While researching the early 1800s in French Canada, I read that bathing the whole body like the Native’s did, was becoming acceptable in French Canada. That statement brought me to a stop. The Europeans didn’t bathe their whole body? They learned it from the Natives? How exactly did the Natives bathe?
Helen C. Rountree, in The Encyclopedia Virginia, (Personal Hygiene Among Early Virginia Indians), writes that memoirs from Jamestown colonists leads to the conclusion that “by modern standards, Virginia Indians were far more sanitary than the Europeans who arrived in 1607.” “Elite” Powhatan Indians, “washed their hands before eating” and “early Virginia Indians practiced personal hygiene that included daily baths in all seasons and all weather.” Rountree’s research tells us that Native “People bathed in the streams that ran by their towns, whether these waterways were salty or fresh. Each morning before dawn, people of both sexes and all ages—even babies—washed themselves until the sun came up…”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Being a nature lover, I know how refreshing and healthy a morning dip in a stream can be. Sweat lodges are still a large part of Native culture and today, cleanliness depends not on whether one is a Native or an immigrant but whether or not one has access to hot water and a bathtub or shower. Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:
And Evaline’s Fiddle. Available here: