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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/591

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

plants and animals; the botanical instruction beginning with such exercises as drawing and describing various forms of leaves, and advancing to flowers of gradually increasing difficulty. In zoölogy, the most familiar animals, and those which the pupils can see alive, should be studied first, then the common, and finally the more obscure forms. The collection of specimens should be encouraged, and the specimens should be made the subject of object-lessons. Human physiology and hygiene being of immense practical importance, their rudiments should be taught in the grammar and even the primary schools. Rudimentary courses in physics and astronomy should be introduced in the highest grades of the grammar school. Physical geography, phænogamic botany, and human physiology should be included in the classical courses in the high school, and required for admission to college.

 

The Sun-Dance of the Blackfeet.—The most important sacred festival of the Blackfeet Indians is the sun-dance, which is called also by the whites the medicine-dance. The tradition runs that it originated in the thank offering of a woman for the recovery of her sick child; accordingly, it is usually instituted by a woman who has come successfully out of some trial. It is generally held when the wild fruit is ripe, in July or August, in a lodge especially constructed for it, and may continue for seven days. The ceremonies have been described by the Rev. John McLean, who witnessed them at the Blood Indian camp in Alberta Territory, Canada. The sacred fire was burning in the sun-lodge, and was used by the people for lighting their pipes. The fuel was supplied exclusively by young men who had performed some valorous deed, such as stealing horses from a hostile tribe, and thought the duty an honorable one. Two bundles of birch wood brush were placed in the form, of a cross on the sacred pole. A bower of brushwood by the side of the lodge was occupied by the woman who had instituted the ceremony, her husband, and a medicine-man, fasting and praying. Prayers were offered at stated times by virgins. Dramatic representations of heroic adventures were given, and sham fights presented representations of actual battles; these were succeeded by feasts of berries cooked in fat, smoking, and conversation. A young man who had been successful in a horse-stealing expedition came up, in fulfillment of a vow, to make himself a sacrifice to the god. An old medicine-woman cut off one of his fingers, held it up to the sun, and dedicated it to him. Two young men presented themselves to be consecrated for admission to the noble band of warriors. One of them stretched himself upon a blanket on the ground. . An old man made a speech over him relating his brave deeds, each incident of which was received with applause and music. Then four men held him while a fifth made incisions in his breast and back. Wooden skewers were inserted in the breast incisions, and connected by lariats with the sacred pole, while an Indian drum was fastened to the skewer in the back. "The young man went up to the sacred pole, and while his countenance was exceedingly pale and his frame trembling with emotion, threw his arms around it and prayed earnestly for strength to pass successfully through the trying ordeal. His prayer ended, he moved backward until the flesh was fully extended, and, placing a small bone whistle in his mouth, he blew continuously upon it a series of short, sharp sounds, while he threw himself backward and danced until the flesh gave way and he fell. Previous to his tearing himself free from the lariats, he seized the drum with both hands, and with a sudden pull tore the flesh on his back, dashing the drum to the ground amid the applause of the people. As he lay on the ground, the operators examined his wounds, cut off the flesh that was hanging loosely, and the ceremony was at an end."

 

The Selkirk Mountains and their Glaciers.—The Selkirk Mountains are situated in the southern part of British Columbia, west of the main range of the Rocky Mountains, within the great bend of the Columbia, and are crossed by the Canadian Pacific Railway at the height of 4,313 feet above the sea. As seen from the Columbia between the two ranges, they rise in gentle slopes and tiers of foot-hills richly clad in pine forest, and cleft by far-reaching valleys, while the Rockies, on the other side of the observer, tower up "from almost barren benches of white silt, with a sparse sprink-