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The commonest mode of burial among North American Indians has been that of interment in the ground, and this has taken place in a number of different ways; the following will, however, serve as good examples of the process:

One of the simplest forms is thus noted by Schoolcraft:

The Mohawks of New York made a large round hole in which the body was placed upright or upon its haunches, after which it was covered with timber, to support the earth which they lay over, and thereby kept the body from being pressed. They then raised the earth in a round hill over it. They always dressed the corpse in all its finery, and put wampum and other things into the grave with it; and the relations suffered not grass nor any wood to grow upon the grave, and frequently visited it and made lamentation.

In Jones is the following interesting account from Lawson of the burial customs of the Indians formerly inhabiting the Carolinas:

Among the Carolina tribes the burial of the dead was accompanied with special ceremonies, the expense and formality attendant upon the funeral according with the rank of the deceased. The corpse was first placed in a cane hurdle and deposited in an outhouse made for the purpose, where it was suffered to remain for a day and a night, guarded and mourned over by the nearest relatives with disheveled hair. Those who are to officiate at the funeral go into the town, and from the backs of the first young men they meet strip such blankets and matchcoats as they deem suitable for their purpose. In these the dead body is wrapped and then covered with two or three mats made of rushes or cane. The coffin is made of woven reeds or hollow canes tied fast at both ends. When everything is prepared for the interment, the corpse is carried from the house in which it has been lying into the orchard of peach-trees and is there deposited in another hurdle. Seated upon mats are there congregated the family and tribe of the deceased and invited guests. The medicine man, or conjurer, having enjoined silence, then pronounces a funeral oration, during which he recounts the exploits of the deceased, his valor, skill, love of country, property, and influence; alludes to the void caused by his death, and counsels those who remain to supply his place by following in his footsteps; pictures the happiness he will enjoy in the land of spirits to which he has gone, and concludes his address by an allusion to the prominent traditions of his tribe.

Let us here pause to remind the reader that this custom has prevailed throughout the civilized world up to the present day a custom, in the opinion of many, “more honored in the breach than in the observance.”

At last [says Mr. Lawson], the Corpse is brought away from that Hurdle to the Grave by four young Men, attended by the Relations, the King, old Men, and all the Nation. When they come to the Sépulcre, which is about six foot deep and eight foot long, having at each end (that is, at the Head and Foot) a Light-Wood or Pitch-Pine Fork driven close down the sides of the Grave firmly into the Ground (these two Forks are to contain a Ridge-Pole, as you shall understand presently), before they lay the Corps into the Grave, they cover the bottom two or three time over with the Bark of Trees; then they let down the Corps (with two Belts that the Indians carry their Burdens withal) very leisurely upon the said Barks; then they lay over a Pole of the same Wood in the two Forks, and having a great many Pieces of Pitch-Pine Logs about two Foot and a half long, they stick them in the sides of the Grave down each End and near the Top thereof, where the other Ends lie in the Ridge-Pole, so that they are declining like the Roof of a House. These being very thick plac’d, they cover them [many times double] with Bark; then they throw the Earth thereon that came out of the Grave and beat it down very firm. By this Means the dead Body lies in a Vault, nothing touching him.

After a time the body is taken up, the bones cleaned, and deposited in an ossuary called the Quiogozon.

Figure 1, after De Bry and Lafitau, represents what the early writers called the Quiogozon, or charnel-house, and allusions will be found to it in other parts of this volume. Discrepancies in these accounts impair greatly their value, for one author says that bones were deposited, another dried bodies.

It will be seen from the following account, furnished by M. B. Kent, relating to the Sacs and Foxes (Oh-sak-ke-uck) of the Nehema Agency, Nebraska, that these Indians were careful in burying their dead to prevent the earth coming in contact with the body, and this custom has been followed by a number of different tribes, as will be seen by examples given further on.

Ancient burial. The body was buried in a grave made about 2-1/2 feet deep, and was laid always with the head towards the east, the burial taking place as soon after death as possible. The grave was prepared by putting bark in the bottom of it before the corpse was deposited, a plank covering made and secured some distance above the body. The plank was made by splitting trees, until intercourse with the whites enabled them to obtain sawed lumber. The corpse was always enveloped in a blanket, and prepared as for a long journey in life, no coffin being used.

Modern burial. This tribe now usually bury in coffins, rude ones
constructed by themselves, still depositing the body in the grave
with the head towards the east.

Ancient funeral ceremonies. Every relative of the deceased had to throw some article in the grave, either food, clothing, or other material. There was no rule stating the nature of what was to be added to the collection, simply a requirement that something must be deposited, if it were only a piece of soiled and faded calico. After the corpse was lowered into the grave some brave addressed the dead, instructing him to walk directly westward, that he would soon discover moccasin tracks, which he must follow until he came to a great river, which is the river of death; when there he would find a pole across the river, which, if he has been honest, upright, and good, will be straight, upon which he could readily cross to the other side; but if his life had been one of wickedness and sin, the pole would be very crooked, and in the attempt to cross upon it he would be precipitated into the turbulent stream and lost forever. The brave also told him if he crossed the river in safety the Great Father would receive him, take out his old brains, give him new ones, and then he would have reached the happy hunting grounds, always be happy and have eternal life. After burial a feast was always called, and a portion of the food of which each and every relative was partaking was burned to furnish subsistence to the spirit upon its journey.

Modern funeral ceremonies. Provisions are rarely put into the grave, and no portion of what is prepared for the feast subsequent to burial is burned, although the feast is continued. All the address delivered by the brave over the corpse after being deposited in the grave is omitted. A prominent feature of all ceremonies, either funeral or religious, consists of feasting accompanied with music and dancing.

Ancient mourning observances. The female relations allowed their hair to hang entirely unrestrained, clothed themselves in the most unpresentable attire, the latter of which the males also do. Men blacked the whole face for a period of ten days after a death in the family, while the women blacked only the cheeks; the faces of the children were blacked for three months; they were also required to fast for the same length of time, the fasting to consist of eating but one meal per day, to be made entirely of hominy, and partaken of about sunset. It was believed that this fasting would enable the child to dream of coming events and prophesy what was to happen in the future. The extent and correctness of prophetic vision depended upon how faithfully the ordeal of fasting had been observed.

