Page:The American Indian.djvu/223

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In Peru and Mexico the governments regulated divorce, but elsewhere the parties could separate at will, though the respective families of each party had a voice in the settlement.


We sometimes read specific statements that infanticide and neglect of the helpless prevailed in the New World, but a moment's reflection will make clear the improbability of either having been the rule. The exposing of infants was resorted to only in case of necessity or advisability. Thus, in the Amazon country, if the mother die soon after confinement, the child will be buried with her or otherwise disposed of, unless some woman volunteers to rear it. This seems to have been common in other regions as well, but the Eskimo visited by Stefánsson[1] often exposed female infants to preserve the balance between population and sustenance. As to the aged and sick, we have the formal practice of putting to death among some of the Eskimo and Déné, a custom also found in Siberia. On the other hand, among all hunting peoples who shift about from place to place, the infirm are often of necessity left behind to their fate. Yet the reported examples of such cruelties can usually be matched by incidents of the opposite tenor, and since the mythologies of the various tribal groups contain plots showing retribution for such cruelties, and herald the triumphs of the oppressed over the unjust, we must regard all such phenomena as exceptional.

Travelers everywhere have remarked upon the extreme indulgence toward children. This is very marked among the Eskimo, though perhaps not more so than among the Fuegians of South America. Wherever we have data, parents almost never punish or even severely reprove, but such pressure as may be needed is exercised by certain relatives. In the United States this is sometimes the clan or gens uncle of the offender, according to sex and mode of inheritance. Though our information for Peru and Mexico is in this respect vague, something similar seems to have applied there. In any case, these higher cultures had some formal provisions for training. For example, in Mexico City there were two kinds of schools,

  1. Stefánsson, 1914. I.