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.

     Their funeral is styled by them “the last cry.”

When the husband dies the friends assemble, prepare the grave, and place the corpse in it, but do not fill it up.  The gun, bow and arrows, hatchet, and knife are deposited in the grave.  Poles are planted at the head and the foot, upon which flags are placed; the grave is then inclosed by pickets driven in the ground.  The funeral ceremonies now begin, the widow being the chief mourner.  At night and morning she will go to the grave and pour forth the most piteous cries and wailings.  It is not important that any other member of the family should take any very active part in the “cry,” though they do participate to some extent.
The widow wholly neglects her toilet, while she daily goes to the grave during one entire moon from the date when the death occurred.  On the evening of the last day of the moon the friends all assemble at the cabin of the disconsolate widow, bringing provisions for a sumptuous feast, which consists of corn and jerked beef boiled together in a kettle.  While the supper is preparing the bereaved wife goes to the grave and pours out, with unusual vehemence, her bitter wailings and lamentations.  When the food is thoroughly cooked the kettle is taken from the fire and placed in the center of the cabin, and the friends gather around it, passing the buffalo-horn spoon from hand to hand and from mouth to mouth till all have been bountifully supplied.  While supper is being served, two of the oldest men of the company quietly withdraw and go to the grave and fill it up, taking down the flags.  All then join in a dance, which not unfrequently is continued till morning; the widow does not fail to unite in the dance, and to contribute her part to the festivities of the occasion.  This is the “last cry,” the days of mourning are ended, and the widow is now ready to form another matrimonial alliance.  The ceremonies are precisely the same when a man has lost his wife, and they are only slightly varied when any other member of the family has died. (Slaves were buried without ceremonies.)


Some examples of human sacrifice have already been given in connection with another subject, but it is thought others might prove interesting.  The first relates to the Natchez of Louisiana.[90]

When their sovereign died he was accompanied in the grave by his wives and by several of his subjects.  The lesser Suns took care to follow the same custom.  The law likewise condemned every Natchez to death who had married a girl of the blood of the Suns as soon as she was expired.  On this occasion I must tell you the history of an Indian who was noways willing to submit to this law.  His name was Elteacteal; he contracted an alliance with the Suns, but the consequences which this honor brought along with it had like to have proved very unfortunate to him. 
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A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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