Modern mourning observances. Many of those of the past are continued, such as wearing the hair unrestrained, wearing uncouth apparel, blacking faces, and fasting of children, and they are adhered to with as much tenacity as many of the professing Christians belonging to the evangelical churches adhere to their practices, which constitute mere forms, the intrinsic value of which can very reasonably be called in question.

The Creeks and Seminoles of Florida, according to Schoolcraft, made the graves of their dead as follows:

When one of the family dies, the relatives bury the corpse about four feet deep in a round hole dug directly under the cabin or rock wherever he died. The corpse is placed in the hole in a sitting posture, with a blanket wrapped about it, and the legs bent under and tied together. If a warrior, he is painted, and his pipe, ornaments, and warlike appendages are deposited with him. The grave is then covered with canes tied to a hoop round the top of the hole, then a firm layer of clay, sufficient to support the weight of a man. The relations howl loudly and mourn publicly for four days. If the deceased has been a man of eminent character, the family immediately remove from the house in which he is buried and erect a new one, with a belief that where the bones of their dead are deposited the place is always attended by goblins and chimeras dire.

Dr. W. C. Boteler, physician to the Otoe Indian Agency, Gage County, Nebraska, in a personal communication to the writer, furnishes a most interesting account of the burial ceremonies of this tribe, in which it may be seen that graves are prepared in a manner similar to those already mentioned:

The Otoe and Missouri tribes of Indians are now located in southern Gage County, Nebraska, on a reservation of 43,000 acres, unsurpassed in beauty of location, natural resources, and adaptability for prosperous agriculture. This pastoral people, though in the midst of civilization, have departed but little from the rude practice and customs of a nomadic life, and here may be seen and studied those interesting dramas as vividly and satisfactorily as upon the remote frontier.

During my residence among this people on different occasions, I have
had the opportunity of witnessing the Indian burials and many quaint
ceremonies pertaining thereto.

When it is found that the vital spark is wavering in an Otoe subject, the preparation of the burial costume is immediately began. The near relatives of the dying Indian surround the humble bedside, and by loud lamentations and much weeping manifest a grief which is truly commensurate with the intensity of Indian devotion and attachment.

While thus expressing before the near departed their grief at the sad separation impending, the Indian women, or friendly braves, lose no time in equipping him or her with the most ornate clothes and ornaments that are available or in immediate possession. It is thus that the departed Otoe is enrobed in death, in articles of his own selection and by arrangements of his own taste and dictated by his own tongue. It is customary for the dying Indian to dictate, ere his departure, the propriety or impropriety of the accustomed sacrifices. In some cases there is a double and in others no sacrifice at all. The Indian women then prepare to cut away their hair; it is accomplished with scissors, cutting close to the scalp at the side and behind.

The preparation of the dead for burial is conducted with great solemnity and care. Bead-work, the most ornate, expensive blankets and ribbons comprise the funeral shroud. The dead, being thus enrobed, is placed in a recumbent posture at the most conspicuous part of the lodge and viewed in rotation by the mourning relatives previously summoned by a courier, all preserving uniformity in the piercing screams which would seem to have been learned by rote.

An apparent service is then conducted. The aged men of the tribe,
arranged in a circle, chant a peculiar funeral dirge around one of
their number, keeping time upon a drum or some rude cooking-utensil.

At irregular intervals an aged relative will arise and dance excitedly around the central person, vociferating, and with wild gesture, tomahawk in hand, imprecate the evil spirit, which he drives to the land where the sun goes down. The evil spirit being thus effectually banished, the mourning gradually subsides, blending into succeeding scenes of feasting and refreshment. The burial feast is in every respect equal in richness to its accompanying ceremonies. All who assemble are supplied with cooked venison, hog, buffalo, or beef, regular waiters distributing alike hot cakes soaked in grease and coffee or water, as the case may be.

Frequently during this stage of the ceremony the most aged Indian present will sit in the central circle, and in a continuous and doleful tone narrate the acts of valor in the life of the departed, enjoining fortitude and bravery upon all sitting around as an essential qualification for admittance to the land where the Great Spirit reigns. When the burial feast is well-nigh completed, it is customary for the surviving friends to present the bereaved family with useful articles of domestic needs, such as calico in bolt, flannel cloth, robes, and not unfrequently ponies or horses. After the conclusion of the ceremonies at the lodge, the body is carefully placed in a wagon and, with an escort of all friends, relatives, and acquaintances, conveyed to the grave previously prepared by some near relation or friend. When a wagon is used, the immediate relatives occupy it with the corpse, which is propped in a semi-sitting posture; before the use of wagons among the Otoes, it was necessary to bind the body of the deceased upon a horse and then convey him to his last resting place among his friends. In past days when buffalo were more available, and a tribal hunt was more frequently indulged in, it is said that those dying on the way were bound upon horses and thus frequently carried several hundred miles for interment at the burial places of their friends.

At the graveyard of the Indians the ceremony partakes of a double nature; upon the one hand it is sanguinary and cruel, and upon the other blended with the deepest grief and most heartfelt sorrow. Before the interment of the dead the chattels of the deceased are unloaded from the wagons or unpacked from the backs of ponies and carefully arranged in the vault-like tomb. The bottom, which is wider than the top (graves here being dug like an inverted funnel), is spread with straw or grass matting, woven generally by the Indian women of the tribe or some near neighbor. The sides are then carefully hung with handsome shawls or blankets, and trunks, with domestic articles, pottery, &c., of less importance, are piled around in abundance. The sacrifices are next inaugurated. A pony, first designated by the dying Indian, is led aside and strangled by men hanging to either end of a rope. Sometimes, but not always, a dog is likewise strangled, the heads of both animals being subsequently laid upon the Indian’s grave. The body, which is now often placed in a plain coffin, is lowered into the grave, and if a coffin is used the friends take their parting look at the deceased before closing it at the grave. After lowering, a saddle and bridle, blankets, dishes, &c., are placed upon it, the mourning ceases, and the Indians prepare to close the grave. It should be remembered, among the Otoe and Missouri Indians dirt is not filled in upon the body, but simply rounded up from the surface upon stout logs that are accurately fitted over the opening of the grave. After the burying is completed, a distribution of the property of the deceased takes place, the near relatives receiving everything, from the merest trifle to the tent and homes, leaving the immediate family, wife and children or father out-door pensioners.

