Part 13 out of 19
paid to the wishes of the "young ladies." From Keating Westermarck
gathers the information that although with the Chippewas the mothers
generally settle the preliminaries to marriage without consulting the
children, the parties are not considered husband and wife till they
have given their consent. A reference to the original passage gives,
however, a different impression, showing that the parents always have
their own way, unless the girl elopes. The suitor's mother arranges
the matter with the parents of the girl he wants, and when the terms
have been agreed upon her property is removed to his lodge. "The
disappearance of the property is the first intimation which she
receives of the contemplated change in her condition." If one or both
are unwilling, "the parents, who have a great influence, generally
succeed in bringing them to second their views."
COMPULSORY "FREE CHOICE"
A story related by C.G. Murr, a German missionary, warns us that
assertions as to the girls being consulted must always be accepted
with great caution. His remarks relate to several countries of Spanish
America. He was often urged to find husbands for girls only thirteen
years old, by their mothers, who were tired of watching them. "Much
against my will," he writes,
"I married such young girls to Indians fifty or sixty
years old. At first I was deceived, because the girls
said it was their free choice, whereas, in truth, they
had been persuaded by their parents with flatteries or
threats. Afterwards I always asked the girls, and they
confessed that their father and mother had threatened
to beat them if they disobeyed."
In tribes where some freedom seems to be allowed the girls at present
there are stories or traditions indicating that such a departure from
the natural state of affairs is resented by the men. Sometimes, writes
Dorsey (260) of the Omahas,
"when a youth sees a girl whom he loves, if she be
willing, he says to her, 'I will stand in that place.
Please go thither at night.' Then after her arrival he
enjoys her, and subsequently asks her of her father in
marriage. But it was different with a girl who had been
petulant, one who had refused to listen to the suitor
at first. He might be inclined to take his revenge.
After lying with her, he might say, 'As you struck me
and hurt me, I will not marry you. Though you think
much of yourself, I despise you.' Then would she be
sent away without winning him for her husband; and it
was customary for the man to make songs about her. In
these songs the woman's name was not mentioned unless
she had been a 'minckeda,' or dissolute woman."
A BRITISH COLUMBIA STORY
An odd story about a man who was so ugly that no girl would have him
is related by Boas. This man was so distasteful to the girls that
if he accidentally touched the blanket of one of them she cut out the
piece he had touched. Ten times this had happened, and each time he
had gathered the piece that had been cut out, giving it to his mother
to save. Besides being so ugly, he was also very poor, having gambled
away everything he possessed, and being reduced to the necessity of
swallowing pebbles to allay the pangs of hunger. A sorcerer, however,
put a fine new head on him and told him where he would find two lovely
girls who had refused every suitor, but who would accept him. He did
so and the girls were so pleased with his beauty that they became his
wives at once and went home with him. He resumed his gambling and lost
again, but his wives helped him to win back his losses. They also said
"All the girls who formerly would have nothing to do
with you will now be eager to be yours. Pay no
attention to them, however, but repel them if they
The girls did come to his mother, and they said they would like to be
his wives. When the mother told him this, he replied: "I suppose they
want to get back the pieces they cut out of their blankets." He took
the pieces, gave them to the girls, with taunting words, and drove
THE DANGER OF COQUETRY
The moral of this sarcastic conclusion obviously was intended to be
that girls must not show independence and refuse a man, though he be a
reckless gambler, so poor that he has to eat pebbles, and so ugly that
he needs to have a new head put on him. Another story, the moral of
which was "to teach girls the danger of coquetry," is told by
Schoolcraft (_Oneota_, 381-84). There was a girl who refused all her
suitors scornfully. In one case she went so far as to put together her
thumb and three fingers, and, raising her hand gracefully toward the
young man, deliberately open them in his face. This gesticulatory mode
of rejection is an expression of the highest contempt, and it galled
the young warrior so much that he was taken ill and took to his bed
until he thought out a plan of revenge which cured him. He carried it
out with the aid of a powerful spirit, or personal Manito. They made a
man of rags and dirt, cemented it with snow and brought it to life.
The girl fell in love with this man and followed him to the marshes,
where the snow-cement melted away, leaving nothing but a pile of rags
and dirt. The girl, unable to find her way back, perished in the
THE GIRL MARKET
In the vast majority of instances the Indians did not simply try to
curb woman's efforts to secure freedom of choice by intimidating her
or inventing warning stories, but held the reins so tightly that a
woman's having a will of her own was out of the question. It may be
said that there are three principal stages in the evolution of the
custom of choosing a wife. In the first and lowest stage a man casts
his eyes on a woman and tries to get her, utterly regardless of her
own wishes. In the second, an attempt is made to win at least her
good-will, while in the third--which civilized nations are just
entering--a lover would refuse to marry a girl at the expense of her
happiness. A few Indian tribes have got as far as the second stage,
but most of them belong to the first. Provided a warrior coveted a
girl, and provided her parents were satisfied with the payment he
offered, matters were settled without regard to the girl's wishes. To
avoid needless friction it was sometimes deemed wise to first gain the
girl's good-will; but this was a matter of secondary importance. "It
is true," says Smith in his book on the Indians of Chili (214),
"that the Araucanian girl is not regularly put up for
sale and bartered for, like the Oriental houris; but
she is none the less an article of merchandise, to be
paid for by him who would aspire to her hand. She has
no more freedom in the choice of her husband than has
the Circassian slave."
"Marriage with the North Californians," says Bancroft (I., 349),
"is essentially a matter of business. The young brave must
not hope to win his bride by feats of arms or softer wooing,
but must buy her of her father like any other chattel, and
pay the price at once, or resign in favor of a richer man.
The inclinations of the girl are in nowise consulted; no
matter where her affections are placed, she goes to the
highest bidder. The purchase effected, the successful suitor
leads his blushing property to his hut and she becomes his
wife without further ceremony. Wherever this system of
wife-purchase obtains the rich old men almost absorb the
youth and beauty of the tribe, while the younger and poorer
men must content themselves with old and ugly wives. Hence
their eagerness for that wealth which will enable them to
throw away their old wives and buy new ones."
A favorable soil for the growth of romantic and conjugal love! The
Omahas have a proverb that an old man cannot win a girl, he can only
win her parents; nevertheless if the old man has the ponies he gets
the girl. The Indians insist on their rights, too. Powers tells (318)
of a California (Nishinam) girl who loathed the man that had a claim
on her. She took refuge with a kind old widow, who deceived the
pursuers. When the deception was discovered, the noble warriors drew
their arrows and shot the widow to death in the middle of the village
amid general approval. I myself once saw a poor Arizona girl who had
taken refuge with a white family. When I saw the man to whom she had
been sold--a dirty old tramp whom a decent person would not want in
the same tribe, much less in the same wigwam--I did not wonder she
hated him; but he had paid for her and she was ultimately obliged to
live with him.
Of the Mandans, Catlin says (I., 119) that wives "are mostly treated
for with the father, as in all instances they are regularly bought and
sold." Belden relates (32) how he married a Sioux girl. One evening
his Indian friend Frombe came to his lodge and said he would take him
to see his sweetheart.
"I followed him and we went out of the village to where some girls
were watching the Indian boys play at ball. Pointing to a good-looking
Indian girl, Frombe said: 'That is Washtella,'
"'Is she a good squaw?' I inquired.
"'Very,' he replied.
"'But perhaps she will not want to marry me,' I said.
"'She has no choice,' he answered, laughing.
"'But her parents,' I interposed, 'will they like this kind of
"'The presents you are expected to make them will be more acceptable
than the girl,' he answered."
And when full moon came the two were married.
Blackfeet girls, according to Grinnell (316),
"had very little choice in the selection of a husband.
If a girl was told she had to marry a certain man, she
had to obey. She might cry, but her father's will was
law, and she might be beaten or even killed by him if
she did not do as she was ordered."
Concerning the Missasaguas of Ontario, Chamberlain writes (145), that
in former times,
"when a chief desired to marry, he caused all the
marriageable girls in the village to come together and
dance before him. By a mark which he placed on the
clothes of the one he had chosen her parents knew she
had been the favored one."
Of the Nascopie girls, M'Lean says (127) that "their sentiments are
The Pueblos, who treat their women exceptionally well, nevertheless
get their wives by purchase. With the Navajos "courtship is simple and
brief; the wooer pays for his bride and takes her home." (Bancroft, L,
511.) Among the Columbia River Indians, "to give a wife away without a
price is in the highest degree disgraceful to her family." (Bancroft,
I., 276.) "The Pawnees," says Catlin, "marry and unmarry at
pleasure. Their daughters are held as legitimate merchandise.... The
women, as a rule, accept the situation with the apathy of the race."
Of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and other Plains Indians, Dodge says
(216) that girls are regarded as valuable property to be sold to the
highest bidder, in later times by preference to a white man, though it
is known that he will probably soon abandon his wife. In Oregon and
Washington "wives, particularly the later ones, are often sold or
traded off.... A man sends his wife away, or sells her, at his will."
OTHER WAYS OF THWARTING FREE CHOICE
Besides this commercialism, which was so prevalent that, as Dr.
Brinton says (_A.R._, 48), "in America marriage was usually by
purchase," there were various other obstacles to free choice. "In a
number of tribes," as the same champion of the Indian remarks, "the
purchase of the eldest daughter gave a man a right to buy all the
younger daughters as they reached nubile age." Concerning the
Blackfeet--who were among the most advanced Indians--Grinnell says
"all the younger sisters of a man's wife were regarded
as his potential wives. If he was not disposed to marry
them, they could not be disposed of to any other man
without his consent." "When a man dies his wives become
the potential wives of his brother." "In the old days,
it was a very poor man who did not have three wives.
Many had six, eight, and some more than a dozen."
Morgan refers (_A.S._, 432) to forty tribes where sisters were
disposed of in bunches; and in all such cases liberty of choice is of
course out of the question. Indeed the wide prevalence of so utterly
barbarous and selfish a custom shows us vividly how far from the
Indian's mind in general was the thought of seriously consulting the
choice of girls.
Furthermore, to continue Dr. Brinton's enumeration, "the selection of
a wife was often regarded as a concern of the gens rather than of the
individual. Among the Hurons, for instance, the old women of the gens
selected the wives for the young men, and united them with painful
uniformity to women several years their senior." "Thus," writes Morgan
(_L. of I._, 320),
"it often happened that the young warrior at
twenty-five was married to a woman of forty, and
oftentimes a widow; while the widower at sixty was
joined to a maiden of twenty."
