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A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians by H.C. Yarrow

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care of their husbands.

George Gibbs, in Schoolcraft,[52] 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,[53] 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 he 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 month two
gold twenties, and other smaller coins in his ears and
hands, on his breast, &c. besides all his finery, his
feather mantles, plumes, clothing, shell money, his fancy
bows, painted arrows, &c. 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, offend 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 mouldering 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 an Indian 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 underground!
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 much absurd
insensibility to such 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 Yokain 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, when she scatters it over the ground,
meantime rocking her body violently to and fro in a dance
and chanting the following chorous:


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

Henry Gillman[54] 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, Fla., 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 platyonemism [*transcriber's guess] 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 cranium 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 supracilliary 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 proves 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[55] 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 loam 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:[56]

Up to 1819 the Cherokee 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 Tennesee 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, (1878) 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

"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
archeological 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 it." 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:[57]

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

This account is furnished by Gen. 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[58] 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 Slansbury,[59]
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 lifelike 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 the 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; and although the account has been questioned, it is
admitted for the reason that this gentleman persists, after a reperusal
of his article, that the facts are correct.

General Stewart Van Vliet, U.S.A., informs the writer that among the
Sioux of Wyoming and Nebraska when a person of consequence dies a small
scaffold is erected inside his lodge and the body wrapped in skins
deposited therein. Different utensils and weapons are placed by his
side, and in front a horse is slaughtered; the lodge is then closed up.

Dr. W.J. Hoffman writes as follows regarding the burial lodges of the
Shoshones of Nevada:

The Shoshones of the upper portion of Nevada are not known
to have at any time practiced cremation. In Independence
Valley, under a deserted and demolished _wickeup_ or "brush
tent," I found the dried-up corpse of a boy, about twelve
years of age. The body had been here for at least six weeks,
according to information received, and presented a shriveled
and hideous appearance. The dryness of the atmosphere
prevented decomposition. The Indians in this region usually
leave the body when life terminates, merely throwing over it
such rubbish as may be at hand, or the remains of their
primitive shelter tents, which are mostly composed of small
branches, leaves, grass, &c.

The Shoshones living on Independence Creek and on the
eastern banks of the Owybee River, upper portion of Nevada,
did not bury their dead at the time of my visit in 1871.
Whenever the person died, his lodge (usually constructed of
poles and branches of _Saler_) was demolished and placed in
one confused mass over his remains, when the band removed a
short distance. When the illness is not too great, or death
sudden, the sick person is removed to a favorable place,
some distance from their temporary camping ground, so as to
avoid the necessity of their own removal. Coyotes, ravens,
and other carnivores soon remove all the flesh so that there
remains nothing but the bones, and even these are scattered
by the wolves. The Indians at Tuscarora, Nevada, stated
that when it was possible and that they should by chance
meet the bony remains of any Shoshone, they would bury it,
but in what manner I failed to discover as the were very
reticent, and avoided giving any information regarding the
dead. One corpse was found totally dried and shrivelled,
owing to the dryness of the atmosphere in this region.

Capt. F.W. Beechey[60] describes a curious mode of burial among the
Esquimaux on the west coast of Alaska, which appears to be somewhat
similar to lodge burial. Figure 11, after his illustration, affords a
good idea of these burial receptacles.

Near us there was a burying ground, which in addition to
what we had already observed at Cape Espenburg furnished
several examples of the manner in which this tribe of
natives dispose of their dead. In some instances a platform
was constructed of drift-wood raised about two feet and a
quarter from the ground, upon which the body was placed,
with its head to the westward and a double tent of
drift-wood erected over it, the inner one with spars about
seven feet long, and the outer one with some that were three
times that length. They were placed close together, and at
first no doubt sufficiently so to prevent the depredations
of foxes and wolves, but they had yielded at last, and all
the bodies, and even the hides that covered them, had
suffered by these rapacious animals.

In these tents of the dead there were no coffins or planks,
as at Cape Espenburg, the bodies were dressed in a frock
made of eider duck skins, with one of deer skin over it, and
were covered with a sea horse hide, such as the natives use
for their _baidars_. Suspended to the poles, and on the
ground near them, were several Esquimaux implements,
consisting of wooden trays, paddles, and a tamborine, which,
we were informed as well as signs could convey the meaning
of the natives, were placed there for the use of the
deceased, who, in the next world (pointing to the western
sky) ate, drank, and sang songs. Having no interpreter, this
was all the information I could obtain, but the custom of
placing such instruments around the receptacles of the dead
is not unusual, and in all probability the Esquimaux may
believe that the soul has enjoyments in the next world
similar to those which constitute their happiness in this.

