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Impearls: HIC 2.04: Valuations

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Valuations   by A. L. Kroeber

The following are some Yurok valuations, apparently on the modern basis of a 12-dentallium string being worth 10 American dollars:

A large boat, that is, a capacious one — the length is uniform — was worth two 12-strings, one full and one short; or 10 large or 60 small woodpecker scalps.

A small boat:  One 13-string or 3 large woodpecker heads.

A very small boat carrying two men:  Five shells from a 13-string.

The Karok put a boat at two strings of small shells.

A blanket of two deerskins sewn together and painted is said to have been worth a small boat.  This seems a high valuation; but the Karok say, 4 to 10 medium or short dentalia or a whole string of small ones, if the skins are ample.

A quiver of otter or fisher fur, with bow and 40 arrows, was the equivalent of a good-sized boat.  The Karok reckon an otter skin worth 4 to 7 dentalia.

An entire eagle skin — the birds were shot with the bow at a bait of deer meat on mountain tops — was worth only one shell of smallest size.

A woman's capful of tobacco, one small shell.

A house, 3 strings.

A well-conditioned house of redwood planks, 5 strings.

A fishing place, 1 to 3 strings.  Two instances are known of Karok fishing rights having been sold for $5.  The value must have been very variable.

A tract bearing acorns, 1 to 5 strings.

The meat from a “small” section — perhaps a half fathom — of a whale, 1 string, presumably of short shells.

A “black,” “red,” or mottled deer skin, dressed for dance use, 5 strings.

A light gray skin, 6 strings.

A white skin, 10 strings.

Obsidian or flint blades, 2 to 10 strings.

A headband, sraisplegok, of 50 large woodpecker scalps, 10 strings.  This seems too high a rating in comparison with the others.  Small shells must be meant.

Doctors' fees were high:  $10 to $20 — that is, 1 to 2 strings of good money — are specified as the cost of a treatment.

A slave was rated at only 1 or 2 strings.  Evidently the Yurok did not know how to exact full value from the labor of their bondsmen, not because the latter could not be held to work, but because industry was too little organized.

For a wife from a wealthy family 10 strings seem to have been expected, made up, perhaps of one of 11 shells, one of 12, two of 12 short, and so on, with perhaps a headband of 50 woodpecker scalps, an obsidian, a boat, etc.  One Yurok boasted of having paid 14 strings for his wife, plus as much more in other property, including two headbands, the whole representing $300 American at the lower valuation here followed.

For a poorer girl 8 strings and a boat might be given.

The Karok say that a wife was worth 5 to 10 strings.  Among both tribes, therefore, a man's life came somewhat higher than what he would pay for a bride of his own rank; which rating, seeing that her relatives did not have to mourn her, is rather favorable to the woman.

For “half-marriage” the price actually paid seems to have been rather less than half.

For the killing of a man of standing the cost was 15 strings, plus, perhaps, a red obsidian., a woodpecker scalp headband, and other property, besides a daughter.  The Karok also quote a man's price at 15 strings.

A common man was worth 10 strings, probably of somewhat shorter dentalia, plus, perhaps 20 large scalps and a good boat.

For a bastard 5 to 6 strings, presumably of small shells, and a few loose woodpecker scalps, are mentioned as usual blood money.

Seduction and pregnancy were rated as calling for 5 strings, or perhaps 20 woodpecker scalps.  For a second child the compensation would be less, about 3 strings.  The Karok say 2 to 3 strings for seduction, but 4 to 7 if the father took his illegitimate child.

Adultery came at about the same figure.

Uttering the name of a dead man called for the payment of about 2 strings of 13 shells.  For a rich man 3 strings of somewhat better money might be demanded.

For breaking a mourning necklace, whether by accident or in play, three or four pieces of money were given.

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