Besides these obstacles to free choice there are several others not
referred to by Dr. Brinton, the most important being the custom of
wrestling for a wife, and of infant betrothal or very early marriage.
According to a passage in Hearne (104) cited on a previous occasion,
and corroborated by W.H. Hooper and J. Richardson, it has always been
the custom of northern Indians to wrestle for the women they want, the
strongest one carrying off the prize, and a weak man being "seldom
permitted to keep a wife that a stronger man thinks worth his notice."
It is needless to say that this custom, which "prevails throughout all
their tribes," puts the woman's freedom of choice out of question as
completely as if she were a slave sold in the market. Richardson says
(II., 24) that
"the bereaved husband meets his loss with the
resignation which custom prescribes in such a case, and
seeks his revenge by taking the wife of another man
weaker than himself."
Duels or fights for women also occurred in California, Mexico,
Paraguay, Brazil and other countries.
Among the Comanches "the parents exercise full control in giving their
daughters in marriage," and they are frequently married before the age
of puberty. (Schoolcraft, II., 132.) Concerning the customs of early
betrothal and marriage enough has been said in preceding pages. It
prevailed widely among the Indians and, of course, utterly frustrated
all possibility of choice. In fact, apart from this custom, Indian
marriage, being in the vast majority of cases with girls under
fifteen, made choice, in any rational sense of the word, entirely
out of the question.
CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICAN EXAMPLES
It has long been fashionable among historians to attribute to certain
Indians of Central and South America a very high degree of culture.
This tendency has received a check in these critical days. We
have seen that morally the Mexicans, Central Americans, and Peruvians
were hardly above other Indians. In the matter of allowing females to
choose their mates we likewise find them on the same low level. In
Guatemala even the men wore obliged to accept wives selected for them
by their parents, and Nicaraguan parents usually arranged the matches.
In Peru the Incas fixed the conditions under which matrimony might
take place as follows:
"The bridegroom and bride must be of the same town or
tribe, and of the same class or position; the former
must be somewhat less than twenty-four years of age,
the latter eighteen. The consent of the parents and
chiefs of the tribes was indispensible." (Tschudi,
Unless the consent of the parents had been obtained the marriage was
considered invalid and the children illegitimate. (Garcilasso de la
Vega, I., 207.) As regards the Mexicans, Bandelier shows (612, 620)
that the position of woman was "little better than that of a costly
animal," and he cites evidence indicating that as late as 1555 it was
ordained at a _concile_ that since it is customary among the Indians
"not to marry without permission of their principals ... and the
marriage among free persons is not as free as it should be," etc.
As for the other Indians of the Southern Continent it is needless to
add that they too are habitually guided by the thought that daughters
exist for the purpose of enriching their parents. To the instances
previously cited I may add what Schomburgk says in his book on
Guiana--that if the girl to whom the parents betroth their son is too
young to marry, they give him meanwhile a widow or an older unmarried
woman to live with. This woman, after his marriage, becomes his
servant. Musters declares (186) that among the Tehuelches
(Patagonians) "marriages are always those of inclination." But
Falkner's story is quite different (124):
"As many of these marriages are compulsive on the side
of the woman, they are frequently frustrated. The
contumacy of the woman sometimes tires out the patience
of the man, who then turns her away, or sells her to
the person on whom she has fixed her affections."
Westermarck fancies he has a case on his side in Tierra del Fuego,
where, "according to Lieutenant Bove, the eagerness with which young
women seek for husbands is surprising, but even more surprising is the
fact that they nearly always attain their ends." More careful study of
the pages of the writer referred to and a moment's unbiassed
reflection would have made it clear to Westermarck that there is no
question here either of choice or of marriage in our sense of the
words. The "husbands" the girls hunted for were boys of fourteen to
sixteen, and the girls themselves began at twelve to thirteen years of
age, or five years before they became mothers, and Fuegian marriage
"is not regarded as complete until the woman has become a mother," as
Westermarck knew (22, 138). In reality the conduct of these girls was
nothing but wantonness, in which the men, as a matter of course,
acquiesced. The missionaries were greatly scandalized at the state of
affairs, but their efforts to improve it were strongly resented by the
WHY INDIANS ELOPE
With the Abipones of Paraguay "it frequently happens," according to
"that the girl rescinds what has been _settled and
agreed upon between the parents and the bridegroom_,
obstinately rejecting the very mention of marriage.
Many girls, _through fear of being compelled to marry_,
have concealed themselves in the recesses of the woods
or lakes; seeming to dread the assaults of tigers less
than the untried nuptials."
The italics are mine; they make it obvious that the choice of the
girls is not taken into account and that they can escape parental
tyranny only by running away. Among the Indians in general it often
happens that merely to escape a hated suitor a girl elopes with
another man. Such cases are usually referred to as love-matches, but
all they indicate is a (comparative) preference, while proving that
there was no liberty of choice. A girl whose parents try to force her
on a much-married warrior four or five times her age must be only too
glad to run away with any young man who comes along, love or no
In the chapter on Australia I commented on Westermarck's topsy-turvy
disposition to look upon elopements as indications of the liberty of
choice. He repeats the same error in his references to Indians. "It is
indeed," he says,
"common in America for a girl to run away from a bridegroom
_forced upon her by the parents_, whilst, if they _refuse to
give their daughter_ to a suitor whom she loves, the couple
elope. Thus, among the Dakotas, as we are told by Mr.
Prescott, 'there are many matches made by elopement, _much
to the chagrin of the parents_.'"
The italics again indicate that denial of choice is the
custom, while the elopement indicates the same thing, for if there
were liberty of choice there would be no need of eloping. Moreover, an
Indian elopement does not at all indicate a romantic preference on the
part of an eloping couple. If we examine the matter carefully we find
that an Indian elopement is usually a very prosaic affair indeed. A
young man likes a girl and wishes to marry her; but she has no choice,
as her father insists on a number of ponies or blankets in payment for
her which the suitor may not have; therefore the two ran away. In
other words, an Indian elopement is a purely commercial transaction,
and one of a very shady character too, being nothing less than a
desire to avoid paying the usual price for a girl. It is in fact a
kind of theft, an injustice to the parents; for while paying for a
bride may be evidence of savagery, it is the custom among Indians, and
parents naturally resent its violation, though ultimately they may
forgive the elopers. Dodge relates (202) that among the Indians of the
great plains parents prefer a rich suitor, though he may have several
wives already. If the daughter prefers another man the only thing to
do is to elope. This is not easy, for a careful watch is kept on
suspicious cases. But the girl may manage to step out while the family
is asleep. The lover has two ponies in readiness, and off they speed.
If overtaken by the pursuers the man is liable to be killed. If not,
the elopers return after a few weeks and all is forgiven. Such
elopements, Dodge adds, are frequent in the reservations where young
men are poor and cannot afford ponies. Moreover, the concentration of
large numbers of Indians of different bands and tribes on the
reservations has increased the opportunities of acquaintance and
love-making among the young people.
In an article on Love-Songs among the Omaha Indians, Miss Alice
Fletcher calls attention to the fact that the individual is little
considered in comparison with the tribal organization: "Marriage was
therefore an affair of the gentes, and not the free union of a man and
woman as we understand the relation." But side by side with the formal
marriage sanctioned by the tribe grew up the custom of secret
courtship and elopement; so the saying among the Omahas is: "An old
man buys his wife; a young man steals his." Dorsey says (260):
"Should a man get angry because his single daughter, sister,
or niece has eloped, the other Omahas would talk about him
saying, 'That man is angry on account of the elopement of
his daughter.' They would ridicule him for his behavior."
Other Indians take the matter much more seriously. When a Blackfoot
girl elopes her parents feel very bitter against the man.
"The girl has been stolen. The union is no marriage at
all. The old people are ashamed and disgraced for their
daughter. Until the father has been pacified by
satisfactory payments, there is no marriage."
The Nez Perces so bitterly resent elopements that they consider the
bride in such a case as a prostitute and her parents may seize upon
the man's property. (Bancroft, I., 276.)
Indian elopements, I repeat, are nothing but attempts to dodge payment
for a bride, and therefore do not afford the least evidence of exalted
sentiments, _i.e._, of romantic love, however romantic they may be as
incidents. Read, for instance, what Mrs. Eastman writes (103)
regarding the Sioux:
"When a young man is unable to purchase the girl he
loves best, or if her parents are unwilling she should
marry him, if he have gained the heart of the maiden he
is safe. They appoint a time and place to meet; take
whatever will be necessary for their journey....
Sometimes they merely go to the next village to return
the next day. But if they fancy a bridal tour, away
they go several hundred miles, with the grass for their
pillow, the canopy of heaven for their curtains, and
the bright stars to watch over them. When they return
home the bride goes at once to chopping wood, and the
groom to smoking."
What does such a romantic incident tell us regarding the nature of the
elopers' feelings--whether they are refined and sentimental or purely
sensual and frivolous? Nothing whatever. But the last sentence of Mrs.
Eastman's description--photographed from life--indicates the absence
of at least four of the most elementary and important ingredients of
romantic love. If he adored his bride, if he sympathized with her
feelings, if he felt the faintest impulse toward gallantry or
sacrifice of his selfish comforts, he would not allow her to chop wood
while he loafed and smoked. Moreover, if he had an appreciation of
personal beauty he would not permit his wife to sacrifice hers before
she is out of her teens by making her do all the hard work. But why
should he care? Since all his marriage customs are on a commercial
basis, why should he not discard a wife of thirty and take two new
ones of fifteen each?
SUICIDE AND LOVE
Having thus disposed of elopements, let us examine another phenomenon
which has always been a mainstay of those who would fain make out that
in matters of love there is no difference between us and savages.
Waitz (III., 102) accepts stories of suicide as evidence of genuine
romantic love, and Westermarck follows his example (358, 530), while
Catlin (II., 143) mentions a rock called Lover's Leap,
"from the summit of which, it is said, a beautiful
Indian girl, the daughter of a chief, threw herself
off, in presence of her tribe, some fifty years ago,
and dashed herself to pieces, to avoid being married to
a man whom her father had decided to be her husband,
and whom she would not marry."
