Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/350

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The north Pacific area.

On the Pacific slope of America, between 45° and 60° north, lies a well-marked culture area. The mountains near by and the ocean have between them innumerable islands, great and small. Passing among these was easy; the climate, by reason of warm currents in the sea, mild; animal and vegetable life useful to human existence, copious. There is no flint, but slate, nephrite and volcanic rocks of good quality. On this domain men traversed long distances in dugout canoes holding fifty persons, and artists expressed their mythic fancies through the obliging cedar wood. Had they lived thirty degrees farther south, these men would have been able to rival the builders of Nahuan and Mayan stone temples. For women, pliant roots and tough grasses fascinated their artistic spirits, resulting in exquisite twined basketry. As in all other island areas, however, the tendencies are centrifugal. The linguistic families were separated into innumerable kwans, or clans, without national solidarity. The southern boundary of this canoe culture province is the Columbia river, highway of tribes and patron of men. On this coast were matured commerce, slavery, a diversity of industries and a varied annual round. Material was afforded and leisure also for the unfolding of a complicated mythology and its embodiment in wood, stone and hard animal substances.

The Oregon-California area.

The next unique area lies on the Pacific slope, between 35° and 48° north, chiefly in Oregon and California. Upon this long strip facing the sunset was woman's paradise; it was at the same time 'No man's land.' The men there are among the shortest, and the height of the women is 94 per cent, of the men's. Twenty-four different stock-languages are spoken. It is not so much a single culture area as a series of cul-de-sacs, a cloaca-gentium, coves in the mountains opening out on the islandless, harborless, fathomless ocean. It is the Caucasus of the Western Hemisphere. You see there no huge canoes, no carvings in any material, no partnerships or great enterprises. The only redeeming virile feature is the yew bow with sinew back and the most delicate arrows on the continent.

But what a heritage in textile materials! Nowhere else on the globe was there such a variety of stitches in basketry and nowhere else were women's fingers so nimble in basket-making. There was no spindle, no loom, no pottery, but the basket served all purposes for the gleaner, the miller, the cook and the purveyor. The art sense, almost extinguished in the men, barring a little skill in shell and feathers, effloresced in woman's work, to the astonishment of the ethnologist.