The Indians at work here have caused the price of pisco and whisky to rise to a most exorbitantly high rate. They content themselves with feasting on the bitter acorn bread, and spend all their earnings on “strong water” and a little finery. Sometimes a party of them, when intoxicated, will get up one of their wild dances, when the stamping and yelling are of a far more fearful character than is generally the case at these singular exhibitions. The dance begins generally with a rude song, the words being of the usual harsh guttural character, but the ideas are generally striking and peculiar. One has been explained to me which recites the praises of the “yellow earth,” because it will procure the Shoshonee the fleet rifle with which he can slay his Pawnee foe. It says nothing, however, about the “strong water,” which renders the arm of the war-chief weaker than that of a child; for, with all their vices, there is still that pride about the Indian character which makes them ashamed of those weaknesses they are unable to resist.
Frequently, while the Indian warriors repose from their exertions, after the termination of one of these wild dances, the women of the tribe will occupy their place; but in general their postures and movements are indelicate in the extreme. But modesty is hardly to be looked for in the amusements of savage life.
The party determine to start for Bear
Sickness at the mines
What happened to a drunken Indian
An old trapper and his stories
Captain Sutter’s first settlement
Indians partial to horse-flesh
A score of horses stolen
An expedition to revenge the theft
A rancheria demolished
A chorus of yells
Indians routed and then brought to labour
The trapper engaged as guide
Preparations for the journey
An addition to the party
The journey commenced
Cross the North Fork
An accident to a mule
Flour cakes and bacon scraps
Resume the journey
End of the journey.
Monday, July 24th.—We have determined to start for the Bear River. We worked hard last week, but suffered greatly from the heat; almost every man of us complains of feverish symptoms, with pains in the limbs, back, and loins, yet we are better than the majority of the miners. These washings have now become nearly as crowded as the Mormon diggings were when we left them, and immense sums have been made by some of the luckier adventurers amongst the ravines. The whole valley is dotted over with tents and green bush arbours, and there is hardly a watercourse but which is sprinkled with miners, digging, sifting, and washing. About half of the people work together in companies—the other half shift each for himself. There are hundreds of Indians, many of them fantastically dressed, for they can purchase fine clothing now, even at the extravagant rates at which all articles are charged at Weber’s store. They labour one day, and get drunk on pisco or the “strong water” on another. One of them rolled down a rocky ravine lately, in an intoxicated state, and was killed.