Keating has a story which he tells with all the operatic
embellishments indulged in by his guide (I., 280). Reduced to its
simplest terms, the tale, as he gives it, is as follows:
In a village of the tribe of Wapasha there lived a girl
named Winona. She became attached to a young hunter who
wished to marry her, but her parents refused their
consent, having intended her for a prominent warrior.
Winona would not listen to the warrior's addresses and
told her parents she preferred the hunter, who would
always be with her, to the warrior, who would be
constantly away on martial exploits. The parents paid
no attention to her remonstrances and fixed the day for
her wedding to the man of their choice. While all were
busy with the preparations, she climbed the rock
overhanging the river. Having reached the summit, she
made a speech full of reproaches to her family, and
then sang her dirge. The wind wafted her words and song
to her family, who had rushed to the foot of the rock.
They implored her to come down, promising at last that
she should not be forced to marry. Some tried to climb
the rock, but before they could reach her she threw
herself down the precipice and fell a corpse at the
feet of her friends.
Mrs. Eastman also relates the story of Winona's leap (65-70). "The
incident is well known," she writes. "Almost everyone has read it a
dozen times, _and always differently told_." It is needless to say
that a story told in a dozen different ways and embellished by
half-breed guides and white collectors of legends has no value as
scientific evidence. But even if we grant that the incidents
happened just as related, there is nothing to indicate the presence of
exalted sentiments. The girl preferred the hunter because he would be
more frequently with her than the warrior (one of the versions says
she wanted to wed "the successful hunter")--which leaves us in
doubt as to the utilitarian or sentimental quality of her attachment.
Apparently she was not very eager to marry the hunter, for had she
been, why did she refuse to live when they told her she would not be
forced to marry the warrior? But the most important consideration is
that she did not commit suicide for _love_ at all, but from
_aversion_--to escape being married to a man she disliked. Aversion is
usually the motive which leads Indian women to what are called
"suicides for love." As Griggs remarks (_l.c._):
"Sometimes it happens that a young man wants a girl,
and her friends are also quite willing, while she alone
is unwilling. The purchase-bundle is desired by her
friends, and hence compulsion is resorted to. The girl
yields and goes to be his slave, or she holds out
stoutly, sometimes taking her own life as the
alternative. Several cases of the kind have come to the
personal knowledge of the writer."
Not long ago I read in the Paris _Figaro_ a learned article on suicide
in which the assertion was made that, as is well known, savages never
take their own lives. W.W. Westcott, in his otherwise excellent book
on suicide, which is based on over a hundred works relating to his
subject, makes the same astounding assertion. I have shown in
preceding pages that many Africans and Polynesians commit suicide, and
I may now add that Indians seem still more addicted to this idiotic
practice. Sometimes, indeed, they have cause for it. I have already
cited the words of Belden that suicide is very common among Indian
women, and that "considering the treatment they receive, it is a
wonder there is not more of it." Keating says (II., 172) that "among
the women suicide is far more frequent [than among men], and is the
result of jealousy, or of disappointments in love; sometimes extreme
grief at the loss of a child will lead to it." "Not a season passes
away," writes Mrs. Eastman (169),
"but we hear of some Dacotah girl who puts an end to
her life in consequence of jealousy, or from the fear
of being forced to marry some one she dislikes. A short
time ago a very young girl hung herself rather than
become the wife of a man who was already the husband of
one of her sisters."
It cannot be denied that in some of these cases (which might be
multiplied indefinitely) there is a strong provocation to self-murder.
But as a rule suicide among Indians, as among other savages and
barbarians, and among civilized races, is not proof of strong feeling,
but of a weak intellect. The Chippewas themselves hold it to be a
foolish thing (Keating, II., 168); and among the Indians in general it
was usually resorted to for the most trivial causes.
"The very frequent suicides committed [by Creeks] in
consequence of the most trifling disappointment or
quarrel between men and women are not the result of
grief, but of savage and unbounded revenge."
(Schoolcraft, V., 272.) Krauss (222) found that suicide was frequent
among the Alaskan Thlinket Indians. Men sometimes resorted to it when
they saw no other way of securing revenge, for a person who causes a
suicide is fined and punished as if he were a murderer. One woman cut
her throat because a shahman accused her of having by sorcery caused
another one's illness. A favorite mode of committing suicide is to go
out into the sea, cast away oar and rudder, and deliver themselves to
wind and waves. Sometimes they change their mind. A man, whose face
had been all scratched up by his angry wife, left home to end his
life; but after spending the night with a trader he concluded to go
home and make up the quarrel. Mrs. Eastman (48) tells of an old squaw
who wanted to hang herself because she was angry with her son; but
when, "after having doubled the strap four times to prevent its
breaking, she found herself choking, her courage gave way--she yelled
frightfully." They cut her down and in an hour or two she was quite
well again. Another squaw, aged ninety, attempted to hang herself
because the men would not allow her to go with a war-party. Her object
in wanting to go was to have the pleasure of mutilating the corpses of
enemies! Keating says that Sank men sometimes kill themselves because
they are envious of the power of others. Neill (85) records the cases
of a Dakota wife who hanged herself because her husband had flogged
her for hiding his whiskey; of a woman who hanged herself because her
son-in-law refused to give her whiskey; of an old woman who flew into
a passion and committed suicide because her pet granddaughter had been
whipped by her father.
If a storm in a tea-kettle is accepted as a true storm, then we may
infer from these suicides the existence of deep feeling and profound
despair. As a matter of fact, a savage's feelings are no deeper than a
tea-kettle, and for that very reason they boil up and overflow more
readily than if they were deeper. Loskiel tells us (74-75), that
Delaware Indians, both men and women, have committed suicide on
discovering that their spouse was unfaithful; these are the same
Indians among whom husbands used to abandon their wives when they had
babes, and wives their husbands when there were no more presents to
receive. Yet even if we admitted such feelings to have been deep,
suicide would not prove the existence of genuine affection.
Heckewelder reports instances of Indians who took their own lives
because the girls they loved and were engaged to jilted them and
married other men. Was the love which led to these suicides mere
sensual passion or was it refined sentiment, devoted affection? There
is nothing to tell us, and the inference from everything we know about
Indians is that it was purely sensual. Gibbs, who understood Indian
nature thoroughly, took this view when he wrote (198) that among the
Indians of Oregon and Washington "a strong sensual attachment" not
rarely leads young women to destroy themselves on the death of a
lover. And the writer who refers in Schoolcraft (V., 272) to the
frequent suicides among the Creeks declares that genuine love is
unknown to any of them. Had the young men referred to by Heckewelder
lost their lives in trying to save the lives of the girls in question,
it might be permissible to infer the existence of affection, but no
Indian has ever been known to commit such an act. If a savage commits
suicide he does it like everything else, for selfish reasons--as an
_antidote to distress_--and selfishness is the very negation of love.
The distinguished psychologist, Dr. Maudsley, has well said that
"any poor creature from the gutter can put an end to
himself; there is no nobility in the act and no great
amount of courage required for it. It is a deed rather
of cowardice shirking duty, generated in _a monstrous
feeling of self_, and accomplished in the most sinful,
because wicked, ignorance."
In itself, no doubt, a suicide is apt to be extremely "romantic,"
A complete dime-novel is condensed in a few remarks which Squier
makes anent a quaint Nicaraguan custom.
Poor girls, he says, would often get their marriage portion by having
amours with several young men. Having collected enough for a "dowry,"
the girl would assemble all her lovers and ask them to build a house
for her and the one she intended to choose for a husband. She then
selected the one she liked best, and the others had their pains and
their past for their love. Sometimes it happened that one of the
discarded lovers committed suicide from grief. In that case the
special honor was in store for him of being eaten up by his former
rivals and colleagues. The bride also, I presume, partook of the
feast--at least after the men had had all they wanted.
Indians indulge not only in elopements and suicide, but in the use of
love-charms--powders, potions, and incantations. Inasmuch as the
distinguished anthropologist Waitz mentions (III., 102) the use of
such charms among the things which show that "genuine romantic love is
not rare among Indians," it behooves us to investigate the matter.
The ancient Peruvians had, according to Tschudi, a special class
of medicine men whose business it was
"to bring lovers together. For this purpose they
prepared talismans made from roots or feathers, which
were introduced, secretly if possible, into the clothes
or bed of those whose inclination was to be won.
Sometimes hairs of the persons whose love was to be won
were used, or else highly colored birds from the
forest, or their feathers only. They also sold to the
lovers a so-called _Kuyanarumi_ (a stone to cause love)
of which they said it could be found only in places
that had been struck by lightning. They were mostly
black agates with white veins and were called _Sonko
apatsinakux_ (mutual heart-carriers). These
_Runatsinkix_ (human-being-uniters) also prepared
infallible and irresistible love-potions."
Among North American Indians the Ojibways or Chippawas appear to have
been especially addicted to the use of love-powders. Keating writes
"There are but few young men or women among the
Chippewas who have not compositions of this kind, to
promote love in those in whom they feel an interest.
These are generally powders of different colors;
sometimes they insert them into punctures made in the
heart of the little images which they procure for this
purpose. They address the images by the names of those
whom they suppose them to represent, bidding them to
requite their affection. Married women are likewise
provided with powders, which they rub over the heart of
their husbands while asleep, in order to secure
themselves against any infidelity."
Hoffman says of these same powders that they are held in great
honor, and that their composition is a deep secret which is revealed
to others only in return for high compensation. Nootka maidens
sometimes sprinkle love-powders into the food intended for their
lovers, and await their coming. The Menomini have a charm called
_takosawos_, "the powder that causes people to love one another." It
is composed of vermilion and mica laminae, ground very fine and put
into a thimble which is carried suspended from the neck or from some
part of the wearing apparel. It is also necessary to secure from the
one whose inclination is to be won a hair, a nail-paring, or a small
scrap of clothing, which must also be put into the thimble.
The Rev. Peter Jones says (155) that the Ojibway Indians have a charm
made of red ochre and other ingredients, with which they paint their
faces, believing it to possess a power so irresistible as to cause the
object of their desire to love them. But the moment this medicine is
taken away, and the charm withdrawn, the person who before was almost
frantic with love hates with a perfect hatred. The Sioux also have
great faith in spells.
