10 January 2014

Bird Feast of the Aeagehemen Nation Indians

Father Geronimo Boscano, in his account of the Indians of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, in Los Angeles county, written between 1815 and 1831, and published in Alfred Robinson's "Life in California" (New York, 1846), has the following curious statement of the "Bird Feast" of the Indians of the Aeagehemem Nation, who compromised the principal portion of the Mission aforesaid:

"The most celebrated of all these feasts, and which was observed yearly, was the one called the 'Panes,' signifying a 'Bird Feast. Particular adoration was observed by them for a bird resembling much, in appearance, the common Buzzard, or Vulture, but of larger dimensions. The day selected for the feast was made known in the public on the evening previous to its celebration, and preparations were made immediately for the erection of their ranquech; into which, when completed, and on the opening of the festival, they carried the Panes in solemn procession, and placed it upon the altar erected for the purpose. Then immediately all the young females, married and unmarried, commenced running to and fro with great rapidity; some in one direction and some in another, more like distracted than rational beings; continuing thus racing, as it were, whilst the elder class of both sexes remained silent spectators of the scene. The 'Puplem,' as has been heretofore described, looking like so many devils; in the mean time, dancing around their adored Panes. These ceremonies being concluded, they seized upon the bird, and carried it in procession to the principal vaqueech, or temple; all the assembly uniting in the grand display; the Puplem preceding the same dancing and singing. Arriving there, they killed the bird, without losing a particle of its blood. The skin was removed entire, and preserved, with the feathers, as a relic, or for the purpose of making their festal garment, called Paelt. The carcass they interred, within the temple in a hole prepared previously, around which all the old women soon collected, who, while weeping and moaning most bitterly, kept throwing upon it various kinds of seeds, or particles of food, and exclaiming at the same time: 'Why did you run away? Would you not have been better with us? You have made pinole as we do; and, if you had not run away, you would not have become a Panes!' Other expressions, equal in simplicity, were made use of; and, as the ceremony was concluding, dancing commenced again, and is carried on for three days and nights, accompanied with all the brutalities to which they were subject.
"The Indians state that said Panes was once a female, who ran off and retired to the mountains, when accidentally meeting with Chinigchinich, he changed her into a bird; and their belief is, that notwithstanding they sacrificed it every year, she became animated and returned to her home among the mountains. But the ridiculous fable does not end here; for they believed, as often as the bird was killed it became multiplied, because, every year all the different Capitaines celebrated the same feast of Panes; and were firm in the opinion, that the birds sacrificed were but one and the same female."
Alexander S. Taylor. July 1, 1859. [Addendum to summary of accounts of the condors of Chili and California.] California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences 11(22): 170.