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Title: An Introduction to the mortuary customs of the North American Indians
Author: Yarrow, H. C. (Harry Crécy)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Introduction to the mortuary customs of the North American Indians" ***

by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.







_Washington D. C. July 8, 1880_

This little volume is the third of a series designed to promote
anthropologic researches among the North American Indians. The first
Indian Languages," the second by Col. Garrick Mallery entitled
Introduction to the Study of Sign Language among the North American

The following are in course of preparation and will soon appear.

Introduction to the Study of Medicine Practices among the North
American Indians

Introduction to the Study of Mythology among the North American

Introduction to the Study of Sociology among the North American

The mortuary customs of savage or barbaric people have a deep
significance from the fact that in them are revealed much of the
philosophy of the people by whom they are practiced. Early beliefs
concerning the nature of human existence in life and after death and
the relations of the living to the dead are recorded in these customs.
The mystery concerning the future love for the departed who were loved
while here, reverence for the wise and good who may after death be
wiser and better, hatred and fear of those who were enemies here and
may have added powers of enmity in the hereafter--all these and like
considerations have led in every tribe to a body of customs of
exceeding interest as revealing the opinions, the philosophy of the
people themselves.

In these customs, also are recorded evidences of the social condition
of the people, the affection in which friends and kindred are held,
the very beginnings of altruism in primitive life.

In like manner these customs constitute a record of the moral
condition of the people, as in many ways they exhibit the ethic
standards by which conduct in human life is judged. For such reasons
the study of mortuary customs is of profound interest to the

It is hoped that by this method of research the observations of many
men may be brought together and placed on permanent record, and that
the body of material may be sufficient, by a careful comparative
study, to warrant some general discussion concerning the philosophy of
this department of human conduct.

General conclusions can be reached with safety only after materials
from many sources have been obtained. It will not be safe for the
collector to speculate much upon that which he observes. His own
theory or explanation of customs will be of little worth, but the
theory and explanation given by the Indians will be of the greatest
value. What do the Indians do, and say, and believe? When these are
before us it matters little whether our generalizations be true or
false. Wiser men may come and use the facts to a truer purpose. It is
proposed to make a purely objective study of the Indians, and, as far
as possible, to leave the record unmarred by vain subjective

The student who is pursuing his researches in this field should
carefully note all of the customs, superstitions, and opinions of the
Indians relating to--

1. The care of the lifeless body prior to burial, much of which he
will find elaborated into sacred ceremonies.

2. The method of burial, including the site of burial, the attitude in
which the body is placed, and the manner in which it is investured.
Here, also, he will find interesting and curious ceremonial
observances. The superstitions and opinions of the people relating to
these subjects are of importance.

3. The gifts offered to the dead; not only those placed with the body
at the time of burial, but those offered at a subsequent time for the
benefaction of the departed on his way to the other world, and for his
use on arrival. Here, too, it is as important for us to know the
ceremonies with which the gifts are made as to know the character of
the gifts themselves.

4. An interesting branch of this research relates to the customs of
mourning, embracing the time of mourning, the habiliments, the self-
mutilations, and other penances, and the ceremonies with which these
are accompanied. In all of these cases the reason assigned by the
Indians for their doings, their superstitions, and explanations are of
prime importance.

5. It is desirable to obtain from the Indians their explanation of
human life, their theory of spirits and of the life to come.

A complete account of these customs in any tribe will necessitate the
witnessing of many funeral rites, as the custom will differ at the
death of different persons, depending upon age, sex, and social
standing. To obtain their explanations and superstitions, it will be
necessary to interrogate the Indians themselves. This is not an easy
task, for the Indians do not talk with freedom about their dead. The
awe with which they are inspired, their reverence and love for the
departed, and their fear that knowledge which may be communicated may
be used to the injury of those whom they have loved, or of themselves,
lead them to excessive reticence on these subjects. Their feelings
should not be rudely wounded. The better and more thoughtful members
of the tribe will at last converse freely on these subjects with those
in whom they have learned to place confidence. The stories of ignorant
white men and camp attaches should be wholly discarded, and all
accounts should be composed of things actually observed, and of
relations made by Indians of probity.

This preliminary volume by Dr. H. C Yarrow has been the subject of
careful research and of much observation, and will serve in many ways
as a hint to the student. The literature of the subject is vast, but
to a large extent worthless, from the fact that writers have been
hasty travelers or subjective speculators on the matter. It is strange
how much of accepted history must be rejected when the statements are
carefully criticised and compared with known facts. It has frequently
been stated of this or that tribe that mutilations, as the cutting off
of fingers and toes, of ears and nose, the pulling out of teeth, &c.,
are extensively practiced as a mode of mourning find wild scenes of
maiming and bloodshed are depicted as following upon the death of a
beloved chief or great man yet among these tribes maimed persons are
rarely found It is probable that there is some basis of fact for the
statement that mutilations are in rare instances practiced among some
tribes. But even this qualified statement needs absolute proof.

I am pleased to assure those who will take part in this work by
earnest and faithful research that Dr Yarrow will treat them
generously by giving them full credit for their work in his final

I must not fail to present my thanks to the Surgeon General of the
United States Army and his corps of officers for the interest and
assistance they have rendered.


WASHINGTON, D C, _April_ 5, 1880

DEAR SIR: I have the honor to offer for your consideration the
following paper upon the Mortuary Customs of the North American
Indians, and trust it may meet with your approval as an introduction
to the study of a subject which, while it has been alluded to by most
authors, has received little or no systematic treatment. For this and
other reasons I was induced some three years since to commence an
examination and collection of data relative to the matter, and the
present paper is the outcome of that effort. From the vast amount of
material in the Bureau of Ethnology, even at the present time, a large
volume might be prepared, but it was thought wiser to endeavor to
obtain a still greater array of facts, especially from living
observers. If the desired end is attained I shall not count as lost
the labor which has been bestowed.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Maj. J. W. POWELL,

_In charge of Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution_

_The wisest of beings tells us that it is better to go to the House
of Mourning than to that of laughter. And those who have well consider
d the grounds he bad for thus his judgment will not by the title of
this book (as melancholy as it appears) be affrighted from the
perusing it.

What we read to have been and still to be the custom of some nations
to make sepulchres the repositories of their greatest riches is (I am
sure) universally true in a moral sense however it may be thought in
the literal there being never a grave but what conceals a treasure
though all have not the art to discover it I do not here invite the
covetous miser to disturb the dead who can frame no idea of treasure
distinct from gold and silver but him who knows that wisdom and virtue
are the true and sole riches of man. Is not truth a treasure think
you? Which yet Democritus assures us is buried in a deep pit or grave
and he bad reason for whereas we meet elsewhere with nothing but pain
and deceit we no sooner look down into a grave but truth faceth us and
tells us our own._--MURET


upon the




The primitive manners and customs of the North American Indians are
rapidly passing away under influences of civilization and other
disturbing elements. In view of this fact, it becomes the duty of all
interested in preserving a record of these customs to labor
assiduously, while there is still time, to collect such data as may be
obtainable. This seems the more important now, as within the last ten
years an almost universal interest has been awakened in ethnologic
research, and the desire for more knowledge in this regard is
constantly increasing. A wise and liberal government, recognizing the
need, has ably seconded the efforts of those engaged in such studies
by liberal grants from the public funds; nor is encouragement wanted
from the hundreds of scientific societies throughout the civilized
globe. The public press, too--the mouth-piece of the people--is ever
on the alert to scatter broadcast such items of ethnologic information
as its corps of well-trained reporters can secure. To induce further
laudable inquiry, and assist all those who may be willing to engage in
the good work, is the object of this preliminary work on the mortuary
customs of North American Indians, and it is hoped that many more
laborers may through it be added to the extensive and honorable list
of those who have already contributed.

It would appear that the subject chosen should awaken great interest,
since the peculiar methods followed by different nations and the great
importance attached to burial ceremonies have formed an almost
invariable part of all works relating to the different peoples of our
globe; in fact no particular portion of ethnologic research has
claimed more attention. In view of these facts, it might seem almost a
work of supererogation to continue a further examination of the
subject, for nearly every author in writing of our Indian tribes makes
some mention of burial observances; but these notices are scattered
far and wide on the sea of this special literature, and many of the
accounts, unless supported by corroborative evidence, may be
considered as entirely unreliable. To bring together and harmonize
conflicting statements, and arrange collectively what is known of the
subject has been the writer's task, and an enormous mass of
information has been acquired, the method of securing which has been
as follows:

In the first instance a circular was prepared, which is here given;
this at the time was thought to embrace all items relating to the
disposal of the dead and attendant ceremonies, although since its
distribution other important questions have arisen which will be
alluded to subsequently.

"WASHINGTON, D. C, _June_ 15, 1877.


"SIR: Being engaged in preparing a memoir upon the 'Burial Customs of
the Indians of North America, both ancient and modern, and the
disposal of their dead,' I beg leave to request your kind co-operation
to enable me to present as exhaustive an exposition of the subject as
possible, and to this end earnestly invite your attention to the
following points in regard to which information is desired:

"1st. Name of the tribe

"2d. Locality.

"3d. Manner of burial, ancient and modern.

"4th. Funeral ceremonies.

"5th. Mourning observances, if any.

"With reference to the first of these inquiries, 'Name of the tribe,'
the Indian name is desired as well as the name by which the tribe is
known to the whites.

"As to 'Locality,' the response should give the range of the tribe,
and be full and geographically accurate.

"As to the 'Manner of burial,' &c, it is important to have every
particular bearing on this branch of the subject, and much minuteness
is desirable.

"For instance:

"(_a_) Was the body buried in the ground; if so, in what
position, and how was the grave prepared and finished?

"(_b_) If cremated, describe the process, and what disposal was
made of the ashes.

"(_c_) Were any utensils, implements, ornaments, &c., or food
placed in the grave? In short, every _fact_ is sought that may
possibly add to a general knowledge of the subject.

"Answers to the fourth and fifth queries should give as full and
succinct a description as possible of funereal and other mortuary
ceremonies at the time of death and subsequently, the period of
mourning, manner of its observance, &c.

"In obtaining materials for the purpose in question it is particularly
desirable that well-authenticated sources of information only be drawn
upon, and, therefore, any points gathered from current rumor or mere
hearsay, and upon which there is doubt, should be submitted to
searching scrutiny before being embraced in answers to the several
interrogatories, and nothing should be recorded as a _fact_ until
fully established as such.

"In seeking information from Indians, it is well to remember the great
tendency to exaggeration they show, and since absolute facts will
alone serve our purpose, great caution is suggested in this

"It is earnestly desired to make the work in question as complete as
possible, and therefore it is especially hoped that your response will
cover the ground as pointed out by the several questions as thoroughly
as you may be able and willing to make it.

"In addition to notes, a reference to published papers either by
yourself or others is desirable, as well as the names of those persons
who may be able to furnish the needed information.

"Permit me to assure you that, while it is not offered in the way of
inducement to secure the service asked, since it is barely possible
that you can be otherwise than deeply interested in the extension of
the bounds of knowledge, full credit will be given you in the work for
whatever information you may be pleased to furnish.

"This material will be published under the auspices of Prof. J.W.
Powell, in charge of the U. S Geographical and Geological Survey of
the Rocky Mountain Region.

"Communications may be addressed to me either at the address given
above or at the Army Medical Museum, Washington, D. C.

"Respectfully, yours,


This was forwarded to every Indian agent, physicians at agencies, to a
great number of Army officers who had served or were serving at
frontier posts, and to individuals known to be interested in
ethnologic matters. A large number of interesting and valuable
responses were received, many of them showing how customs have changed
either under influences of civilization or altered circumstances of

Following this, a comprehensive list of books relating to North
American Indians was procured, and each volume subjected to careful
scrutiny, extracts being made from those that appeared in the writer's
judgment reliable. Out of a large number examined up to the present
time, several hundred have been laid under contribution, and the labor
of further collation still continues.

It is proper to add that all the material obtained will eventually be
embodied in a quarto volume, forming one of the series of
contributions to North American Ethnology prepared under the direction
of Maj. J. W. Powell, Director of the Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian
Institution, from whom, since the inception of the work, most constant
encouragement and advice has been received, and to whom all American
ethnologists owe a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid.

Having thus called attention to the work and the methods pursued in
collecting data, the classification of the subject may be given and
examples furnished of the burial ceremonies among different tribes,
calling especial attention to similar or almost analogous customs
among the peoples of the Old World.

For our present purpose the following provisional arrangement of
burials may be adopted:

1st. By INHUMATION in pits, graves, holes in the ground, mounds;
cists, and caves.

2d. By CREMATION, generally on the surface of the earth, occasionally
beneath, the resulting bones or ashes being placed in pits, in the
ground, in boxes placed on scaffolds or trees, in urns, sometimes

3d. By EMBALMENT or a process of mummifying, the remains being
afterwards placed in the earth, caves, mounds, or charnel-houses.

4th. By AERIAL SEPULTURE, the bodies being deposited on scaffolds or
trees, in boxes or canoes, the two latter receptacles supported on
scaffolds or posts, or on the ground. Occasionally baskets have been
used to contain the remains of children, these being hung to trees.

5th. By AQUATIC BURIAL, beneath the water, or in canoes, which were
turned adrift.

These heads might, perhaps, be further subdivided, but the above seem
sufficient for all practical needs.

The use of the term _burial_ throughout this paper is to be
understood in its literal significance, the word being derived from
the Anglo-Saxon "_birgan,_" to conceal or hide away.

In giving descriptions of different burials and attendant ceremonies,
it has been deemed expedient to introduce entire accounts as
furnished, in order to preserve continuity of narrative.


The commonest mode of burial among North American Indians has been
that of interment in the ground, and this has taken place in a number
of different ways; the following will, however, serve as good examples
of the process.

"The Mohawks of New York made a large round hole in which the body was
placed upright or upon its haunches, after which it was covered with
timber, to support the earth which they lay over, and thereby kept the
body from being pressed. They then raised the earth in a round hill
over it. They always dressed the corpse in all its finery, and put
wampum and other things into the grave with it; and the relations
suffered not grass nor any weed to grow upon the grave, and frequently
visited it and made lamentation." [Footnote: Hist. Indian Tribes of
the United States, 1853, part 3, p 183.]

This account may be found in Schoolcraft.

In Jones [Footnote: Antiq. of Southern Indians, 1873, pp 108-110] is
the following interesting account from Lawson, of the burial customs
of the Indians formerly inhabiting the Carolinas:

"Among the Carolina tribes, the burial of the dead was accompanied
with special ceremonies, the expense and formality attendant upon the
funeral according with the rank of the deceased. The corpse was first
placed in a cane bundle and deposited in an outhouse made for the
purpose, where it was suffered to remain for a day and a night guarded
and mourned over by the nearest relatives with disheveled hair. Those
who are to officiate at the funeral go into the town, and from the
backs of the first young men they meet strip such blankets and
matchcoats as they deem suitable for their purpose. In these the dead
body is wrapped and then covered with two or three mats made of rushes
or cane. The coffin is made of woven reeds or hollow canes tied fast
at both ends. When everything is prepared for the interment, the
corpse is carried from the house in which it has been lying into the
orchard of peach-trees and is there deposited in another bundle.
Seated upon mats are there congregated the family and tribe of the
deceased and invited guests. The medicine man, or conjurer, having
enjoined silence, then pronounces a funeral oration, during which he
recounts the exploits of the deceased, his valor, skill, love of
country, property, and influence, alludes to the void caused by his
death, and counsels those who remain to supply his place by following
in his footsteps; pictures the happiness he will enjoy in the land of
spirits to which he has gone, and concludes his address by an allusion
to the prominent traditions of his tribe."

Let us here pause to remind the reader that this custom has prevailed
throughout the civilized world up to the present day--a custom, in the
opinion of many, "more honored in the breach than the observance."

"At last [says Mr. Lawson], the corpse is brought away from that
hurdle to the grave by four young men, attended by the relations, the
king, old men, and all the nation. When they come to the sepulchre,
which is about six feet deep and eight feet long, having at each end
(that is, at the head and foot) a light-wood or pitch-pine fork driven
close down the sides of the grave firmly into the ground (these two
forks are to contain a ridgepole, as you shall understand presently),
before they lay the corpse into the grave, they cover the bottom two
or three time over with the bark of trees; then they let down the
corpse (with two belts that the Indians carry their burdens withal)
very leisurely upon the said barks; then they lay over a pole of the
same wood in the two forks, and having a great many pieces of pitch-
pine logs about two foot and a half long, they stick them in the sides
of the grave down each end and near the top, through of where (sic) the
other ends lie in the ridge-pole, so that they are declining like the
roof of a house. These being very thick placed, they cover them many
times double with bark; then they throw the earth thereon that came
out of the grave and beat it down very firm. By this means the dead
body lies in a vault, nothing touching him. After a time the body is
taken up, the bones cleaned, and deposited in an ossuary called the

Dr Fordyce Grinnell, physician to the Wichita Agency, Indian
Territory, furnishes the following description of the burial
ceremonies of the Wichita Indians, who call themselves. "_Kitty-la-
tats_" or those of the tattooed eyelids.

"When a Wichita dies the town-crier goes up and down through the
village and announces the fact. Preparations are immediately made for
the burial, and the body is taken without delay to the grave prepared
for it reception. If the grave is some distance from the village the
body is carried thither on the back of a pony, being first wrapped in
blankets and then laid prone across the saddle, one walking on either
side to support it. The grave is dug from 3 to 4 feet deep and of
sufficient length for the extended body. First blankets and buffalo
robes are laid in the bottom of the grave, then the body, being taken
from the horse and unwrapped, is dressed in its best apparel and with
ornaments is placed upon a couch of blankets and robes, with the head
towards the west and the feet to the east; the valuables belonging to
the deceased are placed with the body in the grave. With the man are
deposited his bows and arrows or gun, and with the woman her cooking
utensils and other implements of her toil. Over the body sticks are
placed six or eight inches deep and grass over these, so that when the
earth is filled in it need not come in contact with the body or its
trappings. After the grave is filled with earth a pen of poles is
built around it, or, as is frequently the case, stakes are driven so
that they cross each other from either side about midway over the
grave, thus forming a complete protection from the invasion of wild
animals. After all this is done, the grass or other _debris_ is
carefully scraped from about the grave for several feet, so that the
ground is left smooth and clean. It is seldom the case that the
relatives accompany the remains to the grave, but they more often
employ others to bury the body for them, usually women. Mourning is
similar in this tribe as in others, and consists in cutting off the
hair, fasting, &c. Horses are also killed at the grave."

The Caddoes, _Ascena_, or Timber Indians, as they call
themselves, follow nearly the same mode of burial as the Wichitas, but
one custom prevailing is worthy of mention.

"If a Caddo is killed in battle, the body is never buried, but is left
to be devoured by beasts or birds of prey and the condition of such
individuals in the other world is considered to be far better than
that of persons dying a natural death."

In a work by Bruhier [Footnote: L'incertitude des Signes de la Mort,
1740, tom 1, p. 430] the following remarks, freely translated by the
writer, may be found, which note a custom having great similarity to
the exposure of bodies to wild beasts mentioned above.

"The ancient Persians threw out the bodies of their dead on the roads,
and if they were promptly devoured by wild beasts it was esteemed a
great honor, a misfortune if not. Sometimes they interred, always
wrapping the dead in a wax cloth to prevent odor."

M. Pierre Muret, [Footnote: Rites of Funeral, Ancient and Modern,
1683, p 45] from whose book Bruhier probably obtained his information,
gives at considerable length an account of this peculiar method of
treating the dead among the Persians, as follows:

"It is a matter of astonishment, considering the _Persians_ have
ever had the renown of being one of the most civilized Nations in the
world, that notwithstanding they should have used such barbarous
customs about the Dead as are set down in the Writings of some
Historians, and the rather because at this day there are still to be
seen among them those remains of Antiquity, which do fully satisfie
us, that their Tombs have been very magnificent. And yet nevertheless,
if we will give credit to _Procopius_ and _Agathias_, the
_Persians_ were never wont to bury their Dead Bodies, so far were
they from bestowing any Funeral Honours upon them. But, as these
Authors tell us, they exposed them stark naked in the open fields,
which is the greatest shame our Laws do allot to the most infamous
Criminals, by laying them open to the view of all upon the highways:
Yea, in their opinion it was a great unhappiness, if either Birds or
Beasts did not devour their Carcases; and they commonly made an
estimate of the Felicity of these poor Bodies, according as they were
sooner or later made a prey of. Concerning these, they resolved that
they must needs have been very bad indeed, since even the beasts
themselves would not touch them; which caused an extream sorrow to
their Relations, they taking it for an ill boding to their Family, and
an infallible presage of some great misfortune hanging over their
heads, for they persuaded themselves, that the Souls which inhabited
those Bodies being dragg'd into Hell, would not fail to come and
trouble them, and that being always accompanied with the Devils, their
Tormentors, they would certainly give them a great deal of disturbance.

"And on the contrary, when these Corpses were presently devoured,
their joy was very great, they enlarged themselves in praises of the
Deceased; every one esteeming them undoubtedly happy, and came to
congratulate their relations on that account: For as they believed
assuredly, that they were entered into the _Elysian_ Fields, so
they were persuaded, that they would procure the same bliss for all
those of their family.

"They also took a great delight to see Skeletons and Bones scatered up
and down in the fields, whereas we can scarcely endure to see those of
Horses and Dogs used so. And these remains of Humane Bodies, (the
sight whereof gives us so much, horror, that we presently bury them
out of our sight, whenever we find them elsewhere than in Charnel-
houses or Church yards) were the occasion of their greatest joy
because they concluded from thence the happiness of those that had
been devoured wishing after then Death to meet with the like good

The same author states and Bruhier corroborates the assertion that the
Parthians, Medes, Iberians, Caspians, and a few others had such a
horror and aversion of the corruption and decomposition of the dead
and of their being eaten by worms that they threw out the bodies into
the open fields to be devoured by wild beasts, a part of their belief
being that persons so devoured would not be entirely extinct, but
enjoy at least a partial sort of life in their living sepulchres. It
is quite probable that for these and other reasons the Bactrians and
Hircanians trained dogs for this special purpose called _Canes
sepulchrales_ which received the greatest care and attention, for
it was deemed proper that the souls of the deceased should have strong
and lusty frames to dwell in.

George Gibbs [Footnote: Schoolcraft's Hist. Indian Tribes of the
United States Pt. 3, 1853, p. 140]  gives the following account of
burial among the Klamath and Trinity Indians of the Northwest coast.

The graves which are in the immediate vicinity of their houses exhibit
very considerable taste and a laudable care. The dead are inclosed in
rude coffins formed by placing four boards around the body and covered
with earth to some depth; a heavy plank often supported by upright
head and foot stones is laid upon the top or stones are built up into
a wall about a foot above the ground and the top flagged with others.
The graves of the chiefs are surrounded by neat wooden palings, each
pale ornamented with a feather from the tail of the bald eagle.
Baskets are usually staked down by the side according to the wealth or
popularity of the individual and sometimes other articles for ornament
or use are suspended over them. The funeral ceremonies occupy three
days during which the soul of the deceased is in danger from _O-mah-
u_ or the devil. To preserve it from this peril a fire is kept up
at the grave and the friends of the deceased howl around it to scare
away the demon. Should they not be successful in this the soul is
carried down the river, subject, however, to redemption by _Peh-ho
wan_ on payment of a big knife. After the expiration of three days
it is all well with them.

The question may well be asked, is the big knife a "sop to Cerberus"?

Capt. F. E. Grossman, [Footnote: Rep. Smithson. Inst., 1871, p. 414]
USA, furnishes the following account of burial among the Pimas of

"The Pimas tie the bodies of their dead with ropes, passing the latter
around the neck and under the knees and then drawing them tight until
the body is doubled up and forced into a sitting position. They dig
the grave from four to five feet deep and perfectly round (about two
feet in diameter), then hollow out to one side of the bottom of this
grave a sort of vault large enough to contain the body. Here the body
is deposited, the grave is filled up level with the ground, and poles,
trees, or pieces of timber placed upon the grave to protect the
remains from the coyotes (a species of wolf). Burials usually take
place at night, without much ceremony. The mourners chant during the
burial, but signs of grief are rare. The bodies of their dead are
buried, if possible, immediately after death has taken place, and the
graves are generally prepared before the patients die. Sometimes sick
persons (for whom the graves had already been dug) recovered; in such
cases the graves are left open until the persons for whom they were
intended die. Open graves of this kind can be seen in several of their
burial-grounds. Places of burial are selected some distance from the
village, and, if possible, in a grove of mesquite bushes. Immediately
after the remains have been buried, the house and personal effects of
the deceased are burned, and his horses and cattle killed, the meat
being cooked as a repast for the mourners. The nearest relatives of
the deceased, as a sign of their sorrow, remain in the village for
weeks and sometimes months; the men cut off about six inches of their
long hair, while the women cut their hair quite short"

The Coyotero Apaches, according to Dr. W. J. Hoffman, [Footnote: U.S.
Geol. Surv. of Terr. for 1876, p. 473] in disposing of their dead,
seem to be actuated by the desire to spare themselves any needless
trouble, and prepare the defunct and the grave in this manner.

"The Coyoteros, upon the death of a member of the tribe, partially
wrap up the corpse and deposit it into the cavity left by the removal
of a small rock or the stump of a tree. After the body has been
crammed into the smallest possible space the rock or stump is again
rolled into its former position, when a number of stones are placed
around the base to keep out the coyotes. The nearest of kin usually
mourn for the period of one month, during that time giving utterance
at intervals to the most dismal lamentations, which are apparently
sincere. During the day this obligation is frequently neglected or
forgotten, but when the mourner is reminded of his duty he renews his
howling with evident interest. This custom of mourning for the period
of thirty days corresponds to that formerly observed by the Natchez."

Somewhat similar to this rude mode of sepulture is that described in
the life of Moses Van Campen, which relates to the Indians formerly
inhabiting Pennsylvania:

"Directly after the Indians proceeded to bury those who had fallen in
battle, which they did by rolling an old log from its place and laying
the body in the hollow thus made, and then heaping upon it a little

As a somewhat curious, if not exceptional, interment, the following
account, relating to the Indians of New York is furnished, by Mr.
Franklin B. Hough, who has extracted it from an unpublished journal of
the agents of a French company kept in 1794:

"Saw Indian graves on the plateau of Independence Rock. The Indians
plant a stake on the right side of the head of the deceased and bury
them in a bark canoe. Their children come every year to bring
provisions to the place where their fathers are buried. One of the
graves had fallen in and we observed in the soil some sticks for
stretching skins, the remains of a canoe, &c., and the two straps for
carrying it, and near the place where the head lay were the traces of
a fire which they had kindled for the soul of the deceased to come and
warm itself by and to partake of the food deposited near it.

