A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians.


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


One of the most carefully described scenes of mourning at the death of a chief of the Crows is related in the life of Beckwourth,[86] who for many years lived among this people, finally attaining great distinction as a warrior.

I dispatched a herald to the village to inform them of the head chief’s death, and then, burying him according to his directions, we slowly proceeded homewards.  My very soul sickened at the contemplation of the scenes that would be enacted at my arrival.  When we drew in sight of the village, we found every lodge laid prostrate.  We entered amid shrieks, cries, and yells.  Blood was streaming from every conceivable part of the bodies of all who were old enough to comprehend their loss.  Hundreds of fingers were dismembered; hair torn from the head lay in profusion about the paths; wails and moans in every direction assailed the ear, where unrestrained joy had a few hours before prevailed.  This fearful mourning lasted until evening of the next day. * * *
A herald having been dispatched to our other villages to acquaint them with the death of our head chief, and request them to assemble at the Rose Bud, in order to meet our village and devote themselves to a general time of mourning, there met, in conformity to the summons, over ten thousand Crows at the place indicated.  Such a scene of disorderly, vociferous mourning, no imagination can conceive nor any pen portray.  Long Hair cut off a large roll of his hair; a thing he was never known to do before.  The cutting and hacking of human flesh exceeded all my previous experience; fingers were dismembered as readily as twigs, and blood was poured out like water.  Many of the warriors would cut two gashes nearly the entire length of their arm; then, separating the skin from the flesh at one end, would grasp it in their other hand, and rip it asunder to the shoulder.  Others would carve various devices upon their breasts and shoulders, and raise the skin in the same manner to make the scars show to advantage after the wound was healed.  Some of their mutilations were ghastly, and my heart sickened to look at them, but they would not appear to receive any pain from them.

It should be remembered that many of Beckwourth’s statements are to be taken cum grana salis.

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

Project Gutenberg
A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook