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 210 pages of information about A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians.

SURFACE BURIAL

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

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

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

The writer has recently received from Prof, C. Engelhardt, of Copenhagen, Denmark, a brochure describing the oak coffins of Borum-Aesshoei.  From an engraving in this volume it would appear that the manner employed by the ancient Danes of hollowing out logs for coffins has its analogy among the North American Indians.

Romantically conceived, and carried out to the fullest possible extent in accordance with the ante mortem wishes of the dead, were the obsequies of Blackbird, the great chief of the Omahas.  The account is given by George Catlin:[40]

He requested them to take his body down the river to this his favorite haunt, and on the pinnacle of this towering bluff to bury him on the back of his favorite war-horse, which was to be buried alive under him, from whence he could see, as he said, “the Frenchmen passing up and down the river in their boats.”  He owned, amongst many horses, a noble white steed, that was led to the top of the grass-covered hill, and with great pomp and ceremony, in the presence of the whole nation and several of the fur-traders and the Indian agent, he was placed astride of his horse’s back, with his bow in his hand, and his shield and quiver slung, with his pipe and his medicine bag, with his supply of dried meat, and his tobacco-pouch replenished to last him through the journey to the beautiful hunting grounds of the shades of his fathers, with his flint, his steel, and his tinder to light his pipe by the way; the scalps he had taken from his enemies’
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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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