Although the same generosity is not observed towards the whites assisting in funeral rites, it is universally practiced as regards Indians, and poverty’s lot is borne by the survivors with a fortitude and resignation which in them amounts to duty, and marks a higher grade of intrinsic worth than pervades whites of like advantages and conditions. We are told in the Old Testament Scriptures, “four days and four nights should the fires burn,” &c. In fulfillment of this sacred injunction, we find the midnight vigil carefully kept by these Indians four days and four nights at the graves of their departed. A small fire is kindled for the purpose near the grave at sunset, where the nearest relatives convene and maintain a continuous lamentation till the morning dawn. There was an ancient tradition that at the expiration of this time the Indian arose, and mounting his spirit pony, galloped off to the happy hunting-ground beyond.

Happily, with the advancement of Christianity these superstitions have faded, and the living sacrifices are partially continued only from a belief that by parting with their most cherished and valuable goods they propitiate the Great Spirit for the sins committed during the life of the deceased. This, though at first revolting, we find was the practice of our own forefathers, offering up as burnt offerings the lamb or the ox; hence we cannot censure this people, but, from a comparison of conditions, credit them with a more strict observance of our Holy Book than pride and seductive fashions permit of us.

From a careful review of the whole of their attendant ceremonies a remarkable similarity can be marked. The arrangement of the corpse preparatory to interment, the funeral feast, the local service by the aged fathers, are all observances that have been noted among whites, extending into times that are in the memory of those still living.

The Pimas of Arizona, actuated by apparently the same motives that led the more eastern tribes to endeavor to prevent contact of earth with the corpse, adopted a plan which has been described by Capt. F. E. Grossman, and the account is corroborated by M. Alphonse Pinart and Bancroft.

Captain Grossman’s account follows:

The Pimas tie the bodies of their dead with ropes, passing the latter around their neck and under the knees, and then drawing them tight until the body is doubled up and forced into a sitting position. They dig the graves from four to five feet deep and perfectly round (about two feet in diameter), and then hollow out to one side of the bottom of this grave a sort of vault large enough to contain the body. Here the body is deposited, the grave is filled up level with the ground, and poles, trees, or pieces of timber placed upon the grave to protect the remains from coyotes.

Burials usually take place at night without much ceremony. The mourners chant during the burial, but signs of grief are rare. The bodies of their dead are buried if possible, immediately after death has taken place and the graves are generally prepared before the patients die. Sometimes sick persons (for whom the graves had already been dug) recover. In such cases the graves are left open until the persons for whom they are intended die. Open graves of this kind can be seen in several of their burial grounds. Places of burial are selected some distance from the village, and, if possible, in a grove of mesquite trees.

Immediately after the remains have been buried, the house and personal effects of the deceased are burned and his horses and cattle killed, the meat being cooked as a repast for the mourners. The nearest relatives of the deceased as a sign of their sorrow remain within their village for weeks, and sometimes months; the men cut off about six inches of their long hair, while the women cut their hair quite short.

The custom of destroying all the property of the husband when he dies impoverishes the widow and children and prevents increase of stock. The women of the tribe, well aware that they will be poor should their husbands die, and that then they will have to provide for their children by their own exertions, do not care to have many children, and infanticide, both before and after birth, prevails to a great extent. This is not considered a crime, and old women of the tribe practice it. A widow may marry again after a year’s mourning for her first husband; but having children no man will take her for a wife and thus burden himself with her children. Widows generally cultivate a small piece of ground, and friends and relatives (men) plow the ground for them.

Fi, drawn from Captain Grossman’s description by my friend Dr. W. J. Hoffman, will convey a good idea of this mode of burial.

Stephen Powers describes a similar mode of grave preparation among the Yuki of California:

The Yuki bury their dead in a sitting posture. They dig a hole six
feet deep sometimes and at the bottom of it “coyote” under, making
a little recess in which the corpse is deposited.

The Comanches of Indian Territory (Nem, we, or us, people), according to Dr. Fordyce Grinnell, of the Wichita Agency, Indian Territory, go to the opposite extreme, so far as the protection of the dead from the surrounding earth is concerned. The account as received is given entire, as much to illustrate this point as others of interest.

When a Comanche is dying, while the death-rattle may yet be faintly heard in the throat, and the natural warmth has not departed from the body, the knees are strongly bent upon the chest, and the legs flexed upon the thighs. The arms are also flexed upon each side of the chest, and the head bent forward upon the knees. A lariat, or rope, is now used to firmly bind the limbs and body in this position. A blanket is then wrapped around the body, and this again tightly corded, so that the appearance when ready for burial is that of an almost round and compact body, very unlike the composed pall of his Wichita or Caddo brother. The body is then taken and placed in a saddle upon a pony, in a sitting posture; a squaw usually riding behind, though sometimes one on either side of the horse, holds the body in position until the place of burial is reached, when the corpse is literally tumbled into the excavation selected for the purpose. The deceased is only accompanied by two or three squaws, or enough to perform the little labor bestowed upon the burial. The body is taken due west of the lodge or village of the bereaved, and usually one of the deep washes or heads of canyons in which the Comanche country abounds is selected, and the body thrown in, without special reference to position. With this are deposited the bows and arrows; these, however, are first broken. The saddle is also placed in the grave, together with many of the personal valuables of the departed. The body is then covered over with sticks and earth, and sometimes stones are placed over the whole.

