III. From Cradle to Grave


FOR a woman in labor the Indians planted two sticks into the ground at the head of her pillow and piled up soft comforters beneath. She knelt, spreading her legs wide apart, with her elbows resting on the pillow, and seized the two sticks. According to Gray-bull, all obstetricians were once women, but in recent times some men ranked among the most skilful practitioners. The husband was not present during his wife's travail. Indeed, no males, not even boys, were ordinarily allowed in the lodge lest their presence delay the delivery. Otherwise the husband was not subject to any taboo.

Gray-bull's wife learnt how to treat confinement cases from a visionary, to whom she paid a horse, and she regarded this information as a secret. She used a combination of a root and a horned-toad, which she would rub down the patient's back. In order to hasten a delivery, another witness said, the attendants gave the expectant mother a drink from the juice of some weed and held her tight above the abdominal region. Muskrat claimed knowledge of two roots easing a delivery, both having been revealed to her while mourning her husband and a brother, respectively. On the first occasion, a supernatural came up to her in her sleep and said, "Chew that weed (batse″kice; literally, man-imitation), and you will give birth without suffering." She boiled the leaves and drank the infusion, but she was not supposed to pull up the plant except for doctoring. The second time she was granted a plant called bice″-waru″ci-se (literally, buffalodo-not-eat-it) and was told that it was even more effective than the first. Whenever any one touched Muskrat's face or body with it, she went into a trance from which she recovered by chewing the weed (See p. 265).

Not the doctor, but one of the women present, cut off all but three fingers' breadth of the navel cord. The part of a girl's navel cord that dropped off was rolled up in a piece of cloth and put into a beaded sack, to be fastened to her cradleboard. When


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The Crow Indians


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