The American Indian, July, 1927

A Creek’s Uncles Always Selected His Companions in Life

By Joe Bruner

            A young Indian’s uncles usually selected his wife for him.  The uncles met and went in a body to the uncles of the girl and had a talk with them.  The best recommendation that a young man could give was that he was a good hunter and a good provider of meat.

             The parents of the two were never consulted concerning the marriage of their son and daughter.  If the uncles were satisfied, that settled the whole matter.  No one dared to object to the couple marrying after the agreement was made.  A time was set, and as a sealing of the contract, the young man was required to show the parents of the girl that he would make good by killing a fine deer and carrying some to the camp or [the] home of the girl.  This was done to carry out the agreement in good faith.  Then the girl was given to the young man for a wife.

             The widowhood of the Red Man was very impressive.  The womenfolk of the deceased husband took charge of the widow at once.  The widow, according to custom, was not allowed to marry again for four moons[1]. These women watched over the widow night and day, looking after her wants.  She was clothed only in her commonest dresses.  Her hair was unkempt entirely for four moons.

            When the four moons ran out, she was allowed to pick a husband out of the family of her deceased husband.  If she knew of one of the family whom she thought would be suitable, she reported it to her guard-women who had charge of her.  This report was communicated to the man of her choice.  Both sides of the family were notified of the wishes of the widow, and as a regular thing, the match was consummated all right.

            Before the marriage, there was a ceremony carried out by the women who had charge of the so-called bride.  For four days after the four moons ran out, the widow was made to oil and comb her hair and put on her best dress.  Each morning about sunrise, a fire was built upon the banks of a stream of water.  Two sticks of wood were placed across each other.  When these sticks burned in two was a signal for the widow to take one of the fire-brands and enter the stream, walking backwards facing the rising sun.

            Then placing the fire-brand before her face, she dove in the water extinguishing the fire.  This was repeated until the four ends of the fire-brands were extinguished in the water.  This ended the widowhood of the woman, and she was then ready to marry her choice of her deceased husband’s relatives.  The women guards were then relieved of their watch.

Indian Fishing

            A day was named for all of the neighborhood to camp on the bank of a stream of water on a certain evening, and each man was required to bring with him ten, fifteen, or twenty bundles of what is known as Devil’s shoestring.

            The writer does not know the botanical name for the plant.  It is a little gray-leaf shrub that grows spontaneously in very sandy soil.  It has roots that grow as down in the sandy soil.  This is pulled out by hand, a very tough job, and a dozen of these roots are doubled back and forth about a foot long.  It makes a bundle about the size of one’s wrist.  Sometimes there is as much as two thousand bundles of these brought in by the people.  It depends on the body of water to be poisoned.

            The night before the poison is placed in the water, each man will get him a post, say 4 inches in diameter and 6 feet long.  This post, pointed at one end and the other end smooth and level, is stuck in the sand or bottom of the stream.  Early in the morning, the men march out into the water and take their stand.  Each is handed say six bundles of the stuff, and at a signal or order, everyone goes to pounding with a little maul the Devil string upon the top of the stake.

            This [is] beaten into a pulp and thrown in the water.  When the most of the roots are pounded out the fish begin to flounder and jump out of the water.  It is time then for the excitement of killing fish.  All hands get their bow and arrows, wade in and enjoy the sport of killing fish.

             The rule is, the man shooting the first arrow into the fish is owner of the fish, no matter how many arrows are shot into the same fish.  Each man has a private mark on his arrows so that there is never any trouble in finding the owner of the arrow.  In this way a great many fish are killed.  Next to killing deer, the Redman enjoys these fish kills.

Medicine Man—Prophet

            The Prophet is one person and the Medicine Man is another.  The Redman will go to the Prophet with some garment of the sick one.  Without any long talk the garment is turned over to the Prophet.  He places it on the ground or floor, as the case may be, and looks at it for several minutes.  He then recites to the caller who brought the garment, what the trouble is with the sick one; that a certain animal, bird, fish, or snake is the cause of the disease—they have all kinds of imaginary creatures, such as water wolves and sea animals.

            The Prophet mentions what has caused the sickness and advises the caller to go to some certain Medicine Man who would understand what remedies to use in order to secure a cure.  The Prophet will tell whether or not the patient will recover.  The caller will then return home and ask the services of the Medicine Man that he recommended.

             Curious to say, there are some never-failing remedies among the Red Men’s Medicine Men.  For instance, a gun-shot wound.  A Medicine Man will cure a gun-shot wound in about half the time that a medical doctor can.  Now again, there is a cure for appendicitis without a knife.  Box elder is a sure cure for it.  Go to the river bottom in this country, chop out bark and chips of the wood at least an inch in thickness.  Make a tea of about three of these chips.  When boiled down to a strong tea, which has a sweet taste, give the patient a teacup full to drink while hot, and then bathe him just above the pain with the chips as hot as the patient can bear for at least one hour each night before bedtime.  If this is done for a week or ten days it is found to be a never-failing cure.

            The Red Man also has a sure cure for a snake bite, in fact, he has several, but we will explain the better one.  It is very simple but it will cure any snake bite, as it has been thoroughly tested in many cases.  Now this snake-bite remedy looks so simple that one would doubt its effect, but be sure and try it if you wish to be cured.  Take about four ounces of any kind of strong tobacco, plug is best, cut very fine.  Then take an onion, one that will weigh at least four ounces, and cut this up very fine and mix with the tobacco.  Add about three heaping tablespoons full of common salt.  Take a potato masher and mash these three ingredients until they make a soft poultice.  The onion, or the sap of it, will dampen the mixture.

            Apply the mixed poultice to the wound at once.  This applied before death will cure even a rattler’s bite.  Some say there is no cure for the sting or bite of the centipede.  This is also cured.  When stung or bitten by one, take the feathers of a turkey, the wing feathers preferably, and burn them to ashes.  Rub the ashes all over the affected part.  One application is generally enough to cure a bite or sting.

             The same remedy will also cure a tarantula bite.  There is a very poisonous little spider—black and velvety—also a gray spider of the same variety.  When bitten by either of these, apply some fresh-chewed tobacco on the part bitten.  A bumble bee, a honey bee, a wasp, or a hornet sting is very shortly cured, as every human carries the remedy along with them.  As soon as stung, get all the ear wax you can produce and rub on the affected part for a quick relief and cure.

            The writer knows a remedy for mad dog bite, but he paid so much to learn how to keep off hydrophobia after being bitten that it would not be ethical for him to make such a valuable remedy known.

            Most everybody has a remedy for consumption, therefore we will give ours.  As long as the Red Man lived in his tepee and ate wild meat, he knew nothing of pneumonia or consumption.

(To be Continued.)

[1] Four moons is equivalent to four lunar months.