Funeral ceremonies. the best pony owned by the deceased is brought to the grave and killed, that the departed may appear well mounted and caparisoned among his fellows in the other world. Formerly, if the deceased were a chief or man of consequence and had large herds of ponies, many were killed, sometimes amounting to 200 or 300 head in number.

The Comanches illustrate the importance of providing a good pony for
the convoy of the deceased to the happy-grounds by the following
story, which is current among both Comanches and Wichitas:

“A few years since, an old Comanche died who had no relatives and who was quite poor. Some of the tribe concluded that almost any kind of a pony would serve to transport him to the next world. They therefore killed at his grave an old, ill-conditioned, lop-eared horse. But a few weeks after the burial of this friendless one, lo and behold he returned, riding this same old worn-out horse, weary and hungry. He first appeared at the Wichita camps, where he was well known, and asked for something to eat, but his strange appearance, with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks, filled with consternation all who saw him, and they fled from his presence. Finally one bolder than the rest placed a piece of meat on the end of a lodge-pole and extended it to him. He soon appeared at his own camp, creating, if possible, even more dismay than among the Wichitas, and this resulted in both Wichitas and Comanches leaving their villages and moving en masse to a place on Rush Creek, not far distant from the present site of Fort Sill.

“When the troubled spirit from the sunsetting world was questioned why he thus appeared among the inhabitants of earth, he made reply that when he came to the gates of paradise the keepers would on no account permit him to enter upon such an ill-conditioned beast as that which bore him, and thus in sadness he returned to haunt the homes of those whose stinginess and greed permitted him no better equipment. Since this no Comanche has been permitted to depart with the sun to his chambers in the west without a steed which in appearance should do honor alike to the rider and his friends.”

The body is buried at the sunsetting side of the camp, that the spirit may accompany the setting sun to the world beyond. The spirit starts on its journey the following night after death has taken place; if this occur at night, the journey is not begun until the next night.

Mourning observances. All the effects of the deceased, the tents, blankets, clothes, treasures, and whatever of value, aside from the articles which have been buried with the body, are burned, so that the family is left in poverty. This practice has extended even to the burning of wagons and harness since some of the civilized habits have been adopted. It is believed that these ascend to heaven in the smoke, and will thus be of service to the owner in the other world. Immediately upon the death of a member of the household, the relatives begin a peculiar wailing, and the immediate members of the family take off their customary apparel and clothe themselves in rags and cut themselves across the arms, breast, and other portions of the body, until sometimes a fond wife or mother faints from loss of blood. This scarification is usually accomplished with a knife, or, as in earlier days, with a flint. Hired mourners are employed at times who are in no way related to the family, but who are accomplished in the art of crying for the dead. These are invariably women. Those nearly related to the departed, cut off the long locks from the entire head, while those more distantly related, or special friends, cut the hair only from one side of the head. In case of the death of a chief, the young warriors also cut the hair, usually from the left side of the head.

After the first few days of continued grief, the mourning is conducted more especially at sunrise and sunset, as the Comanches venerate the sun; and the mourning at these seasons is kept up, if the death occurred in summer, until the leaves fall, or, if in the winter, until they reappear.

It is a matter of some interest to note that the preparation of the corpse and the grave among the Comanches is almost identical with the burial customs of some of the African tribes, and the baling of the body with ropes or cords is a wide and common usage of savage peoples. The hiring of mourners is also a practice which has been very prevalent from remotest periods of time.


The following interesting account of burial among the Pueblo Indians of San Geronimo de Taos, New Mexico, furnished by Judge Anthony Joseph, will show in a manner how civilized customs have become engrafted upon those of a more barbaric nature. It should be remembered that the Pueblo people are next to the Cherokees, Choctaws, and others in the Indian Territory, the most civilized of our tribes.

According to Judge Joseph, these people call themselves Wee-ka-nahs.

These are commonly known to the whites as Piros. The manner of burial by these Indians, both ancient and modern, as far as I can ascertain from information obtained from the most intelligent of the tribe, is that the body of the dead is and has been always buried in the ground in a horizontal position with the flat bottom of the grave. The grave is generally dug out of the ground in the usual and ordinary manner, being about 6 feet deep, 7 feet long, and about 2 feet wide. It is generally finished after receiving its occupant by being leveled with the hard ground around it, never leaving, as is customary with the whites, a mound to mark the spot. This tribe of Pueblo Indians never cremated their dead, as they do not know, even by tradition, that it was ever done or attempted. There are no utensils or implements placed in the grave, but there are a great many Indian ornaments, such as beads of all colors, sea-shells, hawk-bells, round looking-glasses, and a profusion of ribbons of all imaginable colors; then they paint the body with red vermilion and white chalk, giving it a most fantastic as well as ludicrous appearance. They also place a variety of food in the grave as a wise provision for its long journey to the happy hunting-ground beyond the clouds.

The funeral ceremonies of this tribe are very peculiar. First, after death, the body is laid out on a fancy buffalo robe spread out on the ground, then they dress the body in the best possible manner in their style of dress; if a male, they put on his beaded leggins and embroidered saco, and his fancy dancing-moccasins, and his large brass or shell ear-rings; if a female, they put on her best manta or dress, tied around the waist with a silk sash, put on her feet her fancy dancing-moccasins; her rosario around her neck, her brass or shell ear-rings in her ears, and with her tressed black hair tied up with red tape or ribbon, this completes her wardrobe for her long and happy chase. When they get through dressing the body, they place about a dozen lighted candles around it, and keep them burning continually until the body is buried. As soon as the candles are lighted, the veloris, or wake, commences; the body lies in state for about twenty-four hours, and in that time all the friends, relatives, and neighbors of the deceased or “difunti” visit the wake, chant, sing, and pray for the soul of the same, and tell one another of the good deeds and traits of valor and courage manifested by the deceased during his earthly career, and at intervals in their praying, singing, &c., some near relative of the deceased will step up to the corpse and every person in the room commences to cry bitterly and express aloud words of endearment to the deceased and of condolence to the family of the same in their untimely bereavement.

