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Idleness after the Hunt

 Native American Nations | Among the Arrapaho                    

 

     The days that succeed a successful hunt, after the hides are in process of tanning, are passed in general idleness. All hands have eaten their fill, and with an Indian a full stomach means a glad but slothful heart. The bucks lie listlessly about, while the squaws scratch their beads, comb and plait the long straight hair, and disgustingly catch and eat the vermin that abound therein. If cleanliness is next to godliness, the foulness of the Indian is his greatest sin. A peculiar and disagreeable odor pervades everything that belongs to them, although much of it is due to other causes than personal filth. The tanning, drying of beef or buffalo, cooking, etc., simultaneously in progress in and about. the lodge, produce a variety of unpleasant scents, which permeate their clothing and impregnate the atmosphere. The infrequent change of the former is also a fruitful source of physical impurity. The Turco-Russian bath is, however, of very common application among them. It is their panacea.

     The manner of its preparation is necessarily primitive. Willow wands are sharpened and thrust into the ground, and their smaller ends are interlaced so as to form a bower little more than a yard in height, and eight or ten in circumference. Over this is stretched and secured a piece of canvas or shin, minor which, after several lame stones have been brought to a red heat and rolled to its centre, a dozen or more Arapaho crowd and crouch. Water is slowly poured upon the stones, from which arise hot air and vapor. After profuse perspiration, the inmates leap into an adjoining stream, or wallow naked in the snow. This bathing establishment is called a "wicky-up," and they clot the bank, of water-courses in all Indian countries.

    An Arrapalro belle, before she retire, greases her hair arch face with liquid marrow from a, bone set upright near the fire to reduce its contents to the proper consistency. Her hair is then braided a la Marguerite. In this manner the Sioux and Cheyenne squaw wear theirs; but in the morning our Arapaho maiden undoes the careful plaiting of the evening, which has given her hair a wavy appearance, and permits it to fall unconfined about her shoulders. Her face now presents an excellent surface for the reception of paint, the use of which, by-the-way, is as much for protection against inclement weather as for supposed adornment. The most approved mode is to make a general application of chrome-yellow, with finishing touches of vermilion, but often only a little rouge is employed.

     Feather Head, whose features are here reproduced, is a typical Arapaho girl; and when riding astride of her pony, her jet-black hair falling loosely upon the red blanket drat envelops her, she is a picturesque and interesting object. Her only ornaments are several score of brass bangles, not dissimilar to those wore by a Murray Hill belle. Her dress, other than the indispensable blanket, ordinarily comprises buckskin leggings gird moccasins and a calico gown. The latter is generally a mere sack, with a drawn opening for the head, and with short, full sleeves, through which, in charming ignorance of or indifference to the use of hooks and eyes or buttons, the aboriginal mother gives natural sustenance to her child.

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