"These were probably the Massasauga Indians, then inhabiting the north
shore of Lake Ontario, but who were rather intruders here, the country
being claimed by the Oneidas."

It is not to be denied that the use of canoes for coffins has
occasionally been remarked, for the writer in 1875 removed from the
graves at Santa Barbara an entire skeleton which was discovered in a
redwood canoe, but it is thought that the individual may have been a
noted fisherman, particularly as the implements of his vocation--nets,
fish-spears, &c.--were near him, and this burial was only an
exemplification of the well-rooted belief common to all Indians, that
the spirit in the next world makes use of the same articles as were
employed in this one. It should be added that of the many hundreds of
skeletons uncovered at Santa Barbara the one mentioned presented the
only example of the kind.

Among the Indians of the Mosquito coast, in Central America, canoe
burial in the ground, according to Bancroft [Footnote: Native Races of
Pacific States, 1874, vol. 1, p 744.], was common, and is thus

"The corpse is wrapped in cloth and placed in one-half of a pitpan
which has been cut in two. Friends assemble for the funeral and drown
their grief in _mushla_, the women giving vent to their sorrow by
dashing themselves on the ground until covered with blood, and
inflicting other tortures, occasionally even committing suicide. As it
is supposed that the evil spirit seeks to obtain possession of the
body, musicians are called in to lull it to sleep while preparations
are made for its removal. All at once four naked men, who have
disguised themselves with paint so as not to be recognized and
punished by _Wulasha_, rush out from a neighboring hut, and,
seizing a rope attached to the canoe, drag it into the woods, followed
by the music and the crowd. Here the pitpan is lowered into the grave
with bow, arrow, spear, paddle, and other implements to serve the
departed in the land beyond, then the other half of the boat is placed
over the body. A rude hut is constructed over the grave, serving as a
receptacle for the choice food, drink, and other articles placed there
from time to time by relatives."


While there is a certain degree of similitude between the above-noted
methods and the one to be mentioned subsequently--_lodge_ burial--
they differ, inasmuch as the latter are examples of surface or aerial
burial, and must consequently fall under another caption. The
narratives which are now to be given afford a clear idea of the former
kind of burial.

Bartram [Footnote: Bartram's Travels, 1791, pp. 515.] relates the
following regarding the Muscogulges of the Carolinas:

"The Muscogulges bury their deceased in the earth; they dig a four-
foot, square, deep pit under the cabin, or couch which the deceased
laid on in his house, lining the grave with cypress bark, when they
place the corpse in a sitting posture, as if it were alive, depositing
with him his gun, tomahawk, pipe, and such other matters as he had the
greatest value for in his lifetime. His eldest wife, or the queen
dowager, has the second choice of his possessions, and the remaining
effects are divided among his other wives and children."

According to Bernard Roman, the "funeral customs of the Chickasaws did
not differ materially from those of the Muscogulges. They interred the
dead as soon as the breath left the body, and beneath the couch in
which the deceased expired."

The Navajos of New Mexico and Arizona, a tribe living a considerable
distance from the Chickasaws, follow somewhat similar customs, as
related by Dr. John Menard, formerly a physician to their agency.

"The Navajo custom is to leave the body where it dies, closing up the
house or hogan or covering the body with stones or brush. In case the
body is removed, it is taken to a cleft in the rocks and thrown in,
and stones piled over. The person touching or carrying the body, first
takes off all his clothes and afterwards washes his body with water
before putting them on or mingling with the living. When a body is
removed from a house or hogan, the hogan is burned down, and the place
in every case abandoned, as the belief is that the devil comes to the
place of death and remains where a dead body is. Wild animals
frequently (indeed, generally) get the bodies, and it is a very easy
matter to pick up skulls and bones around old camping grounds, or
where the dead are laid. In case it is not desirable to abandon a
place, the sick person is left out in some lone spot protected by
brush, where they are either abandoned to their fate or food brought
to them until they die. This is done only when all hope is gone. I
have found bodies thus left so well inclosed with brush that wild
animals were unable to get at them; and one so left to die was revived
by a cup of coffee from our house and is still living and well."

Mr. J. L. Burchard, agent to the Round Valley Indians of California,
furnishes an account of burial somewhat resembling that of the

"When I first came here the Indians would dig a round hole in the
ground, draw up the knees of the deceased Indian, and wrap the body
into as small a bulk as possible in blankets, tie them firmly with
cords, place them in the grave, throw in beads, baskets, clothing,
everything owned by the deceased, and often donating much extra; all
gathered around the grave wailing most pitifully, tearing their faces
with their nails till the blood would run down their cheeks, pull out
their hair, and such other heathenish conduct. These burials were
generally made under their thatch houses or very near thereto. The
house where one died was always torn down, removed, rebuilt, or
abandoned. The wailing, talks, &c., were in their own jargon; none
else could understand, and they seemingly knew but little of its
meaning (if there was any meaning in it); it simply seemed to be the
promptings of grief, without sufficient intelligence to direct any
ceremony; each seemed to act out his own impulse"


These are of considerable interest, not only from their somewhat rare
occurrence, except in certain localities, but from the manifest care
taken by the survivors to provide for the dead what they considered a
suitable resting-place. A number of cists have been found in
Tennessee, and are thus described by Moses Fiske: [Footnote: Trans.
Amer. Antiq. Soc., 1820 vol. 1, p. 302]

"There are many burying grounds in West Tennessee with regular graves.
They dug them 12 or 18 inches deep, placed slabs at the bottom ends
and sides, forming a kind of stone coffin, and, after laying in the
body, covered it over with earth."

It may be added that, in 1873, the writer assisted at the opening of a
number of graves of men of the reindeer period, near Solutre, in
France, and they were almost identical in construction with those
described by Mr. Fiske, with the exception that the latter were
deeper; this, however, may be accounted for if it is considered how
great a deposition of earth may have taken place during the many
centuries which have elapsed since the burial. Many of the graves
explored by the writer in 1875, at Santa Barbara, resembled somewhat
cist graves, the bottom and sides of the pit being lined with large
flat stones, but there were none directly over the skeletons.

The next account is by Maj. J. W. Powell, the result of his
observation in Tennessee.  "These ancient cemeteries are exceedingly
abundant throughout the State, often hundreds of graves may be found
on a single hillside. In some places the graves are scattered and in
others collected in mounds, each mound being composed of a large
number of cist graves. It is evident that the mounds were not
constructed at one time, but the whole collection of graves therein
was made during long periods by the addition of a new grave from time
to time. In the first burials found at the bottom and near the center
of a mound a tendency to a concentric system, with the feet inward, is
observed, and additions are made around and above these first
concentric graves, as the mound increases in size the burials become
more and more irregular:

"Some other peculiarities are of interest. A larger number of
interments exhibit the fact that the bodies were placed there before
the decay of the flesh, while in other cases collections of bones are
buried. Sometimes these bones were placed in some order about the
crania, and sometimes in irregular piles, as if the collection of
bones had been emptied from a sack. With men, pipes, stone hammers,
knives, arrowheads, &c., were usually found; with women, pottery, rude
beads, shells, &c.; with children, toys of pottery, beads, curious
pebbles, &c.

"Sometimes, in the subsequent burials, the side slab of a previous
burial was used as a portion of the second cist. All of the cists were
covered with slabs."

Dr. Jones has given an exceedingly interesting account of the stone
graves of Tennessee, in his volume published by the Smithsonian
Institution, to which valuable work [Footnote: Antiquities of
Tennessee, Cont. to Knowledge, Smith. Inst., 1876, No. 259, 4 deg., pp. 1,
8, 37, 52, 55, 82.] the reader is referred for a more detailed account
of this mode of burial.


In view of the fact that the subject of mound-burial is so extensive,
and that in all probability a volume by a member of the Bureau of
Ethnology may shortly be published, it is not deemed advisable to
devote any considerable space to it in this paper, but a few
interesting examples may be noted to serve as indications to future

The first to which attention is directed is interesting as resembling
cist-burial combined with deposition in mounds. The communication is
from Prof. F. W. Putnam, curator of the Peabody Museum of Archaology,
Cambridge, made to the Boston Society of Natural History, and is
published in volume XX of its proceedings, October 15, 1878:

"...He then stated that it would be of interest to the members, in
connection with the discovery of dolmens in Japan, as described by
Professor Morse, to know that within twenty-four hours there had been
received at the Peabody Museum a small collection of articles taken
from rude dolmens (or chambered barrows, as they would be called in
England), recently opened by Mr. E. Curtiss, who is now engaged, under
his direction, in exploration for the Peabody Museum.

"These chambered mounds are situated in the eastern part of Clay
County, Missouri, and form a large group on both sides of the Missouri
River. The chambers are, in the three opened by Mr. Curtiss, about 8
feet square, and from 4-1/2 to 5 feet high, each chamber having a
passage-way several feet in length and 2 in width leading from the
southern side and opening on the edge of the mound formed by covering
the chamber and passage-way with earth. The walls of the chambered
passages were about 2 feet thick, vertical, and well made of stones,
which were evenly laid without clay or mortar of any kind. The top of
one of the chambers had a covering of large, flat rocks, but the
others seem to have been closed over with wood. The chambers were
filled with clay which had been burnt, and appeared as if it had
fallen in from above. The inside walls of the chambers also showed
signs of fire. Under the burnt clay, in each chamber, were found the
remains of several human skeletons, all of which had been burnt to
such an extent as to leave but small fragments of the bones, which
were mixed with the ashes and charcoal. Mr. Curtiss thought that in
one chamber he found the remains of 5 skeletons and in another 13.
With these skeletons there were a few flint implements and minute
fragments of vessels of clay.

"A large mound near the chambered mounds was also opened, but in this
no chambers were found. Neither had the bodies been burnt. This mound
proved remarkably rich in large flint implements, and also contained
well-made pottery and a peculiar "gorget" of red stone. The connection
of the people who placed the ashes of their dead in the stone chambers
with those who buried their dead in the earth mounds is, of course,
yet to be determined."

It is quite possible, indeed probable, that these chambers were used
for secondary burials, the bodies having first been cremated.

In the volume of the proceedings already quoted the same investigator
gives an account of other chambered mounds which are, like the
preceding, very interesting, the more so as adults only were inhumed
therein, children having been buried beneath the dwelling-floors:

"Mr. F. W. Putnam occupied the rest of the evening with an account of
his explorations of the ancient mounds and burial places in the
Cumberland Valley, Tennessee.

"The excavations had been carried on by himself, assisted by Mr. Edwin
Curtiss, for over two years, for the benefit of the Peabody Museum at
Cambridge. During this time many mounds of various kinds had been
thoroughly explored, and several thousand of the singular stone graves
of the mound builders of Tennessee had been carefully opened.... Mr.
Putnam's remarks were illustrated by drawings of several hundred
objects obtained from the graves and mounds, particularly to show the
great variety of articles of pottery and several large and many unique
forms of implements of chipped flint. He also exhibited and explained
in detail a map of a walled town of this old nation. This town was
situated on the Lindsley estate, in a bend of Spring Creek. The earth
embankment, with its accompanying ditch, encircled an area of about 12
acres. Within this inclosure there was one large mound with a flat
top, 15 feet high, 130 feet long, and 90 feet wide, which was found
not to be a burial mound. Another mound near the large one, about 50
feet in diameter, and only a few feet high, contained 60 human
skeletons, each in a carefully-made stone grave, the graves being
arranged in two rows, forming the four sides of a square, and in three
layers.... The most important discovery lie made within the inclosure
was that of finding the remains of the houses of the people who lived
in this old town. Of them about 70 were traced out and located on the
map by Professor Buchanan, of Lebanon, who made the survey for Mr.
Putnam. Under the floors of hard clay, which was in places much burnt,
Mr. Putnam found the graves of children. As only the bodies of adults
had been placed in the one mound devoted to burial, and as nearly
every site of a house he explored had from one to four graves of
children under the clay floor, he was convinced that it was a regular
custom to bury the children in that way. He also found that the
children had been undoubtedly treated with affection, as in their
small graves were found many of the best pieces of pottery he
obtained, and also quantities of shell-beads, several large pearls,
and many other objects which were probably the playthings of the
little ones while living." [Footnote: A detailed account of this
exploration, with many illustrations, will be found in the Eleventh
Annual Report of the Peabody Museum, Cambridge, 1878.]

This cist mode of burial is by no means uncommon in Tennessee, as they
are frequently mentioned by writers on North American archaeology.

The examples which follow are specially characteristic, some of them
serving to add strength to the theory that mounds were for the most
part used for secondary burial, although intrusions were doubtless

Of the burial mounds of Ohio, Caleb Atwater [Footnote: Trans. Amer.
Antiq. Soc., 1820, i, p. 174 et seq.] gives this description.

"Near the center of the round fort ... was a tumulus of earth about 10
feet in height and several rods in diameter at its base. On its
eastern side, and extending six rods from it, was a semicircular
pavement composed of pebbles such as are now found in the bed of the
Scioto River, from whence they appear to have been brought. The summit
of this tumulus was nearly 30 feet in diameter, and there was a raised
way to it, leading from the east, like a modern turnpike. The summit
was level. The outline of the semicircular pavement and the walk is
still discernible. The earth composing this mound was entirely removed
several years since. The writer was present at its removal and
carefully examined the contents. It contained--

"1st. Two human skeletons lying on what had been the original surface
of the earth.

"2d. A great quantity of arrow-heads, some of which were so large as
to induce a belief that they were used as spear-heads.

"3d. The handle either of a small sword or a large knife, made of an
elk's horn. Around the end where the blade had been inserted was a
ferule of silver, which, though black, was not much injured by time.
Though the handle showed the hole where the blade had been inserted,
yet no iron was found, but an oxyde remained of similar shape and

"4th. Charcoal and wood ashes on which these articles lay, which were
surrounded by several bricks very well burnt. The skeleton appeared to
have been burned in a large and very hot fire, which had almost
consumed the bones of the deceased. This skeleton was deposited a
little to the south of the center of the tumulus; and about 20 feet to
the north of it was another, with which were--

"5th. A large mirrour about 3 feet in breadth and 1-1/2 inches in
thickness This mirrour was of isinglass (_mica membranacea_), and
on it--

"6th. A plate of iron which had become an oxyde, but before it was
disturbed by the spade resembled a plate of cast iron. The mirrour
answered the purpose very well for which it was intended. This
skeleton had also been burned like the former, and lay on charcoal and
a considerable quantity of wood ashes. A part of the mirrour is in my
possession, as well as a piece of brick taken from the spot at the
time. The knife or sword handle was sent to Mr. Peal's Museum at

"To the southwest of this tumulus, about 40 rods from it, is another,
more than 90 feet in height, which is shown on the plate representing
these works. It stands on a large hill, which appears to be
artificial. This must have been the common cemetery, as it contains an
immense number of human skeletons of all sizes and ages. The skeletons
are laid horizontally, with their heads generally towards the center
and the feet towards the outside of the tumulus. A considerable part
of this work still stands uninjured, except by time. In it have been
found, besides these skeletons, stone axes and knives and several
ornaments, with holes through them, by means of which, with a cord
passing through these perforations they could be worn by their owners.
On the south side of this tumulus, and not far from it, was a
semicircular fosse, which, when I first saw it, was 6 feet deep. On
opening it was discovered at the bottom a great quantity of human
bones, which I am inclined to believe were the remains of those who
had been slain in some great and destructive battle first, because
they belonged to persons who had attained their full size, whereas in
the mound adjoining were found the skeletons of persons of all ages,
and, secondly, they were here in the utmost confusion, as if buried in
a hurry. May we not conjecture that they belonged to the people who
resided in the town, and who were victorious in the engagement?
Otherwise they would not have been thus honorably buried in the common


"Its perpendicular height was about 15 feet, and the diameter of its
base about 60 feet. It was composed of sand and contained human bones
belonging to skeletons which were buried in different parts of it. It
was not until this pile of earth was removed and the original surface
exposed to view that a probable conjecture of its original design
could be formed. About 20 feet square of the surface had been leveled
and covered with bark. On the center of this lay a human skeleton,
over which had been spread a mat manufactured either from weeds or
bark. On the breast lay what had been a piece of copper, in the form
of a cross, which had now become verdigrise. On the breast also lay a
stone ornament with two perforations, one near each end, through which
passed a string, by means of which it was suspended around the
wearer's neck. On this string, which was made of sinews, and very much
injured by time, were placed a great many heads made of ivory or bone,
for I cannot certainly say which...."


"Two such mounds have been described already in the county of Perry.
Others have been found in various parts of the country. There is one
at least in the vicinity of Licking River, not many miles from Newark.
There is another on a branch of Hargus's Creek, a few miles to the
northeast of Circleville. There were several not very far from the
town of Chillicothe. If these mounds were sometimes used as cemeteries
of distinguished persons, they were also used as monuments with a view
of perpetuating the recollection of some great transaction or event.
In the former not more generally than one or two skeletons are found;
in the latter none. These mounds are like those of earth, in form of a
cone, composed of small stones on which no marks of tools were
visible. In them some of the most interesting articles are found, such
as urns, ornaments of copper, heads of spears, &c., of the same metal,
as well as medals of copper and pickaxes of horneblende; ... works of
this class, compared with those of earth, are few, and they are none
of them as large as the mounds at Grave Creek, in the town of
Circleville, which belong to the first class. I saw one of these stone
tumuli which had been piled on the surface of the earth on the spot
where three skeletons had been buried in stone coffins, beneath the
surface. It was situated on the western edge of the hill on which the
"walled town" stood, on Paint Creek. The graves appear to have been
dug to about the depth of ours in the present times. After the bottom
and sides were lined with thin flat stones, the corpses were placed in
these graves in an eastern and western direction, and large flat
stones were laid over the graves; then the earth which had been dug
out of the graves was thrown over them. A huge pile of stones was
placed over the whole. It is quite probable, however, that this was a
work of our present race of Indians. Such graves are more common in
Kentucky than Ohio. No article, except the skeletons, was found in
these graves; and the skeletons resembled very much the present race
of Indians."

The mounds of Sterling County, Illinois, are described by W. C.
Holbrook, [Footnote: Amer. Natural, 1877, xi, No. 11, p. 688] as

"I recently made an, examination of a few of the many Indian mounds
found on Rock River, about two miles above Sterling, Ill. The first
one opened was an oval mound about 20 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 7
feet high. In the interior of this I found a _dolmen_ or
quadrilateral wall about 10 feet long, 4 feet high, and 4-1/2 feet
wide. It had been built of lime-rock from a quarry near by, and was
covered with large flat stones No mortar or cement had been used. The
whole structure rested on the surface of the natural soil, the
interior of which had been scooped out to enlarge the chamber. Inside
of the _dolmen_ I found the partly decayed remains of eight human
skeletons, two very large teeth of an unknown animal, two fossils, one
of which is not found in this place, and a plummet. One of the long
bones had been splintered; the fragments had united, but there
remained large morbid growths of bone (exostosis) in several places.
One of the skulls presented a circular opening about the size of a
silver dime. This perforation had been made during life, for the edges
had commenced to cicatrize. I later examined three circular mounds,
but in them I found no dolmens. The first mound contained three adult
human skeletons, a few fragments of the skeleton of a child, the lower
maxillary of which indicated it to be about six years old. I also
found claws of some carnivorous animal. The surface of the soil had
been scooped out and the bodies laid in the excavation and covered
with about a foot of earth, fires had then been made upon the grave
and the mound afterwards completed. The bones had not been charred. No
charcoal was found among the bones, but occurred in abundance in a
stratum about one foot above them. Two other mounds, examined at the
same time, contained no remains.

"Of two other mounds, opened later, the first was circular, about 4
feet high, and 15 feet in diameter at the base, and was situated on an
elevated point of land close to the bank of the river. From the top of
this mound one might view the country for many miles in almost any
direction. On its summit was an oval altar 6 feet long and 4-1/2 wide.
It was composed of flat pieces of limestone, which had been burned
red, some portions having been almost converted into lime. On and
about this altar I found abundance of charcoal. At the sides of the
altar were fragments of human bones, some of which had been charred.
It was covered by a natural growth of vegetable mold and sod, the
thickness of which was about 10 inches. Large trees had once grown in
this vegetable mold, but their stumps were so decayed I could not tell
with certainty to what species they belonged. Another large mound was
opened which contained nothing."

The next account relates to the grave-mounds near Pensacola, Fla., and
was originally published by Dr. George M. Sternberg, surgeon United
States Army. [Footnote: Proc. Am. Ass. Adv. of Science, 1875, p. 288]

"Before visiting the mound I was informed that the Indians were buried
in it in an upright position, each one with a clay pot on his head.
This idea was based upon some superficial explorations which had been
made from time to time by curiosity hunters. Their excavations had,
indeed, brought to light pots containing fragments of skulls, but not
buried in the position they imagined. Very extensive explorations made
at different times by myself have shown that only fragments of skulls
and of the long bones of the body are to be found in the mound, and
that these are commonly associated with earthen pots, sometimes whole,
but more frequently broken fragments only. In some instances portions
of the skull were placed in a pot, and the long bones were deposited
in its immediate vicinity. Again, the pots would contain only sand,
and fragments of bones would be found near them. The most successful
'find' I made was a whole nest of pots, to the number of half a dozen,
all in a good state of preservation, and buried with a fragment of
skull, which I take from its small size to have been that of a female.
Whether this female was thus distinguished above all others buried in
the mound by the number of pots deposited with her remains because of
her skill in the manufacture of such ware, or by reason of the unusual
wealth of her sorrowing husband, must remain a matter of conjecture. I
found altogether fragments of skulls and thigh-bones belonging to at
least fifty individuals, but in no instance did I find anything like a
complete skeleton. There were no vertebra, no ribs, no pelvic bones,
and none of the small bones of the hands and feet. Two or three skulls
nearly perfect were found, but they were so fragile that it was
impossible to preserve them. In the majority of instances only
fragments of the frontal and parietal bones were found, buried in pots
or in fragments of pots too small to have ever contained a complete
skull. The conclusion was irresistible that this was not a burial-
place for _the bodies_ of deceased Indians, but that the bones
had been gathered from some other locality for burial in this mound,
or that cremation was practiced before burial, and the fragments of
bone not consumed by fire were gathered and deposited in the mound.
That the latter supposition is the correct one I deem probable from
the fact that in digging in the mound evidences of fire are found in
numerous places, but without any regularity as to depth and position.
These evidences consist in strata of from one to four inches in
thickness, in which the sand is of a dark color and has mixed with it
numerous small fragments of charcoal.

"My theory is that the mound was built by gradual accretion in the
following manner. That when a death occurred a funeral pyre was
erected on the mound, upon which the body was placed. That after the
body was consumed, any fragments of bones remaining were gathered,
placed in a pot, and buried, and that the ashes and cinders were
covered by a layer of sand brought from the immediate vicinity for
that purpose. This view is further supported by the fact that only the
shafts of the long bones are found, the expanded extremities, which
would be most easily consumed, having disappeared; also, by the fact
that no bones of children were found. Their bones being smaller, and
containing a less proportion of earthy matter, would be entirely

"At the Santa Rosa mound the method of burial was different. Here I
found the skeletons complete, and obtained nine well-preserved
skulls.... The bodies were not apparently deposited upon any regular
system, and I found no objects of interest associated with the
remains. It may be that this was due to the fact that the skeletons
found were those of warriors who had fallen in battle in which they
had sustained a defeat. This view is supported by the fact that they
were all males, and that two of the skulls bore marks of ante-mortem
injuries which must have been of a fatal character."

Writing of the Choctaws, Bartram, [Footnote: Bartram's Travels, 1791,
p. 513.] in alluding to the ossuary or bone-house, mentions that so
soon as this is filled a general inhumation takes place, in this

"Then the respective coffins are borne by the nearest relatives of the
deceased to the place of interment, where they are all piled one upon
another in the form of a pyramid, and the conical hill of earth heaped
above. The funeral ceremonies are concluded with the solemnization of
a festival called the feast of the dead."

Mr. Florian Gianque, of Cincinnati, Ohio, furnishes an account of a
somewhat curious mound burial which had taken place in the Miami
Valley of Ohio.

"A mound was opened in this locality, some years ago, containing a
central corpse in a sitting posture, and over thirty skeletons buried
around it in a circle, also in a sitting posture but leaning against
one another, tipped over towards the right facing inwards. I did not
see this opened, but have seen the mounds and many ornaments, awls,
&c., said to have been found near the central body. The parties
informing me are trustworthy."

As an example of interment, unique, so far as known, and interesting
as being _sui generis_, the following is presented, with the
statement that the author, Dr J. Mason Spainhour, of Lenoir, N.C.,
bears the reputation of an observer of undoubted integrity, whose
facts as given may not be doubted.

"_Excavation of an Indian mound by J. Mason Spainhour, D.D.S., of
Lenoir, Caldwell County, North Carolina, March 11, 1871, on the farm
of R. V. Michaux, esq., near John's River, in Burke County, North

"In a conversation with Mr. Michaux on Indian curiosities, he informed
me that there was an Indian mound on his farm which was formerly of
considerable height, but had gradually been plowed down, that several
mounds in the neighborhood had been excavated and nothing of interest
found in them. I asked permission to examine this mound, which was
granted, and upon investigation the following facts were revealed.

"Upon reaching the place, I sharpened a stick 4 or 5 feet in length
and ran it down in the earth at several places, and finally struck a
rock about 18 inches below the surface, which, on digging down, was
found to be smooth on top, lying horizontally upon solid earth, about
18 inches above the bottom of the grave, 18 inches in length, and 16
inches in width, and from 2 to 3 inches in thickness, with the corners

"Not finding anything under this rock, I then made an excavation in
the south of the grave, and soon struck another rock, which upon
examination proved to be in front of the remains of a human skeleton
in a sitting posture. The bones of the fingers of the right hand were
resting on this rock, and on the rock near the hand was a small stone
about 5 inches long, resembling a tomahawk or Indian hatchet. Upon a
further examination many of the bones were found, though in a very
decomposed condition, and upon exposure to the air soon crumbled to
pieces. The heads of the bones, a considerable portion of the skull,
maxillary bones, teeth, neck bones, and the vertebra, were in their
proper places, though the weight of the earth above them had driven
them down, yet the entire frame was so perfect that it was an easy
matter to trace all the bones; the bones of the cranium were slightly
inclined toward the east. Around the neck were found coarse beads that
seemed to be of some hard substance and resembled chalk. A small lump
of red paint about the size of an egg was found near the right side of
this skeleton. The sutures of the cranium indicated the subject to
have been 25 or 28 years of age, and its top rested about 12 inches
below the mark of the plow.

