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


TATOOING

Tattooing (sina, C) was practiced by both sexes. It was purely decorative and the usual design extended from the edge of the lower lip to the umbilicus. Below the Adam’s apple the design (hūsū'ssa, P, N) was always a straight line an inch or less in width. The design above the Adam’s apple was either a straight line or one branching upward into three lines. It was called ye'tkŻ (P, N), and sūka'nu (C). In addition, designs were placed on the shoulders, arms, hands, chest, belly, and thighs. Tattooing was usually done at an early age, most often between twelve and fifteen, but it was also employed medicinally, the skin directly over a severe pain being tattooed.

The black ashes of the aromatic root of a plant called kū'ya (P, N), probably angelica, supplied the pigment. The scarifier was a sharp point of obsidian or flint, set in the end of a stick about the size of a lead pencil. With this instrument the area to be tattooed was thoroughly pricked until the blood flowed freely. The black ashes were then mixed with the blood and rubbed into the tiny wounds.

One Central Miwok woman, observed in 1913, had lines tattooed on her neck, reputed to have cured consumption. There was a horizontal line on each side of the neck, extending from the side toward the trachea, and two parallel lines down the neck from the anterior ends of these. Another Central Miwok woman, seventy-eight years old, had the following marks: (1) A line, two inches long, across the under side of the left arm, put on with poison oak juice and fine charcoal. (2) Dots on the chin. (3) Her nasal septum and ears were pierced for ornaments. A third woman had the following marks on her left hand and arm. On the back of her hand was a cross, the two lines of which were each one and a half inches long. Across the back of her wrist were a line and three or four dots.



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