"A lover will take gum," says Mrs. Eastman, "and, after putting some
medicine in it, will induce the girl of his choice to chew it, or put
it in her way so that she will take it up of her own accord." Burton
thought (160) that an Indian woman "will administer 'squaw medicine,'
a love philter, to her husband, but rather for the purpose of
retaining his protection than his love."
Quite romantic are all these things, no doubt; but I fail to see that
they throw any light whatever on the problem whether Indians can love
sentimentally. Waitz refers particularly to the Chippewa custom of
putting powders into the images of coveted persons as a symptom of
"romantic love," forgetting that a superstitious fool may resort to
such a procedure to evoke any kind of love, sensual or sentimental,
and that unless there are other and more specific symptoms there is
nothing to indicate the quality of the lover's feelings or the ethical
character of his desires.
CURIOSITIES OF COURTSHIP
Some of the Indian courtship customs are quite romantic; perhaps we
may find evidence of romantic love in this direction. Those of the
Apaches have been already referred to. Pawnee courtship is thus
described by Grinnell.
"The young man took his stand at some convenient point
where he was likely to see the young woman and waited
for her appearance. Favorite places for waiting were
near the trail which led down to the river or to the
spot usually resorted to for gathering wood. The lover,
wrapped in his robe or blanket, which covered his whole
person except his eyes, waited here for the girl, and
as she made her appearance stepped up to her and threw
his blanket about her, holding her in his arms. If she
was favorably inclined to him she made no resistance,
and they might stand there concealed by the blanket,
which entirely covered them, talking to one another for
hours. If she did not favor him she would at once free
herself from his embrace and go away."
This blanket-courtship, as it might be called, also prevailed among
the Indians of the great plains described by Colonel Dodge (193-223).
The lover, wrapped in a blanket, approaches the girl's lodge and sits
before it. Though in plain view of everybody, it is etiquette not to
see a lover under such circumstances. After more or less delay the
girl may give signs and come out, but not until she has taken certain
precautions against the Indian's "romantic" love which have been
already referred to. He seizes her and carries her off a little
distance. At first they sit under two blankets, but later on one
suffices. Thus they remain as long as they please, and no one disturbs
them. If there is more than one suitor the girl cries out if seized by
the wrong one, who at once lets go. In these cases it may seem as if
the girl had her own choice. But it does not at all follow that
because she favors a certain suitor she will be allowed to marry him.
If her father prefers another she will have to take him, unless her
lover is ready to risk an elopement.
The Piutes of the Pacific slope, like some eastern Indians, appear to
have indulged in a form of nocturnal courtship strikingly resembling
that of the Dyaks of Borneo. The Indian woman (Sarah W. Hopkins) who
wrote _Life Among the Piutes_ declares that the lover never speaks to
his chosen one,
"but endeavors to attract her attention by showing his
horsemanship, etc. As he knows that she sleeps next to
her grandmother in the lodge, he enters in full dress
after the family has retired for the night, and seats
himself at her feet. If she is not awake, her
grandmother wakes her. He does not even speak to the
young woman or grandmother, but when the young woman
wishes him to go away, she rises and goes and lies down
by the side of her mother. He then leaves as silently
as he came in. This goes on sometimes for a year or
longer if the young woman has not made up her mind. She
is never forced by her parents to marry against her
Courtship among the Nishinam Indians of California is thus described
by Powers (317):
"The Nishinam may be said to set up and dissolve the
conjugal estate almost as easily as do the brute
beasts. No stipulated payment is made for the wife. A
man seeking to become a son-in-law is bound to cater
(_ye-lin_) or make presents to the family, which is to
say, he will come along some day with a deer on his
shoulder, perhaps fling it off on the ground before the
wigwam, and go his way without a single word being
spoken. Some days later he may bring along a brace of
hare or a ham of grizzly-bear meat, or some fish, or a
string of _ha-wok_ [shell money]. He continues to make
these presents for awhile, and if he is not acceptable
to the girl and her parents they return him an
equivalent for each present (to return his gift would
be grossly insulting); but if he finds favor in her
eyes they are quietly appropriated, and in due course
of time he comes and leads her away, or comes to live
at her house."
Belden remarks (301) that a Sioux seldom gets the girl he wants to
marry to love him. He simply buys her of her parents, and as for the
girl, after being informed that she has been sold
"she immediately packs up her little keepsakes and
trinkets, and without exhibiting any emotion, such as
is common to white girls, leaves her home, and goes to
the lodge of her master,"
where she is henceforth his wife and "willing slave." Among the
Blackfoot Indians, too, there was apparently no form of courtship, and
young men seldom spoke to girls unless they were relatives. (Grinnell,
216.) It was a common thing among these Indians for a youth and a girl
not to know about each other until they were informed of their
The Araucanian maidens of Chili are disposed of with even less
ceremony. In the choice of husbands, as we have seen, they have no
more freedom than a Circassian slave. Our informant (E.R. Smith, 214)
adds, however, that attachments do sometimes spring up, and, though
the lovers have little opportunity to communicate freely, they resort
occasionally to amatory songs, tender glances, and other tricks which
lovers understand. "Matrimony may follow, but such a preliminary
courtship is by no means considered necessary." When a man wants a
girl he calls on her father with his friends. While the friends talk
with the parent, he seizes the bride
"by the hair or by the heel, as may be most convenient,
and drags her along the ground to the open door. Once
fairly outside, he springs to the saddle, still firmly
grasping his screaming captive, whom he pulls up over
the horse's back, and yelling forth a whoop of triumph,
he starts off at full gallop.... Gaining the woods, the
lover dashes into the tangled thickets, while the
friends considerately pause upon the outskirts until
the screams of the bride have died away."
A day or two later the couple emerge from the forest and without
further ceremony live as man and wife. This is the usual way; but
"a man meets a girl in the fields alone, and far away
from home; a sudden desire to better his solitary
condition seizes him, and without further ado he rides
up, lays violent hands upon the damsel and carries her
off. Again, at their feasts and merrymakings (in which
the women are kept somewhat aloof from the men), a
young man may be smitten with a sudden passion, or be
emboldened by wine to express a long slumbering
preference for a dusky maid; his sighs and amorous
glances will perhaps be returned, and rushing among the
unsuspecting females, he will bear away the object of
his choice while yet she is in the melting mood. When
such an attempt is foreseen the unmarried girls form a
ring around their companion, and endeavor to shield
her; but the lover and his friends, by well-directed
attacks, at length succeed in breaking through the
magic circle, and drag away the damsel in triumph;
perhaps, in the excitement of the game, some of her
defenders too may share her fate."
A Patagonian courtship is amusingly described by Bourne (91). The
chief of the tribe that held him a captive several months would not
allow anyone to marry without his consent. In his opinion
"no Indian who was not an accomplished
rogue--particularly in the horse-stealing line--an
expert hunter, able to provide plenty of meat and
grease, was fit to have a wife on any conditions."
One day a suitor appeared for the hand of the chief's own daughter, a
quasi-widow, but the chief repulsed him because he had no horses. As a
last resort the suitor appealed to the young woman herself, promising,
if she favored him, that he would give her plenty of grease. This
grease argument she was unable to resist, so she entreated her father
to give his consent. At this he broke out in a towering passion, threw
cradle and other chattels out of the door and ordered her to follow at
once. The girl's mother now interceded, whereupon "seizing her by the
hair, he hurled her violently to the ground and beat her with his
clenched fists till I thought he would break every bone in her body."
The next morning, however, he went to the lodge of the newly married
couple, made up, and they returned, bag and baggage, to his tent.
Grease appears to play a role in the courtship of northern Indians
too. Leland relates (40) that the Algonquins make sausages from the
entrails of bears by simply turning them inside out, the fat which
clings to the outside of the entrails filling them when they are thus
turned. These sausages, dried and smoked, are considered a great
delicacy. The girls show their love by casting a string of them round
the neck of the favored youth.
It is noticeable in the foregoing accounts that courtship and even
proposal are apt to be by pantomime, without any spoken words. The
young Piute who visits his girl while she is in bed with her
grandmother "does not speak to her." The Nishinam hunter leaves his
presents and they are accepted "without a word being spoken;" and the
Apaches, as we saw, "pop the question" with stones or ponies. Why this
silent courtship? Obviously because the Indian is not used to playing
so humble a role as that of suitor to so inferior a being as a woman.
He feels awkward, and has nothing to say. As Burton has remarked
_(C.S._, 144), "in savage and semi-barbarous societies the separation
of the sexes is the general rule, because, as they have no ideas in
common, each prefers the society of its own." "Between the sexes,"
wrote Morgan (322)
"there was but little sociality, as this term is
understood in polished society. Such a thing as formal
visiting was entirely unknown. When the unmarried of
opposite sexes were casually brought together there was
little or no conversation between them. No attempts by
the unmarried to please or gratify each other by acts
of personal attention were ever made. At the season of
councils and religious festivals there was more of
actual intercourse and sociality than at any other
time; but this was confined to the dance and was in
It is needless to say that where there is no mental intercourse there
can be no choice and union of souls, but only of bodies; that is,
there can be no sentimental love. The honeymoon, where there is
one, is in this respect no better than the period of courtship.
Parkman gives this realistic sketch from life among the Ogallalla
Indians (_O.T._, ch. XI.):
"The happy pair had just entered upon the honeymoon.
They would stretch a buffalo robe upon poles, so as to
protect them from the fierce rays of the sun, and,
spreading beneath this rough canopy a luxuriant couch
of furs, would sit affectionately side by side for half
a day, though I could not discover that much
conversation passed between them. Probably they had
nothing to say; for an Indian's supply of topics is far
from being copious."
MUSIC IN INDIAN COURTSHIP
Inasmuch as music is said to begin where words end, we might expect it
to play a role in the taciturn courtship of Indians. One of the
maidens described by Mrs. Eastman (85) "had many lovers, who wore
themselves out playing the flute, to as little purpose as they braided
their hair and painted their faces," Gila Indians court and pop the
question with their flutes, according to the description by Bancroft
"When a young man sees a girl whom he desires for a
wife he first endeavors to gain the good-will of the
parents; this accomplished, he proceeds to serenade his
lady-love, and will often sit for hours, day after day,
near her house playing on his flute. Should the girl
not appear, it is a sign that she rejects him; but if,
on the other hand, she comes out to meet him, he knows
that his suit is accepted, and he takes her to his
house. No marriage ceremony is performed."