"I made a further excavation toward the west of this grave and found
another skeleton, similar to the first, in a sitting posture, facing
the east. A rock was on the right, on which the bones of the right
hand were resting, and on this rock was a tomahawk which had been
about 7 inches in length, but was broken into two pieces, and was much
better finished than the first. Beads were also around the neck of
this one, but are much smaller and of finer quality than those on the
neck of the first. The material, however, seems to be the same. A much
larger amount of paint was found by the side of this than the first.
The bones indicated a person of large frame, who, I think, was about
50 years of age. Everything about this one had the appearance of
superiority over the first. The top of the skull was about 6 inches
below the mark of the plane.

"I continued the examination, and, after diligent search, found
nothing at the north side of the grave; but, on reaching the east,
found another skeleton, in the same posture as the others, facing the
west. On the right side of this was a rock on which the bones of the
right hand were resting, and on the rock was also a tomahawk, which
had been about 8 inches in length, but was broken into _three_
pieces, and was composed of much better material, and better finished
than the others. Beads were also found on the neck of this, but much
smaller and finer than those of the others. A larger amount of paint
than both of the others was found near this one. The top of the
cranium had been moved by the plow. The bones indicated a person of 40
years of age.

"There was no appearance of hair discovered; besides, the smaller
bones were almost entirely decomposed, and would crumble when taken
from their bed in the earth. These two circumstances, coupled with the
fact that the farm on which this grave was found was the first settled
in that part of the country, the date of the first deed made from Lord
Granville to John Perkins running back about 150 years (the land still
belonging to the descendants of the same family that first occupied
it), would prove beyond doubt that it is a very old grave.

"The grave was situated due east and west, in size about 9 by 6 feet,
the line being distinctly marked by the difference in the color of the
soil. It was dug in rich, black loam, and filled around the bodies
with white or yellow sand, which I suppose was carried from the river-
bank, 200 yards distant. The skeletons approximated the walls of the
grave, and contiguous to them was a dark-colored earth, and so
decidedly different was this from all surrounding it, both in quality
and odor, that the line of the bodies could be readily traced. The
odor of this decomposed earth, which had been flesh, was similar to
clotted blood, and would adhere in lumps when compressed in the hand.

"This was not the grave of the Indian warriors; in those we find pots
made of earth or stone, and all the implements of war, for the warrior
had an idea that after he arose from the dead he would need, in the
'hunting-grounds beyond,' his bow and arrow, war-hatchet, and

"The facts set forth will doubtless convince every Mason who will
carefully read the account of this remarkable burial that the American
Indians were in possession of at least some of the mysteries of our
order, and that it was evidently the grave of Masons, and the three
highest officers in a Masonic lodge. The grave was situated due east
and west; an altar was erected in the center; the south, west, and
east were occupied--_the north was not;_ implements of authority
were near each body. The difference in the quality of the beads, the
tomahawks in one, two, and three pieces, and the difference that the
bodies were placed from the surface, indicate beyond doubt that these
three persons had been buried by Masons, and those, too, that
understood what they were doing.

"Will some learned Mason unravel this mystery, and inform the Masonic
world how they obtained so much Masonic information?

"The tomahawks, maxillary bones, some of the teeth, beads, and other
bones, have been forwarded to the Smithsonian Institution at
Washington, D.C., to be placed among the archives of that institution
for exhibition, at which place they may be seen."

If Dr. Spainhour's inferences are incorrect, still there is a
remarkable coincidence of circumstances patent to every Mason.


Natural or artificial holes in the ground, caverns, and fissures in
rocks have been used as places of deposit for the dead since the
earliest periods of time, and are used up to the present day by not
only the American Indians, but by peoples noted for their mental
elevation and civilization, our cemeteries furnishing numerous
specimens of artificial or partly artificial caves. As to the motives
which have actuated this mode of burial, a discussion would be out of
place at this time, except as may incidentally relate to our own
Indians, who, so far as can be ascertained, simply adopted caves as
ready and convenient resting places for their deceased relatives and

In almost every State in the Union burial caves have been discovered,
but as there is more or less of identity between them, a few
illustrations will serve the purpose of calling the attention of
observers to the subject.

While in the Territory of Utah, in 1872, the writer discovered a
natural cave not far from the House Range of mountains, the entrance
to which resembled the shaft of a mine. In this the Gosi-Ute Indians
had deposited their dead, surrounded with different articles, until it
was quite filled up; at least it so appeared from the cursory
examination made, limited time preventing a careful exploration. In
the fall of the same year another cave was heard of, from an Indian
guide, near the Nevada border, in the same Territory, and an attempt
made to explore it, which failed for reasons to be subsequently given.
This Indian, a Gosi-Ute, who was questioned regarding the funeral
ceremonies of his tribe, informed the writer that not far from the
very spot where the party were encamped was a large cave in which he
had himself assisted in placing dead members of his tribe. He
described it in detail and drew a rough diagram of its position and
appearance within. He was asked if an entrance could be effected, and
replied that he thought not, as some years previous his people had
stopped up the narrow entrance to prevent game from seeking a refuge
in its vast vaults, for he asserted that it was so large and extended
so far under ground that no man knew its full extent. In
consideration, however, of a very liberal bribe, after many refusals,
he agreed to act as guide. A rough ride of over an hour and the
desired spot was reached. It was found to be almost upon the apex of a
small mountain apparently of volcanic origin, for the hole which was
pointed out appeared to have been the vent of the crater. This
entrance was irregularly circular in form and descended at an angle.
As the Indian had stated, it was completely stopped up with large
stones and roots of sage brush, and it was only after six hours of
uninterrupted, faithful labor that the attempt to explore was
abandoned. The guide was asked if many bodies were therein, and
replied "Heaps, heaps," moving the hands upwards as far as they could
be stretched. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the
information received, as it was voluntarily imparted.

In a communication received from Dr. A. J McDonald, physician to the
Los Pinos Indian Agency, Colorado, a description is given of crevice
or rock-fissure burial, which follows.

"As soon as death takes place the event is at once announced by the
medicine-man, and without loss of time the squaws are busily engaged
in preparing the corpse for the grave. This does not take long;
whatever articles of clothing may have been on the body at the time of
death are not removed. The dead man's limbs are straightened out, his
weapons of war laid by his side, and his robes and blankets wrapped
securely and snugly around him, and now everything is ready for
burial. It is the custom to secure, if possible, for the purpose of
wrapping up the corpse, the robes and blankets in which the Indian
died. At the same time that the body is being fitted for interment,
the squaws having immediate care of it, together with all the other
squaws in the neighborhood, keep up a continued chant or dirge, the
dismal cadence of which may, when the congregation of women is large,
be heard for quite a long distance. The death song is not a mere
inarticulate howl of distress; it embraces expressions eulogistic in
character, but whether or not any particular formula of words is
adopted on such occasion is a question which I am unable, with the
materials at my disposal, to determine with any degree of certainty.

"The next duty falling to the lot of the squaws is that of placing the
dead man on a horse and conducting the remains to the spot chosen for
burial. This is in the cleft of a rock, and, so far as can be
ascertained, it has always been customary among the Utes to select
sepulchres of this character. From descriptions given by Mr. Harris,
who has several times been fortunate enough to discover remains, it
would appear that no superstitious ideas are held by this tribe with
respect to the position in which the body is placed, the space
accommodation of the sepulchre probably regulating this matter; and
from the same source I learn that it is not usual to find the remains
of more than one Indian deposited in one grave. After the body has
been received into the cleft, it is well covered with pieces of rock,
to protect it against the ravages of wild animals. The chant ceases,
the squaws disperse, and the burial ceremonies are at an end. The men
during all this time have not been idle, though they have in no way
participated in the preparation of the body, have not joined the
squaws in chanting praises to the memory of the dead, and have not
even as mere spectators attended the funeral, yet they have had their
duties to perform. In conformity with a long-established custom, all
the personal property of the deceased is immediately destroyed. His
horses and his cattle are shot, and his wigwam, furniture, &c.,
burned. The performance of this part of the ceremonies is assigned to
the men; a duty quite in accord with their taste and inclinations.
Occasionally the destruction of horses and other property is of
considerable magnitude, but usually this is not the case, owing to a
practice existing with them of distributing their property among their
children while they are of a very tender age, retaining to themselves
only what is necessary to meet every-day requirements.

"The widow 'goes into mourning' by smearing her face with a substance
composed of pitch and charcoal. The application is made but once, and
is allowed to remain on until it wears off. This is the only mourning
observance of which I have any knowledge.

"The ceremonies observed on the death of a female are the same as
those in the case of a male, except that no destruction of property
takes place, and of course no weapons are deposited with the corpse.
Should a youth die while under the superintendence of white men, the
Indians will not as a rule have anything to do with the interment of
the body. In a case of the kind which occurred at this agency some
time ago, the squaws prepared the body in the usual manner; the men of
the tribe selected a spot for the burial, and the employes at the
agency, after digging a grave and depositing the corpse therein,
filled it up according to the fashion of civilized people, and then at
the request of the Indians rolled large fragments of rocks on top.
Great anxiety was exhibited by the Indians to have the employes
perform the service as expeditiously as possible."

An interesting cave in Calaveras County, California, which had been
used for burial purposes, is thus described by Prof. J. D. Whitney:
[Footnote: Rep. Smithsonian Inst. 1867, p. 406.]

"The following is an account of the cave from which the skulls, now in
the Smithsonian collection, were taken. It is near the Stanislaus
River, in Calaveras County, on a nameless creek, about two miles from
Abbey's Ferry, on the road to Vallicito, at the house of Mr. Robinson.
There were two or three persons with me, who had been to the place
before and knew that the skulls in question were taken from it. Their
visit was some ten years ago, and since that the condition of things
in the cave has greatly changed. Owing to some alteration in the road,
mining operations, or some other cause which I could not ascertain,
there has accumulated on the formerly clean stalagmitic floor of the
cave a thickness of some 20 feet of surface earth that completely
conceals the bottom, and which could not be removed without
considerable expense. This cave is about 27 feet deep at the mouth and
40 to 50 feet at the end, and perhaps 30 feet in diameter. It is the
general opinion of those who have noticed this cave and saw it years
ago that it was a burying-place of the present Indians. Dr. Jones said
he found remains of bows and arrows and charcoal with the skulls he
obtained, and which were destroyed at the time the village of Murphy's
was burned. All the people spoke of the skulls as lying on the surface
and not as buried in the stalagmite."

The next description of cave burial, described by W. H. Dall
[Footnote: Contrib. to N. A. Ethnol., 1877, vol 1, p 62.], is so
remarkable that it seems worthy of admittance to this paper. It
relates probably to the Innuit of Alaska.

"The earliest remains of man found in Alaska up to the time of writing
I refer to this epoch [Echinus layer of Dall]. There are some crania
found by us in the lowermost part of the Amaknak cave and a cranium
obtained at Adakh, near the anchorage in the Bay of Islands. These
were deposited in a remarkable manner, precisely similar to that
adopted by most of the continental Innuit, but equally different from
the modern Aleut fashion. At the Amaknak cave we found what at first
appeared to be a wooden inclosure, but which proved to be made of the
very much decayed supra-maxillary bones of some large cetacean. These
were arranged so as to form a rude rectangular inclosure covered over
with similar pieces of bone. This was somewhat less than 4 feet long,
2 feet wide, and 18 inches deep. The bottom was formed of flat pieces
of stone. Three such were found close together, covered with and
filled by an accumulation of fine vegetable and organic mold. In each
was the remains of a skeleton in the last stages of decay. It had
evidently been tied up in the Innuit fashion to get it into its narrow
house, but all the bones, with the exception of the skull, were
reduced to a soft paste, or even entirely gone. At Adakh a fancy
prompted me to dig into a small knoll near the ancient shell-heap; and
here we found, in a precisely similar sarcophagus, the remains of a
skeleton, of which also only the cranium retained sufficient
consistency to admit of preservation. This inclosure, however, was
filled with a dense peaty mass not reduced to mold, the result of
centuries of sphagnous growth, which had reached a thickness of nearly
2 feet above the remains. When we reflect upon the well-known slowness
of this kind of growth in these northern regions, attested by numerous
Arctic travelers, the antiquity of the remains becomes evident."

It seems beyond doubt that in the majority of cases, especially as
regards the caves of the Western States and Territories, the
interments were primary ones, and this is likewise true of many of the
caverns of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, for in the three States
mentioned many mummies have been found, but it is also likely that
such receptacles were largely used as places of secondary deposits.
The many fragmentary skeletons and loose bones found seem to
strengthen this view.


In connection with cave burial, the subject of mummifying or embalming
the dead may be taken up, as most specimens of the kind have generally
been found in such repositories.

It might be both interesting and instructive to search out and discuss
the causes which have led many nations or tribes to adopt certain
processes with a view to prevent that return to dust which all flesh
must sooner or later experience, but the necessarily limited scope of
this preliminary work precludes more than a brief mention of certain
theories advanced by writers of note, and which relate to the ancient
Egyptians. Possibly at the time the Indians of America sought to
preserve their dead from decomposition some such ideas may have
animated them, but on this point no definite information has been
procured. In the final volume an effort will be made to trace out the
origin of mummification among the Indians and aborigines of this

The Egyptians embalmed, according to Cassien, because during the time
of the annual inundation no interments could take place, but it is
more than likely that this hypothesis is entirely fanciful. It is said
by others they believed that so long as the body was preserved from
corruption the soul remained in it. Herodotus states that it was to
prevent bodies from becoming a prey to animal voracity. "They did not
inter them," says he, "for fear of their being eaten by worms; nor did
they burn, considering fire as a ferocious beast, devouring everything
which it touched." According to Diodorus of Sicily, embalmment
originated in filial piety and respect. De Maillet, however, in his
tenth letter on Egypt, attributes it entirely to a religious belief
insisted upon by the wise men and priests, who taught their disciples
that after a certain number of cycles, of perhaps thirty or forty
thousand years, the entire universe became as it was at birth, and the
souls of the dead returned into the same bodies in which they had
lived, provided that the body remained free from corruption, and that
sacrifices were freely offered as oblations to the manes of the
deceased. Considering the great care taken to preserve the dead, and
the ponderously solid nature of their tombs, it is quite evident that
this theory obtained many believers among the people. M. Gannal
believes embalmment to have been suggested by the affectionate
sentiments of our nature--a desire to preserve as long as possible the
mortal remains of loved ones; but MM. Volney and Pariaet think it was
intended to obviate, in hot climates especially, danger from
pestilence, being primarily a cheap and simple process, elegance and
luxury coming later; and the Count de Caylus states the idea of
embalmment was derived from the finding of desiccated bodies which the
burning sands of Egypt had hardened and preserved. Many other
suppositions have arisen, but it is thought the few given above are
sufficient to serve as an introduction to embalmment in North America.

From the statements of the older writers on North American Indians, it
appears that mummifying was resorted to among certain tribes of
Virginia, the Carolinas, and Florida, especially for people of
distinction, the process in Virginia for the kings, according to
Beverly, [Footnote: Hist. of Virginia, 1722, p 185] being as follows:

"The _Indians_ are religious in preserving the Corpses of their
Kings and Rulers after Death, which they order in the following
manner: First, they neatly flay off the Skin as entire as they can,
slitting it only in the Back; then they pick all the Flesh off from
the Bones as clean as possible, leaving the Sinews fastned to the
Bones, that they may preserve the Joints together: then they dry the
Bones in the Sun, and put them into the Skin again, which in the mean
time has been kept from drying or shrinking; when the Bones are placed
right in the Skin, they nicely fill up the Vacuities, with a very fine
white Sand. After this they sew up the Skin again, and the Body looks
as if the Flesh had not been removed. They take care to keep the Skin
from shrinking, by the help of a little Oil or Grease, which saves it
also from Corruption. The Skin being thus prepar'd, they lay it in an
apartment for that purpose, upon a large Shelf rais'd above the Floor.
This Shelf is spread with Mats, for the Corpse to rest easy on, and
skreened with the same, to keep it from the Dust. The Flesh they lay
upon Hurdles in the Sun to dry, and when it is thoroughly dried, it is
sewed up in a Basket, and set at the Feet of the Corpse, to which it
belongs. In this place also they set up a _Quioccos,_ or Idol,
which they believe will be a Guard to the Corpse. Here Night and Day
one or other of the Priests must give his Attendance, to take care of
the dead Bodies. So great an Honour and Veneration have these ignorant
and unpolisht People for their Princes even after they are dead."

It should be added that, in the writer's opinion, this account and
others like it are somewhat apocryphal, and it has been copied and
recopied a score of times.

According to Pinkerton [Footnote: Collection of Voyages, 1812, vol.
XIII, p 39.], the Werowanco preserved their dead as follows:

"... By him is commonly the sepulchre of their Kings. Their bodies are
first bowelled, then dried upon hurdles till they be very dry, and so
about the most of their joints and neck they hang bracelets, or chains
of copper, pearl, and such like, as they used to wear. Their inwards
they stuff with copper beads, hatchets, and such trash. Then lap they
them very carefully in white skins, and so roll them in mats for their
winding-sheets. And in the tomb, which is an arch made of mats, they
lay them orderly. What remaineth of this kind of wealth their Kings
have, they set at their feet in baskets. These temples and bodies are
kept by their priests.

"For their ordinary burials, they dig a deep hole in the earth with
sharp stakes, and the corpse being lapped in skins and mats with their
jewels they lay them upon sticks in the ground, and so cover them with
earth. The burial ended, the women being painted all their faces with
black coal and oil do sit twenty-four hours in the houses mourning and
lamenting by turns with such yelling and howling as may express their
great passions....

"Upon the top of certain red sandy hills in the woods there are three
great houses filled with images of their Kings and devils and tombs of
their predecessors. Those houses are near sixty feet in length, built
harbourwise after their building. This place they count so holy as
that but the priests and Kings dare come into them; nor the savages
dare not go up the river in boats by it, but they solemnly cast some
piece of copper, white beads, or pocones into the river for fear their
Okee should be offended and revenged of them.

"They think that their Werowances and priests which they also esteem
quiyoughcosughs, when they are dead do go beyond the mountains towards
the setting of the sun, and ever remain there in form of their Okee,
with their heads painted red with oil and pocones, finely trimmed with
feathers, and shall have beads, hatchets, copper, and tobacco, doing
nothing but dance and sing with all their predecessors. But the common
people they suppose shall not live after death, but rot in their
graves like dead dogs."

The remark regarding truthfulness will apply to this account in common
with the former.

The Congaree or Santee Indians of South Carolina, according to Lawson,
used a process of partial embalmment, as will be seen from the
subjoined extract from Schoolcraft; [Footnote: Hist. Indian Tribes of
the United States, 1854, Part IV, p. 155, _et seq_] but instead
of laying away the remains in caves, placed them in boxes supported
above the ground by crotched sticks.

"The manner of their interment is thus: A mole or pyramid of earth is
raised, the mould thereof being worked very smooth and even, sometimes
higher or lower, according to the dignity of the person whose monument
it is. On the top thereof is an umbrella, made ridgeways, like the
roof of a house. This is supported by nine stakes or small posts, the
grave being about 6 or 8 feet in length and 4 feet in breadth, about
which is hung gourds, feathers, and other such like trophies, placed
there by the dead man's relations in respect to him in the grave. The
other parts of the funeral rites are thus: As soon as the party is
dead they lay the corpse upon a piece of bark in the sun, seasoning or
embalming it with a small root beaten to powder, which looks as red as
vermilion; the same is mixed with bear's oil to beautify the hair.
After the carcass has laid a day or two in the sun they remove it and
lay it upon crotches cut on purpose for the support thereof from the
earth then they anoint it all over with the aforementioned ingredients
of the powder of this root and bear's oil. When it is so done they
cover it over very exactly with the bark of the pine or cypress tree
to prevent any rain to fall upon it, sweeping the ground very clean
all about it. Some of his nearest of kin brings all the temporal
estate he was possessed of at his death, as guns, bows and arrows,
beads, feathers, match coat etc. This relation is the chief mourner,
being clad in moss, with a stick in his hand, keeping a mournful ditty
for three or four days, his face being black with the smoke of pitch
pine mixed with bear's oil. All the while he tells the dead mans
relations and the rest of the spectators who that dead person was, and
of the great feats performed in his lifetime, all that he speaks
tending to the praise of the defunct. As soon as the flesh grows
mellow and will cleave from the bone they get it off and burn it,
making the bones very clean then anoint them with the ingredients
aforesaid, wrapping up the skull (very carefully) in a cloth
artificially woven of opossum's hair. The bones they carefully
preserve in a wooden box, every year oiling and cleansing them. By
these means they preserve them for many ages that you may see an
Indian in possession of the bones of his grandfather or some of his
relations of a longer antiquity. They have other sorts of tombs as
when an Indian is slain in, that very place they make a heap of stones
(or sticks where stones are not to be found), to this memorial every
Indian that passes by adds a stone to augment the heap in respect to
the deceased hero. The Indians make a roof of light wood or pitch pine
over the graves of the more distinguished, covering it with bark and
then with earth leaving the body thus in a subterranean vault until
the flesh quits the bones. The bones are then taken up, cleaned,
jointed, clad in white dressed deer skins, and laid away in the
_Quiogozon,_ which is the royal tomb or burial place of their
kings and war captains, being a more magnificent cabin reared at the
public expense. This Quiogozon is an object of veneration, in which
the writer says he has known the king, old men, and conjurers to spend
several days with their idols and dead kings, and into which he could
never gain admittance."

Another class of mummies are those which have been found in the
saltpeter and other caves of Kentucky, and it is still a matter of
doubt with archaeologists whether any special pains were taken to
preserve these bodies, many believing that the impregnation of the
soil with certain minerals would account for the condition in which
the specimens were found. Charles Wilkins [Footnote: Trans. Amer.
Antiq. Soc., 1820, vol. 1, p. 360] thus describes one:

"... exsiccated body of a female ... was found at the depth of about
10 feet from the surface of the cave bedded in clay strongly
impregnated with nitre, placed in a sitting posture, incased in broad
stones standing on their edges, with a flat stone covering the whole.
It was enveloped in coarse clothes, ... the whole wrapped in deer-
skins, the hair of which was shaved off in the manner in which the
Indians prepare them for market. Enclosed in the stone coffin were the
working utensils, beads, feathers, and other ornaments of dress which
belonged to her."

The next description is by Dr Samuel L. Mitchill: [Footnote: Trans.
and Coll. Amer. Antiq. Soc., 1820, vol. 1, p. 318]

[A letter from Dr. Mitchill of New York, to Samuel M. Burnside, Esq.,
Secretary of the American Antiquarian Society, on North American

"Aug 24th, 1815

"DEAR SIR: I offer you some observations on a curious piece of
American antiquity now in New York, It is a human body [Footnote: A
mummy of this kind, of a person of mature age, discovered in Kentucky,
is now in the cabinet of the American Antiquarian Society. It is a
female. Several human bodies were found enwrapped carefully in skins
and cloths. They were inhumed below the floor of the cave,
_inhumed_, and not lodged in catacombs.] found in one of the
limestone caverns of Kentucky. It is a perfect exsiccation, all the
fluids are dried up. The skin, bones, and other firm parts are in a
state of entire preservation. I think it enough to have puzzled Bryant
and all the archaologists.

"This was found in exploring a calcareous cave in the neighborhood of
Glasgow for saltpetre.

"These recesses, though under ground, are yet dry enough to attract
and retain the nitrick acid. It combines with lime and potash, and
probably the earthy matter of these excavations contains a good
proportion of calcareous carbonate. Amidst these drying and
antiseptick ingredients, it may be conceived that putrefaction would
be stayed, and the solids preserved from decay. The outer envelope of
the body is a deer skin, probably dried in the usual way and perhaps
softened before its application by rubbing. The next covering is a
deer's skin, whose hair had been cut away by a sharp instrument
resembling a hatter's knife. The remnant of the hair and the gashes in
the skin nearly resemble a sheared pelt of beaver. The next wrapper is
of cloth made of twine doubled and twisted. But the thread does not
appear to have been formed by the wheel, nor the web by the loom. The
warp and filling seem to have been crossed and knotted by an operation
like that of the fabricks of the northwest coast, and of the Sandwich
islands. Such a botanist as the lamented Muhlenburgh could determine
the plant which furnished the fibrous material.

"The innermost tegument is a mantle of cloth like the preceding, but
furnished with large brown feathers arranged and fastened with great
art so as to be capable of guarding the living wearer from wet and
cold. The plumage is distinct and entire, and the whole bears a near
similitude to the feathery cloaks now worn by the nations of the
northwestern coast of America. A Wilson might tell from what bird they
were derived.

"The body is in a squatting posture with the right arm reclining
forward and its hand encircling the right leg. The left arm hangs
down, with its hand inclined partly under the seat. The individual,
who was a male did not probably exceed the age of fourteen, at his
death. There is near the occiput a deep and extensive fracture of the
skull, which probably killed him. The skin has sustained little
injury, it is of a dusky colour, but the natural hue cannot be decided
with exactness from its present appearance. The scalp, with small
exceptions is cohered with sorrel or foxy hair. The teeth are white
and sound. The hands and feet, in their shrivelled state, are slender
and delicate. All this is worthy the investigation of our acute and
perspicacious colleague, Dr Holmes.

"There is nothing bituminous or aromatic in or about the body, like the
Egyptian mummies, nor are there bandages around any part. Except the
several wrappers, the body is totally naked. There is no sign of a
suture or incision about the belly whence it seems that the viscera
were not removed.

"It may now be expected that I should offer some opinion, as to the
antiquity and race of this singular exsiccation.

"First, then, I am satisfied that it does not belong to that class of
white men of which we are members.

"2dly. Nor do I believe that it ought to be referred to the bands of
Spanish adventurers, who, between the years 1500 and 1600, rambled up
the Mississippi, and along its tributary streams. But on this head I
should like to know the opinion of my learned and sagacious friend,
Noah Webster.

"3dly. I am equally obliged to reject the opinion that it belonged to
any of the tribes of aborigines, now or lately inhabiting Kentucky.

