The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

By Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; Martin A. Favata et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
How the Indians Are Skilled with a Weapon

These people are the readiest with weapons that I have ever seen. If they fear an attack by their enemies, they lie awake all night with their bows and a dozen arrows next to them. Before one goes to sleep he tries his bow, and should the string not be taut, he tightens it. They often leave their lodges crawling on the ground so that they cannot be seen and they look and keep watch everywhere to notice everything. If they sense anything, they all are up at once in the field with their bows and arrows, spending the night that way, running to different places as they think necessary or where their enemies may be. After dawn, they loosen their bows again until they go hunting. The bowstrings are deer sinews. Their way of doing battle involves crouching on the ground. While they are shooting at each other, they are constantly talking and jumping from one place to another to protect themselves from the arrows of their enemies. They do the same in similar battles when they are being attacked by crossbows and harquebuses and suffer few injuries from them. In truth, the Indians make a mockery of these arms, because they are useless against them in open country where the Indians are scattered around. Those arms are good for narrow and swampy places. 1 In all other places, horses, which all Indians fear, are needed to subjugate them.

Anyone who may have to do battle with Indians needs to be very aware that they must not sense in him any weakness or greed for what they have. While at war with them, they should be treated harshly, because if they sense fear or greed, they know how to find the right time for revenge, and they draw strength from their adversaries' fear. After they have shot at one another and used up their arrows, each side turns back and goes on their way without being pursued by the others, even if they are outnumbered. This is their custom. Many times arrows go right through them but the wounds are not fatal unless the entrails or heart are wounded; instead they heal quickly. They see and hear better and have sharper senses than any other people in the world. They endure hunger, thirst and cold very well, since they are

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