The Blackfeet, Cheyennes, 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. Some of the tribes of the
northwest coast bury in houses similar to those shown in Figure 12.

Bancroft[61] 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 tribes.


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, United States Army, 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.

Josiah Priest[62] gives an account of the burial repositories of a tribe
of Pacific coast Indians living on the Talomeco River, Oregon. The
writer believes it to be entirely unreliable and gives it place as an
example of credulity shown by many writers and readers.

The corpses of the Caciques were so well embalmed that there
was no bad smell, they were deposited in large wooden
coffins, well constructed, and placed upon benches two feet
from the ground. In smaller coffins, and in baskets, the
Spaniards found the clothes of the deceased men and women,
and so many pearls that they distributed them among the
officers and soldiers by handsfulls.

In Bancroft[63] may be found the following account of the burial boxes
of the Esquimaux.

The Eskimos do not as a rule bury their dead, but double the
body up and place it on the side in a plank box which is
elevated three or four feet from the ground and supported by
four posts. The grave-box is often covered with painted
figures of birds, fishes and animals. Sometimes it is
wrapped in skins placed upon an elevated frame and covered
with planks or trunks of trees so as to protect it from wild
beasts. Upon the frame, or in the grave box are deposited
the arms, clothing, and sometimes the domestic utensils of
the deceased. Frequent mention is made by travelers of
burial places where the bodies lie exposed with their heads
placed towards the north.

Frederic Whymper[64] describes the burial boxes of the Kalosh of that

Their grave boxes or tombs are interesting. They contain
only the ashes of the dead. These people invariably burn the
deceased. On one of the boxes I saw a number of faces
painted, long tresses of human hair depending therefrom.
Each head represented a victim of the (happily) deceased
one's ferocity. In his day he was doubtless more esteemed
than if he had never harmed a fly. All their graves are much
ornamented with carved and painted faces and other devices.

W.H. Dall,[65] well known as one of the most experienced and careful of
American Ethnologic observers, describes the burial boxes of the Innuits
of Unalaklik, Innuits of Yuka, and Ingaliks of Ulukuk as follows: Figs.
13 and 14 are after his illustrations in the volume noted.

[Illustration: FIG 13--Innuit Grave]


The usual fashion is to place the body doubled up on its
side in a box of plank hewed out of spruce logs and about
four feet long. This is elevated several feet above the
ground on four posts which project above the coffin or box.
The sides are often painted with red chalk in figures of fur
animals, birds, and fishes. According to the wealth of the
dead man, a number of articles which belonged to him are
attached to the coffin or strewed around it; some of them
have kyaks, bows and arrows, hunting implements, snow-shoes,
or even kettles, around the grave or fastened to it; and
almost invariably the wooden dish, or "kantag," from which
the deceased was accustomed to eat, is hung on one of the


The dead are enclosed above ground in a box in the manner
previously described. The annexed sketch shows the form of
the sarcophagus, which, in this case, is ornamented with
snow-shoes, a reel for seal-lines, a fishing-rod, and a
wooden dish or kantag. The latter is found with every grave,
and usually one is placed in the box with the body.
Sometimes a part of the property of the dead person is
placed in the coffin or about it; occasionally the whole is
thus disposed of. Generally the furs, possessions, and
clothing (except such as has been worn) are divided among
the nearer relatives of the dead, or remain in possession of
his family if he has one; such clothing, household utensils,
and weapons as the deceased had in daily use are almost
invariably enclosed in his coffin. If there are many deaths
about the same time, or an epidemic occurs, everything
belonging to the dead is destroyed. The house in which a
death occurs is always deserted and usually destroyed. In
order to avoid this, it is not uncommon to take the sick
person out of the house and put him in a tent to die.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--Ingalik grave.]

A woman's coffin may be known by the kettles and other
feminine utensils about it. There is no distinction between
the sexes in method of burial. On the outside of the coffin,
figures are usually drawn in red ochre. Figures of fur
animals usually indicate that the dead person was a good
trapper; if seal or deer skin, his proficiency as a hunter;
representation of parkies that he was wealthy; the manner of
his death is also occasionally indicated. For four days
after a death the women in the village do no sewing; for
five days the men do not cut wood with an axe. The relatives
of the dead must not seek birds' eggs on the overhanging
cliffs for a year, or their feet will slip from under them
and they will be dashed to pieces. No mourning is worn or
indicated, except by cutting the hair. Women sit and watch
the body, chanting a mournful refrain until he is interred.
They seldom suspect that others have brought the death about
by shamanism, as the Indians almost invariably do.

At the end of a year from the death, a festival is given,
presents are made to those who assisted in making the
coffin, and the period of mourning is over. Their grief
seldom seems deep but they indulge for a long time in
wailing for the dead at intervals. I have seen several women
who refused to take a second husband, and had remained
single in spite of repeated offers for many years.


As we drew near, we heard a low, wailing chant, and Mikala,
one of my men, informed me that it was women lamenting for
the dead. On landing, I saw several Indians hewing out the
box in which the dead are placed. * * * The body lay on its
side on a deer skin, the heels were lashed to the small of
the back, and the head bent forward on the chest so that his
coffin needed to be only about four feet long.


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.

From William J. Cleveland, of the Spotted Tail Agency, Nebraska, has been
received a most interesting account of the mortuary customs of the Brule
or Teton Sioux, who belong to the Lakotah alliance. They are called
_Sicaugu_, in the Indian tongue _Seechaugas_, or the "burned thigh"
people. The narrative is given in its entirety, not only on account of
its careful attention to details, but from its known truthfulness of
description. It relates to tree and scaffold burial.


Though some few of this tribe now lay their dead in rude
boxes, either burying them when implements for digging can
be had, or, when they have no means of making a grave,
placing them on top of the ground on some hill or other
slight elevation, yet this is done in imitation of the
whites, and their general custom, as a people, probably does
not differ in any essential way from that of their
forefathers for many generations in the past. In disposing
of the dead, they wrap the body tightly in blankets or robes
(sometimes both) wind it all over with thongs made of the
hide of some animal and place it reclining on the back at
full length, either in the branches of some tree or on a
scaffold made for the purpose. These scaffolds are about
eight feet high and made by planting four forked sticks
firmly in the ground, one at each corner and then placing
others across on top, so as to form a floor on which the
body is securely fastened. Sometimes more than one body is
placed on the same scaffold, though generally a separate one
is made for each occasion. These Indians being in all things
most superstitious, attach a kind of sacredness to these
scaffolds and all the materials used or about the dead. This
superstition is in itself sufficient to prevent any of their
own people from disturbing the dead, and for one of another
nation to in any wise meddle with them is considered an
offense not too severely punished by death. The same
feeling also prevents them from ever using old scaffolds or
any of the wood which has been used about them, even for
firewood, though the necessity may be very great, for fear
some evil consequences will follow. It is also the custom,
though not universally followed, when bodies have been for
two years on the scaffolds to take them down and bury them
under ground.

All the work about winding up the dead, building the
scaffold, and placing the dead upon it is done by women
only, who, after having finished their labor, return and
bring the men, to show them where the body is placed, that
they may be able to find it in future. Valuables of all
kinds, such as weapons, ornaments, pipes, &c.--in short,
whatever the deceased valued most highly while living, and
locks of hair cut from the heads of the mourners at his
death, are always bound up with the body. In case the dead
was a man of importance, or if the family could afford it,
even though he were not, one or several horses (generally,
in the former case, those which the departed thought most
of) are shot and placed under the scaffold. The idea in this
is that the spirit of the horse will accompany and be of use
to his spirit in the "happy hunting grounds," or, as these
people express it, "the spirit land."

When an Indian dies, and in some cases even before death
occurs, the friends and relatives assemble at the lodge and
begin crying over the departed or departing one. This
consists in uttering the most heartrending, almost hideous
wails and lamentations, in which all join until exhausted.
Then the mourning ceases for a time until some one starts it
again, when all join in as before and keep it up until
unable to cry longer. This is kept up until the body is
removed. This crying is done almost wholly by women, who
gather in large numbers on such occasions, and among them a
few who are professional mourners. These are generally old
women and go whenever a person is expected to die, to take
the leading part in the lamentations, knowing that they will
be well paid at the distribution of goods which follows. As
soon as death takes place, the body is dressed by the women
in the best garments and blankets obtainable, new ones if
they can be afforded. The crowd gathered near continue
wailing piteously, and from time to time cut locks of hair
from their own heads with knives, and throw them on the dead
body. Those who wish to show their grief most strongly, cut
themselves in various places, generally in the legs and
arms, with their knives or pieces of flint, more commonly
the latter, causing the blood to flow freely over their
persons. This custom is followed to a less degree by the

A body is seldom kept longer than one day as, besides the
desire to get the dead out of sight, the fear that the
disease which caused the death will communicate itself to
others of the family causes them to hasten the disposition
of it as soon as they are certain that death has actually
taken place.