"4thly. The mantle of the feathered work, and the mantle of twisted
threads, so nearly resemble the fabricks of the indigines of Wakash
and the Pacifick islands, that I refer this individual to that era of
time, and that generation of men, which preceded the Indians of the
Green River, and of the place where these relicks were found. This
conclusion is strengthened by the consideration that such manufactures
are not prepared by the actual and resident red men of the present
day. If the Abbe Clavigero had had this case before him, he would have
thought of the people who constructed those ancient forts and mounds,
whose exact history no man living can give. But I forbear to enlarge;
my intention being merely to manifest my respect to the society for
having enrolled me among its members, and to invite the attention of
its Antiquarians to further inquiry on a subject of such curiosity.

"With respect, I remain yours,


It would appear from recent researches on the Northwest coast that the
natives of that region embalmed their dead with much care, as may be
seen from the work recently published by W. H. Dall, [Footnote: Cont.
to N. A. Ethnol., 1877, vol. 1, p. 89] the description of the mummies
being as follows:

"We found the dead disposed of in various ways; first, by interment in
their compartments of the communal dwelling, as already described;
second, by being laid on a rude platform of drift-wood or stones in
some convenient rock shelter. These lay on straw and moss, covered by
matting, and rarely have either implements, weapons, or carvings
associated with them. We found only three or four specimens in all in
these places, of which we examined a great number. This was apparently
the more ancient form of disposing of the dead, and one which more
recently was still pursued in the case of poor or unpopular

"Lastly, in comparatively modern times, probably within a few
centuries, and up to the historic period (1740), another mode was
adopted for the wealthy, popular, or more distinguished class. The
bodies were eviscerated, cleansed from fatty matters in running water,
dried, and usually placed in suitable cases in wrappings of fur and
fine grass matting The body was usually doubled up into the smallest
compass, and the mummy case, especially in the case of children, was
usually suspended (so as not to touch the ground) in some convenient
rock shelter. Sometimes, however, the prepared body was placed in a
lifelike position, dressed and armed. They were placed as if engaged
in some congenial occupation, such as hunting, fishing, sewing, etc.
With them were also placed effigies of the animals they were pursuing,
while the hunter was dressed in his wooden armor and provided with an
enormous mask, all ornamented with feathers and a countless variety of
wooden pendants, colored in gay patterns. All the carvings were of
wood, the weapons even were only fac-similes in wood of the original
articles. Among the articles represented were drums, rattles, dishes,
weapons, effigies of men, birds, fish, and animals, wooden armor of
rods or scales of wood, and remarkable masks, so arranged that the
wearer when erect could only see the ground at his feet. These were
worn at their religious dances from an idea that a spirit which was
supposed to animate a temporary idol was fatal to whoever might look
upon it while so occupied. An extension of the same idea led to the
masking of those who had gone into the land of spirits.

"The practice of preserving the bodies of those belonging to the
whaling class--a custom peculiar to the Kadiak Innuit--has erroneously
been confounded with the one now described. The latter included women
as well as men, and all those whom the living desired particularly to
honor. The whalers, however, only preserved the bodies of males, and
they were not associated with the paraphernalia of those I have
described. Indeed, the observations I have been able to make show the
bodies of the whalers to have been preserved with stone weapons and
actual utensils instead of effigies, and with the meanest apparel, and
no carvings of consequence. These details, and those of many other
customs and usages of which the shell heaps bear no testimony ... do
not come within my line."

Martin Sauer, secretary to Billings' Expedition [Footnote: Billings'
Exped. 1802, p. 167.] in 1802, speaks of the Aleutian Islanders
embalming their dead, as follows:

"They pay respect, however, to the memory of the dead, for they embalm
the bodies of the men with dried moss and grass; bury them in their
best attire, in a sitting posture, in a strong box, with their darts
and instruments; and decorate the tomb with various coloured mats,
embroidery, and paintings. With women, indeed, they use less ceremony.
A mother will keep a dead child thus embalmed in their hut for some
months, constantly wiping it dry; and they bury it when it begins to
smell, or when they get reconciled to parting with it."

Regarding these same people, a writer in the San Francisco Bulletin
gives this account-

"The schooner William Sutton, belonging to the Alaska Commercial
Company, has arrived from the seal islands of the company with the
mummified remains of Indians who lived on an island north of Ounalaska
one hundred and fifty years ago. This contribution to science was
secured by Captain Henning, an agent of the company, who has long
resided at Ounalaska. In his transactions with the Indians he learned
that tradition among the Aleuts assigned Kagamale, the island in
question, as the last resting-place of a great chief, known as
Karkhayahouchak. Last year the captain was in the neighborhood of
Kagamale, in quest of sea-otter and other furs and he bore up for the
island, with the intention of testing the truth of the tradition he
had heard. He had more difficulty in entering the cave than in finding
it, his schooner having to beat on and off shore for three days.
Finally, he succeeded in effecting a landing, and clambering up the
rocks he found himself in the presence of the dead chief, his family
and relatives.

"The cave smelt strongly of hot sulphurous vapors. With great care the
mummies were removed, and all the little trinkets and ornaments
scattered around were also taken away.

"In all there are eleven packages of bodies. Only two or three have as
yet been opened. The body of the chief is inclosed in a large basket-
like structure, about four feet in height. Outside the wrappings are
finely-wrought sea-grass matting, exquisitely close in texture, and
skins. At the bottom is a broad hoop or basket of thinly-cut wood, and
adjoining the center portions are pieces of body armor composed of
reeds bound together. The body is covered with the fine skin of the
sea-otter, always a mark of distinction in the interments of the
Aleuts, and round the whole package are stretched the meshes of a
fish-net, made of the sinews of the sea lion; also those of a bird-
net. There are evidently some bulky articles inclosed with the chief's
body, and the whole package differs very much from the others, which
more resemble, in their brown-grass matting, consignments of crude
sugar from the Sandwich Islands than the remains of human beings. The
bodies of a pappoose and of a very little child, which probably died
at birth or soon after it, have sea-otter skins around them. One of
the feet of the latter projects, with a toe-nail visible. The
remaining mummies are of adults.

"One of the packages has been opened, and it reveals a man's body in
tolerable preservation, but with a large portion of the face
decomposed. This and the other bodies were doubled up at death by
severing some of the muscles at the hip and knee joints and bending
the limbs downward horizontally upon the trunk. Perhaps the most
peculiar package, next to that of the chief, is one which incloses in
a single matting, with sea-lion skins, the bodies of a man and woman.
The collection also embraces a couple of skulls, male and female,
which have still the hair attached to the scalp. The hair has changed
its color to a brownish red. The relics obtained with the bodies
include a few wooden vessels scooped out smoothly; a piece of dark,
greenish, flat stone, harder than the emerald, which the Indians use
to tan skins; a scalp-lock of jet-black hair; a small rude figure,
which may have been a very ugly doll or an idol; two or three tiny
carvings in ivory of the sea-lion, very neatly executed, a comb, a
necklet made of birds' claws inserted into one another, and several
specimens of little bags, and a cap plaited out of sea-grass and
almost water-tight."

With the foregoing examples as illustration, the matter of embalmment
may be for the present dismissed, with the advice to observers that
particular care should be taken, in case mummies are discovered, to
ascertain whether the bodies have been submitted to a regular
preservative process, or owe their protection to ingredients in the
soil of their graves or to desiccation in arid districts.


To close the subject of subterranean burial proper, the following
account of urn-burial in Foster [Footnote: Pre-Historic Races, 1873,
p. 199] may be added:

"Urn-burial appears to have been practiced to some extent by the
mound-builders, particularly in some of the Southern States. In the
mounds on the Wateree River, near Camden, S. C., according to Dr.
Blanding, ranges of vases, one above the other, filled with human
remains, were found. Sometimes when the mouth of the vase is small the
skull is placed with the face downward in the opening, constituting a
sort of cover. Entire cemeteries have been found in which urn-burial
alone seems to have been practiced. Such a one was accidentally
discovered not many years since in Saint Catherine's Island, on the
coast of Georgia. Professor Swallow informs me that from a mound at
New Madrid, Mo, he obtained a human skull inclosed in an earthen jar,
the lips of which were too small to admit of its extraction. It must
therefore have been molded on the head after death."

"A similar mode of burial was practiced by the Chaldeans, where the
funeral jars often contain a human cranium much too expanded to admit
of the possibility of its passing out of it, so that either the clay
must have been modeled over the corpse, and then baked, or the neck of
the jar must have been added subsequently to the other rites of
interment." [Footnote: Rawlinson's Herodotus, Book 1, chap 198, note.]

It is with regret that the writer feels obliged to differ from the
distinguished author of the work quoted regarding urn-burial, for
notwithstanding that it has been employed by some of the Central and
Southern American tribes, it is not believed to have been customary,
but _to a very limited extent,_ in North America, except as a
secondary interment. He must admit that he himself has found bones in
urns or ollas in the graves of New Mexico and California, but under
circumstances that would seem to indicate a deposition long subsequent
to death. In the graves of the ancient peoples of California a number
of ollas were found in long-used burying places, and it is probable
that as the bones were dug up time and again for new burials they were
simply tossed into pots, which were convenient receptacles, or it may
have been that bodies were allowed to repose in the earth long enough
for the fleshy parts to decay, and the bones were then collected,
placed in urns, and reinterred. Dr. E. Foreman, of the Smithsonian
Institution, furnishes the following account of urns used for burial:

"I would call your attention to an earthenware burial-urn and cover,
Nos. 27976 and 27977, National Museum, but very recently received from
Mr. William McKinley, of Milledgeville, Ga. It was exhumed on his
plantation, ten miles below that city, on the bottom lands of the
Oconee River, now covered with almost impassable canebrakes, tall
grasses, and briers. We had a few months ago from the same source one
of the covers, of which the ornamentation was different but more
entire. A portion of a similar cover has been received also from
Chattanooga, Ga. Mr. McKinley ascribes the use of these urns and
covers to the Muscogees, a branch of the Creek Nation."

These urns are made of baked clay, and are shaped somewhat like the
ordinary steatite ollas found in the California coast graves, but the
bottoms instead of being round run down to a sharp apex; on the top
was a cover, the upper part of which also terminated in an apex, and
around the border, near where it rested on the edge of the vessel, are
indented scroll ornamentations.

The burial-urns of New Mexico are thus described by E. A. Barber:
[Footnote: Amer. Natural, 1876, vol X, p. 455 _et seq_]

"Burial-urns ... comprise vessels or ollas without handles, for
cremation, usually being from 10 to 15 inches in height, with broad,
open mouths, and made of coarse clay, with a laminated exterior
(partially or entirely ornamented). Frequently the indentations extend
simply around the neck or rim, the lower portion being plain."

So far as is known, up to the present time no burial-urns have been
found in North America resembling those discovered in Nicaragua by Dr.
J. C. Bransford, U. S. N., but it is quite within the range of
possibility that future researches in regions not far distant from
that which he explored may reveal similar treasures.


This mode of interment was practiced to only a limited extent, so far
as can be discovered, and it is quite probable that in most cases it
was employed as a temporary expedient when the survivors were pressed
for time. The Seminoles of Florida are said to have buried in hollow
trees, the bodies being placed in an upright position, occasionally
the dead being crammed into a hollow log lying on the ground. With
some of the Eastern tribes a log was split in half and hollowed out
sufficiently large to contain the corpse; it was then lashed together
with withes and permitted to remain where it was originally placed. In
some cases a pen was built over and around it. This statement is
corroborated by Mr. R. S. Robertson, of Fort Wayne, Ind., who states
in a communication received in 1877 that the Miamis practiced surface
burial in two different ways:

"... 1st. The surface burial in hollow logs. These have been found in
heavy forests. Sometimes a tree has been split and the two halves
hollowed out to receive the body, when it was either closed with
withes or confined to the ground with crossed stakes; and sometimes a
hollow tree is used by closing the ends.

"2d. Surface burial where the body was covered by a small pen of logs
laid up as we build a cabin, but drawing in every course until they
meet in a single log at the top."

Romantically conceived, and carried out to the fullest possible extent
in accordance with the _ante mortem_ wishes of the dead, were the
obsequies of Blackbird, the great chief of the Omahas. The account is
given by George Catlin: [Footnote: Manners, Customs, &c., of North
American Indiana, 1844, vol. ii, p. 5]

"He requested them to take his body down the river to this his
favorite haunt, and on the pinnacle of this towering bluff to bury him
on the back of his favorite war-horse, which was to be buried alive
under him, from whence he could see, as he said, 'the Frenchmen
passing up and down the river in their boats.' He owned, amongst many
homes, a noble white steed, that was led to the top of the grass-
covered hill, and with great pomp and ceremony, in the presence of the
whole nation and several of the far-traders and the Indian agent, he
was placed astride of his horse's back, with his bow in his hand, and
his shield and quiver slung, with his pipe and his medicine bag, with
his supply of dried meat, and his tobacco-pouch replenished to last
him through the journey to the beautiful hunting grounds of the shades
of his fathers, with his flint and steel and his tinder to light his
pipes by the way; the scalps he had taken from his enemies' heads
could be trophies for nobody else, and were hung to the bridle of his
horse. He was in full dress, and fully equipped, and on his head waved
to the last moment his beautiful head-dress of the war-eagles' plumes.
In this plight, and the last funeral honors having been performed by
the medicine-men, every warrior of his band painted the palm and
fingers of his right hand with vermilion, which was stamped and
perfectly impressed on the milk-white sides of his devoted horse. This
all done, turfs were brought and placed around the feet and legs of
the horse, and gradually laid up to its sides, and at last over the
back and head of the unsuspecting animal, and last of all over the
head and even the eagle plumes of its valiant rider, where all
together have smouldered and remained undisturbed to the present day."


The next mode of interment to be considered is that of cairn or rock
burial, which has prevailed and is still common to a considerable
extent among the tribes living in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra

In the summer of 1872 the writer visited one of these rock cemeteries
in middle Utah, which had been used for a period not exceeding fifteen
or twenty years. It was situated at the bottom of a rock slide, upon
the side of an almost inaccessible mountain, in a position so
carefully chosen for concealment that it would have been almost
impossible to find it without a guide. Several of the graves were
opened and found to have been constructed in the following manner: A
number of bowlders had been removed from the bed of the slide until a
sufficient cavity had been obtained; this was lined with skins, the
corpse placed therein, with weapons, ornaments, etc., and covered over
with saplings of the mountain aspen; on top of these the removed
bowlders were piled, forming a huge cairn, which appeared large enough
to have marked the last resting place of an elephant. In the immediate
vicinity of the graves were scattered the osseous remains of a number
of horses which had been sacrificed no doubt during the funeral
ceremonies. In one of the graves, said to contain the body of a chief,
in addition to a number of articles useful and ornamental, were found
parts of the skeleton of a boy, and tradition states that a captive
boy was buried alive at this place.

In connection with this mode of burial it may be said that the ancient
Balearic Islanders covered their dead with a heap of stones, but this
ceremony was preceded by an operation which consisted in cutting the
body in small pieces and collecting in a pot.


Next should be noted this mode of disposing of the dead, a common
custom to a considerable extent among North American tribes,
especially those living on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains,
although we have undoubted evidence that it was also practiced among
the more eastern ones. This rite may be considered as peculiarly
interesting from its great antiquity, for Tegg informs us that it
reached as far back as the Theban war, in the account of which mention
is made of the burning of Menoaeus and Archemorus, who were
contemporary with Jair, eighth judge of Israel. It was common in the
interior of Asia and among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and has also
prevailed among the Hindoos up to the present time. In fact, it is now
rapidly becoming a custom among civilized people.

While there is a certain degree of similarity between the performance
of this rite among the peoples spoken of and the Indians of North
America, yet, did space admit, a discussion might profitably be
entered upon regarding the details of it among the ancients and the
origin of the ceremony. As it is, simple narrations of cremation in
this country, with discursive notes and an account of its origin among
the Nishinams of California, by Stephen Powers, [Footnote: Cont. to N.
A. Ethnol., 1877, vol. iii, p. 341] seem to be all that is required at
this time.

"The moon and the coyote wrought together in creating all things that
exist. The moon was good, but the coyote was bad. In making men and
women the moon wished to so fashion their souls that when they died
they should return to the earth after two or three days, as he himself
does when he dies. But the coyote was evil disposed, and said this
should not be, but that when men died their friends should burn their
bodies, and once a year make a great mourning for them, and the coyote
prevailed. So, presently when a deer died, they burned his body, as
the coyote had decreed, and after a year they made a great mourning
for him. But the moon created the rattlesnake and caused it to bite
the coyote's son, so that he died. Now, though the coyote had been
willing to burn the deer's relations, he refused to burn his own son.
Then the moon said unto him, 'This is your own rule. You would have it
so, and now your son shall be burned like the others.' So he was
burned, and after a year the coyote mourned for him. Thus the law was
established over the coyote also, and, as he had dominion over men, it
prevailed over men likewise.

"This story is utterly worthless for itself, but it has its value in
that it shows there was a time when the California Indians did not
practice cremation, which is also established by other traditions. It
hints at the additional fact that the Nishinams to this day set great
store by the moon; consider it their benefactor in a hundred ways, and
observe its changes for a hundred purposes."

Another myth regarding cremation is given by Adam Johnston, in
Schoolcraft [Footnote: Hist. Indian tribes of the United States, 1854,
part IV, p. 224] and relates to the Bonaks, or root-diggers:

"The first Indians that lived were coyotes. When one of their number
died the body became full of little animals or spirits, as they
thought them. After crawling over the body for a time they took all
manner of shapes, some that of the deer, others the elk, antelope,
etc. It was discovered, however, that great numbers were taking wings,
and for a while they sailed about in the air, but eventually they
would fly off to the moon. The old coyotes or Indians, fearing the
earth might become depopulated in this way, concluded to stop it at
once, and ordered that when one of their people died the body must be
burnt. Ever after they continued to burn the bodies of deceased

Ross Cox [Footnote: Adventures on the Columbia River, 1831, vol. ii,
p. 387] gives an account of the process as performed by the Tolkotins
of Oregon:

"The ceremonies attending the dead are very singular, and quite
peculiar to this tribe. The body of the deceased is kept nine days
laid out in his lodge, and on the tenth it is buried. For this purpose
a rising ground is selected, on which are laid a number of sticks,
about seven feet long, of cypress, neatly split, and in the
interstices is placed a quantity of gummy wood. During these
operations invitations are dispatched to the natives of the
neighboring villages requesting their attendance at the ceremony. When
the preparations are perfected the corpse is placed on the pile, which
is immediately ignited, and during the process of burning, the
bystanders appear to be in a high state of merriment. If a stranger
happen to be present they invariably plunder him, but if that pleasure
be denied them, they never separate without quarreling among
themselves. Whatever property the deceased possessed is placed about
the corpse, and if he happened to be a person of consequence, his
friends generally purchase a capote, a shirt, a pair of trousers,
etc., which articles are also laid around the pile. If the doctor who
attended him has escaped uninjured, he is obliged to be present at the
ceremony, and for the last time tries his skill in restoring the
defunct to animation. Failing in this, he throws on the body a piece
of leather, or some other article, as a present, which in some measure
appeases the resentment of his relatives, and preserves the
unfortunate quack from being maltreated. During the nine days the
corpse is laid out the widow of the deceased is obliged to sleep along
side it from sunset to sunrise; and from this custom there is no
relaxation even during the hottest days of summer! While the doctor is
performing his last operations she must lie on the pile, and after the
fire is applied to it she cannot stir until the doctor orders her to
be removed, which, however, is never done until her body is completely
covered with blisters. After being placed on her legs, she is obliged
to pass her hands gently through the flame and collect some of the
liquid fat which issues from the corpse, with which she is permitted
to wet her face and body! When the friends of the deceased observe the
sinews of the legs and arms beginning to contract they compel the
unfortunate widow to go again on the pile, and by dint of hard
pressing to straighten those members.

"If during her husband's lifetime she has been known to have committed
any act of infidelity or omitted administering to him savory food or
neglected his clothing, etc, she is now made to suffer severely for
such lapses of duty by his relations, who frequently fling her in the
funeral pile, from which she is dragged by her friends; and thus
between alternate scorching and cooling she is dragged backwards and
forwards until she falls into a state of insensibility.

"After the process of burning the corpse has terminated, the widow
collects the larger bones, which she rolls up in an envelope of birch
bark, and which she is obliged for some years afterwards to carry on
her back. She is now considered and treated as a slave, all the
laborious duties of cooking, collecting fuel, etc., devolve on her.
She must obey the orders of all the women, and even of the children
belonging to the village, and the slightest mistake or disobedience
subjects her to the infliction of a heavy punishment. The ashes of her
husband are carefully collected and deposited in a grave, which it is
her duty to keep free from weeds; and should any such appear, she is
obliged to root them out with her _fingers_. During this
operation her husband's relatives stand by and beat her in a cruel
manner until the task is completed or she falls a victim to their
brutality. The wretched widows, to avoid this complicated cruelty,
frequently commit suicide. Should she, however, linger on for three or
four years, the friends of her husband agree to relieve her from her
painful mourning. This is a ceremony of much consequence, and the
preparations for it occupy a considerable time, generally from six to
eight months. The hunters proceed to the various districts in which
deer and beaver abound, and after collecting large quantities of meat
and fur return to the village. The skins are immediately bartered for
guns, ammunition, clothing, trinkets, etc. Invitations are then bent
to the inhabitants of the various friendly villages, and when they
have all assembled the feast commences, and presents are distributed
to each visitor. The object of their meeting is then explained, and
the woman is brought forward, still carrying on her back the bones of
her late husband, which are now removed and placed in a covered box,
which is nailed or otherwise fastened to a post twelve feet high. Her
conduct as a faithful widow is next highly eulogized, and the ceremony
of her manumission is completed by one man powdering on her head the
down of birds and another pouring on it the contents of a bladder of
oil. She is then at liberty to marry again or lead a life of single
blessedness; but few of them, I believe, wish to encounter the risk
attending a second widowhood.

"The men are condemned to a similar ordeal, but they do not bear it
with equal fortitude, and numbers fly to distant quarters to avoid the
brutal treatment which custom has established as a kind of religious

Perhaps a short review of some of the peculiar and salient points of
this narrative may be permitted. It is stated that the corpse is kept
nine days after death--certainly a long period of time, when it is
remembered that Indians as a rule endeavor to dispose of their dead as
soon as possible. This may be accounted for on the supposition that it
is to give the friends and relatives an opportunity of assembling,
verifying the death, and of making proper preparations for the
ceremony. With regard to the verification of the dead person, William
Sheldon [Footnote: Trans. Am. Antiq. Soc., 1820, vol. 1, p 377] gives
an account of a similar custom which was common among the Caraibs of
Jamaica, and which seems to throw some light upon the unusual
retention of deceased persons by the tribe in question, although it
must be admitted that this is mere hypothesis:

"They had some very extraordinary customs respecting deceased persons.
When one of them died, it was necessary that all his relations should
see him and examine the body in order to ascertain that he died a
natural death. They acted so rigidly on this principle, that if one
relative remained who had not seen the body all the others could not
convince that one that the death was natural. In such a case the
absent relative considered himself as bound in honor to consider all
the other relatives as having been accessories to the death of the
kinsman, and did not rest until he had killed one of them to revenge
the death of the deceased. If a Caraib died in Martinico or Guadaloupe
and his relations lived in St. Vincents, it was necessary to summon
them to see the body, and several months sometime elapsed before it
could be finally interred. When a Caraib died he was immediately
painted all over with _roucou_, and had his mustachios and the
black streaks in his face made with a black paint, which was different
from that used in their lifetime. A kind of grave was then dug in the
_carbet_ where he died, about 4 feet square and 6 or 7 feet deep.
The body was let down in it, when sand was thrown in, which reached to
the knees, and the body was placed in it in a sitting posture,
resembling that in which they crouched round the fire or the table
when alive, with the elbows on the knees and the palms of the hands
against the cheeks. No part of the body touched the outside of the
grave, which was covered with wood and mats until all the relations
had examined it. When the customary examinations and inspections were
ended the hole was filled, and the bodies afterwards remained
undisturbed. The hair of the deceased was kept tied behind. In this
way bodies have remained several months without any symptoms of decay
or producing any disagreeable smell. The _roucou_ not only
preserved them from the sun, air, and insects during their lifetime,
but probably had the same effect after death. The arms of the Caraibs
were placed by them when they were covered over for inspection, and
they were finally buried with them."

Again, we are told that during the burning the by-standers are very
merry. This hilarity is similar to that shown by the Japanese at a
funeral, who rejoice that the troubles and worries of the world are
over for the fortunate dead. The plundering of strangers present, it
may be remembered, also took place among the Indians of the Carolinas.
As already mentioned on a preceding page, the cruel manner in which
the widow is treated seems to be a modification of the Hindoo suttee,
but if the account be true, it would appear that death might be
preferable to such torments.

It is interesting to note that in Corsica, as late as 1743, if a
husband died women threw themselves upon the widow and beat her
severely. Bruhier quaintly remarks that this custom obliged women to
take good care of their husbands.

George Gibbs, in Schoolcraft, [Footnote: Hist. Indian Tribes of the
United States, 1853, part iii, p. 112.]  states that among the Indians
of Clear Lake, California, "the body is consumed upon a scaffold built
over a hole, into which the ashes are thrown and covered"

According to Stephen Powers, [Footnote: Contrib. to N. A. Ethnol.,
1877, vol. iii, p. 169.] cremation was common among the Se-nel of
California. He thus relates it--

"The dead are mostly burned. Mr. Willard described to me a scene of
incremation that be once witnessed which was frightful for its
exhibitions of fanatic frenzy and infatuation. The corpse was that of
a wealthy chieftain, and as he lay upon the funeral pyre they placed
in his mouth two gold twenties, and other smaller coins in his ears
and hands, on his breast, etc., besides all his finery, his feather
mantles, plumes, clothing, shell money, his fancy bows, painted
arrows, etc. When the torch was applied they set up a mournful
ululation, chanting and dancing about him, gradually working
themselves into a wild and ecstatic raving, which seemed almost a
demoniacal possession, leaping, howling, lacerating their flesh. Many
seemed to lose all self-control. The younger English-speaking Indians
generally lend themselves charily to such superstitious work,
especially if American spectators are present, but even they were
carried away by the old contagious frenzy of their race. One stripped
off a broadcloth coat, quite new and fine, and ran frantically yelling
and cast it upon the blazing-pile. Another rushed up and was about to
throw on a pile of California blankets, when a white man, to test his
sincerity, offered him $16 for them, jingling the bright coins before
his eyes, but the savage (for such he had become again for the
moment), otherwise so avaricious, hurled him away with a yell of
execration and ran and threw his offering into the flames. Squaws,
even more frenzied, wildly flung upon the pyre all they had in the
world--their dearest ornaments, their gaudiest dresses, their strings
of glittering shells. Screaming, wailing, tearing their hair, beating
their breasts in their mad and insensate infatuation, some of them
would have cast themselves bodily into the flaming ruins and perished
with the chief had they not been restrained by their companions. Then
the bright, swift flames with their hot tongues licked this 'cold
obstruction' into chemic change, and the once 'delighted spirit' of
the savage was borne up....

