Volltext: Patterns of culture

  
II 
The Diversity of Cultures 
A CHIEF of the Digger Indians, as the Californians call 
them, talked to me a great deal about the ways of his 
people in the old days. He was a Christian and a leader 
among his people in the planting of peaches and apricots 
on irrigated land, but when he talked of the shamans who 
had transformed themselves into bears before his eyes in 
the bear dance, his hands trembled and his voice broke 
with excitement. It was an incomparable thing, the 
power his people had had in the old days. He liked best 
to talk of the desert foods they had eaten. He brought 
cach uprooted plant lovingly and with an unfailing sense 
of its importance. In those days his poeple had eaten ‘the 
health of the desert,’ he said, and knew nothing of the in- 
sides of tin cans and the things for sale at butcher shops. 
It was such innovations that had degraded them in these 
latter days. 
One day, without transition, Ramon broke in upon his 
descriptions of grinding mesquite and preparing acorn 
soup. ‘In the beginning,’ he said, ‘God gave to every 
people a cup, a cup of clay, and from this cup they drank 
their life.” I do not know whether the figure occurred in 
some traditional ritual of his people that I never found, ot 
whether it was his own imagery. It is hard to imagine 
that he had heard it from the whites he had known at 
Banning; they were not given to discussing the ethos of 
different peoples. At any rate, in the mind of this humble 
Indian the figure of speech was clear and full of meaning. 
“They all dipped in the water,” he continued, ‘but their 
cups were different. Our cup is broken now. It has passed 
away.’ 
Our cup is broken. These things that had given signifi- 
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