Missionary Travels in South Africa,


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"In the early times the Indians owned this land, where they lived, bounded by the lakes, rivers, and hills, or determined by a certain number of days’ journey in this direction or that. Those tracts formed the hunting grounds owned and used by the different families. Wherever they went the Indians took care of the game animals, especially the beaver, just as the government takes care of the land today. So these families of hunters would never think of damaging the abundance or the source of supply of the game, because that had come to them from their fathers and grandfathers and those behind them. It is, on the other hand, the white man who needs to be watched. He makes the forest fires, he goes through the woods and kills everything he can find, whether he needs its flesh or not, and then when all the animals in one section are killed he takes the train and goes to another where he can do the same.

"We Indian families used to hunt in a certain section for beaver. We would only kill the small beaver and leave the old ones to keep breeding. Then when they got too old, they too would be killed, just as a farmer kills his pigs, preserving the stock for his supply of young. The beaver was the Indians’ pork; the moose, his beef; the partridge, his chicken; and there was the caribou or red deer, that was his sheep. All these formed the stock on his family hunting ground, which would be parceled out among the sons when the owner died. He said to his sons, ’You take this part; take care of this tract; see that it always produces enough.’ That was what my grandfather told us. His land was divided among two sons, my father and Pishabo (Tea Water), my uncle. We were to own this land so no other Indians could hunt on it. Other Indians could go there and travel through it, but could not go there to kill the beaver. Each family had its own district where it belonged, and owned the game. That was each one’s stock for food and clothes. If another Indian hunted on our territory we, the owners, could shoot him. This division of the land started in the beginning of time, and always remained unchanged. I remember about twenty years ago some Nipissing Indians came north to hunt on my father’s land. He told them not to hunt beaver, ’This is our land,’ he told them; ’you can fish but must not touch the fur, as that is all we have to live on.’ Sometimes an owner would give permission for strangers to hunt for a certain time in a certain tract. This was often done for friends, or when neighbors had had a poor season. Later the favor might be returned."1

In the great majority of the American Indian and Australian tribes a man is strictly forbidden to kill or eat the animals whose name his clan bears as a totem. The Central Australian may not, in addition, eat the flesh of any animal killed or even touched by persons standing in certain relations of kinship to him. At certain times also he is forbidden to eat the flesh of a number of animals, and at all times he must share all food secured with the tribal elders and some others.

A native of Queensland will put his mark on an unripe zamia fruit, and may be sure it will be untouched and that when it is ripe he has only to go and get it. The Eskimo, though starving, will not molest the sacred seal basking before their huts. Similarly in social intercourse the inhibitions are numerous. To some of his sisters, blood and tribal, the Australian may not speak at all; to others only at certain distances, according to the degree of kinship. The west African fetish acts as a police, and property protected by it is safer than under civilized laws. Food and palm wine are placed beside the path with a piece of fetish suspended near by, and no one will touch them without leaving the proper payment. The garden of a native may be a mile from the house, unfenced, and sometimes not visited for weeks by the owner, but it is untouched if protected by fetish.

1Speck, F.G., n/an/an/an/a"The Family Hunting Band an the Basis of Algonkian Social Organization," Amer. Anth., N.S., 17: 294.


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Chicago: "Missionary Travels in South Africa,," Missionary Travels in South Africa, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=24VAYNCEWXHGE1F.

MLA: . "Missionary Travels in South Africa,." Missionary Travels in South Africa,, Vol. 17, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=24VAYNCEWXHGE1F.

Harvard: , 'Missionary Travels in South Africa,' in Missionary Travels in South Africa,. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=24VAYNCEWXHGE1F.