"It seems as if the savage shared in Shakspeare's shudder at the
thought of rotting in the dismal grave, for it is the one passion of
his superstition to think of the soul of his departed friend set free
and purified by the swift purging heat of the flames, not dragged down
to be clogged and bound in the moldering body, but borne up in the
soft, warm chariots of the smoke toward the beautiful sun, to bask in
his warmth and light, and then, to fly away to the Happy Western Land.
What wonder if the Indian shrinks with unspeakable horror from the
thought of _burying his friend's soul!_--of pressing and ramming
down with pitiless clods that inner something which once took such
delight in the sweet light of the sun! What wonder if it takes years
to persuade him to do otherwise and follow our custom! What wonder if
even then he does it with sad fears and misgivings! Why not let him
keep his custom! In the gorgeous landscapes and balmy climate of
California and India incremation is as natural to the savage as it is
for him to love the beauty of the sun. Let the vile Esquimaux and the
frozen Siberian bury their dead if they will; it matters little, the
earth is the same above as below, or to them the bosom of the earth
may seem even the better; but in California do not blame the savage if
he recoils at the thought of going under ground! This soft, pale halo
of the lilac hills--ah, let him console himself if he will with the
belief that his lost friend enjoys it still! The narrator concluded by
saying that they destroyed full $500 worth of property. 'The
blankets,' said he with a fine Californian scorn of such absurd
insensibility to a good bargain, 'the blankets that the American
offered him $16 for were not worth half the money.'

"After death the Se-nel hold that bad Indians return into coyotes.
Others fall off a bridge which all souls must traverse, or are hooked
off by a raging bull at the further end, while the good escape across.
Like the Yokaia and the Konkan, they believe it necessary to nourish
the spirits of the departed for the space of a year. This is generally
done by a squaw, who takes pinole in her blanket, repairs to the scene
of the incremation, or to places hallowed by the memory of the dead,
where she scatters it over the ground, meantime rocking her body
violently to and fro in a dance and chanting the following chorus:


"This refrain is repeated over and over indefinitely, but the words
have no meaning whatever."

Mr. Henry Gillman [Footnote: Amer. Natural, November, 1878, p. 753]
has published an interesting account of the exploration of a mound
near Waldo, Fla., in which he found abundant evidence that cremation
had existed among the former Indian population. It is as follows:

"In opening a burial-mound at Cade's Pond, a small body of water
situated about two miles northeastward of Santa Fe Lake, Florida, the
writer found two instances of cremation, in each of which the skull of
the subject, which was unconsumed, was used as the depository of his
ashes. The mound contained besides a large number of human burials,
the bones being much decayed. With them were deposited a great number
of vessels of pottery, many of which are painted in brilliant colors,
chiefly red, yellow, and brown, and some of them ornamented with
indented patterns, displaying not a little skill in the ceramic art,
though they are reduced to fragments. The first of the skulls referred
to was exhumed at a depth of 2 1/2 feet. It rested on its apex (base
uppermost), and was filled with fragments of half incinerated human
bones, mingled with dark-colored dust, and the sand which invariably
sifts into crania under such circumstances. Immediately beneath the
skull lay the greater part of a human tibia, presenting the peculiar
compression known as a platycnemism to the degree of affording a
latitudinal index of .512; while beneath and surrounding it lay the
fragments of a large number of human bones, probably constituting an
entire individual. In the second instance of this peculiar mode in
cremation, the cranium was discovered on nearly the opposite side of
the mound, at a depth of 2 feet, and, like the former, resting on its
apex. It was filled with a black mass--the residuum of burnt human
bones mingled with sand. At three feet to the eastward lay the shaft
of a flattened tibia, which presents the longitudinal index of .527.
Both the skulls were free from all action of fire, and though
subsequently crumbling to pieces on their removal, the writer had
opportunity to observe their strong resemblance to the small
orthocephalic crania which he had exhumed from mounds in Michigan. The
same resemblance was perceptible in the other crania belonging to this
mound. The small, narrow, retreating frontal, prominent parietal
protuberances, rather protuberant occipital, which was not in the
least compressed, the well-defined supraciliary ridges, and the
superior border of the orbits, presenting a quadrilateral outline,
were also particularly noticed. The lower facial bones, including the
maxillaries, were wanting. On consulting such works as are accessible
to him, the writer finds no mention of any similar relics having been
discovered in mounds in Florida or elsewhere. For further particulars
reference may be had to a paper on the subject read before the Saint
Louis meeting of the American Association, August, 1878."

The discoveries made by Mr. Gillman would seem to indicate that the
people whose bones he excavated resorted to a process of partial
cremation, some examples of which will be given on another page. The
use of crania as receptacles is certainly remarkable, if not unique.

The fact is well known to archaeologists that whenever cremation was
practiced by Indians it was customary as a rule to throw into the
blazing pyre all sorts of articles supposed to be useful to the dead,
but no instance is known of such a wholesale destruction of property
as occurred when the Indians of southern Utah burned their dead, for
Dr. E. Foreman relates, in the American Naturalist for July, 1876, the
account of the exploration of a mound in that Territory, which proved
that at the death of a person not only were the remains destroyed by
fire, but all articles of personal property, even the very habitation
which had served as a home. After the process was completed, what
remained unburned was covered with earth and a mound formed.

A. S. Tiffany [Footnote: Proc. Dav. Acad. Nat Soc., 1867-76, p. 64.]
describes what he calls a cremation-furnace, discovered within seven
miles of Davenport, Iowa:

"... Mound seven miles below the city, a projecting point known as
Eagle Point. The surface was of the usual black soil to the depth of
from 6 to 8 inches. Next was found a burnt indurated clay, resembling
in color and texture a medium-burned brick, and about 30 inches in
depth. Immediately beneath this clay was a bed of charred human
remains 6 to 18 inches thick. This rested upon the unchanged and
undisturbed loess of the bluffs, which formed the floor of the pit.
Imbedded in this floor of unburned clay were a few very much
decomposed, but unburned, human bones. No implements of any kind were
discovered The furnace appears to have been constructed by excavating
the pit and placing at the bottom of it the bodies or skeletons which
had possibly been collected from scaffolds, and placing the fuel among
and above the bodies, with a covering of poles or split timbers
extending over and resting upon the earth, with the clay covering
above, which latter we now find resting upon the charred remains. The
ends of the timber covering, where they were protected by the earth
above and below, were reduced to charcoal, parallel pieces of which
were found at right angles to the length of the mound. No charcoal was
found among or near the remains, the combustion there having been
complete. The porous and softer portions of the bones were reduced to
pulverized bone-black. Mr. Stevens also examined the furnace. The
mound had probably not been opened after the burning."

This account is doubtless true, but the inferences may be incorrect.
Many more accounts of cremation among different tribes might be given
to show how prevalent was the custom, but the above are thought to be
sufficiently distinctive to serve as examples.


Allied somewhat to cremation is a peculiar mode of burial which is
supposed to have taken place among the Cherokees or some other tribe
of North Carolina, and which is thus described by J. W Foster.
[Footnote: Pre-Historic Races, 1873, p. 149.]

"Up to 1819 the Cherokees held possession of this region, when, in
pursuance of a treaty, they vacated a portion of the lands lying in
the valley of the Little Tennessee River. In 1821 Mr. McDowell
commenced farming. During the first season's operations the plowshare,
in passing over a certain portion of a field, produced a hollow
rumbling sound, and in exploring for the cause the first object met
with was a shallow layer of charcoal, beneath which was a slab of
burnt clay about 7 feet in length and 4 feet broad, which, in the
attempt to remove, broke into several fragments. Nothing beneath this
slab was found, but on examining its under side, to his great surprise
there was the mould of a naked human figure. Three of these burned
clay sepulchers were thus raised and examined during the first year of
his occupancy, since which time none have been found until
recently.... During the past season (1872) the plow brought up another
fragment of one of these moulds, revealing the impress of a plump
human arm.

"Col. C. W. Jenkes, the superintendent of the Corundum mines, which
have recently been opened in that vicinity, advises me thus:

"'We have Indians all about us, with traditions extending back for 500
years. In this time they have buried their dead under huge piles of
stones. We have at one point the remains of 600 warriors under one
pile, but a grave has just been opened of the following construction:
A pit was dug, into which the corpse was placed, face upward; then
over it was moulded a covering of mortar, fitting the form and
features. On this was built a hot fire, which formed an entire shield
of pottery for the corpse. The breaking up of one such tomb gives a
perfect cast of the form of the occupant.'

"Colonel Jenkes, fully impressed with the value of these
archaeological discoveries, detailed a man to superintend the
exhumation, who proceeded to remove the earth from the mould, which he
reached through a layer of charcoal, and then with a trowel excavated
beneath it. The clay was not thoroughly baked, and no impression of
the corpse was left, except of the forehead and that portion of the
limbs between the ankles and the knees, and even these portions of the
mould crumbled. The body had been placed east and west, the head
toward the east. 'I had hoped,' continues Mr. McDowell, 'that the cast
in the clay would be as perfect as one I found 51 years ago, a
fragment of which I presented to Colonel Jenkes, with the impression
of a part of the arm on one side and on the other of the fingers, that
had pressed down the soft clay upon the body interred beneath.' The
mound-builders of the Ohio Valley, as has been shown, often placed a
layer of clay over the dead, but not in immediate contact, upon which
they builded fires; and the evidence that cremation was often resorted
to in their disposition are too abundant to be gainsaid."

This statement is corroborated by Mr. Wilcox: [Footnote: Proc. Acad.
Nat. Soc. Phila., Nov 1874, p 168.]

"Mr. Wilcox also stated that when recently in North Carolina his
attention was called to an unusual method of burial by an ancient race
of Indians in that vicinity. In numerous instances burial places were
discovered where the bodies had been placed with the face up and
covered with a coating of plastic clay about an inch thick. A pile of
wood was then placed on top and fired, which consumed the body and
baked the clay, which retained the impression of the body. This was
then lightly covered with earth."

It is thought no doubt can attach to the statements given, but the
cases are remarkable as being the only instances of the kind met with
in the extensive range of reading preparatory to a study of the
subject of burial, although it must be observed that Bruhier states
that the ancient Ethiopians covered the corpses of their dead with
plaster (probably mud), but they did not burn these curious coffins.

Another method, embracing both burial and cremation, has been
practiced by the Pitt River or Achomawi Indians of California, who
"bury the body in the ground in a standing position, the shoulders
nearly even with the ground. The grave is prepared by digging a hole
of sufficient depth and circumference to admit the body, the head
being cut off. In the grave are placed the bows and arrows, bead-work,
trappings, &c., belonging to the deceased; quantities of food,
consisting of dried fish, roots, herbs, &c., were placed with the body
also. The grave was then filled up, covering the headless body; then a
bundle of fagots was brought and placed on the grave by the different
members of the tribe, and on these fagots the head was placed, the
pile fired, and the head consumed to ashes; after this was done, the
female relatives of the deceased, who had appeared as mourners with
their faces blackened with a preparation resembling tar or paint,
dipped their fingers in the ashes of the cremated head and made three
marks on their right cheek. This constituted the mourning garb, the
period of which lasted until this black substance wore off from the
face. In addition to this mourning, the blood female relatives of the
deceased (who, by the way, appeared to be a man of distinction) had
their hair cropped short. I noticed while the head was burning that
the old women of the tribe sat on the ground, forming a large circle,
inside of which another circle of young girls were formed standing and
swaying their bodies to and fro and singing a mournful ditty. This was
the only burial of a male that I witnessed. The custom of burying
females is very different, their bodies being wrapped or bundled up in
skins and laid away in caves, with their valuables, and in some cases
food being placed with them in their mouths. Occasionally money is
left to pay for food in the spirit land."

This account is furnished by General Charles H. Tompkins, deputy
quartermaster-general, United States Army, who witnessed the burial
above related, and is the more interesting as it seems to be the only
well-authenticated case on record, although E. A. Barber [Footnote:
American Natural, Sept., 1878, p. 699.] has described what may
possibly have been a case of cremation like the one above noted:

"A very singular case of aboriginal burial was brought to my notice
recently by Mr. William Klingbeil, of Philadelphia. On the New Jersey
bank of the Delaware River, a short distance below Gloucester City,
the skeleton of a man was found buried in a standing position, in a
high, red, sandy-clay bluff overlooking the stream. A few inches below
the surface the neck bones were found, and below these the remainder
of the skeleton, with the exception of the bones of the hands and
feet. The skull being wanting, it could not be determined whether the
remains were those of an Indian or of a white man, but in either case
the sepulture was peculiarly aboriginal. A careful exhumation and
critical examination by Mr. Klingbeil disclosed the fact that around
the lower extremities of the body had been placed a number of large
stones, which revealed traces of fire, in conjunction with charred
wood, and the bones of the feet had undoubtedly been consumed. This
fact makes it appear reasonably certain that the subject had been
executed, probably as a prisoner of war. A pit had been dug, in which
he was placed erect, and a fire kindled around him. Then he had been
buried alive, or, at least, if he did not survive the fiery ordeal,
his body was imbedded in the earth, with the exception of his head,
which was left protruding above the surface. As no trace of the
cranium could be found, it seems probable that the head had either
been burned or severed from the body and removed, or else left a prey
to ravenous birds. The skeleton, which would have measured fully six
feet in height, was undoubtedly that of a man."

Blacking the face, as is mentioned in the first account, is a custom
known to have existed among many tribes throughout the world, but in
some cases different earths and pigments are used as signs of
mourning. The natives of Guinea smear a chalky substance over their
bodies as an outward expression of grief, and it is well known that
the ancient Israelites threw ashes on their heads and garments.
Placing food with the corpse or in its mouth, and money in the hand,
finds its analogue in the custom of the ancient Romans, who, some time
before interment, placed a piece of money in the corpse's mouth, which
was thought to be Charon's fare for wafting the departed soul over the
Infernal River. Besides this, the corpse's mouth was furnished with a
certain cake, composed of flour, honey, &c. This was designed to
appease the fury of Cerberus, the infernal doorkeeper, and to procure
a safe and quiet entrance. These examples are curious coincidences, if
nothing more.


Our attention should next be turned to sepulture above the ground,
including lodge, house, box, scaffold, tree, and canoe burial, and the
first example which may be given is that of burial in lodges, which is
by no means common. The description which follows is by Stansbury,
[Footnote: Explorations of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah,
1852, p. 43.] and relates to the Sioux:

"I put on my moccasins, and, displaying my wet shirt like a flag to
the wind, we proceeded to the lodges which had attracted our
curiosity. There were five of them pitched upon the open prairie, and
in them we found the bodies of nine Sioux laid out upon the ground,
wrapped in their robes of buffalo-skin, with their saddles, spears,
camp-kettles, and all their accoutrements piled up around them. Some
lodges contained three, others only one body, all of which were more
or less in a state of decomposition. A short distance apart from these
was one lodge which, though small, seemed of rather superior
pretensions, and was evidently pitched with great care. It contained
the body of a young Indian girl of sixteen or eighteen years, with a
countenance presenting quite an agreeable expression; she was richly
dressed in leggins of fine scarlet cloth elaborately ornamented; a new
pair of moccasins, beautifully embroidered with porcupine quills, was
on her feet, and her body was wrapped in two superb buffalo-robes
worked in like manner; she had evidently been dead but a day or two,
and to our surprise a portion of the upper part of her person was
bare, exposing the face and a part of the breast, as if the robes in
which she was wrapped had by some means been disarranged, whereas all
the other bodies were closely covered up. It was, at the time, the
opinion of our mountaineers that these Indians must have fallen in an
encounter with a party of Crows; but I subsequently learned that they
had all died of the cholera, and that this young girl, being
considered past recovery, had been arranged by her friends in the
habiliments of the dead, inclosed in the lodge alive, and abandoned to
her fate, so fearfully alarmed were the Indians by this to them novel
and terrible disease."

It might, perhaps, be said that this form of burial was exceptional,
and due to the dread of again using the lodges which had served as the
homes of those afflicted with the cholera, but it is thought such was
not the case, as the writer has notes of the same kind of burial among
the same tribe and of others, notably the Crows, the body of one of
their chiefs (Long Horse) being disposed of as follows.

"The lodge poles inclose an oblong circle some 18 by 22 feet at the
base, converging to a point at least 30 feet high, covered with
buffalo-hides dressed without hair except a part of the tail switch,
which floats outside like, and mingled with human scalps. The
different skins are neatly fitted and sewed together with sinew, and
all painted in seven alternate horizontal stripes of brown and yellow,
decorated with various life-like war scenes. Over the small entrance
is a large bright cross, the upright being a large stuffed white wolf-
skin upon his war lance, and the cross-bar of bright scarlet flannel,
containing the quiver of bow and arrows, which nearly all warriors
still carry, even when armed with repeating rifles. As the cross is
not a pagan but a Christian (which Long Horse was not either by
profession or practice) emblem, it was probably placed there by the
influence of some of his white friends. I entered, finding Long Horse
buried Indian fashion, in full-war dress, paint and feathers, in a
rude coffin, upon a platform about breast high, decorated with
weapons, scalps, and ornaments. A large opening and wind-flap at top
favored ventilation, and though he had lain there in an open coffin a
full month, some of which was hot weather, there was but little
effluvia; in fact, I have seldom found much in a burial-teepee, and
when this mode of burial is thus performed it is less repulsive than
natural to suppose."

This account is furnished by Col. P. W. Norris, superintendent of
Yellowstone National Park, he having been an eye-witness of what he
relates in 1876.

The Blackfeet, Sioux, and Navajos also bury in lodges, and the Indians
of Bellingham Bay, according to Dr. J. F. Hammond, U. S. A., place
their dead in carved wooden sarcophagi, inclosing these with a
rectangular tent of some white material.

Bancroft [Footnote: Nat. Races of Pac. States, 1874, vol. 1, p. 780.]
states that certain of the Indians of Costa Rica, when a death
occurred, deposited the body in a small hut constructed of plaited
palm reeds. In this it is preserved for three years, food being
supplied, and on each anniversary of the death it is redressed and
attended to amid certain ceremonies. The writer has been recently
informed that a similar custom prevailed in Demerara. No authentic
accounts are known of analogous modes of burial among the peoples of
the Old World, although quite frequently the dead were interred
beneath the floors of their houses, a custom which has been followed
by the Mosquito Indians of Central America and one or two of our own


Under this head may be placed those examples furnished by certain
tribes on the Northwest coast who used as receptacles for the dead
wonderfully carved, large wooden chests, these being supported upon a
low platform or resting on the ground. In shape they resemble a small
house with an angular roof, and each one has an opening through which
food may be passed to the corpse.

Some of the tribes formerly living in New York used boxes much
resembling those spoken of, and the Creeks, Choctaws, and Cherokees
did the same.

Capt J. H. Gageby, U. S. A., furnishes the following relating to the
Creeks in Indian Territory:

"... are buried on the surface, in a box or a substitute made of
branches of trees, covered with small branches, leaves, and earth. I
have seen several of their graves, which after a few weeks had become
uncovered and the remains exposed to view. I saw in one Creek grave (a
child's) a small sum of silver, in another (adult male) some
implements of warfare, bow and arrows. They are all interred with the
feet of the corpse to the east. In the mourning ceremonies of the
Creeks the nearer relatives smeared their hair and faces with a
composition made of grease and wood ashes, and would remain in that
condition for several days, and probably a month."


We may now pass to what may be called aerial sepulture proper, the
most common examples of which are tree and scaffold burial, quite
extensively practiced even at the present time. From what can be
learned, the choice of this mode depends greatly on the facilities
present; where timber abounds, trees being used; if absent, scaffolds
being employed, the construction of which among the Yanktonais is
related as follows: [Footnote: Life of Belden, the White Chief, 1871,
p. 87.]

"These scaffolds are 7 to 8 feet high, 10 feet long, and 4 or 5 wide.
Four stout posts, with forked ends, are first set firmly in the
ground, and then in the forks are laid cross and side poles, on which
is made a flooring of small poles. The body is then carefully wrapped,
so as to make it watertight, and laid to rest on the poles. The reason
why Indians bury in the open air instead of under the ground is for
the purpose of protecting their dead from wild animals. In new
countries, where wolves and bears are numerous, a dead body will be
dug up and devoured, though it be put many feet under the ground. I
noticed many little buckets and baskets hanging on the scaffolds....
These had contained food and drink for the dead. I asked Washtella if
she was sure the soul ate and drank on its journey, and if the food
did not remain untouched in its basket. She replied, 'Oh, no, the food
and water is always gone.' I looked at the hundreds of ravens perched
on the scaffolds and could account for what became of most of the food
and water."...

John Young, Indian agent at the Blackfeet Agency, Montana, sends the
following account of tree-burial among this tribe:

"Their manner of burial has always been (until recently) to inclose
the dead body in robes or blankets, the best owned by the departed,
closely sewed up, and then, if a male or chief, fasten in the branches
of a tree so high as to be beyond the reach of wolves, and then left
to slowly waste in the dry winds. If the body was that of a squaw or
child, it was thrown into the underbrush or jungle, where it soon
became the prey of the wild animals. The weapons, pipes, &c., of men
were inclosed, and the small toys of children with them. The
ceremonies were equally barbarous, the relatives cutting off,
according to the depth of their grief, one or more joints of the
fingers, divesting themselves of clothing even in the coldest weather,
and filling the air with their lamentations. All the sewing up and
burial process was conducted by the squaws, as the men would not touch
nor remain in proximity to a dead body.

"When an Indian of any importance is departing, the squaws assemble in
the lodge or teepee and sing the death-song, recounting the prowess
and virtues of the dying one, and the oldest man at hand goes into the
open air and solemnly addresses the 'Great Spirit,' bespeaking a
welcome for him into the happy hunting grounds. Whatever property the
deceased has--lodge, arms, or ponies--if a will was made, it was
carefully carried out; if not, all was scrambled for by the relatives.
I have often had, when a man wanted to go out of mourning, to supply
the necessary clothing to cover his nakedness.

"Further mourning observances were and are, the women relatives
getting on some elevated spot near where the body rests, and keeping
up a dismal wail, frequently even in extreme cold weather, the greater
part of the night, and this is kept up often for a month. No cremation
or burying in a grave was practiced by them at any time. Pained by
often coming on skeletons in trees and the stench of half-consumed
remains in the brush, and shocked by the frequent mutilations visible,
I have reasoned with the poor savages. In one case, when a woman was
about to cut off a finger in evidence of her grief for the loss of a
child, she consented on entreaty to cut off only one joint, and on
further entreaty was brought to merely making a cut and letting out
some blood. This much she could not be prevailed upon to forego....
Their mourning and wailing, avoiding the defilement of touching a dead
body, and other customs not connected with burial observances,
strongly point to Jewish origin."

Keating [Footnote: Long's Exped. to the St. Peter's River, 1834, p.
392.] thus describes burial scaffolds:

"On these scaffolds, which are from 8 to 10 feet high, corpses were
deposited in a box made from part of a broken canoe. Some hair was
suspended, which we at first mistook for a scalp, but our guide
informed us that these were locks of hair torn from their heads by the
relatives to testify their grief. In the centre, between the four
posts which supported the scaffold, a stake was planted in the ground;
it was about six feet high, and bore an imitation of human figures,
five of which had a design of a petticoat, indicating them to be
females; the rest, amounting to seven, were naked, and were intended
for male figures; of the latter four were headless, showing that they
had been slain; the three other male figures were unmutilated, but
held a staff in their hand, which, as our guide informed us,
designated that they were slaves. The post, which is an usual
accompaniment to the scaffold that supports a warrior's remains, does
not represent the achievements of the deceased; but those of the
warriors that assembled near his remains danced the dance of the post,
and related their martial exploits. A number of small bones of animals
were observed in the vicinity, which were probably left there after a
feast celebrated in honor of the dead.

"The boxes in which the corpses were placed are so short that a man
could not lie in them extended at full length, but in a country where
boxes and boards are scarce this is overlooked. After the corpses have
remained a certain time exposed, they are taken down and buried. Our
guide, Renville, related to us that he had been a witness to an
interesting, though painful, circumstance that occurred here. An
Indian who resided on the Mississippi, hearing that his son had died
at this spot, came up in a canoe to take charge of the remains and
convey them down the river to his place of abode, but on his arrival
he found that the corpse had already made such progress toward
decomposition as rendered it impossible for it to be removed. He then
undertook, with a few friends, to clean off the bones. All the flesh
was scraped off and thrown into the stream, the bones were carefully
collected into his canoe, and subsequently carried down to his

Interesting and valuable from the extreme attention paid to details is
the following account of a burial case discovered by Dr. George M.
Sternberg, U. S. A., and furnished by Dr. George A. Otis, U. S. A.,
Army Medical Museum, Washington, D.C. It relates to the Cheyennes of

"The case was found, Brevet Major Sternberg states, on the banks of
Walnut Creek, Kansas, elevated about eight feet from the ground by
four notched poles, which were firmly planted in the ground. The
unusual care manifested in the preparation of the case induced Dr.
Sternberg to infer that some important chief was inclosed in it.
Believing that articles of interest were inclosed with the body, and
that their value would be enhanced if they were received at the Museum
as left by the Indians, Dr. Sternberg determined to send the case

"I had the case opened this morning and an inventory made of the
contents. The case consisted of a cradle of interlaced branches of
white willow, about 6 feet long, 3 feet broad, and 3 feet high, with a
flooring of buffalo thongs arranged as a net-work. This cradle was
securely fastened by strips of buffalo-hide to four poles of ironwood
and cottonwood, about 12 feet in length. These poles doubtless rested
upon the forked extremities of the vertical poles described by Dr.
Sternberg. The cradle was wrapped in two buffalo-robes of large size
and well preserved. On removing these an aperture 18 inches square was
found at the middle of the right side of the cradle or basket. Within
appeared other buffalo-robes folded about the remains, and secured by
gaudy-colored sashes. Five robes were successively removed, making
seven in all. Then we came to a series of new blankets folded about
the remains. There were five in all--two scarlet, two blue, and one
white. These being removed, the next wrappings consisted of a striped
white and gray sack, and of a United States Infantry overcoat, like
the other coverings nearly new. We had now come apparently upon the
immediate envelopes of the remains, which it was now evident must be
those of a child. These consisted of three robes, with hoods very
richly ornamented with bead-work. These robes or cloaks were of
buffalo-calf skin about four feet in length, elaborately decorated
with bead-work in stripes. The outer was covered with rows of blue and
white bead-work, the second was green and yellow, and the third blue
and red. All were further adorned by spherical brass bells attached
all about the borders by strings of beads.

