Exception to patrilocal

At the beginning of my stay among the tribes, I thought, as many have asserted, that polygamy was common among the Indians. The reason for this belief is simply the fact that it is extremely hard to distinguish at first between wives, concubines, and attached women–women under the protection of a man, but not necessarily in intimate relation. Inquiries do not immediately assist any conclusion. If, for example, you question…

Infanticide

Though so recognised an authority as Bates is responsible for the statement that the fecundity of the Amazonian Indians is of a low degree,[224] because as many as four children in one family are rarely found, it is open to doubt whether he and his successors have not in this instance confounded effect and cause. It is certainly true that the normal number for a family is but two or…

Unfermented drinks

If the Indian eats but little during the day, he drinks to excess whenever opportunity offers. In the early morning a beverage somewhat akin to tea, but colourless, made from an infusion of bitter herbs, is taken. It has some tonic properties, and when I drank it seemed always to have a slight taste of peppermint. This herb infusion is the first meal of the day. It is drunk out…

Lack of salt

Food is the dominant problem of an Indian’s existence. The food quest is to him no indefinite sociological issue of future “food control,” but an affair of every day. Living, it would seem, in the midst of plenty, starvation is a frequent visitant in an Amazonian household. They are an improvident folk, as I have already stated, and if food be plentiful give no thought to make provision for the…

Ritual of vengeance

The armoury of the Indian contains, for the most part, weapons designed for primitive hand-to-hand encounter with either man or beast. The sixty or more feet a blow-pipe dart will carry; the two hundred feet, which is the outside range of an arrow from the most powerful of his bows, would be futile in any country less enclosed than these dense woodlands. Even here success in intertribal conflict is a…

Tree-climbing methods

Apart from the industries already dealt with, the occupations of the South American Indians of these parts consist in agricultural pursuits, hunting, fishing, making war, and holding festival. They are not a pastoral people and have no cattle; even the domestic pig is unknown, fowls are never seen, and dogs only exist in their wild state in the forest. There they are numerous enough, dun in colour, with ears erect.…

Cassava-squeezer and grater

Life in Amazonia to the man is occasionally strenuous, frequently a veritable _dolce far niente_; to the woman it is a ceaseless round of toilsome duties, broken only by the excitement of preparation for, and participation in, a tribal dance. The division of occupations between the sexes is possibly uneven, but very certainly strict. In many cases it amounts to a tabu,[90] and as a rule the reason for this…

Dress and ornament

Judged by some of the pictures in books purporting to give accounts of the South American Indians, the photograph adjoining (Plate VIII.) would represent an Indian chieftain decked in his best to welcome the newly-arrived traveller, instead of what it is–merely a group of my escort and carriers tricked out in the rag, tag, and bobtail array they deemed due to my dignity and their own. Far different is the…

Marriage system

Given equal conditions, similar environment, the human race, wheresoever on this globe its lot be cast, shows a marked sameness in its traits and habits. This need not, in fact does not, argue a unity of origin. There is no reason why a custom may not be indigenous in many parts of the world, among peoples labouring under like conditions; and if the same customs be evolved the same cultural…

Inhabitants of the house

Out of the silence and gloom of the forest the traveller will emerge into the full light of a clearing. Though it is the site of a tribal headquarters there is no village, no cluster of huts, except among some of the tribes on the lower Apaporis. There is but one great house, thatched and ridge-roofed like a gigantic hay-rick, standing four-square in the open. This is the home of…