailor for the men, nor a dressmaker for the 
other sex, for every one can make their own pareu. It 
needs only to clip a piece of " tapa " cloth in the form 
of an " oblong square " — an ample one, being about 
two yards either way. This is wrapped round the 
body, — the middle part against the small of the back, 
— and then both ends brought round to the front are 
lapped over each other as far as they will go, producing, 
of course, a double fold of the cloth. A girdle is next 
tied around the waist, — usually a cord of ornamental 
plait ; and this divides the piece of tapa into body and 
skirt. The latter is of such a length as to stretch below 
the calf of the leg, — sometimes down to the ankle, — 
and the upper part or body would reach to the shoulders, 
if the weather required it, and often does when the mis- 
sionaries require it. But not at any other time : such 
an ungraceful mode of wearing the pareu was never 


intended by the simple Tongans, who never dreamt of 
there being any immodesty in their fashion until told of 
it by their puritanical preceptors ! 

Tongan-fashion, the pareu is a sort of tunic, and a 
most graceful garment to boot; Methodist fashion, it 
becomes a gown or rather a sleeveless wrapper that re- 
sembles a sack. But if the body part is not to be used 
in this way, how, you will ask, is it to be disposed of? 
Is it allowed to hang down outside, like the gown of a 
slattern woman, who has only half got into it ? jNo such 
thing. The natural arrangement is both simple and 
pecuhar ; and produces, moreover, a costume that is not 
only characteristic but graceful to the eye that once be- 
comes used to it. The upper half of the tapa cloth is 
neatly folded or turned, until it becomes a thick roll; 
and this roll, brought round the body, just above the 
girdle, is secured in that position. The swell thus pro- 
duced causes the waist to appear smaller by contrast ; 
and the effect of a well-formed bust, rising above the 
roll of tapa cloth, is undoubtedly striking and elegant. 
In cold weather, but more especially at night, the roll is 
taken out, and the shoulders are then covered ; for it is 
to be observed that the pareu, worn by day as a dress, is 
also kept on at night as a sleeping-gown, more especially 
by those who possess only a hmited wardrobe. It is not 
always the cold that requires it to be kept on at night. 
It is more used, at this time, as a protection against the 
mosquitoes, that abound amidst the luxuriant vegetation 
of the Tongan Islands. 

The " pareu " is not always made of the " tapa " 
cloth. Fine mats, woven from the fibres of the screw- 
pme (pandanus), are equally in vogue; and, upon fes- 


tive occasions, a full-dress pareu is embellislied with red 
feather-work, adding greatly to the elegance and pic- 
turesqueness of its appearance. A coarser and scantier 
pareu is to be seen amottg the poorer people, the mate- 
rial of which is a rough tapa, fabricated from the bark 
of the bread-fruit, and not unfrequently this is only a 
mere strip wrapped around the loins ; in other word?, a 
" malo," " maro," or " maso," — as it is indifferently 
written in the varied orthography of the voyagers. 
Having described this only and unique garment, we 
have 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 no 
head-dress is ever worn miless a cap of feathers by the 
great chiefs, and this only upon rare and grand occa- 
sions. It is a sort of chaplet encirchng the head, and 
deeper in front than behind. Over the forehead the 
plumes stand up to a height of twelve or fifteen inches, 
gradually lowering on each side as the ray extends 
backward beyond the ears. The main row is made 
with the beautiful tail-plumes of the tropic bird Phaeton 
cethereus, while the front or fillet part of the cap is 
ornamented with the scarlet feathers of a species of 

The head-dress of the women consists simply of fresh 
flowers : a profusion of which — among others the beau- 
tiful blossoms of the orange — is always easily obtained. 
An ear-pendant is also worn, — a piece of ivory of 
about two inches in length, passed tlu'ough two holes, 
pierced in the lobe of the ear for this purpose. The 
pendant hangs horizontally, the two holes balancing it, 
and keeping it in position. A necklace also of pearl- 


shells, shaped into beads, is worn. Sometimes a string 
of the seeds of the pandanus is added, and an additional 
ornament is an armlet of mother-o'-pearl, fashioned into 
the form of a ling. Only the men tattoo themselves ; 
and the process is confined to that portion of the body 
from the waist to the thighs, which is always covered 
with the pareu. The practice of tattooing perhaps fii'st 
originated in the desire to equalize age with youth, and 
to hide an ugly physiognomy. But the Tongan Islander 
has no ughness to conceal, and both men and women 
have had the good taste to refram from disfiguring the 
fair features which nature has so bountifully bestowed 
upon them. The only marks of tattoo to be seen upon 
the women are a few fine lines upon the palms of their 
hands ; nor do they disfigure theu* fair skins with the 
hideous 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 from 
the cocoanut, and which is also perfumed by various 
kinds of flowers that are allowed to macerate ha the 
oil ; but this toilet is somewhat expensive, and is only 
practised by the better classes of the community. All, 
however, both rich and poor, are addicted to habits of 
extreme cleanhness, and bathing in fresh water is a 
frequent performance. They object to bathing in the 
sea ; and when they do so, always finish the bath by 
pouring fresh water over their bodies, — a practice 
which they allege prevents the skin from becoming 
rough, wliich the sea-water would otherwise make it. 

House architecture in the Tongan Islands is in rather 
a backward state. They have produced no Wrens nor 
Inigo Joneses ; but tliis arises from a natural cause. 



They have no need for great architects, -j- scarce any 
need for houses either, — and only the richer Tongans 
erect any dwelling more pretentious than a mere shed. 
A few posts of palm-trunks are set up, and uj)on these 
are placed the cross-beams, rafters, and roof. Pandanus 
leaves, or those of the sugar-cane, form the thatch ; and 
the sides are left open underneath. In the houses "of 
the chiefs and more wealthy people there are walls of 
pandanus mats, fastened to the uprights ; and some of 
these houses are. of considerable size and neatly built. 
The interiors are kept scrupulously clean, — the floors 
being covered with beautiful mats woven in colored 
patterns, and presenting all the gay appearance of costly 
carpeting. There are neither chairs nor tables. The 
men sit tailor-fashion, and the w^omen in a rechning 
posture, with both Hmbs turned a httle to one side and 
backwards. A curious enclosure or partition is formed 
by setting a stiff mat, of about two feet width, upon its 
edge, — the roll at each end steadying it and keeping it 
in an upright position. 

The utensils to be observed are dishes, bowls, and 
cups, — usually of calabash or cocoa-shells, — and an 
endless variety of baskets of the most ingenious plait 
and construction. The " stool-pillow " is also used ; but 
differing from that of the Feegees in the horizontal 
piece having a hollow to receive the head. Many 
kinds of musical instruments may be seen, — the Pan- 
dean pipes, the nose-flute, and various kinds of bamboo 
drums, all of which have been minutely described by 
travellers. I am sorry to add that war-clubs and spears 
for a similar purpose are also to be observed conspicu- 
ous among the more useful implements of peace. Bows 


and arrows, too, are common ; but these are only em- 
ployed for shooting birds and small rodents, especially 
rats, that are very numerous and destructive to the 

For food, the Tougans have the pig, — the same 
variety as is so generally distributed throughout the 
Oceanic Islands. It is stated that the Feegeeans ob- 
tained this animal from the Friendly Isles ; but I am 
of opinion that in this case the benefit came the other 
way, as the Sus Papua is more likely to have entered 
the South Sea from its leeward rather than its wmd- 
ward side. In all likelihood the dog may have been 
derived from the eastern edge ; but the pigs and poultry 
would seem to be of western origin, — western as re- 
gards the position of the Pacific. 

The principal food of the Friendly Islanders, how- 
ever, is of a vegetable nature, and consists of yams, 
breadfruit, taro, plantains, sweet potatoes, and, in fact, 
most of those roots and fruits common to the other 
islands of the Pacific. Fish also forms an important 
article of their food. They drink the " kava," or juice 
of the Piper methisticum — or rather of its roots chewed 
to a pulp ; but they rarely indulge to that excess ob- 
served among the Feegees, and they are not over fond 
of the drink, except as a means of producing a species 
of intoxication which gives them a momentary pleasure. 
Many of them, especially the women, make wry faces 
while partaking of it ; and no wonder they do, for it is 
at best a disgusting beverage. 

The time of the Tongan Islanders is passed pleasantly 
enough, when there is no wicked war upon hand. The 
men employ themselves in cultivating the ground or 


fishing ; and here the woman is no longer the mere 
slave and drudge — as almost universaUj elsewhere 
amono; savage or even semi-civilized nations. This is 
a great fact, which tells a wondrous tale — which speaks 
trumpet-tongued to the credit of the Tongan Islander. 
Not only do the men share the labor with their more 
delicate companions, but everything else — their food, 
conversation, and every enjoyment of life. Both par- 
take alike — eat together, drink together, and join at 
once in the festive ceremony. Iii their grand dances 
— or balls as they might more properly be termed — 
the women play an important part ; and these exhibi- 
tions, though in the open air, are got up with an ele- 
gance and ^clat that would not disgrace the most fash- 
ionable ball-room in Cliristendom. Their dances, in- 
deed, are far more graceful than anything ever seen 
either at " Almacks " or the " Jardin Mabille." 

The principal employment of the men is in the cul- 
tivation of their yam and plantain grounds, many of 
which extend to the size of fields, with fences that 
would almost appear to have been erected as orna- 
ments. These are of canes, closely set, raised to the 
height of six feet — wide spaces being left between the 
fences of difierent owners to serve as roads for the 
whole community. In the midst of these fields stand 
the sheds, or houses, surrounded by splendid forms of 
tropic vegetation, and forming pictures of a softly beau- 
tiful character. 

The men also occupy themselves in the construction 
of their canoes, — to procure the large ones, making a 
voyage as abeady stated, to the Feegee Islands, and 
sometimes remaining absent for several years. 


These, however, ai-e usually professional boat-builders, 
and fonn but a very small proportion of the forty thou- 
sand people who inhabit the different islands of the Tou- 
gan archipelago. 

The men also occasionally occupy themselves in weav- 
ing mats and wicker baskets, and carving fancy toys out 
of wood and shells ; but the chief part of the manufac- 
turing business is in the hands of the women — more 
especially the making of the tapa-cloth, already so often 
mentioned. An account of the manufacture may be 
here introduced, with the proviso, that it is carried on 
not only by the women of the Feegee group, but by 
those of nearly all the other Polynesian Islands. There 
are shght differences in the mode of manufacture, as 
well as in the quality of the fabric ; but the account 
here given, both of the making and dyeing, will answer 
pretty nearly for all. 

The bark of the malo-tree, or " paper-mulberry," is 
taken off in strips, as long as possible, and then steeped 
in water, to facilitate the separation of the epidermis, 
which is effected by a large volute shell. In tliis state 
it is kept for some time, although fit for immediate use. 
A log, flattened on the upper side, is so fixed as to 
spi-ing a Httle, and on this the strips of bark — or masiy 
as it is .called — are beaten with an iki, or mallet, about 
two inches square, and grooved longitudinally on three 
of its sides. Two lengths of the wet masi are generally 
beaten together, in order to secm^e greater strength — 
the gluten which they contain being sufficient to keep 
their fibres united. A two-inch strip can thus be beaten 
out to the 'width of a foot and a half; but the length 
is at the same time reduced. The pieces are neatly 


lapped together with the starch of the taro, or arrow-root, 
boiled whole ; and thus reach a length of many yards. 
The " widths " are also joined by the same means later- 
ally, so as to form pieces of fifteen or thirty feet square ; 
and upon these, the ladies exhaust their ornamenting 
skill. The middle of the square is printed with a red- 
brown, by the following process : — Upon a convex 
board, several feet long, are arranged parallel, at about 
a finger-width apart, thin straight slips of bamboo, a 
quarter of an inch wide. By the side of these, curved 
pieces, formed of the mid-rib of cocoanut leaflets, are 
arranged. 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 dye 
upon those parts which receive pressure, being sup- 
ported by the slips beneath ; and thus shows the same 
pattern in the color employed. A stronger preparation 
of the same dye, laid on with a sort of brush, is used to 
divide the square into oblong compartments, with large 
round or radiated dots in the centre. The hesa^ or dye, 
when good, dries bright. Blank borders, two or three 
feet wide, are still left on two sides of the square ; and 
to elaborate the ornamentation of these, so as to excite 
applause, is the pride of every lady. There is now an 
entire change of apparatus. The operator works on a 
plain board ; the red dye gives placei to a jet black ; the 
pattern is now formed of a strip of banana-leaf placed 
on the upper surface of the cloth. Out of the leaf is 
cut the pattern — not more than an inch long — which 
the lady wishes to print upon the border, and holds by 
her first and middle finger, pressing it down with the 
thumb. Then taking a soft pad of cloth, steeped in the 


dye, in her right hand, she rubs it firmly over the stencil, 
and a fail*, sharp figure is made. The practised fingers 
of the operator move quickly, but it is, after all, a te- 
dious process. 

I regret to add, that the men employ themselves in an 
art of less utihty : the manufacture of war weapons — 
clubs and spears — which the people of the different 
islands, and even those of the same, too often brandish 
against one another. This war spirit is entirely owing 
to their intercourse with the ferocious Feegees, whose 
boasting and ambitious spirit they 'are too prone to emu- 
late. In fact, their admiration of the Feegee habits is 
something surprising ; and can only be accounted for by 
the fact, that while visiting these savages and professed 
warriors, the Tongans have become imbued with a cer- 
tain fear of them. They acknowledge the more reck- 
less spirit of their alhes, and are also aware that in 
intellectual capacity the black men are not inferior to 
themselves. They certainly are inferior in courage, as 
in every good moral quahty ; but the Tongans can hard- 
ly beheve this, since their cruel and ferocious conduct 
seems to give color to the contrary idea. In fact, it is 
tliis that inspires them with a kind of respect, which has 
no other foundation than a vague sense of fear. Hence 
they endeavor to emulate the actions that produce this 
fear, and this lea^s them to go to war with one another. 

It is to be regretted that the missionaries have sup- 
pHed them with a motive. Their late wars are solely 
due to missionary influence, — for Methodism upon the 
Tongan Islands has adopted one of the doctrines of 
Mahomet, and believes in the faith being propagated by 
the sword ! A usurper, who wishes to be king over the 


whole group, has embraced the Methodist form of Chris- 
tianity, and hnked himself with its teachers, — who offer 
to aid him with all their influence ; and these formerly 
peaceful islands now present the painful spectacle of a 
divided nationality, — the " Christian party," and the 
" Devil's party." The object of conquest on the part 
of the former is to place the Devil's party under the 
absolute sovereignty of a despot, whose laws will be 
dictated by his missionary ministers. Of the mildness 
of these laws we have already some specimens, which 
of course extend only to the " Christianized." One of 
them, which refers to the mode of wearing the pareu, 
has been already hinted at, — and another is a still more 
off-hand piece of legislation : being an edict that no one 
hereafter shall be permitted to smoke tobacco, under 
pain of a most severe punishment. 

When it is considered that the Tongan Islander enjoys 
the " weed " (and grows it too) more than almost any 
other smoker in creation, the severity of the " taboo " 
may be understood. But it is very certain, if his Metho- 
dist majesty were once firmly seated on his throne, Uuer 
laws than this would speedily be proclaimed. The 
American Commodore Wilkes found things in this war- 
like attitude when he visited the Tongan Islands ; but 
perceiving that the right was clearly on the side of the 
" Devil's party," declined to interfere ; or rather, his 
interference, which would have speedily brought peace, 
was rejected by the Christian party, instigated by the 
sanguinary spirit of their " Christian " teachers. Not 
so, Captain Croker, of Her Britannic Majesty's service, 
who came shortly after. This unreflecting ofiicer — 
loath to believe that royalty could be in the wrong — 


at once took side with the king and Christians, and 
dashed headlong into the affair. The melancholy result 
is well known. It ended by Captor Croker leaving his 
body upon the field, alongside those of many of his 
brave tars ; and a disgraceful retreat of the Christian 
party beyond the reach of their enemies. 

This interference of a British war-vessel in the affairs 
of the Tongan Islanders, offers a strong contrast to our 
conduct when in presence of the Feegees. There we 
have the fact recorded of British officers being eye- 
witnesses of the most horrid scenes, — wholesale mur- 
der and cannibalism, — with full power to stay the crime 
and full authority to punish it, — that authority which 
would have been freely given them by the accord and 
acclamation of the whole civilized world, — and yet 
they stood by, in the character of idle spectators, fearful 
of breaking through the dehcate icy line of non-inter- 
vention ! 

A strange theory it seems, that murder is no longer 
murder, when the murderer and his victim chance to be 
of a different nationality from our own ! It is a distinc- 
tion too delicate to bear the investigation of the jjhilo- 
sophic mind ; and perhaps will yet yield to a truer appre- 
ciation of the principles of justice. There was no such 
squeamishness displayed when royalty required support 
upon the Tongan Islands ; nor ever is there when self- 
interest demands it otherwise. Mercy and justice may 
both fail to disarrange the hypocritical fallacy of non- 
intervention ; but the principle always breaks down at 
the caU of pohtical convenience. 



Asia Las been remarkable, from the earliest times, 
for having a large population without any fixed place 
of residence, but who lead a nomade or wandering hfe. 
It is not the only quarter of the globe where this kind 
of people are found : as there are many nomade nations 
in Africa, especially in the northern division of it ; and 
if we take the Indian race into consideration, we find 
that both the North and . South American continents 
have their tribes of wandering people. It is in Asia, 
nevertheless, that we find this unsettled mode of hfe 
carried out to its greatest extent, — it is there that we 
find those great pastoral tribes, — or " hordes," as they 
have been termed, — who at difierent historical periods 
have not only increased to the numerical strength of 
large nationahties, but have also been powerful enough 
to overrun adjacent empires, pushing their conquests 
even into Europe itself. Such were the invasions of the 
Mongols under Zenghis Khan, the Tartars, under Ti- 
mour, and the Turks, whose degenerate descendants 
now so feebly hold the vast territory won by their 
wandering ancestors. 

The pastoral life, indeed, has its charms, that render 


it attractive to tlie natural disposition of man, and wher- 
ever the opportunit J offers of following it, this life will 
be preferred to any other. It affords to man an abmi- 
dant supply of aU his most prominent wants, without 
requiring from him any very severe exertion, either of 
mind or body ; and, considering the natural indolence of 
Asiatic people, it is not to be wondered at that so many 
of them betake themselves to this mode of existence. 
Their country, moreover, is peculiarly favorable to the 
development of a pastoral race. Perhaps not one third 
of the surface of the Asiatic continent is adapted to 
agriculture. At least one half of it is occupied by tree- 
less, waterless plains, many of which have all the char- 
acters of a desert, where an agricultural people could 
not exist, or, at all events, where their labor would 
be rewarded by only the most scant and precarious 

Even a pastoral people in these regions would find 
but a sorry subsistence, were they confined to one spot ; 
for the luxurious herbage which, for the most part, char- 
acterizes the great savanna plains of America, is either 
altogether wanting upon the steppes of Asia, or at best 
very meagre and inconstant. A fixed abode is therefore 
impossible, except in the most fertile tracts or oases: 
elsewhere, the nomad hfe is a necessity arising from the 
circumstances of the soil. 

It would be difficult to define exactly the limits of the 
territory occupied by the wandering races in Asia ; but 
in a general way it may be said that the whole central 
portion of the continent is thus peopled : indeed, much 
more than the central portion, — for, if we except the 
rich agricultural countries of Hindostan and China, with 


a small portion of- Persia, Arabia, and Turkey, the whole 
of Asia is of this character. The countries known as 
Balk and Bokara, Yarkand and Khiva, with several 
others of equal note, are merely the central points of 
oases, — large towns, supported rather by commerce 
than by the produce of agriculture, and having nomad 
tribes dwellino; within sisht of their walls. Even the 
present boundaries of Asiatic Turkey, Arabia and Persia, 
contain within them a large proportion of nomadic popu- 
lation ; and the same is true of Eastern Poland and 
Russia in Europe. A portion of the Affghan and Belo- 
chee country is also inhabited by nomad people. 

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

It is always the more sterile steppes that are thus oc- 
cupied ; and this is easily accounted for : where fertile 
^districts occur the nomad life is no longer necessary. 
Even a wandering tribe, entering upon such a tract, 
would no longer hare a motive for leaving it, and would 
soon become attached to the soil, — in other words, would 
cease to be wanderers ; and whether they turned their 
attention to the pursuit of agriculture, or not, they would 
be certain to give up their tent-life, and fix themselves 
in a permanent abode. This has been the history of 
many Asiatic tribes ; but there are many others, again, 
who from time immemorial, have shown a repugnance to 
the idea of fixing themselves to the soil. They prefer 
the free roving fife which the desert enables them to 
indulge in ; and wandering from place to place as the 
choice of pasture guides them, occupy themselves en- 


tirelj in feeding their flocks and herds, — the sole means 
of their subsistence. These never have been, and never 
could be, mduced to reside in towns or yillages. 

Nor is it that they have been driven into these desert 
tracts to seek shelter from political oppression, — as is 
the case with some of the native tribes of Afi'ica and 
America. On the contrary, these Asiatic nomads are 
more 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 population 
to those who dwell in towns, or fixed habitations, varies 
according to the nature of the country. In many ex- 
tensive tracts, the former greatly exceed the latter ; 
and the more sterile steppes are almost exclusively oc- 
cupied by them. In general, they acknowledge the sov- 
ereignty of some of the great powers, — such as the 
empires of China, Russia, and Turkey, the kingdom of 
Persia, or that of several powerful khans, as those of 
Khiva and Bokara ; but this sovereignty is, for the most 
part, little more than nominal, and their allegiance is 
readily thrown off, whenever they desire it. It is rarely 
so strong, as to enable any of the aforesaid powers to 
draw a heavy tribute from them ; and some of the more 
warlike of the wanderins^ tribes are much courted and 
caressed, — especially when their war services are, re- 
quired. In general they claim an herditary right to the 
territories over which they roam, and pay but httle heed 
to the orders of either king, khan, or emperor. 

As already stated, these wandering people are of dif- 
ferent races ; in fact, they are of nearly all the varieties 


indigenous to the Asiatic continent ; and a whole cata- 
logue of names might be given, of which Mongols, Tar- 
tars, Turcomans,. Usbecks, Kirghees, and Calmucks, are 
perhaps the most generally known. It has been also 
stated that in many points they are alike ; but there are 
also 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, and 
of mild and hospital dispositions, exceedmgly fond of 
strangers, and kind to such as come among them. Others 
again are averse to all intercourse with others, than those 
of their own race and religion, and are shy, if not in- 
hospitable, when visited by strangers. But there is a 
class of a still less creditable character, — a large num- 
ber of tribes that are not only inhospitable, and hostile 
to strangers, but as ferocious and bloodthirsty as any 
savages in Africa, America, or the South-Sea Islands. 

As a fair specimen of this class we select the Turco- 
mans ; in fact, they may be regarded as its tyjpe ; and 
our description henceforward may be regarded as apply- 
ing particularly to these people. 

The country of the Turcomans will be found upon the 
map without difficulty ; but to define its exact boundary 
would be an impossibility, since none such exists. "Were 
you to travel along the whole northern frontier of Persia, 
almost from the gates of Teheran to the eastern frontier 
of the kingdom, — or even farther towards Balk, — you 
would be pretty sure of hearing of Turcoman robbers, 
and in very great danger of being plundered by them, — 
which last misfortune would be of less importance, as it 
would only be the prelude to your being either murdered 
on the spot, or carried off by them into captivity. In 


making this journey along the northern frontier of Per- 
sia, you would become acquainted with the whereabouts 
of the Turcoman hordes ; or rather you would discover 
that the whole north part of Persia, — a good broad 
band of it extending hundreds of miles into its interior, 

— if not absolutely in possession of the Turcomans, is 
overrun and plundered by them at will. Tliis, however, 
is not their home, — it is only their " stamping-ground," 

— the home of their victims. Their place of habitual 
residence lies further to the north, and is defined with 
tolerable accuracy by its having the whole eastern shore 
of the Caspian Sea for its western border, while the 
Amou Piver (the ancient Oxus) may be generally re- 
garded as the limit of their range towards the east. 
Some tribes go still further east ihan the Amou ; but 
those more particularly distinguished for their plunder- 
ing habits dwell within the limits described, — north of 
the Elburz Mountains, and on the great steppe of Kau- 
rezm, where they are contiguous to the Usbeck com- 
munity of Khiva. 

The whole of this immense territory, stretching from 
the eastern shore of the Caspian to the Amou and Aral 
Sea, may be characterized as a true desert. Here and 
there oases exist, but none of any importance, save the 
country of Khiva itself: and even that is but a mere 
irrigated strip, lying on both banks of the Oxus. In- 
deed, it is diflScult to beheve that this territory of Khiva, 
so insignificant in superficial extent, could have been the 
seat of a powerful empire, as it once was. 

The desert, then, between the Caspian Sea and the 
Oxus Piver may be regarded as the true land of the 
Turcomans, and is usually known as Turcomania. It 


is to be remembered, however, that there are some 
kindred tribes not inchided within the boundaries of 
Turcomania — for the Turkistan of the geographers is 
a country of much larger extent ; besides, an important 
division of the Turcoman races are settlers, or rather 
wanderers in Armenia. To Turcomania proper, then, 
and its inhabitants, we shall confine our remarks. 

We shall not stay to inquire into the origin of the 
people now called Turcomans. Were we to speculate 
upon that point, we should make but little progress in an 
account of their habits and mode of living. They are 
usually regarded as of Tartar origin, or of Usbeck 
origin, or of Mongolian race ; and in giving this ac- 
count of them, I am certain that I add very little to 
your knowledge of what they really are. The truth is, 
that the words Tartar and Mongol and some half-dozen 
other titles, used in relation to the Asiatic races, are 
without any very definite signification, — simply because 
the relative distinctions of the different nations of that 
continent are very imperfectly known ; and learned eth- 
nologists are fvor loath to a confession of limited knowl- 
edge. One of this class, Mr. Latham, — who requires 
only a few words of their language to decide categori- 
cally to what variety of the human race a people be- 
longs, — has unfortunately added to this confusion by 
pronouncing nearly everybody Mongolian: placing the 
proud turbaned Turk in juxtaposition with the squat 
and stunted Laplander ! Of course this is only bring- 
ing us back to the old idea, that all men are sprung 
from a single pair of first parents, — a doctrine, which, 
though popular, is difficult to reconcile with the rational 
knowledge derived from ethnological investigation. 


It matters little to our present purpose from what 
original race the Turcoman has descended : whether 
he be a true Turk, as some regard him, or whether he 
is a descendant of the follows of the Great Elan of 
the Tartars. He possesses the Tartar physiognomy to 
a considerable extent — some of the tribes more than 
others being thus distinguished, — and high cheek-bones, 
flat noses, small obhque eyes, and scanty beards, are all 
characteristics that are very generally obseiwed. Some 
of these peculiarities are more common among the 
women than the men — many of the latter being tall, 
stout, and well-made, while a large number may be 
seen who have the regular features of a Persian. Per- 
haps it would be safest to consider the present Turco- 
man tribes as not belonging to a pure stock, but rather 
an admixture of several ; and their habit of taking 
slaves from other nations, which has for a long time 
existed among them, would give probabihty to this idea. 
At all events, without some such hypothesis, it is diffi- 
cult to account for the wonderful variety, both in feature 
and form, that is found among them. Their complexion 
is swarthy, in some cases almost brown as that of an 
American Indian ; but constant exposure to the open 
air, in all sorts of weather, has much to do in darken- 
ing the hue of their skin. The newborn children are 
nearly as white as those of the Persians ; and their 
young girls exhibit a ruddy brunette tint, which some 
consider even more pleasing than a perfectly white com- 

The costume of the Turcoman, like that of most Ori- 
ental nations, is rich and picturesque. The dress of the 
men varies according to rank. Some of the very poorer 
10* O 


people wear notliing but a short woollen tunic or shirt., 
with a pair of coarse woollen drawers. Others, in place 
of this shirt, are clad in a longer garment, a sort of 
robe or wrapper, like a gentleman's dressing-gown, made 
of camel's-hair cloth, or some coarse brown woollen 
stuff. But the true Turcoman costume, and that worn 
by all who can afford it, consists of a garment of mixed 
silk and cotton, — the haronnee, — which descends below 
the knee, and though open in front, is made to button 
over the breast quite up to the neck. A gay sash around 
the waist adds to the effect ; and below the skirt are 
seen trowsers of cotton or even silk. Cloth wrappers 
around the legs serve in the place of boots or gaiters ; 
and on the feet are worn shppers of Persian fashion, 
with socks of soft Koordish leather. 

As the material of which the baronnee is made is of 
good quality — a mixture of silk and cotton — and as 
the fabric is always striped or checkered in colors of 
red, blue, purple, and green, the effect produced is that 
of a certain picturesqueness. The head-dress adds to 
this appearance — being a high fur cap, with truncated 
top, the fur being that beautiful kind obtained from the 
skins of the Astracan lamb, well known in commerce. 
These caps are of different colors, either black, red, or 
gray. Another style of head-dress much worn is a 
round-topped or helmet-shaped cap, made of quilted 
cotton-stuff; but this kind, although in use among the 
Turcomans, is a • more characteristic costume of their 
enemies, the " Koords," who wear it universally. 

The " jubba " is a kind of robe generally intended to 
go over the other garments, and is usually of woollen 
or camel's-hair cloth. It is also made like a dressing- 


gown, with wide sleeves, — tight, however, around the 
wrist. It is of ample dimensions, and one side is lapped 
over the other across the front, Mke a double-breasted 
coat. 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 sino-ular enouo-h : 
most of them wear a lofty cap, with a broad crown, 
resembling that of a soldier's cap called a shako. This 
is stuck upon the back of the head ; and over it is 
thrown a silk handkerchief of very briUiant colors, 
which covers the top, and falls down on each side hke 
a veil. The front of this is covered with ornaments of 
silver and gold, in various shapes ; more frequently gold 
coins, mohrs, or tomauns, strung in rows, with silver 
bells 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 trappings 
for a horse, than ornaments for a female. 

"The frames of these monstrous caps are made of 
light chips of wood, or spHt reeds, covered with oloth ; 
and when they do not wear these, they wrap a cloth 
around their heads in the same form ; and carelessly 
throw another, lilte a veil over it. The veil or curtain 
above spoken of covers the mouth ; descending to the 
breast. Earrings are worn in the ears ; and their long 
hair is divided, and plaited into four parts, disposed two 
on each side ; one of which falls down behind the 
shoulders and one before, and both are strung with a 
profusion of gold ornaments, agates, cornehans, and 
other stones, according to the means and quality of the 
wearer. The rest of their dress consists of a long, loose 


vest or shirt, witli sleeves, which covers the whole per- • 
son down to the feet, and is open at the breast, in front, 
but buttons or ties close up to the neck : this is made of 
silk or cotton-stuff, red, blue, green, striped red, and 
yellow, 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 they 
wear, in addition, jubbas, or coats like those of the men, 
of striped stuff made of silk and cotton ; on their feet 
they generally wear slippers hke those of the Persian 

The tents, or " portable houses " of the Turcomans 

— as their movable dwellings rather deserve to be called 

— differ from most structures of the kind in use else- 
where. They are thus described by the same intelligent 
traveller : — 

" The portable wooden houses of the Turcomans have 
been referred to by several writers ; but I am not aware 
that any exact description of their structure has been 
given. The frame is curiously constructed of light 
wood, disposed in laths of about an inch broad by three 
quarters thick, crossing one another diagonally, but at 
right angles, about a foot asunder, and pinned at each 
crossing with thongs of raw hide, so as to be movable ; 
and the whole framework may be closed up or opened 
in the manner of those toys for children that represent a 
company of soldiers, and close or expand at will, so as 
to form open or close column. 

" One or more pieces thus constructed being stretched 
out, surround a circular space of from fifteen to twenty 
feet diameter ; and form the skeleton of the walls, — 


wMcli are made firm by bands of hair or woollen ropes, 
hitcbed round tbe end of each rod, to secure it in its po- 
sition. From the upper ends of these, rods of a similar kind, 
bent near the wall end into, somewhat less than a right 
angle, are so disposed that the longer portions slope to 
the centre, and being tied with ropes, form the frame- 
work of a roof. Over this is thrown a covering of black 
numud, leaving in the centre a large hole to give vent 
to the smoke, and light to the dwelhng. Similar numuds 
are wrapped round the walls ; and outside of these, to 
keep all tight, is bound another frame, formed of split 
reeds or cane, or of verj light and tough wood, tied 
together with strong twine, the pieces being perpendicu- 
lar. This is itself secured by a strong, broad band of 
woven hair-stuff, which firmly unites. The large round 
opening at top is covered, as occasion requires, by a 
piece of numud, which is drawn off or on by a strong 
cord, Hke a curtain. If the wind be powerful, a stick is 
placed to leeward, which supports the fabric. 

" In most of these houses they do not keep a carpet 
or numud constantly spread ; but the better classes use 
a carpet shaped somewhat in the form of a horseshoe, 
having the centre cut out for the fireplace, and the ends 
truncated, that those of inferior condition, or who do not 
choose to take off their boots, may sit down upon the 
ground. Upon this carpet they place one or two other 
numuds, as may be required, for guests of distinction. 
"WTien they have women in the tent, a division of split 
reeds is made for their conrenience ; but the richer 
people have ' a separate tent for their private apart- 

" The furniture consists of little more than that of the 


camels and horses ; joals, or bags in whicli their goods 
are packed, and which are often made of a very hand- 
some species of worsted velvet carpet, of rich patterns ; 
the swords, guns, spears, bows and arrows, and other 
implements of the family, wdth odds and ends of eveiy 
description, may be seen hung on the ends of the wooden 
rods, which form very convenient pins for the purpose. 
Among some tribes all the domestic utensils are made 
of wood, — calleeoons, trays for presenting food, milk- 
vessels, &c. : among others, all these things are formed 
of clay or metal. Upon the black tops of the tents may 
frequently be seen large white masses of sour curd, 
expressed from buttermilk, and set to dry as future 
store ; this, broken down and mixed with water, forms 
a very pleasant acidulous drink, and is used as the 
basis of that intoxicating beverage called kimmiz. The 
most common and most refreshing drink which they offer 
to the weary and over-heated traveller in the forenoon is 
buttermilk, or sour curds and water ; and, indeed, a 
modification of this, with some other simple sherbets, 
are the only liquors presented at their meals. 

" Such are the wooden houses of the Turcomans, one 
of which just makes a camel's load. There are poorer 
ones, of a less artificial construction, the framework of 
which is formed of reeds. 

"The encampment is generally square, enclosing an 
open space, or forming a broad street, the houses being 
ranged on either side, with their doors towards each 
other. At these may always be seen the most pictu- 
resque groups, occupied with their varioiis domestic 
duties, or smoking their simple wooden calleeoons. The 
more important encampments are often surrounded by 


a fence of reeds, which serve to protect the flocks from 
petty thefts." 

It is now our place to inquire how the Turcomans 
occupy their time. We have abeady described them as 
a pastoral and nomadic people ; and, under ordinary 
circumstances, their employment consists in looking after 
their flocks. In a few of the more fertile oases they 
have habitations, or rather camps, of a more permanent 
character, where they cultivate a httle corn or barley, to 
supply them with the material for bread ; but these set- 
tlements, if they deserve the name, are only exceptional ; 
and are used chiefly as a kind of head-quarters, where 
the women and property are kept, while the men them- 
selves are absent on their tliieving expeditions. More 
generally their herds are kept on the move, and are 
di'iven from place to place at short intervals of a few 
weeks or even days. The striking and pitching of their 
tents gives them employment ; to which is added that of 
milking the cattle, and making the cheese and butter. 
The women, moreover, fiU up their idle hours in weav- 
ing the coarse blankets, or " numuds," in plaiting mats, 
and manufacturing various articles of dress or household 
use. The more costly parts of their costume, however, 
are not of native manufacture ; these are obtained by 
trade. 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 this 
valuable animal in their possession, — the dromedary with 
two humps, and the common camel. The third sort is a 
cross breed — or " mule " — between these two. The 


dromedary is slightly made, and swifter than either of 
the others, but it is not so powerful as either ; and being 
inferior as a beast of burden, is least cared for by the 
Turcomans. The one-humped camel is in more general 
use, and a good one will carry a load of six or seven 
hundred pounds with ease. The mule camel is more 
powerful than either of its parents, and also more docile 
and capable of greater endurance. It grows to a very 
large size, but is low in proportion to its bulk, with stout, 
bony legs, and a large quantity of coarse, shaggy hair on 
its haunch, shoulders, neck, and even on the crown of 
its head, which gives it a strange, somewhat fantastic 
appearance. Its color varies from light gray to brown, 
though it is as often nearly black. This kind of camel 
will carry a load of from eight hundred to a thousand 

The Turcoman sheep are of the large-tailed breed, — 
their tails often attaining enormous dimensions. This 
variety of sheep is a true denizen of the desert, the fat 
tail being unquestionably a provision of nature against 
seasons of hunger, — just as in the single protuberance, 
or " hump," upon the camel. 

The horse of the Turcoman is the animal upon which 
he sets most value. The breed possessed by him is cele- 
brated over all Eastern Asia, as that of the Arab is in 
the West. They cannot be regarded, however, as hand- 
some horses, according to the true standard of "hor3e 
beauty ; " but the Turcoman cares less for this than for 
other good q];ialities. In point of speed and endurance 
they are not excelled, if equalled, by the horses of any 
other country. 

Their size is that of the common Enghsh horse, but 


thej are very different in make. Their bodies are long 
in proportion to the bulk of carcass ; and they do not 
appear to possess sufficient compactness of frame. Their 
legs are also long, generally falling off in muscular de- 
velopment below the knee-joint ; and they would appear 
to an Enghsh jockey too narrow in the counter. They 
have also long necks, with large heavy heads. These 
are the points which are generally observed in the Tur- 
coman horses ; but it is to be remarked, that it is only 
when in an under-condition they look so ungraceful ; and 
in this condition their owners are accustomed to keep 
them, especially when they have any very heavy service 
to perform. Feeding produces a better shape, and brings 
them much nearer to the look of a well-bred Enghsh 

Theii' powers of endurance are indeed, almost incredi- 
ble : when trained for a chappow, or plundering expedi- 
tion, they will carry their rider and provisions for seven 
or eight days together, at the rate of twenty or even 
thirty fursungs — that is, from eighty to one hundred 
miles — a day. Their mode of training is more like 
that of our pugihstic and pedestrian performers, than 
that adopted for race-horses. When any expedition of 
great length, and requiring the exertion of much speed, is 
in contemplation, they commence by running their horses 
every day for many miles together ; they feed them spar- 
ingly on barley alone, and pile numuds upon them at 
night to sweat them, until every particle of fat has been 
removed, and the flesh becomes hard and tendonous. 
Of this they judge by the feel of the muscles, particu- 
larly on the crest, at the back of the neck, and on the 
haunches ; and when these are sufficiently firm and 


hard, they saj in praise of the animal, that "his flesh 
is marble." After this sort of training, the horse will 
proceed with expedition and perseverance, for almost 
any length of time, without either falling off in condition 
or knocking up, while horses that set out fat seldom sur- 
vive. They are taught a quick walk, a light trot, or a 
sort of amble, which carries the rider on easily, at the 
rate of six miles an hour ; but they will also go at a 
round canter, or gallop, for :^rty or fifty miles, without 
ever drawing bridle or showing the least symptom of 
fatigue. Their yaboos, or gallow^ays, and large ponies 
are 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 the 
larger breeds, but more within the reach of the poorer 
classes, and consequently used in by far greater numbers 
than the superior and more expensive horses. 

" It is a common practice of the Turcomans to teach 
their horses to fight with their heels, and thus assist 
their masters in the time of action. At the will of their 
riders they will run at and lay hold with their teeth 
of whatever man or animal may be before them. This 
acquirement is useful in the day of battle and plunder, 
for catching prisoners and stray cattle, but it at the 
same time renders them vicious and dangerous to be 

In addition to the flocks and herds, the Turcomans 
possess a breed of very large fierce dogs, to assist them 
in keeping their cattle. " These are also necessary as 
watch-dogs, to protect the camp from thieves as well as 
more dangerous enemies to their peace ; and so well 
trained are those faithful creatures, that it would be 


impossible for either friend or enemy to approacli a Tur- 
coman camp without the inmates being forewarned in 
time. Two or three of these dogs maj always be seen 
lying by the entrance of each tent ; and throughout the 
night several others keep sentry at the approaches to the 
camp. ^ 

Other breeds of dogs owned by them are used for 
hunting, -^ for these wild wanderers sometimes devote 
their hours to the chase. They have two sorts, — a 
smooth-skinned dog, half hound half pointer, that hunts 
chiefly by the scent ; and a greyhound, of great swift- 
ness, with a coat of long, silky hair, which they make 
use of in coursing, — hares and antelopes being their 

They have a mode of hunting — also practised by 
the Persians — which is pecuhar. It should rather be 
termed hawking than hunting, as a hawk is employed 
for 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 and 
even the wild ass that is found in plenty upon the plains 
of Turcomania. You will wonder how a bird, not 
larger than the common falcon, could capture such game 
as this ; but it will appear simple enough when the 
method has been explained. The " goork " is trained to 
fly at the quadruped, and fix its claws in one particular 
phice, — that is, upon the frontlet, just between the eyes. 
When thus attached, the bu'd, instead of closing its wings 
and remaining at rest, keeps them constantly in motion, 
flapping them over the eyes of the quadruped. Tliis it 
does, no doubt, to enable it to retain its perch ; while the 
unfortunate animal, thus assailed, knows not in what 


direction to run, and is soon overtaken by the pursuing 
sportsmen, and either speared or shot with the bow and 

Wild boars are frequently hunted by the Turcomans ; 
and this, like everything else with these rude centaurs, 
is performed on horseback. The bow and arrow is but 
a poor weapon when employed against the thick, tough 
hide of the Hyrcanian boar (for he is literally the Hyr- 
canian boar), and of course the matchlock would be 
equally ineffective. How, then, does the Turcoman 
sportsman manage to bag this bristly game ? With all 
the ease in the world. It costs him only the effort of 
galloping his horse close up to the side of the boar after 
he has been brought to by the dogs, and then suddenly 
wheeling the steed. The latter, well trained to the task, 
without further prompting, goes through the rest of the 
performance, which consists in administering to the boar 
such a slap with his iron-shod heel, as to prostrate the 
porcine quadruped, often kilUng it on the instant ! 

Such employments and such diversions occupy only 
a small portion of the Turcoman's time. He follows 
another calling of a far less creditable character, which 
unfortunately he regards as the most honorable occupa- 
tion of his hfe. This is the calling of the robber. His 
pastoral pursuits are matters of only secondary con- 
sideration. He only looks to them as a means of sup- 
plying his daily wants, — his food and the more neces- 
sary portion of his clothing ; but he has other wants that 
may be deemed luxuries. ' He requires to keep up his 
stock of horses and camels, and wishes to increase them. 
He needs costly gear for his horse, and costly garments 
for himself, — and he is desirous of being possessed of 


fine weapons, such as spears, swords, bows, matchlocks, 
daggers, and pistols. His most effective weapons are 
the spear and sword, and these are the kinds he chiefly 

His spear consists of a steel head with four flutes, 
and edges very sharp, fixed upon a slender shaft of from 
eight to ten feet in length. In using it he couches it 
under the left arm, and directs it with the right hand, 
either straightforward, or to the right or left ; if to the 
right, the butt of the shaft hes across the hinder part 
of the saddle ; if to the left, the forepart of the spear 
rests on the horse's neck. The Turcomans manage 
their horses with the left hand, but most of these are so 
well broken as to obey the movement of the knee, or 
the impulse of the body. When close to their object, 
they frequently grasp the spear with both hands, to give 
greater effect to the thrust. The horse, spurred to the 
full speed of a charge, in this way, offers an attack no 
doubt very formidable in appearance, but perhaps less 
really dangerous than the other, in which success de- 
pends so greatly on skill and address. The Turcomans 
are all sufficiently dexterous with the sword, which is 
almost 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 ti-avellers they have 
plundered, and procure a few more occasionally from the 
Russians by the way of Bokara. Some use bows and 
arrows, but they are by no means so dexterous as theu* 
ancestors were in the handhng of those weapons. 

