Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

looked upon us in many respects with profound con. tempt; maintaining that idea of self-sufficiency which has induced them, in common with the rest of their nation, to call themselves, by way of dis. tinction, Innue, or mankind. One day, for instance, in securing some of the gear of a sledge, Okotook broke a part of it, composed of a piece of our white line, and I shall never forget the contemptuous sneer with which he muttered in soliloquy the word “ Kab. loona !" in token of the inferiority of our materials to his own. It is happy, perhaps, when people, possessing so few of the good things of this life, can be thus contented with the little allotted them.

The men, though low in stature, are not wanting in muscular strength in proportion to their size, or in activity and hardiness. They are good and even quick walkers, and occasionally bear much bodily fatigue, wet, and cold, without appearing to suffer by it, much less to complain of it. Whatever la. bour they have gone through, and with whatever success in procuring game, no individual ever seems to arrogate to himself the credit of having done more than his neighbour for the general good. Nor do I conceive there is reason to doubt their person. al courage, though they are too good-natured often to excite others to put that quality to the test. It is true, they will recoil with horror at the tale of an Indian massacre, and probably cannot conceive what should induce one set of men deliberately and without provocation to murder another. War is not their trade; ferocity forms no part of the disposition of the Esquimaux. Whatever manly qual. ities they possess are exercised in a different way, and put to a far more worthy purpose. They are

fishermen, and not warriors; but I cannot call that man a coward who, at the age of one-and-twenty, will attack a polar bear single-handed, or fearless. ly commit himself to floating masses of ice, which the next puff of wind may drift for ever from the shore.

Of the few arts possessed by this simple people, some account has already been given in the description of their various implements. As mechanics, they have little to boast when compared with other savages lying under equal disadvantages as to scan. tiness of tools and materials. As carpenters, they can scarf two pieces of wood together, secure them with pins of whalebone or ivory, fashion the tim. bers of a canoe, shoe a paddle, and rivet a scrap of iron into a spear or arrow-head. Their principal tool is the knife (panna); and, considering the excel. lence of a great number which they possessed pre. vious to our intercourse with them, the work they do is remarkably coarse and clumsy. manner of holding and handling a knife is the most awkward that can be imagined. For the purpose of boring holes, they have a drill and bow so exactly like our own, that they need no farther descrip. tion, except that the end of the drill-handle, which our artists place against their breasts, is rested by these people against a piece of wood or bone held in their mouths, and having a cavity fitted to receive it. With the use of the saw they were well ac. quainted, but had nothing of this kind in their pos. session better than a notched piece of iron. One or two small European axes were lashed to handles in a contrary direction to ours, that is, to be used like an adze, a form which, according to the obser

Their very

vation of a traveller* well qualified to judge, sava. gés in general prefer. It was said that these peo. ple steamed or boiled wood, in order to bend it for fashioning the timbers of their canoes. As fishermen or seamen, they can put on a woolding or seiz. ing with sufficient strength and security, and are acquainted with some of the most simple and serviceable knots in use among us.

In all the arts, however, practised by the men, it is observable that the ingenuity lies in the principle, not in the execu. tion. The experience of ages has led them to adopt the most efficacious methods, but their practice as handicrafts has gone no fariher than absolute ne. cessity requires; they bestow little labour upon neatness or ornament.

In some of the few arts practised by the women there is much more dexterity displayed, particularly in that important branch of a housewife's business, sewing, which, even with their own clumsy needles of bone, they perform with extraordinary neatness. They had, however, several steel needles of a threecornered shape, which they kept in a very convenient case, consisting of a strip of leather passed through a hollow bone, and having its ends remain. ing out, so that the needles which are stuck into it may be drawn in and out at pleasure. These cases were sometimes ornamented by cutting; and several thimbles of leather, one of which, in sewing, is worn on the first finger, are usually attached to it, together with a bunch of narrow spoons and oth er small articles liable to be lost. The thread they use is the sinew of the reindeer (tooktoo ěwāllöð), * Ledyard. Proceedings of the African Association, vol i, p

30.

round

or, when they cannot procure this, the swallow-pipe of the neitiek. This may be split into threads of different sizes, according to the nature of their work, and is certainly a most admirable material, This, together with any other articles of a similar kind, they keep in little bags, which are sometimes made of the skin of birds' feet, disposed with the claws downward in a very neat and tasteful manner. In sewing, the point of the needle is entered and drawn through in a direction towards the body, and not from it or towards one side, as with our seam. stresses. They sew the deerskins with a “. seam," and the water-tight boots and shoes are “ stitched.” The latter is performed in a very adroit and efficacious manner, by putting the needle only half through the substance of one part of the sealskin, so as to leave no hole for admitting the water. In cutting out the clothes, the women do it after one regular and uniform pattern, which prob. ably descends unaltered from generation to generation. The skin of the deer's head is always made to form the

apex of the hood, while that of the neck and shoulders comes down the back of the jacket; and so of every other part of the animal which is appropriated to its particular portion of the dress. To soften the sealskins of which the boots, shoes, and mittens are made, the women chew them for an hour or two together, and the young girls are often seen employed in thus preparing the materials for their mothers. The covering of the canoes is a part of the women's business, in which good work. manship is especially necessary to render the whole smooth and water-tight. The skins, which are those of the neitiek only, are prepared by scraping

off the hair and the fleshy parts with an ooloo, and stretching them out tight on a frame, in which state they are left over the lamps or in the sun for sever. al days to dry; and after this they are well chewed by the women to make them fit for working. The dressing of leather and of skins in the hair, is an art which the women have brought to no inconsid. erable degree of perfection. They perform this by first cleansing the skin from as much of the fat and fleshy matter as the ooloo will take off, and then rubbing it hard for several hours with a blunt scraper, called siākõõt, so as nearly to dry it. It is then put into a vessel containing urine, and left to steep a couple of days, after which a drying completes the process.

Skins dressed in the hair are, however, not always thus steeped ; the women, instead of this, chewing them for hours together till they are quite soft and clean. Some of the leather thus dressed looked nearly as well as ours, and the hair was as firmly fixed to the pelt; but there was in this respect a very great difference, according to the art or attention of the housewife. Dyeing is an art wholly unknown to them. The women are very expert at platting, which is usually done with three threads of sinew; if greater strength is required, several of these are twisted slackly together, as in the bowstrings. The quickness with which some of the women plat is really surprising; and it is well that they do so, for the quantity required for the bows alone would otherwise occupy half the year in completing it.

It may be supposed that, among so cheerful a people as the Esquimaux, there are many games or sports practised ; indeed, it was rarely that we vis.

VOL. II.-U

« AnteriorContinuar »