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Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933) by S. A. Barrett and E. W. Gifford


EAR AND NOSE PIERCING

Both ears and the nasal septum were pierced in childhood. The perforation was called tü'ka (P, N). The piercing was done with an elder needle (tasina, C) while the child slept, or, if awake, the ears were pinched until numb, before the thrust was made. Usually the piercing was done in summer. The age of the children varied from infancy to almost puberty. A girl was operated on always before the first menstruation. The piercing was done by the mother or grandmother. When first pierced and still sore, the perforations were kept open with a stem of supputkululu (C) grass, which was likened to silver in not hurting the pierced flesh. After healing, the apertures were progressively enlarged by thrusting additional stems of grass into the openings. The holes in boys’ ears were made largest, as men wore ornaments of larger diameter than women. Young girls and boys wore flowers of the grass Briza minor (seppute, C) in their ears, with the flower head forward, the stem passing through the hole.

An earring, consisting of a small string of beads and shells, was called tcū'kkelu (C). An ear plug (lü'sa, P, N; sū'laiu, somayu C) was made by charring the surface of a piece of young pine from four to seven inches in length. When this blackened surface was rubbed down properly it became very shiny. The ends were then ornamented with beads and shells, and sometimes with the scarlet feathers of the California woodpecker. Both sexes wore earrings and earplugs; but the former were used chiefly by the women, the latter by the men. Except among the wealthy and important people these adornments were used only on ceremonial occasions. The same applies to the nose sticks (pīlē'ki, P, N; tu'la, C), some of which were made of white, polished bone, about the diameter of a lead pencil, and from four to nine inches in length; not etched or otherwise ornamented, but highly polished and slightly pointed at the ends. Shell nose sticks (pileki, N; pileku, C) were also worn.

Bird bone tubes five inches long were worn as ear plugs by men. They were made of sandhill crane, or other large bird, bones. Usually white feathers (posesa, C) projected from the ends. Such tubes worn by malevolent shamans (tuyuku, C) were believed to serve as repositories for their “poison.”



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