Until the body is laid away the mourners eat nothing. After
that is done, connected with which there seems to be no
particular ceremony, the few women who attend to it return
to the lodge and a distribution is made among them and
others, not only of the remaining property of the deceased,
but of all the possessions, even to the lodge itself of the
family to which he belonged. This custom in some cases has
been carried so far as to leave the rest of the family not
only absolutely destitute but actually naked. After
continuing in this condition for a time, they gradually
reach the common level again by receiving gifts from various

The received custom requires of women, near relatives of the
dead, a strict observance of the ten days following the
death, as follows: They are to rise at a very early hour and
work unusually hard all day, joining in no feast, dance,
game, or other diversion, eat but little, and retire late,
that they may be deprived of the usual amount of sleep as of
food. During this they never paint themselves, but at
various times go to the top of some hill and bewail the dead
in loud cries and lamentations for hours together. After the
ten days have expired they paint themselves again and engage
in the usual amusements of the people as before. The men are
expected to mourn and fast for one day and then go on the
war-path against some other tribe, or on some long journey
alone. If he prefers, he can mourn and fast for two or more
days and remain at home. The custom of placing food at the
scaffold also prevails to some extent. If but little is
placed there it is understood to be for the spirit of the
dead, and no one is allowed to touch it. If much is
provided, it is done with the intention that those of the
same sex and age as the deceased shall meet there and
consume it. If the dead be a little girl, the young girls
meet and eat what is provided; if it be a man, then men
assemble for the same purpose. The relatives never mention
the name of the dead.


Still another custom, though at the present day by no means
generally followed, is still observed to some extent among
them. This is called _wanagce yuhapee_, or "keeping the
ghost." A little of the hair from the head of the deceased
being preserved is bound up in calico and articles of value
until the roll is about two feet long and ten inches or more
in diameter, when it is placed in a case made of hide
handsomely ornamented with various designs in different
colored paints. When the family is poor, however, they may
substitute for this case blue or scarlet blanket or cloth.
The roll is then swung lengthwise between two supports made
of sticks, placed thus X in front of a lodge which has been
set apart for the purpose. In this lodge are gathered
presents of all kinds, which are given out when a sufficient
quantity is obtained. It is often a year and sometimes
several years before this distribution is made. During all
this time the roll containing the hair of the deceased is
left undisturbed in front of the lodge. The gifts as they
are brought in are piled in the back part of the lodge, and
are not to be touched until given out. No one but men and
boys are admitted to the lodge unless it be a wife of the
deceased, who may go in if necessary very early in the
morning. The men sit inside, as they choose, to smoke, eat,
and converse. As they smoke they empty the ashes from their
pipes in the center of the lodge, and they, too, are left
undisturbed until after the distribution. When they eat, a
portion is always placed first under the roll outside for
the spirit of the deceased. No one is allowed to take this
unless a large quantity is so placed, in which case it may
be eaten by any persons actually in need of food, even
though strangers to the dead. When the proper time comes the
friends of the deceased and all to whom presents are to be
given are called together to the lodge and the things are
given out by the man in charge. Generally this is some near
relative of the departed. The roll is now undone and small
locks of the hair distributed with the other presents, which
ends the ceremony.

Sometimes this "keeping the ghost" is done several times,
and it is then looked upon as a repetition of the burial or
putting away of the dead. During all the time before the
distribution of the hair, the lodge, as well as the roll, is
looked upon as in a manner sacred, but after that ceremony
it becomes common again and may be used for any ordinary
purpose. No relative or near friend of the dead wishes to
retain anything in his possession that belonged to him while
living, or to see, hear, or own anything which will remind
him of the departed. Indeed, the leading idea in all their
burial customs in the laying away with the dead their most
valuable possessions, the giving to others what is left of
his and the family property, the refusal to mention his
name, &c., is to put out of mind as soon and as effectual as
possible the memory of the departed.

