A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels - Volume 05 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 739 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels.
against a common enemy, they elect an apo, or commander-in-chief, from the ablest or most celebrated of the yas, or hereditary chiefs.  But this office, though nominally elective, has been long hereditary among the southern tribes in the family of Cangapol.  The hereditary chiefs, named yas, elmens, or ulmens, have no power to take any thing from their vassals, neither can they oblige them to perform any work without payment.  On the contrary they must treat them kindly and relieve their wants, or their vassals will put themselves under the protection of a more generous chief.  Many of them therefore wave the privilege of their birth, and decline having any vassals, because they are expensive appendages, which yield little profit.  But every-one must attach themselves to some chief, or they would undoubtedly be put to death or reduced to slavery.

Every man buys his wife from her relations, with or without her consent, and then takes possession of her as his property.  But if the woman happens to have fixed her affections on another, she contrives to wear out the patience of her purchaser, who either turns her away or sells her to the man of her choice, but seldom uses her ill.  Widows, and orphan girls are at their own disposal.  The yas or ulmens have generally two or three wives; and even the common people may have as many as they please, but wives are dear and they are generally contented with one.  The lives of the women are one continued series of labour.  They fetch wood and water; dress the victuals; make, mend, and clean the tents; cure the skins; make them into mantles; spin and manufacture ponchos; pack up every thing for a journey, even the tent poles; load, unload, and arrange the baggage; straiten the girths of the horses; carry the lance before their husbands; and at the end of the journey set up the tents.  Sickness or even the most advanced pregnancy give no relief from these labours, and it would be reckoned ignominious in the husbands to give them any assistance.  The women of noble families may have slaves to relieve them of these labours; but when in want of these, must undergo the same fatigues as the rest.  Yet the tribes of the southern extremity of America are not brutal to their women like those in the north, and the marriages only endure during pleasure, though those who have children seldom separate.  The husband invariably protects his wife, even when in the wrong; and if detected in any criminal intercourse, all his anger falls upon the paramour, who is cruelly beaten, unless he can atone for the injury by payment.  Their jugglers sometimes persuade them to send their wives into the woods, to prostitute themselves to the first person they meet, which is obviously a device for consoling themselves from the celibacy to which they are condemned.  The husbands readily obey these directions; but there are women in whom native modesty overpowers superstition, who refuse obedience to their husbands on such occasions, and bid defiance to the wizard.

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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels - Volume 05 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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