At about midnight supper is announced, and every person in attendance marches out into another room and partakes of a frugal Indian meal, generally composed of wild game; Chile Colorado or red-pepper tortillas, and guayaves, with a good supply of mush and milk, which completes the festive board of the veloris or wake. When the deceased is in good circumstances, the crowd in attendance is treated every little while during the wake to alcoholic refreshments. This feast and feasting is kept up until the Catholic priest arrives to perform the funeral rites.

When the priest arrives, the corpse is done up or rather baled up in a large and well-tanned buffalo robe, and tied around tight with a rope or lasso made for the purpose; then six or eight men act as pall-bearers, conducting the body to the place of burial, which is in front of their church or chapel. The priest conducts the funeral ceremonies in the ordinary and usual way of mortuary proceedings observed by the Catholic church all over the world. While the grave-diggers are filling up the grave, the friends, relatives, neighbors, and, in fact, all persons that attend the funeral, give vent to their sad feelings by making the whole pueblo howl; after the tremendous uproar subsides, they disband and leave the body to rest until Gabriel blows his trumpet. When the ceremonies are performed with all the pomp of the Catholic church, the priest receives a fair compensation for his services; otherwise he officiates for the yearly rents that all the Indians of the pueblo pay him, which amount in the sum total to about $2,000 per annum.

These Pueblo Indians are very strict in their mourning observance, which last for one year after the demise of the deceased. While in mourning for the dead, the mourners do not participate in the national festivities of the tribe, which are occasions of state with them, but they retire into a state of sublime quietude which makes more civilized people sad to observe; but when the term of mourning ceases, at the end of the year, they have high mass said for the benefit of the soul of the departed; after this they again appear upon the arena of their wild sports and continue to be gay and happy until the next mortal is called from this terrestrial sphere to the happy hunting-ground, which is their pictured celestial paradise. The above cited facts, which are the most interesting points connected with the burial customs of the Indians of the pueblo San Geronimo de Taos, are not in the least exaggerated, but are the absolute facts, which I have witnessed myself in many instances for a period of more than twenty years that I have resided but a short distant from said pueblo, and, being a close observer of their peculiar burial customs, am able to give you this true and undisguised information relative to your circular on “burial customs.”

Another example of the care which is taken to prevent the earth coming in contact with the corpse may be found in the account of the burial of the Wichita Indians of Indian Territory, furnished by Dr. Fordyce Grinnell, whose name has already been mentioned in connection with the Comanche customs. The Wichitas call themselves Kitty-ka-tats, or those of the tattooed eyelids.

When a Wichita dies the town-crier goes up and down through the village and announces the fact. Preparations are immediately made for the burial, and the body is taken without delay to the grave prepared for its reception. If the grave is some distance from the village, the body is carried thither on the back of a pony, being first wrapped in blankets and then laid prone, across the saddle, one person walking on either side to support it. The grave is dug from three to four feet deep and of sufficient length for the extended body. First blankets and buffalo-robes are laid in the bottom of the grave, then the body, being taken from the horse and unwrapped, is dressed in its best apparel and with ornaments is placed upon a couch of blankets and robes, with the head towards the west and the feet to the east; the valuables belonging to the deceased are placed with the body in the grave. With the man are deposited his bows and arrows or gun, and with the woman her cooking utensils and other implements of her toil. Over the body sticks are placed six or eight inches deep and grass over these, so that when the earth is filled in, it need not come in contact with the body or its trappings. After the grave is filled with earth, a pen of poles is built around it, or as is frequently the case, stakes are driven so that they cross each other from either side about midway over the grave, thus forming a complete protection from the invasion of wild animals. After all this is done, the grass or other debris is carefully scraped from about the grave for several feet, so that the ground is left smooth and clean. It is seldom the case that the relatives accompany the remains to the grave, but they more often employ others to bury the body for them, usually women. Mourning is similar in this tribe, as in others, and it consists in cutting off the hair, fasting, &c. Horses are also killed at the grave.

The Caddoes, Ascena, or Timber Indians, as they call themselves, follow nearly the same mode of burial as the Wichitas, but one custom prevailing is worthy of mention:

If a Caddo is killed in battle, the body is never buried, but is left to be devoured by beasts or birds of prey, and the condition of such individuals in the other world is considered to be far better than that of persons dying a natural death.

In a work by Bruhier the following remarks, freely translated by the writer, may be found, which note a custom having great similarity to the exposure of bodies to wild beasts mentioned above:

The ancient Persians threw out the bodies of their dead on the roads, and if they were promptly devoured by wild beasts it was esteemed a great honor, a misfortune if not. Sometimes they interred, always wrapping the dead in a wax cloth to prevent odor.

M. Pierre Muret, from whose book Bruhier probably obtained his information, gives at considerable length an account of this peculiar method of treating the dead among the Persians, as follows:

It is a matter of astonishment, considering the Persians have ever had the renown of being one of the most civilized Nations in the world, that notwithstanding they should have used such barbarous customs about the Dead as are set down in the Writings of some Historians; and the rather because at this day there are still to be seen among them those remains of Antiquity, which do fully satisfie us, that their Tombs have been very magnificent. And yet nevertheless, if we will give credit to Procopius and Agathias, the Persians were never wont to bury their Dead Bodies, so far were they from bestowing any Funeral Honours upon them: But, as these Authors tell us, they exposed them stark naked in the open fields, which is the greatest shame our Laws do allot to the most infamous Criminals, by laying them open to the view of all upon the highways: Yea, in their opinion it was a great unhappiness, if either Birds or Beasts did not devour their Carcases; and they commonly made an estimate of the Felicity of these poor Bodies, according as they were sooner or later made a prey of. Concerning these, they resolved that they must needs have been very bad indeed, since even the beasts themselves would not touch them; which caused an extream sorrow to their Relations, they taking it for an ill boding to their Family, and an infallible presage of some great misfortune hanging over their heads; for they persuaded themselves, that the Souls which inhabited those Bodies being dragg’d into Hell, would not fail to come and trouble them; and that being always accompanied with the Devils, their Tormentors, they would certainly give them a great deal of disturbance.

