The reindeer, after he is dead, is of as much use to the Ostyak, as when he was alive; for his skin is his master’s clothing. Both men and women dress alike, in a suit that covers them from head to foot; the seams are well joined with thread, made of reindeer sinews, and the cold is kept well out. The Ostyak lets no part of his body be uncovered but just his face, and that would freeze, if he were not to rub it often with his hands, covered over with hairy reindeer gloves. The women cover their faces with thick veils. The Ostyak wears a great-coat made of the skin of a white deer; this gives him the appearance of a great white bear. He carries in his hand a bow taller than himself. His arrows are very long, and made of wood, pointed with iron. With these he shoots the wild animals. He is very glad when he can shoot a sable; because the Russian emperor requires every Ostyak to give him yearly, as a tax, the skins of two sables. The fur of the sable is very valuable, and is made into muffs and tippets, and pelisses for the Russian nobles.
But without his snow-shoes, the Ostyak would not be able to pursue the wild animals, for he would sink in the snow. These shoes are made of long boards, turned up at the end like a boat, and fastened to the feet. What a wild creature an Ostyak must look, when he is hunting his prey, wrapped in his shaggy white coat,—his long dark hair floating in the wind,—his enormous bow in his hand, and his enormous shoes on his feet!
What is the character of this wild man? Ask what is his religion, and that will show you how foolish and fierce a creature he must be. The Ostyak says, that he believes in ONE God who cannot be seen, but he does not worship him alone; he worships other gods. And such gods! Dead men! When a man dies, his relations make a wooden image of him, and worship it for three years, and then bury it. But when a priest dies, his wooden image is worshipped more than three years; sometimes it is never buried; for the priests who are alive, encourage the people to go on worshipping dead priests’ images, that they may get the offerings which are made to them.
But what do you think of men worshipping DEAD BEASTS? Yet this is what the Ostyaks do. When they have killed a wolf or a bear, they stuff its skin with hay, and gather round to mock it, to kick it, to spit upon it, and then—they stick it up on its hind legs in a corner of the hut, and WORSHIP it! Alas! how has Satan blinded their mind!
And in what manner do they worship the beasts? With screaming,—with dancing,—with swinging their swords,—by making offerings of fur, of silver and gold, and of reindeer. These reindeer they kill very cruelly, by stabbing them in various parts of their bodies, to please the cruel gods, or rather cruel devils whom they worship.
Has no one tried to convert the Ostyaks to God? The emperor of Russia will not allow protestant missionaries to teach in Siberia. He wishes the Ostyaks to belong to the Greek church, and he has tried to bribe them with presents of cloth to be baptized; and a good many have been baptized. But what good can such baptisms do to the soul?