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of the Darien Jungle

A Legend of Centuries Brought to Reality by the Discovery of a Tribe of Indians as White as Ourselves, and Speaking a Language Related to Ancient Sanskrit. They May Be Descendants of the Early Norwegians

BY R. O. MARSH

T

WO years ago, in the jungle When this article is published, I shall be of Darien, at a little frontier in that region again, with several of these settlement named Yavisa, 1 scientists, equipped to study these strange

I was bargaining with the Ne- phenomena in their native land, and to

groid Indian chief of the village explore their country, where they promise for a crew to take me up the Chucunaque me we shall find stone ruins of cities their River, when I saw three Indian girls ap- ancestors inhabited. pear from behind a hut, cross the village My astonishment at my first view of street, and disappear behind another hut White Indians may be better imagined on the other side. My sensations were when I explain that Yavisa is at the head those that a scientist would have if he of navigation of the Chucunaque River in were melting some lead and saw it sud- Darien, or Eastern Panama, and the denly change into gold, for I had as un- farthest outpost of anything like civiexpectedly seen a legend of centuries lization, in an unexplored tropical wilderbecome a reality before my eyes. These ness. Yavisa is peopled by Negroid girls had white skin and golden yellow Indian half-breeds, and is a trading post hair!

to which “tame” jungle Indians come to That was my first view of the now barter. The only white men that ever famous White Indians. A year later,

A year later, visit the place are a very occasional following a second expedition, I came out trader, or, as in my case, an engineer of the same jungle, having seen four hun- looking for rubber. I had as little reason dred of them, and bringing back to civi- to expect to see a white woman in Yavisa lization two boys and a girl as living as David Livingstone would have had to specimens for the scientists to study. meet Queen Victoria in equatorial Africa. For the last six months they have lived And I had seen three! And savages, at part of the time at my camp in Canada that; for they wore only loin cloths, and and part of the time in a home in stepped the jungle path with the free, Washington, D. C., where government natural grace of the Indian. experts and scientists in anthropology, They had come and gone so quickly biology, and genetics have been try- that I had only the one glimpse of them. ing to decide whether they are biological But that glimpse was enough to excite my “mutations” from brown Indians or are eager interest, for the legend of the White descendants of Norwegians who came to Indians is as old as American history, America long before Columbus's voyage. and in twenty years as a civil engineer,

484

Warriors of Great Prowess

BE

practising my profession up and down entrance. After much calling in English both hemispheres, I had heard it on and Spanish, the three girls appeared; and many occasions and in many lands from after many signs of my good intentions, frontiersmen and natives. Columbus they ventured to the ground and accepted himself declared that he had seen them. the present of a handful of freshly minted Cortez found a hundred of them im ten-cent pieces. They let me look at prisoned in Montezuma's palace in Mex their golden locks closely enough for me ico City and venerated as "the children to be certain they were not dyed, and I of the sun.” Vancouver saw them on was equally sure that the whiteness of Vancouver Island in 1792, and Com their skin was not an artificial calcine. mander Stiles of our own Navy claimed Their eyes were not black, but a light to have seen the remnants of the same brown, proving that they were not the group in 1848. Humboldt saw about a usual kind of Indian, nor, on the other hundred White Indians in Colombia. hand, albinoes either. It was growing

dusk, but I managed to get some snapSTRANGERS MAY NOT ENTER

shots of them. They spoke neither UT, like everyone else, I did not English nor Spanish.

really believe in White Indians. I Returning to the boat, in which I had attributed the stories to hallucination, or come from Panama to Yavisa, I told my to the mistaking of albinoes or half two comrades of my find, but found them breeds for really white people. But the unimpressed. I might think what I girls I had seen were not, I was convinced, pleased, but no White Indians for them. any of these. I have seen thousands of My invitation to join me in a visit to the half-breeds, of many mixtures, and there clearing after dinner, to call on the man of is an unmistakable something about them the family, was greeted with emphatic that reveals their hybrid origin. These refusal. I might go and get myself killed girls gave no such impression. I asked if I liked. And, indeed, their judgment the village chief about them, and he told on that point was better than mine. I me they lived in a hut outside his village, went to the hut in the moonlight and with a man of the same appearance.

called, and the man came out, not to greet They did not mingle with his people, and me but to rush into the jungle. A little he explained that no one would dare reflection convinced me that he would molest them, for fear of the vengeance of probably circle behind me and put an their tribe. They came, he said, from far arrow into my back, so I lost no time in inland, up the Chucunaque River, where returning to the boat, no wiser than I had no Negro or tame Indian dared to go, for left. the savages there had forbidden it and

