There is very little known about the Patamona Indians. Verrill is reputed to be the first 'White' to visit this tribe. One of Verrill's paintings of a 'Patamona Girl' supplements the original post; it has been contributed by the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Museum.
Death Dealers of the Guiana Jungles
A Race Which Hunts and Fights With the Deadliest of Poisons and Eats Food From Which Prussic Acid Has Been Squeezed.
Illustrated by Jefferson MacHamer
The Atlanta Constitution; Mar 18, 1923; collected by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle Sept. 2011.
(NOTE—this is the first of two articles by an explorer of the British Guiana wilderness, describing his discovery of a hitherto isolated tribe of aborigines.—The Editor.)
The fears of my Indian guide anxiously expressed to me as we approached the region of the Patamonas were not without reason, for these aborigines of the Guiana forests are famed throughout that part of South America as makers of poison. Not only do they concoct and use the terrible Wurali, but they are also adepts at preparing various subtle and deadly substances with which they destroy their enemies—whether these enemies be real or fancied.
There are incidents on record of Patamonas poisoning an entire crew of "balata bleeders," or gold diggers, in revenge for the black men's interfering with the Indian women. Woe be it to any Indian of another tribe who earns the Patamonas' enmity! Moreover, the Patamonas have the fame of sending forth most of the mysterious "Kenaimas," or curses, and their Peaimen or witch doctors frequently possess hypnotic powers. For all these reasons the tribe is held in peculiar dread by other tribes, and no strange Indian will venture alone into a Patamona village or, if he can possibly avoid it, partake of their food or drink.
The Wurali poison, to be sure, is employed by other tribes as well, but only a limited number of men know the secrets of its composition and this is carefully guarded. Several species of strychninelike lianas are used, as well as certain gums, snake poison and poisonous ants. The results of Wurali are almost instantaneous. A bird, shot with the poisoned dart, rarely has time to flutter before it falls helpless and dying to the earth. These poisoned darts of the blow-gun, indeed, are appallingly effective—slender fragile splinters of bamboo, though they are tipped with the mortal Wurali. For small birds, however, plain unpoisoned darts are the rule, but for larger winged creatures or quadrupeds, or enemies, the venom-tipped arrows are employed.
WHY THE PATAMONAS ARE DREADED.
"These aborigines of the Guiana forests are adepts at preparing various subtle and deadly poisons with which they destroy their enemies—whether these enemies be real or fancied. Woe be it to an Indian of another tribe who earns the Patamonas' enmity! They are, indeed, held in peculiar dread by other tribes, and no strange Indian will venture alone into a Patamona village, or, if he can possibly avoid it, partake of their food and drink."
IN order to prevent the dart from dropping from the stricken creature before the poison has done its work, as well as to guard against the fallen missile menacing the lives of their tribesmen walking through the forest, the dart to be used is inserted between the knife-edged teeth of the parai jaw and is twirled about until the poison-covered tip is nearly severed from the arrow. When this enters the body of a bird or beast it immediately breaks off, leaving the poison-covered splinter in the wound, while the harmless remaining portion of the dart falls to the ground.
Such was the hospitable reputation of the people we were seeking. Moreover, their favorite article of diet—the cascava root, is itself a deadly poison—that is, originally, though by a process taught among themselves, they can transform it into an edible both nutritive and palatable.
This was my third visit to British Guiana, I had come to study the aborigines, to dwell among them, to secure photographs and data and to make collections. On such a quest, therefore—a search for the untamed Indian in his native haunts—my boat crawled slowly up the Mazaruni river.
My objective was an obscure creek about one hundred and fifty miles distant. I had a suspicion, nevertheless, that my tedious trip might prove a wild-goose chase, for no one, official "Protectors of Indians" or any others, could give me any definite information as to the presence of Indian settlements on the upper Mazaruni. To set forth blindly in search of “wild" Indians, seemed about as hopeless as the proverbial search for a needle in the hay.
All I had to go upon as to direction, was rumor, for by merest chance I heard from a civilized Indian that there had been a village in the mountains of that district, but whether it still existed, or whether the "bucks” had migrated elsewhere, was uncertain. Only by personally investigating could I ascertain for sure and I had set forth, going as light as I dared, to gain time.
