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of The Stung Serpent, who was brother to The Great Sun, thus addressed her children when she was about to leave them: “Your father waits for me in the land of spirits. If I were to yield to your tears, I should injure my love, and fail in my duty. You that are descended of his blood, and fed by my milk, ought not to weep. Rather rejoice that you are Suns and warriors, bound to give examples of firmness to the whole nation.” The victims, having been made giddy by swallowing little balls of tobacco, are strangled, and placed near the corpse upon mats, ranged according to their rank.
The Indians, both men and women, lament for the dead with loud howling and lamentation, blacken their faces, and wound themselves with flints, knives, and splinters of wood. When the women are going out to work, or returning from their labors, the widows of the tribe often join in a sort of dirge, or mourning chorus.
As sailors have the superstition that it brings bad luck to have a woman on board a ship, so the Indians believe that the fleetest horse in the world would lose his speed, if a woman were suffered to mount him; hence when it becomes necessary for women to ride, they are placed on old worn-out animals.
Among the Dacotahs a particular lodge is set apart for councils, and the reception of strangers. The women supply it with wood and water, but are never permitted to enter it. This tribe have an institution called the Lodge of the Grand Medicine, the ceremonies of which are celebrated in secret, and the mem
bers know each other by certain signs. It differs from Free-Masonry, in allowing women to be among the initiated.
The women of the Hurons and Iroquois seem to have had more influence than was common among other tribes. Huron women might appoint a member of the council, and one of their own sex if they chose. They could prevail upon the warriors to go to battle, or desist from it, according to their wishes. Among the Natchez, authority descended in an hereditary line both to male and female. It is a general rule with the American tribes that a man should be succeeded by his sister's children, not by his own.
The dwellings of the Indians are huts made of the interwoven boughs of trees, or tents covered with the skins of animals, without division of apartments. Whole villages of women and children are often left for weeks, while the men are absent on hunting ex. peditions.
The South American tribes were more docile, indolent, and soft-hearted than those of the north. They married at an earlier period; twelve or thirteen being the common age for a bride. It is said that the tribes about the isthmus of Darien considered it no impropriety for women to make the first declaration of love. When they preferred a young man, they told him so, and promised to be very faithful, good-tempered, and obedient, if he would take them to wife.
The women of Greenland and other countries about the arctic regions are inured to the utmost
rigor of a northern climate, and the extremity of toil During the long winters, many of these tribes live in snow huts with ice windows. They consider trainoil one of the greatest of luxuries, and would eagerly devour a tallow candle in preference to the most delicious sweetmeats. They dress in garments of reindeer's skin, lined with moss, and changed so seldom, that they become filthy in the extreme. The men hunt bears and catch seals; but when they have towed their booty to land, they would consider it a disgrace to help the women drag it home, or skin and dress it. They often stand and look idly on, while their wives are staggering beneath a load that almost bends them to the earth. The women are cooks, butchers, masons, curriers, shoemakers, and tailors. They will manage a boat in the roughest seas, and will often push off from the shore in the midst of a storm, that would make the hardiest European sailor tremble.
In most countries, women enter into matrimony more readily than men, even where their affections are not concerned. The reasons are obvious. Women are more restrained by the laws and usages of society than men, and the scope of their ambition is much more limited. Though marriage subjects them to many cares and privations, it gives them in some respects a greater degree of freedom and consideration; it likewise generally insures protection and support, and is almost the only way in which a woman can rise above her natural condition, with regard to wealth and rank.
In Greenland, all this is reversed. Young girls have nothing to do but dance and sing, and fetch water, and look to their baby brothers and sisters; but when they marry, they become the slaves of an absolute master, for whom they are obliged to toil and drudge, with frequent beatings; and if left in widowhood with little children, they are generally in extreme poverty, with none to hunt or fish for them. For these reasons, the Greenland women are averse to marriage. When a girl sees the relations of a young man at her father's house, and hears them praise his dexterity in catching seals, she begins to suspect that her parents are about to sell her; and she often runs away and hides in the moun. tains, until the women search for her, and drag her home. On such occasions, she will remain silent and dejected for several days, refusing to be comforted. Sometimes they make a solemn vow that they will never marry, and shave their heads in sign of their determination. Their hair is long, straight and black. The women wear it in a roll on the top of the head, adorned with some gay bandage of beads, or hanging in two long braids each side of the forehead. It is never cut off, except to avoid marriage, or in token of deep mourning, or as a punishment. Mothers tattoo the faces of their daughters, by drawing threads filled with soot under the skin. They are generally short in stature, with shoulders made very broad by the constant habit of carrying burdens. Their complexion is tawny, and their eyes small and sunken. Some of the old women are said to be hideously
ugly; their eyes being inflamed by the glittering of the sun on fields of ice, and their teeth blackened by the constant use of tobacco. Some of the inhabitants of these northern regions have their garments made wide enough in the back to support an infant, which is kept from falling by means of a girdle round the mother's waist; in other places, the babe sits behind her neck, on a broad strap fastened round her forehead. Some of the children, it is said, are rather comely by nature, but, from being laid carelessly in the bottom of boats, they look very much like wild, neglected little animals.
Polygamy is not common, but is by no means discreditable. The first wife, if she have children, is considered the head of the family. When she dies, the junior wife takes her place, and is generally very kind to the motherless little ones. When a man wishes to obtain a wife, he adorns himself, his children, his house, his boats, and his darts, in the finest manner he can, in order to render himself an object of attraction. Widowers seldom marry under a year, unless they have very small children, with no one to nurse them. When a man wishes for divorce, he leaves the house, apparently in anger, and does not return for several days; the wife understands his meaning, packs up her clothes, and removes to her friends.
In these northern regions the dances are pantomimes, consisting of violent writhings, stampings, and contortions. They are particularly fond of imitating the animals they are accustomed to pursue.