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Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814 or the First American Settlement on the Pacific eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 192 pages of information about Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814 or the First American Settlement on the Pacific.

Their pirogues or canoes are extremely light and neat:  those which are single have an outrigger, consisting of two curved pieces of timber lashed across the bows, and touching the water at the distance of five or six feet from the side; another piece, turned up at each extremity, is tied to the end and drags in the water, on which it acts like a skating iron on the ice, and by its weight keeps the canoe in equilibrium:  without that contrivance they would infallibly upset.  Their paddles are long, with a very broad blade.  All these canoes carry a lateen, or sprit-sail, which is made of a mat of grass or leaves, extremely well woven.

I did not remain long enough with these people to acquire very extensive and exact notions of their religion:  I know that they recognise a Supreme Being, whom they call Etoway, and a number of inferior divinities.  Each village has one or more morais.  These morais are enclosures which served for cemeteries; in the middle is a temple, where the priests alone have a right to enter:  they contain several idols of wood, rudely sculptured.  At the feet of these images are deposited, and left to putrify, the offerings of the people, consisting of dogs, pigs, fowls, vegetables, &c.  The respect of these savages for their priests extends almost to adoration; they regard their persons as sacred, and feel the greatest scruple in touching the objects, or going near the places, which they have declared taboo or forbidden.  The taboo has often been useful to European navigators, by freeing them from the importunities of the crowd.

In our rambles we met groups playing at different games.  That of draughts appeared the most common.  The checker-board is very simple, the squares being marked on the ground with a sharp stick:  the men are merely shells or pebbles.  The game was different from that played in civilized countries, so that we could not understand it.

Although nature has done almost everything for the inhabitants of the Sandwich islands—­though they enjoy a perpetual spring, a clear sky, a salubrious climate, and scarcely any labor is required to produce the necessaries of life—­they can not be regarded as generally happy:  the artisans and producers, whom they call Tootoos, are nearly in the same situation as the Helots among the Lacedemonians, condemned to labor almost incessantly for their lord or Eris, without hope of bettering their condition, and even restricted in the choice of their daily food.[F] How has it happened that among a people yet barbarous, where knowledge is nearly equally distributed, the class which is beyond comparison the most numerous has voluntarily submitted to such a humiliating and oppressive yoke?  The Tartars, though infinitely less numerous than the Chinese, have subjected them, because the former were warlike and the latter were not.  The same thing has happened, no doubt, at remote periods, in Poland, and other regions of Europe

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