Slowly the hours passed, for I was all impatience to reach our destination and learn the truth, but the monotony was often broken by successful hunts in the later afternoons, by shooting alligators and by fishing. Otherwise our eyes gazed continuously upon two jungle walls of a thousand shades of green stretching away as far as eye can see; two ramparts of stupendous, spreading trees, of giant ferns, feathery palms, thorny scrub, rank weeds and tangled brush; between the greenery a dark brown, shimmering mile-wide lane of water, smooth as burnished metal, oil-like, and mirroring the cloud-flecked sky and verdure of the shores. Here and there, masses of dull-brown rocks mar the glassy water, or wooded islands—bits of detached jungle hide the shores from sight, while over all reigns the silence of the vast wilderness, broken only by the strident screams of great red macaws, the screech of parrots, the clattering of toucans or the querulous cries of black caracara hawks. Such was the scene hour after hour, day after day, as in the spoon-bottomed river boat propelled by brawny, copper-skinned Indian paddlers, I pushed my way into the heart of the Guiana wilderness.
A score of times a day, a dozen times, perhaps, within an hour, the heavy boat must be hauled by brute strength up tumbling cataracts, the men leaping into the torrent, swimming, wading, struggling and tugging at the ropes until, inch by inch, the way is won. The boat, breasting the racing waves, rests at last upon calmer waters above the falls. At other times, by Herculean efforts, the craft must be lifted bodily over jutting fangs of rocks, or, by prodigious feats of paddling, forced across sinister, yawning, black whirlpools where, often for minutes at a time, the boat stands motionless, trembling like a frightened horse to the swirl and drag of waters and the frantic beat of paddles—and life hangs in the balance while one listens with bated breath for the crack of a breaking paddle which would spell death.
Thrills there are a-plenty: hair breadth escapes occur at every turn and yet one soon becomes accustomed to the ever-recurring dangers safely passed, to the marvelous wealth of vegetation, to the strange, birds and dozing alligators, to the fairylike world of reflections.
In such passes as these, my Indians retained implicit faith in the power of their ''beenas,'' or charms, to insure success, good fortune or skill in various occupations or undertakings. So absolute is the belief in these of Guiana Indians, that even civilized "bucks'' retain conviction of their potency.
Hunting beenas as a rule consists of rubbing certain plants or other materials into incisions in the skin.
Most of the plants used are caladiums, but certain grasses and nuts are also used and one of the most potent beenas is the mucous of a living frog, or the ashes of a burned frog rubbed into a cut. In every case, however, a different plant or material is used for a certain beena. Thus, a deer beena is a white and green caladium; a tapir beena is a black-spotted caladium; the agouti beena is a red-leafed caladium and the jaguar beena a caladium variegated with red and white spots. As a beena for the curassow or “Powi" a ground nut is used and this loses all its virtues if the plant is touched or looked upon by a woman. Even hunting dogs are treated with beenas and a certain grass, powdered and rubbed upon the nose of the dogs is supposed to insure their success in tracking the paca or libba.
Another powerful beena is the "ant beena." This consists of a frame of parallel strips of palm or bamboo through the interstices of which living ants are thrust with their heads exposed on one side, and this array of biting jaws is then pressed here and there upon the skin. Of course, this causes excruciating pain, but, in the mind of the Indian, it results in a hunting 'charm' of exceptional potency, for the worse the pain of a beena the more powerful it is. The Indian will endure any pain for the purpose of a beena, although he cannot withstand the pain of an injury or the sufferings caused by disease with the stoicism of the North American Indian.
Eventually the sublimity of the scenes is forgotten, monotonous and tedious becomes the trip, as day after day as night after night the tarpaulin is spread between the mighty forest trees and, watching the gleaming giant fireflies, one falls asleep in his hammock, oblivious to the hoarse croak of frogs, the call of night birds, the strident shrilling of insects or the distant scream of jaguar.
Yet it is only by such trips, by weeks of slow, creeping progress up the mighty rivers, by tramps through many miles of jungle, that we can reach the haunts of Guiana's redmen—the strange aborigines who dwell in the depths of the “bush” and who, each year, move farther and farther into the unknown, who are still as primitive as before Europeans first set foot upon American soil.
At last, after endless paddling, of hauling through falls and of portaging cataracts, the prow of our boat was run against the bank and the end of our upriver journey was reached. Now was to come the most important portion of the trip, for I was dependent upon the limited knowledge of my Indian informant, and very vague indeed it was, as he had never been in the vicinity and admitted that all he knew of the village was information imparted to him by other Indians.
Scarcely had we stepped ashore, however, before we found evidences of Indians; a rotting woodskin, or canoe, rested, half-buried in the mud of the creek, charred sticks told or camp fires, a discarded "suriajia" or pack basket lay in the underbrush and presently, one of my Bucks called out that he had located a trail. We shouldered our loads, and, in Indian file, plunged into the forest.