"The remains with their wrappings lay upon a matting similar to that
used by the Navajo and other Indians of the southern plains, and upon
a pillow of dirty rags, in which were folded a bag of red paint, bits
of antelope skin, bunches of straps, buckles, &c. The three bead-work
hooded cloaks were now removed, and then we successively unwrapped a
gray woolen double shawl, five yards of blue cassimere, six yards of
red calico, and six yards of brown calico, and finally disclosed the
remains of a child, probably about a year old, in an advanced stage of
decomposition. The cadaver had a beaver-cap ornamented with disks of
copper containing the bones of the cranium, which had fallen apart.
About the neck were long wampum necklaces with _dentalium, unionida,
and auricula,_ interspersed with beads. There were also strings of
the pieces of _Haliotis_ from the Gulf of California, so valued
by the Indians on this side of the Rocky Mountains. The body had been
elaborately dressed for burial, the costume consisting of a red-
flannel cloak, a red tunic, and frock-leggins adorned with bead-work,
yarn stockings of red and black worsted, and deerskin bead-work
moccasins. With the remains were numerous trinkets, a porcelain image,
a China vase, strings of beads, several toys, a pair of mittens, a fur
collar, a pouch of the skin of _putorius vison_, &c."

Another extremely interesting account of scaffold burial, furnished by
Dr. L. S. Turner, U. S. A., Fort Peck, Mont., and relating to the
Sioux, is here given entire, as it refers to certain curious mourning
observances which have prevailed to a great extent over the entire

"The Dakotas bury their dead in the tops of trees when limbs can be
found sufficiently horizontal to support scaffolding on which to lay
the body, but as such growth is not common in Dakota, the more general
practice is to lay them upon scaffolds from 7 to 10 feet high and out
of the reach of carnivorous animals as the wolf. These scaffolds are
constructed upon four posts set into the ground something after the
manner of the rude drawing which I inclose. Like all labors of a
domestic kind, the preparation for burial is left to the women,
usually the old women. The work begins as soon as life is extinct. The
face, neck, and hands are thickly painted with vermilion, or a species
of red earth found in various portions of the Territory when the
vermilion of the traders cannot be had. The clothes and personal
trinkets of the deceased ornament the body. When blankets are
available, it is then wrapped in one, all parts of the body being
completely enveloped. Around this a dressed skin of buffalo is then
securely wrapped, with the flesh side out, and the whole securely
bound with thongs of skins, either raw or dressed; and for ornament,
when available, a bright-red blanket envelopes all other coverings,
and renders the general scene more picturesque until dimmed by time
and the elements. As soon as the scaffold is ready, the body is borne
by the women, followed by the female relatives, to the place of final
deposit, and left prone in its secure wrappings upon this airy bed of
death. This ceremony is accompanied with lamentations so wild and
weird that one must see and hear in order to appreciate. If the
deceased be a brave, it is customary to place upon or beneath the
scaffold a few buffalo-heads which time has rendered dry and
inoffensive; and if he has been brave in war some of his implements of
battle are placed on the scaffold or securely tied to its timbers. If
the deceased has been a chief, or a soldier related to his chief, it
is not uncommon to slay his favorite pony and place the body beneath
the scaffold, under the superstition, I suppose, that the horse goes
with the man. As illustrating the propensity to provide the dead with
the things used while living, I may mention that some years ago I
loaned to an old man a delft urinal for the use of his son, a young
man who was slowly dying of a wasting disease. I made him promise
faithfully that he would return it as soon as his son was done using
it. Not long afterwards the urinal graced the scaffold which held the
remains of the dead warrior, and as it has not to this day been
returned I presume the young man is not done using it.

"The mourning customs of the Dakotas, though few of them appear to be
of universal observance, cover considerable ground. The hair, never
cut under other circumstances, is cropped off even with the neck, and
the top of the head and forehead, and sometimes nearly the whole body,
are smeared with a species of white earth resembling chalk, moistened
with water. The lodge, teepee, and all the family possessions except
the few shabby articles of apparel worn by the mourners, are given
away and the family left destitute. Thus far the custom is universal
or nearly so. The wives, mother, and sisters of a deceased man, on the
first, second, or third day after the funeral, frequently throw off
their moccasins and leggins and gash their legs with their butcher-
knives, and march through the camp and to the place of burial with
bare and bleeding extremities, while they chant or wail their dismal
songs of mourning. The men likewise often gash themselves in many
places, and usually seek the solitude of the higher point on the
distant prairie, where they remain fasting, smoking, and wailing out
their lamentations for two or three days. A chief who had lost a
brother once came to me after three or four days of mourning in
solitude almost exhausted from hunger and bodily anguish. He had
gashed the outer side of both lower extremities at intervals of a few
inches all the way from the ankles to the top of the hips. His wounds
had inflamed from exposure, and were suppurating freely. He assured me
that he had not slept for several days or nights. I dressed his wounds
with a soothing ointment, and gave him a full dose of an effective
anodyne, after which he slept long and refreshingly, and awoke to
express his gratitude and shake my hand in a very cordial and sincere
manner. When these harsher inflictions are not resorted to, the
mourners usually repair daily for a few days to the place of burial,
toward the hour of sunset, and chant their grief until apparently
assuaged by its own expression. This is rarely kept up for more than
four or five days, but is occasionally resorted to, at intervals, for
weeks, or even months, according to the mood of the bereft. I have
seen few things in life so touching as the spectacle of an old father
going daily to the grave of his child, while the shadows are
lengthening, and pouring out his grief in wails that would move a
demon, until his figure melts with the gray twilight, when, silent and
solemn, he returns to his desolate family. The weird effect of this
observance is sometimes heightened, when the deceased was a grown-up
son, by the old man kindling a little fire near the head of the
scaffold, and varying his lamentations with smoking in silence. The
foregoing is drawn from my memory of personal observances during a
period of more than six years' constant intercourse with several
subdivisions of the Dakota Indians. There may be much which memory has
failed to recall upon a brief consideration."

Perhaps a brief review of Dr. Turner's narrative may not be deemed
inappropriate here.

Supplying food to the dead is a custom which is known to be of great
antiquity; in some instances, as among the ancient Romans, it appears
to have been a sacrificial offering, for it usually accompanied
cremation, and was not confined to food alone, for spices, perfumes,
oil, etc., were thrown upon the burning pile. In addition to this,
articles supposed or known to have been agreeable to the deceased were
also consumed. The Jews did the same, and in our own time the Chinese,
Caribe and many of the tribes of North American Indians followed these
customs. The cutting of hair as a mourning observance is of very great
antiquity, and Tegg relates that among the ancients whole cities and
countries were shaved (_sic_) when a great man died. The Persians
not only shaved themselves on such occasions, but extended the same
process to their domestic animals, and Alexander, at the death of
Hephastin, not only cut off the manes of his horses and mules, but
took down the battlements from the city walls, that even towns might
seem in mourning and look bald. Scarifying and mutilating the body has
prevailed from a remote period of time, having possibly replaced, in
the process of evolution, to a certain extent, the more barbarous
practice of absolute personal sacrifice. In later days, among our
Indians, human sacrifices have taken place to only a limited extent,
but formerly many victims were immolated, for at the funerals of the
chiefs of the Florida and Carolina Indians all the male relatives and
wives were slain, for the reason, according to Gallatin, that the
hereditary dignity of Chief or Great Sun descended, as usual, by the
female line; and he, as well as all other members of his clan, whether
male or female, could marry only persons of an inferior clan. To this
day mutilation of the person among some tribes of Indians is usual.
The sacrifice of the favorite horse or horses is by no means peculiar
to our Indians, for it was common among the Romans, and possibly even
among the men of the Reindeer period, for at Solutre, in France, the
writer saw horses' bones exhumed from the graves examined in 1873. The
writer has frequently conversed with Indians upon this subject, and
they have invariably informed him that when horses were slain great
care was taken to select the poorest of the band.

Tree-burial was not uncommon among the nations of antiquity, for the
Colchiens enveloped their dead in sacks of skin and hung them to
trees; the ancient Tartars and Scythians did the same. With regard to
the use of scaffolds and trees as places of deposit for the dead, it
seems somewhat curious that the tribes who formerly occupied the
eastern portion of our continent were not in the habit of burying in
this way, which, from the abundance of timber, would have been a much
easier method than the ones in vogue, while the western tribes, living
in sparsely wooded localities, preferred the other. If we consider
that the Indians were desirous of preserving their dead as long as
possible, the fact of their dead being placed in trees and scaffolds
would lead to the supposition that those living on the plains were
well aware of the desiccating property of the dry air of that arid
region. This desiccation would pass for a kind of mummification.

The particular part of the mourning ceremonies, which consisted in
loud cries and lamentations, may have had in early periods of time a
greater significance than that of a mere expression of grief or woe,
and on this point Bruhier [Footnote: L' des signes de la Mort, 1742,
I, p. 475 _et seq._] seems quite positive, his interpretation
being that such cries were intended to prevent premature burial. He
gives some interesting examples, which may be admitted here.

"The Caribs lament loudly, their wailings being interspersed with
comical remarks and questions to the dead as to why he preferred to
leave this world, having everything to make life comfortable. They
place the corpse on a little seat in a ditch or grave four or five
feet deep, and for ten days they bring food, requesting the corpse to
eat. Finally, being convinced that the dead will neither eat nor
return to life, they throw the food on the head of the corpse and fill
up the grave."

When one died among the Romans, the nearest parents embraced the body,
closed the eyes and mouth, and when one was about to die received the
last words and sighs, and then loudly called the name of the dead,
finally bidding an eternal adieu. This ceremony of calling the
deceased by name was known as the _conclamation,_ and was a
custom anterior even to the foundation of Rome. One dying away from
home was immediately removed thither, in order that this might be
performed with greater propriety. In Picardy, as late as 1743, the
relatives threw themselves on the corpse and with loud cries called it
by name, and up to 1855 the Moravians of Pennsylvania, at the death of
one of their number, performed mournful musical airs on brass
instruments from the village church steeple and again at the grave
[Footnote: The writer is informed by Mr. John Henry Boner that this
custom still prevails not only in Pennsylvania, but at the Moravian
settlement of Salem, North Carolina.] This custom, however, was
probably a remnant of the ancient funeral observances, and not to
prevent premature burial, or, perhaps, to scare away bad spirits.

W. L. Hardisty [Footnote: Rep. Smithsonian Inst., 1866, p. 319] gives
a curious example of log-burial in trees, relating to the Loucheux of
British America:

"They inclose the body in a neatly-hollowed piece of wood, and secure
it to two or more trees, about six feet from the ground. A log about
eight feet long is first split in two, and each of the parts carefully
hollowed out to the required size. The body is then inclosed and the
two pieces well lashed together, preparatory to being finally secured,
as before stated, to the trees"

With regard to the use of scaffolds as places of deposit for the dead,
the following theories by Dr. W. Gardner, U.S.A., are given:

"If we come to inquire why the American aborigines placed the dead
bodies of their relatives and friends in trees, or upon scaffolds
resembling trees, instead of burying them in the ground, or burning
them and preserving their ashes in urns, I think we can answer the
inquiry by recollecting that most if not all the tribes of American
Indians, as well as other nations of a higher civilization, believed
that the human soul, spirit or immortal part, was of the form and
nature of a bird, and as these are essentially arboreal in their
habits, it is quite in keeping to suppose that the _soul-bird_
would have readier access to its former home or dwelling-place if it
was placed upon a tree or scaffold than if it was buried in the earth;
moreover, from this lofty eyrie the souls of the dead could rest
secure from the attacks of wolves or other profane beasts, and guard
like sentinels the homes and hunting-grounds of their loved ones."

This statement is given because of a corroborative note in the
writer's possession, but he is not prepared to admit it as correct
without farther investigation.


Under this heading may be placed the burials which consisted in first
depositing the bodies on scaffolds, where they were allowed to remain
for a variable length of time, after which the bones were cleaned and
deposited either in the earth or in special structures called by
writers "bone-houses." Roman [Footnote: Hist. of Florida, 1775, p.
89.] relates the following concerning the Choctaws:

"The following treatment of the dead is very strange ... As soon as
the deceased is departed, a stage is erected (as in the annexed plate
is represented) and the corpse is laid on it and covered with a bear
skin; if he be a man of note, it is decorated, and the poles painted
red with vermillion and bear's oil; if a child, it is put upon stakes
set across; at this stage the relations come and weep, asking many
questions of the corpse, such as, why he left them? did not his wife
serve him well? was he not contented with his children? had he not
corn enough? did not his land produce sufficient of everything? was he
afraid of his enemies? etc. and this accompanied by loud howlings; the
women will be there constantly, and sometimes with the corrupted air
and heat of the sun faint so as to oblige the bystanders to carry them
home; the men will also come and mourn in the same manner, but in the
night or at other unseasonable times, when they are least likely to be

"The stage is fenced round with poles; it remains thus a certain time
but not a fixed space; this is sometimes extended to three or four
months, but seldom more than half that time. A certain set of
venerable old Gentlemen who wear very long nails as a distinguishing
badge on the thumb, fore and middle finger of each hand, constantly
travel through the nation (when i was there, i was told there were but
five of this respectable order) that one of them may acquaint those
concerned, of the expiration of this period, which is according to
their own fancy; the day being come, the friends and relations
assemble near the stage, a fire is made, and the respectable operator,
after the body is taken down, with his nails tears the remaining flesh
off the bones, and throws it with the entrails into the fire, where it
is consumed; then he scrapes the bones and burns the scrapings
likewise; the head being painted red with vermillion is with the rest
of the bones put into a neatly made chest (which for a Chief is also
made red) and deposited in the loft of a hut built for that purpose,
and called bone house; each town has one of these; after remaining
here one year or thereabouts, if he be a man of any note, they take
the chest down, and in an assembly of relations and friends they weep
once more over him, refresh the colour of the head, paint the box, and
then deposit him to lasting oblivion.

"An enemy nor one who commits suicide is buried under the earth as one
to be directly forgotten and unworthy the above ceremonial obsequies
and mourning."

Jones [Footnote: Antiquities of the Southern Indiana, 1873, p. 105.]
quotes one of the older writers, as follows, regarding the
_Natchez_ tribe:

"Among the Natchez the dead were either inhumed or placed in tombs.
These tombs were located within or very near their temples. They
rested upon four forked sticks fixed fast in the ground, and were
raised some three feet above the earth. About eight feet long and a
foot and a half wide, they were prepared for the reception of a single
corpse. After the body was placed upon it, a basket-work of twigs was
woven around and covered with mud, an opening being left at the head,
through which food was presented to the deceased. When the flesh had
all rotted away, the bones were taken out, placed in a box made of
canes, and then deposited in the temple. The common dead were mourned
and lamented for a period of three days. Those who fell in battle were
honored with a more protracted and grievous lamentation."

Bartram [Footnote: Bartram's Travel, 1791, p. 516.] gives a somewhat
different account from Roman of burial among the Choctaws of Carolina:

"The Choctaws pay their last duties and respect to the deceased in a
very different manner. As soon as a person is dead, they erect a
scaffold 18 or 20 feet high in a grove adjacent to the town, where
they lay the corps, lightly covered with a mantle; here it is suffered
to remain, visited and protected by the friends and relations, until
the flesh becomes putrid, so as easily to part from the bones; then
undertakers, who make it their business, carefully strip the flesh
from the bones, wash and cleanse them, and when dry and purified by
the air, having provided a curiously-wrought chest or coffin,
fabricated of bones and splints, they place all the bones therein,
which is deposited in the bone-house, a building erected for that
purpose in every town; and when this house is full a general solemn
funeral takes place; when the nearest kindred or friends of the
deceased, on a day appointed, repair to the bone-house, take up the
respective coffins, and, following one another in order of seniority,
the nearest relations and connections attending their respective
corps, and the multitude following after them, all as one family, with
united voice of alternate allelujah and lamentation, slowly proceeding
on to the place of general interment, when they place the coffins in
order, forming a pyramid; [Footnote: Some ingenious men whom I have
conversed with have given it as their opinion that all those pyramidal
artificial hills, usually called Indian mounds, were raised on this
occasion, and are generally sepulchres. However, I am of different
opinion.] and, lastly, cover all over with earth, which raises a
conical hill or mount; when they return to town in order of solemn
procession, concluding the day with a festival, which is called the
feast of the dead."

Morgan [Footnote: League of the Iroquois 1851, p. 171] also alludes to
this mode of burial:

"The body of the deceased was exposed upon a hark scaffolding erected
upon poles or secured upon the limbs of trees, where it was left to
waste to a skeleton. After this had been effected by the process of
decomposition in the open air, the bones were removed either to the
former house of the deceased, or to a small bark-house by its side,
prepared for their reception. In this manner the skeletons of the
whole family were preserved from generation to generation by the
filial or parental affection of the living After the lapse of a number
of years, or in a season of public insecurity, or on the eve of
abandoning a settlement, it was customary to collect these skeletons
from the whole community around and consign them to a common resting

"To this custom, which is not confined to the Iroquois, is doubtless
to be ascribed the barrows and bone-mounds which have been found in
such numbers in various parts of the country. On opening these mounds
the skeletons are usually found arranged in horizontal layers, a
conical pyramid, those in each layer radiating from a common center.
In other cases they are found placed promiscuously."

D. G. Brinton [Footnote: Myths of the New World, 1868. p. 256.]
likewise gives an account of the interment of collected bones:

"East of the Mississippi nearly every nation was accustomed at stated
periods--usually once in eight or ten years--to collect and clean the
osseous remains of those of its number who had died in the intervening
time, and inter them in one common sepulcher, lined with choice furs,
and marked with a mound of wood, stone, or earth. Such is the origin
of those immense tumuli filled with the mortal remains of nations and
generations, which the antiquary, with irreverent curiosity, so
frequently chances upon in all portions of our territory. Throughout
Central America the same usage obtained in various localities, as
early writers and existing monuments abundantly testify. Instead of
interring the bones, were they those of some distinguished chieftain,
they were deposited in the temples or the council-houses, usually in
small chests of canes or splints. Such were the charnel-houses which
the historians of De Soto's expedition so often mention, and these are
the 'arks' Adair and other authors who have sought to trace the
descent of the Indians from the Jews have likened to that which the
ancient Israelites bore with them in their migrations.

"A widow among the Tahkalis was obliged to carry the bones of her
deceased husband wherever she went for four years, preserving them in
such a casket, handsomely decorated with feathers (Rich. Arc. Exp, p.
260). The Caribs of the mainland adopted the custom for all, without
exception. About a year after death the bones were cleaned, bleached,
painted, wrapped in odorous balsams, placed in a wicker basket, and
kept suspended from the door of their dwelling (Gumilla Hist. del
Orinoco I., pp. 199, 202, 204). When the quantity of these heirlooms
became burdensome they were removed to some inaccessible cavern and
stowed away with reverential care."

George Catlin [Footnote: Hist. N. A. Indians, 1844, I, p. 90.]
describes what he calls the "Golgothas" of the Mandans:

"There are several of these golgothas, or circles of twenty or thirty
feet in diameter, and in the center of each ring or circle is a little
mound of three feet high, on which uniformly rest two buffalo skulls
(a male and female), and in the center of the little mound is erected
'a medicine pole,' of about twenty feet high, supporting many curious
articles of mystery and superstition, which they suppose have the
power of guarding and protecting this sacred arrangement.

"Here, then, to this strange place do these people again resort to
evince their further affections for the dead, not in groans and
lamentations, however, for several years have cured the anguish, but
fond affection and endearments are here renewed, and conversations are
here held and cherished with the dead. Each one of these skulls is
placed upon a bunch of wild sage, which has been pulled and placed
under it. The wife knows, by some mark or resemblance, the skull of
her husband or her child which lies in this group, and there seldom
passes a day that she does not visit it with a dish of the best-cooked
food that her wigwam affords, which she sets before the skull at
night, and returns for the dish in the morning. As soon as it is
discovered that the sage on which the skull rests is beginning to
decay, the woman cuts a fresh bunch and places the skull carefully
upon it, removing that which was under it.

"Independent of the above-named duties, which draw the women to this
spot, they visit it from inclination, and linger upon it to hold
converse and company with the dead. There is scarcely an hour in a
pleasant day but more or less of these women may be seen sitting or
lying by the skull of their child or husband, talking to it in the
most pleasant and endearing language that they can use (as they were
wont to do in former days), and seemingly getting an answer back."

From these accounts it may be seen that the peculiar customs which
have been described by the authors cited were not confined to any
special tribe or area of country, although they do not appear to have
prevailed among the Indians of the northwest coast, so far as known.


The next mode of burial to be remarked is that of deposit in canoes,
either supported on posts, on the ground, or swung from trees, and is
common only to the tribes inhabiting the northwest coast. From a
number of examples, the following, relating to the Clallams and
furnished by the Rev. M. Eells, missionary to the Skokomish Agency,
Washington Territory, is selected:

"The deceased was a woman about thirty or thirty-five years of age,
dead of consumption. She died in the morning, and in the afternoon I
went to the house to attend the funeral. She had then been placed in a
Hudson's Bay Company's box for a coffin, which was about 3 1/2 feet
long, 1 3/4 wide, and 1 1/2 high. She was very poor when she died,
owing to her disease, or she could not have been put in this box. A
fire was burning near by, where a large number of her things had been
consumed, and the rest were in three boxes near the coffin. Her mother
sang the mourning song, sometimes with others, and often saying. 'My
daughter, my daughter, why did you die?' and similar words. The burial
did not take place until the next day, and I was invited to go. It was
an aerial burial, in a canoe. The canoe was about 25 feet long. The
posts, of old Indian hewed boards, were about a foot wide. Holes were
cut in these, in which boards were placed, on which the canoe rested.
One thing I noticed while this was done which was new to me, but the
significance of which I did not learn. As fast as the holes were cut
in the posts green leaves were gathered and placed over the holes
until the posts were put in the ground. The coffin-box and the three
others containing her things were placed in the canoe and a roof of
boards made over the central part, which was entirely covered with
white cloth. The head part and the foot part of her bedstead were then
nailed on to the posts, which front the water, and a dress nailed on
each of these. After pronouncing the benediction, all left the hill
and went to the beach except her father, mother, and brother, who
remained ten or fifteen minutes, pounding on the canoe and mourning.
They then came down and made a present to those persons who were
there--a gun to me, a blanket to each of two or three others, and a
dollar and a half to each of the rest, there being about fifteen
persons present. Three or four of them then made short speeches, and
we came home.

"The reason why she was buried thus is said to be because she is a
prominent woman in the tribe. In about nine months it is expected that
there will be a '_pot-latch_' or distribution of money near this
place, and as each tribe shall come they will send a delegation of two
or three men, who will carry a present and leave it at the grave; soon
after that shall be done she will be buried in the ground. Shortly
after her death both her father and mother cut off their hair as a
sign of their grief."

George Gibbs [Footnote: Cont. N. A. Ethnol. 1877, I, p. 200.] gives a
most interesting account of the burial ceremonies of the Indians of
Oregon and Washington Territory, which is here reproduced in its
entirety, although it contains examples of other modes of burial
besides that in canoes; but to separate the narrative would destroy
the thread of the story:

"The common mode of disposing of the dead among the fishing tribes was
in canoes. These were generally drawn into the woods at some prominent
point a short distance from the village, and sometimes placed between
the forks of trees or raised from the ground on posts. Upon the
Columbia River the Tsinuk had in particular two very noted cemeteries,
a high isolated bluff about three miles below the mouth of the
Cowlitz, called Mount Coffin, and one some distance above, called
Coffin Rock. The former would appear not to have been very ancient.
Mr. Broughton, one of Vancouver's lieutenants, who explored the river,
makes mention only of _several_ canoes at this place; and Lewis
and Clarke, who noticed the mount, do not speak of them at all, but at
the time of Captain Wilkes's expedition it is conjectured that there
were at least 3,000. A fire caused by the carelessness of one of his
party destroyed the whole, to the great indignation of the Indians.

"Captain Belcher, of the British ship Sulphur, who visited the river
in 1839, remarks: 'In the year 1836 [1826] the small-pox made great
ravages, and it was followed a few years since by the ague.
Consequently Corpse Island and Coffin Mount, as well as the adjacent
shores, were studded not only with canoes, but at the period of our
visit the skulls and skeletons were strewed about in all directions.'
This method generally prevailed on the neighboring coasts, as at Shoal
Water Bay, etc. Farther up the Columbia, as at the Cascades, a
different form was adopted, which is thus described by Captain Clarke:

"About half a mile below this house, in a very thick part of the
woods, is an ancient Indian burial-place; it consists of eight vaults,
made of pine or cedar boards, closely connected, about eight feet
square and six in height, the top securely covered with wide boards,
sloping a little, so as to convey off the rain. The direction of all
these is east and west, the door being on the eastern side, and
partially stopped with wide boards, decorated with rude pictures of
men and other animals. On entering we found in some of them four dead
bodies, carefully wrapped in skins, tied with cords of grass and bark,
lying on a mat in a direction east and west, the other vaults
contained only bones, which in some of them were piled to a height of
four feet; on the tops of the vaults and on poles attached to them
hung brass kettles and frying-pans with holes in their bottoms,
baskets, bowls, sea-shells, skins, pieces of cloth, hair bags of
trinkets, and small bones, the offerings of friendship or affection,
which have been saved by a pious veneration from the ferocity of war
or the more dangerous temptation of individual gain. The whole of the
walls as well as the door were decorated with strange figures cut and
painted on them, and besides these were several wooden images of men,
some of them so old and decayed as to have almost lost their shape,
which were all placed against the sides of the vault. These images, as
well as those in the houses we have lately seen, do not appear to be
at all the objects of adoration in this place; they were most probably
intended as resemblances of those whose decease they indicate; and
when we observe them in houses they occupy the most conspicuous part,
but are treated more like ornaments than objects of worship. Near the
vaults which are still standing are the remains of others on the
ground, completely rotted and covered with moss; and as they are
formed of the most durable pine and cedar timber, there is every
appearance that for a very long series of years this retired spot has
been the depository for the Indians near this place."