In Chili, among the Araucanians, every lover carries with him an
amatory Jew's-harp, which is played almost entirely by inhaling.
According to Smith
"they have ways of expressing various emotions by
different modes of playing, all of which the Araucanian
damsels seem fully to appreciate, although I must
confess that I could not.
"The lover usually seats himself at a distance from the
object of his passion, and gives vent to his feeling in
doleful sounds, indicating the maiden of his choice by
slyly gesturing, winking, and rolling his eyes toward
her. This style of courtship is certainly sentimental
and might be recommended to some more civilized lovers
who always lose the use of their tongues at the very
time it is most needed."
"Sentimental" in one sense of the word, but not in the sense in which
it is used in this book. There is nothing in winking, rolling the
eyes, and playing the Jew's-harp, either by inhalation or exhalation,
to indicate whether the youth's feelings toward the girl are refined,
sympathetic, and devoted, or whether he merely longs for an amorous
intrigue. That these Indian lovers _may_ convey definite _ideas_ to
the minds of the girls is quite possible. Even birds have their
love-calls, and savages in all parts of the world use "leading
motives" _a la_ Wagner, i.e., musical phrases with a definite
Chippewayan medicine men make use of music-boards adorned with
drawings which recall special magic formulae to their minds. On one of
these (Schoolcraft, V., 648) there is the figure of a young man in the
frenzy of love. His head is adorned with feathers, and he has a drum
in hand which he beats while crying to his absent love: "Hear my drum!
Though you be at the uttermost parts of the earth, hear my drum!"
"The flageolet is the musical instrument of young men and is
principally used in love-affairs to attract the attention of the
maiden and reveal the presence of the lover," says Miss Alice
Fletcher, who has written some entertaining and valuable treatises on
Indian music and love-songs. Mirrors, too, are used to attract
the attention of girls, as appears from a charming idyl sketched by
Miss Fletcher, which I will reproduce here, somewhat condensed.
One day, while dwelling with the Omahas, Miss Fletcher
was wandering in quest of spring flowers near a creek
when she was arrested by a sudden flash of light among
the branches. "Some young man is near," she thought,
"signalling with his mirror to a friend or sweetheart."
She had hardly seen a young fellow who did not carry a
looking-glass dangling at his side. The flashing signal
was soon followed by the wild cadences of a flute. In a
few moments the girls came in sight, with merry faces,
chatting gayly. Each one carried a bucket. Down the
hill, on the other side of the brook, advanced two
young men, their gay blankets hanging from one
shoulder. The girls dipped their pails in the stream
and turned to leave when one of the young men jumped
across the creek and confronted one of the girls, her
companion walking away some distance. The lovers stood
three feet apart, she with downcast face, he evidently
pleading his cause to not unwilling ears. By and by she
drew from her belt a package containing a necklace,
which she gave to the young man, who took it shyly from
her hands. A moment later the girl had joined her
friend, and the man recrossed the brook, where he and
his friend flung themselves on the grass and examined
the necklace. Then they rose to go. Again the flute was
heard gradually dying away in the distance.
As it is not customary for an Indian to call at the lodge where a girl
lives, about the only chance an Omaha has to woo is at the creek where
the girl fetches water, as in the above idyl. Hence courting is always
done in secret, the girls never telling the elders, though they may
compare notes with each other.
"Generally an honorable courtship ends in a more or less
speedy elopement and marriage, but there are men and women
who prefer dalliance, and it is this class that furnishes
the heroes and heroines of the Wa-oo-wa-an."
These Wa-oo-wa-an, or woman songs, are a sort of ballad relating the
experiences of young men and women. "They are sung by young men when
in each other's company, and are seldom overheard by women, almost
never by women of high character;" they "belong to that season in a
man's career when 'wild oats' are said to be sown." Some of them are
vulgar, others humorous.
"They are in no sense love-songs, they have nothing to
do with courtship, and are reserved for the exclusive
audience of men." "The true love-song, called by the
Omahas Bethae wa-an ... is sung generally in the early
morning, when the lover is keeping his tryst and
watching for the maiden to emerge from the tent and go
to the spring. They belong to the secret courtship, and
are sometimes called Me-the-g'thun wa-an--courting
songs." "The few words in these songs convey the one
poetic sentiment: 'With the day I come to you;' or
'Behold me as the day dawns.' Few unprejudiced
listeners," the writer adds, "will fail to recognize in
the Bethae wa-an, or love-songs, the emotion and the
sentiment that prompts a man to woo the woman of his
Miss Fletcher is easily satisfied. For my part I cannot see in a tune,
however rapturously sung or fluted, or in the words "with the day I
come to you" and the like any sign of real sentiment or the faintest
symptom differentiating the two kinds of love. Moreover, as Miss
Fletcher herself remarks:
"The Omahas as a tribe have ceased to exist. The young
men and women are being educated in English speech, and
imbued with English thought; their directive emotion
will hereafter take the lines of our artistic forms."
Even if traces of sexual sentiment were to be found among Indians like
the Ornahas, who have been subjected for some generations to
civilizing influences, they would allow no inference as to the
love-affairs of the real, wild Indian.
Miss Fletcher makes the same error as Professor Fillmore, who assisted
her in writing _A Study of Omaha Indian Music_. He took the wild
Indian tunes and harnessed them to modern German harmonies--a
procedure as unscientific as it would be unhistoric to make Cicero
record his speeches in a phonograph. Miss Fletcher takes simple Indian
songs and reads into them the feelings of a New York or Boston woman.
The following is an instance. A girl sings to a warrior (I give only
Miss Fletcher's translation, omitting the Indian words): "War; when
you returned; die; you caused me; go when you did; God; I appealed;
standing," This literal version our author explains and translates
freely, as follows:
"No. 82 is the confession of a woman to the man she
loves, that he had conquered her heart before he had
achieved a valorous reputation. The song opens upon the
scene. The warrior had returned victorious and passed
through the rites of the Tent of War, so he is entitled
to wear his honors publicly; the woman tells him how,
when he started on the war-path, she went up on the
hill and standing there cried to Wa-kan-da to grant him
success. He who had now won that success had even then
vanquished her heart, 'had caused her to die' to all
else but the thought of him"(!)
Another instance of this emotional embroidery may be found on pages
15-17 of the same treatise. What makes this procedure the more
inexplicable is that both these songs are classed by Miss Fletcher
among the Wa-oo-wa-an or "woman songs," concerning which she has told
us that "they are in no sense love-songs," and that usually they are
not even the effusions of a woman's own feelings, but the compositions
of frivolous and vain young men put into the mouth of wanton women.
The honorable secret courtships were never talked of or sung about.
Regarding the musical and poetic features of Dakota courtship,
S.R. Riggs has this to say (209):
"A boy begins to feel the drawing of the other sex and,
like the ancient Roman boys, he exercises his ingenuity
in making a 'cotanke,' or rude pipe, from the bone of a
swan's wing, or from some species of wood, and with
that he begins to call to his lady-love, on the night
air. Having gained attention by his flute, he may sing
Stealthily, secretly, see me,
Stealthily, secretly, see me,
Stealthily, secretly, see me,
Lo! thee I tenderly regard;
Stealthily, secretly, see me."
Or he may commend his good qualities as a hunter by singing this song:
Cling fast to me, and you'll ever have plenty,
Cling fast to me, and you'll ever have plenty,
Cling fast to me...."
"A Dacota girl soon learns to adorn her fingers with rings, her ears
with tin dangles, her neck with beads. Perhaps an admirer gives her a
Wear this, I say;
Wear this, I say;
Wear this, I say;
This little finger ring,
Wear this, I say."
For traces of real amorous sentiment one would naturally look to the
poems of the semi-civilized Mexicans and Peruvians of the South rather
than to the savage and barbarous Indians of the North. Dr. Brinton
(_E. of A_., 297) has found the Mexican songs the most delicate. He
quotes two Aztec love-poems, the first being from the lips of an
I know not whether thou hast been absent:
I lie down with thee, I rise up with thee,
In my dreams thou art with me.
If my ear-drop trembles in my ears,
I know it is thou moving within my heart.
The second, from the same language, is thus rendered:
On a certain mountain side,
Where they pluck flowers,
I saw a pretty maiden,
Who plucked from me my heart,
Whither thou goest,
There go I.
Dr. Brinton also quotes the following poem of the Northern Kioways as
"a song of true love in the ordinary sense:"
I sat and wept on the hillside,
I wept till the darkness fell;
I wept for a maiden afar off,
A maiden who loves me well.
The moons are passing, and some moon,
I shall see my home long-lost,
And of all the greetings that meet me,
My maiden's will gladden me most.
"The poetry of the Indians is the poetry of naked thought. They have
neither rhyme nor metre to adorn it," says Schoolcraft (_Oneota,_ 14).
The preceding poem has both; what guarantee is there that the
translator has not embellished the substance of it as he did its form?
Yet, granting he did not embroider the substance, we know that weeping
and longing for an absent one are symptoms of sensual as well as of
sentimental love, and cannot, therefore, be accepted as a criterion.
As for the Mexican and other poems cited, they give evidence of a
desire to be near the beloved, and of the all-absorbing power of
passion (monopoly) which likewise are characteristic of both kinds of
love. Of the true criteria of love, the altruistic sentiments of
gallantry, self-sacrifice, sympathy, adoration, there is no sign in
any of these poems. Dr. Brinton admits, too, that such poems as the
above are rare among the North American Indians anywhere.
"Most of their chants in relation to the other sex are
erotic, not emotional; and this holds equally true of
those which in some tribes on certain occasions are
addressed by the women to the men."
Powers says (235) that the Wintun of California have a special dance
and celebration when a girl reaches the age of puberty. The songs sung
on this occasion "sometimes are grossly licentious." Evidences of this
sort might be supplied by the page.
An interesting collection of erotic songs sung by the Klamath Indians
of Southern Oregon has been made by A.S. Gatschet. "With the
Indians," he says,
"all these and many other erotic songs pass under the name
of puberty songs. They include lines on courting,
love-sentiments, disappointments in love, marriage fees paid
to the parents, on marrying and on conjugal life."
