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.
whole of the people under his command.  He remains at a distance for several years, during which time he wears the sign of mourning, i.e., a dark-colored conical cap, and round the neck a thong, to the ends of which are hung two small pieces of ostrich-shell.  When the season of mourning is over, the tribe return, headed by the chief, who goes to the grave of his father, kneels over it, and whispers that he has returned, together with the cattle and wives which his father gave him.  He then asks for his parent’s aid in all his undertakings, and from that moment takes the place which his father filled before him.  Cattle are then slaughtered, and a feast held to the memory of the dead chief and in honor of the living one, and each person present partakes of the meat, which is distributed by the chief himself.  The deceased chief symbolically partakes of the banquet.  A couple of twigs cut from the tree of the particular eanda to which the deceased belonged are considered as his representative, and with this emblem each piece of meat is touched before the guests consume it.  In like manner, the first pail of milk that is drawn is taken to the grave and poured over it.


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

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

While in the Territory of Utah, in 1872, the writer discovered a natural cave not far from the House Range of mountains, the entrance to which resembled the shaft of a mine.  In this the Gosi-Ute Indians had deposited their dead, surrounded with different articles, until it was quite filled up; at least it so appeared from the cursory examination made, limited time preventing a careful exploration.  In the fall of the same year another cave was heard of, from an Indian guide, near the Nevada border, in the same Territory, and an attempt made to explore it, which failed for reasons to be subsequently given.  This Indian, a Gosi-Ute, who was questioned regarding the funeral ceremonies of his tribe, informed the writer that not far from the very spot where the party were encamped, was a large cave in which he had himself

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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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