It is a popular belief that the Eskimo or Esquimaux, whichever you please, are Indians, but it is quite as likely that they are Mongolians. Ensign Roger Wells, U. S. N., who has recently visited a great many new facts which are of interest, and from his report the following article has been condensed:
Three types are observable among the Eskimo of Alaska. First are the tall, cadaverous natives on Kotzebue Sound, who live on fish, ptarmigans and marmots. They always look hungry, and in fact they always are.
Then there is the tall, strongly-knit type of the Nooatoks, a gigantic race, of a splendid physique, that would be remarkable in any part of the world. Rugged as the mountains among which they live, vigorous and courageous, they stop at nothing but the impossible, to accomplish a desired end. Their food supply is the reindeer, mountain sheep, ptarmigans, and fish.
The third type is the short, stumpy one, probably that of the old Eskimo before the admixture with southern tribes, now found on the Arctic coast. Whale, seal, and deer meat are their food staples.
The Eskimo have coarse, black hair, some with a tinge of brown. Men have the crown of the head closely cropped so that reindeer may not see the waving locks when the hunter creeps behind bunch grass. They have black eyes and high cheekbones. The bones of the face are better protected from the severity of the climate by a thicker covering of flesh than southern races.
Generally, their beard is very scant, and most of them devote otherwise idle hours to pulling out the hairs. All have good teeth, but they are subjected to severe usage, being used for pincers, vises, and fluting-machines. The teeth are also employed in drawing bolts, untying knots, holding the mouthpiece of a drill, shaping boot-soles, stretching and tanning skins. When they become uneven from hard usage, they are leveled off with a file or whetstone.
At any time, from sixteen to twenty-two years of age, the men have their lower lips pierced under each corner of the mouth for labrets, or plugs. When the incision is first made, sharp-pointed pieces of ivory are put in. After the wound heals, the hole is gradually stretched to half an inch in diameter. Some of the poorer natives wear labrets made from cannel coal, ivory, and glass stoppers obtained from ships, which they shape for the purpose. All who can obtain them have agate ones.
Some of the girls have their ears pierced just back of the lobe, where it is thinnest. They wear ivory earrings, some of which are carved with plain figures, while others have a setting of turquoise. Some of them have a string of beads, extending from one earring to the other, suspended under the throat.
Tattooing the chin among the women is general, and it is kept up, so they say, because it has always been the custom.
At the age of six, one narrow, perpendicular line is Drawn down the centre of the chin, powdered charcoal being used in coloring. At about twelve years of age, the line is broadened to half an inch and a narrow line drawn parallel to it on each side. Clothing for men consists of knee-breeches, belted at the loins; a loose-fitting coat trimmed around the bottom and the hood with wolf or wolverine, or a blending of both; a pair of stockings, and a short-legged pair of boots with sealskin soles. In winter, two suits are worn, the inner suit with the hair next to the body and the other with the hair turned out. They are intelligent beyond what might be expected and are quick in providing ways and means in cases of emergency. Some of them carve with a knife on pipe-stems or drill bows made of mastodon or walrus ivory, pictures illustrating events in the life of the artist, tribal history, or festal occasions. There are instances where they have communicated with each other by means of pictures, carved on wood or ivory. In their drawings, they have no idea of the perspective, and instead of drawing from nature, they are more apt to incline to the grotesque and hideous, just as the fancy may seize them. Our pictures are unintelligible to them, unless they are distinctly ludicrous. Children are given from two to six names, but none are ancestors or respected relatives. The literal meaning of the names are stone, foxes or different kins, seals of all varieties and sizes, birds, animals, parts of animals, of birds, of fishes, or of the body, sections of the country, winds, tides, motion, fast or slow, decorative articles, and names compounded in an expressive way as Amok-Tigara, the she-wolf of the Tigaras. The Eskimo their ple, cruel to the aged and infirm, hastening kill- outright. They are also rather gloom- ily inclined, being superstitious to a remark- able degree. But they have their games, such as they are. Festal occasions are early in December when they have a kind of harvest-home, entertainments being given every day by each hut in succession, with an evening dance in the assembly-house. A day will be devoted to whales,, another to reindeer, others to seal, their whaleboats, sleds, husbands, sweethearts, and wives. This festival is kept up until the whole program is completed or someone dies through exhaustion in dances of endurance. The next is that of good cheer, in June, when they quit whaling and exchange presents, give scraps to the poor, and toss each other up in blankets. Another season of gaiety is when the representatives of different tribes meet at the summer rendezvous for the purpose of exchanging commodities. Wrestling matches are indulged in. Dancing, foot-races, and both sexes join in games of polo, football, and tag. In summer, girls toss sand-stone balls with their hands, two balls with one hand, or three balls with both hands. In winter, they toss an ice-ball with their feet, keeping it from touching the ground for hours at a time. Sometimes they toss it from one to another.
- Los Angeles herald., February 03, 1907, Image 37