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Chapter XVI

The Character of the Indian

To complete this history, and to give a relation of all my observations during a period of more than twenty years' residence in the province, it will be important to delinate the character of the Indians, as I have been enabled to learn it. The undertaking will be arduous, I know, and a curate of forty years' residence among them, once told his bishop, "they were incomprehensible"--to which I agree; but nevertheless, I will make the attempt. My idea is that the natural, or Divine precepts implanted in the heart of man by his Creator, are by the Indians observed in a retrograde manner, or in the opposite sense--that is, the affirmative with them, is negative, and the negative, the affirmative; and this opposition appears innate among all classes of them. An Indian curate of the Indians, appears to be of the same opinion, if we may judge from his description. "The Indians," he said, lead a life of indolence, rather than devote themselves to the enlightening of their souls with ideas of civilization and catholicism; it is repugnant to their feelings, which have become vitiated by the unrestricted customs among them. Their inclinations, to possess themselves of the property of others, are unbounded. Their hypocrisy, when they pray, is as much to be feared, as their insolence, when in tumultuous disorder. They are never grateful for any benefit, nor do they pardon an injury, and they never proffer civilities, unless to accomplish some interested motive. They are

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ready to expose themselves to the greatest danger, to satisfy their predominant passions. The future from them, is ever veiled by the present. Their inconstancy and want of confidence deprive them of friends, and he, who, by deception, holds them in subjection, may reduce them to almost abject slavery." Such is the picture of them drawn by this Indian curate, who was of Mexico, and I think, although referring to the Mexicans, it is sufficient to comprehend the general character of the Indian. Those of California are less curious, and in no wise so industrious; for the Mexicans, when in their gentilism, sowed and prepared the maize, as well as other grain for eating, and the females spun and wove a covering for the body, out of cotton, which they also cultivated.

The Indians of California may be compared to a species of monkey; for in naught do they express interest, except in imitating the actions of others, and, particularly in copying the ways of the "razon," or white men, whom they respect as beings much superior to themselves; but in so doing, they are careful to select vice, in preference to virtue. This is the result, undoubtedly, of their corrupt, and natural disposition.

The Indian, in his grave, humble and retired manner, conceals a hypocritical and treacherous disposition. He will deceive the most minute observer, as has been the case with many, or with all, who have endeavored to learn his character, until time has revealed to them his true qualities. He never looks at any one, while in conversation, but has a wandering and malicious gaze. For benefits received, he is never grateful; and instead of looking upon that which is given, be beholds only that which is withheld. His eyes are never uplifted, but like those of the swine, are cast to the earth. Truth is not in him, unless to the injury of another, and he is exceedingly false.


These Indians had the same belief as the Ancients, regarding the course of the sun, and believed that when he set, he went to repose in the arms of Thetis. He had twelve Palaces, which were placed at equal distances around the earth; in each of which, he was accustomed to pass a month. These twelve palaces were marked by a circle, called the zodiac, but with signs, which alluded to certain passages in the fable.

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