February brings a small fish about the size of a sardine. It has an exquisite flavor, and is taken in immense quantities, by means of a scoop net, which the Indians, seated in canoes, plunge into the schools: but the season is short, not even lasting two weeks.
The principal quadrupeds of the country are the elk, the black and white tailed deer; four species of bear, distinguished chiefly by the color of the fur or poil, to wit, the black, brown, white and grisly bear; the grisly bear is extremely ferocious; the white is found on the seashore toward the north; the wolf, the panther, the catamount, the lynx, the raccoon, the ground hog, opossum, mink, fisher, beaver, and the land and sea otter.[W] The sea otter has the handsomest fur that is known; the skin surpasses that of the land variety in size and in the beauty of the poil; the most esteemed color is the silver gray, which is highly prized in the Indies, and commands a great price.
[Footnote W: Horses are abundant up the river; but they are not indigenous to the country. They will be spoken of in a future chapter.]
The most remarkable birds are the eagle, the turkey-buzzard, the hawk, pelican, heron, gull, cormorant, crane, swan, and a great variety of wild ducks and geese. The pigeon, woodcock, and pheasant, are found in the forests as with us.
Manners, Customs, Occupations,
&c., of the Natives on the River
The natives inhabiting on the Columbia, from the mouth of that river to the falls, that is to say, on a space extending about 250 miles from east to west, are, generally speaking, of low stature, few of them passing five feet six inches, and many not even five feet. They pluck out the beard, in the manner of the other Indians of North America; but a few of the old men only suffer a tuft to grow upon their chins. On arriving among them we were exceedingly surprised to see that they had almost all flattened heads. This configuration is not a natural deformity, but an effect of art, caused by compression of the skull in infancy. It shocks strangers extremely, especially at first sight; nevertheless, among these barbarians it is an indispensable ornament: and when we signified to them how much this mode of flattening the forehead appeared to us to violate nature and good taste, they answered that it was only slaves who had not their heads flattened. The slaves, in fact, have the usual rounded head, and they are not permitted to flatten the foreheads of their children, destined to bear the chains of their sires. The natives of the Columbia procure these slaves from the neighboring tribes, and from the interior, in exchange for beads and furs. They treat them with humanity while their services are useful, but as soon as they become incapable of labor, neglect them and suffer them to perish of want. When dead, they throw their bodies, without ceremony, under the stump of an old decayed tree, or drag them to the woods to be devoured by the wolves and vultures.