The Haunts of the Poison Makers:
"It is only by such trips, by weeks of slow, creeping progress up the mighty rivers, by tramps through miles of jungle, that we can reach the haunts of Guiana's red men—the strange aborigines who dwell in the depths of the 'bush' and who, each year, move further and further into the unknown."
Only the trained eye of an Indian could have followed that trail. Even so, time and time again my Indians were obliged to halt and search about until the all but invisible signs of a pathway were again discovered. And yet it was a trail beyond a doubt and traveled recently, for the dead leaves and moss were pressed together in a winding narrow path and where it crossed the muddy beds of forest streams the imprints of bare feet could be distinguished.
Soon the ground began to rise and we were laboriously climbing the foothills. Before long we were toiling with panting breaths up the precipitous mountain side, a mass of rugged loose boulders and sharp stones seemingly without end. But at last the summit was gained, and, having stopped for a moment to regain our breath and cool our sweltering bodies, we again resumed our journey through the semi-twilight of the forest.
At length we passed the remains of a crude thatched shelter. Nearby, my Arekuna guide pointed at a flimsy platform in a tree a dozen feet above the ground. He explained that this was a stand where Indians sat with ready bow and arrow, or poised blow gun to shoot agoutis. Presently, through the dense canopy of leaves and the maze of trunks and lianas we saw sunlight. We knew then a clearing was close at hand. The leading Buck halted.
“You makeum walk first, Chief," he remarked in low tones, "mabbe Patamonas no sabby me fren' an' make for shoot."
I knew that the Arekunas, the tribe of my Indians, and the Patamonas had once been deadly enemies, but I did not think that such hostility still existed.
"You makeum 'fraid Abraham?" I inquired.
"Patamonas worthless people, Chief," replied the Arekuna. "Plenty bad men, no likeum Arekuna, no likeum other Buckmen. Mabbe see Buck comin’ thinkum Kenaima, make for killum. No killum white man, him all same God. They no Christian chief, all same me."
I could not help but laugh. Considering that Abraham believed implicitly in good and evil spirits, in the ''water mama," in the weird half-mystical, half supernatural power of the Peaiman and that he never started on a voyage, hunt or other undertaking without first resorting to a "beena" or charm to insure success, his reference to his own "Christianity" and his evident attempt for Patamona paganism was grotesque.
That I myself was safe I fully believed, and I greatly doubted that there would be danger to the Indians who were with me. I was convinced, that the Arekuna had merely displayed the instinctive caution of the aborigine when approaching, a strange place or the home of another tribe.
We stepped from the forest into the brilliant sunshine of an extensive clearing. Instantly I knew that my journey had not been in vain. Before me were half a dozen large benabs or huts and, standing about, resting in their hammocks and gazing curiously towards us, were Indians by the score—men, women and children—naked save for the laps or loin cloths of the men and the tiny bead aprons of queyus of the women. Their limbs were wrapped with bands of beads, strings of teeth hung about their necks and their bronze skins were wonderfully painted. I had found my "wild'' Indians at last!
(Concluded Next Sunday.) (Copyright 1923, for The Constitution.)
“Thrills at Every Turn."
"By prodigious feats of paddling, the boat is forced across sinister, yawning black whirlpools where, often for minutes at a time, it stands motionless, trembling like a frightened horse to the swirl and drag of waters. ... Thrills there are a-plenty; hair-breadth escapes at every turn."
Among the Death Dealers of the Guiana Jungles
The Uncanny Skill of the Patamonas with Blow Gun, Bow and Arrow—Where No White Man Trod
Before—Changing Poison to Food.
A. Hyatt Verrill
Illustrated by Jefferson MacHamer
The Atlanta Constitution; Mar 25, 1923; pg. F3
The Patamonas, or "wild" Indians, with whom we found ourselves face to face upon stepping out from the jungle into the clearing where their settlement stood, were short and stocky, with deep broad chests and powerfully muscled necks, shoulders and backs, yet with disproportionately small legs, very small hands and feet. Indeed, many of the women and girls possessed hands and feet which would have been the envy of the daintiest of their white sisters.
Aside from their meager lower limbs the women were well proportioned, but the heads of the men appeared very large for their bodies, one chap having such an enormous head that it reminded me of a jack-o'-lantern. In color they were a coppery brown, although some of the younger girls were of a golden yellowish hue. Their faces were broad and round with rather small flat noses, which had no trace of the aquiline form. In fact, they were all strongly Mongolian in type, with high cheek bones, narrow and often oblique eyes, full lips, straight, coarse blue-black hair and black eyes.