And on the contrary, when these Corpses were presently devoured, their joy was very great, they enlarged themselves in praises of the Deceased; every one esteeming them undoubtedly happy, and came to congratulate their relations on that account: For as they believed assuredly, that they were entered into the Elysian Fields, so they were persuaded, that they would procure the same bliss for all those of their family.

They also took a great delight to see Skeletons and Bones scatered up and down in the fields, whereas we can scarcely endure to see those of Horses and Dogs used so. And these remains of Humane Bodies, (the sight whereof gives us so much horror, that we presently bury them out of our sight, whenever we find them elsewhere than in Charnel-houses or Church-yards) were the occasion of their greatest joy; beecause they concluded from thence the happiness of those that had been devoured, wishing after their Death to meet with the like good luck.

The same author states, and Bruhier corroborates the assertion, that the Parthians, Mèdes, Iberians, Caspians, and a few others, had such a horror and aversion of the corruption and decomposition of the dead, and of their being eaten by worms, that they threw out the bodies into the open fields to be devoured by wild beasts, a part of their belief being that persons so devoured would not be entirely extinct, but enjoy at least a partial sort of life in their living sepulchers. It is quite probable that for these and other reasons the Bactrians and Hircanians trained dogs for this special purpose, called Canes sepulchrales, which received the greatest care and attention, for it was deemed proper that the souls of the deceased should have strong and lusty frames to dwell in.

The Buddhists of Bhotan are said to expose the bodies of their dead on top of high rocks.

According to Tegg, whose work is quoted frequently, in the London Times of January 28, 1876, Mr. Monier Williams writes from Calcutta regarding the “Towers of Silence,” so called, of the Parsees, who, it is well known, are the descendants of the ancient Persians expelled from Persia by the Mohammedan conquerors, and settled at Surat about 1,100 years since. This gentleman’s narrative is freely made use of to show how the custom of the exposure of the dead to birds of prey has continued up to the present time.

The Dakhmas, or Parsee towers of silence, are erected in a garden on the highest point of Malabar Hill, a beautiful, rising ground on one side of Black Bay, noted for the bungalows and compounds of the European and wealthier inhabitants of Bombay scattered in every direction over its surface.

The garden is approached by a well-constructed, private road, all
access to which, except to Parsees, is barred by strong iron gates.

The garden is described as being very beautiful, and he says:

No English nobleman’s garden could be better kept, and no pen could do justice to the glories of its flowering shrubs, cypresses, and palms. It seemed the very ideal, not only of a place of sacred silence, but of peaceful rest.

The towers are five in number, built of hardest black granite, about 40 feet in diameter and 25 in height, and constructed so solidly as almost to resist absolutely the ravages of time. The oldest and smallest of the towers was constructed about 200 years since, when the Parsees first settled in Bombay, and is used only for a certain family. The next oldest was erected in 1756, and the three others during the next century. A sixth tower of square shape stands alone, and is only used for criminals.

The writer proceeds as follows:

Though wholly destitute of ornament and even of the simplest moldings, the parapet of each tower possesses an extraordinary coping, which instantly attracts and fascinates the gaze. It is a coping formed not of dead stone, but of living vultures. These birds, on the occasion of my visit, had settled themselves side by side in perfect order and in a complete circle around the parapets of the towers, with their heads pointing inwards, and so lazily did they sit there, and so motionless was their whole mien, that except for their color, they might have been carved out of the stonework.

No one is allowed to enter the towers except the corpse-bearers, nor is any one permitted within thirty feet of the immediate precincts. A model was shown Mr. Williams, and from it he drew up this description:

Imagine a round column or massive cylinder, 12 or 14 feet high and at least 40 feet in diameter, built throughout of solid stone except in the center, where a well, 5 or 6 feet across, leads down to an excavation under the masonry, containing four drains at right angles to each other, terminated by holes filled with charcoal. Round the upper surface of this solid circular cylinder, and completely hiding the interior from view, is a stone parapet, 10 or 12 feet in height. This it is which, when viewed from the outside, appears to form one piece with the solid stone-work, and being, like it, covered with chunam, gives the whole the appearance of a low tower. The upper surface of the solid stone column is divided into 72 compartments, or open receptacles, radiating like the spokes of a wheel from the central well, and arranged in three concentric rings, separated from each other by narrow ridges of stone, which are grooved to act as channels for conveying all moisture from the receptacles into the well and into the lower drains. It should be noted that the number “3” is emblematical of Zoroaster’s three precepts, and the number “72” of the chapters of his Yasna, a portion of the Zend-Avesta.

Each circle of open stone coffins is divided from the next by a pathway, so that there are three circular pathways, the last encircling the central well, and these three pathways are crossed by another pathway conducting from the solitary door which admits the corpse-bearers from the exterior. In the outermost circle of the stone coffins are placed the bodies of males, in the middle those of the females, and in the inner and smallest circle nearest the well those of children.

While I was engaged with the secretary in examining the model, a sudden stir among the vultures made us raise our heads. At least a hundred birds collected round one of the towers began to show symptoms of excitement, while others swooped down from neighboring trees. The cause of this sudden abandonment of their previous apathy soon revealed itself. A funeral was seen to be approaching. However distant the house of a deceased person, and whether he be rich or poor, high or low in rank, his body is always carried to the towers by the official corpse-bearers, called Nasasalar, who form a distinct class, the mourners walking behind.

Before they remove the body from the house where the relatives are assembled, funeral prayers are recited, and the corpse is exposed to the gaze of a dog, regarded by the Parsees as a sacred animal. This latter ceremony is called sagdid.

Then the body, swathed in a white sheet, is placed in a curved metal trough, open at both ends, and the corpse-bearers, dressed in pure white garments, proceed with it towards the towers. They are followed by the mourners at a distance of at least 30 feet, in pairs, also dressed in white, and each couple joined by holding a white handkerchief between them. The particular funeral I witnessed was that of a child. When the two corpse-bearers reached the path leading by a steep incline to the door of the tower, the mourners, about eight in number, turned back and entered one of the prayer-houses. “There,” said the secretary, “they repeat certain gathas, and pray that the spirit of the deceased may be safely transported, on the fourth day after death, to its final resting-place.”