Mounted, then, upon his matchless steed, and anned 
with spear and sword, the Turcoman goes forth to prac- 


tise his favorite profession, — that of plunder. He does 
not go alone, nor with a small number of his comrades, 
either. The number depends altogether on the distance 
or danger of the expedition ; and where these are con- 
sidered great, a troop of fire hundred, or even a thou- 
sand, usually proceed together upon their errand. 

You will be inquiring to what point they direct them- 
selves, — east, west, north, or south ? That altogether 
depends upon who may be their enemies for the time, for 
along with their desire for booty, there is also mixed up 
something like a sentiment of hostility. In this respect, 
however, the Turcoman is a true Ishmaehte, and in lack 
of other victim he will not hesitate to plunder the people 
of a kindred race. Indeed, several of the Turcoman 
tribes have long been at war with one another; and 
their animosity is quite as deadly among themselves as 
when directed against strangers to their race. The hutt, 
however, of most of the Turcoman expeditions is the 
northern part of Persia, — Korassan in particular. It 
is into this province that most of their great forays are 
directed, either against the peaceful citizens of the Per- 
sian towns and villages, or as often against the merchant 
caravans that are constantly passing between Teheran 
and the cities of the east, — Mushed, Balkh, Bokara, 
Herat, and Kelat. I have already stated that these 
forays are pushed far into the interior of Persia ; and 
the fact of Persia permitting such a state of things to 
continue will perhaps surprise you ; but you would not 
be surprised were you better acquainted with the con- 
dition of that kingdom. From historic associations, you 
beheve Persia to be a powerful nation ; and so it once 
was, both powerful and prosperous. That day is past ; 

THE turco:mans. 239 

and at the present hour, this decaying monarchy is not 
only powerless to maintain order within its own borders, 
but is even threatened with annihilation from those very 
nomad races that have so often given laws to the great 
empires of Asia. Even at this moment, the more pow- 
erful Tartar Elians turn a longing look towards the 
tottering tlu'one of Nadir Shah ; and he of Khiva has 
more than once made a feint at invasion. But the sub- 
ject is too extensive to be discussed here. It is only 
introduced to explain with what facihty a few hundreds 
of Turcoman robbers can enter and harass the land. 
We find a parallel in many other parts of the world, — 
old as well as new. In the latter, the northern provinces 
of Mexico, and the southern countries of La Plata and 
Paraguay, are in just such a condition : the weak, worn- 
out descendants of the Spanish conquerors on one side, 
weU representing the remnants of the race of Nadir 
Shah ; while, on the other, the Turcoman is type enough 
of the Red Indian. The comparison, however, is not 
. just to the latter. He, at least, is possessed of courage 
and prowess ; while the Turcoman, notwithstanding his 
propensities for plunder, and the bloodthirsty ferocity 
of his character, is as arrant a coward as ever carried 
lance. Even the Persian can cope with him, when 
fairly matched ; and the merchant-caravans, — which 
are usually made up of true Turks, and other races 
possessing a httle "pluck," are never attacked, unless 
when outnumbered in the ratio of three to one. 

For all this, the whole northern portion of the Per- 
sian kingdom 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 plunderers 


make their appearance, and there dwell till the latter 
have ridden away, — driving off their flocks and herds 
to the desert fastnesses. Even the poor farmer is 
obhged to build a fortress in the middle of his fields, 
to which he may retire upon the occasion of any sud- 
den alarm, and his laborers till the ground with their 
swords by their sides, and their matchlocks lying near 1 

These field fortresses of Korassan are altogether so 
curious, both as to construction and purpose, that we 
cannot pass them without a word of description. They 
are usually placed in some conspicuous place, at a con- 
venient distance from all parts of the cultivated tract. 
They are built of mud, and raised to a height of fifteen 
or twenty feet, of a circular form, — bearing some re- 
semblance to the well-known round towers of Ireland. 
A small aperture is left open at the bottom, through 
which those seeking shelter may just squeeze their 
bodies, and this being barricaded inside, the defence 
is complete. From the top — which can be reached 
easily on the inside — the farmer and his laborers can 
use their matchlocks with effect; but they are never 
called upon to do so, — as the cowardly freebooter takes 
good care to give the mud tower a wide birth. He has 
no weapons by which he might assail it ; and, moreover, 
he has no time for sieges : since an hour's delay might 
bring him into danger from the force that is fast ap- 
proaching. His only thought is to keep on his course, 
and sweep off such cattle, or make prisoners of such 
people as he may chance to find unwarned and un- 
armed. Now and then he ventures upon an attack — 
where there is much booty to tempt him, and but a 
weak force to defend it. His enemies, — the hated 


" Kuzzilbashes," as he calls the Persians, — if defeated, 
have no mercy to expect from him. All who resist are 
killed upon the spot, and often torture is the mode of 
their death; but if they can be made prisoners, the 
desert-robber prefers letting them hve, as a captive is 
to him a more valuable consideration than the death 
of an enemy. His prisoner, once secured, knows tol- 
erably well what is to follow. The first thing the Tur- 
coman does is to bind the victim's hands securely behind 
his back ; he then puts a long halter around his neck, 
attaching the other end of it to the tail of his horse, and 
in this fashion the homeward march commences. If the 
poor pedestrian does not keep pace with the horse, he 
knows what he may expect, — to be dragged at intervals 
along the ground, and perhaps torn to pieces upon the 
rocks. With this ho"rrid fate before his fancy, he makes 
efforts almost superhuman to keep pace with the troop 
of his inhuman captors : though well aware that they 
are leading him off into a hopeless bondage. 

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

On arriving at the robber-camp, the captive is not 
kept long in suspense as to his future fate. His owner 
— for he is now in reality a slave — wants a new sword, 
or a piece of silken cloth, or a camel, or some other 
article of luxury. That he can obtain either at Khiva 
or Bokara, in exchange for his slave ; and therefore the 
11 P . 


new captive — or captives, as the chance may be — is 
marched off to the ready market. This is no isolated 
nor rare incident. It is one of everyday occurrence ; 
and it is a noted fact, that of the three hundred thou- 
sand people who constitute the subjects of the Khivan 
Khan, nearly one half are Persian slaves obtained from 
the robbers of Turcomania ! 

The pohtical organization of the Turcomans is of the 
patriarchal character. From necessity they dwell in 
small communities that are termed " teers," the hteral 
signification of Avliich is " arrows," — though for what 
reason they are so styled does not appear. Perhaps it 
is 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 to 

Over each tribe or teer there is a chief, similar to the 
" sheik " of the Arab tribes, — and indeed, many of their 
customs offer a close analogy to those of the wandering 
Bedouins of Arabia and Egypt, and the Kabyles of 
Morocco and the Algerine provinces. The circumstances 
of life — almost alike to both — could not fail to pro- 
duce many striking resemblances. 

The Turcoman tribes, as already observed, frequently 
go to war with each other, but they oftener unite to rob the 
common enemy, — the caravan or the Persian village. 
In these mere plundering expeditions they go in such 
numbers as the case may require ; but when called forth 
to take side in anything hke a national war, they can 
muster to the strength of many thousands ; and then 
indeed, they become terrible, — even to the most potent 
sovereigns of Central Asia, by whom much diplomacy 


entirely naked, — if we except a little belt of three or 
four inches in width, made from cotton or the bark of 
trees, and called the guayuco, which they wear around 
the waist, — but even tliis is worn from no motives of 

What they regard in the hght of a costume is a coat 
of paint, and about this they are as nice and particu- 
lar as a Parisian dandy. Talk about "bloonung up" 
a faded helle for the ball-room, or the time spent by an 
exquisite in adjusting the tie of his cravat ! these are 
trifles when compared with the lengthy and elaborate 
toilette of an Ottomac lady or gentleman. 

The greater part of a day is often spent by them in a 
single dressing, with one or two helpers to assist in the 
operation ; and this is not a tattooing process, intended to 
last for a lifetime, but a costume certain to be disfigured, 
or entirely washed off, at the first exposure to a heavy 
shower of rain. Add to this, that the pigments which 
are used for the purpose are by no means easily ob- 
tained : the vegetable substances which furnish them 
are scarce in the Ottomac country ; and it costs one of 
these Indians the produce of several days of his labor 
to purchase sufficient paint to give his whole skin a single 
" coat." For this reason the Ottomac paints his body 
only on grand occasions, — contenting himself at ordinary 
times 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 consists 
of the dye called " annotto," which is obtained from the 
fruit pulp of the Bixa orellana, and which the Indians 
knew how to prepare previous to their intercourse with 
Europeans. Over this red ground is then formed a lat- 


tice-work of lines of black, with a dot in the centre of 
every Uttle square or diamond. The black dye is the 
" caruto," also a vegetable pigment, obtained from the 
Genipa Americana. If the gentleman be rich enough 
to p.ossess a little " chica " which is a beautiful lake-col- 
ored red, — also the produce of a plant, — the Bignoni, 
chica, he will then feel all the ecstatic delight of a fash- 
ionable dandy who possesses a good wardrobe ; and, with 
half a pound of turtle-oil rubbed into his long black 
tresses, he will regard himself as dressed " within an 
inch of his life." It is not always, however, that he can 
afford the chica, — for it is one of the costliest materials 
of which a South American savage can manufacture his 

The Ottomac takes far less trouble in the building of 
his house. ' Yery often he builds none ; but when he 
wishes to guard his body from the rays of the sun, or 
the periodical rains, he constructs him a shght edifice 
— a mere hut — out of saplings or bamboos, with a 
thatch of palm-leaves. 

His arms consist of the universal bow and arrows, 
which he manages with much dexterity; and he has 
also a harpoon which he employs in killing the ma- 
natee and the alhgator. He has, besides, several other 
weapons, to aid him in the chase and fishing, — the latter 
of which forms his principal employment as well as his 
chief source of subsistence. 

The Ottomac belongs to one of those tribes of Indians 
termed by the Spanish missionaries Indios andantes, that 
is " wandering," or " vagabond Indians," who instead of 
remaining in fixed and permanent villages, roam about 
from place to place, as necessity or inchnation dictates. 


Perhaps this arises from the pecuHarity of the country 
which they inhabit : for the Indios andantes do not live 
in 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 /ecy- 
thys), which produce the dehcious "■Brazil-nuts" — and 
other plants that supply the savage spontaneously with 
food, are sparsely found ; and as the savannas ai'e an- 
nually inundated for several months, the Ottomac is 
forced, whether he will or no, to shift his quarters and 
try for subsistence elsewhere. When the inundations 
have subsided and the waters become settled enough to 
permit of fishing, the Ottomac " winter " is over, and he 
can obtain food in plenty froiii the alligators, the mana- 
tees, the turtles, the toninas or dolphins, and other 
large fish that frequent the great stream upon which 
he dwells. Of these the manatee is the most important 
in the eyes of the Ottomac — as it is the largest in size, 
and consequently furnishes him with the greatest amount 
of meat. 

This singular semi-cetaceous creature is alinost too 
well known to require description. It is found in nearly 
all the large rivers of tropical America, where it feeds 
upon the grass and aquatic plants growing along their 
banks. It is known by various names, according to the 
place and people. The Spaniards call it vaca marina, 
or " sea-cow," and the Portuguese peixe hoi, or " fish-ox," 
— both being appellations equally inappropriate, and 
having their origin in a slight resemblance which there 
exists between the animal's " countenance " and that of 
an ox. 

The West Indian Qame is the one we have given, 


though the true orthography is manati, not manatee, 
since the word is of Indian origin. Some writers deny 
this, alleging that it is a derivative from the Spanish 
word " mano," a hand, signifying, therefore, the fish with 
hands, — in allusion to the rudimentary hands which 
form one of its distinguishing characteristics. This is 
the account of the historian Oviedo, but another Spanish 
missionary, Father Gili, offers a more correct explana- 
tion of the name, — in fact, he proves, what is neither 
more nor less than the simple truth, that " manati " was 
the name given to this animal by the natives of Hayti 
and Cuba, — where a species is also found, — and the 
word has no reference whatever to the " hands " of the 
creature. The resemblanoe to the Spanish word which 
should signify " handed," is merely an accidental circum- 
stance ; and, as the acute Humboldt very justly remai'ks, 
according to the genius of the Spanish language, the 
word thus apphed would have been written manudOy 
or manon, and not manati. 

The Indians have almost as many different names for 
this creatm^e as there are rivers in which it is found ; 
but its appellation in the " Imgo ageral " of the great 
Amazon valley, is "juarua." Among the Ottomacs it 
is called the " apoia." It may be safely affirmed that 
there are several species of this amphibious animal in 
the rivers of tropical America ; and possibly no one of 
them is identical with that of the West Indies. AU 
have hitherto been regarded as belonging to the same 
species, and described under the scientific title of Ma- 
natus Americanus — a name given to the American 
manati, to distinguish it from the " lamantin " of Africa, 
and the "dusrons;" of the East Indian seas. But the 


West Indian species apj)ears to have certain chai'acter- 
istic differences, which shows that it is a separate one, 
or, at all events, a variety. It is of much larger size 
than those of the South American rivers generally are 
— though there also a large variety is found, but much 
rarer than those commonly captured by the fishermen. 
The West Indian manati has nails well developed upon 
the outer edge of its fins, or forearms ; while those on 
the other kinds are either not seen at all, or only in a 
very rudimentary state. That there are difierent spe- 
cies, may be deduced from the accounts of the natives, 
who employ themselves in its capture : and the obser- 
vations of such people are usually more trustworthy 
than the speculations of learned anatomists. The Am- 
azon fishermen all agree in the belief that there are 
three kinds of manati in the Amazon and its numerous 
tributaries, that not only differ greatly in size — from 
seven to twenty feet long — and in weight, from four 
hundi'ed to two thousand pounds, — but also in the color 
of their skin, and the shape of their tails and fins. The 
species found in the Orinoco, and called " apoia " by the 
Ottomacs, is usually about twelve feet in length, and 
weighs from five hundred to eight hundred pounds ; but 
now and then a much larger individual is captured, per- 
haps owing to greater age, or other accidental circum- 
stance. Humboldt heard of one that weio-hed eioht 
thousand pounds ; and the French naturahst D'Orbigny 
speaks of one killed in the Bolivian waters of the 
Amazon that was twenty feet in length. This size is 
often attained by the Manatus Aniericanus of Cuba and 

The manati is shaped somewhat like a huge seal, and 


has certain resemblances to a fish. Its bodj is of an 
oval oblong, with a large, flat, rounded tail, set horizon- 
tally, and which serves as a rudder to direct its course 
in the water. Just behind its shoulders appear, instead 
of fins, a pair of flippers, which have a certain resem- 
blance to hands set on to the body without arms. Of 
these it avails itself, when creeping out against the bank, 
and the female also uses them in carrying her young. 
The mammae (for it must be remembered that this crea- 
ture is a mammiferous animal) are placed just below and 
behind the flippers. The muzzle is blunt, with thick 
lips, — the upper projecting several inches beyond the 
lower, and covered with a dehcate epidermis : showing 
evidently that it avails itself of this prominence — which 
possesses a keen sense of touch — just as the elephant 
of his proboscis. The lips are covered with bristles, or 
beard, which impart a kind of human-like expression to 
the animal's countenance, — a circumstance more ob- 
servable in the " dugongs " of the Oriental waters. 
" Woman-fish," too, these have been called, and no doubt 
such creatures, along with the seals and walruses, have 
given rise to many a story of sirens and mermaids. The 
" cow-face," however, from which the manati obtains its 
Spanish and Portuguese epithets, is the most charac- 
teristic ; and m its food we find a still greater analogy 
to the bovine quadruped with which it is brought in 
comparison. Beyond this the resemblance ceases. The 
body is that of a seal ; but instead of being covered with 
hah', as the cetaceous animal, the manati has a smooth 
skin that resembles india-rubber more than anything 
else. A few short hairs are set here and there, but 
they are scarce observable. The color of the manati is 


that of lead, with a few motthngs of a pinkish-white hue 
upon the belly ; but in this respect there is no uniform- 
ity. Some are seen with the whole under-parts of a 
uniform cream-color. 

The lungs of this animal present a peculiarity worthy 
of being noted. They are very voluminous, — being 
sometimes three feet in length, and of such a porous and 
elastic nature as to be capable of immense extension. 
When bloAvn out, they present the apjDcarance of great 
swimming bladders ; and it is by means of this capacity 
for containing air that the manati is enabled to remain 
so long under water, — though, like the true cetacece, it 
requires to come at intervals to the surface to obtain 

The flesh of the manati is eaten by all the tribes of 
Indians who can procure it, — though by some it is 
more higlily esteemed than by others. It was once 
much rehshed in the colonial settlements of Guiana and 
the West Indies, and formed a considerable article of 
commerce ; but in these quarters manatis have grown 
scarce, — from the incessant persecution of the fisher- 
men. The flesh has been deemed unwholesome by 
some, and apt to produce fevers ; but this is not the 
general opinion. It has a greater resemblance to pork 
than beef, — though it be the flesh of a cow, — and is 
very savory when fresh, though neither is it bad eating 
when salted or dried hi the sun. In this way it will 
keep for several months ; and it has always been a stock 
article with the monks of the South American missions, 
— who, in spite of its mammiferous character, find it 
convenient, during the days of Lent, to regard it as a 
Jish ! The skiu of the manati is of exceeding thick- 


ness, — on the back an inch and a half at least, though 
it becomes thinner as it approaches the under-parts of 
the body. It is cut into slips which serve various pur-- 
poses, as for shields, cordage, and whips. " These whips 
of manati leather," says Humboldt, " are a cruel instru- 
ment of punishment for the unhappy slaves, and even 
for the Indians of the missions, though, according to the 
laws, the latter out to be treated as freemen." 

Another valuable commodity obtained from this animal 
is oil, known in the missions as manati-butter {manteca 
de manati). This is produced by the layer of pure fat, 
of an inch and a half in thickness, which, lying imme- 
diately under the skin, envelops the whole body of the 
animal. The oil is used for lamps in the mission 
churches ; but among the Indians themselves it is also 
employed in the cuisine, — as it has not that fetid smell 
peculiar to the oil of whales and salt-water cetaceae. 

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

I have been thus particular in my account of this 
animal, because it is more nearly connected Avith the 
history of Ottomac habits than perhaps that of any 
other tribe of South American Indians, — the Guamos 
alone excepted, who may themselves be regarded as 
merely a branch of the Ottomac family. Though, as 
already remarked, all the tribes who dwell upon manati 


rivers pursue this creature and feed upon its flesh, yet 
in no other part of South America is tliis species of 
fishery so extensively or so dexterously carried on as 
among the Ottomacs and Guamos, — the reason being, 
that, amidst the great grassy savannas which charac- 
terize the Ottomac country, there are numerous streams 
and lagoons that are the favorite haunts of this her- 
bivorous animal. In one river in particular, so great a 
number are found that it has been distinguished by the 
appellation of the Rio de 3fanatis (river of manatis). 
The manati, when undisturbed, is gregarious in its 
habits, going in troops (or '' herds," if we preserve the 
analogy) of greater or less numbers, and keeping the 
young '• calves " in the centre, which the mothers guard 
with the tenderest affection. So attached are the parents 
to their young, that if the calf be taken, the mother can 
be easily approached ; and the devotion is reciprocated 
on the filial side ; since in cases where the mother has 
been captured and dragged ashore, the young one has 
often been known to follow the Hfeless body up to the 
very bank ! 

As the manati plays such an important part in the 
domestic economy of the Ottomacs, of course the cap- 
turing of this animal is cai-ried on upon the gi-andest 
scale among these people, and, hke the " harvest of 
turtle-eggs," hereafter to be described, the manati fishery 
has its particular season. Some writers have errone- 
ously stated this season as being the period of inunda- 
tion, 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 time 
when all kinds of fishing is difficult and precarious. 


Then is the true winter, — the " blue months " of the 
South American river Indians ; and it is then, as will 
presently be seen, that the Ottomac comes nearest the 
point of starvation, — which he approaches every year 
of his life. 

There are manati and other kinds of fish taken at all 
times of the year ; but the true season of the manati- 
fishing is when the waters of the great flood have con- 
siderably subsided, and are still continuing to diminish 
rapidly. When the inundation is at its height, the manati 
passes out of the channel current of the great river, and 
in search of grass it finds its way into the lakes and 
surrounding marshes, remaining there to browse along 
their banks. When the flood is rapidly passing away 
from it, it begins to find itself a " little out of its ele- 
ment," and just then is the time when it is most easily 

Sometimes the Indians assemble in a body with their 
canoes, forming a large fleet; and, proceeding to the 
best haunts of the " cow-fish," carry on the fishery in 
a wholesale manner. The monks of the missions also 
head the tame tribes on these expeditions, — as they do 
when collecting the eggs of the turtle, — and a regular 
systematic course is carried on under the eye of dis- 
cipline and authority. A camp is formed at some con- 
venient 'place on the shore. Scaffolds are erected for 
sun-drying the flesh and skins ; and vessels and other 
utensils brought upon the ground to render the fat mto 
oik The manatis that have been captured are all brought 
in the canoes to this central pomt, and delivered up to 
be '-'-jiensed" cured, and cooked. There is the usual 
assemblage of small traders from Angostura and other 


ports on the lower Oiinoco, who come to barter their 
Indian trinkets for the unanteca de manati in the same 
manner as it Avill presently be seen they trade for the 
manteca de tortugas. I need not add that this is a sea- 
son of joy and festivity, hke the wine-gatherings and 
harvest-homes of the European peasantry. 

The mode of capturing the manati is very similar to 
that employed by the Esquimaux in taking the seal, and 
which has been elsewhere described. There is not much 
danger in the fishery, for no creature could be more 
harmless and inoffensive than this. It makes not the 
slightest attempt either at defence or retahation, — 
though the accident sometimes occurs of a canoe be- 
ing swamped or drawn under water, — but this is noth- 
ing to the Ottomac Indian, who is almost as amphibious 
as the manati itself. 

At the proper hour the fisherman starts off in search 
of the manati. His fishing-boat is a canoe hollowed 
from a single trunk, of that kind usually styled a " dug- 
out." On perceiving the cow-fish resting upon the sur- 
face of the water, the Ottomac paddles towards it, ob- 
serving the greatest caution ; for although the organs of 
sight and heai-ing in this animal are, externally, but very 
little developed, it both hears and sees well; and the 
slightest suspicious noise would be a signal for it to dive 
under, and of course escape. 

When near enough to insure a good aim, the Ottomac 
hurls his harpoon into the animal's body ; which, after 
piercing the thick hide, sticks fast. To this harpoon a 
cord is attached, with a float, and the float remaining 
above water indicates the direction in which the wounded 
animal now endeavors to get off. When it is tu-ed of 


struggling, the Indian regains the cord ; and taking it 
in, hand over hand, draws up his canoe to the side of 
the fish. If it be still too lively, he repeatedly strikes 
it with a spear ; but he does not aim to kill it outright 
until he has got it " aboard." Once there, he ends the 
creature's existence by driving a wooden plug into its 
nostrils, which in a moment deprives it of life. 

The Ottomac now prepares himself to transport the 
carcass to his home ; or, if fishing in company, to the 
common rendezvous. Perhaps he has some distance to 
take it, and against a current ; and he finds it inconven- 
ient to tow such a heavy and cumbrous article. To 
remedy this inconvenience, he adopts the expedient 
already mentioned, of placing the carcass in his canoe. 
But how does he get it there ? How can a single Indian 
of ordinary strength raise a weight of a thousand pounds 
out of the water, and lift it over the gunwale of his un- 
steady craft ? It is in this that he exhibits great cun- 
ning and address : for instead of raising the carcass 
above the canoe, he sinks the canoe below the carcass, 
by first filHng the vessel nearly full of water ; and then, 
after he has got his freight aboard, he bales out the 
water with his gourd-shell. He at length succeeds in 
adjusting his load, and then paddles homeward with his 

On arriving at his village, — if it be to the village he 
takes it, — he is assisted in transporting the load by 
others of his tribe ; but he does not carry it to his own 
house, — for the Ottomacs are true socialists, and the 
produce both of the chase and the fishery is the common 
property of all. The chief of the village, seated in front 
of his hut, receives all that is brought home, and dis- 


tributes it out to the various heads of families, — giving 
to each in proportion to the number of mouths that are 
to be fed. 

The manati is flayed, — its thick hide, as already ob- 
served, sei'ving for many useful purposes ; the strata of 
fat, or " blubber," which lies beneath is removed, to be 
converted into oil ; and finally, the flesh, which is es- 
teemed equal to pork, both in dehcacy and flavor, is cut 
into thin shces, either to be broiled and eaten at the time, 
or to be preserved for a future occasion, not by salt, of 
which the Ottomac is entirely ignorant, but by drying in 
the sun and smoking over a slow fii'e. Fish and the 
flesh of the alhgator are similarly " cured ; " and when 
the process is carefully done, both will keep for months. 

The alhgator is captured in various ways : sometimes 
by a baited hook with a strong cord attached, — some- 
times he is killed by a stab of the harpoon-spear, and 
not unfrequently is he taken by a noose slipped over his 
paw, the Ottomac diving fearlessly under liim and adjust- 
ing the snare. 

Some of the Indian tribes will not eat the musky flesh 
of the alhgator ; but the Ottomacs are not thus particu- 
lar. Indeed, these people refuse scarce any article of 
food, however nasty or disagreeable ; and it is a saying 
among their neighbors — the Indians of other tribes — • 
that " nothuig is too loathsome for the stomach of an 

Perhaps the saying will be considered as perfectly 
true when we come to describe a species of food which 
these people eat, and which, for a long time, has ren- 
dered them famous — or rather infamous — under the 
appellation of " dirt-eaters." Of them it may literally 

Q . 


be said that tliey " eat dii't," for such, in reality, is one 
of their customs. 

This singular practice is chiefly resorted to during 
those months in the year when the rivers swell to their 
greatest height, and continue full. At this time all 
fishing ceases, and the Ottomac finds it difficult to obtain 
a sufficiency of food. To make up for the deficiency, he 
fills his stomach with a kind of unctuous clay, which he 
has ah'eady stored up for the emergency, and of which 
he eats about a pound per diem ! It does not consti- 
tute his sole diet, but often for several days together it is 
the only food which passes his lips ! There is nothing 
nourishing in it, — that has been proved by analysis. 
It merely Jills the belly, — producing a satiety, or, at 
least, giving some sort t)f relief from the pangs of hunger. 
Nor has it been observed that the Ottomac grows thin or 
unhealthy on this unnatural viand : on the contrary, he 
is one of the most robust and healthy of American 

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

It was for a long time beheved that the Ottomac 
mixed this clay with cassava and turtle-oil, or some 
other sort of nutritive substance. Even Father Gumilla 
— who was credulous enough to believe almost any- 
thing — could not " swallow " the story of the clay in 
its natural state, but beheved that it was prepared with 


some combination- of farinha or fat. This, however, is 
not the case. It is a pure earth, containing (according 
to the analysis of Yauquehn) silex and alumina, with 
three or four per cent of lime ! 

This clay the Ottomac stores up, forming it into balls 
of several inches m diameter ; which, being shghtly har- 
dened before the fire, he builds into little pyramids, just 
as cannon-balls are piled in an arsenal or fortress. 
"When the Ottomac wishes to eat of the poya, he softens 
one of the balls by wetting it ; and then, scraping off as 
much as he may requii-e for his meal, returns the poya 
to its place on the pyramid. 

The dirt-eating does not entu-ely end with the falling 
of 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 in 

This habit of eating earth is not exclusively Ottomac. 
Other kindi'ed tribes indulge in it, though not to so great 
an extent ; and we find the same unnatural practice 
among the savages of New Caledonia and the Indian 
archipelago. It is also common on the west coast of 
Africa. Humboldt beheved it to be exclusively a tropical 
habit. In this the great philosopher was in error, since 
it is known to be practised by some tribes of northern 
Indians on the frigid banks of the Mackenzie River. 

When the floods subside, as already stated, the Otto- 
mac lives better. Then he can obtain both fish and 
turtles in abundance. The former he cantures, both 
with hooks and nets, or shoots with his arrows, when 
they rise near the surface. 

The turtles of the Ottomac rivers ai'e of two kmds : 


the arau and terecay. The former is the one most 
sought after, as being by far the largest. It is nearly a 
yard across the back, and weighs from fifty to a hun- 
dred pounds. It is* a shy creature, and would be difficult 
to capture, were it not for a habit it has of raising its 
head above the surface of the water, and thus exposing 
the soft part of its throat to the Indian's arrow. Even 
then an arrow might fail to kill it ; but the Ottomac 
takes care to have the point well coated with curare 
poison, which in a few seconds does its work, and secures 
the death of the victim. 

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

He aims his shaft, not at the turtle, but up into the 
air, describing by its course a parabolic curve, and so 
calculatmg its velocity and du-ection that it will drop 
perpendicularly, point foremost, upon the back of the 
unsuspectmg swimmer, and pierce through the shell right 
into the vital veins of its body ! 

It is rare that an Indian will fail in hitting such a 
mark ; and, both on the Orinoco and Amazon, thousands 
of turtles are obtained in tliis 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 the 


manati fisheiy, it is to him what the harvest-home is to 
the nations of northern Europe, or the wine-gathering to 
those of the south ; for this is more truly the character 
of the cosecha. It is then that he is enabled, not only 
to procure a supply of turtle-oil with which to lubricate 
his hair and skin, but he obtains enough of this dehcious 
grease wherewith to fry his di'ied slices of manati, and a 
surplus for sale to the turtle-traders from the Lower 
Orinoco. In tliis petty commerce no coin is required ; 
harpoon-spears, and arrow-heads of iron, rude knives, 
and hachets ; but, above all, a few cakes of annotto, 
chica, and caruto, are bartered in exchange for the 
turtle-oil. The thick hide of the manati, — for making 
slave-whips, — the spotted skin of the jaguar, and some 
other pelts which the chase produces, are also items of 
his export trade. 

The pigments above mentioned have already been 
procm'ed by the trader, as the export articles of com- 
merce of some other tribe. 

The turtle-oil is the product of the eggs of the larger 
species, — the arau, — known simply by the name tor- 
tuga, or turtle. The eggs of the terecay would serve 
equally as well ; but, from a difference in the habit of 
this animal, its essfs cannot be obtained in sufficient 
quantity for oil-making. There is no such thing as a 
grand " cosecha," or crop of them — for the creature is 
not gregarious, hke its congener, but each female makes 
her nest apart from the others, in some solitary place, 
and there brings forth her young brood. Not but that 
the nests of the terecay are also found and despoiled of 
their egg?', — but this only occurs at intervals ; and as 
the contents of a single nest would not be sufficient for 


a "churning," no "butter" can be made of them. They 
are, therefore, gathered to be used only as eggs, and not 
as butter. 

The arau, on the other hand, although not gregarious 
under ordinary circumstances, becomes pre-eminently so 
during the " laying season." Then all the turtles in the 
Orinoco and its tributaries collect into three or four vast 
gangs — numbering in all over a million of individuals 
— and proceed to certain points of rendezvous which 
they have been in the habit of visiting from time im- 
memorial. These common breeding-places are situated 
between the catai-acts of the river and the great bend, 
where it meets the Apure ; and are simply broad beach- 
es of sand, rising with a gentle slope from the edge .of 
the 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 the 
main river, between the points already indicated. That 
frequented by the Ottomacs is upon an island, at the 
mouth of the Uruana River, upon wliich these people 
principally dwell. 

The laying season of the arau turtle varies in the 
diiferent rivers of tropical America, — occurring in the 
Amazon and its tributaries at a different period from 
that of the Orinoco. It is regulated by the rise, or 
rather the fall of the inundations ; and talves place 
when the waters, at their lowest stage, have laid bare 
the low sand-banks upon the shoies. This occurs (in 
the Orinoco) in March, and early in this month the 
great assemblages are complete. For weeks before, 
the turtles are seen, in all parts of the river near the 
intended breeding-places, swimming about on the sur- 


face, or basking along the banks. As tlie sun grows 
stronger, the desire of depositing their eggs increases, 
— as though the heat had something to do with their 
fecundation. For some time before the final action, the 
creatures may be seen ranged in a long line in front of 
the breeding-place, with their heads and necks held high 
above the water; as if contemplating their intended 
nursery, and calculating the dangers to which thej may 
be exposed. It is not without reason that they may 
dwell upon these. Along the beach stalks the lordly 
jaguar, waiting to make a meal of the first that may set 
his foot on terra firma, or to fill his stomach with the 
dehcious "new-laid" eggs. The ugly alHgator, too, is 
equally friand of a gigantic omelette ; and not less so 
the "garzas" (white cranes), and the "zamuros" (black 
vultm-es), who hover in hundreds in the air. Here 
and there, too, may be observed an Indian sentinel, 
keeping as much as possible out of sight of the turtles 
themselves, but endeavoring to di'ive off all other ene- 
mies whose presence may give them fear. Should a 
canoe or boat appear upon the river, it is warned by 
these sentinels to keep well off fi'om the phalanx of the 
turtles, — lest these should be disturbed or alarmed, — 
for the Indian well knows that if anything should occur 
to produce a panic among the araus, his cosecha would 
be very much shortened thereby. 

When at length the turtles have had sun enougrh to 
warm them to the work, they crawl out upon the dry 
isand-beach, and the laying commences. It is at night 
that the operation is carried on : for then their numer- 
ous enemies — especially the vultures — are less active. 
Each turtle scoops out a hole, of nearly a yard in diame- 


ter and depth ; and having therein deposited from fifty 
to 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 in 
one another's nests, breaking many of the eggs, and 
causing an inextricable confusion ; while the creaking 
noise of their shells rubbing against each other may be 
heard afar off, like the rushing of a cataract. Sometimes 
a number that have arrived late, or have been slow at 
their work, continue engaged in it till after daybreak, 
and even after the Indians have come upon the ground 
— whose presence they no longer regard. Impelled by 
the instinct of philoprogenitiveness, these " mad turtles," 
as the Indians call them, appear utterly regardless of 
danger, and make no effort to escape from it ; but are 
turned over on their backs, or killed upon the spot 
without diflaculty. 

The beach being now deserted by the turtles, the egg- 
gatherers proceed to their work. As there are usually 
several tribes, who claim a share in the cosecha, the 
ground is measured out, and partitioned among them. 
The regularity with which the nests are placed, and 
the number of eggs in each being pretty nearly the 
same, an average estimate of the quantity under a 
given surface is easily made. By means of a pointed 
stick thrust into the sand, the outline of the deposit is 
ascertained — usually running along the beach m a strip 
of about thirty yards in breadth. 

When the allotments are determined, the work of 
oil-making begins, — each tribe working by itself, and 
upon the social system. The covering of sand is re- 
moved, and the eggs placed in baskets, which are then 


emptied into large ^vooden troughs, as a common re- 
cei^tacle. The canoes, drawn up on the sand, are fre- 
quently made to do duty as troughs. When a suificient 
number of eggs have been throwTi in, they are broken 
and pounded together, and whipped about, as if intended 
for a gigantic omelette. Water is added ; and then the 
mixture is put into large caldrons, and boiled until the 
oil comes to the top ; after which it is carefully skimmed 
oiF and poured into earthern jars (" botigas,") provided 
by the traders. 

It takes about two weeks to complete the operations, 
during which time many curious scenes occur. The 
sand swarms with young turtles about as big as a dol- 
lar, which have been prematurely hatched ; and have 
contrived to crawl out of the shell. These are chased 
in all directions, and captured by the Mttle naked Otto- 
macs, who devour them " body, bones, and all," with as 
much gusto as if they were gooseberries. The cranes 
and vultures, and young alligators too, take a part in 
this by-play — for the offspring of the poor arau has no 
end of enemies. 

When the oil is all boiled and bottled, the trader dis- 
plays his tempting wares, and makes the best market he 
can ; and the savage returns to his palm-hut village, — 
taking with him the articles of exchange and a few 
baskets of eggs, which he has reserved for his own eat- 
mg ; and so- ends the cosecha de tortugas. 

It is in this season that the Ottomac indulges most in 
good living, and eats the smallest quantity of dirt. The 
waters afford him abundance of fish and turtle-flesh, 
beef from the sea-cow, and steaks from the tail of the 
alligator. He has his turtle and manati butter, in which 


to fry all these daities, and also to lubricate his hair and 

He can, dress, too, "within an inch of his hfe," having, 
obtained for his oil a fresh supply of the precious pig- 
ments. 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 in- 
hales into his nostrils. This is the niopo, manufactured 
from the leaves of a mimosa, and mixed with a kind of 
lime, which last is obtained by burning a shell of the 
genus helix, that is found in the waters of the Orinoco. 
The effect of the niopo resembles that produced by chew- 
ing hetel, tobacco, opium, or the narcotic coca of Peru. 
When freely taken, a species of intoxication or rather 
mania is produced ; but this snuff and its effects are 
more minutely described elsewhere. It is here intro- 
duced because, in the case of the Ottomac, the drug often 
produces most baneful consequences. During the con- 
tinuance of his intoxication the Ottomac is quarrelsome 
and disorderly. He picks a hole in the coat of his 
neighbor ; but if there chance to be any " old sore " 
between hun and a rival, the vindictive feeling is sure to 
exhibit itself on these occasions ; and not unfrequently 
ends in an encounter, causing the death of one or both 
of the combatants. These duels are not fought either 
with swords or pistols, knives, clubs, nor any similar 
weapons. The destruction of the victim is brought 
about in a very different manner ; and is the result of 
a very slight scratch which he has received durmg the 
fio-ht from the nail of his antagonist. That a wound of so 
trifling a nature should prove mortal would be something 
very mysterious, did we not know that the nail which 


inflicted that scratch has been already enfiltrated with 
curare, — one of the deadhest of vegetable poisons, 
which the Ottomac understands how to prepare in its 
most potent and virulent form. 

Should it ever be your unfortunate fate therefore, to 
get into a "scrimmage" with an Ottomac Lidian, you 
must remember to keep clear of his " claws " I 


Young reader, I need scarce tell you that the no- 
blest of animals — the horse — is not indigenous to 
America. You already know that when Columbus dis- 
covered the New World, no animal of the horse kind 
was found there ; and yet the geologist has proved in- 
contestably that at one time horses existed in the New 
World, — at a period too, geologically speaking, not very 
remote. The fossihzed bones examined by one of the 
most accomplished of modem travellers — Dr. Darwin 
— establish this truth beyond a doubt. 

The horse that at present inhabits America, though 
not indigenous, has proved a flourishing exotic. Not 
only in a domestic state has he increased in numbers, 
but he has in many places escaped from the control of 
man, and now runs wild upon the great plains both of 
North and South America. Although you may find in 
America almost every " breed " of horses known in Eu- 
rope, yet the great majority belong to two very distinct 
kinds. The first of these is the large English horse, in 
his different varieties, imported by the Anglo-Americans, 
and existing almost exclusively in the woodland territory 
of the United States. The second kind is the Andalu- 


sian-Arab, — the horse of the Spanish conquerors, — a 
much smaller breed than the Enghsh- Arabian, but quite 
equal to him in mettle and beauty of form. It is the 
Andalusian horse that is found throughout all Spanish 
America, — it is he that has multiplied to such a won- 
derful extent, — it is he that has " run wild." 

That the horse in his normal state is a dweller upon 
open plains, is proved by his habits in America, — for 
in no part where the forest predominates is he found 
wild, — only upon the prairies of the north, and the 
llanos and pampas of the south, where a timbered tract 
forms the exception. 

He must have found these great steppes congenial to 
his natural disposition, — since, only a very short time 
after the arrival of the Spaniards in the New World, we 
find the horse a runaway from civilization, — not only 
existing in a wild state upon the prairies, but in posses- 
sion of many of the Lidian tribes. 

It would be an interesting mquiry to trace the change 
of habits which the possession of the horse must have 
occasioned among these Arabs of the Western world. 
However hostile they may have been to his European 
rider, they must have welcomed the horse as a friend. 
Ko doubt they admired the bold, free spirit of the noble 
animal so analogous to their own nature. He and they 
soon became inseparable companions ; and have contin- 
ued so from that time to the present hour. Certain it 
is that the prairie, or " horse-Lidians " of the present 
day, are in many respects essentially different from the 
staid and stoical sons of the forest so often depicted in 
romances ; and almost equally certain is it, that the pos- 
session of the horse has contributed much to brino; about 


this dissimilarity. It could not be otlierwise. With the 
horse new habits were introduced, — new manners and 
customs, — new modes of thought and action. Not only 
the chase, but war itself, became a changed game, — to 
be played in an entirely different manner. 

"We shall not go back to inquire what these Indians 
were when afoot. It is our purpose only to describe 
what they are now that they are on horseback. Lit- 
erally, may we say on horseback ; for, unless at this 
present writing they are asleep, we may safely take it 
for granted they are upon the backs of their horses, — 
young and old of them, rich and poor, — for there is 
none of them so poor as not to be the master of a 
" mustang " steed. 

In " Prairie-land " every tribe of Indians is in pos- 
session of 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, we 
find the Pawnees, the Kansas, and Osages, — all horse- 
Indians. West of the great mountain-range, the Apa- 
che is mounted : so likewise the Utah, the Navajo, and 
the Snake, or Shoshonee, — the latter rather sparingly. 
Other tribes, to a greater or less degree, possess this 
valuable animal ; but the true type of the " horse- 
Indian " is to be found in the Comanche, the lord of 
that wide domain that extends from the Arkansas to 
the Rio Grande. He it is who gives trouble to the 
frontier colonists of Texas, and equally harasses the 
Spanish settlements of New Mexico ; he it is who car- 
ries his forays almost into the heart of New Spain, — 
even to the gates of the populous Durango. 

Regarding the Comanche, then, as the type of the 

PEAiEiE d;diaxs. 271 

horse-Indians, we shall speak more particularly of him. 
Allowing for some slight difference in the- character of 
his climate and country, his habits and customs will be 
found not very dissimilar to those of the other tribes 
who make the prairie their home. 

To say that the Comanche is the finest horseman in 
the world would be to state what is not the fact. He 
is not more excellent in this accomplishment than his 
neighbor and bitter foeman, the Pawnee, — no better 
than the " vaquero " of California, the " ranchero " of 
Mexico, the " llanero " of Venezuela, the " gaucho " of 
Buenos Ayres, and the horse-Indians of the " Gran 
Chaco " of Paraguay, of the Pampas, and Patagonia. 
He is equal, however, to any of these, and that is say- 
ing enough, — in a word, that he takes rank among the 
finest horsemen in the world. 

The Comanche is on horseback almost from the hour 
of infancy, — transferred, as it were, from his mother's 
arms to the withers of a mustang. "When able to walk, 
he is scai'ce allowed to practise this natural mode of 
progression, but performs all his movements on the 
back of a horse. A Comanche would no more think of 
making a journey afoot — even if it were only to the 
distance of a few hundred yards — than he would of 
crawlmg upon his hands and knees. The horse, ready 
saddled and bridled, stands ever near, — it differs httle 
whether there is either saddle or bridle, — and flinging 
himself on the animal's back, or his neck, or his croup, 
or hanging suspended along his side, the Indian guides 
him to the destined spot, usually at a rapid gallop. It 
is of no consequence to the rider how fast the horse 
may be going : it will not hinder him from mountmg or 


dismounting at will. At anj time, hy clutching the 
mane, he can spring upon the horse's shoulders, — just 
as may be often seen in the arena of the circus. 

The horse-Indian is a true type of the nomadic races, 
— a dweller in tents, which his four-footed associate 
enables him to transport from place to place with the 
utmost facihty. Some of the tribes, however, and even 
some of the Comanches, have fixed residences, or " vil- 
lages," where at a certain season of the year they — or 
rather their women — cultivate the maize, the pumpkin, 
the melon, the calabash, and a few other species of 
plants, — all being vegetable products indigenous to their 
country. No doubt, before the arrival of Europeans, 
this cultivation was carried on more extensively than 
at present ; but the possession of the horse has enabled 
the prairie tribes to dispense with a calling which they 
cordially contemn : the calling of the husbandman. 

