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.
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.

AERIAL SEPULTURE.

LODGE-BURIAL.

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: 

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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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