If clad in Oriental garments, many of the Patamonas would have passed anywhere for Chinese or Japanese.
As none of the Patamonas spoke or understood English or even the lingua franca of the bush known as "talky-talky," I called upon Abraham to be my interpreter. They were disposed, it appeared, to be hospitable. To my joy I learned that no white man had ever before visited the village and that many of the Indians had never seen a man of another race.
Though I must have appeared a very strange being in their eyes, the men, women and children who gathered about were quiet and respectful. They were evidently consumed with curiosity as to the contents of our bags and the purpose of my visit. I decided to take advantage of the light and secure photographs without further delay. Much to my surprise the people lined up before my camera without the least hesitation. This in itself was ample proof of the isolation of the village, for the Guiana aborigine, as a rule, has a strong and deepseated objection to being photographed. The willingness with which my new-found friends posed for their pictures convinced me that they did not even know the purpose of a camera.
I could not but be impressed again with their similarity to the Mongolians, although their expression, especially that of the women, was far more vivacious. They were constantly laughing, smiling and exhibiting their rows of firm white teeth. Yet not by any stretch of the imagination, could they be considered good looking; the tattoo marks and painted decorations disfigured rather than improved their faces. The bags containing my trade goods were opened and the contents spread on the floor of the benab. Instantly the Patamonas pressed close about, squatting on their haunches, examining each article with the greatest interest and gabbling with delight.
The chief or "governor" now arrived on the scene; a lean, sharp-featured, shrewd-faced fellow with no distinguishing regalia and as simply clad, in loin cloth, as his subjects. Presents were then handed around—combs, soap, perfumes, beads, needles, pins and similar articles to the women and girls, and tobacco, fishhooks and knives to the men.
Amicable relations thus having been established, a brisk trade commenced and in exchange for hunting knives, powder, shot, percussion caps, lap cloth, beads and other goods I secured baskets, bows and arrows, blow guns, poisoned darts, ornaments of beads, teeth and feathers and beautifully wrought queyus.
Meanwhile I was busy noting the characteristics of the Patamonas, jotting down words of their vocabulary and making hurried sketches of their tattoo marks and painted decorations. Particularly did I observe their weapons; for it is with these that the Guiana jungle Indians have attained a proficiency that is amazing.
Few people realize the accuracy with which the Guiana Indian can use the blow gun. I have seen one of them fire six darts in quick succession into a visiting card at forty yards, and on many occasions have seen them bring down small birds from the top branches of the loftiest trees.
In the hands of the Guianan this instrument with its poisoned darts is a terrible weapon, indeed, for its speeding arrow is as swift and silent as the death it carries. Its tiny wound, scarcely more than a pin prick, is sufficient to kill even the Jaguar or the tapir.
These Indians possess fully as surprising skill, I learned, in archery, and this is exhibited spectacularly when shooting fish. That they can distinguish the fish in the dark water amid the turmoil of the rapids is marvelous, and until one has seen it, the feat appears incredible. With ready bow the Indian creeps about the rocks of the falls until, amid the foaming, rushing torrent, his keen eyes discover the darker gleam of a lukainani or pacoo when, instantly, the powerful bow is drawn to the ear, the long shaft darts its length into the water, and throwing aside his bow, the Indian hauls on the arrow line and presently drags a 15 or 20-pound fish on to the rocks.
Seldom indeed, do they miss, and seldom do they search for fish without success. If none are in sight the Indians either bait them, by throwing the broken seed-pods of the water wallaba or "mazetta." tree into the stream, or else resort to the marvelous method of "calling" them. Standing motionless by the edge of the water and with ready bow in one hand, the Indian makes a beckoning motion with the fingers of his other hand and, at the same time, utters a curious, low, but penetrating whistle. Unbelievable as it may seem, the fish actually respond to this and approach within sight and range. I am of the opinion that it is the fluttering motion of the fingers, rather than the sound of the whistle, which attracts them. Be this as it may, I have repeatedly seen the Indians call fish in this way when none were within sight.
The blow guns, or "pipes," as they are called in Guiana, are beautifully made, often 10 feet in length, and as straight and true as rifle barrels. They are manufactured only by the Arekuna and Myankong tribes of the Venezuelan border, for it is only in that district that suitable materials are found.