BEAUTY OF PHYSIQUE were warriors of such prowess that their edict was respected. No white man, HE next morning, we made a oneeven, had ever gone into that country and day journey up the river beyond returned. A detachment of the Pana Yavisa. By noon we had come into a manian army had tried it and had been region that promised to disclose just such exterminated. The White Indians were a valley of rubber lands as I had dreamed a numerous tribe, he added, and were was there. I urged my companions to go allies of the savage Wallas, Mortis, and farther. But they had had enough of Cunas Bravos.

jungles, and we turned back. I resolved to call upon the strangers. And, then, rounding a bend in the I followed the path the chief indicated, Chucunaque, we came head-on upon the and in half a mile came on a little clearing, most startling apparition I have ever in which was a pole-and-palm hut, with seen. A canoe came toward us, and in its floor several feet above the ground the bow stood a naked savage with a and its “doorsteps” a log with notches white body, whose yellow hair, falling to cut in it for a foothold in ascending to the his shoulders, was held in order by a gold

TH

chaplet two inches wide encircling his jungle rats,” they exclaimed, “and we head at the brow. He was of medium didn't come down here to get ourselves height, but magnificently developed about struck in the back with a poisoned arrow. the chest and arms; and he stood as erect Our business is law and rubber. There's as a king. Behind him were a girl of ten neither here, and we're going homeand a boy of four, and in the stern his to-night!" wife wielded a steering paddle. Not one And homeward we headed. It was a of the four gave a start when they came bitter disappointment to me to have my suddenly upon us, and the man and Panama rubber lands remain undiscoy

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woman did not vary a heart-beat in the ered, after such an incomplete explorhythm of their strokes as they plied the ration. And my disappointment was canoe to pass directly by us. The man doubled at my inability to follow the trail eyed us with a truly regal pride and dis- of the White Indians who, I now felt sure, dain, and passed us by without troubling were no mirage of fanciful pioneers but a to turn his head to see whether or not we scientific fact. intended to follow. His whole manner I lingered in Panama after my comsaid more plainly than words: “I am panions had gone on to the States. I king here; what are you doing in my told my friends in the Canal Zone Governdomain?"

ment about my White Indians, and I got This uncanny vision settled any doubts the incredulous sympathy usually paid to my companions had about exploring a respected citizen who has gone a little further. The tales of the Negroid chief, off his head. They all believed that I about the savages upstream, had been honestly thought I had seen them, but given a most startling confirmation. they thought it was either “a touch o' They had seen enough. "We are no sun” or that I had seen albinoes or half

486

Over Savage Regions by Airplane

RETURNING to the States, 1 inter

breeds. The only exception to the chorus America, and scientists have long hoped of doubt was General Babbitt, of our that unexplored Darien would some day Military Service at the Zone. He said he reveal the transitional forms that would was inclined to believe me, because one bridge this gap in natural history. The of his aviators had brought back a similar University of Rochester, therefore, destory. Lost in a fog bank south of the tailed Prof. H. L. Fairchild, to study the Canal, this flier had swung low to get his geology and biology of this region; the bearings and had come out of the cloud American Museum of Natural History right above a big village in the jungle, and sent Dr. C. M. Breeder, to study the had seen dozens of white savages scurry snakes, fish, and invertebrates; and the to cover when this roaring monster from Smithsonian Institution sent Prof. J. L. the skies had emerged into their sight. Baer, to study the men and apes from the The General had always doubted the viewpoint of the trained anthropologist. aviator's story until he heard mine con I secured also the coöperation of the firm it.

War Department and the Department of

Commerce at Washington, the Canal A SCIENTIFIC SEARCH

Zone Administration, and the Panama ETURNING to the States, I inter- Government. These connections added

in

to my party Major Omer Malsbury, pedition—the backers of my first one topographer; Major H. B. Johnson, were polite but skeptical. I was now naturalist; Lieutenants Townsend and determined not only to prove that there Rosebaum; and Dr. Raoul Brin, botanist were good rubber lands in Darien, but and soil expert, detailed by President also that there were White Indians there. Porras of Panama. I took along also a I am not a scientist, and I did not intend

