Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/224

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

mother; a few hours after delivery she was attending to her usual duties, even though it happened to be a walk of many miles. An acquaintance of mine had employed the same mahala for several months to do the washing for her family. It finally became evident that she was about to become a mother. She had the washing well started one Monday morning when she said: "Me feel heap bad, me go home; me think papoose come." Early thePSM V50 D224 Ten year old digger boy from feather river.jpg"Digger" Boy of about Ten, from Feather River.next morning she came back; the baby had been born and she was ready to finish the washing.

The male child was held in greater favor than the female; frequently a child of the latter sex was destroyed as soon as born. These Indians, though seemingly strong and vigorous, succumbed easily to disease; consumption and smallpox were the most prevalent and fatal diseases; much of the former was undoubtedly caused from their sweat dance, followed by the cold-water plunge. This dance was a festive event. The sweat-house was an immense cone-shaped structure, built near water, and much in the same way as their homes. All important events were celebrated with one of these dances, and Indians gathered from long distances to take part in them. A fire was built in the middle of the close, smoky house, and around it the naked, face-and-body-painted Indians danced. As the flames darted upward their enthusiasm increased until they leaped and shrieked in a frenzy of excitement. They kept this up until the perspiration poured from their bodies and exhaustion caused them to drop from the ring, when others would take their places, and they hurried to the stream to plunge into the ice-cold water. These dances were also used to cure disease, but more often caused death. The time for these dances, like the time for everything else, was reckoned by reference to the moon and by such natural periodical events as the ripening of various varieties of berries and the emigration of certain species of birds.