These misguided savages, one and all, regard agri- 
cultural pursuits as unworthy of men ; and wherever 
necessity compels them to practise them, the work falls 
to the lot of the women and slaves, — for be it known 
that the Comanche is a slave-owner ; and holds in bond- 
age not only Indians of other tribes, but also a large 
number of mestizoes and whites of the Spanish race, 
captured during many a sanguinary raid into the settle- 
ments of Mexico ! It would be easy to show that it 
is this false pride of being hunters and warriors, with 
its associated aversion for an agricultural life; that has 
thinned the numbers of the Indian race — far more 
than any persecution they have endured at the hands 
of the white man. Tliis it is that starves them, that 
makes unendurable neighbors of them, and has rendered 


it necessary in some instances to " civilize them off the 
face of the earth." 

But they are not jet all civilized from off the face of 
the earth ; nor is it their destiny to disappear so readi- 
ly as short-seemg proj)hets have declared. Their idle 
habits and internecine wars have done much to thin 
their numbers, — far more than the white man's hos- 
tility, — but wherever the white man has stepped in 
and put a stop to their tribal contentions, — wherever 
he has succeeded in conquering their aversion to indus- 
trial pursuits, — the Indian is found not only to hold his 
ground, but to increase rapidly in numbers. This is the 
case with many tribes, — Creeks, Choctaws, and Chero- 
kees, — so that I can promise you, young reader, that 
by the time you get to be an old man, there will be 
as many Indians in the world as upon that day when 
Columbus first set his foot upon " Cat " Island. 

You will be inquiring how the horse could render the 
prairie Indian more independent of agriculture ? The 
answer is simple. With this valuable auxihary a new 
mode of subsistence was placed within his reach. An 
article of food, which he had hitherto been able to ob- 
tain only in a limited quantity, was now procurable in 
abundance, — the flesh of the buffalo. 

The prairies of North America have their own pecu- 
liaiities. They are not stocked with large droves of 
ruminant animals, as the plains of Southern Africa, — 
where the simplest savage may easily obtain a dinner 
of flesh-meat. A few species of deer, thinly distributed, 
— all swift, shy animals, — the prong-horn antelope, still 
swifter and shier, — and the " big-horn," shiest of all, — 
were the only ruminants of Prairie-land, with the ex- 
12* R . 


ception of tlie great bison, or buffalo, as he is generally- 
called. But even this last was not so easily captured in 
those days. The bison, though not a swift runner, is yet 
more than a match for the biped man ; and though the 
Lidian might steal upon the great drove, and succeed in 
bringing down a few with his arrows, it was not always 
a sure game. Moreover, afoot, the hunter could not 
follow the buffalo in its grand migrations, — often ex- 
tending for hundreds of miles across plains, rivers, 
and ravines. Once mounted, the circumstances became 
changed. The Indian hunter could not only overtake 
the 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 horse 
was a plentiful supply of buffalo-meat, or, when that 
failed, the flesh of the horse himself, — upon which two 
articles of diet the prairie Indian has almost exclusive- 
ly subsisted ever since. 

The Comanche has several modes of hunting the 
buffalo. If alone, and he wishes to make a grand cowp^ 
he will leave his horse at a distance, — the animal being 
trained to remain where his master has left him. The 
hunter then approaches the herd with great caution, 
keeping to leeward, — lest he might be '• winded " by 
the old sentinel bulls who keep watch. Should there 
be no cover to shelter the approach of the hunter, the 
result would be that the bulls would discover him ; and, 
giving out their bellow of alarm, cause the others to 
scamper off. 

To guard against this, the Indian has ah-eady pre- 
pared himself by adopting a ruse, — which consists in 
disguising himself in the skin of a buffalo, horns and 


all complete, and approaching tlie herd, as if he were 
some stray individual that had been left behind, and was 
just on the way to join its fellows. Even the motions 
of the buffalo, when browsing, are closely imitated by 
the red hunter ; and, unless the wind be in favor of his 
being scented by the bulls, this device will insure the 
success of a shot. Sometimes the skin of the large 
wliitish-gray wolf is used in this masquerade with equal 
success. This may appear singular, since the animal 
itself is one of the deadliest enemies of the buffalo : a 
large pack of them hanging on the skirts of every herd, 
and patiently waiting for an opportunity to attack it. But 
as this attack is only du-ected against the younger calves, 
— or some disabled or decrepit individual who may lag 
behind, — the strong and healthy ones have no fear of 
the wolves, and permit them to squat upon the prairie 
within a few feet of where they are browsing ! Lideed, 
they could not hinder them, even if they wished : as the 
long-legged wolf in a few springs can easily get out of 
the way of the more clumsy ruminant ; and, therefore, 
does not dread the lowering frontlet of the most shajrsry 
and ill-tempered bull in the herd. 

Of course the hunter, in the guise of a wolf, obtains 
the like privilege of close quarters ; and, when he has ars 
rived at the proper distance for his purpose, he prepares 
himself for the work of destruction. The bow is the 
weapon he uses, — though the rifle is now a common 
weapon in the hands of many of the horse-Indians. 
But the bow is preferred for the species of " still hunt- 
ing " here described. The first crack of a rifle would 
scatter the gang, leaving the hunter perhaps only an 
empty gun for his pains ; while an arrow at such close 


quarters is eqiiallj as deadly in its effect ; and, being a 
silent weapon, no alarm is. given to any of the buffaloes, 
except that one which has felt the deadly shaft passing. 
throuo;h its vitals. 

Often the animal thus shot — even when the wound 
is a mortal one — does not immediately fall ; but sinks 
gradually to the earth, as if lying down for a rest. 
Sometimes it gets only to its knees, and dies in this 
attitude ; at other times it remains a long while upon its 
legs, spreading its feet widely apart, as if to prop itself 
uj), and then rocking from side to side like a ship in a 
ground-swell, till at last, weakened by loss of blood, it 
yields its body to the earth. Sometimes the struggles 
of a wounded individual cause the herd to " stampede," 
and then the hunter has to content himself with what he 
may already have shot ; but not unfrequently the un- 
suspicious gang keeps the ground till the Indian has 
emptied his quiver. Nay, longer than that : for it often 
occurs that the disguised buffalo or wolf (as the case 
may be) approaches the bodies of those that have fallen, 
recovers some of his arrows, and uses them a second 
time with like deadly effect ! For this purpose it is his 
practice, if the aim and distance favor him, to send his 
shaft clear through the body of the bison, in order that 
the barb may not hinder it from being extracted on the 
other side ! This feat is by no means of uncommon 
occurrence among the buffalo-hunters of the prairies. 

Of course, a grand wholesale slaughter of the kind 
just described is not an every-day matter ; and can only 
be accomplished when the buffaloes are in a state of 
comparative rest, or browsing slowly. More generally 
they detect the dangerous counterfeit in time to save 


their skins ; or else keej) moving too rapidly for the 
hunter to follow them on foot. His only resource, then, 
is to ride rapidly up on horseback, fire his arrows with- 
out dismounting, or strike the victim with his long lance 
while galloping side by side with it. If in this way he 
can obtain two or three fat cows, before his horse be- 
comes Mown, or the herd scatters beyond his reach, he 
considers that he has had good success. 

But in this kuid of chase the hunter is rarely alone : 
the whole tribe takes part m it ; and, mounted on their 
well-trained mustangs, often pursue the buffalo gangs for 
an hour or more, before the latter can get off and hide 
themselves in the distance, or behind the swells of the 
prairie. The clouds of dust raised in a melee of this 
kind often afford the buffalo a chance of escaping, — 
especially when they are running with the wind. 

A ''buffalo surround" is effected by a large party 
of hunters riding to a great distance ; deploying them- 
selves into a circle around the herd ; and then galloping 
mward with loud yells. The buffaloes, thus attacked on 
all sides, become frightened and confused, and are easily 
driven into a close-packed mass, around the edges of 
which the mounted hunters wheel and deliver their 
arrows, or strike those that try to escape, with their long 
spears. Sometimes the infuriated bulls rush upon the 
horses, and gore them to death ; and the hunters, thus 
dismounted, often run a narrow risk of meeting with the 
same fate, — more than a risk, for not unfrequently 
they are killed outright. Often are they obliged to leap 
up on the croup of a companion's horse, to get out of 
the way of danger ; and many instances are recorded 
where a horseman, by the stumbhng of his horse, has 


been pitched riglit into tlie thick of the herd, and has 
made his escape by mounting on the backs of the bulls 
themselves, and leaping from one to another until he has 
reached clear ground again. 

The buffalo is never captured in a " pound," as large 
mammaha are in many countries. He is too powerful a 
creature to be imprisoned by anything but the strongest 
stockade fence ; and for this the prairie country does 
not afford materials. A contrivance, however, of a some- 
what similar character is occasionally resorted to by va- 
rious tribes of Indians. When it is known that the 
buffaloes have become habituated to range in any part 
of the country, where the plain is intersected by deep 
ravines, — canons, or barrancas, as they are called, — 
then a grand hattiie is got up by driving the animals 
pellmell over the precipitous bluffs, which universally 
form the sides of these singular ravines. To guide the 
herd to the point where it is intended they should take 
the fatal leap, a singular contrivance is resorted to. This 
consists in placing two rows of objects — which appear 
to the buffalo to be human beings — in such a manner 
that one end of each row abuts upon the edge of the 
precipice, not very distant from the other, while the lines 
extend far out into the plain, until they have diverged into 
a wide and extensive funnel. It is simply the contrivance 
used for guiding animals into a pound ; but, instead of a 
pair of close log fences, the objects forming these rows 
stand at a considerable distance apart ; and, as already 
stated, appear to the not very discriminating eye of the 
buffalo to be human beings. They are in reality de- 
signed to resemble the human form in a rude fashion ; 
and the material out of which they are constructed is 


neither more nor less than the dung of the buffaloes 
themselves, — the hois de vache, as it is called by the 
Canadian trappers, who often warm their slims, and 
roast their buffalo ribs over a fire of this same ma- 

The decoy being thus set, the mounted hunters next 
make a wide sweep around the prairie, — including in 
their deployment such gangs of buffaloes as may be 
browsing between their hne and the mouth of the fun 
nel. At first the buffaloes are merely guided forward, 
or driven slowly and with caution, — as boys in snow- 
time often drive larks toward their snares. When the 
animals, however, have entered between the convercjino: 
lines of mock men, a rush, accompanied by hideous 
yells, is made upon them from behind: the result of 
which is, that they are impelled forward in a headlong 
course towards the precipice. 

The buffalo is, at best, but a half-bhnd creature. 
Through the long, shaggy locks hanging over his front- 
let he sees objects in a dubious hght, or not at all. He 
depends more on his scent than his sight ; but though he 
may scent a hving enemy, the keenness of his organ 
does not warn him of the yawning chasm that opens 
before him, — not till it is too late to retire : for although 
he may perceive the fearful leap before taking it, and 
would wilUngly turn on his track, and refuse it, he finds 
it no longer possible to do so. In fact, he is not allowed 
time for reflection. The dense crowd presses from be- 
hind, and he is left no choice, except that of springing 
forward or suffering himself to be tumbled over upon 
his head. In either case it is his last leap ; and, fre- 
quently, the last of a whole crowd of his companions. 


Witli such persecutions, I need liarcllj say that the 
buffaloes are becoming scarcer every year ; and it is 
predicted that at no distant period this really valuable , 
mammal will be altogether extinct. At present their 
range is greatly contracted within the wide boundaries 
which it formerly occupied. Going west from the Mis- 
sissippi, — at any point below the mouth of the Missouri, 

— you will not meet with buffalo for the first three 
hundred miles ; and, though the herds formei-ly ranged 
to the south and west of the Rio Grande, the Comanches 
on the banks of that river no longer know the buffalo, 
except by their excursions to the grand prairie far to 
the north of their country. The Great Slave Lake is 
the northern terminus of the buffalo range ; and west- 
ward the chain of the Rocky Mountains ; but of late 
years stray herds have been observed at some points 
west of these, — impelled through the passes by the 
hunter-pressure of the horse-Indians from the eastward. 
Speculators have adopted several ingenious and plau- 
sible reasons to account for the diminution of the numbers 
of the buffalo. There is but one cause worth assigning, 

— a very simple one too, — the horse. 

With the disappearance of the buffalo, — or perhaps 
with the thinning of their numbers, — the prairie In- 
dians may be induced to thrfe% aside their roving habits. 
This would be a happy result both for them and their 
neighbors ; though it is even doubtful whether it might 
follow from such a circumstance. No doubt some change 
would be effected in their mode of life ; but unfortu- 
nately these Bedouins of the Western world can live 
upon the horse, ^en if the buffalo were entirely extir- 
pated. Even as itis, whole tribes of them subsist almost 


exclusively upon horse-flesli, which they esteem and rel- 
ish more than any other food. But this resource vrould, 
in time, also fail them ; for they have not the economy 
to raise a sufficient supply for the demand that would 
occur were the buffaloes once out of the way : since the 
caballadas of wild mustangs are by no means so easy 
to capture as the " gangs " of unwieldy and lumbering 

It is to be hoped, however, that before the horse-In- 

V dians have been put to this trial, the strong arm of civ- 
ihzation shall be extended over them, and, withholding 
them from those predatory incursions, which they an- 
" nuaiMy make into the Mexican settlements, will mduce 
them to dismount, and turn peaceably to the tillage of 
the soil, — now so successfully practised by numerous 
tribes of their race, who dwell in fixed and flourishino; 
homes upon the eastern border of the prairies. 

At this moment, however, the Comanches are in open 
hostility with the settlers of the Texan frontier. The 
lex talionis is in active operation while we write, and 
every mail brings the account of some sanguinary mas- 
sacre, or some act of terrible retaliation. The deeds 
of blood and savage cruelty practised alike by both sides 
— whites as well as Indians^- have had their parallel, 

»^-.V i^ ^^ true, but they are noruie less revolting to read 
'* about. The colonists have suffered much from these 
Ishmaehtes of the West, — these lordly savages, who re- 
gard industry as a dishonorable calling ; and who fancy 
that their vast territory should remain an idle hunting- 
ground, or rather a fortress, to which they might betake 
themselves during their intervals of war and plundering. 
• The colonists have a clear title to the land, — that title 


acknowledged by all right-tliinking men, who believe 
the good of the majority must not be sacrificed to the 
obstinacy of the individual, or the minority, — that title 
which gives the right to remove the dwelhng of the 
citizen, — his very castle, — rather than that the public 
way be impeded. All admit this right ; and just such a 
title has the Texan colonist to the soil of the Comanche. 
There may be guilt in the mode of establishing the 
claim, — there may have been scenes of cruelty, and 
blood unnecessarily spilt, — but it is some consolation 
to know that there has occurred nothing yet to parallel 
in cold-blooded atrocity the annals of Algiers, or the 
similar acts committed in Southern Africa. The c«me 
of smoke-murder is yet peculiar to PelKsier and Pot- 

In their present outbreak, the Comanches have ex- 
hibited but a poor, short-sighted policy. They will find 
they have committed a grand error in mistaking the 
courageous colonists of Texas for the weak Mexicans, — 
with whom they have long been at war, and whom they 
have almost invariably conquered. The result is easily 
told : much blood may be shed on both sides, but it is 
sure to end as all such contests do ; and the Comanche, 
like the Caffi-e, must " go to the wall." Perhaps it is 
better that things should Be brought to a climax, — it 
will certainly be better for the wretched remnant of the 
Spano-Americans dwelhng along the Comanche fron- 
tiers, — a race who for a hundred years have not known 

As this long-standing hostility with the Mexican na- 
tion has been a predominant feature in the history of 
the Comanche Indian, it is necessary to give some ac- 


count of Low it is usually carried on. There was a 
time when the Spanish nation entertained the hope of 
Christianizing these rude savages, — that is, taming and 
training them to something of the condition to which 
thej have brought the Aztec descendants of Montezuma, 

— a condition scarce differing from slavery itself. As 
no gold or silver mines had been discovered in Texas, it 
was not their intention to make mine-laborers of them ; 
but rather peons, or field-laborers, and tenders of cattle, 

— precisely as they had done, and were still doing, with 
the tribes of California. The soldier and the sword had 
proved a failure, — as in many other parts of Spanish 
America, — in fact, everywhere, except among the de- 
generated remnants of monarchical misrule found in 
Mexico, Bogota, and Peru. In these countries was 
encountered the debris of a decKning civilization, and 
not, as is generally believed, the children of a progres- 
sive development ; and of course they gave way, — as 
the people of all corrupted monarchies must in the end. 

It was different with the " Indios bravos," or warrior 
tribes, still free and independent, — the so-called savages. 
Against these the soldier and the sword proved a com- 
plete failure ; and it therefore became necessary to use 
the other kind of conquering power, — the monk and his 
cross. Among the Comanches this kind of conquest had 
attained a certain amount of success. Mission-houses 
sprung up through the whole province of Texas, — the 
Comanche country, — though the new neophytes were 
not altogether Comanches, but rather Indians of other 
tribes who were less warlike. Many Comanches, how- 
ever, became converts ; and some of the " missiones " 
became estabhshments on a grand scale, — each having, 


according to Spanish missionaiy-fasliion, its " presidio," 
or garrison of troops, to keep the new behevers within 
sound of the bell, and to hunt and bring them back, 
whenever they endeavored to escape from that Christian 
vassalage for which they had too rashly exchanged their 
pagan freedom. 

All went well, so long as Spain was a power upon the 
earth, and the Mexican viceroyalty was rich enough to 
keep the presidios stocked with troopers. The monks 
led as jolly a life as their prototypes of " Bolton Abbey 
in the olden time." The neophytes were simply their 
slaves, receiving, in exchange for the sweat of their 
brow, baptism, absolution, little pewter crucifixes, and 
various like valuable commodities. 

But there came a time when they grew tired of the 
exchange, and longed for their old life of roving free- 
dom. Their brethren had obtained the horse ; and this 
was an additional attraction which a prairie life pre- 
sented. They grew tired of the petty tricks of the 
Christian superstition, — to their view less rational than 
their own, — they grew tired of the toil of constant 
work, the childlike chastisements inflicted, and sick of 
the sound of that ever-clanging clapper, — the bell. 
In fine, they made one desperate effort, and freed them- 
selves forever. 

The grand establishment of San Saba, on the river 
of the same name, fell first. The troops were abroad 
on some convert-hunting expedition. The Comanches 
entered the fort, — their tomahawks and war-clubs hid- 
den under their great robes of buffalo-hide : the attack 
commenced, and ended only with the annihilation of the 


One monk alone escaped the slaugliter, — a man re- 
nowned for his holy zeal. He fled towards San Antonio, 
pursued by a savage band. A large river coursed across 
the route it was necessary for him to take ; but this did 
not intercept him : its waters opened for a moment, till 
the bottom was bare from bank to bank. He crossed 
without wetting his feet. The waves closed immediately 
behmd him, offering an impassable barrier to his pur- 
suers, who could only vent their fury in idle curses ! 
But the monk could curse too. He had, perhaps, taken 
some lessons at the Vatican ; and, turning round, he 
anathematized every " mother's son " of the red-skinned 
savages. The wholesale excommunication produced a 
wonderful effect. Every one of the accursed fell back 
where 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 duly 
detailed his mu-aculous adventure to the credulous con- 
verts of Bejar, and the other missions. 

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

The Comanches — freed from missionary rule, and 
now equal to their adversaries by possession of the 
horse — forthwith commenced their plundering expe- 
ditions ; and, with short intervals of truce, — periods en 
paz, — have continued them to the present hour. All 
Northern and Western Texas they soon recovered ; but 


thej were not content witli territoiy : tliey wanted horses 
and cattle and chattels, and white wives and slaves ; and 
it would scarce be credited, were I to state the number 
of these they have taken within the last half-century. 
Neaidy every year they have been in the habit of mak- 
ing an expedition to the Mexican settlements of the prov- 
inces Tamanlipas, New Leon, and Chihuahua, — every 
expedition a fresh conquest over their feeble and corrupt 
adversaries. On every occasion they have returned with 
booty, consisting of horses, cattle, sheep, household uten- 
sils, and, sad to relate, human captives. Women and 
children only do they bring back, — the men they kill 
upon sight. The children may be either male or female, 
— it matters not which, as these are to be adopted into 
theu' tribe, to become future warriors ; and, strange to 
relate, many of these, when grown up, not only refuse 
to return to the land of their birth, but prove the most 
bitter and dangerous foes to the people from whom they 
have sprung ! Even the girls and women, after a period, 
become reconciled to their new home, and no longer de- 
sire to leave it. Some, when afterwards discovered and 
ransomed by their kindred, have refused to accept the 
conditions, but prefer to continue the savage career into 
which misfortune has introduced them ! Many a heart- 
rending scene has been the consequence of such appar- 
ently unnatural predilections. 

You would wonder why such a state of things has 
been so long submitted to by a civilized people ; but it 
is not so much to be wondered at. The selfishness that 
springs from constant revolutions has destroyed almost 
every sentiment of patriotism in the Mexican national 
heart ; and, indeed, many of these captives are perhaps 


not mucli worse off under the guardianship of the brave 
Comanches than they would have been, exposed to the 
petty tyranny and robber-rule that has so long existed 
in Mexico. Besides, it is doubtful whether the Mexican 
government, with all her united strength, could retake 
them. The Comanche country is as inaccessible to a 
regular army as the territory of Timbuctoo ; and it will 
give even the powerful repubhc of the north no small 
trouble to reduce these red freebooters to subjection. 
Mexico had quite despaired of being able to make an 
effort ; and in the last treaty made between her and the 
United States, one of the articles was a special agree- 
ment on the part of the latter to restrain the Comanches 
from future forays into the Mexican states, and also 
cause them to deliver up the Mexican captives then iu 
the hands of the Indians ! 

It was computed that their number at the time 
amounted to four thousand ! It is with regret I have 
to add, that these unfortunates are still held in bondage. 
The great repubhc, too busy with its own concerns, has 
not carried out the stipulations of the treaty ; and the 
present Comanche war is but the result of this criminal 
neghgence. Had energetic measures been adopted at 
the close of the Mexico-American war, the Comanche 
would not now be harrying the settlers of Texas. 

To prove the incapacity of the Mexicans to deal with 
this warlike race, it only needs to consider the pres- 
ent condition of the northern Mexican states. One half 
the territory in that extensive region has returned to the 
condition of a desert. The isolated "ranchos" have 
been long since abandoned, — the fields are overgrown 
with weeds, — and the cattle have run wild, or been 


carried off by the Comancbes. Only tbe stronger set- 
tlements and large fortified baciendas any longer exist ; 
and many of these, too, have been deserted. Where 
children once played in the security of innocence, — 
where gayly-dressed cavaliers and elegant ladies amused 
themselves in the pleasant dia de campo, such scenes are 
no longer witnessed. The rancho is in ruins, — the door 
hangs upon its hinge, broken and battered, or has been 
torn off to feed the camp-fire of the savage ; the dwelling 
is empty and silent, except when the howling wolf or 
coyote wakes up the echoes of its walls. 

About ten years ago, the proud governor of the state 
of Chihuahua — one of the most energetic soldiers of 
the Mexican republic — had a son taken captive by the 
Comanches. Powerful though this man was, he knew it 
was idle to appeal to arms ; and was only too contented 
to recover his child by paying a large ransom ! This 
fact, more than a volume of words, will illustrate the 
condition of unhappy Mexico. 

The Comanche leads a gay, merry hfe, — he is far 
from being the Indian of Cooper's description. In scarce- 
ly any respect does he resemble the sombre son of the 
forest. He is hvely, talkative, and ever ready for a 
laugh. His butt is the Mexican presidio soldier, whom 
he holds in too just contempt. He is rarely without a 
meal. If the buffalo fails him, he can draw a steak 
from his spare horses, of which he possesses a large 
herd ; besides, there are the wild mustangs, which he 
can capture on occasions. He has no work to do except 
war and hunting : at aU other times he has slaves to 
wait upon him, and perform the domestic drudgery. 
When idle, he sometimes bestows great pains upon his 


dress, — whicli is the usual deer-skin tunic of tlie prairie 
Indian, witli moccasons and fringed leggings. Sometimes 
a head-dress of plumes is worn ; sometimes one of the 
skin of the buiFalo's skull, with the homs left on ! The 
robe of buffalo pelt hangs from his shoulders, with all 
the grandeur of a toga ; but when he proceeds on a 
plundering expedition, all these fripperies are thrown 
aside, and his body appears naked from the waist to the 
ears. Then onlj the breech-clout is worn, with leggings 
and moccasons on his legs and feet. A coat of scarlet 
pamt takes the place of the hunting-shirt, — in order to 
render his presence more terrific in the eyes of his 
enemy. It needs not this. Without any disguise, the 
sight of him is sufficiently horrifying, — sufficiently sug- 
gestive of '' blood and murder." 



The vast plain known as the " Pampas " is one of the 
largest tracts of level country upon the face of the earth. 
East and west it stretches from the mouth of the Rio de 
la Plata to the foot-hills of the Andes mountains. It is 
interrupted on the north by a series of mountains and 
hill country, that cross from the Andes to the Paraguay 
River, forming the Sierras of Mendoza, San Luis, and 
Cordova ; while its southern boundary is not so definite- 
ly marked, though it may be regarded as ending at the 
Rio Negro, where it meets, coming up from the south, 
the desert plains of Patagonia. 

Geologically, the Pampas (or plains, as the word sig- 
nifies, in the language of the Peruvian Indians) is an al- 
luvial formation, — the bed of an ancient sea, — upheaved 
by some unknown cause to its present elevation, which is 
not much above the ocean-level. It is not, therefore, a 
plateau or "table-land," but a vast natural meadow. The 
son is in general of a red color, argillaceous in character, 
and at all points filled with marine shells and other tes- 
timonies that the sea once rolled over it. It is in the 
Pampas formation that many of the fossil monsters have 
been found, — the gigantic megatherium^ the colossal my- 


lodon, and the giant armadillo {glyptodon), with many 
other creatures, of such dimensions as to make it a sub- 
ject of speculation how the earth could have produced 
food enousrh for then* maintenance. 

In giving to the Pampas the designation of a vast 
meadow, do not suffer yourself to be misled by this 
phrase, — which is here and elsewhere used in rather a 
loose and indefinite manner. Many large tracts in the 
Pampas country would correspond well enough to this 
definition, — both as regards their appearance and the 
character of the herbage which covers them ; but there 
are other parts which bear not the slightest resem- 
blance to a meadow. There are vast tracts thickly 
covered with tall thistles, — so taU as to reach to the 
head of a man mounted on horseback, and so thickly 
set, that neither man nor horse could enter them with- 
out a path being first cleared for them. 

Other extensive tracts are grown over with tall grass 
so rank as to resemble reeds or rushes more than grass ; 
and an equally extensive surface is timbered with small 
trees, standing thinly and without underwood, like the 
fruit-trees in an orchard. Again, there are wide mo- 
rasses and extensive lakes, many of them brackish, and 
some as salt as the sea itself. In addition to these, 
there are " salinas," or plains of salt, — the produce of 
salt lakes, whose waters have evaporated, leaving a 
stratum of pure salt often over a foot in thickness, and 
covering their beds to an extent of many square leagues. 
There are some parts, too, where the Pampas country 
assumes a sterile and stony character, — corresponding 
to that of the great desert of Patagonia. It is not cor- 
rect, therefore, to regai'd the Pampas as one unbroken 


tract of meadow. In one character alone is it uniform : 
in being a country without mountains, — or any consider- 
able elevations in the way of ridges or hills, — though a 
few scattered sierras are found both on its northern and* 
southern edo;es. 

The Thistle Pampas, as we take the liberty of naming 
them, constitute perhaps the most curious section of this 
great plain ; and not the less so that the " weed " which 
covers them is supposed not to be an indigenous pro- 
duction, but to have been carried there by the early 
colonists. About this, however, there is a difference of 
opinion. No matter whence sprung, the thistles have 
flourished luxuriantly, and at this day constitute a marked 
feature in the scenery of the Pampas. Their position is 
upon the eastern edge of the great plain, contiguous to the 
banks of the La Plata ; but from this river they extend 
backwards into the interior, at some points to the dis- 
tance of nearly tv»"o hundred miles.. Over tliis vast sur- 
face they grow so thickly that, as already mentioned, it 
is not possible for either man or horse to make way 
through them. They can only be traversed by devious 
paths — already formed by constant use, and leading 
thi^ough narrow lanes or glades, where, for some rea- 
son, the thistles do not choose to grow. Otherwise they 
cannot be entered even by cattle. These will not, un- 
less compelled, attempt penetrating such an impervious 
thicket ; and if a herd driven along the paths should 
chance to be " stampeded " by any object of terror, and 
di'iven to take to the tliistles, scarce a head of the whole 
flock can ever afterwards be recovered. Even the in- 
stincts of the dumb animals do not enable them to find 
their way out again ; and they usually perish, either 


»from thirst, or bj the claws of the fierce pumas and 
jaguars, which alone find themselves at home in the 
labyruithine ^^ car donates'' The little viscacha contrives 
to make its burrow among them, and must find subsist- 
ence bj feeding upon their leaves and seed, since there 
is no other herbage upon the gi'ound, — the well-armed 
thistle usurping the soil, and hindering the growth of 
any other plants. It may be proper to remark, how- 
ever, that there are two kinds of these plants, both of 
which cover large tracts of the plain. One is a true 
thistle, while the other is a weed of the artichoke family, 
called by the Spanish Americans "cardoou." It is a 
species of Gardunculus. The two do not mingle their 
stalks, though both form thickets in a similar manner 
and often in the same tract of country. The cardoon 
is not so tall as the thistle ; and, being without spines, 
its " beds " are more easily penetrated ; though even 
among these, it would be easy enough to get entangled 
and lost. 

It is proper to remark here, that these thistle-thickets 
do not shut up the country all the year round. Only for 
a season, — from the time they have grown up and 
" shoot," till their tall ripened stalks wither and fall back 
to the earth, where they soon moulder into decay. "Blie 
plains are then open and free to all creatures, — man 
among the rest, — and the Gaucho, with his herds of 
horses, horned cattle, and sheep, or the troops of roving 
Indians, spread over and take possession of them. 

The young thistles now present the appearance of a 
vast field of turnips ; and their leaves, still tender, are 
greedily devoured by both cattle and sheep. In this 
condition the Pampas thistles remain during their short 


winter ; but as spring returns, they once more " bristle " 
up, till, growing taller and stouter, they present a che- 
vaux-de-frise that at length expels all intruders from 
their domain. 

On the western selvage of this thistle tract hes the 
grass-covered section of the Pampas. It is much more 
extensive than that of the " cardonales," — having an 
average width of three hundred miles, and running 
longitudinally throughout the whole northern and south- 
ern extension of the Pampas. Its chief characteristic 
is a covermg of coarse grass, — which at different sea- 
sons of the year is short or tall, green, bro^vn, or yel- 
lowish, according to the different degrees of ripeness. 
When dry, it is sometimes fired, — either by design or 
accident, — as are also the withered stems of the thistles; 
and on these occasions a conflagration occurs, stupendous 
in its effects, — often extending over vast tracts, and 
reducing everything to black ashes. Nothing can be 
more melancholy to the eye than the aspect of a burnt 

The grass section is succeeded by that of the " open- 
ings," or scanty forests, already mentioned ; but the 
trees in many places are more closely set ; assuming 
the character of thickets, or "jungles." These tracts 
end among the spurs of the Andes, — which, at some 
points, are thrown out into the plam, but generally rise 
up from it abruptly and by a well-defined border. 

The marshes and bitter lakes above mentioned are 
the produce of numerous streams, which have their rise 
in the Great Cordillera of the Andes, and run eastward 
across the Pampas. A few of these, that trend in a 
southerly dkection, reach_ the Atlantic by means of the 


two great outlets, — tlie " Colorado " and " Negro." All 
the others — ■ and " their name is legion " — empty their 
waters into the morasses and lakes, or sink into the soil 
of the plains, at a greater or less distance from the Cor- 
dillera, according to the body of water they may carry 
down. Evaporation keeps up the equihbrium. 

Who are the dwellers upon the Pampas ? To whom 
does this vast pasture-ground belong ? Whose flocks 
and herds are they that browse upon it ? 

You will be told that the Pampas belong to the re- 
pubhc of Buenos Ayres, or rather to the " States of the 
Ai'gentine Confederation," — that they are inhabited by 
a class of citizens called " Gauchos," who are of Spanish 
race, and whose sole occupation is that of herdsmen, 
breeders of cattle and horses, — men famed for their 
skill as horsemen, and for their dexterity in the use of 
the " lazo " and " bolas," — two weapons borrowed from 
the aboriginal races. 

All this is but partially true. The proprietorship of 
this great plain was never actually in the hands of the 
Buenos-Ayrean government, nor in those of their pre- 
decessors, — the Spaniards. Neither has ever owned it 
— either by conquest or otherwise — no further than by 
an empty boast of ownership ; for, from the day when 
they first set foot upon its borders to the present hour, 
neither has ever been able to cross it, or penetrate any 
great distance into it, without a grand army to back 
their progress. But their possession vu'tually ceased at 
the termination of each melancholy excursion ; and the 
land relapsed to its original owners. With the exception 
of some scanty strips along its borders, and some wider 
ranges, thinly occupied by the half-nomade Gauchos, the 


Pampas are in reality an Indian territory, as they have 
always been ; and the claim of the white man is no 
more than nominal, — a mere title upon the map. It is 
not the only vast expanse of Spanish American soil that 
never was Spanish. 

The true owners of the Pampas, then, are the red 
aborigines, — the Pampas Indians ; and to give some 
account of these is now our purpose. 

Forming so large an extent, it is not likely it should 
all belong to one united tribe, — that would at once 
elevate them into the character of a nation. But they 
are not united. On the contrary, they form several 
distinct associations, with an endless number of smaller 
subdivisions or communities, — just in the same way as 
it is among their prairie cousins of the north. They 
may all, however, be referred to four grand tribal asso- 
ciations or nationahties, — the Pehuenches, Puelches, 
Picunches, and Ranqueles. 

Some add the Puilliches, who dwell on the southern 
rim of the Pampas ; but these, although they extend 
their excursions over a portion of the great plain, are 
different from the other Pampas Indians in many re- 
spects, — altogether a braver and better race of men, 
and partaking more of the character of the Patago- 
nians, — both in point of physique and morale, — of 
which 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 char- 
acterizes the true Patagonian. I shall not, therefore, 
lower the standard — neither of their bodies nor their 
minds — by classing them among " Pampas Indians." 

Of these tribes — one and all of them — we have, 


unfortunately, a much less favorable impression ; and 
shall therefore be able to saj but little to their credit. 

The different names are all native. Puelches means 
the people living to the east, from '•^ puel,'^ east, and 
che, people. The Picunches derive this appellation, in a 
similar fashion, from '■^picun," signifying the north. The 
Pehuenches ai'e the people of the pine-tree country, from 
^''pekuen^^ the name for the celebrated " Chih pine " 
{Araucaria) ; and the Panqueles are the men who dwell 
among the thistles, from ranquel, a thistle. 

These national appellations will give some idea of the 
locahty which each tribe inhabits. The Ranqueles dwell, 
not among the thistles, — for that would be an unpleas- 
ant residence, even to a red-skin ; but along the western 
border of this tract. To the westward of them, and up 
into the clefts of the Cordilleras extends the country of 
the Pehuenches ; and northward of both lies the land of 
the Picunches. Their boundary in that direction should 
he the frontiers of the quasi-civilized provinces of San 
Luis and Cordova, but they are not ; for the Picunche 
can at will extend his plundering forays as far north as 
he pleases : even to dovetailing them into the similar 
excursions of his Guaycuru kinsmen from the " Gran 
Chaco" on the north. 

The Puelche territory is on the eastern side of the 
Pampas, and south from Buenos Ayres. At one time 
these people occupied the country to the banks of the 
La Plata ; and no doubt it was they who first met the 
Spaniards in hostile array. Even up to a late period 
their forays extended almost to Buenos Ayres itself; but 
Rosas, tyrant as he may have been, was nevertheless a 
true soldier, and in a grand military expedition against 


them swept their country, and inflicted such a terrible 
chastisement 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 fron- 
tier to a much greater distance from Buenos Ayres ; but 
how long it may continue stationary is a question, — no 
longer than some strong arm — such as that of Rosas 
— is held threateningly over them. 

It is usual to inquire whence come a peoj)le ; and the 
question has been asked of tlie Pampas Indians. It is 
not difficult to answer. They came from the land of 
Arauco. Yes, they are the kindred of that famed peo- 
ple whom the Spaniards could never subdue, — even 
with all their strength put forth in the effort. They are 
near kindred too, — the Pehuenches especially, — whose 
country is only separated from that of the Araucanians 
by the great Cordillera of Chili ; and with whom, as well 
as the Spaniards on the Chihan side, they have constant 
and friendly intercourse. 

But it must be admitted, that the Araucanians have 
had far more than their just meed of praise. The ro- 
mantic stories, in that endless epio of the rhymer Ercilla, 
have crept mto history ; and the credulous Molina has 
endorsed them : so that the true character of the Arau- 
canian Indian has never been understood. Brave he has 
shown himself, beyond doubt, in defending his country 
against Spanish aggression ; but so, too, has the Carib 
and 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 other 
Indiian tribes, — in whose territory the Spaniard has 
never dared to fix a settlement. Brave is the Aran- 


canian; but, beyond this, he has few vii'tues indeed. 
He is cruel in the extreme, — uncivil and selfish, — 
filthy and indolent, — a polygamist in the most approved 
fashion, — a very tp'ant over his oAvn, — in short, talk- 
ing rank among the beastliest of semi-civilized savages, 
— for it may be here observed, that he is not exactly 
what is termed a savage : that is, he does not go naked, 
and sleep in the open air. On the contraiy, he clothes 
himself m stuff of his own weaving, — or rather, that of 
Ms slave-wives, — and hves in a hut which they build 
for him. He owns land, too, — beautiful fields, — of 
which he makes no use : except to browse a few horses, 
and sheep, and cattle. For the rest, he is too indolent 
to pursue agriculture ; and spends most of his time in 
driuking chicha, or tyrannizing over his wives. This 
is the heroic Araucanian who inhabits the plains and 
valleys of Southern Chili. 

Unfortunately, by passing to the other side of the 
Andes, he has not improved his manners. The air of 
the Pampas does not appear to be conducive to virtue ; 
and upon that side of the mountains it can scarce be 
said to exist, — even in the shape of personal courage. 
The men of the pines and thistles seem to have lost this 
quality, while passing through the snows of the Cordil- 
leras, or left it behind them, as they have also left the 
incipient civiHzation of their race. On the Pampas we 
find them once more in the character of the true savage : 
living by the chase or by plunder ; and bartering the 
produce of the latter for the trappings and trinkets of 
personal adornment, supphed them by the unprincipled 
white trader. Puelches an(J Picunches, Pehuenches 
and Ranqueles, all share this character alike, — all are 
treacherous, quarrelsome, and cowardlv. 


But we shall now speak more particularly of their 
customs and modes of life, and we may take the " pine 
people" as our text, — since these are supposed to be 
most nearly related to the true Araucanians, — and, in- 
deed, many of their " ways " are exactly the same as 
those of that "heroic nation." 

The " people of the pines " are of the ordinary stature 
of North- American Indians, or of Europeans ; and their 
natural color is a dark coppery hue. But it is not often 
you can see them in their natural color : for the Pampas 
Indians, like nearly all the aboriginal tribes, are " paint- 
ers." They have pigments of black and white, blue, 
red, and yellow, — all of whfch they obtain from dif- 
ferent colored stones, found in the streams of the Cordil- 
leras. " Yama," they call the black stone ; " colo," the 
red ; " palan," the white ; and " codin," the blue ; the 
yellow they obtain from a sort of argillaceous earth. 
The stones of each color they submit to a rubbing or 
grinding process, until a quantity of dust is produced ; 
which, being mixed with suet, constitutes the paint, 
ready for bemg laid on. 

The Pampas Indians do not confine themselves to 
any particular " escutcheon." In this respect their fancy 
is allowed a wide scope, and their fashions change. A 
face quite black, or red, is a common countenance 
among them ; and often may be seen a single band, 
of about two inches in width, extending from ear to ear 
across the eyes and nose. On war excursions they paint 
hideous figures : not only on their own faces and bodies, 
but on their trappings, and even upon the bodies of their 
horses, — aiming to render themselves as appalling as 
possible in the sight of their enemies. The same trick 


is employed by the warriors of the prairies, as well as 
in many other parts of the world. ♦Under ordinary 
circumstances, the Pampas Indian is not a naked s-avage. 
On the contrary, he is well clad ; and, so far from ob- 
taining the material of his garments from the looms of 
civihzed nations, he weaves it for himself, — that is, his 
wives weave it ; and in such quantity that he has not 
only enough for his own " we^r," but more than enough, 
a surplus for trade. The cloth is usually a stuff spun 
and woven from sheep's wool. It is coarse, but durable ; 
and in the shape of blankets or " ponchos," is eagerly 
purchased by the Spanish traders. Silver spurs, long, 
pointed knives, lance-heads^ and a few other iron com- 
modities, constitute the articles of exchange, with various 
ornamental articles, as beads, rings, bracelets, and large- 
headed silver bodkins to fasten their cloaks around the 
shoulders of his " ladies." Nor is he contented with 
mere tinsel, as other savages are, — he can tell the 
difference between the real metal and the counterfeit, as 
well a§ the most expert assayer ; and if he should fancy 
to have a pair of silver spurs, not even a Jew pedler 
could put off upon him the plated " article." In this 
respect the Araucanian Indian has been distinguished, 
since his earhest intercourse with Europeans ; and his 
Pampas kindred are equally subtle in their apprecia- 

The Pampas Indian, when well dressed, has a cloak 
upon his shoulders of the thick woollen stuff already 
described. It is usually woven in colors ; and is not 
unlike the '" poncho " worn by the " gauchos " of Buenos 
Ayres, or the " serape " of the Mexicans. Besides the 
cloak, his dress consists of a mere skirt, — also of colored 


woollen stuff, being an oblong piece swathed around liis 
loin^, and reaching to the knee. A sash or belt — some- 
times elaborately ornamented — binds the cloth around 
the waist. Boots of a peculiar construction complete 
the costume. These are manufactured in a very simple 
manner. The fresh skin taken from a horse's hmd leg 
is drawn on — just as if it were a stocking — until the 
heel rests in that part which covered the hock-joint of 
tlie original wearer. The superfluous portion is then 
trimmed to accommodate itself as a covering for the 
foot ; and the boot is not only finished, but put on, — 
there to remam until it is worn out, and a new one 
required ! If it should be a little loose at first, that does 
not matter. The hot sun, combined with the warmth 
of the wearer's leg, soon contracts the hide, and brings it 
to " fit like a glove." The head is often left uncovered ; 
but as often a sort of skull-cap or helmet of horse-skin is 
worn ; and not unfrequently a high, conical hat of palm- 
fibre. This last is not a native production, but an im- 
portation of the traders. So also is a pair of enormous 
rings of brass, which are worn in the ears ; and are as 
bulky as a pair of padlocks. In this costume, mounted 
on horseback with his long lance in hand, the Pampas 
Indian would be a picturesque object ; and really is so, 
when clean ; but that is only on the very rarest occa- 
sions, — only when he has donned a new suit. At all 
other times, not only his face and the skin of his body, 
but every rag upon his back, are covered with grease 
and filth, — so as to produce an effect rather " ^tterde- 
malion" than picturesque. 