The tower selected for the present funeral was one in which other members of the same family had before been laid. The two bearers speedily unlocked the door, reverently conveyed the body of the child into the interior, and, unseen by any one, laid it uncovered in one of the open stone receptacles nearest the central well. In two minutes they reappeared with the empty bier and white cloth, and scarcely had they closed the door when a dozen vultures swooped down upon the body and were rapidly followed by others. In five minutes more we saw the satiated birds fly back and lazily settle down again upon the parapet. They had left nothing behind but a skeleton. Meanwhile, the bearers were seen to enter a building shaped like a high barrel. There, as the secretary informed me, they changed their clothes and washed themselves. Shortly afterwards we saw them come out and deposit their cast-off funeral garments in a stone receptacle near at hand. Not a thread leaves the garden, lest it should carry defilement into the city. Perfectly new garments are supplied at each funeral. In a fortnight, or, at most, four weeks, the same bearers return, and, with gloved hands and implements resembling tongs, place the dry skeleton in the central well. There the bones find their last resting-place, and there the dust of whole generations of Parsees commingling is left undisturbed for centuries.

The revolting sight of the gorged vultures made me turn my back on the towers with ill-concealed abhorrence. I asked the secretary how it was possible to become reconciled to such usage. His reply was nearly in the following words: “Our prophet Zoroaster, who lived 6,000 years ago, taught us to regard the elements as symbols of the Deity. Earth, fire, water, he said, ought never, under any circumstances, to be defiled by contact with putrefying flesh. Naked, he said, came we into the world and naked we ought to leave it. But the decaying particles of our bodies should be dissipated as rapidly as possible and in such a way that neither Mother Earth nor the beings she supports should be contaminated in the slightest degree. In fact, our prophet was the greatest of health officers, and, following his sanitary laws, we build our towers on the tops of the hills, above all human habitations. We spare no expense in constructing them of the hardest materials, and we expose our putrescent bodies in open stone receptacles, resting on fourteen feet of solid granite, not necessarily to be consumed by vultures, but to be dissipated in the speediest possible manner and without the possibility of polluting the earth or contaminating a single being dwelling thereon. God, indeed, sends the vultures, and, as a matter of fact, these birds do their appointed work much more expeditiously than millions of insects would do if we committed our bodies to the ground. In a sanitary point of view, nothing can be more perfect than our plan. Even the rain-water which washes our skeletons is conducted by channels into purifying charcoal. Here in these five towers rest the bones of all the Parsees that have lived in Bombay for the last two hundred years. We form a united body in life and we are united in death.”

It would appear that the reasons given for this peculiar mode of disposing of the dead by the Parsee secretary are quite at variance with the ideas advanced by Muret regarding the ancient Persians, and to which allusion has already been made. It might be supposed that somewhat similar motives to those governing the Parsees actuated those of the North American Indians who deposit their dead on scaffolds and trees, but the theory becomes untenable when it is recollected that great care is taken to preserve the dead from the ravages of carnivorous birds, the corpse being carefully enveloped in skins and firmly tied up with ropes or thongs.

Figures 3 and 4 are representations of the Parsee towers of silence, drawn by Mr. Holmes, mainly from the description given.

George Gibbs gives the following account of burial among the Klamath and Trinity Indians of the Northwest coast, the information having been originally furnished him by James G. Swan.

The graves, which are in the immediate vicinity of their houses, exhibit very considerable taste and a laudable care. The dead are inclosed in rude coffins formed by placing four boards around the body, and covered with earth to some depth; a heavy plank, often supported by upright head and foot stones, is laid upon the top, or stones are built up into a wall about a foot above the ground, and the top flagged with others. The graves of the chiefs are surrounded by neat wooden palings, each pale ornamented with a feather from the tail of the bald eagle. Baskets are usually staked down by the side, according to the wealth or popularity of the individual, and sometimes other articles for ornament or use are suspended over them. The funeral ceremonies occupy three days, during which the soul of the deceased is in danger from O-mah-a, or the devil. To preserve it from this peril, a fire is kept up at the grave, and the friends of the deceased howl around it to scare away the demon. Should they not be successful in this the soul is carried down the river, subject, however, to redemption by Peh-ho-wan on payment of a big knife. After the expiration of three days it is all well with them.

The question may well be asked, is the big knife a “sop to Cerberus”?

To Dr. Charles E. McChesney, acting assistant surgeon, United States Army, one of the most conscientious and careful of observers, the writer is indebted for the following interesting account of the mortuary customs of the


A large proportion of these Indians being members of the Presbyterian church (the missionaries of which church have labored among them for more than forty years past), the dead of their families are buried after the customs of that church, and this influence is felt to a great extent among those Indians who are not strict church members, so that they are dropping one by one the traditional customs of their tribe, and but few can now be found who bury their dead in accordance with their customs of twenty or more years ago. The dead of those Indians who still adhere to their modern burial customs are buried in the ways indicated below.

Warrior. After death they paint a warrior red across the mouth, or they paint a hand in black color, with the thumb on one side of the mouth and the fingers separated on the other cheek, the rest of the face being painted red. (This latter is only done as a mark of respect to a specially brave man.) Spears, clubs, and the medicine-bag of the deceased when alive are buried with the body, the medicine-bag being placed on the bare skin over the region of the heart. There is not now, nor has there been, among these Indians any special preparation of the grave. The body of a warrior is generally wrapped in a blanket or piece of cloth (and frequently in addition is placed in a box) and buried in the grave prepared for the purpose, always, as the majority of these Indians inform me, with the head towards the south. (I have, however, seen many graves in which the head of the occupant had been placed to the east. It may be that these graves were those of Indians who belonged to the church; and a few Indians inform me that the head is sometimes placed towards the west, according to the occupant’s belief when alive as to the direction from which his guiding medicine came, and I am personally inclined to give credence to this latter as sometimes occurring.) In all burials, when the person has died a natural death, or had not been murdered, and whether man, woman, or child, the body is placed in the grave with the face up. In cases, however, when a man or woman has been murdered by one of their own tribe, the body was, and is always, placed in the grave with the face down, head to the south, and a piece of fat (bacon or pork) placed in the mouth. This piece of fat is placed in the mouth, as these Indians say, to prevent the spirit of the murdered person driving or scaring the game from that section of country. Those Indians who state that their dead are always buried with the head towards the south say they do so in order that the spirit of the deceased may go to the south, the land from which these Indians believe they originally came.

