Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 119


Springtime, or when the flowers were blooming in the mountains, was the Indian's time for wooing. Polygamy was common among them, a man being allowed to take as many wives as he chose, or could pay for. This privilege, however, did not extend to the woman. Young women were regarded as the personal property of their parents, were usually sold to the highest eligible bidder, and the payment of their price comprised the wedding ceremony, although the medicine man was sometimes asked to be present. A smile was all that was necessary to let the young brave know that his suit was favored and the Indian maid had therefore to be rather sparing of her smiles. After the brave had settled his choice on some particular maiden he opened negotiations for her hand by presenting her father with gifts of skins, robes, and other goods. When these had been offered in sufficient quantity the father gave his consent and henceforth they were considered man and wife. If the match for any reason should be broken off all preliminary payments were returned to the giver. If successful in his married life the braves have been known to continue this presentation of gifts to their bride's father long after their marriage. After marriage the wife was the property of the man, to be dealt with as he chose. She might be sold or gambled away, although this privilege was seldom if ever exercised. Instances of unfaithfulness on the part of the woman were very rare. The punishment for this

p. 120

was death. Wife beating, such as is frequently indulged in by the so-called civilized man, was never known. Death was a much more preferable punishment, whipping being considered most humiliating and disgraceful.

Next: Widows