Although many people have an idea that the blow gun is a straight hollow cane, that is a mistake, for the weapon is most carefully and accurately made of two tubes, one within the other. The outer tube, or casing, consists of the stem, of a species of palm which is soaked in water until soft when the central, portion, or pith, is forced out by pushing with a smooth stick. The palm tube is then suspended from the roof of a house with a heavy weight attached to it to straighten it as it dries. Within this tube a perfectly straight hollow reed is inserted and is cemented in place by means of hard, tenacious gum at the ends. Finally one or two peccary or agouti teeth are fastened to one side of the gun by means of wax to serve as a sight and the weapon is complete.
The longer the gun the more accurate it is and the more highly it is valued. Six-foot blow guns are quite commonly seen; they are usually used solely for killing small birds with non-poisonous darts. The very long guns are seldom obtainable, and in combination with the Wurali tipped arrows, are used only by the absolutely uncivilized Indians of the far interior.
Their bows and arrows are very different indeed from those of our northern red men, for instead of short, broad bows and short, feathered arrows, the Guiana Indians used bows five to seven feet in length and of the true long-bow and half-round type. They are very powerful. Near either end they are wrapped with silk grass cord and are strung with the same material. The arrows are all very long, usually longer than the bows, and are of various types, but all have shafts of arrow cane, a giant grass which grows wonderfully straight and seems designed by nature for this identical purpose. For killing big game, such as jaguar and tapir, the arrows are tipped with spear-like heads of iron and are feathered; for smaller game and birds they are either tipped with small, barbed iron heads, or notched heads of hardwood, and are leathered; for large river fish they are equipped with a loose, carved head to which is attached a stout cord, the whole forming a miniature harpoon shot from a bow, for when the fish is struck, the shaft floats free and serves as a buoy while the fish is hauled in by the cord fastened to the bead of the arrow.
After the first flurry of our arrival, the Patamonas went about their usual tasks utterly oblivious of our presence, and, resting in my hammock beneath the benab, I watched my Indian hosts as they prepared their evening meals and busied themselves at their various occupations, in full view, for, the benabs are merely thatched roofs of palm supported on upright posts, and housekeeping is of the simplest.
I could not but be thrilled with the realization that I was looking upon a community which had never been seen by a white man before.
Of furnishings there were none worthy of the name, for the indispensable hammock serves as bed, couch and chair, and a log of wood, or a stool more or less elaborately carved from a block of greenheart provides a lowlier seat. On the rafters under the high peaked roof, were stored the bows and arrows, the blow guns and, if the owner of the benab possesses such a weapon, a muzzle or breech-loading single-barreled gun. From rafters and posts were suspended baskets of raw cotton for spinning, festive ornaments and decorations of beads, feathers and teeth, bunches of bird peppers and any other odds and ends or household treasures.
Somewhere about the premises would be a supply of cassava cakes, a metapee and numerous baskets, mats and other articles used in cooking, as well as an open pack-basket or "suriana," used for carrying loads. In the center of the earth floor a fire was kept burning day and night, and over this all cooking was done, the ordinary utensils being great black earthen pots, although battered iron pots and a sheet of iron for toasting cassava cakes were to be seen in nearly every benab. The pungent smoke which filled the benab seemed a great nuisance to a visitor; but to the occupants, it was of real value and importance. It kept ants and other insects from taking up their abode in the thatch, and it also served to preserve and cure meat and skins hung on the rafters.
At night the fires added little to the warmth and dryness of the dwellings, but how the Indians manage to keep comfortable and don't catch their deaths of cold is a marvel. At night the temperature fell to 67 degrees, and despite blankets, extra garments and my raincoat, I shivered with the penetrating chilly air and slept badly, and yet the Indians slept soundly and apparently in perfect comfort—though they were naked and had no bedding or covering of any sort.
Every one rose with or even a little before the sun and for half an hour or so the Indians gathered about their fires, warming themselves thoroughly after the chill of the night. The daily life of these aborigines is as simple as their costume and yet their every want is satisfied and they seem to be perfectly happy. For 365 days in the year their menu consists of cassava, with the addition of game, when it can easily be obtained, the purple "buck yams," sweet potatoes and, occasionally, plantains and bananas.
To them, the cassava is the very staff of life and much of their time is spent in cultivating and preparing it. The prime requisite in selecting a village site is land suitable for growing the cassava, or manioc plant, and every Indian camp or village has its cassava "fields."
The planting is done by both men and women sticking cassava roots, or cuttings into holes made in the earth with a sharp stick or machete.