From what has been said, however, it will be seen that they
believe each person to have a spirit which continues to live
after the death of the body. They have no idea of a future
life in the body, but believe that after death their spirits
will meet and recognize the spirits of their departed
friends in the spirit land. They deem it essential to their
happiness here, however, to destroy as far as practicable
their recollection of the dead. They frequently speak of
death as a sleep, and of the dead as asleep or having gone
to sleep at such a time. These customs are gradually losing
their hold upon them, and are much less generally and
strictly observed than formerly.

Figure 15 furnishes a good example of scaffold burial. Figure 16,
offering of food and drink to the dead. Figure 17, depositing the dead
upon the scaffold.

A. Delano,[66] mentions as follows an example of tree-burial which he
noticed in Nebraska.

* * * During the afternoon we passed a Sioux burying-ground,
if I may be allowed to use an Irishism. In a hackberry tree,
elevated about twenty feet from the ground, a kind of rack
was made of broken tent poles, and the body (for there was
but one) was placed upon it, wrapped in his blanket, and a
tanned buffalo skin, with his tin cup, moccasins, and
various things which he had used in life, were placed upon
his body, for his use in the land of spirits.

Figure 18 represents tree-burial, from a sketch drawn by my friend Dr.
Washington Matthews, United States Army.

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.

The following account of scaffold burial among the Gros Ventres and
Mandans of Dakota is furnished by E.H. Alden, United States Indian
agent at Fort Berthold:

The Gros Ventres and Mandans never bury in the ground, but
always on a scaffold, made of four posts about eight feet
high, on which the box is placed, or, if no box is used, the
body wrapped in red or blue cloth if able, or, if not, a
blanket of cheapest white cloth, the tools and weapons being
placed directly under the body, and there they remain
forever, no Indian ever daring to touch one of them. It
would be bad medicine to touch the dead or anything so
placed belonging to him. Should the body by any means fall
to the ground, it is never touched or replaced on the
scaffold. As soon as one dies he is immediately buried,
sometimes within an hour, and the friends begin howling and
wailing as the process of interment goes on, and continue
mourning day and night around the grave, without food
sometimes three or four days. Those who mourn are always
paid for it in some way by the other friends of the
deceased, and those who mourn the longest are paid the most.
They also show their grief and affection for the dead by a
fearful cutting of their own bodies, sometimes only in part,
and sometimes all over their whole flesh, and this sometimes
continues for weeks. Their hair, which is worn in long
braids, is also cut off to show their mourning. They seem
proud of their mutilations. A young man who had just buried
his mother came in boasting of, and showing his mangled

According to Thomas L. McKenney,[67] the Chippewas of Fond du Lac, Wis.,
buried on scaffolds, inclosing the corpse in a box. The narrative is as

One mode of burying the dead among the Chippewas is to place
the coffin or box containing their remains on two
cross-pieces, nailed or tied with wattap to four poles. The
poles are about ten feet high. They plant near these posts
the wild hop or some other kind of running vine, which
spreads over and covers the coffin. I saw one of these on
the island, and as I have described it. It was the coffin of
a child about four years old. It was near the lodge of the
sick girl. I have a sketch of it. I asked the chief why his
people disposed of their dead in that way. He answered they
did not like to put them out of their sight so soon by
putting them under ground. Upon a platform they could see
the box that contained their remains, and that was a comfort
to them.

Figure 19 is copied from McKenney's picture of this form of burial.
Keating[68] thus describes burial scaffolds:

On these scaffolds, which are from eight to ten 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 center, 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 burned. 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 residence.

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

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 the were received at the
Museum as left by the Indians, Dr. Sternberg determined to
send the case unopened.

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 six feet long, three feet
broad, and three 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 twelve 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 eighteen 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 envelope 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, Unionidae_, and
_Auriculae_, 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 deer-skin beadwork 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, United States Army, 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 globe:

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 seven to ten 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 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 leggings 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 it is
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

Figure 20 represents scarification as a form of grief-expression for the

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, &c., 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, Caribs, 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 Hephaestin, 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[69] 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 relatives embraced the body,
closed the eyes and month, 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[70]. This custom, however, was
probably a remnant of the ancient funeral observances, and not to
prevent premature burial, or, perhaps, was intended to scare away bad

W.L. Hardisty[71] gives a curious example of log-burial in trees,
relating to the Loncheux 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 spilt 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.

The American Indians are by no means the only savages employing
scaffolds as places of deposit for the dead, for Wood[72] gives a number
of examples of this mode of burial.

