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Pomo Bear Doctors, by S.A. Barrett, [1917], at


A bear doctor usually carried one and sometimes two elk-horn daggers, called bōō a, literally "elk horn." Such a dagger was from six to ten inches in length and was made by pounding at its base and breaking off the large end point of an elk antler and sharpening its tip. It was rubbed on a grinding stone and smoothed throughout its length and a hole was bored in its base through which a loop about two feet long was passed for suspending it about the neck or from the belt. This loop was always of string, as this is not affected by dampness.

Obsidian or flint knives, called bat!, were sometimes used in addition to or in place of the elk-horn dagger. The blade of such a knife was made by first striking the larger flakes from it with a hammer stone and then chipping its edges with an antler chipping tool. This blade was set into a split oak handle and bound securely with string, but was not pitched. Both of these were thrusting weapons.

Other weapons were sometimes used, even the stone pestle being employed as a weapon.

Bear doctors often operated in pairs, and sometimes in greater numbers. They frequently deployed so as to cover a considerable area in their hunt, and had a method of intercommunication. If a prospective victim was sighted at some distance, the bear doctor stood erect on the top of the nearest ridge, with his back turned directly toward him. This signal brought the other bear doctors into positions to surround the victim. Informants maintain that in the actual attack a bear doctor frequently stood unconcernedly, near the path of his victim, and with his back toward him until he was quite near. He then whirled and attacked suddenly. They stated that this was also the method of attack of a real bear.

p. 458

It is said that the only way to overcome a bear doctor was to seize his head or shoulders and jerk off his helmet. This completely removed his magic power. The story is told that Kamachi, a very brave and powerful man formerly living at the Yorkville Rancheria, mistook two real bears for bear doctors, attacked them in this manner, and finally succeeded in killing them.

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