The " squaw " is costumed somewhat differently. 
First, she has a long "robe," which covers her from 


neck to heels, leaving onlj her neck and arms bare. 
The robe is of red or blue woollen stuff of her own 
weavmg. This garment is the " quedeto." A belt, 
embroidered with beads, called " quepique," holds it 
around the waist, by means of a large silver buckle. 
This belt is an article of first fashion. Over the shoul- 
ders hangs the "iquilla," which is a square piece of 
similar stuiF, — but usually of a different (fye ; and 
which is fastened in front by a pin with k large silver 
head, called the " tupo." The shock of thick, black hair 

— after having received the usual anointment of mare's 
tallow, the fashionable hair-oil of the Pampas Indians 

— is kept in its place by a sort of cap or coiffure, like 
a shallow dish inverted, and bristling all over with 
trader's beads. To this a little bell is fastened ; or 
sometimes a brace of them are worn as ear-rings. These 
tinkle so agreeably in the ears of the wearer, that she 
can scarce for a moment hold her head at rest, but 
keeps rocking it from side to side, as a Spanish coquette 
would play with her fan. 

In addition to this varied wardrobe, the Pampas belle 
carries a large stock of bijouterie, — such as beads and 
bangles 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 from 
the fibrous roots of a reed. She is picturesque enough, 
but never pretty. Nature has given the Araucanian 
woman a plain face ; and all the adornment in the world 
cannot hide its homehness. 

The Pehuenche builds no house. He is a true nom- 
ade, and dwells in a tent, though one of the rudest 
construction. As it differs entirely from the tent of 



the prairie Indians, it may be worth while describ- 
ing it. 

Its framework is of reeds, — of the same kind as 
are used for the long lances so often mentioned ; and 
which resemble hambusa canes. They grow in plenty 
throughout the Pampas, especially near the mountains, 
— where they form impenetrable thickets on the borders 
of the marshy lakes. Any other flexible poles will 
serve as well, when the canes are not " handy." 

The poles being procured, one is first bent into a 
semicircle, and in this shape both ends are stuck mto 
the ground, so as to form an arch about three feet in 
height. This arch afterwards becomes the doorway or 
entrance to the tent. The remaining poles are attached 
to this first one at one end, and at right angles ; and 
being carried backward with a slight bend, their other 
ends are inserted into the turf. This forms the skeleton 
of the tent ; and its covering is a horse-skin, or rather 
a number of horse-skins stitched together, making a 
sort of large tarpauhn. The skins are sewed with the 
sinews of the horse or ox, — which are first chewed by 
the women, until their fibres become separated like 
hemp, and are afterwards spun by them into twine. 

The tent is not tall enough to admit of a man stand- 
ing erect ; and in it the Pehuenche crouches, whenever 
it snows, rains, or blows cold. He has sheep-skins spread 
to sleep upon, and other skins to serve as bed-clothes, — 
all in so filthy a condition, that but for the cold, he might 
find it far more comfortable to sleep in the open air. He 
never attempts to sweep out this miserable lair ; but 
when the spot becomes very filthy, he " takes up his 
sticks " and shifts his penates to a fresh " location." He 


is generally, however, too indolent to make a " remove," 
— until the dii't has accmnulated so as to " be in the 

The Pampas Indian is less of a hunter than most 
other tribes of savages. He has less need to be, — at 
least, in modern days ; for he is in possession of three 
kinds of valuable domestic animals, upon which he can 
subsist without hunting, — ■ horses, horned cattle, and 
sheep. Of course, these are of colonial origin. He 
hunts, nevertheless, for amusement, and to vary his food. 
The larger ostrich (^rhea Americana), the guanaco, and 
the great " gama " stag . of the Pampas {cervus campes- 
tris) are his usual game. These he captures with the 
holas, — which is his chief implement for the chase. In 
the flesh of the stag he may find a variety, but not a 
delicacy. Its venison would scarce tempt a LucuUian 
palate, — since even the hungriest Gaucho will not eat 
it. It is a large beast, often weigliing above three hun- 
dred pounds ; and infecting the air with such a rank 
odor, that dogs decline to follow it in the chase. This 
odor is generated in a pair of glands situated near the 
eyes ; and it has the power of projecting it at will, — just 
as skunks and polecats when closely chased by an ene- 
my. If these glands ai'e cut out immediately after the 
animal is killed, the flesh tastes well enough : otherwise 
it is too rank to be eatable. The Indians cure it of 
the " bad smell " by burying it for several days in the 
ground ; which has the effect of " sweetening " it, while 
at the same time it makes it more tender. 

But the Pampas Indian does not rely upon the chase 
for his subsistence. He is a small grazier in his way ; 
and is usually accompanied in his wanderings by a herd 



of horned cattle and sheep. He has also his stud of 
horses ; which furnish the staple of his food, — for when- 
ever he hungers, a horse is " slaughtered." Strictly- 
speaking, it is not a horse, for it is the mare that is used 
for this purpose. In no part of the Pampas region, — 
not even in the white settlement, — are the mares used 
for riding. It would be considered derogatory to the 
character of either Gaucho or Indian to mount a mare ; 
and these are kept only for breeding purposes. Not 
that the Indian is much of a horse-breeder. He keeps 
up his stock in quite another way, — by steahng. The 
same remark will apply to the mode by which he recruits 
his herds of horned cattle, and his flocks of sheep. The 
last he values only for their wool ; out of which his gar- 
ments are woven ; and which has replaced the scantier 
fleece of the vicuna and guanaco, — the material used 
by him in days gone by. 

From whom does he steal these valuable animals, — 
and in such numbers as almost to subsist upon them? 
That is a question that can be easily answered ; though 
it is not exact language to say that he steals them. 
Rather say that he takes them, by main force and in 
open daylight, — takes them from the Creole Spaniard, 
— the Gaucho and estanciero. Nay, he does not con- 
tent himself always with four-footed plunder ; but often 
returns from his forays with a crowd of captives, — wo- 
men and children, with white skins and ruddy cheeks, — 
afterwards to be converted into his drudges and slaves. 
Not alone to the frontier does he extend these plundering 
expeditions ; but even into the heart of the Spanish set- 
tlements, — to the estancias of grandees, and the gates 
of fortified towns ; andj strange as it may read, this con- 


dition of things has been in existence, not for years, bat, 
at intervals, extending over a century ! 

But what may read stranger still — and I can vouch 
for it as true — is, that white men actually purchase this 
plunder from him, — not the human part of it, but the 
four-footed and the furniture, — for this, too, sometimes 
forms part of his booty. Yes, the surplus, of which the 
Indian can make no use or cares nothing about, — more 
especially the large droves of fine horses, taken from 
the Spaniards of Buenos Ayres, — are driven through 
the passes of the Cordilleras, and sold to the Spaniards 
of Chih! the people of one province actually encour- 
aging the robbery of their kindred race in another! 
The very same condition of things exists in Korth 
America. The Comanche steals, or rather takes, from 
the white settler of Tamauhpas and New Leon, — the 
Apache rieves from the white settler of Chihuahua and 
Sonora : both sell to the white settlers, who dwell along 
the banks of the Rio del Norte ! And all these settlers 
are of one race, — one country, — one kindred ! These 
things have hitherto been styled cosas de Mexico. Their 
signification may be extended to South America : since 
they are equally cosas de las Pampas. 

We are not permitted to doubt the truth of these ap- 
palling facts, — neither as regards the nefarious traffic, 
nor the captive women and children. At this very hour, 
not less than four thousand individuals of Spanish-Mexi- 
can race are held captives by the prairie tribes ; and 
when Rosas swept the Pampas, he released fifteen hun- 
di'ed of similar unfortunates from then- worse than Egyp- 
tian taskmasters, — the Puelches ! 

With such facts as these before our eyes, who can 


doubt the decline of the Spanish power ? the utter en- 
feeblement of that once noble race ? Who can contra- 
dict the hypothetical prophecy — more than once offered 
in these pages — that if the two races be left to them- 
selves, the aboriginal, before the lapse of a single cen- 
tury, will once more recover the soil ; and his haughty 
victor be swept from the face of the American conti- 
nent ? 

Nor need such a change be too keenly regretted. The 
Spanish 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 brave 
and noble race ; and, savage as may be the character of 
that which would supplant it, still that savage has within 
him the elements of a future civilization. 

Not so the Spaniard. The fire of his civilization has 
blazed up with a high but fitful gleam. It has passed 
like the lightning's flash. Its sparks have fallen and 
died out, — never to be rekindled again. 


It is now pretty generally known that there are many 
deserts in North America, — as wild, waste, and inhos- 
pitable as the famed Sahara of Africa. These deserts oc- 
cupy a large portion of the central regions of that great 
continent — extending, north and south, from Mexico to 
the shores of the Arctic Sea ; and east and west for sev- 
eral hundred miles, on each side of the great vertebral 
chain of the Rocky Mountains. It is true that in the 
vast territory thus indicated, the desert is not contin- 
uous ; but it is equally true that the fertile stripes or 
valleys that intersect it, bear but a very small propor- 
tion to the whole surface. Many tracts are there, of 
larger area than all the British Islands, where the desert 
is scarce varied by an oasis, and where the very rivers 
pursue their course amidst rocks and barren sands, with- 
out a blade of vegetation on their banks. Usually, how- 
ever, a narrow selvage of green — caused by the growth 
of cottonwoods, willows, and a few humbler plants — de- 
notes the course of a stream, — a glad sight at all times 
to the weary and thirsting traveller. 

These desert wastes are not all alike, but differ much 
in character. In one point only do they agree, — they 


are all deserts. Otherwise they exhibit many varieties, 

— both of aspect and nature. Some of them are level 
plains, with scarce a hill to break the monotony of the 
view : and of this character is the greater portion of the 
desert country extending eastward from the Rocky 
Mountains to about 100° of west longitude. At this 
point the soil gradually becomes more fertile, — assum- 
ing the character of timbered tracts, with prairie open- 
ing between, — at length terminating in the vast, un- 
broken forests of the Mississippi. 

This eastern desert extends parallel with the Rocky 
Mountains, — throughout nearly the whole of their length, 

— from the Rio Grande in Mexico, northward to the 
Mackenzie River. One tract of it deserves particular 
mention. It is that known as the Llano estacado, or 
" staked plain," It lies m Northwestern Texas, and con- 
sists of a barren plateau, of several thousand square miles 
in extent, the surface of which is raised nearly a thou- 
sand feet above the level of the surrounding plains. 
Geologists have endeavored to account for this singular 
formation, but in vain. The table-like elevation of the 
Llano estacado still remains a puzzle. Its name, how- 
ever, is easier of explanation. In the days of Spanish 
supremacy over this jDart of Prairie-land, caravans fre- 
quently journeyed from Santa Fe in New Mexico, to 
San Antonio in Texas. The most direct route between 
these two provincial capitals lay across the Llano esta- 
cado ; but as there were neither mountains nor other 
landmarks to guide the traveller, he often wandered 
from the right path, — a mistake that frequently ended 
in the most terrible suffering from thirst, and very often 
in the loss of life. To prevent such catastrophes, stakes 


were set up at such intervals as to be seen from one 
another, hke so many " telegraph posts ; " and although 
these have long since disappeared, the great plain stiU 
bears the name, given to it from this circumstance. 

Besides the contour of surface, there are other respects 
in which the desert tracts of North America differ from 
one another. In their vegetation — if it deserves the 
name — thej are unlike. Some have no vegetation 
whatever ; but exliibit a surface of pure sand, or sand 
and pebbles ; others are covered with a stratum of soda, 
of snow-white color, and still others with a layer of com- 
mon salt, equally white and pure. Many of these salt 
and soda " prairies " — as the trappers term them — are 
hundreds of square miles in extent. Again, there are 
deserts of scoria, of lava, and pumice-stone, — the " cut- 
rock prairies " of the trappers, — a perfect contrast in 
color to the above-mentioned. All these are absolutely 
without vegetation of any sort. 

Oil some of the wastes — those of southern latitudes, 
— the cactus apjpears of several species, and also the 
wild agave, or " pita " plant ; but these plants are in 
reality but emblems of the desert itself. So, also, is 
the yucca, which thinly stands over many of the great 
plains, in the southwestern part of the desert region, — 
its stiff, shaggy foliage in no way relieving the sterile 
landscape, but rather rendering its aspect more horrid 
and austere. 

Again, there are the deserts known as " chapparals," 
i — extensive jungles of brush and low trees, all of a 
thorny character ; among which the " mezquite " of sev- 
eral species {mimosas and acacias), the " stink -wood '* 
or creosote plant (koeherlinia), the "grease-bush" {ohione 


canescens), several kinds of prosopis, and now and then, 
as if to gratify the eye of the tired traveller, the tall 
flowering spike of the scarlet fouquiera. Further to 
the north — especially throughout the upper section of 
the Great Salt Lake territory — are vast tracts, upon 
which scarce any vegetation appears, except the arte- 
misia plant, and other kindred products of a sterile soil. 

Of all the desert tracts upon the North- American 
continent, perhajDS none possesses greater interest for 
the student of cosmography than that known as the 
" Great Basin." It has been so styled from the fact 
of its possessing a hydrographic system of its own, — 
lakes and rivers that have no communication with the 
sea ; but whose waters spend themselves within the 
limits of the desert itself, and are kept in equilibrium 
by evaporation, — as is the case with many water sys- 
tems of the continents of the Old World, both in Asia 
and Africa. 

The largest lake of the " Basin " is the " Great Salt 
Lake," — of late so celebrated in Mormon story : since 
near its southern shore the chief city of the " Latter- 
day Saints " is situated. But there are other large lakes 
within the hmits of the Great Basin, both fresh and 
sahne, — most of them entirely unconnected with the 
Great Salt Lake, and some of them having a complete 
system 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 but 
recently entered upon the map, by the numerous very 
intelligent explorers employed by the government of the 
United States. 

Large rivers, too, run in all directions through this 


central desert, some of them faUing into the Great 
Salt Lake, as the "Bear" river, the "Weber," the 
" Utah," from Utah Lake, — upon which the Mormon 
metropohs stands, — and which stream has been ab- 
surdly baptized by these free-living fanatics as the 
" Jordan ! " Other rivers are the " Timpanogos," emp- 
tying into Lake Utah ; the " Humboldt," that runs to 
the lake of that name ; the " Carson " river ; besides 
many of lesser note. 

The hmits assigned to the Great Basin are tolerably 
well defined. Its western rim is the Sierra Nevada, or 
" snowy range " of Cahfornia ; while the Rocky and 
Wahsatch mountains are its boundaries on the east. 
Several cross-ranges, and spurs of ranges, separate it 
from the system of waters that empty northward into 
the Columbia River of Oregon ; while upon its southern 
edge there is a more indefinite " divide " between it 
and the great desert region of the western " Colorado." 
Strictly speaking, the desert of the Great Basin might 
be regarded as only a portion of that vast tract of sterile, 
and almost treeless soil, which stretches from the Mexi- 
can state of Sonora to the upper waters of Oregon ; but 
the deserts of the Colorado on the south, and those of 
the " forks " of the Columbia on the north, are generally 
treated as distinct territories ; and the Great Basin, with 
the limits akeady assigned, is suffered to stand by 
itself. As a separate country, then, we shall here con- 
sider it. 

From its name, you might fancy that the Great Basin 

was a low-lying tract of country. This, however, is 

fiir from being the case. On the contrary, nearly all of 

it is of the nature of an elevated table-land, even its lakes 



lying several thousand feet above the level of the sea. 
It is only by its " rim," of still more elevated mountain 
ridges, that it can lay claim to be considered as a 
" basin ; " but, indeed, the name — given by the some- 
what speculative explorer, Fremont — is not very ap- 
propriate, since later investigations show that this rim 
is in many places neither definite nor regular, — espe- 
cially on its northern and southern sides, where the 
" Great Basin " may be said to be badly cracked, and 
even to have some pieces chipped out of its edge. 

Besides the mountain chains that surround it, many 
others run into and intersect it in all directions. Some 
are spurs of the main ranges ; while others form " sier- 
ras " — as the Spaniards term them — distinct in them- 
selves. These sierras are of all shapes and of every 
altitude, — from the low-lying ridge scarce rising above 
the plain, to peaks and summits of over ten thousand 
feet in elevation. Their forms are as varied as their 
height. Some are round or dome-shaped ; others shoot 
up little turrets or " needles ; " and still others mount 
into the sky in shapeless masses, — as if they had been 
flung upon the earth, and upon one another, in some 
struggle of Titans, who have left them lying in chaotic 
confusion. A very singular mountain form is here 
observed, — though it is not peculiar to this region, 
since it is found elsewhere, beyond the limits of the 
Great Basin, and is also common in many parts of 
Africa. This is the formation known among the Span- 
iards as mesas, or " table-mountains," and by this very 
name it is distinguished among the colonists of the 

The Llano estacado, already mentioned, is often 


styled a " mesa," but its elevation is inconsiderable 
when compared with the mesa mountains that occur in 
the regions west of the great Rocky chain, — both in 
the Basin and on the deserts of the Colorado. Many 
of these are of great height, — rising several thousand 
feet above the general level ; and, with their square 
truncated tahle-like tojDS, lend a pecuHar character to 
the landscape. 

The characteristic vegetation of the Great Basin is 
very similar to that of the other central regions of the 
North- American continent. Only near the banks of the 
rivers and some of the fresh-water lakes, is there any 
evidence of a fertile soil ; and even in these situations 
the timber is usually scarce and stunted. Of course, 
there are tracts that are exceptional, — oases, as they 
are geographically styled. Of this character is the 
country of the Mormons on the Jordan, their settlements 
on the Utah and Bear Rivers, in Tuilla and Ogden 
valleys, and elsewhere at more remote points. There 
are also isolated tracts on the banks of the smaller 
streams and the shores of lakes not yet " located " by 
the colonist ; and only frequented by the original dwell- 
ers of the desert, the red aborigines. In these oases 
are usually found cottonwood-trees, of several distinct 
species, — one or other of which is the characteristic 
vegetation on nearly every stream from the JNIississippi 
to the mountains of California. 

Willows of many species also appear ; and now and 
then, in stunted forms, the oak, the elm, maples, and 
sycamores. But all these last are very rarely encoun- 
tered within the hmits of the desert region. On the 
mountauis, and more frequently in the mountain ravines, 


pines of many species — some of which produce edible 
cones — grow in such numbers as to merit the name of 
forests, of greater or less extent. Among these, or apart 
from them, may be distinguished the darker fohage of 
the cedar {juniperus) of several varieties, distinct from 
the juniperus virginiana of the States. 

The arid plains are generally without the semblance 
of vegetation. TVhen any appears upon them, it is of 
the character of the " chapparal," already described ; its 
principal growth being " tornilla," or " screw-wood," and 
other varieties of mezquite ; all of them species of the 
extensive order of the leguminosce, and belonging to the 
several genera of acacias, immosas, and robinias. In 
many places cactacce appear of an endless variety of 
forms; and some, — as the "pitahaya" {cereus giganteus), 
and the "tree" and "cochineal" cacti {opuntias), — of 
gigantesque proportions. These, however, are only de- 
veloped to theu" full size in the regions further s-outh, — 
on the deserts of the Colorado and Gila, — where also 
the " tree yuccas " abound, covering tracts of large 
extent, and presenting the appearance of forests of 

Perhaps the most characteristic vegetation of the 
Great Basin — that is, if it deserve the name of a 
vegetation — is the wild sage, or artemisia. With this 
plant 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 as 
if the earth were without a leaf to cover it. Instead of 
relieving the eye of the traveller, the artemisia rather 
adds to the drearmess of a desert landscape, — for its 
presence promises food neither to man nor horse, nor 


water for them to di-ink, but indicates the absence of 
both. XJiDon the hill-sides also is it seen, along the 
sloping deehvities of the sierras, marbhng the dark 
volcanic rocks with its hoarj frondage. 

More than one species of this wild sage occurs thi'ough- 
out the American desert : there are four or five kinds, dif- 
iering very considerably from each other, and known to the 
trappers by such names as " worm-wood," " grease-bush," 
" stink-plant," and " rabbit-bush." Some of the species 
attain to a considerable height, — theii* tops often rising 
above the head of the traveller on horseback, — while 
another kind scarce reaches the knee of the pedestrian. 

In some places the plains are so thickly covered with 
this vegetation, that it is difficult for either man or horse 
to make way through them, — the gnarled and crooked 
branches twisting into each other and forming an im- 
penetrable wattle. At other places, and especially where 
the larger species grow, the plants stand apart like apple- 
trees in an orchard, and beai' a considerable resemblance 
to slu-ubs or small trees. 

Both man and horse refuse the artemisia as food ; and 
so, too, the less fastidious mule. Even a donkey will 
not eat it. There are animals, however, — both birds 
and beasts, as will be seen hereafter, — that rehsh the 
sage-plant ; and not only eat of it, but subsist almost 
exclusively on its stalks, leaves, and berries. 

The denizens of the Great Basin desert — I mean its 
human denizens — are comprehended in two great fami- 
hes of the aboriginal race, — the TJtalis and Snakes, or 
Shoshonees. Of the white inhabitants — the Mormons 
and trap-settlers — we have nothing to say here. Xor 
yet much respecting the above-mentioned Indians, the 


Utalis and Snakes. It will be enough, for our pur- 
pose to make known that these two tribes are distinct 
from each other, — that there are manj communities or 
sub-tribes of both, — that each claims ownership of a 
large tract of the central region, lying between the 
Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada ; and that 
their limits are not coterminal with those of the Great 
Basin : since the range of the Snakes extends into Ore- 
gon upon the north, while that of the Utahs runs down 
into the valley of the Eio del Norte upon the south. 
Furthermore, that both are in possession of the horse, 
— the Utahs owning large numbers, — that both are of 
roving and predatory habits, and quite as wicked and 
warlike as the generality of their red brethren. 

They are also as well to do in the world as most In- 
dians ; but there are many degrees in their " civilization," 
or rather in the comforts of their life, depending upon 
the situation in which they may be placed. When dwell- 
ing upon a good " salmon-stream," or among the rocky 
mountain " parks," that abound in game, they manage 
to pass a portion of the year in luxuriant abundance. 
In other places, however, and at other times, their ex- 
istence is irksome enough, — often bordering upon actual 

It may be further observed, that the Utahs and Snakes 
usually occupy the larger and more fertile oases of the 
desert, — wherever a tract is found of sufficient size to 
subsist a community. With this observation I shall dis- 
miss both these tribes ; for it is not of them that our 
present sketch is intended to treat. 

This is specially designed for a far odder people than 
either, — for the Tamparicos, or " Root-Diggers ; " and 


having described tlieir countiy, I shall now proceed to 
give some account of themselves. 

It maj be necessary here to remark that the name 
" Diggers," has of late been very improperly applied, — 
not only by the settlers of California, but by some of 
the exploring officers of the United States government. 
Every tribe or community tlu'oughout the desert, found 
existing in a state of special wretchedness, has been so 
styled ; and a learned ethnologist (!), writing in the 
" Examiner," newsj^aper, gravely explains the name, by 
deriving it from the gold-diggers of Cahfomia ! This 
" conceit " of the London editor is a palpable absurdity, 
— since the Digger Indians were so designated, long 
before the first gold-digger of California put spade into 
its soih The name is of "trapper" origin; bestowed 
upon these people from the observation of one of their 
most common practices, — viz., the digging for roots, 
which form an essential portion of their subsistence. The 
term " yampai'ico," is from a Spanish source, and has a 
very similar meaning to that of " Root-digger." It is 
literally " Yamj)a-rooter," or "Yampa-root eater," the 
root of the "yampah" {anethum graviolens) being their 
favorite food. The true " Diggers " are not found in 
California west of the Sierra Nevada ; though certain 
tribes of ill-used Indians in that quarter are called by 
the name. The great deserts extending between the 
Nevada and the Rocky Mountains are their locality; 
and their hmits are more or less cotemporaneous with 
those of the Shoshonees or Snakes, and the Utahs, — of 
both of which tribes they are supposed to be a sort of 
outcast kindred. This hypothesis, however, rests only on 
a sligrht foundation : that of some resemblance in habits 


and language, whicli are veiy uncertain criteria where 
two people dwell within the same boundaries, — as, for 
instance, the whites and blacks in Virginia. In fact, the 
languao-e of the Dio-gers can scarce be called a lano;uao;e 
at all : being a sort of gibberish hke the growling of a 
dog, eked out by a copious vocabulary of signs : and 
perhaps, here and there, by an odd word from the Sho- 
shonee or Utah, — not unlikely, introduced by the asso- 
ciation of the Diggers with these last-mentioned tribes. 

In the western and southern division of the Great 
Basin, the Digger exists under the name of Paiute, or 
more j^roperly, Pah- Utah, — so-called from his supposed 
relationship with the tribe of the Utahs. In some re- 
spects the Pah-Utahs differ from the Shoshokee, or 
Snake-Diggers ; though in most of their characteristic 
habits they are very similar to each other. There might 
be no anomaly committed by considering them as one 
people ; for in personal appearance and habits of life 
the Pah-Utah, and the " Shoshokee " — this last is the 
national appellation of the yampah-eater, — are as like 
each other as eggs. We shall here speak however, 
principally of the Slioshokees : leaving it to be under- 
stood, that theu" neighbors the " Paiutes " wiU equally 
answer the description. 

Although the Shoshokees, as already observed, dwell 
within the same limits as their supposed kindred the 
Shoshonees, they rarely or never associate with the lat- 
ter. On the contrary, they keep well out of their way, 
— inhabiting only those districts of country where the 
larger Shoshonee communities could not dwell. The 
very smallest oasis, or the tiniest stream, aiFords all the 
fertihty that is required for the support of a Digger 


family ; and rarelj ai*e these people found living more 
than one, or at most, two or three families together. 
The very necessity of then* circmnstances precludes the 
possibility of a more extensive association ; for on the 
deserts where they dwell, neither the earth nor the air, 
nor yet the water, affords a sufficient supply of food to 
support even the smallest " tribe." Not in tribes, then, 
but in single famihes, or little groups of two or three, do 
the Digger Indians dwell, — not in the larger and more 
fertile valleys, but in those small and secluded ; in the 
midst of the sage-plains, or more frequently in the rocky 
defiles of the mountains that stand thickly over the 
" Basin." 

The Shoshokee is no 7iomade, but the very reverse. 
A single and isolated mountain is often the abode of his 
group or family ; and beyond this his wanderings extend 
not. There he is at home, knowing every nook and rat- 
hole in his own neighborhood ; but as ignorant of the 
world beyond as the " sand-rats " themselves, — whose 
pursuit occupies the greater portion of his time. 

In respect to his " settled " mode of hfe, the Shoshokee 
offers a striking contrast to the Shoshonee. Many of the 
latter are Indians of noble type, — warriors who have 
tamed the horse, and Avho extend their incursions, both 
hunting and hostile, into the very heart of the Rocky 
Mountains, — up their fertile valleys, and across their 
splendid "parks," often bringing back with them the 
scalps of the savage and redoubtable Black-feet. 

Far different is the character of the wretched Sho- 

shokeee, — the mere semblance of a Human being, — 

who rarely strays out of the ravine in which he was 

brought forth ; and who, at sight of a human face — be 

14* u 


it of friend or enemy — flies to his crag or cave like a 
hunted beast ! 

The Pah-Utah Diggers, however, are of a more war- 
like disposition ; or rather a more wicked and hostile 
one, — hostile to whites, or even to such other Indians as 
maj have occasion to travel through the deserts they 
inhabit. These people are found scattered throughout 
the whole southern and southwestern portion of the 
Great Basin, — and also in the northwestern part of the 
Colorado desert, — especially about the Sevier River, and 
on several of the tributaries of the great Colorado itself 
of the west. It was through this part of the country 
that the caravans from California to New Mexico used 
to make their annual " trips," — long before Alta Cala- 
fornia became a possession of the United States, — and 
the route by which they travelled is known as the Span- 
ish trail. The object of these caravans was the import 
of horses, mules, and other animals, — from the fertile 
valleys of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, to the 
more sterile settlements of New Mexico. Several kinds 
of goods were also carried into these interior countries. 

This Spanish trail was far from running in a direct 
hne. The sandy, waterless plain — known more par- 
ticularly as the Colorado desert — could not be crossed 
with safety, and the caravan-route was forced far to the 
north ; and entered within the hmits of the Great Basin 
— thus bringing it through the county inhabited by the 
Pah-Utah Diggers. The consequence was, that these 
savages looked out annually for its arrival ; and, when- 
ever an opportunity offered, stole the animals that accom- 
panied it, or murdered any of the men who might be 
found straggling from the main body. When bent on 


such purposes, these Diggers for a time threw aside their 
solitary habits, — assembhng in large bands of several 
hundred each, and following the caravan travellers, hke 
wolves upon the track of a gang of buffaloes. They never 
made their attacks upon the main body, or when the 
white men were in any considerable force. Only small 
groups who had lagged behind, or gone too rashly m 
advance, had to fear from these merciless marauders, — 
who never thought of such a thing as making captives, 
but murdered indiscriminately all who fell into their 
hands. When horses or mules were captured, it was 
never done with the intention of keeping them to ride 
upon. Scarcely ever do the Pah-Utahs make such a 
use of the horse. Only for food were these stolen or 
plundered from their owners ; and when a booty of this 
kind was obtained, the animals were di'iven to some 
remote defile among the mountains, ajid there slaugh- 
tered outright. So long as a morsel of horse or mule 
flesh remained upon the bones, the Diggers kept up a 
scene of feasting and merriment — precisely similar to 
the carnivals of the African Bushmen, after a successful 
foray upon the cattle of the Dutch settlers near the Cape. 
Indeed there is such a very striking resemblance between 
the Bushmen of Africa and these Digger Indians of 
North America ; that, were it not for the distinction of 
race, and some sKght differences in personal appearance, 
they might pass as one people. In nearly every habit 
and custom, the two people resemble each other ; and 
in many mental characteristics they appear truly iden- 

The Pah-Utah Diggers have not yet laid aside their 
hostile and predatory habits. They are at the present 


hour engaged in plundering forays, — acting towards 
the emigrant trains of Cahfornian adventurers just as 
they did towards the Spanish caravans. But they 
usually meet with a very different reception from the 
more daring Saxon travellers, who constitute the 
" trains " now crossing their country ; and not unfre- 
quently a terrible punishment is the reward of their 
audacity. For all that, many of the emigrants, who 
have been so imprudent as to travel in small parties, 
have suffered at their hands, losing not only their prop- 
erty, but their lives ; since hundreds of the bravest men 
have fallen by the arrows of these insignificant savages ! 
Even the exploring parties of the United States govern- 
ment, accompanied by troops, have been attacked by 
them ; and more than one officer has fallen a victim to 
their Ishmaehtish propensities. 

It is not in open warfare that there is any di-ead of 
them. The smallest party of whites need not fear to 
encounter a hundred of them at once ; but their attacks 
ai^e made by stealth, and under cover of the night ; and, 
as soon as they have succeeded in separating the horses 
or other animals from the travellers' camp, they drive 
them off so adroitly that pursuit is impossible. When- 
ever a grand blow has been struck — that is, a traveller 
has been murdered — they all disappear as if by magic ; 
and for several days after not one is to be seen, upon 
whom revenge might be taken. The numerous " smokes," 
rising up out of the rocky defiles of the mountains, are 
then the only evidence that human beings are in the 
neighborhood of the travellers' camp. 

The Dio-o-er is different from other North- American 
Indians, — both in physical organization and intellectual 


character. So low is he in the scale of both, as to 
dispute with the African Bushman, the Andaman Isl- 
ander, and the starving savage of Tierra del Fuego, the 
claim to that point in the transition, which is supposed 
to separate the monkey from the man. It has been 
variously awarded by ethnologists, and I as one have 
had my doubts, as to which of the three is deserving 
of the distinction. Upon matm'e consideration, however, 
I have come to the conclusion that the Digger is en- 
titled to it. 

This miserable creature is of a dark-brown or copper 
color, — the hue so generally kno^vn as characteristic 
of the American aborigines. He stands about five feet 
in height, — often under but rarely over this standard, 

— and his body is thin and meagre, resembhng that of a 
frog stretched upon a fish-hook. The skin that covers it 

— especially that of an old Digger — is wrinkled and 
corrugated like the hide of an Asiatic rhinoceros, — with 
a surface as dry as parched buck-skin. His feet, turned 
in at the toes, — as with all the aborigines of America, 

— have some resemblance to human feet ; but in the 
legs this resemblance ends. The lower limbs are almost 
destitute of calves, and the knee-pans are of immense 
size, — resemblmg a pair of pads or callosities, like those 
upon goats and antelopes. The face is broad and angu- 
lar, with high cheek-bones ; the eyes small, black, and 
sunken, and sparkle in their hollow sockets, not with 
true intelligence, but that sort of vivacity which may 
often be observed in the lower animals, especially in 
several species of monkeys. Throughout the whole 
physical composition of the Digger, there is only one 
thing that appears luxuriant, — and that is his hair. 


Like all Indians lie is amply endowed in this respect, 
and long, black tresses — sometimes embrowned by the 
sun, and matted together with mud or other filth — hang 
over his naked shoulders. Genera,lly he crops them. 

In the summer months, the Digger's costume is ex- 
tremely simple, — after the fashion of that worn by 
our common parents, Adam and Eve. In winter, how- 
ever, the cHmate of his desert home is rigorous in the 
extreme, — the mountains over his head, and the plains 
under his feet, being often covered with snow. At this 
season he requires a garment to shelter his body from 
the piercing blast ; and this he obtains by stitching to- 
gether a few skins of the sage-hare, so as to form a kind 
of shirt or body-coat. He is not always rich enough to 
have even a good coat of this simple material ; and its 
scanty skirt too often exposes his wrinkled limbs to the 
biting frost. 

Between the Digger and his wife, or " squaw," there 
is 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 or 
intellectual conformation. She might be recognized, 
too, by watching the employment of the family ; for it 
is she who does nearly all the work, stitches the rabbit- 
skin shirt, digs the " yampa " and " kamas " roots, 
gathers the " mezquite " pods, and gets together the 
larder of "prairie crickets." Though lowest of all 
American Indians in the scale of civilization, the Digger 
resembles them all in this, — he regards himself as lord 
and master, and the woman as his slave. 

As already observed, there is no such thing as a tribe 
of Diggers, — notliing of the nature of a political or- 


ganization ; and tlie chief of their miserable httle com- 
munit J- — for sometimes there is a head man — is only 
he who is most regarded for his strength. Indeed, the 
nature of their country would not admit of a large num- 
ber of them Hving together. The little valleys or 
" oases " — that occur at intervals along the banks of 
some lone desert stream, — would not, any one of them, 
furnish subsistence to more than a few individuals, — 
especially to savages ignorant of agi'iculture, — that is, 
not knowing how to plant or sow. The Diggers, how- 
ever, if they know not how to sow, may be said to un- 
derstand something about how to reap, since root-dig- 
ging is one of their most essential employments, — that 
occupation from which they have obtained their dis- 
tinctive appellation, in the language of the trappers. 

Not being agriculturists, you will naturally conclude 
that they are either a pastoral people, or else a nation 
of hunters. But in truth they are neither one nor 
the other. They have no domestic animal, — many of 
them not even the universal dog ; and as to hunting, 
there is no large game in their country. The buffalo 
does not range so far west ; and if he did, it is not likely 
they could either kill or capture so formidable a crea- 
ture ; while the prong-horned antelope, which does in- 
habit their plains, is altogether too swift a creature, to 
be taken by any wiles a Digger might invent. The 
" big-horn," and the black and white-tailed species of 
deer, are also too shy and too fleet for their puny 
weapons ; and as to the grizzly bear, the very sight 
of one is enough to give a Digger Lidian the " chills." 

If, then, they do not cultivate the ground, nor rear 
some kind of animals, nor yet hve by the chase, how 


do these people manage to obtain subsistence ? The 
answer to this question appears a dilemma, — since it 
has been already stated, that their country produces 
little 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 for 
his subsistence, — even though he neither planted nor 
sowed, tended cattle, nor yet followed the chase. In 
these regions of luxuriant vegetation, nature has been 
bountiful to her children ; and, it may be almost literally 
alleged that the loaf of bread grows spontaneously on 
the tree. But the very reverse is the case in the coun- 
try of the Digger Indian. Even the hand of cultivation 
could scarce wring a crop from the sterile soil ; and 
Nature has provided hardly one article that deserves 
the name of food. 

Perhaps you may fancy that the Digger is a fisher- 
man ; and obtains his hving from the stream, by the 
side of which he makes his dwelling. Not even this 
is permitted to him. It is true that his supposed kin- 
dred, the Shoshonees, occasionally follow the occupation 
of fishermen upon the banks of the Great Snake River, 
— which at certain seasons of the year swarms with 
the finest salmon ; but the poor Digger has no share in 
the finny spoil. The streams, that traverse his desert 
home, empty their waters into the briny bosom of the 
Great Salt Lake, — a true Dead Sea, where neither 
salmon, nor any other fish could live for an instant. 

How then does the Digger obtain his food ? Is he a 
manufacturer, — and perforce a merchant, — who ex- 
changes Avith some other tribe his manufactured goods 


for provisions and " raw material ? " Nothing of the 
sort. Least of all is he a manufacturer. The hare-skin 
shirt is his highest effort in the line of textile fabrics ; 
and his poor -weak bow, and flint-tipped arrows, are the 
onlj tools he is capable of making. Sometimes he is 
even without these weapons ; and may be seen with 
another, — a long stick, Avith a hook at one end, — the 
hook itself being the stump of a lopped branch, with 
its natural inclination to that which forms the stick. 
The object and purpose of this simple weapon we shall 
presently describe. 

The Digger's wife may be seen with a weapon 
equally simple m its construction. This is also a stick 
— but a much shorter one — pointed at one end, and 
bearing some resemblance to a gardener's " dibble." 
Sometimes it is tipped with horn, — when this can be 
procured, — but otherwise the hard point is produced 
by calcining it in the fire. This tool is essentially an 
implement of husbandry, — as will presently appear. 

Let us now clear up the mystery, and explain how 
the Digger maintains himself. There is not much 
mystery after all. Although, as already stated, his 
country produces nothing that could fairly be termed 
food^ yet there are a few articles within his reach upon 
which a human being might subsist, — that is, might 
just keep body and soul together. One of these articles 
is the bean, or legume of the " mezquite " tree, of which 
there are many kinds throughout the desert region. 
They ai"e known to Spanish Americans as algarohia 
trees ; and, in the southern parts of the desert, grow to 
a considerable size, — often attaining the dmiension of 
twenty to twenty-five feet in height. 


Thej produce a large legume, filled with seeds and a 
pulp of sweetish-acid taste, — similar to that of the 
" honey -locust." These beans are collected in large 
quantities, by the squaw of the Digger, stowed away in 
grass-woven baskets, or sometimes only in heaps in a 
corner 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 hread of the Dig- 
ger ; but, bad as is the quality, the supply is often far 
behind the demands of his hungry stomach. For vege- 
tables, he has the " yampah " root, an umbelliferous 
plant, which grows along the banks of the streams. 
This, with another kind, known as " kamas " or " qua- 
mash " (Camassia escule7ita), is a spontaneous produc- 
tion ; and the digging for these roots forms, at a certain 
season of the year, the principal occupation of the 
women. The " dibble "-hke instrument already de- 
scribed is the roof-digger. The roots here mentioned, 
before being eaten, have to undergo a process of cook- 
mg. The yampah is boiled in a very ingenious man- 
ner; but this piece of ingenuity is not native to the 
Shoshokees, and has been obtained from their more 
clever kindred, the Snakes. The pot is a wooden one ; 
and yet they can boil meat in it, or make soup if they 
wish ! Moreover, it is only a basket, a mere vessel of 
wicker-work ! How, then, can water be boiled in it ? 
If you had not been already told how it is done, it 
would no doubt puzzle you to find out. 

But most hkely you have read of a somewhat similar 
vessel among the Chippewa Indians, — especially the 
tribe known as the " Assineboins," or stone-boilers " — 


who cook their fish or flesh in pots made of birch-bark. 
The phrase stone-boilers will suggest to jou how the 
difficulty is got over. The birch-bark pot is not set over 
fire ; but stones are heated and thrown mto it, — of 
course already filled with water. The hot stones soon 
cause the water to simmer, and fresh ones are added 
until it boils, and the meat is sufficiently cooked. By 
just such a process the " Snakes " cook their salmon 
and deer's flesh, — their wicker pots being woven of so 
close a texture that not even water can pass through the 

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

The Jcamas roots are usually baked m a hole dug in 
the earth, and heated by stones taken from the fire. It 
requires nearly two days to bake them properly ; and 
then, when taken out of the " oven," the mass bears a 
strono; resemblance to soft gjlue or size, and has a sweet 
and rather agreeable taste, — hkened to that of baked 
pears or quinces. 

I have not yet specified the whole of the Digger's 
larder. Were he to depend altogether on the roots and 
seeds already mentioned, he would often have to starve, 
■ — and in reahty he often does starve, — for, even with 
the additional supphes which his sterile soil scantily fur- 
nishes him, he is frequently the victim of famine. 

There may be a bad season of the mezquite-crop, and 
the bears — who are as cunnins; " disfgers " as he — 
sometimes destroy his " plantations " of yampah and 
kamas. He finds a resource, however, in the prairie- 
cricket, an insect — or reptile, you may call it — of the 


gryllus tribe, of a dark-brown color, and more like a bug 
than any other crawler. These, at certain seasons of 
the year, make their appearance upon the desert-plains, 
and in such numbers that the ground appears to be alive 
with them. An allied species has of late years become 
celebrated : on account of a visit paid by vast numbers 
of them to the Mormon plantations ; where, as may be 
remembered, they devastated the crops, — just as the 
locusts do in Africa, — causing a very severe season of 
famine among these isolated people. It may be remem- 
bered also, that flocks of white birds followed the move- 
ments of these American locusts, — preying upon them, 
and thinning their multitudinous hosts. 

These birds were of the gull genus (Larus), and one 
of the most beautiful of the species. They frequent the 
shores and islands of the rivers of Prairie-land, living 
chiefly upon such insects as are found in the neighbor- 
hood of their waters. It was but natural, therefore, they 
should follow the locusts, or " grasshoppers," as the Mor- 
mons termed them ; but the pseudo-prophet of these de- 
luded people could not suffer to pass such a fine oppor- 
tunity of proving his divine inspiration : which he did 
by audaciously declaring that the birds were " heaven- 
born," and had been sent by the Almighty (in obedience 
to a prayer from him, the prophet) to rid the country of 
the pest of the grasshoppers ! 

These prairie-crickets are of a dark-brown color, — not 
unlike the gryllus migratorius of Africa, and with very 
similar habits. When settled thickly upon the ground, 
the whole surface assumes a darkish hue, as if covered 
with crape ; and when they are all in motion, — creep- 
ing to and fro in search of their food, — a very smgular 


eflfect is produced. At this time they do not take to 
■wing ; though thej attempt to get out of the Ava}', by 
making short hops from place to place, and crawling 
with great rapidity. Notwithstanding their efforts to 
escape, hundreds of them are " squashed " beneath 
the foot of the pedestrian, or hoofs of the traveller's 

These crickets, with several bug-like insects of dif- 
ferent species, furnish the Digger with an important 
article of food. It may apjDcar a strange provender 
for a human stomach ; but there is nothing unnatural 
about it, — any niore than about the eating of shrimps 
or prawns ; and it will be remembered that the Bush- 
men, and many other tribes of South Africa eat the 
gryllus migratorius ; while, in the northern part of that 
same continent, many nations regard them as a proper 
article 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 Tvalder- 
ness, it is easily proved that such was not the case. 
That his food was the locust {gryllas migratorius) and 
wild honey, is strictly and hterally true ; and at the 
present day, were you to visit the "wilderness" men- 
tioned by the Apostle, you might see people hving upon 
" locusts and wild-honey," just as they did eighteen hun- 
dred years ago. 

The Diggers cooh their crickets sometimes by boihng 
them in the pots aforementioned, and sometimes by 
" roasting." They also mix them with the mezquite 
seeds and pulp, — the whole forming a kind of plum- 
pudding, or " cricket-pasty," — or, as it is jocosely termed 
by the trappers, " cricket-cake." 


