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212

FORLORN CONDITION.

industrious than the rest, lay up a stock of dried salmon, and other fish, for winter: with these, they were ready to traffic with the travellers for any object of utility in Indian life; giving a large quantity in exchange for an awl, a knife, or a fish-hook. Others were in the most abject state of want and starvation; and would even gather up the fish-bones which the travellers threw away after a repast, warm them over again at the fire, and pick them with the greatest avidity.

The further Captain Bonneville advanced into the country of these Root Diggers, the more evidence he perceived of their rude and forlorn' condition. "They were destitute," says he, "of the necessary covering to protect them from the weather: and seemed to be in the most unsophisticated ignorance of any other propriety or advantage in the use of clothing. One old dame had absolutely no

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thing on her person but a thread round her neck, from which was pendant a solitary bead."

What stage of human destitution, however, is too destitute for vanity! Though these naked and forlorn-looking beings had neither toilet to arrange, nor beauty to contemplate, their greatest passion was for a mirror. It was a "great medicine," in their eyes. The sight

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of one was sufficient, at any time, to throw them into a paroxysm of eagerness and delight; and they were ready to give any thing they had for the smallest fragment in which they might behold their squalid features.

With this simple instance of vanity in its native, but vigorous state, we shall close our

remarks on the Root Diggers.

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214

TEMPERATURE.

CHAPTER XIII.

TEMPERATURE OF THE CLIMATE-ROOT DIGGERS ON HORSEBACK-AN INDIAN GUIDE-MOUNTAIN PROSPECTS-THE GRAND ROND-DIFFICULTIES ON SNAKE RIVER-A SCRAMBLE OVER THE BLUE MOUNTAINS SUFFERINGS FROM HUNGER-PROSPECT OF THE IMMAHANI

VALLEY-THE EXHAUSTED TRAVELLER.

THE temperature of the regions west of the Rocky mountains is much milder than in the same latitudes on the Atlantic side; the upper plains, however, which lie at a distance from the seacoast, are subject in winter to considerable vicissitude; being traversed by lofty "sierras," crowned with perpetual snow, which

EQUESTRIAN DIGGERS.

215

often produce flaws and streaks of intense cold.

This was experienced by Captain Bonneville and his companions in their progress westward. At the time when they left the Bannecks, Snake river was frozen hard: as they proceeded, the ice became broken and floating; it gradually disappeared, and the weather became warm and pleasant, as they approached a tributary stream called the Little Wyer; and the soil, which was generally of a watery clay, with occasional intervals of sand, was soft to the tread of the horses.

After a time, however, the mountains approached and flanked the river; the snow lay deep in the valleys, and the current was once more ice-bound.

Here they were visited by a party of Root Diggers, who were apparently rising in the

216

EQUESTRIAN DIGGERS.

world, for they had "horse to ride and weapon to wear," and were altogether better clad and equipped than any of the tribe that Captain Bonneville had met with. They were just from the plain of Boisée river, where they had left a number of their tribe, all as well provided as themselves; having guns, horses, and comfortable clothing. All these they obtained from the Lower Nez Percés, with whom they were in habits of frequent traffic. They appeared to have imbibed from that tribe their noncombative principles, being mild and inoffensive in their manners. Like them, also, they had something of religious feelings; for Captain Bonneville observed that, before eating, they washed their hands, and made a short prayer; which he understood was their invariable custom.

From these Indians, he obtained a consi

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