Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/95

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85
SOME LESSONS FROM BARBARISM.

weed and nearly every leaf or herb, it appears, can be smoked, or steeped, or smelled of, or lias some medicinal or edible quality. They are skillful in cooking even such articles of food as they have borrowed from us ; and I should never expect, while camp- ing with white people, to taste such admirable hot biscuit as the Indian women will bake on a bed of coals in a common frying- pan, or to see coffee browned and prepared with such dexterity and dispatch.

Indians scrupulously respect the rights of the individual to his personal possessions, and to such privacy as is possible in tent life. Each member of the party has his own bed, seat, and espe- cial corner of the tepee, upon which no other ever intrudes, unless compelled by the exigencies of hospitality ; and each one keeps his own blankets, clothing, arms, and ornaments in exactly the same place, with reference to the door of the lodge, and observes the same order in packing and repacking throughout the trip. Although the household utensils may be few in number, each has its proper function, and they are much less likely to be promiscu- ously devoted to various uses than is the disorderly camp equipage of the average white man. Every night the moccasins are neatly mended, and the harness, if any part has given way, repaired in such fashion as to be stronger than before the little work-bag, containing awls, sinews, and strips of buckskin, is every house- wife's companion and it may be added that bathing is frequently indulged in and garments washed at lake or river side at very short intervals.

Although we have barely touched upon some of the practical lessons to be learned from the savage, we will turn from these to deeper and fundamental questions of social and political organiza- tion. Do we really believe that the framework of our modern society is solidly and honestly built ? Do we not condemn in al- most unqualified terms its false standards, artificial distinctions, and ridiculous elaborations of purely conventional laws ? I do not want to be misunderstood as saying that there is nothing ar- tificial or conventional in the social system of our typical barba- rian ; this would not be strictly true : nevertheless, it is refreshing to dwell among a comparatively simple people a people whose etiquette is easily learned and based upon an instinctive sense of propriety ; who know no prearranged division into classes ; whose every-day hospitality is not determined by the desire for or the ability to afford display, but solely by the actual need of the chance guest. It is delightful to hear people come straight to the point, tell home truths, talk frankly and ask frank questions, call a spade a spade, and be as unconscious as a child of any possible motive for doing otherwise. A naive curiosity, a strong sense of humor, a childlike abandon to the simple pleasures of the hour,