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Impearls: HIC 2.10: Law of ferriage

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Law of ferriage   by A. L. Kroeber

Free ferriage must at all times be rendered.  At least in theory it is extended also to those who cannot reciprocate because of being boatless or in chronic poverty.  The underlying assumption of this custom seems to be that ferriage is a primal necessity to which everyone is at times subject and which everyone is also at times in position to relieve.  The traveler accordingly has much the status which a guest enjoys as regards food, but his claims are crystallized into a definite privilege.  The Yurok and their neighbors extend the right also to Americans resident among them, charging ferriage only to transient voyagers.  In the old days even an enemy with whom one did not speak had to be taken as passenger.  Such a man on arriving opposite a village shouted.  If no one was about but the one who bore him a grudge, the latter nevertheless paddled over.  The traveler sat in the boat with his back to the steersman, keeping silence.  For a refusal to accord ferriage from three to six short dentalia could be claimed.  If a traveler finds a settlement deserted, he takes any boat at the river's edge and puts himself across, without the least care or obligation as to its return.

The carrier being his passenger's agent, the latter becomes liable for any injury to him.  A Yurok of Kenek had his house catch fire while ferrying an acquaintance.  The latter was due to repay his entire loss: except for the service rendered the owner would have been at hand and might have extinguished the blaze, the Yurok said.



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