"Another depository of this kind upon an island in the river a few
miles above gave it the name of Sepulcher Island. The _Watlala_,
a tribe of the Upper Tsinuk, whose burial place is here described, are
now nearly extinct; but a number of the sepulchers still remain in
different states of preservation. The position of the body, as noticed
by Clarke, is, I believe, of universal observance, the head being
always placed to the west. The reason assigned to me is that the road
to the _me-mel-us-illa-hee_, the country of the dead, is toward
the west, and if they place them otherwise they would be confused.
East of the Cascade Mountains the tribes whose habits are equestrian,
and who use canoes only for ferriage or transportation purposes, bury
their dead, usually heaping over them piles of stones, either to mark
the spot or to prevent the bodies from being exhumed by the prairie
wolf. Among the Yakamas we saw many of their graves placed in
conspicuous points of the basaltic walls which line the lower valleys,
and designated by a clump of poles planted over them, from which
fluttered various articles of dress. Formerly these prairie tribes
killed horses over the graves--a custom now falling into disuse in
consequence of the teachings of the whites.

"Upon Puget Sound all the forms obtain in different localities. Among
the Makah of Cape Flattery the graves are covered with a sort of box,
rudely constructed of boards, and else where on the Sound the same
method is adopted in some cases, while in others the bodies are placed
on elevated scaffolds. As a general thing, however, the Indians upon
the water placed the dead in canoes, while those at a distance from it
buried them. Most of the graves are surrounded with strips of cloth,
blankets, and other articles of property. Mr. Cameron, an English
gentleman residing at Esquimalt Harbor, Vancouver Island, informed me
that on his place there were graves having at each corner a large
stone, the interior space filled with rubbish. The origin of these was
unknown to the present Indians.

"The distinctions of rank or wealth in all cases were very marked;
persons of no consideration and slaves being buried with very little
care or respect. Vancouver, whose attention was particularly attracted
to their methods of disposing of the dead, mentions that at Port
Discovery he saw baskets suspended to the trees containing the
skeletons of young children, and, what is not easily explained, small
square boxes, containing, apparently, food. I do not think that any of
these tribes place articles of food with the dead, nor have I been
able to learn from living Indians that they formerly followed that
practice. What he took for such I do not understand. He also mentions
seeing in the same place a cleared space recently burned over, in
which the skulls and bones of a number lay among the ashes. The
practice of burning the dead exists in parts of California and among
the Tshimsyan of Fort Simpson. It is also pursued by the "Carriers" of
New California, but no intermediate tribes, to my knowledge, follow
it. Certainly those of the Sound do not at present.

"It is clear from Vancouver's narrative that some great epidemic had
recently passed through the country, as manifested by the quantity of
human remains uncared for and exposed at the time of his visit, and
very probably the Indians, being afraid, had burned a house, in which
the inhabitants had perished with the dead in it. This is frequently
done. They almost invariably remove from an place where sickness has
prevailed, generally destroying the house also.

"At Penn Cove Mr. Whidbey, one of Vancouver's officers, noticed
several sepulchers formed exactly like a sentry-box. Some of them were
open, and contained the skeletons, of many young children tied up in
baskets. The smaller bones of adults were likewise noticed, but not
one of the limb bones was found; which gave rise to an opinion that
these, by the living inhabitants of the neighborhood, were
appropriated to useful purposes, such as pointing their arrows,
spears, or other weapons.

"It is hardly necessary to say that such a practice is altogether
foreign to Indian character. The bones of the adults had probably been
removed and buried elsewhere. The corpses of children are variously
disposed of; sometimes by suspending them, at others by placing in the
hollows of trees, A cemetery devoted to infants is, however, an
unusual occurrence. In cases of chiefs or men of note much pomp was
used in the accompaniments of the rite. The canoes were of great size
and value--the war or state canoes of the deceased. Frequently one was
inverted over that holding the body, and in one instance, near
Shoalwater Bay, the corpse was deposited in a small canoe, which again
was placed in a larger one and covered with a third. Among the
_Tsinuk_ and _Tsihalis_ the _tamahno-us_ board of the owner was
placed near him. The Puget Sound Indians do not make these
_tamahno-us_ hoards, but they sometimes constructed effigies of
their chiefs, resembling the person as nearly as possible, dressed in
his usual costume, and wearing the articles of which he was fond. One
of these, representing the Skagit chief Sneestum, stood very
conspicuously upon a high bank on the eastern side of Whidbey Island
The figures observed by Captain Clarke at the Cascades were either of
this description or else the carved, posts which had ornamented the
interior of the houses of the deceased, and were connected with the
superstition of the _tamahno-us_. The most valuable articles of
property were put into or hung up around the grave, being first
carefully rendered unserviceable, and the living family were literally
stripped to do honor to the dead. No little self-denial must have been
practiced in parting with articles so precious, but those interested
frequently had the least to say on the subject. The graves of women
were distinguished by a cup, a Kamas stick, or other implement of
their occupation, and by articles of dress.

"Slaves were killed in proportion to the rank and wealth of the
deceased. In some instances they were starved to death, or even tied
to the dead body and left to perish thus horribly. At present this
practice has been almost entirely given up, but till within a very few
years it was not uncommon. A case which occurred in 1850 has been
already mentioned. Still later, in 1853, Toke, a Tsinuk chief living
at Shoalwater Bay, undertook to kill a slave girl belonging to his
daughter, who, in dying, had requested that this might be done. The
woman fled, and was found by some citizens in the woods half starved.
Her master attempted to reclaim her, but was soundly thrashed and
warned against another attempt.

"It was usual in the case of chiefs to renew or repair for a
considerable length of time the materials and ornaments of the burial-
place. With the common class of persons family pride or domestic
affection was satisfied with the gathering together of the bones after
the flesh had decayed and wrapping them in a new mat. The violation of
the grave was always regarded as an offense of the first magnitude and
provoked severe revenge. Captain Belcher remarks, 'Great secrecy is
observed in all their burial ceremonies, partly from fear of
Europeans, and as among themselves they will instantly punish by death
any violation of the tomb or wage war if perpetrated by another tribe,
so they are inveterate and tenaceously bent on revenge should they
discover that any act of the kind has been perpetrated by a white man.
It is on record that part of the crew of a vessel on her return to
this port (the Columbia) suffered because a person who belonged to her
(but not then in her) was known to have taken a skull, which, from the
process of flattening, had become an object of curiosity.' He adds,
however, that at the period of his visit to the river 'the skulls and
skeletons were scattered about in all directions; and as I was on most
of their positions unnoticed by the natives, I suspect the feeling
does not extend much beyond their relatives, and then only till decay
has destroyed body, goods, and chattels. The chiefs, no doubt, are
watched, as their canoes are repainted, decorated, and greater care
taken by placing them in sequestered spots.'

"The motive for sacrificing or destroying property on occasion of
death will be referred to in treating of their religious ideas.
Wailing for the dead is continued for a long time, and seems to be
rather a ceremonial performance than an act of spontaneous grief. The
duty, of course, belongs to the woman, and the early morning is
usually chosen for the purpose. They go out alone to some place a
little distant from the lodge or camp, and in a loud, sobbing voice
repeat a sort of stereotyped formula, as, for instance, a mother, on
the loss of her child, _'Ah seahb shed-da bud-dah ah ta bud! ad-de-
dah,_ Ah chief!' 'My child dead, alas!' When in dreams they see any
of their deceased friends this lamentation is renewed."

With most of the Northwest Indians it was quite common, as mentioned
by Mr. Gibbs, to kill or bury with the dead a living slave, who,
failing to die within three days was strangled by another slave, but
the custom has also prevailed among other tribes and peoples, in many
cases the individuals offering themselves as voluntary sacrifices.
Bancroft states "that in Panama, Nata, and some other districts, when
a cacique died those of his concubines that loved him enough, those
that he loved ardently and so appointed, as well as certain servants,
killed themselves and were interred with him. This they did in order
that they might wait upon him in the land of spirits." It is well
known to all readers of history to what an extreme this revolting
practice has prevailed in Mexico, South America, and Africa.


As a confirmed rite or ceremony, this mode of disposing of the dead
has never been followed by any of our North American Indians, although
occasionally the dead have been disposed of by sinking in springs or
watercourses, by throwing into the sea, or by setting afloat in
canoes. Among the nations of antiquity the practice was not uncommon,
for we are informed that the Ichtliyophagi, or fish-eaters, mentioned
by Ptolemy, living in a region bordering on the Persian Gulf,
invariably committed their dead to the sea, thus repaying the
obligations they had incurred to its inhabitants. The Lotophagians did
the same, and the Hyperboreans, with a commendable degree of
forethought for the survivors, when ill or about to die, threw
themselves into the sea. The burial of Baldor "the beautiful," it may
be remembered, was in a highly decorated ship, which was pushed down
to the sea, set on fire, and committed to the waves. The Itzas of
Guatemala, living on the islands of Lake Peter, according to Bancroft,
are said to have thrown their dead into the lake for want of room. The
Indiana of Nootka Sound and the Chinooks were in the habit of thus
getting rid of their dead slaves, and, according to Timberlake, the
Cherokees of Tennessee "seldom bury the dead, but threw them into the

After a careful search for well-authenticated instances of burial,
aquatic and semi-aquatic, but two have been found, which are here
given. The first relates to the Gosh-Utes, and is by Capt J. H.
Simpson: [Footnote: Exploration Great Salt Lake Valley, Utah, 1859, p.

"Skull Valley, which is a part of the Great Salt Lake Desert, and
which we have crossed to-day, Mr. George W. Bean, my guide over this
route last fall, says derives its name from the number of skulls which
have been found in it, and which have arisen from the custom of the
Goshute Indians burying their dead in springs, which they sink with
stones or keep down with sticks. He says he has actually seen the
Indians bury their dead in this way near the town of Provo, where he

As corroboration of this statement, Captain Simpson mentions in
another part of the volume that, arriving at a spring one evening,
they were obliged to dig out the skeleton of an Indian from the mud at
the bottom before using the water.

This peculiar mode of burial is entirely unique, so far as known, and
but from the well-known probity of the relator might well be
questioned, especially when it is remembered that in the country
spoken of water is quite scarce and Indians are careful not to pollute
the streams or springs near which they live. Conjecture seems useless
to establish a reason for this disposition of the dead.

The second example is by Catlin [Footnote: Hist. North American
Indians, 1844, II, p. 141] and relates to the Chinook.

"... This little cradle has a strap which passes over the woman's
forehead whilst the cradle rides on her back, and if the child dies
during its subjection to this rigid mode its cradle becomes its
coffin, forming a little canoe, in which it lie floating on the water
in some sacred pool, where they are often in the habit of fastening
their canoes containing the dead bodies of the old and young, or,
which is often the case, elevated into the branches of trees, where
their bodies are left to decay and their bones to dry whilst they are
bandaged in man skins and ominously packed in their canoes, with
paddles to propel and ladles to bail them out, and provisions to last
and pipes to smoke as they are performing their 'long journey after
death to their contemplated hunting grounds,' which these people think
is to be performed in their canoes."


This is a term quaintly used by the learned M Pierre Muret to express
the devouring of the dead by birds and animals or the surviving
friends and relatives. Exposure of the dead to animals and birds has
already been mentioned, but in the absence of any positive proof it is
not believed that the North American Indians followed the custom,
although cannibalism may have prevailed to a limited extent. It is
true that a few accounts are given by authors, but these are
considered to be so apochryphal in character that for the present it
is deemed prudential to omit them. That such a means of disposing of
the dead was not in practice is somewhat remarkable when we take into
consideration how many analogies have been found in comparing old and
new world funeral observances, and the statements made by Bruhier,
Lafitau, Muret, and others, who give a number of examples of this
peculiar mode of burial.

For instance, the Tartars sometimes ate their dead, and the
Massageties, Derbices, and Effedens did the same, having previously
strangled the aged and mixed their flesh with mutton. Horace and
Tertulian both affirm that the Irish and ancient Britons devoured the
dead, and Lafitau remarks that certain Indians of South America did
the same, esteeming this mode of disposal more honorable and much to
be preferred than to rot and be eaten by worms. To the credit of our
savages, this barbarous and revolting practice is not believed to have
been practiced by them.


The above subjects are coincidental with burial, and some of them,
particularly mourning, have been more or less treated of in this
paper, yet it may be of advantage to here give a few of the collected
examples, under separate heads.


One of the most carefully described scenes of mourning at the death of
a chief of the Crows is related in the life of Beckwourth, [Footnote:
Autobiography of James Beckwourth, 1856, p. 260.] who for many years
lived among this people, finally attaining great distinction as a

"I dispatched a herald to the village to inform them of the head
chief's death, and then, burying him according to his directions, we
slowly proceeded homewards. My very soul sickened at the contemplation
of the scenes that would be enacted at my arrival. When we drew in
sight of the village, we found every lodge laid prostrate. We entered
amid shrieks, cries, and yells. Blood was streaming from every
conceivable part of the bodies of all who were old enough to
comprehend their loss. Hundreds of fingers were dismembered; hair torn
from the head lay in profusion about the paths, wails and moans in
every direction assailed the ear, where unrestrained joy had a few
hours before prevailed. This fearful mourning lasted until evening of
the next day....

"A herald having been dispatched to our other villages to acquaint them
with the death of our head chief and request them to assemble at the
Rose Bud in order to meet our village and devote themselves to a
general time of mourning there met in conformity with this summons
over ten thousand Crows at the place indicated. Such a scene of
disorderly vociferous mourning no imagination can conceive nor any pen
portray. Long Hair cut off a large roll of his hair, a thing he was
never known to do before. The cutting and hacking of human flesh
exceeded all my previous experience; fingers were dismembered as
readily as twigs, and blood was poured out like water. Many of the
warriors would cut two gashes nearly the entire length of their arm,
then separating the skin from the flesh at one end, would grasp it in
their other hand and rip it asunder to the shoulder. Others would
carve various devices upon their breasts and shoulders and raise the
skin in the same manner to make the scars show to advantage after the
wound was healed. Some of their mutilations were ghastly and my heart
sickened to look at them, but they would not appear to receive any
pain from them."

From I. L. Mahan, United States Indian Agent for the Chippewas of Lake
Superior, Red Cliff, Wisconsin, the following detailed account of
mourning has been received.

There is probably no people that exhibit more sorrow and grief for
their dead than they. The young widow mourns the loss of her husband;
by day as by night she is heard silently sobbing; she is a constant
visitor to the place of rest; with the greatest reluctance will she
follow the raised camp. The friends and relatives of the young mourner
will incessantly devise methods to distract her mind from the thought
of her lost husband. She refuses nourishment but as nature is
exhausted she is prevailed upon to partake of food; the supply is
scant, but on every occasion the best and largest proportion is
deposited upon the grave of her husband. In the mean time the female
relatives of the deceased have according to custom submitted to her
charge a parcel made up of different cloths ornamented with bead-work
and eagles' feathers which she is charged to keep by her side--the
place made vacant by the demise of her husband--a reminder of her
widowhood. She is therefore for a term of twelve moons not permitted
to wear any finery, neither is she permitted to slicken up and comb
her head; this to avoid attracting attention. Once in a while a female
relative of deceased, commiserating with her grief and sorrow, will
visit her and voluntarily proceed to comb out the long-neglected and
matted hair. With a jealous eye a vigilant watch is kept over her
conduct during the term of her widowhood, yet she is allowed the
privilege to marry, any time during her widowhood, an unmarried
brother or cousin, or a person of the same _Dodem_ [_sic_]
(family mark) of her husband.

"At the expiration of her term, the vows having been faithfully
performed and kept, the female relatives of deceased assemble and,
with greetings commensurate to the occasion, proceed to wash her face,
comb her hair, and attire her person with new apparel, and otherwise
demonstrating the release from her vow and restraint. Still she has
not her entire freedom. If she will still refuse to marry a relative
of the deceased and will marry another, she then has to purchase her
freedom by giving a certain amount of goods and whatever else she
might have manufactured during her widowhood in anticipation of the
future now at hand. Frequently, though, during widowhood the vows are
disregarded and an inclination to flirt and play courtship or form an
alliance of marriage outside of the relatives of the deceased is being
indulged, and when discovered the widow is set upon by the female
relatives, her slick braided hair is shorn close up to the back of her
neck, all her apparel and trinkets are torn from her person, and a
quarrel frequently results fatally to some member of one or the other

The substitution of a reminder for the dead husband, made from rags,
furs, and other articles, is not confined alone to the Chippewas,
other tribes having the same custom. In some instances the widows are
obliged to carry around with them, for a variable period, a bundle
containing the bones of the deceased consort.

Benson [Footnote: Life among the Choctaws, 1860, p. 294.] gives the
following account of their funeral ceremonies, embracing the
disposition of the body, mourning feast and dance:

"Their funeral is styled by them 'the last cry.'

"When the husband dies the friends assemble, prepare the grave, and
place the corpse in it, but do not fill it up. The gun, bow and
arrows, hatchet and knife are deposited in the grave. Poles are
planted at the head and the foot, upon which flags are placed; the
grave is then enclosed by pickets driven in the ground. The funeral
ceremonies now begin, the widow being the chief mourner. At night and
morning she will go to the grave and pour forth the most piteous cries
and wailings. It is not important that any other member of the family
should take any very active part in the 'cry,' though they do
participate to some extent.

"The widow wholly neglects her toilet, while she daily goes to the
grave during one entire _moon_ from the date when the death
occurred. On the evening of the last day of the moon the friends all
assemble at the cabin of the disconsolate widow, bringing provisions
for a sumptuous feast, which consists of corn and jerked beef boiled
together in a kettle. While the supper is preparing, the bereaved wife
goes to the grave, and pours out, with unusual vehemence, her bitter
wailings and lamentations. When the food is thoroughly cooked the
kettle is taken from the fire and placed in the center of the cabin,
and the friends gather around it, passing the buffalo-horn spoon from
hand to hand and from mouth to mouth till all have been bountifully
supplied. While supper is being served, two of the oldest men of the
company quietly withdraw and go to the grave and fill it up, taking
down the flags. All then join in a dance, which not unfrequently is
continued till morning; the widow does not fail to unite in the dance,
and to contribute her part to the festivities of the occasion. This is
the '_last cry,_' the days of mourning are ended, and the widow
is now ready to form another matrimonial alliance. The ceremonies are
precisely the same when a man has lost his wife, and they are only
slightly varied when any other member of the family has died. (Slaves
were buried without ceremonies.)"


In Beltrami [Footnote: Pilgrimage, 1828, ii, p. 443.] an account is
given of the funeral ceremonies of one of the tribes of the west,
including a description of the feast which took place before the body
was consigned to its final resting place:

"I was a spectator of the funeral ceremony performed in honor of the
manes of _Cloudy Weather's_ son-in-law, whose body had remained
with the Sioux, and was suspected to have furnished one of their
repasts. What appeared not a little singular and indeed ludicrous in
this funeral comedy was the contrast exhibited by the terrific
lamentations and yells of one part of the company while the others
were singing and dancing with all their might.

"At another funeral ceremony for a member of the _Grand
Medicine,_ and at which as _a man of another world_ I was
permitted to attend, the same practice occurred. But at the feast
which took place on that occasion an allowance was served up for the
deceased out of every article of which it consisted, while others were
beating, wounding, and torturing themselves, and letting their blood
flow both over the dead man and his provisions, thinking possibly that
this was the most palatable seasoning for the latter which they could
possibly supply. His wife furnished out an entertainment present for
him of all her hair and rags, with which, together with his arms, his
provisions, his ornaments, and his mystic medicine bag, he was wrapped
up in the skin which had been his last covering when alive. He was
then tied round with the bark of some particular trees which they use
for making cords, and bonds of a very firm texture and hold (the only
ones indeed which they have), and instead of being buried in the earth
was hung up to a large oak. The reason of this was that, as his
favorite Manitou was the eagle, his spirit would be enabled more
easily from such a situation to fly with him to Paradise."

Hind [Footnote: Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition, 1860, ii, p.
164.] mentions an account of a burial feast by De Brebeuf which
occurred among the Hurons of New York:

"The Jesuit missionary, P. de Brebeuf, who assisted at one of the
'feasts of the dead' at the village of Ossosane, before the dispersion
of the Hurons, relates that the ceremony took place in the presence of
2,000 Indians, who offered 1,200 presents at the common tomb, in
testimony of their grief. The people belonging to five large villages
deposited the bones of their dead in a gigantic shroud, composed of
forty-eight robes, each robe being made of ten beaver skins. After
being carefully wrapped in this shroud, they were placed between moss
and bark. A wall of stones was built around this vast ossuary to
preserve it from profanation. Before covering the bones with earth a
few grains of Indian corn were thrown by the women upon the sacred
relics. According to the superstitious belief of the Hurons the souls
of the dead remain near the bodies until the 'feast of the dead';
after which ceremony they become free, and can at once depart for the
land of spirits, which they believe to be situated in the regions of
the setting sun."


The following account is by Dr. S G. Wright, acting physician to the
Leech Lake Agency, Minnesota:

"Pagan Indians, or those who have not become Christians, still adhere
to the ancient practice of feasting at the grave of departed friends;
the object is to feast with the departed; that is, they believe that
while they partake of the visible material the departed spirit
partakes at the same time of the spirit that dwells in the food. From
ancient time it was customary to bury with the dead various articles,
such especially as were most valued in lifetime. The idea was that
there was a spirit dwelling in the article represented by the material
article; thus the war-club contained a spiritual war-club, the pipe a
spiritual pipe, which could be used by the departed in another world.
These several spiritual implements were supposed, of course, to
accompany the soul, to be used also on the way to its final abode.
This habit has now ceased...."


This subject has been sufficiently mentioned elsewhere in connection
with other matters and does not need to be now repeated. It has been
an almost universal custom throughout the whole extent of the country
to place food in or near the grave of deceased persons.


Gymnastic exercises, dignified with this name, upon the occasion of a
death or funeral, were common to many tribes. It is thus described by
Morgan: [Footnote: League of the Iroquois, 1851, p. 297.]

"An occasional and very singular figure was called the 'dance for the
dead' It was known as the O-he-wa. It was danced by the women alone.
The music was entirely vocal, a select band of singers being stationed
in the center of the room. To the songs for the dead which they sang
the dancers joined in chorus. It was plaintive and mournful music.
This dance was usually separate from all councils and the only dance
of the occasion. It commenced at dusk or soon after and continued
until towards morning, when the shades of the dead who were believed
to be present and participate in the dance were supposed to disappear.
This dance was had whenever a family which had lost a member called
for it, which was usually a year after the event. In the spring and
fall it was often given for all the dead indiscriminately, who were
believed then to revisit the earth and join in the dance."

The interesting account which now follows is by Stephen Powers,
[Footnote: Cont. to North American Ethnol., 1878, iv, p. 164.] and
relates to the Yo-kai-a of California, containing other matters of
importance pertaining to burial.

"I paid a visit to their camp four miles below Ukiah, and finding
there a unique kind of assembly-house, desired to enter and examine
it, but was not allowed to do so until I had gained the confidence of
the old sexton by a few friendly words and the tender of a silver half
dollar. The pit of it was about 50 feet in diameter and 4 or 5 feet
deep, and it was so heavily roofed with earth that the interior was
damp and somber as a tomb. It looked like a low tumulus, and was
provided with a tunnel-like entrance about 10 feet long and 4 feet
high, and leading down to a level with the floor of the pit. The mouth
of the tunnel was closed with brush, and the venerable sexton would
not remove it until he had slowly and devoutly paced several times to
and fro before the entrance.

"Passing in I found the massive roof supported by a number of peeled
poles painted white and ringed with black and ornamented with rude
devices. The floor was covered thick and green with sprouting wheat,
which had been scattered to feed the spirit of the captain of the
tribe, lately deceased. Not long afterward a deputation of the Senel
came up to condole with the Yo-kai-a on the loss of their chief, and a
dance or series of dances was held which lasted three days. During
this time of course the Senel were the guests of the Yo-kai-a, and the
latter were subjected to a considerable expense. I was prevented by
other engagements from being present, and shall be obliged to depend
on the description of an eye-witness, Mr. John Tenney, whose account
is here given with a few changes.

"There are four officials connected with the building, who are
probably chosen to preserve order and to allow no intruders. They are
the assistants of the chief. The invitation to attend was from one of
them, and admission was given by the same. These four wore black vests
trimmed with red flannel and shell ornaments. The chief made no
special display on the occasion. In addition to these four, who were
officers of the assembly-chamber, there was an old man and a young
woman, who seemed to be priest and priestess. The young woman was
dressed differently from any other, the rest dressing in plain calico
dresses. Her dress was white covered with spots of red flannel, cut in
neat figures, ornamented with shells. It looked gorgeous and denoted
some office, the name of which I could not ascertain. Before the
visitors were ready to enter, the older men of the tribe were
reclining around the fire smoking and chatting. As the ceremonies were
about to commence, the old man and young woman were summoned, and,
standing at the end opposite the entrance, they inaugurated the
exercises by a brief service, which seemed to be a dedication of the
house to the exercises about to commence. Each of them spoke a few
words, joined in a brief chant, and the house was thrown open for
their visitors. They staid at their post until the visitors entered
and were seated on one side of the room. After the visitors then
others were seated, making about 200 in all, though there was plenty
of room in the center for the dancing.

"Before the dance commenced the chief of the visiting tribe made a
brief speech, in which he no doubt referred to the death of the chief
of the Yo-kai-a, and offered the sympathy of his tribe in this loss.
As he spoke, some of the women scarcely refrained from crying out, and
with difficulty they suppressed their sobs. I presume that he proposed
a few moments of mourning, for when he stopped the whole assemblage
burst forth into a bitter wailing, some screaming as if in agony. The
whole thing created such a din that I was compelled to stop my ears.
The air was rent and pierced with their cries. This wailing and
shedding of tears lasted about three or five minutes, though it seemed
to last a half hour. At a given signal they ceased, wiped their eyes,
and quieted down.

"Then preparations were made for the dance. One end of the room was
set aside for the dressing-room. The chief actors were five men, who
were muscular and agile. They were profusely decorated with paint and
feathers, while white and dark stripes covered their bodies. They were
girt about the middle with cloth of bright colors, sometimes with
variegated shawls. A feather mantle hung from the shoulder, reaching
below the knee; strings of shells ornamented the neck, while their
heads were covered with a crown of eagle feathers. They had whistles
in their mouths as they danced, swaying their heads, bending and
whirling their bodies; every muscle seemed to be exercised, and the
feather ornaments quivered with light. They were agile and graceful as
they bounded about in the sinuous course of the dance.