In some parts of Australia the natives, instead of consuming
the body by fire, or hiding it in caves or in graves, make
it a peculiarly conspicuous object. Should a tree grow
favorably for their purpose, they will employ it as the
final resting place for the dead body. Lying in its canoe
coffin, and so covered over with leaves and grass that its
shape is quite disguised, the body is lifted into a
convenient fork of the tree and lashed to the boughs, by
native ropes. No farther care is taken of it, and if in
process of time it should be blown out of the tree, no one
will take the trouble of replacing it.

Should no tree be growing in the selected spot, an
artificial platform is made for the body, by fixing the ends
of stout branches in the ground and connecting them at their
tops by smaller horizontal branches. Such are the curious
tombs which are represented in the illustration. * * * These
strange tombs are mostly placed among the reeds, so that
nothing can be more mournful than the sound of the wind as
it shakes the reeds below the branch in which the corpse is
lying. The object of this aerial tomb is evident enough,
namely, to protect the corpse from the dingo, or native dog.
That the ravens and other carrion-eating birds should make a
banquet upon the body of the dead man does not seem to
trouble the survivors in the least, and it often happens
that the traveler is told by the croak of the disturbed
ravens that the body of a dead Australian is lying in the
branches over his head.

The aerial tombs are mostly erected for the bodies of old
men who have died a natural death; but when a young warrior
has fallen in battle the body is treated in a very different
manner. A moderately high platform is erected, and upon this
is seated the body of the dead warrior with the face toward
the rising sun. The legs are crossed and the arms kept
extended by means of sticks. The fat is then removed, and
after being mixed with red ochre is rubbed over the body,
which has previously been carefully denuded of hair, as is
done in the ceremony of initiation. The legs and arms are
covered with zebra-like stripes of red, white, and yellow,
and the weapons of the dead man are laid across his lap.

The body being thus arranged, fires are lighted under the
platform, and kept up for ten days or more, during the whole
of which time the friends and mourners remain by the body,
and are not permitted to speak. Sentinels relieve each other
at appointed intervals, their duty being to see that the
fires are not suffered to go out, and to keep the flies away
by waving leafy boughs or bunches of emu feathers. When a
body has been treated in this manner it becomes hard and
mummy-like, and the strongest point is that the wild dogs
will not touch it after it has been so long smoked. It
remains sitting on the platform for two months or so, and is
then taken down and buried, with the exception of the skull,
which is made into a drinking-cup for the nearest relative.
* * *

This mode of mummifying resembles somewhat that already described as the
process by which the Virginia kings were preserved from decomposition.

Figs. 21 and 22 represent the Australian burials described, and are
after the original engravings in Wood's work. The one representing
scaffold-burial resembles greatly the scaffolds of our own Indians.

With regard to the use of scaffolds as places of deposit for the dead,
the following theories by Dr. W. Gardner, United States Army, 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[73] relates the following concerning the

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? &c.,
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 discovered.

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 and one who commits suicide is buried under the
earth as one to be directly forgotten and unworthy the above
ceremonial obsequies and mourning.

Jones[74] 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[75] gives a somewhat different account from Roman of burial
among the Choctaws of Carolina:

The Chactaws 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;[76] 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[77] also alludes to this mode of burial:

The body of the deceased was exposed upon a bark 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-place.

To this custom, which is not confined to the Iroquois, is
doubtless to be ascribed the burrows 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.

Dr. D.G. Brinton[78] 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 filed 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 decent of the Indians
from the Jews have likened to that which the ancient
Israelites bore with them in their migration.

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. 200). 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[79] describes what he calls the "Golgothas" of the

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

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.

The first example given relates to the Chinooks of Washington Territory,
and may be found in Swan.[80]

In this instance old Cartumhays, and old Mahar, a celebrated
doctor, were the chief mourners, probably from being the
smartest scamps among the relatives. Their duty was to
prepare the canoe for the reception of the body. One of the
largest and best the deceased had owned was then hauled into
the woods, at some distance back of the lodge, after having
been first thoroughly washed and scrubbed. Two large square
holes were then cut in the bottom, at the bow and stern, for
the twofold purpose of rendering the canoe unfit for further
use, and therefore less likely to excite the cupidity of the
whites (who are but too apt to help themselves to these
depositories for the dead), and also to allow any rain to
pass off readily.

