Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/228

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Water Spirit to fill itself with water and make trip after trip over the mountains until it had emptied all the water into the ocean, after which it was imprisoned in the base of the tree, and the small lake left for its drinking water. It must remain there until the end of time. Only once each year, in January, is the spirit allowed to look out from its prison, and woe to the Indian who is unfortunate enough to be seen by this monster, which possesses a fascinating power that can not be resisted! The Indian is drawn down into the prison and devoured.

This is a crude legend, but many Indians still believe in its truth, and could not be hired to camp near or fish in Homer Lake.

This tribe is fast disappearing. The younger generations have intermarried to a large extent with other tribes, and in some instances with other races. Their enforced association with a superior race has also had the usual effect. These conditions, together with their total disregard of the ordinary rules of health, have brought about the usual result, and it is doubtful if more than one hundred and fifty Indians can be found to-day in the Sacramento Valley who are descendants of this once powerful tribe, and one tenth of this number would easily include those of pure blood.

In Plumas County, which lies in the mountain district and affords somewhat different conditions from the valley in the matter of climate and sparse white population, the proportion of survivors is very much larger, although the same conditions of intermarriage, etc., prevail here as well. It is a significant and perhaps hopeful fact that the population of this mountain region has been increasing within the last decade. Whether this be owing to intelligent appropriation of hygienic ideas gained from association with white people, or to the chance for a slower evolution, or whether it be the expiring flash of the candle in its socket, remains for further examination. It is apparent that they have made a successful effort to lift themselves from their low condition of savagery to a higher plane of civilization, as is instanced by their adopting proper clothing, living in more comfortable houses, using civilized food, and properly cooking the same. They also evince an inclination to Christian worship and education, but with rare exceptions the Indian seems incapable of acquiring a complex education. Beading, writing, and spelling are readily learned by them, and they particularly excel in the imitative studies, writing and drawing.

Whether on the whole these Indians will become civilized before the race becomes wholly extinct remains a problem which time alone will be able to solve.