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 227 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.

But the chief reason of the bloodlessness of their combats is the inefficiency of their offensive weapons, and the excellence of their defensive armor.  Their offensive arms are merely a bow and arrow, and a kind of double-edged sabre, about two and a half feet long, and six inches wide in the blade:  they rarely come to sufficiently close quarters to make use of the last.  For defensive armor they wear a cassock or tunic of elk-skin double, descending to the ankles, with holes for the arms.  It is impenetrable by their arrows, which can not pierce two thicknesses of leather; and as their heads are also covered with a sort of helmet, the neck is almost the only part in which they can be wounded.  They have another kind of corslet, made like the corsets of our ladies, of splinters of hard wood interlaced with nettle twine.  The warrior who wears this cuirass does not use the tunic of elk-skin; he is consequently less protected, but a great deal more free; the said tunic being very heavy and very stiff.

It is almost useless to observe that, in their military expeditions, they have their bodies and faces daubed with different paints, often of the most extravagant designs.  I remember to have seen a war-chief, with one exact half of his face painted white and the other half black.

Their marriages are conducted with a good deal of ceremony.  When a young man seeks a girl in marriage, his parents make the proposals to those of the intended bride, and when it has been agreed upon what presents the future bridegroom is to offer to the parents of the bride, all parties assemble at the house of the latter, whither the neighbors are invited to witness the contract.  The presents, which consist of slaves, strings of beads, copper bracelets, haiqua shells, &c., are distributed by the young man, who, on his part receives as many, and sometimes more, according to the means or the munificence of the parents of his betrothed.  The latter is then led forward by the old matrons and presented to the young man, who takes her as his wife, and all retire to their quarters.

The men are not very scrupulous in their choice, and take small pains to inform themselves what conduct a young girl has observed before her nuptials; and it must be owned that few marriages would take place, if the youth would only espouse maidens without reproach on the score of chastity; for the unmarried girls are by no means scrupulous in that particular, and their parents give them, on that head, full liberty.  But once the marriage is contracted, the spouses observe toward each other an inviolable fidelity; adultery is almost unknown among them, and the woman who should be guilty of it would be punished with death.  At the same time, the husband may repudiate his wife, and the latter may then unite herself in marriage to another man.  Polygamy is permitted, indeed is customary; there are some who have as many as four or five wives; and although it often happens that the husband loves one better than the rest, they never show any jealousy, but live, together in the most perfect concord.[X]

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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 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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