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Pomo Bear Doctors, by S.A. Barrett, [1917], at


The ideas that the doctor is actually transformed into a bear, that bear hair grows out through his skin, and that he comes to life after having been killed—ideas found among certain California Indians 19 have not been discovered among the Pomo.

As might be expected, from the contiguity of the two groups and their numerous cultural identities, the Pomo and Yuki 20 bear doctors are very similar. The Yuki, however, have certain beliefs that the Pomo do not possess.

The Yuki bear doctor began by repeatedly dreaming of bears and was taken out and instructed by actual bears, thus placing the bear in the position of a true guardian spirit, and making the doctor a real

p. 463

shaman. Later he was thought to be instructed and to have his powers developed by older shamans. The Pomo have no such notions.

The Yuki bear doctor was not always an evildoer, but in some measure an accepted benefactor, particularly in curing bear bites and in avenging wrongs to his community. His capacity thus was publicly recognized—a fact that is further evidenced by his performance of sleight-of-hand tricks. The Pomo bear doctor never performed any cure, practiced his magic with the greatest secrecy and only for his own satisfaction and aggrandizement, and had death awaiting him at the hands of his own people if he was unfortunate enough to be discovered.

The Yuki bear doctor carried a basket containing a stone which rumbled in imitation of the bear's growl as the shaman shook his head. Analogous to this was the Pomo bear doctor's set of water-filled baskets which swashed like a real bear 's viscera as he ran.

Both carried beads; but the Yuki to secure appropriate burial if killed, the Pomo as an armor and to bribe to secrecy him who might discover him.

The mode of attack and the dismemberment of the victim were quite similar in both tribes.


462:19 Kroeber, loc. cit.

462:20 This comparison is based on manuscript data of Dr. Kroeber concerning the Yuki.

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