Their mode of collecting the grasshoppers is not with- 
out some display of ingenuity. When the insects are 
in abundance, there is not much difficulty in obtaining a 
sufficient supply ; but this is not always the case. Some- 
times they appear very sparsely upon the plains ; and, 
being nimble in their movements, are not easily laid hold 
of. Only one could be taken at a time ; and, by glean- 
ing in this way, a very hmited supply would be obtamed. 
To remedy this, the Diggers have invented a somewhat 
ingenious contrivance for capturing them wholesale, — 
which is effected in the following manner : — When the 
whereabouts of the grasshoppers has been discovered, a 
round hole — of three or four feet in diameter, and of 
about equal depth — is scooped out in the centre of the 
plain. It is shaped somewhat after the fashion of a 
kiln ; and the earth, that has been taken out, is carried 
out of the way. 

The Digger community then all turn out — men, wo- 
men, and children — and deploy themselves into a wide 
circle, enclosing as large a tract as their numbers will 
]3ermit. Each individual is armed with a stick, with 
which he beats the sage-bushes, and makes other vio- 
lent demonstrations : the object being to frighten the 
grasshoppers, and cause them to move inward towards 
the pit that has been dug. The insects, thus beset, 
move as directed, — gradually approaching the centre, 
— while the " beaters " follow in a circle constantly 
lessening in circumference. After a time the crickets, 
before only thinly scattered over the plain, — grow 
more crowded as the space becomes contracted ; until 
at length the surface is covered with a black moving 
swarm ; and the beaters, still pressing upon them, and 


driving tliem onward, force the whole body pell-mell 
over the edges of the pit. 

Bunches of grass, already provided are now flung over 
them, and upon that a few shovelfuls of earth or sand ; 
and then — horrible to relate ! — a large pile of artemisia- 
stalks is heaped upon the top and set on fire ! The result 
is that, in a few minutes, the poor grasshoppers are 
smoked to death, and parched at the same time — so as 
to be ready for eating, whenever the debris of the iii'e 
has been removed. 

The prairie-cricket is not the only article of the Jiesh- 
meat kind, found in the larder of the Digger. Another 
animal furnishes him with an occasional meal. This is 
the " sage-hare," known to hunters as the " sage-rabbit," 
but to naturaUsts as the lepus artemisia. It is a very 
small animal, — less in size than the common rabbit, — 
though it is in reality a true hare. It is of a silvery, or 
whitish-gray color — which adapts it to the hue of the 
a7'temisia bushes on the stalks and berries of which it 

It is from the skins of this animal, that the Digger 
women manufacture the rabbit-skin shirts, already de- 
scribed. Its flesh would not be very agreeable to a 
European palate, — even with the addition of an onion, 
— for it has the sage flavor to such a degree, as to be 
as bitter as wormwood itself. An onion with it would 
not be tasted ! But tastes differ, and by the Digger the 
flesh of the sage-hare is esteemed one of the nicest deli- 
cacies. He hmits it, therefore, with the greatest assi- 
duity ; and the chase of this insignificant animal is to the 
Digger, what the hunt of the stag, the elephant, or the 
wild boar, is to hunters of a more pretentious ambition. 


With his bow and arrows he frequently succeeds in 
killing a single hare ; but this is not always so easy, — 
since the sage-hare, like all of its kind, is shy, swift, and 
cunning. Its color, closely resembhng the hue of the 
artemisia foliage, is a considerable protection to it ; and 
it can hide among these bushes, where they grow thick- 
ly — as they generally do — over the surface of the 

But the Digger is not satisfied with the scanty and 
uncertain supply, which his weak bow and arrows would 
enable him to obtain. As m the case of the grasshop- 
pers, he has contrived a plan for capturing the sage- 
hares by wholesale. 

This he accomplishes by making a " surround," and 
driving the animals, not into a pit, but into 2i pound. 
The pound is constructed something after the same fash- 
ion as that used by the Chippewas, and other northern 
Indians, for capturing the herds of reindeer ; in other 
words, it is an enclosure, entered by a narrow mouth — 
from ihejaws of which mouth, two fences are cai'ried far 
out into the plain, in a gradually diverging direction. 
For the deer and other large animals, the fences of the 
pound — as also those of the funnel that conducts to it, 
require to be made of strong stakes, stockaded side by 
side ; but this work, as well as the timber with which to 
construct it, is far beyond the reach of the Digger. His 
enclosure consists of a mere wattle of artemisia stalks 
and branches, woven into a row of those already stand- 
ing — with here and there a patching of rude nets, made 
of roots and grass. The height is not over three feet ; 
and the sage-hare might easily sprmg over it ; but the 
stupid creature, when once " in the pound," never thinks 


of looking upAvard ; but continues to dasli its little skull 
against the wattle, until it is either " clubbed " by the 
Digger, or impaled upon one of his obsidian arrows. 

Other quadrupeds, constituting a portion of the Dig- 
ger's food, are several species of " gophers," or sand-rats, 
ground-squirrels, and marmots. In many parts of the 
Great Basin, the small rodents abound : dwelling be- 
tween the crevices of rocks, or honeycombing the dry 
plains with their countless burrows. The Digger cap- 
tures them by various wiles. One method is by shooting 
them with blunt arrows ; but the more successful plan 
is, by setting a trap at the entrance to their earthen 
caves. It is the " figure of 4 trap," which the Digger 
employs for this purpose, and which he constructs with 
ingenuity, — placing a great many around a " warren," 
and often taking as many as fifty or sixty " rats " in a 
single day ! 

In weather too cold for the gophers to come out of 
their caves, the Digger then " digs " for tliem : thus fur- 
ther entitling him to his special appellation. 

That magnificent bird, the " cock of the plains," some- 
times furnishes 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 in 
size the famed " cock of the woods " of northern Europe. 
A full-fledged cock of the plains is as large as' an eagle ; 
and, unUke most of the grouse kind, has a long, narrow 
body. His plumage is of a silvery gray color — pro- 
duced by a mottle of black and wliite, — no doubt, given 
him by a nature to assimilate him to the hue of the arte- 
misia, — amidst which he habitually dwells, and the ber- 
ries of which fm-nish him with most of his food. 
15 V . 


He is remarkable for two large goitre-like swellings on 
the breast, covered with a sort of hair instead of feath- 
ers ; but, though a fine-looking large bird, and a grouse 
too, his flesh is bitter and unpalatable — even more so 
than that of the sage-hare. For all that, it is a dehcacj 
to the Digger, and a rare one ; for the cock of the plains 
is neither plentiful, nor easily captured when seen. 

There are several other small animals — both quad- 
rupeds and birds — inhabiting Digger-land, upon w4iich 
an occasional meal is made. Indeed, the food of the 
Digger is sufficiently varied. It is not in the quality 
but the quantity he finds most cause of complaint : for 
with all his energies he never gets enough. In the sum- 
mer season, however, he is less stinted. Then the ber- 
ries of the bufialo-bush are ripe ; and these, resem- 
bling currants, he collects in large quantities, — placing 
his rabbit-skin wrapper under thp bush, and shaking 
down the ripe fruit in showers. A melange of prairie- 
crickets and 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 chffs, — espe- 
cially those that overhang a stream. These nests are 
of a conical or pine-apple shape, and about the size of 
this fruit. 

This bug, — not yet classified or described by ento- 
mologists, — is of a dark bro\^^l color, about the size of 
the ordinary cockroach ; and when boiled is considered 
a proper article of food, — not only by the unfastidious 
Diggers, but by Indians of a more epicurean ^owi. 

Besides the yarapah and kamas, there are several 


Other edible roots found in the Digger countrj. Among 
others may be mentioned a species of thistle (circiiim vir- 
giniarum), — the root of which grows to the size of an 
ordinary carrot, and is almost as well flavored. It re- 
quires a great deal of roasting, or boiling, before it is 
sufficiently cooked to be eaten. 

The kooyah is another article of food still more pop- 
ular among DiD:o::er o-ourmands. This is the root of the 
Valeriana edidis. It is of a bright-yellow color, and 
grows to a considerable size. It has the characteristic 
odor of the well-known plant ; but not so strong as in 
the prepared substanc^ of valerian. The plant itself 
does not grow in the arid soil of the desert, but rather 
in the rich fertile bottoms of the streams, or along the 
shores of marshy lakes, — in company with the kamas 
and yampah. It is when these roots are in season, that 
the Shoshokees most frequent such localities ; and, in- 
deed, this same season is the time when all other articles 
of 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 ob- 
served, grow species of pines, with edible cones, — or 
rather edible seeds which the cones contain. These 
seeds resemble nuts, and are about the size of the com- 
mon filberts. 

More than one species of pine produces this sort of 
food ; but in the language of the Spanish Californians 
and New Mexicans, they are all indifierently termed 
pinon, and the seeds simply ^mowes, or "pinons." "Wliere 
these are within the reach of the Digger, — as they are 
in some districts, — he is then well provided for ; since 
the pinons, when roasted, not only form an agreeable 


and nutritious article of food, but can be stored up as a 
winter 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 he 
cannot obtain a sufficient supply of it. At such times 
he has recourse to food of a still meaner kind, — to 
roots, scarce eatable, and even to the seeds of several 
species of grass ! Worms, grubs, the agama cornuta, or 
" horned-frog of the prairies," with other species of hz- 
ards, become his sole resource ; and in the search and 
capture of these he occupies himself from morning to 

It is in this employment that he finds use for the long 
sapling, with the hooked end upon it, — the hook being 
used for dragging the lizards out of clefts m the rocks, 
within which they have sought shelter. In the accom- 
phshment of this, the Digger displays an adroitness that 
astonishes the traveller: often "jerking" the reptile out 
of some dark crevice within which it might be supposed 
to have found a retreat secure from all intruders. 

Many other curious habits might be related of this 
abject and miserable race of human beings ; but per- 
haps enough has been detailed, to secure them a place 
in the list of our " odd people." 


Young reader, I may take it for granted tliat you 
have heard of the great river Orinoco, — one of the 
largest rivers not only of South America, but in the 
world. By entering at its mouth, and ascending to its 
source, you would have to make a journey of about one 
thousand five hundred miles ; but this journey, so far 
from being direct, or in a straight line, would carry you 
in a kind of spiral curve, — very much hke the figure 6, 
the apex of the figure representing the mouth of the 
river. In other words, the Orinoco, rising in the unex- 
plored mountains of Spanish Guiana, first runs eastward ; 
and then, having turned gradually to every point of the 
compass, resumes its easterly course, continuing in this 
direction till it empties its mighty flood into the Atlantic 

. Not by one mouth, however. On the contrary, long 
before the Orinoco approaches the sea, its channel sep- 
arates into a great many branches (or " canos," as they 
are called in the language of the country), each of which, 
slowly meandering in its own course, reaches the coast 
by a separate mouth, or " boca." Of these canos there 
are about fifty, embracing within their ramifications a 


"delta" nearly half as large as England ! Though they 
have all been distinguished by separate names, only three 
or four of them are navigable by ships of any consid- 
erable size ; and, except to the few pilots whose duty 
it is to conduct vessels into that main channel of the 
river, the whole delta of the Orinoco may be regarded 
as a country still unexplored, and almost unknown. In- 
deed, the same remark might be made of the whole 
river, were it not for the magnificent monument left by 
the great traveller Von Humboldt, — whose narrative 
of the exploration of the Orinoco is, beyond all com- 
parison, the finest book of travels yet given to the world. 
To him are we chiefly indebted for our knowledge of 
the Orinoco ; since the Spanish nation, M'ho, for more 
than three centuries, have held undisputed possession of 
this mighty stream, have left us scarce a line about it 
worth either credit or record. 

It is now more than half a century, since the date 
of Humboldt's " Personal Narrative ; " and yet, strange 
to say, during all that period, scarce an item has been 
added to our knowledge of the Orinoco, beyond what 
this scientific traveller had already told us. Indeed, 
there is not much to say: for there has been little 
change in the river since then, — either in the aspect of 
nature, or the condition of man. What change there 
has been possesses rather a retrograde, than a pro- 
gressive character. Still, now, as then, on the banks 
of the Orinoco, we behold a languid commerce, — char- 
acteristic of the decaying Spano- American race, — and 
the dechning efforts of a selfish and bigoted missionary 
zeal, whose boasted aim of " christianizing and civiliz- 
ing " has ended only in producing a greater hrutalization. 


After tliree centuries of paternosters and bell-ringing, 
the red savage of the Orinoco returns to the worship 
of his ancestral gods, — or to no worship at all, — and 
for this backsliding he can, perhaps, give a sufficient 

Pai'don me, young reader, for this digi-ession. It is 
not my purpose to discuss the polemical relations of 
those who inhabit the banks of the Orinoco ; but to give 
you some account of a very singular people who dwell 
near its mouth, — upon the numerous canos, already 
mentioned as constituting its delta. These are the 
" Guaraons," — a tribe of Indians, — usually considered 
as a branch of the Great Carib family, but forming a 
community among themselves of seven or eight thou- 
sand souls ; and differing so much from most other 
savages in their habits and mode of life, as fairly to 
entitle them to the appellation of an " Odd People." 

The Orinoco, like many other large rivers, is subject 
to a periodical rise and fall ; that is, once every year, the 
river swells to a great height above its ordinary level. 
The swelling or " flood " was for a long time supposed 
to proceed from the melting of snow upon the Cordilleras 
of the Andes, — in which mountains several of the 
tributaries of the Orinoco have their rise. This hy- 
pothesis, however, has been shown to be an incorrect 
one : since the main stream of the Orinoco does not 
proceed from the Andes, nor from any other snow- 
capped mountains ; but has its origin, as akeady stated, 
in the sierras of Guiana. The true cause of its period- 
ical rising, therefore, is the vast amount of rain which 
falls within the tropics ; and this is itself occasioned by 
the sun's course across the torrid zone, which is also the 


cause of its being periodical or " annual." So exact is 
the time at which these rains fall, and produce the floods 
of the Orinoco, that the inhabitants of the river can 
tell, 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 own 
summer, — the rise commencing in April, and the river 
being at its maximum height in August, — while the 
minimum is again reached in December. The height 
to which the Orinoco rises has been variously esti- 
mated by travellers : some alleging it to be nearly one 
hundred feet ; while others estimate it to be only 
fifty, or even less ! The reason of this discrepancy 
may be, that the measurements have been made at 
different points, — at each of which, the actual height 
to which the flood attains, may be greater or less 
than at the others. At any one place, however, the 
rise is the same — or very nearly so — in successive 
years. This is proved by observations made at the 
town of Angostura, — the lowest Spanish settlement of 
any importance upon the Orinoco. There, nearly in 
front of the town, a little rocky islet towers up in the 
middle of the river ; the top of which is just fifty feet 
above the bed of the stream, when the volume of water 
is at its minimum. A solitary tree stands upon the 
pinnacle of this rock ; and each year, when the water 
is in full flood,. the tree alone is visible, — the islet being 
entirely 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 it 
does not follow from this, that throughout its whole 


course the river should annually rise to so great a 
height. In reahty it does not. 

At Angostura, as the name imports, the river is 
narrowed to less than half its usual width, — being 
there confined between high banks that impinge upon 
its channel. Above and below, it widens again ; and, 
no doubt, in proportion to this widening will the annual 
rise be greater or less. In fact, at many places, the 
width of the stream is no longer that of its ordinary 
channel ; but, on the contrary, a vast " freshet " or inun- 
dation, covering the country for hundreds of miles, — 
here flooding over immense marshes or grassy plains, 
and hidmo; them altoo;ether, — there flowmo; amono; 
forests of tall trees, the tops of which alone project 
above the tumult of waters ! These inundations are 
peculiarly observable in the delta of the Orinoco, — 
where every year, in the months of July and August, 
the whole surface of the country becomes changed into 
a grand fresh-water sea: the tops of the trees alone 
rising above the flood, and proclaiming that there is 
land at the bottom. 

At this season the ordinaiy channels, or canos, would 
be obliterated ; and navigation through them become 
difficult or impossible, but for the tree-tops ; which, after 
the manner of " buoys " and signal-marks, serve to guide 
the pilots through the intricate mazes of the " bocas del 

Now it is this annual inundation, and the semi-sub- 
mergence of these trees under the flood, that has given 
origin to the peculiar people of whom we are about to 
speak, — the Guaraons ; or, perhaps, we should rather 
say, from these causes have arisen their strange habits 


and modes of life wliicli entitle tliem to be considered 
an "odd people." 

During the period of the inundation, if yon should sail 
up the southern or principal caiio of the Orinoco, — 
known as the " boca de navios," or " ships' mouth," — 
and keep your face to the northward, you would behold 
the singular spectacle of a forest growing out of the 
water ! In some places you would perceive single trees, 
with the upper portion of their straight, branchless trunks 
rising vertically above the surface, and crowned by about 
a dozen great fan-shaped leaves, radiating outwards from 
their summits. At other places, you would see many 
crowded together, their huge fronds meeting, and form- 
ing close clumps, or " water groves," whose deep-green 
color contrasts finely as it flings its reflection on the glis- 
tening surface below. 

Were it night, — and your course led you through one 
of the smaller canos in the northern part of th.e delta, — 
you would behold a spectacle yet more singular, and 
more difiicult to be explained ; a spectacle that astounded 
and almost terrified the bold navigators, who first ven- 
tured to explore these intricate coasts. You would not 
only perceive a forest, growing out of the water ; but, 
high up among the tops of the trees, you would behold 
blazing fires, — not the conflagration of the trees them- 
selves, as if the forest were in flames, — but fires regu- 
larly built, glowing as from so many furnaces, and cast- 
ing their 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 squat- 


ting around tliem ; other human forms, flitting like sliacl- 
ows among the tops of the trees ; and down below, upon 
the surface of the water, a fleet of canoes (periaguas), 
fastened with their mooring-ropes to the trunks. All 
this would surprise you, — as it did the early navigators, 

— and, very naturally, you would inquire what it could 
mean. Fires apparently suspended in the air ! human 
beings moving about among the tops of the trees, talking, 
laughing, and gesticulating ! in a word, acting just as any 
other savages would do, — for these human beings are 
savages, — amidst the tents of their encampment, or the 
houses of their village. In reality it is a village upon 
which you are gazing, — a village suspended in the air, — 
a village of the Guaraon Indians ! 

Let us approach nearer ; let us steal into this water- 
village — for it would not be always safe to enter it, 
except by stealth — and see how its singular habitations 
are constructed, as also in what way their . occupants 
manaore to Qjet their livino;. The villaore under our ob- 
servation is now, — at the period of inundation, — nearly 
a hundred miles from shore, or from any dry land : it 
will be months before the waters can subside ; and, even 
then, the country around will partake more of the nature 
of a quagmire, than of firm soil ; impassable to any 
human being, — though not to a Guaraon, as we shall 
presently see. It is true, the canoes, abeady mentioned, 
might enable their owners to reach the firm shores be- 
yond the delta ; and so they do at times ; but it would 
be a voyage too long and too arduous to be made often, 

— as for the supply of food and other daily wants, — 
and it is not for this purpose the canoes are kept. No : 
these Guaraons visit terra firma only at intervals ; and 


then for purposes of trade with a portion of their own and 
other tribes who dwell there ; but they permanently reside 
within the area of the inundated forests ; where they are 
independent, not only of foreign aggression, but also for 
their supply of all the necessaries of life. In these for- 
ests, whether flooded or not, they procure everything of 
Avliich they stand in need, — they there find, to use an 
old-fashioned phrase, " meat, drink, washing, and lodg- 
ino-." In other words : were the inundation to continue 
forever, and were the Gaaraons entirely prohibited from 
intercourse with the dry land, they could still find sub- 
sistence in this, their home upon the waters. 

Whence comes their subsistence ? No doubt you will 
say that fish is their food ; and drink, of course, they 
have in abundance ; but this would not be the true ex- 
planation. It is true they eat fish, and turtle, and the 
flesh of the manatee, or " fish-cow," — since the captur- 
mg of the«e aquatic creatures is one of the chief occupa- 
tions of the Guaraons, — but they are ofttimes entirely 
without such food ; for, it is to be observed, that, during 
the period of the inundations fish are not easily caught, 
sometimes not at all. At these times the Guaraons 
would starve — since, like all other savages, they are 
improvident — were it not that the singular region they 
inhabit supplies them with another article of food, — one 
that is inexhaustible. 

What is this food, and from whence derived ? It will 
scarce surprise you to hear that it is the produce of the 
trees already mentioned ; but perhaps you will deem it 
singular when I tell you that the trees of this great water- 
forest are all of one kind, — all of the same species, — 
so that here we have the remarkable fact of a single 


species 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 drink 
excepted, as will presently be seen. 

The name of this wonderful tree ? " Ita," the Gua- 
raons call it ; though it is more generally known as 
" morichi " among the Spanish inhabitants of the Ori- 
noco ; but I shall here give my young reader an account 
of it, from which he will leai"n something more than its 

The ltd is a true palm-tree, belonging to the genus 
mauritia ; and, I may remark, that notwithstanding the 
resemblance in sound, the name of the genus is not de- 
rived from the words " morichi," " murichi," or " muriti," 
all of wliich are different Indian appellations of this tree. 
Mauritia is simply a Latinized designation borrowed 
from the name of Prince Maurice of Nassau, in whose 
honor the genus was named. The resemblance, there- 
fore, is merely accidental. I may add, too, that there are 
many species of unauritia growing in different parts of 
tropical America, — . some of them palms of large size, 
and towering height, with straight, smooth trunks ; while 
others are only tiny little trees, scarce taller than a man, 
and with their trunks thickly covered with conical pro- 
tuberances or spines. 

Some of them, moreover, affect a high, dry soil, be- 
yond the reach of floods ; while others do not prosper, 
except on tracts habitually marshy, or annually covered 
with inundations. Of these latter, the ltd is perhaps the 
most conspicuous ; since we have already stated, that 
for nearly six months of the year it grows literally out 
of the water. 


Like all its congeners, the ita is a " fan-palm ; " that 
is, its leaves, instead of being pinnately divided, as in 
most species of palms, or altogether entire, as in some 
few, radiate from the midrib of the leaf-stalk, into 
a broad palmated shape, bearing considerable resem- 
blance to a fan when opened to its full extent. At the 
tips these leaflets droop slightly, but at that end where 
thej spring out of the midrib, they are stiff and rigid. 
The petiole, or leafstalk itself, is long, straight, and 
thick ; and where it clasps the stem or trunk, is swollen 
out to a foot in width, hollowed, or concave on the upper 
side. A full-grown leaf, with its petiole, is a wonderful 
object to look upon. The stalk is a solid beam full 
twelve feet in length, and the leaf has a diameter of 
nearly 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 the 
summit of a tall cylindrical column of five feet in cir- 
cumference, and about one hundred in height, — place 
them with their stalks clasping or sheathing its top, — 
so that the spreading fans will point in every direction 
outwards, inchning slightly upwards ; do this, and you 
will have the great morichi palm. Perhaps, you may 
see the trunk swollen at its middle or near the top, — 
so that its lower part is thinner than above, — but more 
often the huge stem is a perfect cylinder. Perhaps you 
may see several of the leaves drooping downward, as 
if threatening to fall from the tree ; you may even see 
them upon the ground where they have fallen, and a 
splendid ruin they appear. You may see again rising 
upward out of the very centre of the crown of foliage, 
a straight, thick-pointed column. This is the young leaf 

p alm-dt\t:llers. 851 

in process of development, — its tender leaflets yet un- 
opened, and closely clasped together. But the fervid 
tropical sun soon produces expansion ; and a new fan 
takes the place of the one that has served its time and 
fallen to the earth, — there to decay, or to be swept 
off by the flood of waters. 

Still more may be noticed, while regarding this noble 
palm. Out of that part of the trunk, — where it is 
embraced by the sheathing bases of the petioles, — at a 
certain season of the year, a large spathe will be seen 
to protrude itself, until it has attained a length of several 
feet. This spathe is a bract-like sheath, of an imperfect 
tubular form. It bursts open ; and then appears the 
huge spadix of flowers, of a whitish-green color, ar- 
ranged along the flower-stalk in rows, — pinnately. It 
will be observed, moreover, that these spadices are dif- 
ferent upon different trees ; for it must be remembered 
that the mauritia palm is dioecious, — that is, having the 
female flowers on one tree, and the male or staminif- 
erous flowers upon another. After the former have 
glowed for a time in the heat of the sun, and received 
the fertihzing pollen wafted to them by the breeze, — 
carried by bee or bird, or transported by some unknown 
and mysterious agency of nature, — the fruits take form 
and ripen. These, when fully ripe, have attained to 
the size of a small apple, and are of a very similar form. 
They are covered with small brown, smooth scales, — 
giving them somewhat the appearance of fir-cones, ex- 
cept that 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 will carry 
caiTy several hundreds — thousands, I might say — of 


these nuts ; and the whole bunch is a load equal to the 
strength of two ordinary men ! 

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

When the Guaraon wishes to build himself a habita- 
tion, he does not begin by digging a foundation in the 
earth. In the spongy soil on which he stands, that 
would be absurd. At a few inches below the surface 
he would reach water ; and he might dig to a vast depth 
without finding firm ground. But he has no idea of 
laying a foundation upon the ground, or of building a 
house there. He knows that in a few weeks the river 
will be rising ; and would overtop his roof, however 
high he might make it. His foundation, therefore, in- 
stead of being laid in the ground, is placed far above it, 
— just so far, that when the inundation is at its height 
the floor of his dwelling will be a foot or two above it. 
He does not take this height from guesswork. That 
would be a perilous speculation. He is guided by cer- 
tain marks upon the trunks of palm-trees, — • notches 
which he has himself made on the preceding year, or 
the natural watermark, which he is able to distinguish 
by certain appearances on the trees. This point once 
determined, he proceeds to the building of his house. 

A few trunks are selected, cut down, and then split 
into beams of sufficient length. Four fine trees, stand- 
ing in a quadrangle, have already been selected to form 
the corner-posts. In each of these, just above the 
watermark, is cut a deep notch with a horizontal base to 
serve as a rest for the cross-beams that are to form the 
foundation of the structure. Into these notches the 
beams are hoisted, — by means of ropes, — and there 


securely tied. To reach the point where the platform 
is to be erected — sometimes a very high elevation — 
ladders are necessary; and these are of native manu- 
facture, — being simply the trunk of a palm-tree, with 
notches cut in it for the toes of the climber. These 
afterwards serve as a means of ascending and descend- 
ing to the surface of the water, during the period of 
its rise and fall. The main timbers havmg been firmly 
secured in their places, cross-beams are laid upon them, 
the latter being either pieces of the spht trunks, or, 
what is usually easier to obtain, the petioles of the great 
leaves, — each of which, as already stated, forms of 
itself a large beam, twelve feet in length and from six 
to twelves inches in breadth. These are next secured 
at both ends by ropes of the palm-fibre. 

Next comes a layer of palm-leaves, the strong, tough 
leaflets serving admirably as laths to uphold the coating 
of mud, which is laid thickly over them. The mud is 
obtained from below, without difficulty, and in any quan- 
tity required ; and when trowelled smooth, and dry, — 
which it soon becomes under the hot sun, — constitutes 
an excellent floor, where a fire may be kindled without 
danger of burrnng either the laths or joists under- 

As yet the Guaraon has completed only the floor of 
his dwelling, but that is his principal labor. He cares 
not for walls, — neither sides nor gables. There is no 
cold, frosty weather to chill him in his tropical home, — 
no snow to be kept out. The rain alone, usually faUing 
in a vertical direction, has to be guarded against ; and 
from this he secures himself by a second platform of 
lighter materials, covered with mats, which he has 



already woven for tlie purpose, and with palm-leaflets, 
so placed as to cast off the heaviest shower. This also 
shelters him against the burning sun, — an enemy 
which he dreads even more than the rain. 

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

Having completed the building of his aerial dwelhng, 
the Guaraon would eat. He has fish, which has been 
caught in the neighboring cano, — perhaps turtle, — 
perhaps the flesh of the manatee, or the alligator, — for 
his palate is by no means of a delicate fineness, and 
will not refuse a steak from the tail of the American 
crocodile. But when the flood time is on, fish become 
scarce, 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 is 
wanted ; and for this the Guaraon has not far to go. 
The ita again befriends him, for he finds, upon splitting 
open its trunk, a large deposit of medullary pith or 
fecula ; which, when submitted to the process of bruis- 
ino- or grating, and afterwards stirred in water, forms a 
sediment at the bottom of the vessel, a substance not 
only eatable, but equal in excellence to the well-known 
produce of the sago palm. 

This farinaceous pith, formed into cakes and roasted 


over the fire, — the fuel being supphed by leaves and 
leafstalks, — constitutes the yuruma, — the daily bread 
of the Guaraon. 

The yuruma, or rather the sago out of which it is 
made, is not obtainable at all times. It is the male 
palm which produces it ; and it must be extracted just 
as the tree is about to expand its spadix of flowers. 
The same curious fact is observed with regard to the 
maguey, or great American aloe, which produces the 
drink called " pulque." To procure the sap in any 
considerable quantity, the maguey must be tapped just 
on that day when the flower-stalk is about to shoot 
upward from among the leaves. 

The Guaraon, having eaten his yuruma, would drink. 
Does he have recourse to the water which flows in 
abundance beneath his dwelhng ? No. On ordinary 
occasions he may quench his thirst in that way ; but he 
w^ishes for some beverage more cheering. Again the 
ita 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, be- 
comes a wine, — " murichi wine," a beverage which, if 
the Guaraon be so inchned, and drink to excess, will 
make him " as drunk as a lord " ! 

But he may indulge in a less dangerous, and more 
delicate drink, also furnished by his favorite ita. This 
he obtains by flinging a few of the nuts into a vessel 
of water, and leaving them awhile to ferment ; then 
beating them with a pestle, mitil the scales and pulp 
are detached ; and, lastly, passing the water through a 
sieve of palm fibre. This done, the drink is ready to be 
quaffed. For all these purposes tools and utensils are 


required, but the ita also furnishes them. The trunk 
can be scooped out into dishes ; or cut into spoons, 
ladles, and trenchers. The flower "spathe" also gives 
him cups and saucers. Iron tools, such as hatchets and 
knives, he has obtained from commerce with Europeans ; 
but, before their arrival in the New World, the Guaraon 
had his hatchet of flmt, and his knife-blade of obsidian ; 
and even now, if necessary, he could manage without 
metal of any kind. 

The bow and arrows which he uses are obtained from 
the tough, sinewy petiole of the leaf; so is the harpoon- 
spear with which he strikes the great manatee, the por- 
poise, and the alligator ; the canoe, light as cork, which 
carries him through the intricate channels of the delta, 
is the hollow trunk of a moricM palm. His nets and 
hues, and the cloth which he wears around his loins, 
are all plaited or woven from the young leaflets before 
they have expanded into the fan-hke leaf. 

Like other beings, the Guaraon must at times sleep. 
"Where does he stretch his body, — on the floor ? — on a 
mat ? No. He has already provided himself with a 
more luxurious couch, — the " rede," or hammock, which 
he suspends between two trees ; and in this he recline?, 
not only during the night, but by day, when the sun is 
too hot to admit of violent exertion. His wife has 
woven the hammock most ingeniously. She has cut off 
the column of young leaves, that projects above the 
crown of the morichi. This she has shaken, until the 
tender leaflets become detached from each other and 
fall apart. Each she now strips of its outer covering, 
— a thin, ribbon-hke pellicle of a pale yellow color, — 
which slirivels up almost hke a thread. These she ties 


into bundles, leaving tliem to dry awhile ; after which 
she spins them into strings, or, if need be, twists them 
into larger cords. She then places two horizontal rods 
or poles about six feet apart, and doubles the string over 
them some forty or fifty times. This constitutes the 
woof ; and the warp is obtained by cross-strings twisted 
or tied to each of the longitudinal ones, at intervals of 
seven or eight inches. A strong cord, made from the 
epidermis of the full-grown leaves, is now passed through 
the loop of all the strings, drawn together at both ends, 
and the poles are then pulled out. The hammock, being 
finished and hung up between two trees, provides the 
naked - Indian with a couch, upon which he may repose 
as 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 wonder 
that the enthusiastic missionaries have given to the 
morichi-palm the designation of " arbol de vida " (tree 
of life). 

It may be asked why does the Guaraon hve in such a 
strange fashion, — especially when on all sides around 
him there are vast tracts of terra Jirma upon v.diich he 
might make his dwelling, and where he could, with far 
less difficulty, procure all the necessaries, and many of 
the luxuries of life ? The question is easily answered ; 
and 'tliis answer will be best given by asking others in 
return. Why do the Esquimaux and Laplanders chng 
to their inhospitable home upon the icy coasts of the 
Arctic Sea? Why do tribes of men take to the cold, 
barren mountains, and dwell there, within sight of lovely 
and fertile plains ? Why do others betake themselves 
to the arid steppes and dreary recesses of the desert ? 


'No doubt the Guaraon, by powerful enemies forced 
from his aboriginal home upon the firm soil, first sought 
refuge 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 — he 
was enabled to enjoy the sweetest of all, — ^^the luxury 
of liberty. 

What was only a necessity at first, soon became a 
habit ; and that habit is now an essential part of his 
nature. Indeed, it is not so long since the necessity 
itself has been removed. 

Even at the present hour, the Guaraon would not be 
secure, were he to stray too far from his sheltering 
marshes, — for, sad though it be to say so, the poor 
Indian, when beyond the protection of liis tribe, is in 
many parts of South America still treated as a slave. 
In the delta he feels secure. No slave-hunter, — no 
enemy can follow him there. Even the foeman of his 
own race cannot compete with him m crossing the wide 
flats of spongy quagmire, — over which, from long habit, 
he is enabled to glide with the lightness and fleetness of 
a bird. During the season of overflow, or when the 
waters have fallen to their lowest, he is equally secure 
from aggression or pursuit ; and, no doubt, in spite of 
missionary zeal, — in spite of the general progress of 
civihzation, — in tliis savage security he will long re- 


One of the oldest " odd " people with which we are 
acquainted are the Laps or Laplanders. For many cen- 
turies the more civilized nations of Europe have listened 
to strange accounts, told by travellers of these strange 
people ; many of these accounts being exaggerated, and 
others totally untrue. Some of the old travellers, being 
misled by the deerskin dresses worn by the Laps, be- 
lieved, or endeavored to make others believe, that they 
were born with hairy skins like wild beasts ; and one 
traveller represented that they had only a single eye, 
and that in the middle of the breast ! This very absurd 
conception about a one-eyed people gained credit, even 
so late as the time of Sir "Walter Raleigh, — with this 
difference, that the locality of these gentry with the odd 
"optic" was South America instead of Northern Eu- 

Li the case of the poor Laplander, not the slightest 
exaffijeration is needed to render him an interesting 
study, either to the student of ethnology, or to the 
merely curious reader. He needs neither the odd eye 
nor the hairy pelt. In his personal appearance, dress 
dweUing, mode of occupation, and subsistence, he is so 


different from almost every other tribe or nation of jdco- 
ple, as to furnish ample matter for a monograph at once 
unique and amusing. 

I shall not stay to inquire whence originated this odd 
specimen of humanity. Such speculations are more 
suited to those so-called learned ethnologists, who, re- 
sembling the anatomists in other branches of natural 
history, delight to deal in the mere pedantry of science, 
■ — who, from the mere coincidence of a few words, can 
prove that two peoples utterly unlike have sprung from 
a common source : precisely as Monsieur Cuvier, by the 
examination of a single tooth, has proved that a rabbit 
was a rhinoceros ! 

I shall not, therefore, v/aste time in this way, in hunt- 
ing up the origin of the miserable Laplander ; nor does 
it matter much where he sprang from. He either came 
from somewhere else, or was created in Lapland, — one 
of the two ; and I defy all the philosophers in creation 
to say which : since there is no account extant of when 
he first arrived in that cold northern land, — not a word 
to contradict the idea of his having been there since the 
first creation of the human race. We find him there 
now ; and that is all that we have to do with his orighi 
at present. Were we to speculate, as to what races are 
kindred to him, and to which he bears the greatest re- 
semblance, we should say that he was of either the same 
or similar origin with the Esquimaux of North America, 
the Greenlanders of Greenland, and the Samoeids, Tuski, 
and other tribes dwellino; alon^: the northern shores of 
Asia. Among all these nations of little men, there is. a 
very great similarity, both in personal appearance and 
habits of life ; but it would not be safe to say that they 


all came from one common stock. The resemblances 
may be the result of a similarity in the circumstances, 
bj which they are surrounded. As for language, — so 
much rehed upon by the scientific ethnologist, — there 
could scarce be a more unreliable guide. The black 
negro of Carolina, the fair blue-eyed Saxon, and the 
red-skinned, red-polled Hibernian, all speak one lan- 
guage ; the descendants of all three, thousands of years 
hence, will speak the same, — perhaps when they are 
widely scattered apart, — and the superficial philosopher 
of those future times will, no doubt, ascribe to them all 
one common origin ! 

Language, of itself, is no proof of the natural affinities 
of two peoples. It is evidence of their once having been 
in juxtaposition, — not much more. Of course when 
other points correspond, similarity of speech becomes a 
valuable corroboration. It is not our purpose, then, to 
inquire whence the Laplander came, — only where he 
is now, and what he is now. Where is he now ? 

If you take your map of Europe, and draw a line from 
the Gulf of Kandalax, in the "White Sea, to the middle 
of the Loflfoden Isles, on the Norwegian coast, you will 
cut off the country which is now properly called Lapland. 
The country at present inhabited by the people called 
Laplanders, will be found north of this hne. It is a 
boundary more imaginary than real : for in truth there 
is no pohtical division known as Lapland, nor has there 
been for hundreds of years. It is said there once was 
a kingdom of Lapland, and a nation of Laplanders ; but 
there is no proof that either one or the other ever existed. 
There was a peculiar people, whom we now style Lap- 
landers, scattered over the whole northern part of the 


Scandinavian peninsula, and wandering as far south as 
the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia ; but, that this people 
had ever any general compact, or union, deserving the 
name of government or nation, there is no proof. There 
is no evidence that they ever enjoyed a higher degree of 
civihzation than they do at present ; and that is not one 
iota higher than exists among the Esquimaux of North 
America, — notwithstanding the advantage which the 
Laplander has in the domestication of a ruminating 
quadruped and a knowledge of the Christian religion. 

The tract of country which I have above assigned to 
the modern Laplander, is to be regarded rather as mean- 
ing that portion of Northern Europe, which can scarce- 
ly be said to be in the occupation of any other people. 
True Laplanders may be found dwelhng, or rather wan- 
dering, much to the south of the line here indicated, — 
almost to the head of the Bothnian Gulf, — but in these 
southern districts, he no longer has the range clear to 
himself The Finn — a creature of a very different 
kind — here meets him ; constantly encroaching as a 
colonist on that territory which once belonged to the 
Laplander alone. 

It becomes necessary to say a few words about the 
names we are using : since a perfect chaos of confusion 
has arisen among travellers and writers, in relation to 
the nomenclature of these two people, — the Finns and 
the Laplanders. 

Li the first place, then, there is in reahty no such a 
people as Laplanders in Northern Europe. The word 
is a mere geographical invention, or " synonyme," if you 
wish. The people to whom we apply the name, call 
themselves " Samlash ; " the Danes and Norwegians 


term them " Finns ; " and the Swedes and Russians 
style them " Laps." The people whom we know as 
Fmns — and who are not Laplanders in any sense — 
have received the appellation of Fmns erroneously. 
These Finns have for a long period been making pro- 
gress, as colonists, in the territory once occupied by the 
true Finns, or Laplanders ; and have nothing in com- 
mon with these last people. They are agriculturists, 
and dwell in fixed settlements ; not pastoral and nomad- 
ic, as the Laplanders eminently are. Besides, there are 
many other essential points of difference between the 
two, — in mind, — in personal appearance, in habits, in 
almost everything. I am particular upon this point, — 
because the wrong application of the name Finns, to 
this last-mentioned race, has led writers into a world of 
error ; and descriptions given of them and their habits 
have been aj)plied to the people who are the subjects of 
the present chapter, — leading, of course, to the most 
erroneous conclusions. It would be hke exhibiting the 
picture of a Caflfre as the likeness of a Hottentot or 
Bushman ! 

The Finns, as geography now designates them, — and 
which also assigns to them a country called Finland, — 
are, therefore, not Finns at all. "Where they are found 
in the old Lapland territory as colonists, they are called 
Qiians ; and this name is given them ahke 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 ; by 
the Danes and Norwegians "Finns," and by the Rus- 
sians and Swedes sunply " Laps." No known meaning 
is attached to either name ; nor can it be discovered at 


what period either came into use. Enough to know that 
these are the designations hj which they are now known 
to those four nations who have had chiefly to deal with 

Since these people have received so many appella- 
tions, — and especially one that leads to much confusion, 
— perhaps it is better, for geography's sake, to accept 
the error : to leave the netv Finns to their usurped title, 
and to give the old Finns that distinctive name by 
which they are best known to the world, viz. Laplanders. 
So long as it is remembered, that this is merely a geo- 
graphical title, no harm can result from employing it ; 
and should the word Finns occur hereafter, it is to be 
considered as meanino- not the Finns of Norweofian 
Finmark, but the Qiians of Finland, on the Gulf of 

I have spoken of the country of the Laplanders, as 
if they had a country. They have not. There is a 
territory in which they dwell ; but it is not theirs. 
Long, long ago the lordship of the soil was taken from 
them ; and divided between three powerful neighbors. 
Russia took her largest slice from the east; Sweden 
fell in for its southern part ; and Norway claimed that 
northern and western portion, lying along the Atlantic 
and Arctic Oceans. This afterwards became the prop- 
erty of Denmark : when Norway herself ceased to be 

Tlie country, therefore, which I have defined as Lap- 
land, in modern times is so styled, merely because it is 
almost exclusively occupied by these people : it not 
being worth the while of their Danish, Swedish, or 
Russian masters to colonize it. All three, however, 


claim their share of it, — have their regular boimdarj 
lines, — and each mulcts the miserable Laplander of an 
annual tribute, in the shape of a small poll-tax. Each, 
too, has forced his own pecuhar views of Christianity 
on those within his borders, — the Russian has shaped 
the Lap into a Greek Christian ; while, under Swedish 
mfluence, 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 of 
sorcery and witchcraft : in other words, he is a " pagan." 

Before proceeding to describe the Laplander, either 
personally or intellectually, a word about the country in 
which he dwells. I have called it a chaotic land. It 
has been described as a " huge congeries of frightful 
rocks and stupendous mountains, with many pleasant 
valleys, watered by an infinite number of rivulets, that 
run into the rivers and lakes." Some of the lakes are 
of large extent, containing a countless number of islands ; 
one alone - — the Lake Enaro — having so many, that it 
has been said no Laplander has hved long enough to 
visit each particular island. There is a great variety in 
the surface of the land. Li some parts of the country 
the eye rests only on peaks and ridges of bleak, barren 
mountains, — on summits covered with never-meltmg 
snow, — on bold, rocky chffs or wooded slopes, where 
only the firs and bii'ches can flourish. In other parts 
there are dusky forests of pines, intersected here and 
there by wide morasses or bogs. Elsewhere, are exten- 
sive tracts of treeless champaign, covered with the white 
reindeer-lichen, as if they were under a fall of snow ! 

Dm'ing summer there are many green and beautiful 


spots, where even tlie rose sliecls its fragrance around, 
and many berrj-bearing bushes blossom brightly ; but 
the summer is of short duration, and in those parts, 
where it is most attractive, the pest of gnats, mosquitoes, 
and gad-flies, renders the country uninhabitable to the 
Laplander. We shall see presently, that, in the summer 
months, he flees from such lowland scenes, as from a 
pestilence ; and betakes himself and his herd to the 
bleak, barren mountains. 

Having given this short sketch of the country in- 
habited by the Laplander, we proceed to a description 
of himself. 

He is short, — not more than five feet five inches, 
average height, — squat and stoutish, — rarely corpu- 
lent, — though there is a difference in all these respects, 
between those who inhabit different parts of the country. 
The Laps of Norwegian Lapland are taller than those 
in the Russian and Swedish territory. 

