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Impearls: HIC 2.05: Blood money

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Blood money   by A. L. Kroeber

The principles of wergild are sufficiently clear from what has been said; an instance or two may be worth adding.

An American at Rekwoi engaged a number of Indians to transport stores from Crescent City.  In the surf and rocks at the dangerous entrance to the Klamath a canoe was lost and four natives drowned.  Compensation was of course demanded; when it was not forthcoming, the American was ambushed and killed by the brother of one of the dead men.  According to one version, the goods were Government property, and the trader responsible only for their transport.  The Indians' claims are said to have been forwarded to the Government, but while officials pondered or refused, the Indians, losing hope of a settlement, fell back on the revenge which alone remained to them.

In a Karok myth dealing with the establishment of institutions, it is said in so many words that “if they kill and do not pay, fighting will be perpetual.  If a woman is not paid for, there will be bad repute; but if she is bought, everyone will know that so much was given for her, and she will have a good name.”

A Yurok myth, which tells of five brothers who made the sky, instituted money and property, and provided for purification from corpse contamination, has them say:  “If human beings own money and valuables they will be pleased and think of them.  They will not be vindictive; and they will not kill readily, because they will not wish to pay away what they have and prize.”



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