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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/67

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55
THE PYGMY IN THE UNITED STATES.

hypsistenoceplialic. (The vertical diameter is compared with the transverse diameter; when the former is equal to or exceeds the latter, the skull is hypsistenocephalic.) Notwithstanding his age (according to his count he is nearly seventy years old) he is quite strong and active. Mr. A. E. Davenport says that these negritos of the Southern States, notwithstanding their diminutive stature, are very strong and exceedingly active. De Quatrefages says the same of the Andamanese. I have examined a large number of these American pygmies, and have been very much surprised at their strength and agility.

In a number of localities, notably in Florida and Louisiana, the negrito has abandoned civilization and relapsed into savagery. He supports himself by hunting and fishing, and never leaves his haunts in morass and forest, unless compelled so to do by lack of ammunition or other necessary supplies. He is a devil worshiper, paying more attention toward propitiating the Evil One, in order to "keep out of his clutches," than to God, who does not need propitiation because he is good and merciful. Voudou and Walla-walla dances and incantation ceremonies are of almost nightly occurrence among these people. Every hollow tree, every tangled brake, and every miry morass is the dwelling place of either a ghost or an evil spirit. The fetich is greatly in evidence, every hunter carrying about with him some peculiarly formed root or stone, or perhaps a "conjure bag," which he wears securely tied about his neck, and which has been furnished him by some noted "conjure doctor." So much afraid of ghosts and spirits are these negritos that they will rarely leave their hovels at night. Whenever they do go out at night they never go alone, but always in companies. Courtship and marriage among these half-savage negritos possess some peculiarities which have partially originated with themselves; yet some of their customs in these social rites seem to be only modifications of similar ceremonies handed down to them by their ancestors. For instance, the young negrito man will leave a basket of fruit at the door of his sweetheart's hut some time during the night; if she takes it in the next day, he knows that his suit has met with favor. The Sakies of India and Obongos of Africa go through the same performance. Marriage, however, especially among the Florida negritos, is simply a mating of the two individuals. Where these little people still live in the neighborhood of towns and thickly settled portions of the country, they generally seek the services of a minister or magistrate, though not always.

The dead present awful and awe-inspiring attributes to the pygmies; the ghost of the departed is his bĂȘte noire; hence, when one of these individuals departs this life, his body is treated