His features are small, his eyes elongated, or sht-Hke, 
as among the Mongolian tribes ; his cheekbones promi- 
nent, — his mouth large and wide, and his chin sharply 
pointed. His hair is black, or sometimes brownish ; 
though among some tribes settled along the coasts light 
hair is not uncommon. It is probable that this may 
have originated in some admixture of blood with Nor- 
wegian, Russian, and other fishermen who frequent 
these coasts. 

The Laplander has little or no beard ; and in this 
respect he resembles the Grreenlander and Esquimaux. 
His body is ill made, bony and muscular, and stronger 
than would be expected from his pigmy stature. He 
is active, and capable of enduring extreme fatigue and 


privation ; though it is a mistake to suppose that lie is 
the agile creature he has' been represented, — this error 
arising no doubt from the surprising speed with which 
habit has enabled him to skate over the frozen snow ; 
and which, to a person unused to it, would appear to 
prove an extraordinary degree of agihty. The hands 
and feet are small, — another point in common with the 
Esquimaux. The Laplander's voice is far from being a 
manly one. On the contrary, it is of small compass, 
weak, and of a squeaking tone. The complexion of the 
Laplander is generally regarded as darh. Its natural 
hue is perhaps not much darker than that of the Nor- 
wegian. Certainly not darker than many Portuguese 
or Spaniards ; but, as he is seen, he appears as swarth 
as an Indian. This, however, arises from the long and 
almost constant exposure to smoke : in the midst of 
which the miserable creature spends more than half 
of his time. 

It may again be observed, that those dwelling on the 
sea-shore are of hghter complexion ; but perhaps that 
is 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, — 
even more so than his physical, — differing essentially 
from that of all the other nationalities with which he is 
brought in contact. ' He is cold-hearted, selfish, and 
morose. To love he is almost a stranger ; and when 
such a feeling does exist within his bosom, it is rather as 
a spark than a passion. His courtship and marriage are 
pure matters of business, — rarely having any other 
motive than self-interest. One woman will do for his 


wife as well as another ; and better, if slie be richer 
bj half a dozen reindeer ! 

Hospitahty is a virtue equally unknown to him. He 
wishes to see no stranger ; and even wonders why a 
stranger should stray into his wild, bleak country. He 
is ever suspicious of the traveller through his land ; 
unless that traveller chance to come in the guise of a 
Russian or Norwegian merchant, to exchange strong 
brandy for his reindeer-skins, or the furs of the animals 
he may have trapped. In his dealings he exhibits a 
sufficient degree of cunning, — much more than might 
be expected from the low standard of his intellect ; and 
he will take no paper-money or any kind of " scrip " in 
exchange. This caution, however, he has acquired 
from a terrible experience, which he once had in dealing 
with paper-money ; and he is determined that the folly 
shall never again be repeated. Even in his out-of-the- 
way corner of the globe, there was at one time a bank 
speculation of the " Anglo-Bengalee " character, of 
which the poor Lap was made an especial victim. 

He has no courage whatever. He will not resist 
oppression. The stranger — Russ or Norwegian — may 
strike, kick, or cuff him, — he will not return the blow. 
Behke he will burst mto tears ! 

And yet, under some circumstances, he shows a feel- 
ing akin to courage. He is cool in moments of danger 
from the elements, or when opposed to fierce animals, as 
the wolf or the bear. He is also capable of enduring 
fatigue to an extreme degree ; and it is known histor- 
ically that he was once warlike, — at least much more 
so than at present. Now, there is not a drop of warrior 
blood in his veins. On the contrary, he is timid and 


pacific, and rarely quarrels. He carries constantly upon 
liis person a long ugly knife, of Norwegian manufacture ; 
but he has never been known to ch-aw it, — never known 
to commit murder with it. 

These are certainly virtues ; but it is to be feared that 
with him they owe their origin to timidity and the dread 
of consequences. Now and then he has a quarrel with 
one of his fellows ; but the knife is never used ; and the 
" punishment " consists in giving and receiving various 
kicks, scratches, puUings of the hair and ears : genuine 
blows, however, are not attempted, and the long knife 
never leaves its sheath. 

In the olden time he was a great believer in witches ; 
in fact, noted for his faith in sorcery. Christianity, such 
as it is, has done much to eradicate this behef ; but he is 
still 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 dauo-hter g-oes to the highest bidder, — to him who 
is most liberal in presents of brandy to the parent. Jeal- 
ousy is little known. How could it be felt, where there 
is no love ? 

One of the worst vices of the Laplander is his fond- 
ness for drink, — amountmg almost to a passion. It is 
one of his costUest, too : since he often consumes the 
produce of his industry in its indulgence. His favorite 
beverage is strong, bad brandy, — a staple article kept 
by the traders, to exchange for the commodities which 
the country affords. As these men care little for the 
result, and have a far greater influence over the Lap- 
lander than either the government officials, or the lazy, 
16* X 


timeserving missionaries, it is not probable tliat temper- 
ance will ever be introduced among these wretched peo- 
ple. Fortunately, only the coast Laplanders are at all 
times subject to this influence. The mountain people 
or those who dwell most of their time in the interior, 
are too distant from the " tap " to be so grievously af- 
fected by it. It is only on their short annual visits to 
the merchant stations on the coast, that they fall exten- 
sively into 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 conical 
form, usually of a cloth called wadmal, or some species 
of kersey furnished by the merchants. This cap has a 
tassel at top, and around the bottom is turned up several 
inches, — where it is strengthened by a band of reindeer- 
skin, or the fur of the otter. The coat is a loose gar- 
ment or frock : made of the skin of the reindeer, with 
the hairy side out, and fastened around the waist with a 
broad leathern belt. 

Li this belt is stuck the pointed knife, and a pouch or 
two, for pipe, tobacco, and spoon, are also suspended 
from it. Breeches of reindeer-skin — the hide of the 
young fawns — reach to the ankles ; and buskins, or 
rather stockings, of the same material cover the feet. 
These are gartered over the ends of the breeches, in 
such a way that no snow can get in ; and since there 
is neither shirt nor drawers worn, we have given every 
article of a Laplander's d^ess. No. There are the gloves, 
or mittens, which must not be forgotten, — as they are 
one of the things most essential to his comfort. These 
are also the universal deer-hide. 

Simple as is this dress of the Lapland men, it is not 


more simple tlian that of the Lapland women, since both 
one and the other are exactly alike. A slight difference 
is observable in the shape of the bonnet ; but for the 
rest, the lady wears the deer-skin frock, the breeches, 
and boots, — and like her liege lord, she scorns to in- 
clude hnen in her wai'di'obe. This plain dress, however, 
is the every-day winter costume. The summer one, and 
especially 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, coarse 
wadmal ; but in the case of the richer proprietors, of 
fine colored cloth, — even scarlet being sometimes worn. 
No matter what the quahty of the cloth, however, the 
trimmings are always of rich, bright-colored stuffs ; and 
consist of bands or cords around the skirt, sleeves, and 
collar, elaborately stitched by the females, — who are in 
all cases the tailors. The leathern belt, worn with this 
dress, is loaded mth ornaments, — little square and tri- 
angular plates of brass or white metal, and often of 
heavy, sohd silver. The belt is an esteemed article, — 
as much so as his wampum to a North- American savage, 
— and it requires a large sum to tempt a Laplander to 
part with the precious equipment. A finer cap is also 
worn, on these summer and hohday occasions. Not 
unfrequently, however, the Laplander — especially the 
mountain Lap — sticks to liis deer-skin coat, the paesh, 
through all weathers, and throughout all seasons, — when 
it is too hot simply taking off the belt, and leaving the 
flaps loose and open. Li cold weather, and especially 
when riding in his sledge, an additional garment is worn. 
This is a fur " tippet," which covers his shoulders down 
to the elbows. It is made from the shaggy skm of the 


brown bear, — with the claws left on and hanging down 
in front of the breast. 

Before proceeding to describe the mode of life and 
occupation of the Laplander, it is necessary to state that 
all of the people known as Laplanders, are not occupied 
alike. On the contrary, they may be separated into 
three distinct classes, according to the lives which they 
lead ; and it is absolutely necessary to make this classi- 
fication in the illustration of their habits. They are all 
alike in race and national characteristics, — all Lapland- 
ers, — and they differ but little in their style of dress- 
ing ; but, in other respects, what might be said of one 
would not be true of the other two. I proceed, there- 
fore, to point out the distinction. 

The first to be noticed are those we have already 
mentioned under the title of " Coast," or " Shore Lap- 
landers." The name will give an idea of their Jiahitat, 
— as also their mode of life and subsistence. They 
dwell along the Norwegian coasts, round to the North 
Cape, and even beyond it. They build their gammes, 
or sod-thatched dwellings, in httle villages around the 
numerous creeks and " fiords " that intersect this rock- 
bound shore. 

Their calling is that of fishermen. They subsist 
almost entirely upon fish ; and live by selling their sur- 
plus to the merchants and Russian traders. They keep 
a few sheep, sometimes a poor cow, but rarely own the 
reindeer. The life they lead is entirely different from 
that of their kindred, who dwell habitually in the in- 
terior. As it differs little from that of poor fishermen 
elsewhere, I shall dismiss the coast Laplander without 
another word. 


The second kind of Lap wlio merits our considera- 
tion, is that known as the " Wood Laplander," or, more 
commonly, " Wood Lap." He is less known than either 
of the two other varieties ; but, as already stated, he 
differs from them principally on account of his occupa- 
tion. His home is to be found upon the extensive plain 
country of Russian Lapland, and not near the sea. He 
is a dweller in the pine and fir-forests ; and builds him 
a 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 subsist- 
ence by fishing in the rivers and fresh-water lakes of 
the interior, by shooting the elk and wild reindeer, 
and trapping the fur-bearing animals, — the ermine, the 
sable, the miniver-squirrel, the badger, glutton, foxes, 
and wolves. 

As his calhng is chiefly that of a hunter and trapper, 
and therefore very similar to like occupations in many 
other parts of the world, we need not enter into details 
of it here. For the present, therefore, we must shelve 
the 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 dis- 
tinguishes him from the other two classes of his coun- 

His mode of life is altogether different from either, — 
in fact, resembling theirs in but few particulars. True, 
he fishes a little, and occasionally does a bit of amateur 
hunting ; but these are mere adjuncts or pastimes. His 
main support is his antlered flock : it would be more 
truthful to call it his sole support. By the reindeer he 


lives, by the reindeer he jnoves, hj the reindeer he has 
his being. 

His hfe is purely pastoral ; he is a nomade, — a wan- 
derer. All the world knows this ; but all the world 
does not know wh^ he wanders. Writers have asserted 
that it was to seek new pasture for liis flocks, — the old 
ground having been eaten bare. Nothing of the sort. 
He leaves the fertile plains, just as the willows are 
putting forth their succulent shoots, — just as the rich 
grass begins to spring fresh and green, — and betakes 
himself to the bleak sides of the mountains. That does 
not look hke seeking for a better pasture. It has noth- 
ing to do with it. 

Let us follow him, however, throughout his wander- 
ings, — through the circuit of a single year, — and, per- 
haps, we shall find out the motive that inducts him into 
the roving habit. 

First, then, to be a " Reindeer Laplander," he must 
be the owner of one hundred head of deer ; fewer than 
that will be of no use. If he have only fifty, he must 
sell out, and betake himself to some settlement of Qiians 
or Norwegians, — there to give his service for hire, — 
or else turn Coast Laplander and fisherman, — a calling 
which he despises. This would be a sinking in the 
social scale ; but, if he has been imprudent or unfor- 
tunate, and his flock has got reduced to fifty head, there 
is no help for it. If he have one hundred, however, he 
may manage with great economy to rub on ; and keep 
up his character as a free Reindeer Lap. With three 
hundred he can live comfortably ; better with five hun- 
dred ; but a thousand would render hun afiluent. With 
fifteen hundred he would be a grandee ; and two thou- 


saiid would give him the rank of a milhonaire ! There 
are very few millionaires in Lapland, and not many 
grandees. Proprietors of even a thousand head are 
scarce ; there are more whose herds number from three 
hundred to five hundred each. 

And here, I may remark, that there is no govern- 
ment, — no tribal origanization. The owner of each 
herd is the head of a family ; over them he is patri- 
arch, but his power extends no further. It is not even 
great so far, if there chance to be grown-up unruly 
sons sharinsf the common tent. 

I have used the word tent. That is the Reindeer 
Laplander's home, — winter and summer alike. ISTot- 
withstanding the severity of his chme, he builds no 
house ; and even his tent is of the very rudest kind 
known among tenting tribes. It consists of some birch 
saphngs set up in the snow, bent towards each other, 
and then covered over with a piece of coarse cloth, — 
the ivadmal. This he prefers to a covering of skins ; 
and obtains it from the Norwegian or Russ trader in 
exchange for the latter. The tent, when standing, is 
only six feet high, and not much more in diameter. In 
this circumscribed space his whole family, wife, daugh- 
ters, sons, often a retainer or two, and about a dozen 
dogs find shelter from the piercing blast, — seated, or 
lying beside, or on top of one another, higgledy-piggledy, 
any way they can. There is room found besides for a 
large iron or brass cooking-pot, some dishes and bowls 
of birch, a rude stone furnace, and a fire in the middle 
of the floor. Above the fire, a rack forms a shelf for 
countless tough cheeses, pieces of reindeers' flesh, bowls 
of milk, bladders of deer's blood, and a multiplicity of 
like objects. 


The spring is just opening ; the frost has thawed 
from the trees, — for the winter home is in the midst 
of a forest, — the ground is bare of snow, and already 
smihng with a carpet of green, enamelled by many 
brilliant flowers. It is time, therefore, for the Reindeer 
Laplander to decamp from the spot, and seek some other 
scene less inviting to the eye. You will naturally in- 
quire why he does this ? and perhaps you will express 
some surprise at a man showing so httle judgment as to 
take leave of the fertile plain, — just now promising to 
yield him a rich pasture for his herds, — and transport 
his whole stock to the cold declivity of a bleak moun- 
tam? Yes, it is natural this should astonish you, — not, 
hov\^ever, when you have heard the explanation. 

Were he to stay in that plain — in that wood where 
he has wintered — a month longer, he would run the 
risk of losing half of his precious herd : perhaps in 
one season find himself reduced to the necessity of be- 
coming a Coast Lap. The reason is simple, — the great 
gad-fly (^strus tarandi), with numerous other torment- 
ors, are about to spring forth from the morass ; and, 
as soon as the hot sun has blown them mto full strength 
and vitality, commence their work of desolation upon 
the deer. In a few short days or hours their eggs would 
be deposited in the skin, — even in the nostrils of the 
antlered creature, — there to germinate and produce 
disease and death. Indeed, the torment of biting gnats 
and other insects would of itself materially injure the 
health and condition of the animals ; and if not driven 
to the mountains, they would " stampede," and go there 
of their own accord. It becomes a necessity, then, 
for the Reindeer Lap to remove his habitation ; and, 


having gathered a few necessary utensils, and packed 
them on his stoutest bucks, he is off to the mountains. 

He does not take the whole of his penates along with 
him. That would be difficult, for the snow is now gone, 
and he cannot use his proper mode of travelling, — the 
sledge. This he leaves behind him ; as well as all other 
implements and articles of household use, which he can 
do without in his summer quarters. The cooking-pot, 
and a few bowls and dishes, go along with him, — also 
the tent-cloth, and some skins for bedding. The smaller 
ai'ticle^ are deposited^in panniers of wicker, which are 
slung over the backs of a number of pack-deer ; and, if 
a balance be required, the infant Lap, in its little boat- 
like cradle, forms the adjusting medium. 

The journey is often of immense length. There may 
be highlands near, but these are not to the Laplander's 
liking. Nothing will satisfy him but the bold mountain 
range that overlooks the sea, trending along the whole 
Norwegian coast : only on the decHvities of this, or on 
one of the thousand elevated rocky isles that guard this 
extensive seaboard, does the Laplander beheve that his 
deer will enjoy proper health. He has a behef, more- 
over, that at least once every year, the remdeer should 
drink sea-water to keep them in condition. Certain it 
is, that on reaching the sea, these animals rush eagerly 
into the water, and drink the hriny tluid ; and yet ever 
after, during the same season, they refuse to taste it ! It 
is the general opinion that the solitary draught thus 
taken has the effect of destroying such larvae, as may 
have abeady formed in their skins. 

This journey often costs the Laplander great fatigue 
and trouble. It is not uncommon for him to go two 


hundred miles to the Norwegian coast ; for although Ms 
habitual home may he much nearer to the shores of the 
Bothnian gulf, it would not serve his purpose to take his 
flock there. The forest on that side grows to the water's 
edge ; and the gadfly is as abundant there, as in the 
wooded districts of the interior. 

On reaching his destination, the Laplander chooses 
his grazing-ground, sometimes on the mountains of the 
mainland; but he prefers one of the elevated islets so 
numerous along the shore. This insures him against all 
danger from the flies, and also saves him much trouble 
in herdmg his deer. The islet may be two miles from 
the main, or any other land. That does not signify. 
The remdeer can swim Hke ducks, and the herd is soon 
driven over. The wadmal tent is then pitched, and the 
work of the summer begins. This consists in.milking, 
cheese-making, and looking after the young deer ; and a 
httle fishing adds to the keep of the family : for it is at 
this time that foreign support is most required. The 
season of summer is with the mountain Lap his season 
of scarcity ! He does not dream of killing his deer at 
this season, — that would be sheer waste, — nor does he 
drink their milk, only in very little quantity. It goes to 
the making of cheese, and the owner of the herd con- 
tents himself with the whey. Butter is not made at all 
by the Reindeer Lap, though the Quans and Norwegians 
malvc some. The Lap would have no use for it, — since 
he eats no bread, — and it would not keep so well, nor 
yet be so safe an article of merchandise as the cheese. 
The latter he regards as his staple article of profit. He 
sells it to the coast-merchant : receiving in exchange his 
favorite dram-stuff, and a few pieces of coarse cloth, or 


utensils. The merchant is near at hand : for just for 
this very purpose are several small ports and settlements 
kept in existence along the otherwise desert shores of 
Norway. Deer-skins and dried fish, oils of the seal, 
furs and pelts of various kinds, have drawn these httle 
settlements to the coast. Otherwise they would not be 

When the heat of the summer is over, the reindeer 
Laplander commences his return to his winter abode, — 
back to the place whence he came. The gadflies are 
noAV gone, and he can drive his deer back with safety ; 
and just as he travelled to the coast, he wends his way 
home again : for it is to be observed that he regards the 
w^inter residence as the real home, and the summer one 
only as a place of temporary sojourn. He does not look 
upon it, as we at such a season. To him it is no pleas- 
ant excursion : rather is it his period of toil and dearth, 
— his tightest time. 

Once home again, he has nothing to do but erect his 
wadmal tent and look after his deer, — that now find 
food upon their favorite lichen. It is buried inches deep 
under the snow. They care not for that. They can soon 
uncover the pasture with their broad hoofs ; and their 
keen scent never allows them to scrape up the snow 
without finding the hchen underneath. Upon it they 
thrive, and at this season are in the best condition for 
the knife. 

The Laplander now also enjoys life. If rich, he has 
fresh venison every day ; but even if only moderately 
well off, he "kills" two or three times a w^eek. His 
mode of slaughtering is original. He sticks liis long 
knife-blade mto the thi'oat of the animal, leaving it there 


till the creature is dead ! This precaution he takes to 
prevent waste. Were he to pull out the blade, the blood 
would flow and be lost. The knife acts as a stopper to 
the wound it has made. The blood is preserved and 
carefully put away, — the bladder being used as the 
vessel to contain it. 

You must not imagine that the Reindeer Lap remains 
all the winter in one place ; on the contrary, he moves 
repeatedly, always taking his tent and tent-utensils along 
with him. The tent is as easily set up as taken down. 
The ground in all sheltered places is, at this season, cov- 
ered with snow. It is only necessary to shovel it oif, 
clearing a circular space about the size of the ground- 
plan of the tent. The snow, thus removed, produces a 
sort of elevated ring or snow-dyke all round the bare 
spot ; and into this the tent-poles are hammered. They 
are then bent inward, tied near the tops, and the wadmal 
being 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 laid 
the deer-skins that serve for beds, chairs, tables, and 
blankets. These, with the iron cooking-pot, a large iron 
or brass pail to hold melted snow-water for drinking, 
and a few other utensils, are the only furniture of the 
dwelling. I have already stated that the fire is built in 
the centre of the tent, — on some large stones, forming 
a rudely-constructed hearth. A hole in the roof is in- 
tended for a chimney ; but its draught is so bad, that the 
tent is almost always filled with a cloud of bitter smoke, 
— so thick as to render objects invisible. In this at- 
mosphere no other European, excepting a Lap, could 
possibly exist ; and travellers, passing through the Lap- 


land country, have often preferred braving the cold frost 
of the night air, to being half smothered by the smoke ; 
and have consequently taken shelter under a neighbor- 
ing tree. The Laplander himself feels but little incon- 
venienced by the very thickest smoke. 

Habit is everything, and to this habit has he been 
used from his- infancy. His eyes, hoTvever, are not so 
indiiferent to the annoyance. These suffer from it ; and 
the consequence is that the eyes of the Laplanders are 
almost universally sore and watery. This is a notable 
characteristic of the race. Smoke, however, is not the 
sole cause of it. The Esquimaux equally suffer from 
sore eyes ; and these, burning oil in their houses instead 
of wood, are seldom troubled with smoke. More likely 
it is the snow-glare to which the Laplander, as well as 
the Esquimaux, is much exposed, that brings about this 
copious watering of the eyes. 

The Laplander cooks the reindeer flesh by boiling. 
A large piece is put into the great family pot, and noth- 
ing added but a quantity of water. Li this the meat 
boils and simmers till it is done tender. The oily fat 
is then skimmed off, and put into a separate vessel ; and 
the meat is " dished " in a large tray or bowl of birch- 

A piece is then cut off, for each individual of the 
family ; and handed around the circle. It is eaten with- 
out bread, and even salt is dispensed with. A dip in 
the bowl of skim-fat is all the seasoning it gets ; and it 
is washed down with the " hquor " in which it has been 
boiled, and Avhich is nothing but greasy water, without 
vegetables or any other " lining." It has the flavor of 
the fat venison, however ; and is by no means ill-tasted. 


The angelica flourishes in the country of the Laplander; 
and of this vegetable he makes occasional use, not eat- 
ing the roots, but the stalks and leaves, usually raw and 
without any preparation. Perhaps he is led to use it, 
by a knowledge of the antiscorbutic properties of the 

Several species of berry-producing bushes also furnish 
him with an occasional meal of fruit. There are wild 
currants, the cranberry, whortle, and bilberries. The 
fruits of these trees do not fall in the autumn, as with 
us ; but remain all winter upon the branches. Buried 
under the snow, they are preserved in perfect condition, 
until the thaw of the following spring once more brings 
them into view. At this time they are sweet and mel- 
low ; and are gathered in large quantities by the Lap 
women. Sometimes they are eaten, as they come from 
the tree ; but it is more usual to make them into a 
" plum-pudding : " that is, they are mixed with a kind 
of curdled milk, and stored away in bladders. When 
wanted, a shce is cut from the mass, — including a piece 
of the bladder, within which they have now attained to 
the stiffness and consistence of a " cream-cheese." 

Another great luxury of the Laplander, is the rein- 
deer's milk frozen into an "ice." This is easily ob- 
tained ; and the process consists simply in filling a birch- 
en bowl with milk, and exposing it to the open air 
during frost. It is soon converted into sohd ice ; and 
in this condition will keep perfectly sweet throughout 
the whole of the winter. As the reindeer are never 
milked in the depth of the winter season, the Laplander 
takes care, before that period approaches, to lay in a 
stock of ice-milk : so that he may have a drink of it at 


all times, by simplj setting one of his birchen bowls 
within reach of the fire. He even makes a merchandise 
of this article : for the frozen reindeer milk is highly 
prized by the foreign merchants ; who are ready, at any 
time, to exchange for the dehcious article a dram of 
their devilish fire-water. 

It is at this season that the Laplander moves about, 
both on foot and in his sledge. He not only travels 
fi'om place to place, in a circuit of twenty miles, — 
round the httle solitary church which the Swedish mis- 
sionary has built for him, — but he makes an occasional 
journey to the distant coast. 

Li his sledge, or even afoot, a hundred miles are to 
him as nothing : for the frozen snow enables him to per- 
form such a distance in an incredibly short time. On 
his " skies," or snow-skates he could do a hundred miles 
in a couple of days ; even though the paths led him over 
hills, mountains, lakes, and rivers. All are now alike, 
— all concealed under the common covering of a deep 
snow. The lakes and rivers are frozen and bridged for 
him ; and the mountain declivities are rendered smooth 
and easily traversed, — either by the sledge or the 
"skies." With the former he would tlimk little of a 
hundred miles in a single day ; and if the occasion were 
a " 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 Lap- 
lander, as also his snow-skimming, or skating, have been 
both often and elaborately described. I have only space 
here to present the more salient points of the picture. 

This sleigh or sledge is tenned by him " pulka ; " but 
he has three varieties of this article, — two for travel- 


ling, and the tliird for carrying luggage. The two first 
kinds are nearly alike ; and, in fact, differ only in a little 
extra " furniture," which one of tliem has upon it, — that 
is, a covering over the top, to keep more comfortable the 
feet and legs of the traveller. In other respects it is 
only the common pulk, being similar to the latter in 
shape, size, atelage, and everything. 

To get an idea of the Laplander's sledge, you must 
fancy a little boat, about six feet long, and sixteen inches 
in breadth of beam. This is the width at the stern, 
where it is broadest ; but from the stern it narrows all 
the way forward, until, on reaching the stem, it has 
tapered almost to a point. Its sides are exactly like 
those of a boat ; and it rests upon a " keel " of about 
four inches breadth, which keel is the one and only 
" runner." A strong board boxes up the stern end, in 
front of which is the seat ; and the board itself serves 
to support the back of the rider. His legs and feet are 
stretched out longitudinally; filling up the space be- 
tween the quarter-deck and the " for'ard " part of the 
little craft ; and, thus fixed, the Laplander is ready for 
the road. 

In the best class of " pulk " — that used by the E.uss 
and Swedish traders and travellers — the forward part 
is covered with a sort of half-deck of skins or leather ; 
but the Laplander does not often fancy this. It gives 
him too much trouble to get out and in ; as he is often 
compelled to do to look after his train of deer. His 
pulk, therefore, is open from stem to stern ; and his 
deer-skin coverings keep his legs warm enough. 

Only one deer is used ; and the mode of harnessing 
is of primitive simplicity. A band of skin acts as a 


collar round the neck of the annual ; and from the low- 
est pouit of this a piece falls downwards below the 
animal's breast, — striking in on the counter like the 
pendants of a martingale. To this piece is attached 
the trace, — there is but one, — which, passing between 
the forelegs, and afterwards the hind ones, is looped 
mto an iron ring upon the stem of the sledge. Upon 
this trace, which is a strong strap of raw hide or 
leather, the whole draught-power is exerted. A broad 
surcingle — usually of cloth, neatlj stitched and orna- 
mented — passes round the deer's bod j. Its use is to 
hold up the trace underneath the belly, and prevent it 
from dragging the ground, or getting among the animal's 
feet. A similar band of cloth passes round its neck, 
giving a fine appearance to the noble creature. A sin- 
gle rein attached to the left horn, or fixed halter-fashion 
around the deer's head, is all that is necessary to guide 
it along ; the movements of this, aided by the accents 
of its master's voice, are understood by this well-trained 

For all that, the deer does not always travel kindly. 
Frequently he takes a fit of obstinacy or anger ; and 
will then turn upon his trainer, — presenting his ant- 
lered front in an attitude of attack. On such occasions 
the Lap takes shelter behind his " pulk," raising it in 
his arms, and holding it as a shield wherewith to defend 
himself; until he can pacify, or otherwise subdue, the 
u'ritated buck. 

The tumbling of the sledge, and consequent spilling 

of its load, is a thing of frequent occurrence, owing to 

the narrow base upon which the vehicle is supported ; 

but the Laplander thinks nothing of a trifling mishap 

17 Y 


of this nature. In a trice the " snow-boat " is righted, 
the voyager in his seat again, and off over the frozen 
snow with the speed of hghtning. 

The reindeer can travel nearly twenty English miles 
an hour ! This rate of speed has been proved and 
tested ; and with fresh relays along the route, over four 
hundred miles might be made in a day. But the same 
thing could be done with horses, — that is, upon a 
desperate emergency. 

The luggage " puUc " of the Laplander differs only 
from the other kinds of sledges in being longer, broader, 
deeper, and consequently of more capacity to caiTy 
goods. It is used for transporting the skins, and other 
merchantable commodities, from the interior to the trad- 
ing depots on the coast. 

The shies or snow-skates require very little descrip- 
tion. They are on the same principle as the snow-shoes 
in use among the North-American Indians ; though from 
these they differ materially in construction. They are 
merely two long pieces of smooth board, a few inches 
in breadth, and slightly turned up at the ends. One is 
full six feet, — the right one ; the left is about twelve 
inches shorter. Near the middle they are lashed firmly 
to the feet by strong pieces of hide ; and by means of 
these curious appendages, when the snow is crusted 
over, the Laplander can skim over its surface with great 
rapidity. He uses a long pole to guide and assist him 
in his movements ; and this pole has a piece of circular 
board, or a round ball, near its point, — to prevent it 
from sinking too deeply in the snow. Going up hill 
upon the skies is not so easy ; but the practised skater 
can ascend even the steep acchvities of the mountains 


ern side of the island. Tlie master of the vessel, not 
knowing the position of Port Cornwallis, sent a boat to 
explore an opening which he saw in the land, — fancy- 
ing that it might be the entrance to the harbor. It was 
not this, however ; but the mouth of the channel above 
mentioned. The crew of the boat consisted of two Eu- 
ropeans and six Lascars. It was late in the afternoon 
when they stood into the entrance ; and, as it soon fell 
dark upon them, thej lost their way, and found them- 
selves can'ied along by a rapid current that set towards 
the Bay of Bengal. The northeast monsoon was blow- 
ing at the time with great violence ; and this, together 
with the rapid current, soon carried the boat through the 
channel ; and, in spite of their efforts, they were driven 
out into the Indian Ocean, far beyond sight of land ! 
Here for eighteen days the unfortunate crew were buf- 
feted about ; until they were picked up by a French 
ship, almost under the equinoctial hne, many hundreds 
of miles from the channel they had thus involuntarily 
discovered ! The sad part of the story remains to be 
told. "When reheved by the French vessel, the two 
Europeans and three of the Lascars were still hving ; 
the other three Lascars had disappeared. Shocking to 
relate, they had been killed and eaten by their com- 
panions ! 

The convict settlement above mentioned was carried 
on only for a few years, and then abandoned, — in con- 
sequence of the unhealthiness of the chmate, by which 
the Sepoy guards of the estabhshment perished in great 

Notwithstanding this, the Andaman Islands present a 
very attractive aspect. A ridge of mountains runs near- 


ly throughout their whole extent, rising in some places 
to a height of between two and three thousand feet. 
These mountains are covered to their tops by dense 
forests, that might be called primeval, — since no trace 
of clearing or cultivation is to be found on the whole 
surface of the islands ; nor has any ever existed within 
the memory of man, excepting that of the convict settle- 
ment referred to. Some of the forest trees are of great 
size and height ; and numerous species are intermixed. 
Mangroves line the shores ; and prickly ferns and wild 
rattans form an impenetrable brake on the sides of the 
hills ; bamboos are also common, and the " gambler " 
or "cutch" tree (Agathis), from which is extracted the 
Terra Japonica of commerce. There are others that 
yield dyes, and a curious species of screw-pine (pan- 
datius), — known as the "Nicobar breadfruit." 

Notwithstanding then' favorable situation, the zoology 
of these islands is extremely limited in species. The 
only quadrupeds known to exist upon them are wild 
hogs, dogs, and rats ; and a variety of the monkey tribe 
inhabits the forests of the interior. The land-bu'ds ai-e 
few, — consisting of pigeons, doves, small parrots, and the 
Indian crow ; while hawks are seen occasionally hover- 
ing over the trees ; and a species of humming-bird flies 
about at night, uttering a soft cry that resembles the 
cooing of doves. There are owls of several species ; 
and the cliffs that front the coast are frequented by a 
singular swallow, — the hirundo escidcnta, Avhose nests 
are eaten by the wealthy mandrins of China. Along 
the shores there are gulls, kingfishers, and other aquatic 
birds. A large lizard of the gua?ia species is common, 
with several others ; and a green snake, of the most 


venomous description, renders it dangerous to penetrate 
the jungle thickets that cover the whole surface of the 

In all these matters there is not much that is remark- 
able, — if we accept the extreme paucity of the zoology ; 
and this is really a peculiarity, — considering that the 
Andaman Islands lie within less than eighty leagues of 
the Burman territory, a country so rich m mammalia ; 
considering, too, that they are covered with immense 
forests, almost impenetrable to human bemgs, on account 
of their thick intertwining of underwood and parasitical 
plants, — the very home, one would suppose for wild 
beasts of many kinds ! And withal we find only three 
species of quadrupeds, and these small ones, thinly dis- 
tributed along the skirts of the forest. In truth, the 
Andaman Islands and their fauna have long been a 
puzzle to the zoologist. 

But longer still, and to a far greater extent, have their 
human inhabitants perplexed the ethnologist ; and here 
we arrive at the true peculiarity of the Andaman Islands, 
— that is to say, the people who inhabit them. With 
perhaps no exception, these people are the most truly 
savage of any on the face of the globe ; and this has 
been their character from the earliest times : for they 
have been known to the ancients as far back as the time 
of Ptolemy. Ptolemy mentions them under the title of 
anthropophagi (man-eaters) ; and the Arabs of the ninth 
century, who navigated the Indian Ocean, have given a 
similar account of them. Marco Polo adopts this state- 
ment, and what is still more surprising, one of the most 
noted ethnologists of our own time — Dr. Latham — 
has given way to a like credulity, and puts the poor 


Anclamaners down as " pagan cannibals." It is an error : 
tliey are not cannibals in any sense of the word ; and if 
they have ever eaten human flesh, — of which there is 
no proof, — it has been when impelled by famine. Un- 
der like circumstances, some of every nation on earth 
have done the same, — Englishmen, Germans, French- 
men, Americans, — of late years frequently, — in the 
mountains of New Mexico and California. 

The charge of cannibalism against these miserable be- 
inofs rests on no other foundation than the allegations of 
Chinese sailors, and the vague statements of Ptolemy 
and the Arabs above mentioned. 

The Chinese have occasion now and then to visit the 
Andaman Islands in their junks, to collect the edible 
nests of the swallow (Jiirundo esciilentd), — which birds 
have extensive breeding-places on the cliffs that over- 
hang the coast of the Great Andaman. The " trepang," 
or sea-slug, is also found in large quantities upon the 
rocks near the shore ; and this is equally an object of 
commerce, and esteemed an article of the greatest lux- 
ury, among the mandarins, and other rich celestials who 
can afford to indulge in it. 

Now and then, a junk has been wrecked among these 
rocks ; and its miserable crew have fallen a victim to 
the hostility of the natives : just as they might have 
done on more civilized coasts, where no cannibalism was 
ever suspected to exist. Crews of junks have been to- 
tally destroyed, — murdered, if you please, — but it 
would not be difficult to show, that this was done more 
from motives of revenge than from a mere sanguinary in- 
stinct or disposition ; but there is no proof whatever of, 
even a single case, of true cannibalism. Indeed, there 


are strong reasons for our disbelief in this horrid custom, 
— so far as regards the poor savages of the Andamans. 
An incident, that seems to give a fiat contradiction to it, 
occurred during the occupanc}^ of the island hj the East- 
India Company in the year 1793 ; and other proofs of 
non-cannibalism have been obtained at a still more re- 
cent period, to Avliich we shall presently allude. 

The incident of 1793 was as follows : A party of 
fishers belonoino- to the settlement enticed an Andaman 
woman to come near, by holding oat presents of food. 
The woman was made captive by these treacherous men ; 
who, instead of reheving her hunger, . proceeded to be- 
have to her in the most brutal and unfeeling manner. 
The cries of the poor creature brought a numerous troop 
of her people to the spot ; who, rushing out of the thick- 
ets from every side, collected around the fishermen ; and, 
having attacked them with spears and arrows, succeeded 
in kilhng two of their number. The rest with difficulty 
escaped to the settlement ; and, having obtained assist- 
ance, a large party set out to search for the bodies of 
their companions. There was but little expectation that 
these would be recovered : as all were under the belief 
that the savages must have carried them away for the 
purpose of making a cannibal feast upon them. There 
had been ample time for the removing of them : since 
the scene of the struo-o-le was at a considerable distance 
from the fort. 

The searchers, therefore, were somewhat astonished 
at finding both bodies on the spot where they had fall- 
en, and the enemy entirely gone from the ground ! The 
bodies were disfigured in the most shocking manner. 
The flesh was pierced in every part, — by spears, no 


doubt, — and tlie bones had been ponnded with heavy- 
stones, until they were mashed into fragments ; but not 
a bit of flesh was removed, not even an arm or limb had 
been severed ! 

The other instance to which we have promised to 
allude occurred at a much more recent period, — so 
late, in fact, as the period of the King of Delhi's im- 
prisonment. It Avill be fresh in the memory of my 
readers, that his Hindoo majesty was carried to the 
island of Great Andaman, along with a number of '* Se- 
poy " rebels, who had been taken prisoners during the 
late Indian revolt. The convict settlement was restored, 
especially for this purpose ; and a detachment of " East- 
India Company's troops " was sent along with the rebel 
sepoys to guard them. It was supposed that the troops 
would have great difficulty in the performance of their 
duty : since the number of their prisoners Avas larger 
than could be fairly looked after ; and, it was well 
known, that, if a prisoner could once get clear of the 
walls of the fort, it would be altogether idle to pursue 
him. The chase after a fugitive through the tano;Ied 
forests of the Andamans would be emphatically a " wild- 
goose " chase ; and there would be ten chances to one 
against his being recaptured. 

Such, in reahty, did it appear, for the first week or 
two, after the settlement was re-established. Numerous 
prisoners escaped into the woods, and as it was deemed 
idle to follow them, they were given up as "lost birds." 

In the end, however, it proved that they were not all 
lost, — though some of them were. After a week or 
two had expired, they began to straggle back to the fort, 
and voluntarily deliver themselves up to their old guards. 


— now one, now another, or two or three at a time, — 
but all of them in the most forlorn and deplorable con- 
dition. They had enjoyed a httle liberty on the Anda- 
man isles ; but a taste of it had proved sufRcient to sat- 
isfy them that captivity in a well-rationed guard-house 
was even preferable to freedom with a hungry stomach, 
added to the risk which they ran every hour of the day 
of being impaled upon the spears of the savages. Many 
of them actually met with this fate ; and others only 
escaped half dead from the hostile treatment they had 
received at the hands of the islanders. There was no 
account, however, that any of them had been eaten, — no 
evidence that their implacable enemies were cannibals. 

Such are a few ai'guments that seem to controvert the 
accusation of Ptolemy and the two Arab merchants, — 
in whose travels the statement is found, and afterwards 
copied by the famous Marco Polo. Probably the Arabs 
obtained their idea from Ptolemy, Marco Polo from the 
Arabs, and Dr. Latham from Marco Polo. Indeed, it is 
by no means certain that Ptolemy meant the Andaman 
Islands by his Islce honce Fortunce, or " Good-luck Isles," 

— certainly a most inappropriate appellation. He may 
have referred to Sumatra and its Battas, — who are 
cannibals beyond a doubt. And, after all, what could 
Ptolemy know about the matter except from vague re- 
j^ort, or, more likely still, more vague speculation, — a 
process of reasoning practised in Ptolemy's time, just as 
at the present day. We are too ready to adopt the 
errors of the ancient writers, — as if men were more 
infallible then than they are now ; and, on the other 
hand, we are equally prone to incredulity, — often re- 
jecting their testimony when it would conduct to truth. 


I believe there is no historic testimony — ancient or 
modern — before us, to prove that the Andaman island- 
ers are cannibals ; and yet, ^yilh all the testimony to the 
contrary, there is one fact, or rather a hypothesis, which 
shall be presently adduced, that would point to the proh- 
ahility of their being so. 

If they are not cannibals, however, they are not the 
less unmitigated savages, of the very lowest grade and 
degree. They are unacquainted with almost the very 
humblest arts of social hfe ; and are not even so far 
advanced in the scale as to have an organization. In 
this respect they are upon a par with the Bushmen of 
Africa and the Diggers of North America : still more 
do they resemble the wretched starvelings of Tierra del 
Fuego. They have no tribal tie ; but dwell in scattered 
groups or gangs, — just as monkeys or other animals 
of a gregarious nature. 

In person, the Andaman is one of the very " ugliest " 
of known savages. He is of short stature, attaining to 
the height of only five feet ; and his wife is a head 
shorter than himself. Both are as black as pitch, could 
their natural color be discovered ; but the skin is usually 
hidden under a mask of rare material, which we shall 
presently have occasion to describe. 

The upper half of the Andamaner's body is strongly 
and compactly built, and his arms are muscular enough. 
It is below, in the limbs, where he is most lacking in 
development. His legs are osseous and thin ; and, only 
when he is in fine condition, is there the slightest swell 
on them that would indicate the presence of a calf. His 
feet are of monstrous length, and without any symmetry, 
— the heel projecting far backwards, in the fashion 


iisuaUj styled "lark-heeled." It is just possible that a 
good deal of practice, by running over mud-banks and 
quicksands in search of his shell-fish subsistence, may 
have added to the natural development of his pedal ex- 
tremities ; for there can be no longer any doubt, that 
hke effects have been produced by such causes, — effects 
that are indeed, after all, more natural than artificial. 

The Andamaner exhibits the protuberance of belly 
noticed among other savages, who lead a starving life ; 
and his countenance is usually marked with an expres- 
sion that betrays a mixture of ferocity and famine. 

It is worthy of remark, however, that though these 
stunted proportions are generally observable among the 
natives of the Andaman Islands, they do not appear to 
be universal. It is chiefly on the island of the Great 
Andaman that the most wretched of these savages are 
found. The Little Andaman seems to produce a better 
breed : since parties have been met with on this last- 
named island, in which many mdividuals were observed 
nearly six feet in height, and stout in proportion. One 
of 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 the 
jungle, which covers the island to within a few yards 
of the water's edge, we came suddenly upon a party of 
the natives, lying upon their bellies behind the bushes, 
armed with spears, arrows, and long-bows, which they 
bent at us in a threatening manner. Our Lascars, ns 
soon as they saw them, fell back in great consternation, 
levelhng their muskets and running into the sea towards 
the boats. It was with great diflBculty we could prevent 
our cowardlv rascals from fuing ; the tyndal was the 


only one ^Yho stood by tlie chief mate and myself. "We 
advanced -svitliin a few paces of the natives, and made 
signs of drinking, to intimate the purpose of our visit. 
The tyndal salaamed to them, according to the different 
oriental modes of salutation, — he spoke to them in 
Malay, and other languages ; but they returned no 
answer, and continued in their crouching attitude, point- 
ing their weapons at us whenever we turned. I held 
out my handkerchief, but they would not come from be- 
hind the bushes to take it. I placed it upon the ground ; 
and we returned, in order to allow them an opportunity 
of picking it up : still they would not move. 

" I counted sixteen strong and able-bodied men op- 
posite to us, many of them very lusty ; and further on, 
six more. They were very different in appearance from 
what the natives of the Great Andaman are represented 
to be, — that is, of a puny race. The whole party was 
completely naked, with the exception of one, — a stout 
man nearly six feet in height, who was standing up 
along with two or three women in the rear. He wore 
on his head a red cloth with white spots. 