The preparation of cassava—that is, its conversion from a deadly poison into an article of diet—is most interesting and it is a cause of wonder how the Indians first discovered the process. Certainly it could not have been by experiment, for those who experimented with the raw cassava, or tried to make it edible by ordinary cooking, must have died precipitately. Perchance the whole process, was discovered by accident like many other inventions; but whether by accident or design never will be known, for cassava has been used by the Indians of tropical America for countless centuries. The method of its preparation is identical among widely separated tribes and its history is one of the unsolved mysteries of prehistoric America.
In the Patamona village women seemed ever busy at one step or another in this preparation of cassava and I had a most exceptional opportunity to watch the entire elaborate process.
The roots are first washed and pared and are then grated on a slab of wood, roughened with chips of quartz set in cement-like gum. The grated roots are next placed in a long, cylindrical, wicker-work container. This is suspended from a rafter, a stick or lever is inserted through the other end of this metapee, or container, a large calabash or bowl is placed below it and one or more women seat themselves on the lever. Their weight results in the metapee, stretching lengthwise and contracting in circumference with irresistible force and as a result, the juice of the grated cassava is forced out through the interstices of the metapee leaving the pulp dry and compressed in the form of a solid cylinder which is removed piecemeal from the metapee.
These hard cylindrical cores are then pounded in a wooden mortar (some of the Indians used prehistoric stone mortars found on ancient village sites), and the resultant meal is sifted through a wicker work sieve held between the toes of the women.
The fine meal thus obtained is next spread by the aid of a wooden trowel known as a waisoo, upon a hot stone or a piece of sheet iron over a small fire.
As the big circular cakes harden and bake they are turned and lifted by means of small woven mats, or fans, and are placed on a frame of sticks, or on a basket-like tray, in the bright sunshine until thoroughly dried.
The cooking or baking is not, as is often supposed, for the purpose of cooking the meal only; it is done mainly to insure perfect freedom from the poisonous juice which contains prussic acid. The juice itself, as squeezed from the metapee, is carefully preserved and is known as cassareep. This is the basis of the famous pepper-pot and is boiled to the consistency of syrup, to evaporate all the poisonous acid it contains.
Into the prepared cassareep are thrown peppers, and bits of meat. The cassareep preserves the food and by frequent boilings the mass is kept fresh and edible for months or years. This pepper-pot is far from appetizing in appearance, for in color and consistency it resembles a mass of asphalt or coaltar but it is really excellent, despite the fact that one frequently finds in it the hand of a monkey, the head or foot of a fowl or some similar anatomical fragment.
Whatever the effect of this diet—which, to many might appear dubious—upon the health of the Patamonas it may be well to dispel some of the popular illusions in regard to "fevers" and other dread diseases of the Guiana wilderness. Nearly all the cases of "fever" which I have treated—and I have treated scores—were simply severe colds or were due to stomach, intestinal or liver troubles. Indeed, every illness in which lassitude, a slight temperature or headache occurs is dubbed "fever" by the Indians and black people. One case of "fever" which came under my notice proved to be a case of boils, while another was due to a snake bite.
Of their own curative skill, or instinct, these Indians give some evidence in having discovered an antidote for the terrible Wurali—and the only one existing, so far as is known. This is a mixture of cane juice and salt. And while the Patamonas are extremely careful not to prick themselves with the poisoned darts, they assert that a strong draught of cane juice and salt will prevent serious results. I have never seen this cure tried on a human being, but it is a common practice for the Indians to shoot macaws and toucans with Wurali-tipped arrows and, by the use of cane juice and salt, revive the birds and keep them alive for pets. Indeed, many of the live macaws offered for sale are taken in this way.
Of coarse it must not be supposed that one can see all these various things and can learn the ways and customs of the Indians in a single day. One must live long among them, must win their confidence and affection, and must almost become one of them, before they will talk of their lives, their beliefs and their habits, or will relate their interesting folklore and their tales of spirits good and bad, or give any information regarding their beenas, charms, dances and fetishes to a stranger. Still more difficult is it to indue them to speak of their "peaimen" or witch doctors or of the dreaded, half-supernatural kenaima.
Fortunately I was able to establish myself in the Patamonas' confidence by curing many of their ills with my slender stock of medicines. Not only were they very grateful, but I soon found they regarded me as a sort of peaiman, myself, and when I brought forth a number of the harmless fireworks known as "sparklets," and produced showers of brilliant sparks which did not burn or injure the skin, my status as a magician was firmly established.