Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/148

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138
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

form to our custom of invitation or making presents, and the obligations arising from the offering, not from the acceptance, of such invitations and presents. Indeed, the system is almost exactly analogous, with the sole exception that the Indian is more anxious to outdo the first giver than the civilized European, who, however, has the same tendency, and that what is custom with us is law to the Indian. Thus by continued potlatches each man becomes necessarily the debtor of the other. According to Indian ideas, any moral or material harm done to a man can be made good by an adequate potlatch. Thus, if a man is ridiculed by another, he gives away a number of blankets to his friends, and so regains his former standing. I remember, for instance, that the grandson of a chief in Hope Island, by unskillful management of his little canoe, was upset near the beach and had to wade ashore. The grandfather felt ashamed on account of the boy's accident, and gave away blankets to take away the occasion of remarks on this subject. In the same way a man who feels injured by another will destroy a certain amount of property; then his adversary is compelled to do the same, else a stain of dishonor would rest upon him. This custom may be compared to a case where a member of civilized society gives away for no good purpose a considerable amount of money ostentatiously in order to show his superiority over a detested neighbor. A remarkable feature cf the potlatch is the custom of giving feasts going beyond the host's means. The procedure on such occasions is also exactly regulated. The foundation of this custom is the solidarity of the individual and the gens, or even the tribe, to which he belongs. If an individual gains social distinction, his gens participates in it. If he loses in respect, the stain rests also on the gens. Therefore the gens contributes to the payments to be made at a festival. If the feast is given to foreign tribes, the whole tribe contributes to these payments. The man who intends to give the potlatch first borrows as many blankets as he needs from both his friends and from those whom he is going to invite to the feast. Every one lends him as many as he can afford, or according to his rank. At the feast these are given away, each man receiving the more the higher his rank is. All those who have received anything at the potlatch have to repay the double amount at a later day, and this is used to repay those who lent blankets. At each such feast the man who gives it acquires a new and more honorable name. In one tribe the chief's son, some time after his father's death, adopts the latter's name. For this purpose he invites all the neighboring tribes to a potlatch. During the festival he stands on the permanent scaffold in front of his house, assisted by two slaves, who distribute the presents among the guests sitting or standing in the street. As it is necessary to give a great festival at the assumption of the chief's name, the new chief continues sometimes for years and years to accumulate wealth for the purpose of celebrating this event.

 

Persistence of Life.—The distinctions between plant and animal, pointed out by Prof. Dana, in the introduction to his Manual of Geology, have reference to the absorption by the plant of carbonic acid and by the animal of oxygen; of manufacturing organic food for the animal by the plant from inorganic materials, etc.—}matters which Prof. Persifor Frazer does not regard as concerning the question of the essential continuity of inorganic with organic force, and the separation of the phenomena of the latter from those of the former by an indefinable line. No hard-and-fast line, in Prof. Frazer's view, can be drawn to separate animal from plant, and none to separate plant from crystal. The force which is the cause of production and of change seems as if it were simply modified to suit the various structures which it builds. The material in all three kingdoms of nature is the same. Having reviewed the modes of growth in the three kingdoms, the author concludes that there are strong analogies between them, the divergence being progressive as we go from mineral to plant and from plant to animal. Common characteristics of the three kingdoms are the presence of force, its action upon matter, and ita renewal by the change of one form of matter to another, in the course of which energy is manifested. In the crystal kingdom the restrictions on the existence and growth of the individual being least, and the variations of conditions and environment in which ex-