" They were the most ferocious and wild-looking be- 
ings I ever beheld. Those parts of their bodies that 
were not besmeared with mud, were of a sooty black 
color. Their faces seemed to be painted with a red 

Notwithstanding the difference in stature and other 
respects, — the result no doubt of a better condition of 
existence, — the inhabitants of both islands. Great and 
Little Andaman, are the same race of people ; and in 
the portrait, the faces of both may be considered as one 
and the same. This bringrs us to the strano-est fact in 


the whole history of the Andaman islander. Instead 
of a Hmdoo fece, or a Chinese Mongolian face, or that 
of a Malay, — any of which we might reasonably ex- 
pect to find in an aboriginal of the Bay of Bengal, — 
we trace in the Andaman islander the true physiognomy 
of a negro. Not only have we the flat nose and thick 
lips, but the curly hair, the sooty complexion, and all 
the other negro characteristics. And the most ill-fa- 
vored variety at that ; for, in addition to the ungraceful 
features already mentioned, we find a head large beyond 
all proportion, and a pair of small, red eyes deeply 
sunken in their sockets. Truly the Andaman islander 
has few pretensions to being a beauty ! 

Wretched, however, as the Andaman islander may 
appear, and of little importance as he certainly is in the 
great social family of the human race, he is, ethnologi- 
cally speaking, one of its most interesting varieties. 
From the earliest times he has been a subject of specu- 
lation, or rather his presence in that particular part of 
the world where he is now found : for, since it is the 
general belief that he is entirely isolated from the two 
acknowledged negro races, and surrounded by other 
types 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 — 
for that is about the number of Andaman islanders — 
have been honored with a greater amount of speculation 
in regard to theu' origin. Some ethnologists assign to 
them an African origin, and account for their presence 
upon the Andaman Islands by a singular story : that a 
Portuguese ship laden with African slaves, and pro- 
ceeding to the Indian colonies, was wrecked in the Bay 


of Bengal, and, of course, off the coast of the Andamans : 
that the crew were murdered by the slaves ; who, set 
free by this circumstance, became the inhabitants of the 
island. This story is supported by the argument, that 
the hostility which the natives now so notoriously ex- 
hibit, had its origin in a spirit of revenge : that still 
remembering the cruel treatment received on the " mid- 
dle passage " at the hands of their Portuguese masters, 
they have resolved never to be enslaved again ; but to 
retaliate upon the white man, whenever he may fall into 
their power ! 

Certainly the circumstances would seem to give some 
color to the tale, if it had any foundation ; but it has 
none. "Were we to credit it, it would be necessary to 
throw Ptolemy and the Arab merchants overboard, and 
Marco Polo to boot. All these have recorded the ex- 
istence of the Andaman islanders, long before ever a 
Portuguese keel cleft the waters of the Indian Ocean, — 
long even before Di Gama doubled the Cape ! 

But without either the aid of Ptolemy or the testi- 
mony of the Arabian explorers, it can be established 
that the Andaman Islands were inhabited before the era 
of the Portuguese in India ; and by the same race of 
savages as now dwell upon them. 

Another theory is : that it was an Arahian slave-ship 
that was wrecked, and not a Portuguese ; and this would 
place the peopling of the islands at a much earlier pe- 
riod. There is no positive fact, however, to support 
this theory, — Avhich, like the other, rests only on mere 

The error of these hypotheses lies in their mistaken 
data ; for, although we have stated that the Andaman 


islanders are iindoubtedlj a negro race, thej are not that 
negro race to which the speculation points, — in other 
words, they are not African negroes. Beyond certain 
marked features, as the flat nose and thick lips, they 
have nothing in common with these last. Their hair is 
more of the kind called " frizzly," than of the " woolly " 
texture of that of the Ethiopian negro ; and in this re- 
spect they assimilate closely to the " Papuan," or Kew 
Guinea " negrillo," which every one knows is a very 
different being from the African negro. 

Their moral characteristics — such as there has been 
an opportunity of observing among them — are also an 
additional proof that they are not of African origin ; 
while these point unmistakably to a kinship with the 
other side of the Indian Ocean. Even some of their 
fashions, as we shall presently have occasion to notice, 
have a like tendency to confirm the belief that the An- 
daman is a " negrillo," and not a " negro." The only 
obstacle to this belief has hitherto been the fact of their 
isolated situation : since it is alleged — rather hastily 
as we shall see — that the whole of the opposite conti- 
nent of the Burmese and other empires, is peopled by 
races entu-ely distinct : that none of the adjacent islands 
— the Nicobars and Sumatra — have any negro or negrillo 
inhabitants : and that the Andamaners are thus cut off, as 
it were, from any possible hne of migration which they 
could have followed in entering the Bay of Bengal. 
Ethnologists, howe\'er, seem to have overlooked the cir- 
cumstance that this allegation is not strictly true. The 
Samangs — a tribe inhabiting the mountainous parts of 
the Maylayan peninsula — are also a negro or negrillo 
race ; a fact which at once establishes a link in the chain 



of a supposed migration from the great Indian archi- 

This lets the Andaman islander into the Great China 
Sea ; or rather, coming from that sea, it forms the step- 
ping-stone to his present residence in the Bay of Ben- 
gal. Who can say that he was not at one time the 
owner of the Maylayan peninsula ? How can we account 
for the strange fact, that figures of Boodh — the Guad- 
ma of the Burmese and Siamese — are often seen in 
India beyond the Ganges, dehneated with the curly hair 
and other characteristic features of the negro ? 

The theory that the Samang and Andaman islander 
once ruled the Malay peninsula ; that they themselves 
came from eastward, — from the great islands of the 
Melanesian group, the centre and source of the negrillo 

i-ace, will in some measure account for this singular 

monumental testimony. The probabihty, moreover, is 
always in favor of a migration westivard ivithin the 
tropics. Beyond the tropics, the rule is sometimes re- 

A coincidence of personal habit, between the Anda- 
man islander and the Melanesian, is also observed. The 
former dyes his head of a brown or reddish color, — the 
very fashion of the Feegee ! 

Suppose, then, that the Samang and Andaman islander 
came down the trades, at a period too remote for even 
tradition to deal with it : suppose they occupied the Ma- 
lay peninsula, no matter how long ; and that at a much 
more recent period, they were pushed out of place, — 
the one returning to the Andaman Islands, the other to 
the mountains of the Quedah : suppose also that the 
party pushing them off were Malays, — who had them- 


selves been drifted for hundreds of years down the trades 
from the far shores of America (for this is our " specu- 
lation ") : suppose all these circumstances to have taken 
place, and you will be able to account for two facts that 
have for a long time puzzled the ethnologist. One is 
the presence of negroes on the islands of Andaman, — 
and the other of Malays in the southeastern corner of 
Asia. We might bring forward many arguments to up- 
hold the probability of these hypotheses, had we space 
and time. Both, however, compel us to return to the 
more particular subject of our sketch ; and we shall do 
so after having made a remark, promised above, and 
which relates to the prohahility of the Andaman islander 
bemg a cannibal. This, then, would lie in the fact of 
Jus being a Papuan negro. And yet, again, it is only a 
seeming ; for it might be shown that with the Papuan 
cannibahsm is not a natural instinct. It is. only where 
he has reached a high degree of civilization, as in the 
case of the Feegee islander. Call the latter a monster 
if you will ; but, as may be learnt from our account of 
him, he is anything but a savage, in the usual accepta- 
tion of the term. In fact, language has no ej^ithet suffi- 
ciently vile to characterize such an anomalous animtil 
as he. 

I have endeavored to cleai' the Andaman islander of 
the chai'ge of this guilt ; and, since appearances are so 
much against him, he ought to feel gi'ateful. It is doubt- 
ful whether he would, should this fall into his hands, and 
he be able to read it. The portrait of his face without 
that stam upon it, he might regard as ugly enough ; and 
that of his habits, which now follows, is not much more 


His house is little better than the den of a wild beast ; 
and far inferior in ingenuity of construction to those 
which beavers build. A few poles stuck in the ground 
are leant towards each other, and tied together at the 
top. Over these a wattle of reeds and rattan-leaves 
forms the roof ; and on the iloor a " shake-down " of 
withered leaves makes his bed, or, perhaps it should 
rather be called his " lair." This, it will be perceived, 
is just the house built by Diggers, Bushmen, and Fue- 
gians. There are no culinary utensils, — only a drink- 
ing-cup of the nautilus shell ; but implements of war and 
the chase in plenty : for such are found even amongst 
the lowest of savages. They consist of bows, arrows, 
and a species of javelin or dart. The bows are very 
long, and made of the bamboo cane, — as are also the 
darts. The arrows are usually pointed with the tusks 
of the small wild hogs which inhabit the islands. These' 
they occasionally capture in the chase, hanging up the 
skulls m their huts as tropliies and ornaments. With 
strings of the hog's teeth also they sometimes ornament 
their bodies ; but they are not very vain in this respect. 
Sometimes pieces of iron are found among them, — nails 
flattened to form the blades of knives, or to make an 
edge for their adzes, the heads of AAdiich are of hard 
wood. These pieces of iron they have no doubt ob- 
tained from wrecked vessels, or in the occasional inter- 
course which they have had with the convict establish- 
ment ; but there is no regular commerce with them, — 
in fact, no commerce whatever, — as even the Malay 
traders, that go everywhere, do not visit the Andaman- 
ers, from dread of their well-known Ishmaelitish charac- 
ter. Some of the communities, more forward in civili- 


zation, possess articles of more ingeuioiis construction, — 
such as baskets to hold fruits and shell-fish, well-made 
bows, and arrows with several heads, for shooting fish. 
The only other article they possess of their own manu- 
facture, is a rude kind of canoe, hollowed out of the 
trunk of a tree, by means of fire and their poor adze. 
A bamboo raft, of still ruder structure, enables them 
to cross the narrow bays and creeks by which their coast 
is indented. 

Their habitual dwelling-place is upon the shore. They 
rarely penetrate the thick forests of the interior, where 
there is nothing to tempt them : for the wild hog, to 
which they sometimes give chase, is found only along 
the coasts where the forest is thinner and more strag- 
gling, or among the mangrove-bushes, — on the fruits of 
which these animals feed. Strange to say, the forest, 
though luxuriant in species, affords but few trees that 
bear edible fruits. The cocoa-palm — abundant in all 
other parts of the East-Indian territories, and even upon 
the Cocos Islands, that lie a little north of the Anda- 
mans — does not grow upon these mountain islands. 
Since the savages know nothing of cultivation, of course 
their dependence upon a vegetable diet would be ex- 
ceedingly precarious. A few fruits and roots are eaten 
by them. The pandanus, above mentioned, bears a fine 
cone-shaped fruit, often weighing between thirty and 
forty pounds ; and this, under the name of mellori, or 
•• Nicobar bread-fruit," forms part of their food. But it 
requires a process of cooking, which, being quite im- 
known to the Andamaners, must make it to them a 
'• bitter fruit " even when roasted in the ashes of their 
fires, wliich is their mode of preparing it. They eat 


also the fruit of the mangrove, and of some other trees ; 
but these are not obtamable at all seasons, or in such 
quantity as to afford them a subsistence. Thej depend 
principally upon fish, wliicli they broil in a primitive 
manner over a gridiron of bamboos, sometimes not wait- 
ing till they are half done. They especially subsist 
upon shell-fish, several kinds abounding on their coasts, 
which they obtain among the rocks after the tide has 
gone out. To gather these is the work of the women, 
while the men employ themselves in fishing or in the 
chase of the wild hog. The species of shell-fish most 
common are the murex tribidus^ trochus telescopium, 
cyprcea caurica, and muscles. They are dexterous in 
capturing other fish with their darts, which they strike 
down upon the finny prey, either from their rafts, or by 
wading up to their knees in the water. They also take 
fish by torchlight, — that is, by kindling dry grass, the 
blaze of which attracts certain species into the shallow 
water, where the fishers stand in wait for them. 

When the fishery fails them, and the oysters and mus- 
cles become scarce, they are often driven to sad extremi- 
ties, and will then eat anything that will sustain fife, — 
lizards, insects, Avorms, — perhaps even human flesh. 
They are not unfrequently in such straits ; and instances 
are recorded, where they have been found lying upon 
the shore in the last stages of starvation. 

An instance of this kind is related in connection with 
the convict settlement of 1793. A coasting-party one 
day discovered two Andamaners lying upon the beach. 
They were at first beheved to be dead, but as it proved, 
they were only debilitated from hunger : being then in 
the very last stages of famine. They were an old man 


and a boy ; and having been carried at once to the fort, 
every means that humanity could suggest was used to 
recover them. With the boy this result was accom- 
phshed ; but the old man could not be restored : his 
strength was too far gone ; and he died, shortly after 
bemg brought to the settlement. 

Two women or young girls were also found far gone 
with hunger ; so far, that a piece of fish held out was 
sufficient to allure them into the presence of a boat's 
crew that had landed on the shore. They were taken on 
board the ship, and treated with the utmost humanity. 
In a short time they got rid of all fears of violence being 
ofiered them ; but seemed, at the same time, to be sensible 
of modesty to a great degree. They had a small apart- 
ment allotted to them ; and though they could hardly have 
had any real cause for apprehension, yet it was remarked 
that the two never went to sleep at the same time : 
one always kept watch while the other slept I When 
time made them more familial' with the good intentions 
towards them, they became exceedingly cheerful, chat- 
tered with freedom, and were amused above all things 
at the sight of their own persons in a mirror. They 
allowed clothes to be put on them ; but took them off 
agam, whenever they thought they were not watched, 
and threw them away as a useless encumbrance ! They 
were fond of singing ; sometimes in a melancholy reci- 
tative, and sometimes in a lively key ; and they often 
gave exhibitions of dancing around the deck, in the 
fashion peculiar to the Andamans. They would not 
drink either wine or any spirituous liquor; but were 
immoderately fond of fish and sugar. They also ate 
rice when it was ofiered to them. They remained, or 


ratiier were retained, several weeks on board the sliip ; 
and had become so smooth and plump, under the liberal 
diet they indulged in, that they were scarce recognizable 
as the half-starved creatures that had been brought 
aboard so recently. It was evident, however, that they 
were not contented. Libcjrty, even with starvation allied 
to it, appeared sweeter to them than captivity in the 
midst of luxury and ease. The result proved that this 
sentiment was no stranger to them : for one night, when 
all but the watchman were asleep, they stole silently 
through the captain's cabin, jumped out of the stern 
windows into the sea, and swam to an island full half a 
mile distant from the ship ! It was thought idle to pur- 
sue them ; but, indeed, there was no intention of doing 
so. The object was to retain them by kindness, and try 
what effect might thus be produced on their wild com- 
panions, when they should return to them. Strange to 
say, this mode of dealing with the Andaman islanders 
has been made repeatedly, and always with the same 
fruitless result. Whatever may have been the original 
cause that interrupted their intercourse with the rest 
of mankind, they seem determined that this intercourse 
shall never be renewed. 

When plenty reigns among them, and there has been 
a good take of fish, they act like other starved wretches ; 
and yield themselves up to feasting and gorging, till not 
a morsel remains. At such times they give way to ex- 
cessive mirth, — dancing for hours together, and chat- 
tering all the while like as many apes. 

They are extremely fond of " tripping it on the light 
fantastic toe ; " and their dance is peculiar. It is carried 
on by the dancers forming a ring, and leaping about, 


eacli at intervals saluting his own posteriors with a slap 
from his foot, — a feat which both the men and women 
perform with great dexterity. Not unfrequently this mode 
of salutation is passed from one to the other, around the 
the whole ring, — causing unbounded merriment among 
the spectators. 

Their "Fashion of dress is, perhaps, the most pecuhar 
of all known costumes. As to clothing, they care noth- 
ing about it, — the females only wearing a sort of nar- 
row fringe around the waist, — not from motives of 
modesty, but simply as an ornament ; and in this scant 
garment we have a resemblance to the Uku of the 
Feegeeans. It can hardly be said, however, that either 
men or women go entirely naked ; for each morning, 
after rising from his couch of leaves, the Andamaner 
plasters the whole of his body with a thick coat of 
mud, which he wears throughout the day. Wherever 
this cracks from getting dry by the sun, the place is 
patched or mended up with a fresh layer. The black 
mop upon his head is not permitted to wear its natural 
hue ; but, as akeady mentioned, is colored by means 
of a red ochreous earth, which is found in plenty upon 
the islands. This reddening of his poll is the only 
attempt which the Andamaner makes at personal adorn- 
ment ; for his Uvery of mud is assumed for a purpose 
of utility, — to protect his body from the numerous 
mosquitoes, and other biting insects, whose myraids in- 
fest the lowland coast upon which he dwells. 

A startling peculiarity of these islanders is the un- 
mitigated hostility which they exhibit, and have always 
exhibited, towards every people Avith whom they, have 
come in contact. It is not the white man alone whom 


thej hate and harass ; but tliej also murder the Malay, 
whose skin is almost as dark as their own. This would 
seem to contradict the hypothesis of a tradition of hos- 
tihty preserved amongst them, and directed against white 
men who enslaved their ancestors ; but, indeed, that 
story has been sufficiently refuted. A far more probable 
cause of their universal hatred is, that, at some period 
of their history, they have been grossly abused ; so 
much so as to render suspicion and treachery almost 
an instinct of their nature. 

In these very characteristic moral features we find 
another of those striking analogies that would seem to 
connect them with the negrillo races of the Eastern 
Archipelago ; but, whether they are or ai'e not connected 
with them, their appearance upon the Andamans is no 
greater mystery, than the solitary " fox-wolf " on the 
Falkland Islands, or the smallest wingless insect in 
some lone islet of the Ocean ? 


Who has not heard of the giants of Patagonia? 
From the days of Magellan, when they were firs^ seen, 
many a tale has been told, and many a speculation in- 
dulged in about these colossal men : some representing 
them as very Titans, of twelve feet in height, and stoul 
in proportion: that, when standing a httle astride, an 
ordinary-sized man could pass between their legs with- 
out even stooping his head ! So talked the early navi- 
gators of the Great South Sea. 

Since the time when these people were first seen by 
Europeans, up to the present hour, — in all, three hun- 
dred and thirty years ago, — it is astonishing how little 
has been added to our knowledge of them ; the more so, 
that almost every voyager who has since passed through 
the Straits of Magellan, has had some intercourse with 
them ; — the more so, that Spanish people have had set- 
tlements on the confines of their country ; and one 

an unsuccessful one, however — in the very heart of 
it ! But these Spanish settlements have all decayed, or 
are fast decaying; and when the Spanish race disap- 
pears from America, — which sooner or later it will 
most certainly do, — it will leave behind it a gi-eater 


paucity of monumental record, than perhaps any civil- 
ized nation ever before transmitted to posterity. 

Little, however, as we have learnt about the customs 
of the Patagonian people, we have at least obtained a 
more definite idea of their height. They have been meas- 
ured. The twelve-feet giants can no longer be found ; 
they never existed, except ki the fertile imaginations of 
some of the old navigators, — whose embodied testi- 
mony, nevertheless, it is difficult to disbeheve. Other 
and more rehable witnesses have done away with the 
Titans ; but still we are unable to reduce the stature of 
the Patagonians to that of ordinary men. If not actual 
giants, they are, at all events, very tall men, — many 
of them standing seven feet in their boots of guanaco- 
leather, few less than six, and a hke few rising nearly to 
eight ! These measurements are definite and certain ; 
and although the whole number of the Lidians that in- 
habit the plains of Patagonia may not reach the above 
standard there are tribes of smaller men called by the 
common name Patagonians, — yet many individuals cer- 
tainly exist who come up to it. 

If not positive giants, then, it is safe enough to con- 
sider the Patagonians as among the " tallest " of human 
beings, — perhaps the very tallest that exist, or ever 
existed, 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 dis- 
tinction ; for their habits and customs, although in gen- 
eral corresponding to those of other tribes of American 
Indians, present us with many points that are peculiar. 
It may be remarked that the Patagonian women, al- 
though not so tall as their men, are in the usual propor- 


tion observable between the sexes. Many of them are 
more corpulent than the men ; and if the latter be called 
giants, the former have every claun to the appellation of 
giantesses I 

We have observed, elsewhere, the very remarkable 
difference between the two territories, lying respectively 
north and south of the Magellan Straits, — the Patago- 
nian on the north, and the Fuegian on the south. No 
two lands could exhibit a greater contrast than tliese, — 
the former with its dry sterile treeless plains, — the lat- 
ter almost entirely without plains ; and, excepting a por- 
tion of its eastern end, without one level spot of an acre 
in breadth ; but a grand chaos of humid forest-clad ra- 
vines and snow-covered mountains. Yet these two dis- 
similar regions are only separated by a narrow sea-chan- 
nel, — deep, it is true ; but so narrow, that a cannon-shot 
may be projected from one shore to the other. Not less 
dissimilar are the people who inhabit these opposite 
shores ; and one might fancy a strange picture of con- 
trast presented in the Straits of Magellan : on some 
projecting bluff on the northern shore, a stalwart Pata- 
gonian, eight feet in height, with his ample guanaco-skin 
floating from his shoulders, and his long spear towering 
ten feet above his head ; — on the southern promontory, 
the dwarfed and shrivelled figure of a Fuegian, — scarce 
five feet tall, — with tiny bow and arrows in hand, and 
shivering under his patch of greasy sealskin ! — and yet 
so near each other, that the stentorian voice of the giant 
may thunder in the ears of the dwarf; while the hen- 
like cackle of the latter may even reach those of his 
colossal vis-a-vis! 

Notwithstanding this proximity, there is no converse 


between them ; for, unlike as are their persons, thej are 
not more dissimilar than their thoughts, habits, and ac- 
tions. The one is an aquatic animal, the other essen- 
tially terrestial ; and, strange to say, in this peculiarity 
the weaker creature has the advantage : since the Fue- 
gian can cross in his bark canoe to the territory of his 
gigantic neighbor, while the latter has no canoe nor 
water-craft of any kind, and therefore never thinks of 
extending his excursions to the " land of fire," excepting 
at one very narrow place where he has effected a cross- 
ing. In many other respects, more particularly detailed 
elsewhere, — in their natural dispositions and modes of 
life, these two peoples are equally dissimilar ; and al- 
though learned 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 but 
a blind guide in the illustration of scientific truth, — 
whether the subject be the skull of a man or an animal. 
Despite all the revelations of craniologic skill, an Indian 
of Patagonia bears about the same resemblance to an 
Indian of Tierra del Fuego, as may be found between a 
bull and a bluebottle ! 

Before proceeding to describe the modes of fife prac- 
tised by the Patagonian giants, a word or two about the 
country they inhabit. 

It may be generally described as occupying the whole 
southern part of South America, — from the frontier of 
the Spanish settlements to the Straits of Magellan, — 
and bounded east and west by the two great oceans. 
Now, the most southern Spanish (Buenos Ayrean) set- 
tlement is at the mouth of Rio Negro ; therefore, the 
Rio Negro — which is = the largest river south of the 


La Plata — may be taken as the northern boundary of 
Patagonia. Not that the weak, vitiated Spanish- Ameri- 
can extends his swaj from the Atlantic to the Andes : 
on the contrary, the Indian aborigines, under one name 
or another, are masters of the whole interior, — not only 
to the north of the Pio Negro, but to the very shores of 
the Caribbean Sea ! Yes, the broad inland of South 
America, from Cape Horn to the sea of the Antilles, is 
now, as it always has been, the domain of the Red In- 
dian ; who, so far from having ever been reduced by 
conquest, has not only resisted the power of the Spanish 
sword, and the blandishments of the Spanish cross ; but 
at this hour is encroaching, with constant and rapid 
strides, upon the blood-stained territory wrested from 
him by that Christian conquest! 

And this is the man who is so rapidly to disappear 
from the face of the earth ! If so, it is not the puny 
Spaniard who is destined to push him off. If he is to 
disappear, it will be at such a time, that no Spaniard will 
be hving to witness his extermination. 

Let us take Patagonia proper, then, as bordered upon 
the north by the Pio Negro, and extending from the 
Atlantic to the Pacific. In that case it is a country of 
eight hundred miles in length, with a breadth of at least 
two hundred, — a country larger than either France or 
Spain. Patagonia is usually described as a continuation 
of the great plains, known as the " Pampas," which ex- 
tend from the La Plata River to the eastern slope of the 
Andes. This idea is altogether erroneous. It is true 
tliat Patagonia is a country of plains, — excepting that 
portion of it occupied by the Andes, which is, of course, 
a mountain tract, much of it resembling Tierra del Fuego 


in character more than Patagonia. Indeed, Patagonia 
proper can hardly be regarded as including this moun- 
tain strip : since the Patagonian Indians only inhabit the 
plains properly so called. These plains differ essentially 
from those of the Pampas. The latter are based upon a 
calcareous formation : and produce a rank, rich herbage, 
— here of gigantic thistles and wild artichokes, — there 
of tall grasses ; and, still nearer the mountains, they are 
thinly covered with copses of low trees. The plains of 
Patagonia on the other hand, are of tertiary formation, 
covered all over with a shingly pebble of porj)hyry and 
basalt, and almost destitute of vegetation. Here and 
there are some tufts of scanty grass with a few stunted 
bushes in the valleys of the streams, but nothing that 
can be called a tree. A surface drear and arid, in places 
mottled with "salinas" or salt-lakes; with freshwater 
only found at long intervals, and, when found, of scanty 
supply. There are many hilly tracts, but nothing that 
can be called mountains, — excepting the snow-covered 
Cordilleras in the west. The Patagonian plain is not 
everywhere of equal elevation : it rises by steps, as you 
follow it westward, beginning from the sea-level of the 
Atlantic shore ; until, having reached the piedmont of 
the Andes, you still find yourself on a plain, but one 
which is elevated three thousand feet above the point 
from which you started. At all elevations, however, it 
presents the same sterile aspect ; and you perceive that 
Patagonia is a true desert, — as much so as Atacama, in 
Peru, the desert of the Colorado in the north, the " bar- 
ren grounds " of Hudson's Bay, the Sahara and Kalahari, 
Gobi, or the steppe of Kaurezm. To the South-African 
deserts it bears a more striking resemblance than to any 


of the others, — a resemblance heightened by the presence 
of that most remarkable of birds, — the ostrich. Two 
species stalk over the plains of Patagonia, — the stni- 
thio rhea and struthio Daricinii. The former extends 
northward over the Pampas, but not southward to the 
Straits of Magellan ; the latter reaches the Straits, but is 
never seen upon the Pampas. The ranges of both meet 
and overlap near the middle of the Patagonian plain. 

In addition to the ostrich, there are other large birds 
that frequent the steppes of Patagonia. The great con- 
dor here crosses the continent, and appears upon the 
Atlantic shores. He perches upon the chjfFs of the sea, 
— - as well as those that overhang the inland streams, — 
and builds his nest upon the bare rock. Two species of 
of polyhoriis, or vulture-eagles, — the " carrancha " and 
" chiniango," — fly side by side with the condor ; and 
the black turkey-vultures are also denizens of this desert 
land- The red puma, too, has his home here ; the fox 
of Azara ; and several species of hawks and eagles. 

With the exception of the first-mentioned — the os- 
trich — all these beasts and birds are predatory crea- 
tures ; and requii'e flesh for their subsistence. Where 
do they get it ? Upon what do they all prey ? Surely 
not upon the ostrich : since this bird is bigger than any 
of the birds of prey, and able to defend itself even 
against the great condor. There are only one or two 
other species of birds upon which the eagles might sub- 
sist, — a partridge and two kinds of plover ; but the 
vultures could not get a living out of partridges and 
plovers. Small quadrupeds are ahke scarce. There are 
only two or three species ; and very small creatures they 
are, — one a sort of mole, " terutero," and several kinds 

18* AA 


of mice. The latter are, indeed, numerous enough in 
some places, — swarming over the ground in tracts so 
sterile, that it is difficult to understand upon what they 
subsist. But vultures do not relish food, which they 
require to kill for themselves. They are too indolent 
for that ; and wherever they are found, there must be 
some source of supply, — some large quadrupeds to 
provide them with their favorite food, — carrion. Oth- 
erwise, in this desert land, how should the ravenous 
puma maintain himself? — how the vultures and vul- 
ture-eagles ? and, above all, upon what does the Pata- 
gonian himself subsist, — a man of such great bulk, as 
naturally to require more than the ordinary amount of 
food ? The answer to all these questions, then, is, that 
a quadimped does exist in the deserts of Patagonia ; 
which, if it furnish not all these creatures with their full 
diet supplies, does a large proportion of it. This quad- 
ruped is 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. He 
wears none, but suffers his long black hair to hang loose- 
ly over his shoulders, or, more frequently, gathers it into 
a knot or club upon the crown of his head. To keep it 
from straggling into his eyes, he usually wears a narrow 
strap of guanaco-skin around his forehead, or a plaited 
band of the hair of the same animal ; but, although pos- 
sessing ostrich-feathers at discretion, he rarely indulges 
in the flxshion of wearing a plume, — he knows he is 
tall enough without one. Over his shoulders, and hang- 
ing nearly to his heek, he wears a loose mantle of guan- 


aco-skins ; which is of sufficient width to wrap round his 
body, and meet over his breast, — should he feel cold 
enough to require it. But he is not of a chilly nature ; 
and he often throws this mantle entirely aside to give 
him the freedom of his arms ; or more generally ties 
a girdle round it, and leaves the upper part to fall back 
from his shoulders, and hang down over the girdle. This 
mantle — with the exception of a small pouch-hke apron 
in front — is the only " garment," the Patagonian wears 
upon his body ; but his lower limbs have a covering of 
their own. These are encased in a sort of boots or 
moccasons, — but differing from all other boots and 
moccasons, in the fact of their being without soles ! 
They are made of the same material as the mantle, — 
that is, of the skm of the guanaco\ — but sometimes 
also of the skin of a horse's shank, — for the Patago- 
nian, like the Pampas Indian, is in possession of this val- 
uable animal. 

This soleless boot covers tlie leg all round from below 
the knee, passing over the top of the foot like a gaiter ; 
it extends also around the heel, and a httle under it, 
but not so far as the instep, thus lea^dng the greater 
part of the sole bare, and the toes peej)ing out in front ! 
They are, in reality, nothing more or less than gaiters, 
but gaiters of r/Mawaco-skin, with the hair turned out- 
ward, and worn, not over a pair of boots or shoes, as 
gaiters usually are, but upon the naked shanks. 

I have been thus particular in my description of the 
Patagonian chaussure ; but you will understand my 
reasons, when I tell you that, from this trifling circum- 
stance, not only has a vast territory of country, but the 
people who inhabit it, obtained the appellation by which 


both have long been known to the civilized world, that 
is, Patagonian. 

When the sailors who accompanied Magellan first 
saw these colossal men, they noticed a peculiar cir- 
cumstance in relation to their feet. The flaps, or " up- 
pers," of the gaiters, extending loosely across the tops 
of their feet, and exaggerated in breadth by the long 
hair that fringed out from their edges, gave to these 
Indians the appearance of having paws or " patas ; " 
and the name patagones, or " duck-feet," was given them 
by the sailors, — ever prone to the bestowal of a lu- 
dicrous epithet. This name, in a slightly altered form, 
they have borne ever since, — so that Patagonia means 
the country of the duck-footed men. 

The gaiters of the Patagonians have their pecuhar 
purpose. They are not worn merely for the sake of 
keeping the legs warm, but also as a protection against 
the thorny shrubs which in Patagonia, as in all desert 
lands, are exceedingly abundant. 

The mantle and moccasons, then, constitute the Pata- 
gonian's costume ; and it does not differ so widely from 
that of his neighbor the Fuegian, — the chief points of 
difference being m the size and material. 

Of course the guanaco-skin is much larger, than that 
of the common seal ; and a good Patagonian cloak 
would furnish " doublets " for a whole tribe of the di- 
minutive Fuegians. Perhaps his ample garment has 
something to do in producing the exaggerated accounts 
that have been given of the stature of the Patagonians. 
Certain it is, that a man thus apparelled, looks larger 
than he otherwise would do ; and presents altogether a 
more imposing appearance. The Caffre, in his civet- 


cat "kaross," and the Pawnee Indian, in his robe of 
shaggj buffiilo-hide, loom very large upon karroo and 
prairie, — much larger in appearance than they really 
are. It is but natural, therefore, to suppose that the 
Patagonian, attired in his guanaeo mantle, and seen 
against the sky, standing upon the summit of a con- 
spicuous cliiF, would present a truly gigantic appear- 

TThen first seen in this position he was on foot. It 
was in the year 1520, — before the Spaniards had set 
foot upon South- American soil, — and of course before 
the horse became naturahzed to that continent. In less 
than thirty yeai's afterward, he appeared upon these 
same clilfs bestriding a steed : for this noble animal had 
extended his range over the plains of America, — even 
at an earlier period than his European owner. When 
the Spaniards, in their after-attempts at conquering the 
Indians of the Pampas and those of the northern prai- 
ries, entered upon these great plains, they encountered, 
to their great astonishment, their red enemies upon 
horseback, brandishing long lances, and managing fiery 
chargers with a skill equal to their own ! 

Among the earhest tribes that obtained possession 
of the horse, were those of the Pampas : smce the first 
of these animals that ran wild on the plains of America 
were those landed in the La Plata expedition of Men- 
doza, — whence they became scattered over the adjacent 
pampas of Buenos Ayres. 

From the banks of the La Plata, the horse passed 
rapidly southward to the Straits of Magellan ; and from 
that hour the Patagonian walked no more. With the 
exception of a spur, — usually a sharp stick of wood, 


upon 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 encir- 
cling one eye, and a black or red one around the 
other ; with one half of his body colored black, and a 
white sun delineated upon it, while the other half is 
white, forming the " ground " for a black moon ! Scarce 
two individuals, however, wear the same escutcheon ; 
for the fashion of having eyes, arms, and legs of two 
different colors — just as our ancestors used to wear 
their doublets and hose — is that followed by the Pata- 

Notwithstanding this queer custom, — usually regard- 
ed as savage, — it would be unjust to call the Patago- 
nian a savage. If we overlook the circumstance of his 
painting himself, — which, after all, is scarce more ab- 
surd than numberless practices of civilized life, — if we 
excuse him for too scantily covering the nakedness of 
his person, and relishing his food a little " underdone," 
we find httle else, either in his habits or his moral 
nature that would entitle him to be termed a savage. 
On the contrary, from all the testimony that can be 
obtained, — in all the intercourse which white men have 
had with him, — there is scarce an act recorded, that 
would hinder his claim to being considered as civilized 
as they. Honorable and amiable, brave and generous, 
he has ever proved himself; and never has he exhibited 
those traits of vindictive ferocity supposed to be char- 
acteristic of the untutored man. He has not even har- 
bored malice for the v.a*ongs done him by the unprin- 
cipled adventurer Magellan : w^ho, in his treatment of 



these people, proved liimself more of a savage than 
they. But the Patagonian restrahied his vengeance; 
and apparently burying the outrage in oblivion, has 
ever since that time treated the white man with a gen- 
erous and dignified friendship. Those who have been 
shipwrecked upon liis solitary shores, have had no reason 
to complain of the treatment they have received at his 
hands. He is neither cannibal, nor yet barbarian, — 
but in truth a gentleman, — or, if you prefer it, a gen- 
tleman savage. 

But how does this gentleman maintain himself ? We 
have akeady seen that he is not a fisherman, — for he 
owns no species of boat ; and without that his chances 
of capturing fish would be slight and uncertain. We 
have stated, moreover, that his country is a sterile 
desert ; and so it is, — producmg only the. scantiest of 
herbage ; neither plant, nor tree, that would furnish 
food ; and incapable of being cultivated with any suc- 
cess. But he does not attempt cultivation, — he has no 
knowledge of it ; nor is it likely he would feel the in- 
clination, even if tempted by the most fertile soil. Nei- 
ther is he pastoral in liis habits : he has no flocks nor 
herds. The horse and dog are his only domestic ani- 
mals ; and these he requires for other purposes than 
food. The former enables him to pass easily over the 
wide tracts of his sterile land, and both assist him in the 
chase, — which is his true and only calling. One of the 
chief objects of his pursuit is the ostrich ; and he eats 
the flesh of this fine desert bird. He eats it, whenever 
he can procure it ; but he could not hve solely upon 
such food : since he could not obtain it in sufiicient 
quantity ; and were this bird the only means he had for 


supplying his larder, he would soon be in danger of 
starvation. True, the ostrich lays a great many eggs, 
and brings forth a large brood of young ; but there are 
a great many hungry mouths, and a great many large 
stomachs among the Patagonian people. The ostrich 
could never supply them all ; and were it their only 
resource, the bird would soon disappear from the plains 
of Patagonia, and, perhaps, the race of Patagonian 
giants along with it. 

Fortunately for the Patagonian, his country furnishes 
him with another kind of game, from which he obtains 
a more sufficient supply ; and that is the guanaco. Be- 
hold yonder herd of stately creatures ! There are 
several hundreds of them in all. Their bodies are cov- 
ered with long, woolly hair of a reddish-brown color. 
If they had antlers ujjon their heads, you might mistake 
them for stags, — for they are just about the size of the 
male of the red deer. But they have no horns ; and 
otherwise they are unlike these animals, — in their long 
slender necks, and coat of woolly hair. They are not 
deer of any kind, — they are guanacos. These, then, 
are the herds of the Patagonian Indian ; they are the 
game he chiefly pursues ; and their flesh the food, upon 
which he is mainly subsisted. 

I need not here give the natural history of the gua- 
naco. Suffice it to say that it is one of the four (per- 
haps five) species of llamas or " camel-sheep " peculiar 
to the continent of South America, — the other three 
of which are the vicuna, the true llama, and the paco, 
or alpaca. The llama and alpaca are domesticated ; but 
the vicuna, the most graceful of all, exists only in a 
vdld state, hke the guanaco. The four kinds inhabit the 


table-lands of the Andes, from Colombia to Chili ; but 
the guanaco has extended its range across to the Atlantic 
side of the continent : this only in the territory south 
of the La Plata River. On the plains of Patagonia it 
is the characteristic quadruj)ed : rarely out of sight, and 
usually seen in herds of twenty or thu'ty individuals ; 
but sometimes in large droves, numbering as many as 
five hundred. There the puma — after the Indian of 
course — is its greatest enemy, — and the debris of Ms 
feast constitutes the food of the vultures and vulture- 
eagles, — thus accounting for the presence of these great 
bu'ds in such a desert land. 

The guanaco is among the shyest of quadrupeds ; and 
its capture would be difficult to any one unacquainted 
with its habits. But these betray them to the skilled 
Patagonian hunter, — who is well acquainted with every 
fact in the natural history of the animal. 

The Patagonian mode of capturing these creatures is 
not without many pecuharities in hunting practice. His 
first care is to find out their whereabouts : for the haunts 
which the guanacos most afiect are not the level plains, 
where they might be seen from afar, but rather those 
places where the ground is hilly or rolhng. There they 
are to be met with, ranged in extended lines along the 
sides of the hills, with an old male keeping watch upon 
the 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 resembhng a neigh. On hearino; this well- 
known signal, the others at once take to flight, and 
gallop straight for the side of some other hill, — where 
they all halt in line, and stand waiting to see if they are 


followed. Very often tlie first intimation vliich the 
hunter has of their presence, is by hearing their strange 
signal of flight, — which mary be described as a sort 
of triangular cross between squeahng, neighing, and 

Shy as they are, and difficult to be approached, they 
have the strange peculiarity of losing all their senses 
when put into confusion. On these occasions they be- 
have exactly like a flock of sheep : not knowing which 
way to run ; now dashing to one side, then to the other, 
and often rushing into the very teeth of that danger 
from which they are trying to escape ! 

Knowing their stupidity in this respect, the Pata- 
gonian hunter acts accordingly. He does not go out to 
hunt the. guanacos alone, but in company with others 
of his tribe, the hunting-party often comprising the 
whole tribe. Armed wnth their " chuzos," — light cane 
spears of eighteen feet in length, — and mounted on 
their well-trained steeds, they sally forth from their en- 
campment, and proceed to the favorite pasturing-ground 
of the guanacos. Their purpose is, if possible, to effect 
the " surround " of a whole herd ; and to accomplish 
this, it is necessary to proceed with great skill and cau- 
tion. The animals are found at length ; and, by means 
of a deployment of dogs and horsemen, are driven 
towards some hill which may be convenient to the pas- 
ture. The instinct of the animal guiding it thither, 
renders this part of the performance easy enough. On 
reaching the hill, the guanacos dash onward, up to its 
summit ; and there, halting in a compact crowd, make 
front towards their pursuers. These meanwhile have 
galloped into a circle, — surrounding the eminence on 


all sides ; and, advancing upwards amidst loud yells and 
the 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 mmutes, numbers of the guanacos lie lifeless 
among the rocks. The dogs, with some men, form an 
outer circle of assailants ; and should any guanacos 
escape through the line of horsemen, they are seized 
upon by the dogs, and pinned to the spot, — for it is 
another sheep-like trait in the character of tliis animal, 
that the moment a dog — even though he be the merest 
cur — seizes hold of it, it neither attempts further flight 
nor resistence, but remains " pinned " to the spot as if 
under a paralysis of terror. They sometimes give bat- 
tle, however, though never to a dog ; and their* mode of 
assault is by kicking behmd them, — - not with their hoofs 
as horses do, but with the knee-joints, the hind legs be- 
mg both raised at once. Among themselves the males 
fiofht terrible battles : bitinsr 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 than 
when assembled in large herds. At such times, the feel- 
ing of curiosity seems stronger than that of fear within 
them ; and the hunter can easily approach within a dozen 
paces of one, by simply cutting a few capers, or holding 
up something that may be new to it, — such as a strip 
of colored rag, or some showy article of any kind. It 
was by such devices that the Patagonian captured these 
creatures, before possessio of the horse enabled him to 
effect their destruction in the more wholesale fashion of 
the " surround." 


By tumbling about over the ground, he was enabled 
to brmg the game within reach, — not of his bow and 
arrows ; nor yet of his long spear, — for he did not use 
it for such a purpose, — and, of course, not of a gun, for 
he never had heard of such a weapon. "Within reach 
of what then ? Of a weapon pecuharly his own, — a 
weapon of singular construction and deadly effect ; which 
he knew how to employ before ever the white man came 
upon his shores, and which the Spaniards who dwell in 
the Pampas country have found both pride and profit in 
adopting. This weapon is the " bolas." 

It is simple and easily described. Two round stones, 
— the women make them round by grinding the one 
against the other, — two round stones are covered with 
a piece of guanaco raw hide, presenting very much the 
appearance of cricket-balls, though of unequal size, — 
one being considerably smaller than the other. Two 
thongs are cut ; and one end of each is firmly attached 
to one of the balls. 

The other ends of the thongs are knotted to each 
other ; and when the strings are at full stretch, the balls 
will then be about eight feet apart, — in other words, 
each thong should be four feet in length. The bolas 
are now made, and ready for use. The chief difficulty 
in their manufacture lies iu 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 of 
bola-stones to the proper spherical shape. To handle 
them requires long practice ; and this the Patagonian 
has had : for, ever since the young giant was able to 
stand upon his feet, he has been in the habit of playing 
with the bolas. They have been the toy of his child- 


hood ; and to display skill in their management has been 
the pride of his boyish days ; therefore, on arriving at 
full maturity, no wonder he exhibits gi'eat dexterity in 
their use. He can then project them to a distance of 
fifty yards, — with such precision as to strike the legs of 
either man or quadruped, and with such force, that the 
thong not only whips itself around the object struck, but 
often leaves a deep weal in the skin and flesh. The 
mode of throwing them is well known. The right hand 
only is used ; and this grasps the thongs at their point 
of union, about halfway between the ends. The balls 
are then whirled m a cu'cular motion around the head ; 
and, 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 wliich arm, 
eye, and mind, all bear a part, — and so true is this aim, 
in Patagonian practice, that the hunter seldom fails to 
bring down or otherwise cripple his game, — be it os- 
trich, cavy, or guanaco. 

By these bolas, then, did the Patagonian hunter cap- 
ture the guanaco and ostrich in times past ; and by the 
same weapon does he still capture them : for he can use 
it even better on horseback than on foot. Either the 
bird or the quadruped, within fifty yards, has no chance 
of escape from his unerring aim. 