From this collection I will cite those that are pertinent to our
inquiry. Observe that usually it is the girl that sings or does the
1. I have passed into womanhood.
3. Who comes there riding toward me?
4. My little pigeon, fly right into the dovecot!
5. This way follow me before it is full daylight.
9. I want to wed you for you are a chief's son.
7. Very much I covet you as a husband, for in times to come you
will live in affluence.
8. She: And when will you pay for me a wedding gift?
He: A canoe I'll give for you half filled with water.
9. He spends much money on women, thinking to obtain them
11. It is not that black fellow that I am striving to secure.
14. That is a pretty female that follows me up.
16. That's because you love me that rattle around the lodge.
27. Why have you become so estranged to me?
37. I hold you to be an innocent girl, though I have not lived
with you yet.
38. Over and over they tell me,
That this scoundrel has insulted me.
52. Young chaps tramp around;
They are on the lookout for women.
54. Girls: Young man, I will not love you, for you run around
with no blanket on; I do not desire such a husband.
Boys: And I do not like a frog-shaped woman with swollen
Most of these poems, as I have said, were composed and sung by women.
The same is true of a collection of Chinook songs (Northern Oregon and
adjacent country) made by Dr. Boas. The majority of his poems, he
says, "are songs of love and jealousy, such as are made by Indian
women living in the cities, or by rejected lovers." These songs are
rather pointless, and do not tell us much about the subject of our
inquiry. Here are a few samples:
When you take a wife,
Don't become angry with me.
I do not care.
2. Where is Charlie going now?
Where is Charlie going now?
He comes back to see me,
3. Good-by, oh, my dear Charlie!
When you take a wife
Don't forget me.
4. I don't know how I feel
That young man makes a foe of me.
5. My dear Annie,
If you cast off Jimmy Star,
Do not forget
How much he likes
Of much greater interest are the "Songs of the Kwakiutl Indians," of
Vancouver Island, collected by Dr. Boas. One of them is too
obscene to quote. The following lines evidence a pretty poetic fancy,
suggesting New Zealand poetry:
1. Y[=i]! Yawa, wish I could----and make my true love happy,
Y[=i]! Yawa, wish I could arise from under the ground right
next to my true love, haigia hay[=i]a.
Y[=i]! Yawa, wish I could alight from the heights, from the
heights of the air right next to my true love, haigia,
Y[=i]! Yawa, wish I could sit among the clouds and fly with
them to my true love.
Y[=i]! Yawa, I am downcast on account of my true love.
Y[=i]! Yawa, I cry for pain on account of my true love, my
Dr. Boas confesses that this song is somewhat freely translated. The
more's the pity. An expression like "my true love," surely is utterly
2. An[=a]ma! Indeed my strong-hearted, my dear.
An[=a]ma! Indeed, my strong hearted, my dear.
An[=a]ma! Indeed my truth toward my dear.
Not pretend I I know having master my dear.
Not pretend I I know for whom I am gathering property, my
Not pretend I I know for whom I am gathering blankets, my
3. Like pain of fire runs down my body my love to you, my dear!
Like pain runs down my body my love to you, my dear.
Just as sickness is my love to you, my dear.
Just as a boil pains me my love to you, my dear.
Just as a fire burns me my love to you, my dear.
I am thinking of what you said to me
I am thinking of the love you bear me.
I am afraid of your love, my dear.
O pain! O pain!
Oh, where is my true love going, my dear?
Oh, they say she will be taken away far from here. She will
leave me, my true love, my dear.
My body feels numb on account of what I have said, my true
love, my dear.
Good-by, my true love, my dear.
Apart from "free translations" and embellishments, the great
difficulty with poems like these, taken down at the present day, is
that one never knows, though they may be told by a pure Indian, how
far they may have been influenced by the half-breeds or the
missionaries who have been with these Indians, in some cases for many
generations. The same is true of not a few of the stories attributed
Powers had heard among other "Indian" tales one of a lover's leap, and
another of a Mono maiden who loved an Awani brave and was imprisoned
by her cruel father in a cave until she perished. "But," says Powers
(368), "neither Choko nor any other Indian could give me any
information touching them, and Choko dismissed them all with the
contemptuous remark, '_White man too much lie_.'" I have shown in this
chapter how large is the number of white men who "too much lie" in
attributing to Indians stories, thoughts, and feelings, which no
Indian ever dreamt of.
The genuine traditional literature of the Indians consists, as Powers
remarks (408), almost entirely of petty fables about animals, and
there is an almost total lack of human legends. Some there are, and a
few of them are quite pretty. Powers relates one (299) which may well
be Indian, the only suspicious feature being the reference to a
"beautiful" cloud (for Indians know only the utility, not the charm,
"One day, as the sun was setting, Kiunaddissi's daughter
went out and saw a beautiful red cloud, the most lovely
cloud ever seen, resting like a bar along the horizon,
stretching southward. She cried out to her father, 'O
father, come and see this beautiful [bright?] cloud!' He did
so.... Next day the daughter took a basket and went out into
the plain to gather clover to eat. While picking the clover
she found a very pretty arrow, trimmed with yellow-hammer's
feathers. After gazing at it awhile in wonder she turned to
look at her basket, and there beside it stood a man who was
called Yang-wi'-a-kan-ueh (Red Cloud) who was none other than
the cloud she had seen the day before. He was so bright and
resplendent to look upon that she was abashed; she modestly
hung down her head and uttered not a word. But he said to
her, 'I am not a stranger. You saw me last night; you see me
every night when the sun is setting. I love you; you love
me; look at me; be not afraid.' Then she said, 'If you love
me, take and eat this basket of grass-seed pinole.' He
touched the basket and in an instant all the pinole vanished
in the air, going no man knows whither. Thereupon the girl
fell away in a swoon, and lay a considerable time there upon
the ground. But when the man returned to her behold she had
given birth to a son. And the girl was abashed, and would
not look in his face, but she was full of joy because of her
The Indian's anthropomorphic way of looking at nature (instead of the
esthetic or scientific, both of which are as much beyond his mental
capacity as the faculty for sentimental love) is also illustrated by
the following Dakota tale, showing how two girls got married.
"There were two women lying out of doors and looking up to
the shining stars. One of them said to the other, 'I wish
that very large and bright shining star was my husband,' The
other said, 'I wish that star that shines so brightly were
my husband.' Thereupon they both were immediately taken up.
They found themselves in a beautiful country, which was full
of twin flowers. They found that the star which shone most
brightly was a large man, while the other was only a young
man. So they each had a husband, and one became with child."
Fear and superstition are, as we know, among the obstacles which
prevent an Indian from appreciating the beauties of nature. The story
of the Yurok siren, as related by Powers (59), illustrates this point:
"There is a certain tract of country on the north side of
the Klamath River which nothing can induce an Indian to
enter. They say that there is a beautiful squaw living there
whose fascinations are fatal. When an Indian sees her he
straightway falls desperately in love. She decoys him
farther and farther into the forest, until at last she
climbs a tree and the man follows. She now changes into a
panther and kills him; then, resuming her proper form, she
cuts off his head and places it in a basket. She is now,
they say, a thousand years old, and has an Indian's head for
every year of her life."
Such tales as these may well have originated in an Indian's
imagination. Their local color is correct and charming, and they do
not attribute to a savage notions and emotions foreign to his mind and
"WHITE MAN TOO MUCH LIE"
It is otherwise with a class of Indian tales of which Schoolcraft's
are samples, and a few more of which may here be referred to. With the
unquestioning trust of a child the learned Waitz accepts as a specimen
of genuine romantic love a story of an Indian maiden who, when an
arrow was aimed at her lover's heart, sprang before him and received
the barbed shaft in her own heart; and another of a Creek Indian who
jumped into a cataract with the girl he loved, meeting death with her
when he found he could not escape the tomahawk of the pursuers. The
solid facts of the first story will be hinted at presently in speaking
of Pocahontas; and as for the second story it is, reduced to Indian
realism, simply an incident of an elopement and pursuit such as may
have easily happened, though the motive of the elopement was nothing
more than the usual desire to avoid paying for the girl. Such
sentences as "she loved him with an intensity of passion that only the
noblest souls know," and "they vowed eternal love; they vowed to live
and die with each other," ought to have opened Waitz's eyes to the
fact that he was not reading an actual Indian story, but a story
sentimentalized and embellished in the cheapest modern dime-novel
style. The only thing such stories tell us is that "white man too much
White woman, too, is not always above suspicion. Mrs. Eastman assures
us that she got her Sioux legends from the Indians themselves. One of
these stories is entitled "The Track Maker" (122-23). During an
interval of peace between the Chippewas and Dakotas, she relates, a
party of Chippewas visited a camp of the Dakotas. A young Dakota
warrior fell in love with a girl included in the Chippewa party.
"_Though he would have died to save her from sorrow_, yet he knew that
she could never be his wife," for the tribes were ever at war. Here
Mrs. Eastman, with the recklessness of a newspaper reporter, puts into
an Indian's head a sentiment which no Indian ever dreamt of. All the
facts cited in this chapter prove this, and, moreover, the sequel of
her own story proves it. After exchanging vows of love (!) with the
Dakotan brave, the girl departed with her Chippewa friends. Shortly
afterward two Dakotas were murdered. The Chippewas were suspected, and
a party of warriors at once broke up in pursuit of the innocent and
unsuspecting party. The girl, whose name was Flying Shadow, saw her
lover among the pursuers, who had already commenced to slaughter and
scalp the other women, though the maidens clasped their hands in a
"vain appeal to the merciless wretches, who see neither beauty nor
grace when rage and revenge are in their hearts." Throwing herself in
his arms she cried, "Save me! save me! Do not let them slay me before
your eyes; make me your prisoner! You said that you loved me, spare my
life!" He did spare her life; he simply touched her with his spear,
then passed on, and a moment later the girl was slain and scalped by
his companions. And why did the gallant and self-sacrificing lover
touch her with his spear before he left her to be murdered? Because
touching an enemy--male or female--with his spear entitles the noble
red man to wear a feather of honor as if he had taken a scalp! Yet he
"would have died to save her from sorrow"!
An Indian's capacity for self-sacrifice is also revealed in a favorite
Blackfoot tale recorded by Grinnell (39-42). A squaw was picking
berries in a place rendered dangerous by the proximity of the enemy.
