January 7, 1929
The Indians give expression to their superstition in diverse other ways. Often their notions have to do with hunter's luck, which must be safeguarded at all costs.
The Land of Feast and Famine - The Barren Ground Indians
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The Indians give expression to their superstition in diverse other ways. Often their notions have to do with hunter's luck, which must be safeguarded at all costs. Here the influence of woman is of the utmost importance. In many different ways she is supposed to drive the game in the direction of the hunter or to drive it away.
Women are not permitted to have anything to do with hunting or trapping; they are forbidden to touch the family gun or to set foot in the hunting-canoe and under no circumstances may they paddle over a seine set in a lake — they must paddle round it. Even an article of dress which a woman has made use of may, in certain cases, bring about misfortune. For example, a hunter must be careful to refrain from placing himself beneath such an article and must under no circumstances accept such an article as a present. Once upon a time a starving Indian asked a white man married to a squaw for some clothes in place of the rags he had on. The white man felt sorry for the poor fellow, dragged a fine woolen blanket from the bridal bed, and handed it to him. Instead of thanks, the benefactor received no more than a volley of abuse for having been wicked enough to wish misfortune upon another's head. Strangely enough, the same Indian would not have hesitated an instant to come in contact with the same woolen blanket had the white man's squaw under a different set of conditions been alone beneath it.
Since ancient times women during their period of menstruation have been considered as unclean and obliged to maintain a separate existence. Even today traces of this custom are observable east of Slave Lake, but, in so far as my own experience has determined, the custom is more general amongst the tribes living along the Mackenzie River. In certain localities women during this critical period are forbidden to use the door of the cabin. There is a hole in the wall just beneath her bunk, and through this aperture she must crawl in and out. Nor is she permitted to follow along the common trails. A trapper once told me that he had come across the tracks of one of these "unclean" women. Mile after mile they went through the deep snow alongside a well-packed sled-trail.
Thus the Indian's world of ideas reeks with mystical superstitions, as is always the case with those striving to maintain their lives in the wilderness. Just how their mental outlook came to develop will be perhaps best understood by those who have themselves tried living up there in the north. When the sun stands shedding its warmth over the snow-fields for the first time after a long winter, and when the caribou begin by the million to flood the wastes which formerly lay empty and desolate, it may then well happen that each and every one feels within himself a sudden wave of that same heathenish feeling which first caused the Indians to bow down before the sun and offer up their praise to the god of the hunters.