Account of a Fight Witnessed by Thomas Pamphlet (November, 1823)
About the time of our first arrival at Pumice-stone River, the young native whom was called the Doctor, and who used to bore the noses and scarify the skins of the rest of the tribe, had been wounded in the knee with a spear, while out on a hunting expedition, by a native of another tribe, at a distance of fifty miles to the northward. As the spear had broken in the wound, there was a good deal of inflammation in his leg, when he applied to me to cure him. This I effected by extracting a large splinter from his knee, and in a short time he was quite recovered. As soon as his cure was forth, accompanied by several of his tribe, in order to take satisfaction of the man who had wounded him and having a great liking for me, on account of my having cured him, he insisted on my going with him.
The spot appointed for the combat was a small ring, about twenty-five feet in diameter, about three feet deep, and surrounded by a palisade of sticks. The crowd assembled to see the fight amounted to about 500 men, women and children; and the combatants, followed by those who were friendly to them respectively, approached the ring in single file, and drew up in a regular manner on opposite sides of the circle. The whole assembly were well armed, many of them having five or six spears each. The two combatants then entered the ring, and having laid down their spears in opposite rows, point to point, began walking backwards and forwards, talking loudly to each other using violent gestures, as if to inflame their passions to a due height. The women had previously been driven away, and the most profound silence reigned in the rest of the assembly. After about ten minutes spent in this way, they commenced picking up their spears with their feet, keeping their eyes fixed on each other, so as to prevent either from taking advantage of the other's stooping. In the manner they proceeded till they had each three spears, which they stuck in the ground, ready for immediate use. At the moment when they commenced thus picking up their spears, a tremendous shout burst from the spectators, who immediately relapsed into their former silence. All now being ready, one or two of the friends of each party spoke across the ring for a few minutes; and as soon as they ceased, the Doctor threw his spear with all his force at the other, who, however, succeeded in warding it off with a kind of wooden shield called an elemong, into which, however, it penetrated three or four inches. The other then threw in his turn; which the Doctor threw penetrated quite through the shoulder of his adversary, who instantly fell, when one or two of his friends, jumping into the ring, pulled out the spear, and returned it to its owner; and the tournament concluded with loud huzzas from all parties. They all then returned to huts, which had been erected for the occasion, and the next day they again met at the ring, in order to give the friends of the wounded man an opportunity to avenge his quarrel. But it appeared that no one wished to do so, as each had now wounded the other, and a reconciliation took place between the two tribes, which was announced by shouting, dancing, &c.; and a parcel of boys were selected from each party, and sent into the ring to wrestle: after which both tribes joined in a hunting expedition, which lasted a week; but my feet being sore, I was consigned to the care of the women.