Suddenly her husband, who was on guard, saw a war party approaching.
Signalling to the squaw, they mounted their horses and took to flight.
The wife's horse, not being a good one, soon tired out and the husband
had to take her on his. But this was too much of a load even for his
powerful animal. The enemy gained on them constantly. Presently he
said to his wife: "Get off. The enemy will not kill you. You are too
young and pretty. Some one of them will take you, and I will get a big
party of our people and rescue you." But the woman cried "No, no, I
will die here with you." "Crazy person," cried the man, and with a
quick jerk he threw the woman off and escaped. Having reached the
lodge safely, he painted himself black and "walked all through the
camp crying." Poor fellow! How he loved his wife! The Indian, as
Catlin truly remarked, "is not in the least behind us in conjugal
affection." The only difference--a trifling one to be sure--is that a
white man, under such circumstances, would have spilt his last drop of
blood in defence of his wife's life and her honor.
THE STORY OF POCAHONTAS
The rescue of John Smith by Pocahontas is commonly held to prove that
the young Indian girl, smitten with sudden love for the white man,
risked her life for him. This fanciful notion has however, been
irreparably damaged by John Fiske (_O.V._, I., 102-111). It is true
that "the Indians debated together, and presently two big stones were
placed before the chiefs, and Smith was dragged thither and his head
laid upon them;" and that
"even while warriors were standing with clubs in hand, to
beat his brains out, the chief's young daughter Pocahontas
rushed up and embraced him, whereupon her father spared his
It is true also that Smith himself thought and wrote that "Pocahontas
hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save" his. But she did
no such thing. Smith simply was ignorant of Indian customs:
"From the Indian point of view there was nothing romantic or
extraordinary in such a rescue: it was simply a not uncommon
matter of business. The romance with which readers have
always invested it is the outcome of a misconception no less
complete than that which led the fair dames of London to
make obeisance to the tawny Pocahontas as to a princess of
imperial lineage. Time and again it used to happen that when
a prisoner was about to be slaughtered some one of the dusky
assemblage, moved by pity or admiration or some unexplained
freak, would interpose in behalf of the victim; and as a
rule such interposition was heeded. Many a poor wretch,
already tied to the fatal tree and benumbed with unspeakable
terror, while the firebrands were heating for his torment,
has been rescued from the jaws of death and adopted as
brother or lover by some laughing young squaw, or as a son
by some grave wrinkled warrior. In such cases the new-comer
was allowed entire freedom and treated like one of the
tribe.... Pocahontas, therefore, did not hazard the beating
out of her own brains, though the rescued stranger, looking
with civilized eyes, would naturally see it in that light.
Her brains were perfectly safe. This thirteen-year-old squaw
liked the handsome prisoner, claimed him, and got him,
according to custom."
VERDICT: NO ROMANTIC LOVE
In the hundreds of genuine Indian tales collected by Boas I have not
discovered a trace of sentiment, or even of sentimentality. The notion
that there is any refinement of passion or morality in the sexual
relations of the American aborigines has been fostered chiefly by the
stories and poems of the whites--generally such as had only a
superficial acquaintance with the red men. "The less we see and know
of real Indians," wrote G.E. Ellis (111), "the easier will it be to
make and read poems about them." General Custer comments on Cooper's
false estimate of Indian character, which has misled so many.
"Stripped of the beautiful romance with which we have been
so long willing to envelop him, transferred from the
inviting pages of the novelist to the localities where we
are compelled to meet with him in his native village, on the
warpath, and when raiding upon our frontier settlements and
lines of travel, the Indian forfeits his claim to the
appellation of the 'noble red man'" (12).
The great explorer Stanley did not see as much of the American savage
as of the African, yet he had no difficulty in taking the American's
correct measure. In his _Early Travels and Adventures_ (41-43), he
pokes fun at the romantic ideas that poets and novelists have given
about Indian maidens and their loves, and then tells in unadorned
terms what he saw with his own eyes--Indian girls with "coarse black
hair, low foreheads, blazing coal-black eyes, faces of a dirty, greasy
color"--and the Indian young man whose romance of wooing is comprised
in the question, "How much is she worth?'"
One of the keenest and most careful observers of Indian life, the
naturalist Bates, after living several years among the natives of
Brazil, wrote concerning them (293):
"Their phlegmatic, apathetic temperament; coldness of desire
and deadness of feeling; want of curiosity and slowness of
intellect, make the Amazonian Indians very uninteresting
companions anywhere. Their imagination is of a dull-gloomy
quality, and they seemed never to be stirred by the
emotions--love, pity, admiration, fear, wonder, joy,
enthusiasm. These are characteristics of the whole race,"
In Schoolcraft (V., 272) we read regarding the Creeks that "the
refined passion of love is unknown to any of them, although they apply
the word _love_ to rum or anything else they wish to be possessed of."
A capital definition of Indian love! I have already quoted the opinion
of the eminent expert George Gibbs that the attachment existing among
the Indians of Oregon and Washington, though it is sometimes so strong
as to lead to suicide, is too sensual to deserve the name of love.
Another eminent traveller, Keating, says (II., 158) concerning the
"We are not disposed to believe that there is frequently
among the Chippewas an inclination entirely destitute of
sensual considerations and partaking of the nature of a
sentiment; such may exist in a few instances, but in their
state of society it appears almost impossible that it should
be a common occurrence."
M'Lean, after living for twenty-five years among Indians, says, in
writing of the Nascopies (II., 127):
"Considering the manner in which their women are treated it
can scarcely be supposed that their courtships are much
influenced by sentiments of love; in fact, the tender
passion seems unknown to the savage breast."
From his observations of Canadian Indians Heriot came to the
conclusion (324) that "The passion of love is of too delicate a nature
to admit of divided affections, and its real influence can scarcely be
felt in a society where polygamy is tolerated." And again (331): "The
passion of love, feeble unless aided by imagination, is of a nature
too refined to acquire a great degree of influence over the mind of
savages." He thinks that their mode of life deadens even the physical
ardor for the sex, but adds that the females appear to be "much more
sensible of tender impressions." Even Schoolcraft admits implicitly
that Indian love cannot have been sentimental and esthetic, but only
sensual, when he says (_Travels_, etc., 231) that Indian women are
"without either mental resources or personal beauty."
But the most valuable and weighty evidence on this point is supplied
by Lewis A. Morgan in his classical book, _The League of the Iroquois_
(320-35). He was an adopted member of the Senecas, among whom he spent
nearly forty years of his life, thus having unequalled opportunities
for observation and study. He was moreover a man of scientific
training and a thinker, whose contributions to some branches of
anthropology are of exceptional value. His bias, moreover, is rather
in favor of the Indians than against them, which doubles the weight of
his testimony. This testimony has already been cited in part, but in
summing up the subject I will repeat it with more detail. He tells us
that marriage among these Indians "was not founded on the affections
... but was regulated exclusively as a matter of physical necessity."
The match was made by the mothers, and
"not the least singular feature of the transaction was the
entire ignorance in which the parties remained of the
pending negotiations; the first intimation they received
being the announcement of their marriage without, perhaps,
ever having known or seen each other. Remonstrance or
objections on their part was never attempted; they received
each other as the gift of their parents."
There was no visiting or courting, little or no conversation between
the unmarried, no attempts were made to please each other, and the man
regarded the woman as his inferior and servant. The result of such a
state of affairs is summed up by Morgan in this memorable passage:
"From the nature of the marriage institution among the
Iroquois it follows that the passion of love was entirely
unknown among them. Affections after marriage would
naturally spring up between the parties from association,
from habit, and from mutual dependence; but of that
marvellous passion which originates in a higher development
of the passions of the human heart and is founded upon the
cultivation of the affections between the sexes they were
entirely ignorant. In their temperaments they were below
this passion in its simplest forms. Attachments between
individuals, or the cultivation of each other's affections
before marriage, was entirely unknown; so also were promises
Morgan regrets that his remarks "may perhaps divest the mind of some
pleasing impressions" created by novelists and poets concerning the
attachments which spring up in the bosom of Indian society; but these,
he adds, are "entirely inconsistent with the marriage institution as
it existed among them, and with the facts of their social history." I
may add that another careful observer who had lived among the Indians,
Parkman, cites Morgan's remarks as to their incapacity for love with
There is one more important conclusion to be drawn from Morgan's
evidence. The Iroquois were among the most advanced of all Indians.
"In intelligence," says Brinton (_A.R._, 82), "their position must be
placed among the highest." As early as the middle of the fifteenth
century the great chief Hiawatha completed the famous political league
of the Iroquois. The women, though regarded as inferiors, had more
power and authority than among most other Indians. Morgan speaks of
the "unparallelled generosity" of the Iroquois, of their love of
truth, their strict adherence to the faith of treaties, their
ignorance of theft, their severe punishment for the infrequent crimes
and offences that occurred among them. The account he gives of their
various festivals, their eloquence, their devout religious feeling and
gratitude to the Great Spirit for favors received, the thanks
addressed to the earth, the rivers, the useful herbs, the moving wind
which banishes disease, the sun, moon, and stars for the light they
give, shows them to be far superior to most of the red men. And yet
they were "below the passion of love in its simplest forms." Thus we
see once more that refinement of sexual feeling, far from being, as
the sentimentalists would have us believe, shared with us by the
lowest savages, is in reality one of the latest products of
civilization--if not the very latest.
THE UNLOVING ESKIMO
Throughout this chapter no reference has been made to the Eskimos, who
are popularly considered a race apart from the Indians. The best
authorities now believe that they are a strictly American race, whose
primal home was to the south of the Hudson Bay, whence they spread
northward to Labrador, Greenland, and Alaska. I have reserved
them for separate consideration because they admirably illustrate the
grand truth just formulated, that a race may have made considerable
progress in some directions and yet be quite below the sentiment of
love. Westermarck's opinion (516) that the Eskimos are "a rather
advanced race" is borne out by the testimony of those who have known
them well. They are described as singularly cheerful and good-natured
among themselves. Hall says "their memory is remarkably good, and
their intellectual powers, in all that relates to their native land,
its inhabitants, its coasts, and interior parts, is of a surprisingly
high order" (I., 128). But what is of particular interest is the great
aptitude Eskimos seem to show for art, and their fondness for poetry
and music. King says that "the art of carving is universally
practised" by them, and he speaks of their models of men, animals, and
utensils as "executed in a masterly style." Brinton indeed says they
have a more artistic eye for picture-writing than any Indian race
north of Mexico. They enliven their long winter nights with
imaginative tales, music, and song. Their poets are held in high
honor, and it is said they get their notion of the music of verse by
sleeping by the sound of running water, that they may catch its
Yet when we look at the Eskimos from another point of view we find
them horribly and bestially unaesthetic. Cranz speaks of "their filthy
clothes swarming with vermin." They make their oil by chewing seal
blubber and spurting the liquid into a vessel. "A kettle is seldom
washed except the dogs chance to lick it clean." Mothers wash
children's faces by licking them all over.