When the canoe was ready, the corpse, wrapped in blankets,
was brought out, and laid in it on mats previously spread.
All the wearing apparel was next put in beside the body,
together with her trinkets, beads, little baskets, and
various trifles she had prized. More blankets were then
covered over the body, and mats smoothed over all. Next, a
small canoe, which fitted into the large one, was placed,
bottom up, over the corpse, and the whole then covered with
mats. The canoe was then raised up and placed on two
parallel bars, elevated four or five feet from the ground,
and supported by being inserted through holes mortised at
the top of four stout posts previously firmly planted in the
earth. Around these holes were then hung blankets, and all
the cooking utensils of the deceased, pots, kettles, and
pans, each with a hole punched through it, and all her
crockery-ware, every piece of which was first cracked or
broken, to render it useless; and then, when all was done,
they left her to remain for one year, when the bones would
be buried in a box in the earth directly under the canoe;
but that, with all its appendages, would never be molested,
but left to go to gradual decay.

They regard these canoes precisely as we regard coffins, and
would no more think of using one than we would of using our
own graveyard relics; and it is, in their view, as much of a
desecration for a white man to meddle or interfere with
these, to them, sacred mementoes, as it would be to us to
have an Indian open the graves of our relatives. Many
thoughtless white men have done this, and animosities have
been thus occasioned.

Figure 23 represents this mode of burial.

From a number of other examples, the following, relating to the Twanas,
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, 1-1/2 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 was 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 layered boards, were about a foot
wide. Holes were cut in those, 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 hull 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 one, a blanket to
each of two or three others, and a dollar and a half to each
of the rest, including myself, 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.

[Illustration: FIG. 24--Twana Canoe Burial.]

Figure 24 is from a sketch kindly furnished by Mr. Eells, and represents
the burial mentioned in his narrative.

The Clallams and Twanas, an allied tribe, have not always followed
canoe-burial, as may be seen from the following account, also written by
Mr. Eells, who gives the reasons why the original mode of disposing of
the dead was abandoned. It is extremely interesting, and characterized
by painstaking attention to detail:

I divide this subject into five periods, varying according
to time, though they are somewhat intermingled.

_(a)_ There are places where skulls and skeletons have been
plowed up or still remain in the ground and near together,
in such a way as to give good ground for the belief which is
held by white residents in the region, that formerly persons
were buried in the ground and in irregular cemeteries. I
know of such places in Duce Waillops among the Twanas, and
at Dungeness and Port Angeles among the Clallam. These
graves were made so long ago that the Indians of the present
day profess to have no knowledge as to who is buried in
them, except that they believe, undoubtedly, that they are
the graves of their ancestors. I do not know that any care
has ever been exercised by any one in exhuming these
skeletons so as to learn any particulars about them. It is
possible, however, that these persons were buried according
to the _(b)_ or canoe method, and that time has buried them
where they now are.

[Illustration: FIG. 25--Posts for Burial Canoes.]

_(b)_ Formerly when a person died the body was placed in the
forks of two trees and left there. There was no particular
cemetery, but the person was generally left near the place
where the death occurred. The Skokomish Valley is said to
have been full of canoes containing persons thus buried.
What their customs were while burying, or what they placed
around the dead, I am not informed but am told that they did
not take as much care then of their dead as they do now. I
am satisfied, however, that they then left some articles
around the dead. An old resident informs me that the Clallam
Indians always bury their dead in a sitting posture.

_(c)_ About twenty years ago gold mines were discovered in
British Columbia, and boats being scarce in the region,
unprincipled white men took many of the canoes in which the
Indian dead had been left, emptying them of their contents.
This incensed the Indians and they changed their mode of
burial somewhat by burying the dead in one place, placing
them in boxes whenever they could obtain them, by building
scaffolds for them instead of placing them in forks of
trees, and in cutting their canoes so as to render them
useless, when they were used as coffins or left by the side
of the dead. The ruins of one such graveyard now remain
about two miles from this agency. Nearly all the remains
were removed a few years ago.

With this I furnish you the outlines of such graves which I
have drawn. Fig 25 shows that at present only one pair of
posts remains. I have supplied the other pair as they
evidently were.

[Illustration: FIG. 26--Tent on Scaffold.]

Figure 26 is a recent grave at another place. That part
which is covered with board and cloth incloses the coffin
which is on a scaffold.

