Tuesday, December 22, 2009

canyon, Indians, booze, birth, Indains

Sunday, December 24. I said Mass. We set out from the foot of the willow at half past nine in the morning, and halted about two in the afternoon in the same canyon, at a dry arroyo not far from a small spring of water, having traveled some four short leagues to the west-northwest.


Near the spring by the road we saw a village of Indians perched in the crags, from which they watched us pass. The commander called them and showed them glass beads but only one woman had the courage to come near. The commander gave her a string of beads. Shortly before halting near the little spring of water we saw another village whose houses were some half subterranean grottoes formed among the rocks and partly covered with branches and earth, like rabbit warrens. The Indians came out of their grottoes as if they were angry, motioning to us with the hand that we must not go forward, talking in jargon with great rapidity, slapping their thighs, jumping like wild goats and with similar movements, for which reason since the other expedition they have been called the Dancers. One especially, who must have been some little chief, as soon as he saw us, began to talk with great rapidity, shouting and agitated as if angry, and as if he did not wish us to pass through his lands, and jerking himself to pieces with blows on his thighs, and with jumps, leaps, and gestures.


I learned at night that because it was Christmas Eve refreshments were being served to the soldiers; and in order if possible to prevent drunken carousal, after dinner I said to the commander:
"Sir, although my opinion is of no value and I do not cut any figure here, I can do no less than to tell you that I have learned that there is drinking today."
"Yes, there is," he replied.
"Well, Sir," I continued, "I wish to say that is does not seem to me right that that we should celebrate the birth of the Infant Jesus with drunkenness."
"Father," he said, "I do not give it to them in order that they may get drunk."
"Clearly this would be the case, "I said to him, because then the sin would be even greater, but if you know that they are sure to get drunk you should not give it to them."
He said to me then, "The king sends it for me and they deliver it to me in order that I may give it to the soldiers."
"This would be all right at the proper time," I replied. "But I understand that to be in case of necessity."
"Well, Father," he said, "it is better that they should get drunk than to do some other things."
"But, Sir," I replied, "drunkenness is a sin, and one who cooperates also sins, and so if you know that a person will get drunk on so much you should give him less or none at all."
He did not say any more and I went to my tent without being able to prevent this disorder, because the commander had already made up his mind to distribute the liquor. And so he immediately gave it to the people, a pint to each one, saying in a loud voice:
"Be careful that you don't get drunk, because if any one is found drunk outside his tent I'll punish him."
With this he satisfied his conscience, and the people that night were very noisy, singing and dancing from the effects of the liquor, not caring that we were in so bad a mountain in the rain, and so delayed with the saddle animals and the tired and the dead cattle. Such is the rule of those absolute lords, in evidence of which I have related this incident.

Monday, December 25.--Because a little before midnight on this holy night of the Nativity, the wife of a soldier, the one whom I mentioned yesterday, happily gave birth to a boy, and because the day was very raw and foggy, it was decided that we should remain here today. I therefore had an opportunity to say three Masses, and after them I solemnly baptized the boy, naming him Salvador Ygnacio. The day continued foggy until the afternoon, when the sun shone a little, and the night began somewhat fair. Because the place is very short of water and pasturage the cattle went ahead on the trail. Today I was slightly relieved of my ills.
So savage and wild are the Indians of these sierras that last night they left their huts and climbed up in the rocks, perhaps fearful at seeing that we had stopped and did not go forward as they signaled us to do. Although they have seen that nobody has done them the least harm, yet very rarely have they come down to the floor of the canyon; but some have permitted themselves to be seen on the tops of the hills among the rocks. From this I infer that although an attempt might be made to found in this neighborhood a mission for the Jecuiche tribe, in this case it were possible it would be as difficult to reduce these Indians to a settlement as to confine wild sheep to a domestic fold; for it will not be easy to get them out from among the rocks, unless God does it all, for they climb with the ease and speed of deer.


-Padre Pedro Font

related: nochebuena, the witness, scuffle on Baffin Island

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