Such utter lack of delicacy prepares us for the statement that the
Eskimos are equally coarse in other respects, notably in their
treatment of women and their sexual feelings. It would be a stigma
upon an Eskimo's character, says Cranz (I., 154), "if he so much as
drew a seal out of the water." Having performed the pleasantly
exciting part of killing it, he leaves all the drudgery and hard work
of hauling, butchering, cooking, tanning, shoe-making, etc., to the
women. They build the houses, too, while the men look on with the
greatest insensibility, not stirring a finger to assist them in
carrying the heavy stones. Girls are often "engaged" as soon as born,
nor are those who grow up free allowed to marry according to their own
preference. "When friendly exhortations are unavailing she is
compelled by force, and even blows, to receive her husband." (Cranz,
I., 146.) They consider children troublesome, and the race is dying
out. Women are not allowed to eat of the first seal of the season. The
sick are left to take care of themselves. (Hall, II., 322, I., 103.)
In years of scarcity widows "are rejected from the community, and
hover about the encampments like starving wolves ... until hunger and
cold terminate their wretched existence." (M'Lean, II., 143.) Men and
women alike are without any sense of modesty; in their warm hovels
both sexes divest themselves of nearly all their clothing. Nor,
although they fight and punish jealousy, have they any regard for
chastity _per se_. Lending a wife or daughter to a guest is a
recognized duty of hospitality. Young couples live together on trial.
When the husband is away hunting or fishing the wife has her
intrigues, and often adultery is committed _sans gene_ on either side.
Unnatural vices are indulged in without secrecy, and altogether the
picture is one of utter depravity and coarseness.
Under such circumstances we hardly needed the specific assurance of
Rink, who collected and published a volume of _Tales and Traditions of
the Eskimo_, and who says that "never is much room given in this
poetry to the almost universal feeling of love." He refers, of course,
to any kind of love, and he puts it very mildly. Not only is there no
trace of altruistic affection in any of these tales and traditions,
but the few erotic stories recorded (_e.g._, pp. 236-37) are too
coarse to be cited or summarized here. Hall, too, concluded that
"love--if it come at all--comes after marriage." He also informs us
(II., 313) that there "generally exists between husband and wife a
steady but not very demonstrative affection;" but here he evidently
wrongs the Eskimos; for, as he himself remarks (126), they
"always summarily punish their wives for any real or
imaginary offence. They seize the first thing at hand--a
stone, knife, hatchet, or spear--and throw it at the
offending woman, just as they would at their dogs."
What could be more "demonstrative" than such "steady affection?"
INDIA--WILD TRIBES AND TEMPLE GIRLS
India, it has been aptly said, "forms a great museum of races in which
we can study man from his lowest to his highest stages of culture." It
is this multiplicity of races and their lack of patriotic co-operation
that explains the conquest of the hundreds of millions of India by the
tens of millions of England. Obviously it would be impossible to make
any general assertion regarding love that would apply equally to the
10,000,000 educated Brahmans, who consider themselves little inferior
to gods, the 9,000,000 outcasts who are esteemed and treated
infinitely worse than animals, and the 17,000,000 of the aboriginal
tribes who are comparable in position and culture to our American
Indians. Nevertheless, we can get an approximately correct composite
portrait of love in India by making two groups and studying first, the
aboriginal tribes, and then the more or less civilized Hindoos (using
this word in the most comprehensive sense), with their peculiar
customs, laws, poetic literature, and bayaderes, or temple girls.
In Bengal and Assam alone, which form but a small corner of this vast
country, the aborigines are divided into nearly sixty distinct races,
differing from each other in various ways, as American tribes do. They
have not been described by as many and as careful observers as our
American Indians have, but the writings of Lewin, Galton, Rowney, Man,
Shortt, Watson and Kaye, and others supply sufficient data to enable
us to understand the nature of their amorous feelings.
"WHOLE TRACTS OF FEELING UNKNOWN TO THEM"
Lewin gives us the interesting information (345-47) that with the
"women enjoy perfect freedom of action; they go unveiled,
they would seem to have equal rights of heritage with men,
while their power of selecting their own husband is to the
full as free as that of our own English maidens."
Moreover, "in these hills the crime of infidelity among wives is
almost unknown; so also harlots and courtesans are held in abhorrence
On reading these lines our hopes are raised that at last we may have
come upon a soil favorable to the growth of true love. But Lewin's
further remarks dispel that illusion:
"In marriage, with us, a perfect world springs up at
the word, of tenderness, of fellowship, trust, and
self-devotion. With them it is a mere animal and
convenient connection for procreating their species and
getting their dinner cooked. They have no idea of
tenderness, nor of the chivalrous devotion that
prompted the old Galilean fisherman when he said 'Give
ye honor unto the woman as to the weaker vessel,' ...
The best of them will refuse to carry a burden if there
be a wife, mother, or sister near at hand to perform
the task." "_There are whole tracts of mind, and
thought, and feeling, which are unknown to them_."
One of the most important details of my theory is that while there can
be no romantic love without opportunity for genuine courtship and free
choice, nevertheless the existence of such opportunity and choice does
not guarantee the presence of love unless the other conditions for its
growth--general refinement and altruistic impulses--coexist with them.
Among the Chittagong hill-tribes these conditions--constituting "whole
tracts of mind, and thought, and feeling"--do not coexist with the
liberty of choice, hence it is useless to look for love in our sense
of the word. Moreover, when we further read in Lewin that the reason
why there are no harlots is that they "are rendered unnecessary by the
freedom of intercourse indulged in and allowed to both sexes before
marriage," we see that what at first seemed a virtue is really a mark
of lower degradation. Some of the oldest legislators, like Zoroaster
and Solon, already recognized the truth that it was far better to
sacrifice a few women to the demon of immorality than to expose them
all to contamination. The wild tribes of India in general have not yet
arrived at that point of view. In their indifference to chastity they
rank with the lowest savages, and usually there is a great deal of
promiscuous indulgence before a mate is chosen for a union of
endurance. Among the Oraons, as Dalton tells us (248), "liaisons
between boys and girls of the same village seldom end in marriage;"
and he gives strange details regarding the conduct of the young people
which may not be cited here, and in which the natives see "no
impropriety." Regarding the Butias Rowney says (142):
"The marriage tie is so loose that chastity is quite
unknown amongst them. The husbands are indifferent to
the honor of their wives, and the wives do not care to
preserve that which has no value attached to it. ...
The intercourse of the sexes is, in fact, promiscuous."
Of the Lepchas Rowney says (139) that "chastity in adult girls
previous to marriage is neither to be met with nor cared for." Of the
Mishmees he says (163): "Wives are not expected to be chaste, and are
not thought worse off when otherwise," and of the Kookies (186): "All
the women of a village, married or unmarried, are available to the
chief at his will, and no stigma attaches to those who are favored by
him." In some tribes wives are freely exchanged. Dalton says of the
Butan (98) that "the intercourse between the sexes is practically
promiscuous." Rhyongtha girls indulge in promiscuous intercourse with
several lovers before marriage. (Lewin, 121.) With the Kurmuba, "no
such ceremony as marriage exists." They "live together like the brute
creation." (W.R. King, 44.)
My theory that in practice, at any rate, if not in form, promiscuity
was the original state of affairs among savages, in India as
elsewhere, is supported by the foregoing facts, and also by what
various writers have told us regarding the licentious festivals
indulged in by these wild tribes of India. "It would appear," says
"that most of the hill-tribes found it necessary to
promote marriage by stimulating intercourse between the
sexes at particular seasons of the year.... At one of
the Kandh festivals held in November all the lads and
lasses assemble for a spree, and a bachelor has then
the privilege of making off with any unmarried girl
whom he can induce to go with him, subject to a
subsequent arrangement with the parents of the maiden."
Dalton gives a vivid description of these festivals as practised by
the Hos in January, when the granaries are full of wheat and the
natives "full of deviltry:"
"They have a strange notion that at this period men and
women are so overcharged with vicious propensities,
that it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the
person to let off steam by allowing, for a time, full
vent to the passions. The festival therefore becomes a
saturnale, during which servants forget their duties to
their masters, children their reverence for parents,
even their respect for women, and women all notions of
modesty, delicacy, and gentleness; they become raging
"The Ho population of the village forming the environs
of Chaibasa are at other seasons quiet and reserved in
manner, and in their demeanor toward women gentle and
decorous; even in the flirtations I have spoken of they
never transcend the bounds of decency. The girls,
though full of spirits and somewhat saucy, have innate
notions of propriety that make them modest in demeanor,
though devoid of all prudery.... Since their adoption
of clothing they are careful to drape themselves
decently as well as gracefully, but they throw all this
aside during the Magh feast. Their natures appear to
undergo a temporary change. Sons and daughters revile
their parents in gross language, and parents their
children; men and women become almost like animals in
the indulgence of their amorous propensities. They
enact all that was ever portrayed by prurient artists
in a bacchanalian festival or pandean orgy; and as the
light of the sun they adore and the presence of
numerous spectators seem to be no restraint on their
indulgence, it cannot be expected that chastity is
preserved when the shades of night fall on such a scene
of licentiousness and debauchery."
"MARVELLOUSLY PRETTY AND ROMANTIC"
Nor are these festivals of rare occurrence. They last three or four
days and are held at the different villages at different dates, so the
inhabitants of each may take part in "a long succession of these
orgies." When Dalton declares (206) regarding these coarse and
dissolute Hos, who thus spend a part of each year in "a long
succession of orgies," in which their own wives and daughters
participate, that they are nevertheless capable of the higher
emotions--though he admits they have no words for them--he merely