As the Indians have been more in contact with the whites
they have learned to bury in the ground, and this is the
most common method at the present time. There are cemetaries
everywhere where Indians have resided any length of time.
After a person has died a coffin is made after the cheaper
kinds of American ones, the body is placed in it, and also
with it a number of articles, chiefly cloth or clothes,
though occasionally money. I lately heard of a child being
buried with a twenty-dollar gold piece in each hand and
another in its month, but I am not able to vouch for the
truth of it. As a general thing, money is too valuable with
them for this purpose and there is too much temptation for
some one to rob the grave when this is left in it.

[Illustration: FIG. 27--House-Burial]

[Illustration: FIG. 28--House-Burial]

_(d)_ The grave is dug after the style of the whites and
the coffin then placed in it. After it has been covered it
is customary though not universal, to build some kind of an
inclosure over it or around it in the shape of a small
house, shed, lodge or fence. These are from 2 to 12 feet
high, from 2 to 6 feet wide, and from 5 to 12 feet long.
Some of these are so well inclosed that it is impossible to
see within and some are quite open. Occasionally a window is
placed in the front side. Sometimes these enclosures are
covered with cloth, which is generally white, sometimes
partly covered, and some have none. Around the grave, both
outside and inside of the inclosure, various articles are
placed, as guns, canoes, dishes, pails, cloth, sheets,
blankets, beads, tubs, lamps, bows, mats, and occasionally a
roughly-carved human image rudely painted. It is said that
around and in the grave of one Clallam chief, buried a few
years ago, $500 worth of such things were left. Most of
these articles are cut or broken so as to render them
valueless to man and to prevent their being stolen. Poles
are also often erected, from 10 to 30 feet long, on which
American flags, handkerchiefs, clothes, and cloths of
various colors are hung. A few graves have nothing of this
kind. On some graves these things are renewed every year or
two. This depends mainly on the number of relatives living
and the esteem in which they hold the deceased.

The belief exists that as the body decays spirits carry it
away particle by particle to the spirit of the deceased in
the spirit land, and also as these articles decay they are
also carried away in a similar manner. I have never known of
the placing food near a grave. Figures 27 and 28 will give
you some idea of this class of graves. Figure 27 has a
paling fence 12 feet square around it. Figure 28 is simply a
frame over a grave where there is no enclosure.

_(e)_ civilized mode.--A few persons, of late, have fallen
almost entirely into the American custom of burying,
building a simple paling fence around it, but placing no
articles around it; this is more especially true of the


In regard to the funeral ceremonies and mourning observances
of sections _(a)_ and _b_ of the preceding subject I know
nothing. In regard to _(c)_ and _d_, they begin to mourn,
more especially the women, as soon as a person dies. Their
mourning song consists principally of the sounds represented
by the three English notes mi mi, do do, la la; those who
attend the funeral are expected to bring some articles to
place in the coffin or about the grave as a token of respect
for the dead. The articles which I have seen for this
purpose have been cloth of some kind; a small piece of cloth
is returned by the mourners to the attendants as a token of
remembrance. They bury much sooner after death than white
persons do, generally as soon as they can obtain a coffin. I
know of no other native funeral ceremonies. Occasionally
before being taken to the grave, I have held Christian
funeral ceremonies over them, and these services increase
from year to year. One reason which has rendered them
somewhat backward about having these funeral services is,
that they are quite superstitions about going near the dead,
fearing that the evil spirit which killed the deceased will
enter the living and kill them also. Especially are they
afraid of having children go near, being much more fearful
of the effect of the evil spirit on them than on older


They have no regular period, so far as I know, for mourning,
but often continue it after the burial, though I do not know
that they often visit the grave. If they feel the loss very
much, sometimes they will mourn nearly every day for several
weeks; especially is this true when they meet an old friend
who has not been seen since the funeral, or when they
see an article owned by the deceased which they have not
seen for a long time. The only other thing of which I think,
which bears on this subject, is an idea they have, that
before a person dies--it may be but a short time or it may
be several months--a spirit from the spirit land comes and
carries off the spirit of the individual to that place.
There are those who profess to discover when this is done,
and if by any of their incantations they can compel that
spirit to return, the person will not die, but if they are
not able, then the person will become dead at heart and in
time die, though it may not be for six months or even
twelve. You will also find a little on this subject in a
pamphlet which I wrote on the Twana Indians and which has
recently been published by the Department of the Interior,
under Prof. F.V. Hayden, United States Geologist.

George Gibbs[81] 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 Bolcher, 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, &c. 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 cedar boards, closely connected,
about 8 feet square and 6 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 4 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 Inland. The
_Watlala,_ a tribe of the Upper Tainuk, 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

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