"The five men were assisted by a semicircle of twenty women, who only
marked time by stepping up and down with short step; they always took
their places first and disappeared first, the men making their exit
gracefully one by one. The dresses of the women were suitable for the
occasion. They were white dresses trimmed heavily with black velvet. The
stripes were about three inches wide, some plain and others edged like
saw-teeth. This was an indication of their mourning for the dead chief
in whose honor they had prepared that style of dancing. Strings of
haliotis and pachydesma shell beads encircled their necks, and around
their waists were belts heavily loaded with the same material. Their
head-dresses were more showy than those of the men. The head was
encircled with a bandeau of otters' or beavers' fur, to which were
attached short wires standing out in all directions, with glass or shell
beads strung on them, and at the tips little feather flags and quail
plumes. Surmounting all was a pyramidal plume of feathers, black, gray,
and scarlet, the top generally being a bright scarlet bunch, waving and
tossing very beautifully. All these combined gave their heads a very
brilliant and spangled appearance.

"The first day the dance was slow and funereal, in honor of the Yo-
kai-a chief who died a short time before. The music was mournful and
simple being a monotonous chant in which only two tones were used,
accompanied with a rattling of split sticks and stamping on a hollow
slab. The second day the dance was more lively on the part of the men,
the music was better, employing airs which had a greater range of tune
and the women generally joined in the chorus. The dress of the women
was not so beautiful as they appeared in ordinary calico. The third
day if observed in accordance with Indian custom the dancing was still
more lively and the proceedings more gay just as the coming home from
a Christian funeral is apt to be much more jolly than the going out."

A Yo-kai-a widow's style of mourning is peculiar. In addition to the
usual evidences of grief she mingles the ashes of her dead husband
with pitch making a white tar or unguent, with which she smears a band
about two inches wide all around the edge of the hair (which is
previously cut off close to the head) so that at a little distance she
appears to be wearing a white chaplet.

It is their custom to feed the spirits of the dead for the space of
one year by going daily to places which they were accustomed to
frequent while living, where they sprinkle pinole upon the ground. A
Yo-kai-a mother who has lost her babe goes every day for a year to
some place where her little one played when alive or to the spot where
the body was burned and milks her breasts into the air. This is
accompanied by plaintive mourning and weeping and piteous calling upon
her little one to return and sometimes she sings a hoarse and
melancholy chant and dances with a wild ecstatic swaying of her body.


It has nearly always been customary to sing songs at not only funerals
but for varying periods of time afterwards although these chants may
no doubt occasionally have been simply wailing or mournful
ejaculation. A writer [Footnote: Am. Antiq., April-May-June 1879, p.
251.] mentions it as follows:

"At almost all funerals there is an irregular crying kind of singing
with no accompaniments, but generally all do not sing the same melody
at the same time in unison. Several may sing the same song and at the
same time, but each begins and finishes when he or she may wish. Often
for weeks, or even months, after the decease of a dear friend, a
living one, usually a woman, will sit by her house and sing or cry by
the hour; and they also sing for a short time when they visit the
grave or meet an esteemed friend whom they have not seen since the
decease. At the funeral both men and women sing. No. 11 I have heard
more frequently some time after the funeral, and No. 12 at the time of
the funeral, by the Twanas (For song see p. 251.) The words are simply
an exclamation of grief, as our word 'alas'; but they also have other
words which they use, and sometimes they use merely the syllable
_la_. Often the notes are sung in this order, and sometimes not,
but in some order the notes _do_ and _la,_ and occasionally
_mi,_ are sung."


It is not proposed to describe under this heading examples of those
athletic and gymnastic performances following the death of a person
which have been described by Lafitau, but simply to call attention to
a practice as a secondary or adjunct part of the funeral rites, which
consists in gambling for the possession of the property of the
defunct. Dr. Charles E. McChesney, U. S. A., who for some time was
stationed among the Wahpeton and Sisseton Sioux, furnishes a detailed
and interesting account of what is called the "ghost gamble." This is
played with marked wild-plum stones. So far as ascertained it is
peculiar to the Sioux.

"After the death of a wealthy Indian the near relatives take charge of
the effects, and at a stated time--usually at the time of the first
feast held over the bundle containing the lock of hair--they are
divided into many small piles, so as to give all the Indians invited
to play an opportunity to win something. One Indian is selected to
represent the ghost, and he plays against all the others, who are not
required to stake anything on the result, but simply invited to take
part in the ceremony, which is usually held in the lodge of the dead
person, in which is contained the bundle inclosing the lock of hair.
In cases where the ghost himself is not wealthy the stakes are
furnished by his rich friends, should he have any. The players are
called in one at a time, and play singly against the ghost's
representative, the gambling being done in recent years by means of
cards. If the invited player succeeds in beating the ghost he takes
one of the piles of goods and passes out when another is invited to
play, etc., until all the piles of goods are won. In cases of men only
the men play and in cases of women the women only take part in the

Before the white men came among these Indians and taught them many of
his improved vices this game was played by means of figured plum
seeds, the men using eight and the women seven seeds figured as

"Two seeds are simply blackened on one side the reverse containing
nothing. Two seeds are black on one side with a small spot of the
color of the seed left in the center, the reverse side having a black
spot in the center, the body being plain. Two seeds have a buffalo's
head on one side and the reverse simply two crossed black lines. There
is but one seed of this kind in the set used by the women. Two seeds
have half of one side blackened and the rest left plain so as to
represent a half moon, the reverse has a black longitudinal line
crossed at right angles by six small ones. There are six throws
whereby the player can win and five that entitle him to another throw.
The winning throws are as follows, each winner taking a pile of the
ghost's goods:

"Two plain ones up, two plain with black spots up, Buffalo's head up,
and two half moons up wins a pile. Two plain black ones up, two black
with natural spot up, two longitudinally crossed ones up, and the
transversely crossed one up wins a pile. Two plain black ones up, two
black with natural spots up, two half moons up, and the transversely
crossed one up wins a pile. Two plain black ones, two black with
natural spot up, two half moons up, and the buffalo's head up wins a
pile. Two plain ones up, two with black spots up, two longitudinally
crossed ones up, and the transversely crossed one up wins a pile. Two
plain ones up, two with black spots up, buffalo's head up, and two
long crossed up wins a pile. The following throws entitle to another
chance to win: two plain ones up, two with black spots up, one half
moon up, one longitudinally crossed one up, and Buffalo's head up
gives another throw, and on this throw if the two plain ones up and
two with black spots with either of the half moons or Buffalo's head
up, the player takes a pile. Two plain ones up, two with black spots
up, two half moons up, and the transversely crossed one up entitles to
another throw, when, if all of the black sides come up excepting one,
the throw wins. One of the plain ones up and all the rest with black
sides up gives another throw, and the same then turning up wins. One
of the plain black ones up with that side up of all the others having
the least black on gives another throw, when the same turning up again
wins. One half moon up with that side up of all the others having the
least black on gives another throw, and if the throw is then
duplicated it wins. The eighth seed, used by the men has its place in
their game whenever its facings are mentioned above. I transmit with
this paper a set of these figured seeds, which can be used to
illustrate the game if desired. These seeds are said to be nearly a
hundred years old, and sets of them are now very rare."

For assisting in obtaining this account Dr. McChesney acknowledges his
indebtedness to Dr C. C. Miller, physician to the Sisseton Indian


These are placed at the head or foot of the grave, or both, and have
painted or carved on them a history of the deceased or his family,
certain totemic characters, or, according to Schoolcraft, not the
achievements of the dead, but of those warriors who assisted and
danced at the interment. The northwest tribes and others frequently
plant poles near the graves, suspending therefrom bits of rag flags,
horses tails, etc. The custom among the present Indians does not exist
to any extent. Beltrami [Footnote: Pilgrimage, 1828, ii, p. 308.]
speaks of it as follows.

"Here I saw a most singular union. One of these graves was surmounted
by a cross, whilst upon another close to it a trunk of a tree was
raised, covered with hieroglyphics recording the number of enemies
slain by the tenant of the tomb and several of his tutelary Manitous."


It is extremely difficult to determine why the custom of building
fires on or near graves originated, some authors stating that the soul
thereby underwent a certain process of purification, others that
demons were driven away by them, and again that they were to afford
light to the wandering soul setting out for the spirit land. One
writer states that "the Algonkins believed that the fire lighted
nightly on the grave was to light the spirit on its journey. By a
coincidence to be explained by the universal sacredness of the number,
both Algonkins and Mexicans maintained it for _four_ nights
consecutively. The former related the tradition that one of their
ancestors returned from the spirit land and informed their nation that
the journey thither consumed just four days, and that collecting fuel
every night added much to the toil and fatigue the soul encountered,
all of which could be spared it". So it would appear that the belief
existed that the fire was also intended to assist the spirit in
preparing its repast.  "Stephen Powers [Footnote: Cont. to N. A.
Ethnol., 1877, ii, p.58] gives a tradition current among the Yurok of
California as to the use of fires.

"After death they keep a fire burning certain nights in the vicinity
of the grave. They hold and believe, at least the 'Big Indians' do,
that the spirits of the departed are compelled to cross an extremely
attenuated greasy pole, which bridges over the chasm of the debatable
land, and that they require the fire to light them on their darksome
journey. A righteous soul traverses the pole quicker than a wicked
one, hence they regulate the number of nights for burning a light
according to the character for goodness or the opposite which the
deceased possessed in this world." Dr. Emil Bessels, of the Polaris
expedition, informs the writer that a somewhat similar belief obtains
among the Esquimaux.


An entire volume might well be written which should embrace only an
account of the superstitions regarding death and burial among the
Indians, so thoroughly has the matter been examined and discussed by
various authors, and yet so much still remains to be commented on, but
in this work, which is simply preliminary, and is hoped will be
provocative of future efforts, it is deemed sufficient to give only a
few accounts. The first is by Dr. W. Mathews, U. S. A., [Footnote:
Ethnol. and Philol. of the Hidatsa Indians. U.S. Geol. Surv. of Terr.,
1877, p. 409] and relates to the Hidatsa:

"When a Hidatsa dies his shade lingers four nights around the camp or
village in which he died, and then goes to the lodge of his departed
kindred in the 'village of the dead.' When he has arrived there he is
rewarded for his valor, self-denial, and ambition on earth by
receiving the same regard in the one place as in the other, for there
as here the brave man is honored and the coward despised. Some say
that the ghosts of those that commit suicide occupy a separate part of
the village, but that their condition differs in no wise from that of
the others. In the next world human shades hunt and live in the shades
of buffalo and other animals that have here died. There, too, there
are four seasons, but they come in an inverse order to the terrestrial
seasons. During the four nights that the ghost is supposed to linger
near his former dwelling, those who disliked or feared the deceased,
and do not wish a visit from the shade, scorch with red coals a pair
of moccasins which they leave at the door of the lodge. The smell of
the burning leather they claim keeps the ghost out; but the true
friends of the dead man take no such precautions."

From this account it will be seen that the Hidatsa as well as the
Algonkins and Mexicans believed that four days were required before
the spirit could finally leave the earth. Why the smell of burning
leather should he offensive to spirits it would perhaps be fruitless
to speculate on.

The next account, by Keating, [Footnote: Long's Exped., 1824, ii, p.
l58.] relating to the Chippewas, shows a slight analogy regarding the
slippery-pole tradition already alluded to:

"The Chippewas believe that there is in man an essence entirely
distinct from the body; they call it _Ochechag,_ and appear to
supply to it the qualities which we refer to the soul. They believe
that it quits the body at the time of death and repairs to what they
term _Chekechekchekawe;_ this region is supposed to be situated
to the south and on the shores of the great ocean. Previous to
arriving there they meet with a stream which they are obliged to cross
upon a large snake that answers the purpose of a bridge; those who die
from drowning never succeed in crossing the stream; they are thrown
into it and remain there forever. Some souls come to the edge of the
stream but are prevented from passing by the snake that threatens to
devour them: these are the souls of the persons in a lethargy or
trance. Being refused a passage, these souls return to their bodies
and reanimate them. They believe that animals have souls and even that
inorganic substances such as kettles etc., have in them a similar

In this land of souls all are treated according to their merits. Those
who have been good men are free from pain, they have no duties to
perform, their time is spent in dancing and singing and they feed upon
mushrooms which are very abundant The souls of bad men are haunted by
the phantom of the persons or things that they have injured, thus if a
man has destroyed much property the phantoms of the wrecks of this
property obstruct his passage wherever he goes, if he has been cruel
to his dogs or horses they also torment him after death. The ghosts of
those whom during his lifetime he wronged are there permitted to
avenge their injuries. They think that when a soul has crossed the
stream it cannot return to its body, yet they believe in apparitions
and entertain the opinion that the spirits of the departed will
frequently revisit the abodes of their friends in order to invite them
to the other world and to forewarn them of their approaching

Stephen Powers in his valuable work so often quoted, gives a number of
examples of superstitions regarding the dead of which the following
relates to the Karok of California.

"How well and truly the Karok reverence the memory of the dead is
shown by the fact that the highest crime one can commit is the _pet-
chi-e-ri_, the mere mention of the dead relative's name. It is a
deadly insult to the survivors and can be atoned for only by the same
amount of blood money paid for willful murder. In default of that they
will have the villain's blood.... At the mention of his name the
moldering skeleton turns in his grave and groans. They do not like
stragglers even to inspect the burial place.... They believe that the
soul of a good Karok goes to the 'happy western land' beyond the great
ocean. That they have a well grounded assurance of an immortality
beyond the grave is proven, if not otherwise, by their beautiful and
poetical custom of whispering a message in the ear of the dead....
Believe that dancing will liberate some relative's soul from bonds of
death and restore him to earth"

According to the same author, when a Kelta dies a little bird flies
away with his soul to the spirit land. If he was a bad Indian a hawk
will catch the little bird and eat him up soul and feathers, but if he
was good he will reach the spirit land. Mr. Powers also states that
"The Tolowa share in the superstitious observance for the memory of
the dead which is common to the Northern Californian tribes When I
asked the chief Tahhokolli to tell me the Indian words for 'father'
and 'mother' and certain others similar, he shook his head mournfully
and said 'all dead,' 'all dead,' 'no good.' They are forbidden to
mention the name of the dead, as it is a deadly insult to the
relatives,"... and that the "Mat-toal hold that the good depart to a
happy region somewhere southward in the great ocean, but the soul of a
bad Indian transmigrates into a grizzly bear, which they consider of
all animals the cousin-german of sin."

The Mosquito Indians of Central America studiously and superstitiously
avoid mentioning the name of the dead, in this regard resembling those
of our own country.


We have thus briefly, though it is hoped judiciously and carefully,
reviewed the subject of Indian burial, avoiding elaborate discussion,
as foreign to the purpose of the work, simply pointing out from the
carefully gleaned material at our disposal such examples and detached
accounts as may serve as guides to those whose interest in the subject
may lead them to contribute to the final volume. Before closing,
however, it is necessary to again allude to the circular which has
been forwarded to observers and call attention to some additional
matters of importance connected with the queries, which are as
follows: [Footnote: Advantage has been taken to incorporate with the
queries certain modifications of those propounded by Schoolcraft in
his well-known work on the Indian tribes of the United States,
relating to the same subject.]

1st. NAME OF THE TRIBE, present appellation; former, if differing any;
and that used by the Indians themselves.

2d. LOCALITY, PRESENT AND FORMER.--The response should give the range
of the tribe and be full and geographically accurate.

3d. DEATHS AND FUNERAL CEREMONIES; what are the important and
characteristic facts connected with these subjects? How is the corpse
prepared after death and disposed of? How long is it retained? Is it
spoken to after death as if alive? when and where? What is the
character of the addresses? What articles are deposited with it; and
why? Is food put in the grave, or in or near it afterwards? Is this
said to be an ancient custom? Are persons of the same gens buried
together, and is the clan distinction obsolete, or did it ever

THE GRAVES; CREMATION--Are burials usually made in high and dry
grounds? Have mounds or tumuli been erected in modern times over the
dead? How is the grave prepared and finished? What position are bodies
placed in? Give reasons therefor if possible. If cremation is or was
practiced, describe the process, disposal of the ashes, and origin of
custom or traditions relating thereto. Are the dead ever eaten by the
survivors? Are bodies deposited in springs or in any body of water?
Are scaffolds or trees used as burial places; if so, describe
construction of the former and how the corpse is prepared, and whether
placed in skins or boxes. Are bodies placed in canoes? State whether
they are suspended from trees, put on scaffolds or posts, allowed to
float on the water or sunk beneath it, or buried in the ground. Can
any reasons be given for the prevalence of any one or all of the
methods? Are burial posts or slabs used, plain, or marked, with flags
or other insignia of position of deceased. Describe embalmment,
mummification, desiccation, or if antiseptic precautions are taken,
and subsequent disposal of remains. Are bones collected and
reinterred, describe ceremonies, if any, whether modern or ancient. If
charnel houses exist or have been used, describe them.

5th. MOURNING OBSERVANCES--Is scarification practiced, or personal
mutilation? What is the garb or sign of mourning? How are the dead
lamented? Are periodical visits made to the grave? Do widows carry
symbols of their deceased children or husbands, and for how long? Are
sacrifices, human or otherwise, voluntary or involuntary, offered? Are
fires kindled on graves, why, and at what time, and for how long?

6th. BURIAL TRADITIONS AND SUPERSTITIONS--Give in full all that can be
learned on these subjects, as they are full of interest and very

In short, every fact bearing on the disposal of the dead, and
correlative customs are needed, and details should be as succinct and
full as possible.

One of the most important matters upon which information is needed is
the "why" and "wherefore" for every rite and custom, for, as a rule,
observers are content to simply state a certain occurrence as a fact,
but take very little trouble to inquire the reason for it.

The writer would state that any material the result of careful
observation will be most gratefully received and acknowledged in the
final volume, and he would here confess the lasting obligation he is
under to those who have already contributed in response to his call.

Criticism and comments are earnestly invited from all those interested
in the special subject of this paper and anthropology in general
Contributions are also requested from persons acquainted with curious
forms of burial prevailing among other tribes of savage men.

In addition to the many references, etc, given by the various members
of the Bureau of Ethnology, communications have been received from the
following persons, although their accounts may not have been alluded
to in this volume; should omissions of names have occurred it is hoped
attention will be called to the fact.

The writer acknowledges with pleasure the assistance he has received
in reading the proof of this volume from Mr. J. C. Pilling, Dr. Thomas
W. Wise and Mr. R. W. Hardy.


COL. A. L. HOUGH, U. S. A.
J. M. LEE.
DR. J. C. MCKEE, U. S. A.
GEN. M. C. MEIGS, U. S. A.
DR. B. G. SEMIG, U. S. A.
DR. M. K. TAYLOR, U. S. A.

Letters and papers, to forward which stamps will be sent if requested,
may be addressed as follows:



Achomawi Indians, burial and cremation of
Alaska Cave burial
Aleutian mummies
Ancient burial customs of Persians
Antiquity of cremation
Aquatic burial, Cherokees
Ascena Indians
Atwater, Caleb
Bactians, burial customs of
Bancroft, Hubert H.
Barber, E. A.
Bartram, William
Basket burial
Bean, George W.
Beckwourth, James
Beltrami, J. C.
Benson, H. C.
Beverley, Robert
Blackbird's burial
Blackfeet lodge burial
          tree burial
Bonaks, cremation myths of
Bone houses
Box burial
Bransford, U. S. N., Dr. J. C.
Brebeuf, P. de
Brinton, Dr. D. G.
Britons, living sepulcher of
Bruhier, Jacques Jean
Burchard, J. L.
Burial above ground, Sioux
Burial and cremation, Achomawi Indians
                      in California
                      in New Jersey
Burial, aquatic, Gosh-Utes
Burial boxes and canoes
Burial customs of Bactrians
       dance, Iroquois
       feast, Hurons
       feasts, superstitions regarding
           and dances
           and songs
       houses, Columbia River
       in baskets
       in boxes
       in cabins, wigwams, or houses
          cairns, Utah
          caves, California
       mounds, Missouri
       of Baldor
          Balearic Islanders
          Indians of Round Valley
       on trees and scaffolds
            and fires
       sacrifice, Tsinuk
Burials, provisional arrangement of
Burial superstitions, Chippewa
       superterrene and aerial
Burial urns
           New Mexico
Burnside, Samuel L.
Cabin, wigwam, or house burial
Caddoes, inhumation of
Cairn burial
California burial and cremation
            cave burial
Canes sepulchrales
Canoe burial, Clallams
Canoe burial, Indians of Oregon and Washington
Canoes and burial boxes
Canoes, inhumation in
Caraibs, verification of death of
Caribs' mourning
Carolina tribes, inhumation of
Caspians, burial customs of
Catlin, George
Cave burial
Chaldean urn burial
Chambered mounds
Cherokees, aquatic burial of
           burial in boxes
           partial cremation of
Cheyenne scaffold burial
Chickasaws, burial customs of
Chillicothe mound
Chinook, aquatic burial of
Chippewa burial superstitions
         mourning observances
Choctaw bone houses
Choctaws, burial in boxes of
          mourning observances
          ossuaries of
 Circular of queries
 Cists or stone graves
 Clallam canoe burial
Colchiens, tree burial of
Collectors, suggestions for
Columbia River burial houses
Conclamation of Romans
Congaree and Santee Indians, partial embalmment of
Contributors, list of
Costa Rica Indians
Coyotero Apaches, inhumation of
Cox, Ross
Creeke, burial in boxes of
         antiquity of
         Indians of Clear Lake
         Indians of Utah
         remarks on
         Senel Indians
Crow lodge burial
Crows, mourning observances of
Curtiss, Edwin
Dall, William H.
Dances, burial
        and burial food
Dance for the dead
Dead, dance for
Derbices, living sepulchers of
Eells, Rev. M.
Effedens, living sepulchers of
Feasts, burial
Final remarks
Fires, burial
Fiske, Moses
Florida burial mounds
Food burial
Foreman, Dr. E.
Foster, J. W.
Furnace cremation
Gageby, U. S. A. Captain J. H.
Georgia burial urns
"Ghost gamble," Sioux
Gianque Florian
Gibbs, George
Gillman, Henry
"Golgothas," Mandans
Grinnell, Dr. Fordyce
Grossman, U. S. A., Captain F. E.
Hammond, U. S. A., Dr. J. F.
Hardy, R. W.
Hidatsa burial superstitions
Hind, H. Y.
Hircanians, burial customs of
Hoffman, Dr. W. J.
Holbrook, W. C.
Hough, Franklin B.
Houses, bone
Hurons, burial feasts of
Hyperboreans, aquatic burial of
Iberians, burial customs of
Ichthyophagi, aquatic burial of
Illinois burial mounds
Indians of Clear Lake, cremation
        of Oregon and Washington, canoe burial
        of Utah, cremation
          in canoes
          Carolina tribes
          Coyotero Apaches
Innuit cave burial
Introductory remarks
Irish, living sepulchers of
Iroquois, burial dance of
Iroquois, ossuaries of
Itzas, aquatic burial of
Jenkes, Col. C. W.
Johnston, Adam
Jones, Charles C., jr
Jones, Dr. J. S.
Karok burial superstitions
Keating, William H.
Kelta burial superstitions
Kentucky mummies
Klamaths, inhumation of
Klingbeil, William
Lawson, John
Letter of transmittal
List of contributors
Living sepulchers
Lodge burial, Blackfeet
Log burial
Lotophagians, aquatic burial of
Mahan, I. L.
Makah burial boxes
Mandan "Golgothas"
Massageties, living sepulchers of
Massasaugas, inhumation of
Mathews, U. S. A., Dr. W.
Mat-toal burial superstitions
McChesney, U. S. A., Dr. Charles E.
McDonald, Dr. A. J.
McKinley, William
Medes, burial customs of
Menard, Dr. John
Miami Valley mound burial
Miller, Dr. C. C.
Mitchill, Dr. Samuel L.
Mohawks, inhumation of
Morgan, L. H.
Mortuary customs of the Persians
Mound burial, Florida
              Miami Valley
              North Carolina
Mound, Chillicothe
Mounds, chambered
        of stone
Mourning observances, Caribs
       Northwest Coast
       South Carolina
Muret, Pierre
Muscogee burial urns
Muscogulge Indians, burial of
Myths of cremation
Natchez ossuaries
Navajo lodge burial
Navajos, inhumation of
New Jersey, burial and cremation in
New Mexico burial urns
Nishinams, cremation myths of
Norris, P. W.
North Carolina burial mounds
Northwest coast mummies
Ohio burial mounds
Oregon, cremation in
Ossuaries, Choctaw
Ossuary of Choctaws
Otis, U. S. A., Dr. George A.
Parthians, burial customs of
Partial cremation
        embalmment, Congaree and Santee Indians
        scaffold burial and ossuaries
Persians, ancient burial customs of
          mortuary customs of
Pilling, J. C.
Pimas Indians
      inhumation of
Pinkerton, John
Posts, burial
       and fires, burial
Powell, Maj. J. W.
                  preface by
Powers, Stephen
Preface by Maj. J. W. Powell
Provisional arrangement of burials
Putnam, F. W.
Queries, circular of
Remarks, final
         on cremation
Review of Turner's narrative
Robertson, R. S.
Roman, Bernard
Romans, conclamation of
Round Valley Indians, burial of
Sacrifice, burial
Sauer, Martin
Scaffolds, burial on
Scaffold burial, Cheyennes
Schoolcraft, Henry R.
Scythians, tree burial of
Senel Indians, cremation of
Sepulchers, living
Sheldon, William
Simpson, U. S. A., Capt. J. H.
Sioux burial above ground
      "ghost gamble"
      lodge burial
Sioux mourning observances
      scaffold burial
Solutre, France, stone graves or cists of
Songs and burial food
South Carolina mummies
               urn burial
Spainhour, Dr. J. Mason
Sternberg, U. S. A., Dr. George M.
Stone graves or cists
                     of Solutre, France
Suggestions for collectors
Superstitions regarding burial feasts
Superterrene and aerial burial
Surface burial
Swallow, G. C.
Tartars, living sepulchers of
         tree burial of
Tennessee mound burial
          stone graves or cists
Tiffany, A. S.
Tolkotin, cremation
Tolowa burial superstitions
Tompkins, U. S. A., Gen. Charles H.
Transmittal, letter of
Tree and scaffold burial
     burial, Blackfeet
Tsinuk burial sacrifice
Turner, Dr. L. S.
Urn burial
          South Carolina
Utah cave burial
Van Campen, Moses
Verification of death of Caraibs
Virginia mummies
Whitney, J. D.
Wichitas, inhumation of
Wilcox, Mr.
Wilkins, Charles
Wise, Dr. Thos. W.
Yanktonias, scaffold burial of
Yo-kai-a burial dance
Young, John
Yurok, burial superstitions of

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