newspaperman, and Mr. Charles Charlto have the credibility of this discovery ton, representing the Pathé motion picrest upon my own unscientific obser ture people. Altogether, my party numvations. I therefore made the following bered eleven whites and thirteen Negro proposition in identical terms to the Uni- laborers obtained at Panama. versity of Rochester, the American Mu The War Department placed at my seum of Natural History, and the Smith- disposal two airplanes, with which I made sonian Institution: “If you will detail a a reconnaissance flight from Panama scientist to accompany me on a thorough City, ascending the Bayano River to its trip of exploration of interior Darien, I headwaters, and descending the Chucunawill deposit cash to your credit, before I que River to a point near its mouth. In start, sufficient to pay his salary and less than one day I covered in the air more expenses for the entire time we are gone, territory than the expedition later covered and you will pay him yourselves from this in four months through the jungle. I fund. He will then be solely responsible traveled in the first plane as pathfinder, to you. Furthermore, I will guarantee and the second plane followed about half that he may leave the party at any mo a mile in the rear. When I saw somement that he feels the results of the trip thing I wished to have photographed, I do not justify him in continuing, or if he got my pilot to sweep low and circle over feels that any deception is being prac the spot, which was a signal for the ticed.”

second plane, containing the photograAll three institutions declared that this pher, to follow our example and take the was a proposal that could not be refused. pictures. An army topographer, in my Especially so, because Darien is a sort of plane, made notes of the geography of the “missing link” in the scientists' knowl- country as we raced along. In this way edge of American fauna and flora. The we got a very fair record of the mountain animal and vegetable life of North and ranges and water systems of the whole Central America is sharply differentiated region. from the corresponding life of South The first fruit of this flight delighted

me very much, for it proved my surmise of the United States. These savages about the nature of the interior to be rigidly apply the “single standard” of correct. There were

two mountain morals, and the only punishment for ranges, one paralleling the Atlantic coast- infidelity is death. Proof, or even reasonline and the other the Pacific. Between able circumstantial evidence of it, is them lay a level valley, twenty-five miles invariably followed by the punishment. wide and nearly one hundred and fifty The result is that the offense is very miles long.

rarely given. The story that had preBut I was even more excited by the ceded us into the jungle was, that we were evidences of human habitations of a coming to kidnap their women; and the much higher type than those of any opposition that dogged us all the way - Indians I had ever seen before. Time through the country was based on this after time we would see a village below us, report. After we left the friendly and not a few huts carelessly huddled together polygamous Chocoi, no member of our but many dwellings set in orderly rows party saw a single native woman until upon a geometric pattern and dominated after we had reached the Atlantic Coast, by a great communal house big enough and then only after all but three of us had to foregather all the hundreds of inhabi gone on back to Panama and I had tants of the village. Some of these proved to the head chief that I was tribal assembly places were built on hill- genuinely interested in the welfare of his sides, so that they were in effect three people. stories high. In several villages, the in After we left Yavisa for our plunge into habitants appeared much fairer than the jungle, we were subjected to conIndians I had known; though we never tinual surveillance of the most trying got a close view of them, for when we kinds. Every night our ears were filled swooped from a thousand feet to two with weird forest cries from upstream and hundred above ground, they disappeared below—whistlings that we mistook for like gophers into their holes, going doubt bird-calls until we observed that they less into the jungle to escape this fearsome

in mathematical combinations apparition from the skies. Months later, which clearly proved their human origin I talked to inhabitants of these villages, and that they were signals between unwhose recollection of my aërial visit was seen observers. In the morning, we still a fresh memory of terror.

would find their footprints on the river

banks, and we would also find wild turkey A HAZARDOUS JOURNEY

feathers stuck in patterns in the mud, SHALL only sketch the long, disheart witchcraft magic to hinder our progress.

ening, toilsome journey that led at the At the mouth of the Tuquesa River, we very end to the White Indians. We surprised a party of Cunas Bravos who made friends with the Chocoi Indians near had camped there to ambush us, and of Yavisa, and learned much about their whom we had received warning from a customs. We also learned that our com friendly Chocoi chief. ing on this second expedition had been broadcast by word of mouth throughout

DEATH IN THE EXPEDITION the interior, and that we should be HEN we had sickness to contend opposed at every step of the way. The with. Dr. Brin got malaria and I reason for this antagonism is a high sent him back to Yavisa with one canoe tribute to the character of the Indians. and its crew. He returned to Panama Except for the Chocois themselves, all the and died the day after his arrival. Fartribes of Darien are monogamous, and ther upstream, Dr. Baer was infected by they have, besides, quite the highest flies that bit his arm after they had settled standard of sexual morality I have en on a tumor in a monkey he was dissecting. countered anywhere in the world. When We were now too far inland to send him I say this, I do not except the white men back, and for weeks his sufferings were a

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