Dances were all symbolical in character, of more or less religious significance, and were never indulged in simply for pleasure. Both men and women took part in all of them, the women standing around shuffling their
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FROM ARTIST'S POINT
Photo--H. C. Tibbitts
feet, swaying their bodies and chanting a song, while the men, led by the chiefs and the medicine men, circled around the campfire stamping their feet, whirling about, making wild gestures with their arms, or with their bows and arrows which they sometimes carried, and grunting or joining in the chant with the women.
The war dance which was held just prior to taking the field against an enemy, was by far the most important of their dances. The Indian donned for this occasion his finest and most elaborate regalia, which was then worn into battle. This regalia was reserved for these occasions alone and was never brought out for any other purpose. They sometimes painted their faces hideously with a paint made from a kind of clay found along the river below the Valley. This was done to make them look ferocious and with the hope of terrifying the enemy, in fact the purpose of the war dance seems to have been to work the brave into a sort of religious frenzy, in which state he was expected to go forth and perform prodigious deeds of valor and strength. These dances were kept up for long periods, as soon as one dancer becoming exhausted another taking his place. It is doubtful if any white man has ever seen a real Yo-sem-i-te war dance, the exhibitions put up by the Indians in later years from purely mercenary motives being the merest shams, very little resembling the real article. In fact the Indians are universally opposed to telling the white man anything at all about their old customs and beliefs, no matter of how little importance they may seem, and if pressed for
information on any subject, or even for corroboration of information received from another source, will usually lie most unmercifully, calling on a vivid imagination to concoct the most weird and impossible stories for the benefit of their questioner. The Indians of later years especially derive a great deal of quiet amusement from this baiting of the whites.