The bolas, in some districts, have been improved upon 
by the introduction of a third ball ; but this the Patago- 
nian does not consider an improvement. Wooden balls 
are sometimes employed ; and iron ones, where they can 
be had, — the last sort can be projected to the greatest 

The Patagonian takes the yoimg guanacos alive ; and 


brings them up in a state of domestication. The little 
creatures may often be observed, standing outside the 
tents of a Patagonian encampment, — either tied by a 
string, or held in hand by some " infant giant " of the 
tribe. It is not solely for the pleasure of making pets 
of them, that the young guanacos are thus cherished ; 
nor yet to raise them for food. The object aimed at 
has a very different signification. These young guanacos 
are intended to be used as decoys : for the purpose of at- 
tracting their own relatives, — fathers, mothers, sisters, 
brothers, uncles, and aunts, even to the most distant 
thirty-second cousinship, — within reach of the terrible 
bolas ! 

This is effected by tying the innocent little creature 
to some bush, — behind which the hunter conceals him- 
self, — and then imitating the mother's call ; which the 
Indian hunter can do with all the skill of a ventriloquist. 
The young captive responds with the plaintive cry of 
captivity, — 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 by 
the Patagonian hunter, he would pursue the guanaco in 
vain. Even with the help of his pack of dogs, and 
mounted upon the fleet Spanish horse, the guanaco can- 
not be hunted with success. Nature, in denying to these 
animals almost every means of defence, has also bestowed 
upon them a gift which enables them to escape from 
many kinds of danger. Of mild and inoffensive habits, 

— defenceless as the hare, — r they are also possessed of 
a hke swiftness. Indeed, there is perhaps no quadruped 

— not even the antelope — can get over the ground as 
speedily as the guanaco or its kindred species the vicuna. 



Botli are swift as the wind ; and the eye, following 
either in its retreat over the level plain, or up the de- 
chvitj of a hill, is deluded into the fancy that it is watch- 
ing some great bird upon the wing. 

There are certain seasons during which the guanaco 
is much more difficult to approach than at other ■ times ; 
but this is true of almost every species of animal, — 
whether bird or quadruped. Of course, the tame season 
is that of sexual intercourse, when even the wild beasts 
become reckless under the influence of passion. At 
other times the guanacos are generally very shy ; and 
sometimes extremely so. It is not uncommon for a herd 
of them to take the alarm, and scamper off from the 
hunter, even before the latter has approached near 
enough to be himself within sight of them ! They pos- 
sess great keenness of scent, but it is the eye which 
usually proves their friend, warning them of the ap- 
proach of an enemy — especially if that enemy be a 
man upon horseback — before the latter is aware of 
their proximity. Often a cloud of dust, rising afar oif 
over the plain, is the only proof the hunter can ob- 
tain, that there was game witliin the range of his vis- 
ion. It is a curious circumstance connected with hunt- 
ing on these great plains, — both on the Pampas and in 
Patagonia, — that a man on foot can aj^proach much 
nearer to any game than if he were mounted upon a 
horse. This is true not only in relation to the guanaco 
and ostrich, but also of the large PamjDas deer {cervus 
campesti^is) ; and indeed of almost every animal that 
inhabits these regions. The reason is simple enough. 
All these creatures are accustomed to seeing their human 
enemy only on horseback : for " still hunting," or hunt- 


ing afoot, is rarely or never practised upon the plains. 
Not only that, but a man on foot, would be a rare sight 
either to an ostrich or guanaco ; and they would scarce 
recognize him as an enemy ! Curiosity would be their 
leading sentiment ; and, being influenced by this, the 
hunter on foot can often approach them without diffi- 
culty. The Patagonian, knowing this pecuharity, not 
unfrequently takes advantage of it, to kill or capture 
both the bird and the quadruped. 

This sentiment of the brute creation, on the plains 
of Patagonia, is directly the reverse of what may be 
observed in our own fields. The sly crow shows but 
little of this shyness, so long as you approach it on a 
horse's back ; but only attempt to steal up to it on 
foot, — even with a thick hawthorn hedge to screen 
you, — and every fowler knows how wary the bird 
can prove itself. Some people pronounce this instinct. 
If so, instinct and reason must be one and the same 

Besides hunting the guanaco, much of the Patago- 
nian's time is spent in the chase of the ostrich ; and, to 
circumvent this shy creature, he adopts various ruses. 
The American ostrich, or more properly rhea, has many 
habits in common with its African congener. One of 
these is, when pursued it runs in a straight track, and, if 
possible, against the wind. Aware of this habit, the 
Patagonians pursue it on horseback, — taking the pre- 
caution to place some of their party in ambush in the 
direction which the bird is most likely to run. They 
then gallop hastily up to the Ime of flight, and either 
intercept the rhea altogether, or succeed in " hoppling " 
it with the bolas. The moment these touch its long legs, 


both are drawn suddenlj together ; and the bird goes 
down as if shot ! 

Drake and other voyagers have recorded the state- 
ment that the Patagonians attract the rhea within reach, 
bj disguising themselves in a skin of this bird. This is 
evidently an untruth ; and the error, whether wilful or 
otherwise, derives its origin from the fact, that a strat- 
agem of the kind is adopted by the Bushmen of Africa 
to deceive the ostrich. But what is practicable and pos- 
sible between a pigmy Bushman and a gigantic African 
ostrich, becomes altogether impracticable and improb- 
able, when the dramatis personce are a gigantic Pata- 
gonian and an American I'hea. Moreover, it is also 
worthy of remai'k, that the rhea of the Patagonian 
plains is not the larger of the two species of Ameri- 
can ostrich, but the smaller one {rhea Dariuinii), which 
has been lately specifically named after the celebrated 
naturaHst. And justly does ]Mr. Darwin merit the honor : 
since he was the first to give a scientific description of 
the bird. He was not the first, however, — as he ap- 
pears himself to beheve, — to discover its existence, or 
to give a record of it in writing. The old Styrian monk, 
DobrizhoflPer, two centuries before ]Mr. Darwin was born, 
in his " History of the Abipones " cleaidy points to the 
fact that there were two distinct species of the " aves- 
truz," or South- American ostrich. 

]SIr. Darwin, however, has confirmed DobrizhofFer's 
account ; and brought both birds home with him ; and 
he, who chooses to reflect upon the subject, will easily 
perceive how impossible it would be for a Patagonian 
to conceal his bulky corpus under the skin of a rhea 
Darwinii, or even that of its larger congener, the rhea 

19 BB 


Amei'icana. The skin of either would be httle more 
than large enough to form a cap for the colossus of the 
Patagonian plains. 

In the more fertile parts of Patagonia, the large deer 
(cervits campestris) is found. These are also hunted bj 
the Patagonian, and their flesh is esteemed excellent 
food ; not, however, until it has lain several days buried 
underground, — for it requires this funereal process, to 
rid it of the rank, goat-like smell, so peculiar to the 
species. The mode of hunting this deer — at least that 
most likely to insure success — is by steahng forward to 
it on foot. 

Sometimes a man may approach it, within the distance 
of a few yards, — even when_there is no cover to shelter 
him, — by walking gently up to it. Of all the other 
quadrupeds of the Pampas, — and these plains are its 
favorite habitat, — the cervus campestris most dreads the 
horseman : — its enemy since always appears in that 
guise ; and it has learnt the destructive power of both 
lazo and bolas, by having witnessed their effects upon its 
comrades. The hunter dismounted has no terrors for it ; 
and if he will only keep lazo and bolas out of sight, — 
for these it can distinguish, as our crow does the gun, — 
he may get near enough to fling either one or the other 
with a fatal precision. 

The " agouti " (cavia Patagonicd) frequently furnishes 
the Patagonian with a »meal. This species is a true 
denizen of the desert plains of Patagonia ; and forms 
one of the characteristic features of their landscape. I 
need not describe its generic characters ; and specifically 
it has been long known as the " Patagonian cavy." Its 
habits differ very little from the other South American 


animals of this rodent genus, — except that, unlike the 
great capivare, it does not affect to dwell near the "water. 
It is altogether a denizen of diy plains, in which it bur- 
rows, and uj)on which it may be seen browsing, or hop- 
ping at intervals from one point to another, hke a gigan- 
tic rabbit or hare. In fact, the cavies appear to be the 
South American representatives of the hare family, — 
taking their place upon all occasions ; and, though of 
many different species, — according to climate, soil, and 
other circumstances, — yet agreeing with the hares in 
most of their characteristic habits. So much do some of 
the species assimilate to these last, that colonial sportsmen 
are accustomed to give them the Old- World appellation 
of the celebrated swift-footed rodent. The Patagonian 
cavies are much larger than English hares, — one of 
them will weigh twenty-five pounds, — but, in other re- 
spects, there is a great deal of resemblance. On a fine 
evening, three or four cavies may be seen squatted near 
each other, or hopping about over the plains, one follow- 
ing the other in a direct line, as if they were all proceed- 
ing on the same errand ! Just such a habit is frequent- 
ly observed among hares and rabbits in a field of young 
corn or fallow. 

The Patagonian boys and women often employ them- 
selves in seeking out the ostriches' nests, and robbing 
them of theu' eggs, — which last they find good eating. 
In the nests of the smaller species which we have al- 
ready stated to be the most common in the Patagonian 
country, — they are not rewarded so liberally for their 
trouble. Only from sixteen to tAventy eggs are hatched 
by the rhea Darwinii and about twenty-five to thirty by 
the rhea A?nericana. It will be seen, that this is far 


below the number obtained from tlie nest of the African 
ostrich {struthio camelus), — in which as many as sixty 
or seventy eggs are frequently found. It would appear, 
therefore, that the greater the size of the bird, belonging 
to this genus the greater the number of its brood. Both 
the American rheas follow the peculiar habit of the true 
ostrich : that is, several hens deposit their eggs in the 
same nest ; and the male bird assists in the process of 
incubation. Indeed, in almost every respect — except 
size and general color of plumage — the American and 
African ostriches resemble each other very closely ; and 
there is no reason in the world why a pedantic compiler 
should have bestowed upon them distinct generic names. 
Both are true camel birds : both alike the offspring, as 
they are the ornament, of the desert land. 

Another occupation in which the Patagonian engages 
— and which sometimes rewards him with a meal — is 
the snarmg of the Pampas partridge {710th aria major). 
This is usually the employment of the more youthful 
giants ; and is performed both on foot and on horseback. 
A small species of partridge is taken on foot ; but the 
larger kind can be snared best from the back of a horse. 
The mode is not altogether peculiar to Patagonia : since 
it is also practised in other parts of America, — both 
north and south, — and the bustard is similarly captured 
upon the haroos of Africa. During the noon hours of 
the day, the performance' takes place : that is, when the 
sun no longer casts a shadow. The locality of the bird 
being first ascertained, the fowler approaches it, as near 
as it will allow. He then commences riding round, and 
round, and round, — being all the while watched by the 
foolish bu-d, that, in constantly turning its head, appears 


to grow giddj, and loses all di*ead of danger. The In- 
dian each moment keeps lessening his circle ; or, in other 
words, approaches by a spu^al line, continually closing 
upon its centre. His only weapon is a long light reed, 
— something like the common kind of cane fisMng-rod, 
seen in the hands of rustic youth in our own country. On 
the end of this reed he has adjusted a stiff snare ; the 
noose of which is made from the epidemiis of an ostrich 
plume, or a piece of the split quill ; and which, being 
both stiff and elastic, serves admirably for the purpose 
for which it is designed. 

Having at length arrived within a proper distance to 
reach the beguiled bu-d, the boy softly stops his horse, 
bends gently sideward, and, adroitly passing his noose 
over the neck of the partridge, jerks the silly creature 
mto the ah'. In this way an Indian boy will capture a 
dozen of these birds in a few hours ; and might obtain 
far more, if the sun would only stay all day in the zenith. 
But as the bright orb sinks westward, the elongated 
shadow of the horseman passes over the partidge before 
the latter is within reach of the snare ; and this alarm- 
ing the creature, causes it to take flight. 

The Patagonian builds no house ; nor does he remain 
long in one place at a time. The sterile soil upon which 
he dwells requires him to lead a nomade hfe ; passing 
from place to place in search of game. A tent is there- 
fore his home ; and this is of the simplest kind : the tent- 
cloth conslstmg of a number of guanaco skins stitched 
together, and the poles being such as he can obtain from 
the nearest tract of thicket or chapparal. The poles are 
set bow-fashion in the ground, and over these the skin 
covering is spread, — one of the bent poles being left un- 


covered, to serve as a doorway. Most of the Patago- 
nian's time is occupied in procuring game : which, as we 
have seen, is his sole sustenance ; and when he has any 
leisure 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 liis especial pride, and ever pres- 
ent with him. When not in actual use, they are sus- 
pended from his girdle, or tied sash-hke around his waist, 
— the balls dangling down like a pair of tassels. 

Only during his hours of sleep, is this national weapon 
ever out of the hands of the Patagonian giant. Had 
the wonderful giant of our nurseries been provided with 
such a sling, it is probable that httle Jack would have 
found in him an adversary more difficult to subdue ! 


The great continent of South America, tapering like 
a tongue to the southward, ends abruptly on the Straits 
of Magellan. These straits may be regarded as a sort 
of natural canal, connecting the Atlantic with the Pa- 
cific Ocean, winding between high rocky shores, and 
indented with numerous bays and inlets. Though the 
water is of great depth, the Straits themselves are so 
narrow that a ship passing through need never lose 
sight of land on either side ; and in many places a shell, 
projected from an ordinary howitzer, would pitch clear 
across them from shore to shore ! The country extend- 
ing northward from these straits is, as already seen, 
called Patagonia ; that which lies on their southern 
side is the famed " land of fire," Tierra del Fuego. 

The canal, or channel, of the Straits of Magellan 
does not run in a direct line from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific. On the contrary, a ship entermg from the 
former, instead of passing due west, must first run in 
a southwest direction, — rather more south than west 
This course will continue, until the ship is about half- 
way between the two oceans. She will then head al- 
most at a right angle to her former course ; and keep 


this direction — which is nearly due northwest — until 
she emerges into the Pacific. 

It will thus be seen, that the Straits form an angle 
near their middle ; and the point of land which projects 
into the vertex of this angle, and known to navigators 
as Cape Forward, is the most southern land of the 
American continent. Of course this is not meant to 
apply to the most southern point of American land, — 
since Tierra del Fuego must be considered as part of 
South America. The far-famed " Cape Horn " is the 
part of America nearest to the South Pole ; and tliis is 
a promontory on one of the small elevated islands lying 
off the southern coast of Tierra del Fuego itself. Tiefra 
del Fuego was for a long time regarded as a single 
island ; though, even in the voyage of Magellan, several 
large inlets, that resembled channels, were observed 
running into the land ; and it was suspected by that 
navigator, that these inlets might be passages leading 
through to the ocean. Later surveys have proved that 
the conjectures of the Spano-Portuguese voyager were 
well founded ; and it is now known that instead of a 
single island, the country called Tierra del Fuego is a 
congeries of many islands, of different shapes and sizes, 
— separated from one another by deep and narrow 
channels, or arms of the sea, with an endless ramifica- 
tion of sounds and inlets. In the western part — and 
occupying more than three fourths of their whole terri- 
tory — these close-lying islands are nothing else than 
mountains, — several of them rising five thousand feet 
above the level of the water, and stepping directly down 
to it, without any foot-hills intervening ! Some of them 
have their lower declivities covered with sombre forests ; 


Tvhile, farther up, nothing appears but the bare brown 
rocks, varied with bhie glaciers, or mottled with masses 
of snow. The more elevated peaks are covered with 
snow that never melts ; since their summits rise con- 
siderably above the snow-line of this cold region. 

These mountain-islands of Tierra del Fuego continue 
on to Cape Horn, and eastward to the Straits of Le 
Maire, and the bleak islet of Staaten Land. They maj, 
in fact, be considered as the continuation of the gi-eat 
chain of the Andes, if we regard the intersecting chan- 
nels — including that of Magellan itself — as mere clefts 
or ravines, the bottoms of which, lying below the level 
of the sea, have been filled with sea-water. Indeed, we 
may rationally take this view of the case : since these 
channels bear a very great resemblance to the stupen- 
dous ravines termed " barrancas " and " quebradas," 
which intersect the Cordilleras of the Andes in other 
parts of South America, — as also in the northern di- 
vision of the. American continent. 

Regarding the Straits of Magellan, then, and the 
other channels of Tierra del Fuego, as great water-bar- 
rancas, we may consider the Andes as terminating at 
Cape Plom itself, or rather at Staaten Land : since that 
island is a still more distant extension of this, the longest 
chain of mountains on the globe. 

Another point may be here adduced, in proof of tho 
rationahty of this theory. The western, or mountainous 
part of Tierra del Fuego bears a strong resemblance to 
the western section of the continent, — that is, the part 
occupied by the Andes. For a considerable distance to 
the north of the Magellan Straits, nearly one half of 
the continental land is;, of a mountamous character. It 


is also indented by numerous sounds and inlets, resem- 
bling those of Tierra del Fuego ; while the mountains 
that hang over these deep-water ravines are either tim- 
bered, or bare of trees and snow-covered, exhibiting 
glacier valleys, like those farther south. The whole 
physical character is similar ; and, what is a still more 
singular fact, we find that in the western, or mountain- 
ous part of Patagonia, there are no true Patagonians ; 
but that there the water-Indians, or Fuegians, frequent 
the creeks and inlets. 

Again, upon the east, — or rather northeast of Tierra 
del Fuego, — that angular division of it, which lies to 
the north of the Sabastian channel presents us with 
physical features that correspond more nearly with those 
of the plains of Patagonia ; and upon this part we find 
tribes of Indians that beyond doubt are true Patagonians, 
— and not Fuegians, as they have been described. This 
will account for the fact that some navigators have seen 
people on the Fuegian side that were large-bodied men, 
clothed in guanaco skins, and exhibiting none of those 
wretched traits which characterize the Fuegians ; while, 
on the other hand, miserable, stunted men are known to 
occupy the mountainous western part of Patagonia. It 
amounts to this, — that the Patagonians have crossed the 
Straits of Magellan ; and it is this people, and not Fue- 
gians, who are usually seen upon the champaign lands 
north of the Sebastian channel. Even the guanaco has 
crossed at the same place, — for this quadruped, as well 
as a species of deer, is found in the eastern division of 
Tierra del Fuego. Perhaps it was the camel-sheep — 
which appears to be almost a necessity of the Patago- 
nian's existence — that first induced these water-hating 


giants to make so extensive a voyage as that of crossino" 
the Straits at Cape Orange ! 

At Cape Orange the channel is so narrow, one might 
fancy that the Patagonians, if they possessed one half 
the pedestrian stretch attributed to the giants of old, 
might have stepped from shore to shore without wetting 
their great feet ! 

Perhaps there are no two people on earth, living so 
near each other as the Patagonians and Fuegians, who 
are more unlike. Except in the color of the skin and 
hair, there is hardly a point of resemblance between 
them. The former seems to hate the sea : at all events 
he never goes out upon, nor even approaches its shore, 
except in pursuit of such game as may wander that 
way. He neither dwells near, nor does he draw any 
portion of his subsistence from the waters of the great 
deep, — 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 dwellins:- 
j)lace, and the sea or its shore is his proper element. 
He is more than half his time, either on it, or in it, — 
on it in his canoe, and in it, while wading among the 
tidal shoals in seai'ch of fish, muscles, and hmpets, which 
constitute very nearly the whole of his subsistence. 

It is very curious, therefore, while noting the differ- 
ence between these two tribes of Indians, to observe 
how each confines its range to that part of the Magel- 
lanic land that appears best adapted to their own pecu- 
liar habits, — those of the Patagonian being altogether 
terrestrial^ while those of the Fuegian are essentially 

"We have stated elsewhere the limits of the Pataso- 


man territory ; and shown that, ethnologically speaking, 
they do not occupy the whole northern shore of the 
Magellan Straits, but only the eastern half of it. West- 
wai'd towards the Pacific the aspect of the land, on both 
sides of this famous channel, may be regarded as of the 
same character, though altogether different from that 
which is seen at the entrance, or eastern end. 

West of Cape Negro on one side, and the Sebastian 
passage on the. other, bleak mountain summits, with nar- 
row wooded valleys intervening, become the character- 
istic features. There we behold an incongruous labyrinth 
of peaks and ridges, of singular and fantastic forms, — 
many of them reaching above the limits of perpetual 
snow, — which, in this cold chmate descends to the 
height of four thousand feet. We have seen that these 
mountains are sepai'ated from each other, — not by 
plains, nor even valleys, in the ordinary understanding 
of the term ; but by ravines, the steep sides of which 
are covered with sombre forests up to a height of one 
thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea : 
at which point vegetation terminates with a uniformity 
as exact as that of the snow-line itself! These forests 
grow out of a wet, peaty soil, — in many places impass- 
able on account of its boggy nature ; and of this char- 
acter is almost the whole surface of the different islands. 
The trees composing the forests are few in species, — 
those of the greatest size and numbers being the " win- 
ter's bark" (drymys), of the order magnoliacce, a birch, 
and, more abundantly, a species of beech-tree, the fogus 
hetuloides. These last-named trees are many of them 
of great size ; and might almost be called evergreens : 
since they retain part of their foliage throughout the 


"whole year ; but it vrould be more appropriate to style 
them ever-yelloivs : since at no period do they exhibit a 
verdure, anything hke the forests of other countries. 
They are always clad in the same sombre hvery of dull 
yellow, rendermg the mountain landscape around them, 
if possible, more dreary and desolate. 

The forests of Tierra del Fuego are essentially worth- 
less forests ; their timber offering but a limited contribu- 
tion to the necessities of man, and producing scarce any 
food for his subsistence. 

Many of the ravines are so deep as to end, as already 
stated, in becoming arms or inlets of the sea ; while oth- 
ers agam are filled up with stupendous glaciers, that ap- 
pear hke cataracts suddenly arrested in their fall, by 
being frozen into solid ice ! Most of these inlets are of 
gi-eat depth, — so deep that the largest ship may j^lough 
through them with safety. They intersect the islands in 
every direction, — cutting them up into numerous pen- 
insulas of the most fantastic forms ; while some of the 
channels are narrow sounds, and stretch across the land 
of Tierra del Fuego from ocean to ocean. 

The " Land of Fire " is therefore not an island, — as 
it was long regarded, — but rather a collection of islands, 
terminated by precipitous cliffs that frown within gun- 
shot of each other. Ofttimes vast masses of rock, or 
still larger masses of glacier ice, fall from these cliffs 
into the profound abysses of the inlets below ; the con- 
cussion, as they strike the water, reverberating to the 
distance of miles ; while the water itself, stirred to its 
lowest depths, rises in grand sui'ging waves, that often 
enguff the canoe of the unwary savage. 

" Tierra del Fuego " is simply the Spanish phrase for 


" Land of Fire." It was so called by Magellan on 
account of the numerous fires seen at night upon its 
shores, — while he and his people were passing through 
the Straits. These were signal fires, kindled by the 
natives, — no doubt to telegraph to one another the 
arrival of those strange leviathans, the Spanish ships, 
then seen by them for the first time. 

The name is inappropriate. A more fit appellation 
would be the " land of water ; " for, certainly, in no 
part of the earth is water more abundant : both rain 
and snow supplying it almost continually. Water is the 
very plague of the island ; it hes stagnant or runs every- 
where, — forming swamps, wherever there is a spot of 
level ground, and rendering even the declivities of the 
momitains as spongy as a peat-bog. 

The climate throughout the whole year is excessively 
cold ; for, though the winter is perhaps not more rigor- 
ous than in the same latitude of a northern land, yet 
the summer is almost as severe as the winter ; and it 
would be a misnomer to call it summer at all. Snow 
falls throughout the whole year ; and even in the mid- 
summer of Tierra del Fuego men have actually perished 
from cold, at no great elevation above the level of the 

Under these circumstances, it would scarce be ex- 
pected that Tierra del Fuego should be inhabited, — ■ 
either by men or animals of any kind ; but no country 
has 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 the 
chill skies of Tierra del Fuego. 

The land-animals, as well as the birds, are few ui 


species, as in numbers. The guanaco is found upon the 
islands ; but whether indigenous, or carried across from 
the Patagonian shore, can never be determined : since it 
was an inhabitant of the islands long anterior to the 
arrival of Magellan. It frequents only the eastern side 
of the cluster, — where the ground is firmer, and a few 
level spots appear that might be termed plains or mead- 
ows. A species of deer inhabits the same districts ; 
and besides these, there are two kinds of fox-wolves 
(cams Megellanicus and canis Azarce), three or four 
kinds of mice, and a species of bat. 

Of water-mafnmalia there is a greater abundance : 
these comprising the whale, seals, sea-lions, and the 

But few birds have been observed ; only the white- 
tufted flycatcher, a large black woodpecker with scarlet 
crest, a creeper, a wren, a thrush, a starling, hawks, 
owls, and four or five kinds of finches. 

The water-birds, like the v,^aXei*-7nammaUa, muster in 
greater numbers. Of these there are ducks of various 
kinds, 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 exceedingly 
rare. A few flies and butterflies are seen ; but the 
mosquito — the plague of other parts of South America 
— does not venture into the cold, humid atmosphere of 
the Land of Fire. 

We now arrive at the human inhabitants of this deso- 
late region. 

As might be expected, these exhibit no very high 
condition of either physical or mental development, but 


the contrary. The character of their civilization is in 
complete correspondence with that of their dreary dwell- 
ing-place, — at the very bottom of the scale. Yes, at 
the very bottom, according to most ethnologists ; even 
lower down than that of the Digger-Indian, the Anda- 
man islander, the Bushman of Africa, or the Esquimaux 
of the Arctic Ocean : in fact, any comparison of a Fue- 
gian with the last-mentioned would be ridiculous, as 
regards either their moral or physical condition. Below 
the Esquimaux, the Fuegian certainly is, and by many 
a Ions; deo-ree. 

In height, the tallest Fuegian stands about five feet, 

— not in his boots, for he wears none ; but on his naked 
soles. His wife is just six inches shorter than himself, 

— a difference wliich is not a bad proportion between 
the 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 coarse' 
tangled hair, hanging like bunches of black snakes over 
their shoulders ; and both are as naked as the hour in 
which they were born, — unless we call that a dress, — 
that bit of stinking seal-skin which is slung at the back, 
and covers about a fifth part of the whole body ! Hairy 
side turned inward, it extends only from the nape of the 
neck to a few inches below the hollow of the back ; and 
is fastened in front by means of a thong or skewer pass- 
ing over the breast. It is rarely so ample as to admit 
of being " skewered ; " and with this scanty covering, 
in rain and snow, frost and blow, — some one of which 
is continuously going on, — the shivering wretch is con- 
tented. Nay, more ; if there should happen an interval 
of mild weather, or the wearer be at work in paddUng 


his canoe, he flings this unique garment aside, as if its 
warmth were an incumbrance ! When the weather is 
particularly cold, he shifts the seal-skin to that side of 
his 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 in- 
tended for clothing but the bit of stinking skin. His 
vanity, however, is exhibited, if not in his dress, to some 
extent in his adornments. Like all savages and many 
civilized people, he paints certain portions of his person; 
and his " escutcheon " is pecuhar. It would be difficult 
detail its complicated labyrinth of " crossings " and 
" quarterings." We shall content ourselves by stating 
that black lines and blotches upon a white ground con- 
stitute its chief characteristic. Red, too, is sometimes 
seen, of a dark or " bricky " color. The black is simply 
charcoal ; while the white-ground coat is obtained from 
a species of infusorial clay, which he finds at the bottom 
of the peaty streams, that pour down the ravines of the 
mountains. As additional ornaments, he wears strings 
of fish-teeth, or pieces of bone, about his wrists and 
ankles. His wife carries the same upon her neck ; and 
both, when they can procure it, tie a plain band around 
the head, of a reddish-brown color, — the material of 
which is the long hair of the guanaco. The " cloak," 
already described, is sometimes of sea-otter instead of 
seal-skin ; and on some of the islands, where the deer 
dwells, the hide of that animal affords a more ample 
covering. In most cases, however, the size of the gar- 
ment is that of a pocket handkerchief ; and affords about 
as much protection against the weather as a kerchief 



Though the Fuegian has abundance of hair upon his 
head, there is none, or almost none on any part of his 
body. He is beardless and whiskerless as an Esqui- 
maux ; though his features, — without the adornment 
of hair, — are sufficiently fierce in their expression. 

He not only looks ferocious, but in reality is so, — de- 
formed in mind, as he is hideous in person. He is not 
only ungrateful for kindness done, but unwilling to re- 
member it ; and he is cruel and vindictive in the ex- 
treme. Beyond a doubt he is a cannibal ; not habitual- 
ly perhaps, but in times of scarcity and famine, — a true 
cannibal, for he does not confine himself to eating his 
enemies, but his friends, if need be, — and especially the 
old women of his tribe, who fall the first victims, in those 
crises produced by the terrible requirements of an im- 
pending starvation. Unfortunately the fact is too well 
authenticated to admit of either doubt or denial ; and, 
even while we write, the account of a massacre of a 
ship's crew by these hostile savages is going the rounds 
of the press, — that ship, too, a missionary vessel, that 
had landed on their shores with the humane object of 
ameliorating their condition. 

Of course such unnatural food is only partaken of at 
long and rare intervals, — by many communities never, 
— and there is no proof that the wretched Fuegian has 
acquired an appetite for it : like the Feegee and some 
other savage tribes. It is to be hoped that he indulges 
in the horrid habit, only when forced to it by the neces- 
sities of extreme hunger. 

His ordinary subsistence is shell-fish ; though he eats 
also the flesh of the seal and sea-otter ; of birds, espe- 
cially the penguin and Magellanic goose, when he can 


capture them. His stomacii will not "turn" at the blub- 
ber of a whale, — when by good chance one of these 
leviathans gets stranded on his coast, — even though the 
great carcass be far gone in the stages of decomposition ! 
The only vegetable diet in which he indulges is the 
berr J of a shrub — a species of arbutus — which grows 
abundantly on the peaty soil ; and a fungus of a very 
curious kind, that is produced upon the trunks of the 
beech-tree. This fungus is of a globular form, and pale- 
yellow color. TVTien young, it is elastic and turgid, with 
a smooth surface ; but as it matures it becomes shrunken, 
grows tougher in its texture, and presents the pitted ap- 
pearance of a honeycomb. When fully ripe, the Fue- 
gians collect it in large quantities, eating it without cook- 
ing or other preparation. It is tough between the teeth ; 
but soon changes into pulp, with a sweetish taste and 
flavor, — somewhat resembling that of our common mush- 

These two vegetables — a berry and a cryptogamic 
plant — are almost the only ones eaten by the natives 
of Tierra del Fuego. There are others upon the island 
that might enable them to eke out their miserable ex- 
istence : there are two especially sought after by such 
Europeans as visit this dreary land, — the " wild celery " 
(cipium antarcticuiTi), and the " scurvy grass " {cardan 
mine antiscorhuticd) ; but for these the Fuegian cares 
not. He even knows not their uses. 

In speaking of other " odd people," I have usually 
described the mode of building their house ; but about 
the house of the Fuegian I have ahxiost " no story to 
tell." It would be idle to call that a house, which far 
more resembles the lair of a wild beast ; and is, in re- 


alitj, little better than the den made by the orang- 
outang in the forests of Borneo. Such as it is, however, 
I shall describe it. 

Having procured a number of long saphngs or branch- 
es, — not always straight ones, — the Fuegian sharpens 
them at one end by means of his muscle-shell knife ; and 
then sticking the sharpened ends into the ground in a 
kind of circle, he brings the tops all together, and ties 
them in a bunch, — so as to form a rude hemispherical 
frame. Upon this he lays some smaller branches ; and 
over these a few armfuls of long coarse grass, and the 
house is "built." One side — that to leeward of the 
prevailing wind — is left open, to allow for an entrance 
and the escape of smoke. As tl^is opening is usually 
about an eighth part of the whole circumference, the 
house is, in reality, nothing more than a shed or lair. 
Its furniture does not contradict the idea ; but, on the 
contrary, only strengthens the comparison. There is no 
table, no chair, no bedstead : a " shake-down " of damp 
grass answers for all. There are no implements or 
utensils, — if we except a rude basket used for holding 
the arbutus berries, and a seal-skin bag, in which the 
shell-fish are collected. A bladder, filled with water, 
hangs upon some forking stuck against the side : in the 
top of this bladder is a hole, from which each member 
of the family takes a " suck," when thirst inclines them 
to drink ! 

The " tools " observable are a bow and arrow, the lat- 
ter headed with flint ; a fish spear with a forked point, 
made from a bone of the sea-lion ; a short stick, — a 
woman's implement for knocking the limpets from the 
rocks ; and some knives, the blades of which are sharp- 


ened shells of the muscle, — a very large species of which 
is found along the coast. These knives are simply manu- 
factured. The brittle edge of the shell — v/hich is nve 
or six inches m length — is first chipped off, and a 
new edge formed bj grinding the shell upon the rocks. 
When thus prepared, it will cut not only the hardest 
wood, but even the bones of fish ; and serves the Fue- 
gian for all purposes. 

Outside the hut, you may see the canoe, — near at 
hand too, — for the shieling of the Fuegian universally 
stands upon the beach. He never dwells in the interior 
of his island ; and but rarely roams there, — the women 
only making such excursions as are necessary to pro- 
cure the berry and the mushroom. The woods have no 
charms for him, except to afford him a little fuel ; they 
are difficult to be traversed on account of the miry soil 
out of which the trees grow ; and, otherwise, there is 
absolutely nothing to be found amidst their gloomy 
depths, that would in any way contribute to his comfort 
or sustenance. He is therefore essentially a dweller on 
the shore ; and even there he is not free to come and go 
as he might choose. From the bold character of his 
coast, there are here and there long reaches, w^here the 
beach cannot be followed by land, — places where the 
water's edge can only be reached, and the shell-fish col- 
lected, by means of some sort of navigable craft. For 
this purpose the Fuegian requires a canoe ; and the 
necessity of his life makes him a waterman. His skill, 
however, both in the construction of his craft, and the 
management of it, is of a very inferior order, — infi- 
nitely inferior to that exhibited either by the Esquimaux 
or the Water-Indians of the North. 


* His canoe is usually made of the bark of a tree, — 
the birch already mentioned. Sometimes it is so rudely- 
shaped, as to be merely a large piece of bark shelled 
from a single trunk, closed at each end, and tied tightly 
with thong of seal-skin. A few cross-sticks prevent the 
sides from pressing inward ; while as many stays of 
thong keep them from " bulging " in the contrary direc- 
tion. If there are cracks in the bark, these are calked 
with rushes and a species of resin, which the woods 

With this rude vessel the Fuegian ventures forth, 
upon the numerous straits and inlets that intersect his 
land ; but he rarely trusts himself to a tempestuous 

If rich or industrious, he sometimes becomes the pos- 
sessor of 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 lensrth and three in width amid- 
ships. Its " build " also is better, - — with a high prow 
and stern, -and cross-pieces regularly set and secured at 
the ends. The pieces of bark are united by a stitch- 
ing of thongs ; and the seams carefully calked, so that 
no water can enter. In this vessel, the Fuegian may 
embark with his whole family, — and his whole furni- 
ture to boot, — and voyage to any part of his coast. 
And this in reality he doe^ ; for the " shanty " above 
described, is to him only a temporary home. The 
necessities of his life require him to be continually 
changing it ; and a " removal," with the building of 
a new domicile, is a circumstance of frequent recur- 


Not unfrequently, in removing from one part of the 
coast to another, he finds it safer making a land journey, 
to avoid the dangers of the deep. In times of high 
wind, it is necessaiy for him to adopt this course, — else 
his frail bark might be dashed against the rocks and 
riven to pieces. In the land-journey he carries the 
canoe along with him ; and in order to do this with 
convenience, he has so contrived it, that the planks com- 
posing the little vessel can be taken apart, and put to- 
gether again without much difficulty, — the seams only 
requiring to be freshly calked. In the transport across 
land, each member of the family carries a part of 
.the canoe: the stronger individuals taking the heavier 
pieces, — as the side and bottom planks, — while the 
ribs and hght beams are borne by the younger and 

The necessity of removal arises from a very natural 
cause. A few days spent at a particular place, — on a 
creek or bay, — even though the community be a small 
one, soon exhausts the chief store of food, — the muscle- 
bank upon the beach, — and, of course, another must 
be sought for. This may he at some distance ; perhaps 
can only be reached by a tedious, and sometimes perilous 
water-journey ; and under these circumstances the Fue- 
gian deems it less trouble to carry the mountain to Ma- 
homet, than carry Mahomet so often to the mountain. 
The transporting his whole menage, is just as easy 
as bringing home a load of Hmpets ; and as to the 
building of a new house, that is a mere bagatelle, which 
takes httle labor, and no more time than the erection of 
a tent. Some Fuegians actually possess a tent, covered 
with the skins of animals ; but this is a rare and excep- 


tional advantage ; and the tent itself of the rudest kind. 
The Fuegian has his own mode of procuring fire. He 
is provided with a piece of " mundic," or iron pyrites, 
which he finds high up upon the sides of his mountains. 
This struck by a pebble will produce sparks. These he 
catches upon a tinder of moss, or the " punk " of a dead 
tree, which he knows how to prepare. The tinder once 
ignited, is placed within a roundish ball of dry grass ; 
and, this being waved about in circles, sets the grass in 
a blaze. It is then only necessary to communicate the 
flame 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 be 
readily procured, is nevertheless difficult enough in the 
humid atmosphere of Tierra del Fuego, — where moss 
is like a wet sponge, and grass, sticks, and logs, can 
hardly be found dry enough to burn. Well knowing 
this, the Fuegian is habitually careful of his fire : scarce 
ever permitting it to go out ; and even while travelling 
in his canoe, in search of a " new home," side by side 
with his other " penates " he carries the fire along with 

Notwithstanding the abundance of fuel with which 
his country provides him, he seems never to be thor- 
oughly warm. Having no close walls to surround him, 
and no clothing to cover his body, he suffers almost in- 
cessantly from cold. Wherever met, he presents him- 
self with a shivering aspect, like one undergoing a severe 
fit of the ague ! 

The Fuegians live in small communities, which scarce 
deserve the name of " tribes : " since they have no po- 
litical leader, nor chief of any description. The con- 


juror — and they have him — is the only indiviclual 
that differs in any degree from the other members of the 
community ; but his power is very shght and limited ; 
nor does it extend to the exercise of any physical force. 
Religion they have none, — at least, none more sacred 
or sanctified than a vague belief in devils and other 
evil spirits. 

Although without leaders, they are far from being a 
peaceful people. The various communities often quarrel 
and wage cruel and vindictive war against one another ; 
and were it not that the boundaries of each association 
are well defined, by deep ravines and inlets of the sea, 
as well as by the impassable barriers of snow-covered 
mountains, these warlike dwarfs would thin one anoth- 
er's numbers to a far greater extent than they now do, 

— perhaps to a mutual extermination. Fortunately the 
pecuhar nature of their country hinders them from com- 
ing very often within fighting distance. 

Their whole system of fife is abject in the extreme. 
Although provided with fij-es, their food is eaten raw ; 
and a fish taken from the water will be swallowed upon 
the instant, — almost before the life is gone out of it. 
Seal and penguin flesh are devoured in the same man- 
ner ; and the blubber of the whale is also a raw repast. 
When one of these is found dead upon the beach, — for 
they have neither the skill nor courage to capture the 
whale, — the lucky accident brings a season of rejoicing. 
A fleet of canoes — if it is to be reached only by water 

— at once paddle towards the place ; or, if it be an 
overland journey, the whole community — man, woman, 
and child — start forth on foot. In an hour or two they 
may be seen returning to their hut-village, each with a 



large " flitch " of blubber flapping over the shoulders, 
■ and the head just appearing above, through a hole cut 
in the centre of the piece, — just as a Mexican ranchero 
wears his " serape," or a denizen of the Pampas his 
woollen "poncho." A feast follows this singular pro- 

Like the Esquimaux of the north, the Fuegian is 
very skilful in capturing the seal. His mode of cap- 
turing this creature, however, is very difierent from 
that employed by the " sealer " of the Arctic Seas ; 
aiid consists simply in steahng as near as possible in his 
canoe, when he sees the animal asleep upon the surface, 
and striking it with a javelin, — which he throws with 
an unerring aim. 

We have already observed that the principal sub- 
sistence of the Fuegian is supplied by the sea ; and 
shell-fish forms the most important item of his food. 
These are muscles, limpets, oysters, and other kinds of 
shell-fish, and so many are annually consumed by a 
single family, that an immense heap of the shells may 
be seen not only in front of every hut, but all along the 
coast of the islands, above high-water mark, — wherever 
a tribe has made its temporary sojourn. 

There is a singular fact connected with these con- 
glomerations of shells, which appears to have escaped 
the observations of the Magellanic voyagers. It is not 
by mere accident they are thus collected in piles. There 
is a certain amount of superstition in the matter. The 
Fuegian beheves that, were the shells scattered negli- 
gently about, ill-luck would follow ; and, above all, if 
the emptied ones were thrown back into the sea : since 
this would be a warning of destruction that would fright- 


en the living bivalves in their " beds," and drive them 
away from the coast I Hence it is that the shell-heaps 
are so carefully kept together. 

In collecting these shell-fish, the women are the clilef 
laborers. They do not always gather them from the 
rocks, after the tide has gone out ; though that is the 
usual time. But there are some species not found in 
shallow water, and therefore only to be obtained by 
diving to the bottom after them. Of this kind is a 
species of echinus, or " sea-m'chin," of the shape of an 
orange, and about twice the bulk of one, — the whole 
outside surface being thickly set with spines, or protu- 
berances. These curious ehell-fish are called " sea-eggs " 
by the sailor navigators ; and constitute an important 
article of the food of the Fuegian. It is often neces- 
sary to dive for them to a great depth ; and this is 
done by the Fuegian women, who are as expert in 
plunging as the pearl-divers of Cahfornia or the In- 
dian seas. 

Fish is another article of Fuegian diet; and many 
kinds are captured upon their coasts, some of excellent 
quahty. They sometimes obtain the fish by shooting 
them with their arrows, or striking them with a dart ; 
but they have a mode of catching the finny crea- 
tures, which is altogether peculiar : that is to say, hunt- 
ing them with dogs ! The Fuegians possess a breed 
of small fox-like dogs, mean, wretched looking curs, 
usually on the very verge of starvation, — since their 
owners take not the sHghtest care of them, and hardly 
ever trouble themselves about feeding them. NotliAvith- 
standing this neglect, the Fuegian dogs are not without 
certain good qualities ; and become important auxiliaries 


to the Fuegian fisherman. They are trained to pursue 
the fish through the water, and drive them into a net, 
or some enclosed creek or inlet, shallow enough for them 
to be shot with the arrow. In doing this the dogs dive 
to the bottom ; and follow the fish to and fro, as if they 
were amphibious carnivora, like the seals and otters. 
For this useful service the poor brutes receive a very 
inadequate reward, — getting only the bones as their 
portion. They would undoubtedly starve, were it not 
that, being left to shift for themselves, they have learnt 
how to procure their own food ; and understand how to 
catch a fish now and then on their own account. Their 
principal food, however, consists in shell-fish, which they 
find along the shores, with polypi, and such other animal 
substances as the sea leaves uncovered upon the beach 
after the tide has retired. A certain kind of sea-weed 
also furnishes them with an occasional meal, as it does 
their masters, — often as hungry and starving as them- 

In his personal habits no human being is more filthy 
than the Fuegian. He never uses water for washing 
purposes ; nor cleans the dirt from his skin in any way. 
He has no more idea of putting water to such use, than 
he has of disowning himself in it ; and in respect to 
cleanliness, he is not only below most other savages, 
but below the brutes themselves : since even these are 
taught cleanliness by instinct. But no such instinct 
exists in the mind of the Fuegian ; and he lives in the 
midst of filth. The smell of his body can be perceived 
at a considerable distance ; and Hotspur's fop might 
have had reasonable grounds of complaint, had it been 
a Fuegian who came between the " wind and his no- 


bilitj/' To use the pithy language of one of the old 
navigators, " The Fuegian stinks like a fox." 

Fairly examined, then, in all his bearings, — fairly 
judged by his habits and actions, — the Fuegian may 
claim the credit of being the most wretched of our 


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