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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.

The Indians of the Columbia are of a light copper color, active in body, and, above all, excellent swimmers.  They are addicted to theft, or rather, they make no scruple of laying hands on whatever suits them in the property of strangers, whenever they can find an opportunity.  The goods and effects of European manufacture are so precious in the eyes of these barbarians, that they rarely resist the temptation of stealing them.

These savages are not addicted to intemperance, unlike, in that respect the other American Indians, if we must not also except the Patagonians, who, like the Flatheads, regard intoxicating drinks as poisons, and drunkenness as disgraceful.  I will relate a fact in point:  one of the sons of the chief Comcomly being at the establishment one day, some of the gentlemen amused themselves with making him drink wine, and he was very soon drunk.  He was sick in consequence, and remained in a state of stupor for two days.  The old chief came to reproach us, saying that we had degraded his son by exposing him to the ridicule of the slaves, and besought us not to induce him to take strong liquors in future.

The men go entirely naked, not concealing any part of their bodies.  Only in winter they throw over the shoulders a panther’s skin, or else a sort of mantle made of the skins of wood-rats sewed together.  In rainy weather I have seen them wear a mantle of rush mats, like a Roman toga, or the vestment which a priest wears in celebrating mass; thus equipped, and furnished with a conical hat made from fibrous roots and impermeable, they may call themselves rain-proof.  The women, in addition to the mantle of skins, wear a petticoat made of the cedar bark, which they attach round the girdle, and which reaches to the middle of the thigh.  It is a little longer behind than before, and is fabricated in the following manner:  They strip off the fine bark of the cedar, soak it as one soaks hemp, and when it is drawn out into fibres, work it into a fringe; then with a strong cord they bind the fringes together.  With so poor a vestment they contrive to satisfy the requirements of modesty; when they stand it drapes them fairly enough; and when they squat down in their manner, it falls between their legs, leaving nothing exposed but the bare knees and thighs.  Some of the younger women twist the fibres of bark into small cords, knotted at the ends, and so form the petticoat, disposed in a fringe, like the first, but more easily kept clean and of better appearance.

Cleanliness is not a virtue among these females, who, in that respect, resemble the other Indian women of the continent.  They anoint the body and dress the hair with fish oil, which does not diffuse an agreeable perfume.  Their hair (which both sexes wear long) is jet black; it is badly combed, but parted in the middle, as is the custom of the sex everywhere, and kept shining by the fish-oil before-mentioned.  Sometimes, in imitation of the men, they paint the

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