Women and children. Before death the face of the person expected to die is often painted in a red color. When this is not done before death it is done afterwards; the body being then buried in a grave prepared for its reception, and in the manner described for a warrior, cooking-utensils taking the place of the warrior’s weapons. In cases of boys and girls a kettle of cooked food is sometimes placed at the head of the grave after the body is covered. Now, if the dead body be that of a boy, all the boys of about his age go up and eat of the food, and in cases of girls all the girls do likewise. This, however, has never obtained as a custom, but is sometimes done in cases of warriors and women also.

Cremation has never been practiced by these Indians. It is now, and always has been, a custom among them to remove a lock of hair from the top or scalp lock of a warrior, or from the left side of the head of a woman, which is carefully preserved by some near relative of the deceased, wrapped in pieces of calico and muslin, and hung in the lodge of the deceased and is considered the ghost of the dead person. To the bundle is attached a tin cup or other vessel, and in this is placed some food for the spirit of the dead person. Whenever a stranger happens in at meal time, this food, however, is not allowed to go to waste; if not consumed by the stranger to whom it is offered, some of the occupants of the lodge eat it. They seem to take some pains to please the ghost of the deceased, thinking thereby they will have good luck in their family so long as they continue to do so. It is a custom with the men when they smoke to offer the pipe to the ghost, at the same time asking it to confer some favor on them, or aid them in their work or in hunting, &c.

There is a feast held over this bundle containing the ghost of the deceased, given by the friends of the dead man. This feast may be at any time, and is not at any particular time, occurring, however, generally as often as once a year, unless, at the time of the first feast, the friends designate a particular time, such, for instance, as when the leaves fall, or when the grass comes again. This bundle is never permitted to leave the lodge of the friends of the dead person, except to be buried in the grave of one of them. Much of the property of the deceased person is buried with the body, a portion being placed under the body and a portion over it. Horses are sometimes killed on the grave of a warrior, but this custom is gradually ceasing, in consequence of the value of their ponies. These animals are therefore now generally given away by the person before death, or after death disposed of by the near relatives. Many years ago it was customary to kill one or more ponies at the grave. In cases of more than ordinary wealth for an Indian, much of his personal property is now, and has ever been, reserved from burial with the body, and forms the basis for a gambling party, which will be described hereafter. No food is ever buried in the grave, but some is occasionally placed at the head of it; in which case it is consumed by the friends of the dead person. Such is the method that was in vogue with these Indians twenty years ago, and which is still adhered to, with more or less exactness, by the majority of them, the exceptions being those who are strict church members and those very few families who adhere to their ancient customs.

Before the year 1860 it was a custom, for as long back as the oldest members of these tribes can remember, and with the usual tribal traditions handed down from generation to generation, in regard to this as well as to other things, for these Indians to bury in a tree or on a platform, and in those days an Indian was only buried in the ground as a mark of disrespect in consequence of the person having been murdered, in which case the body would be buried in the ground, face down, head toward the south and with a piece of fat in the mouth. The platform upon which the body was deposited was constructed of four crotched posts firmly set in the ground, and connected near the top by cross-pieces, upon which was placed boards, when obtainable, and small sticks of wood, sometimes hewn so as to give a firm resting-place for the body. This platform had an elevation of from six to eight or more feet, and never contained but one body, although frequently having sufficient surface to accommodate two or three. In burying in the crotch of a tree and on platforms, the head of the dead person was always placed towards the south; the body was wrapped in blankets or pieces of cloth securely tied, and many of the personal effects of the deceased were buried with it; as in the case of a warrior, his bows and arrows, war-clubs, &c., would be placed alongside of the body, the Indians saying he would need such things in the next world.

I am informed by many of them that it was a habit, before their outbreak, for some to carry the body of a near relative whom they held in great respect with them on their moves, for a greater or lesser time, often as long as two or three years before burial. This, however, never obtained generally among them, and some of them seem to know nothing about it. It has of late years been entirely dropped, except when a person dies away from home, it being then customary for the friends to bring the body home for burial.

Mourning ceremonies. The mourning ceremonies before the year 1860 were as follows: After the death of a warrior the whole camp or tribe would be assembled in a circle, and after the widow had cut herself on the arms, legs, and body with a piece of flint, and removed the hair from her head, she would go around the ring any number of times she chose, but each time was considered as an oath that she would not marry for a year, so that she could not marry for as many years as times she went around the circle. The widow would all this time keep up a crying and wailing. Upon the completion of this the friends of the deceased would take the body to the platform or tree where it was to remain, keeping up all this time their wailing and crying. After depositing the body, they would stand under it and continue exhibiting their grief, the squaws by hacking their arms and legs with flint and cutting off the hair from their head. The men would sharpen sticks and run them through the skin of their arms and legs, both men and women keeping up their crying generally for the remainder of the day, and the near relatives of the deceased for several days thereafter. As soon as able, the warrior friends of the deceased would go to a near tribe of their enemies and kill one or more of them if possible, return with their scalps, and exhibit them to the deceased person’s relatives, after which their mourning ceased, their friends considering his death as properly avenged; this, however, was many years ago, when their enemies were within reasonable striking distance, such, for instance, as the Chippewas and the Arickarees, Gros Ventres and Mandan Indians. In cases of women and children, the squaws would cut off their hair, hack their persons with flint, and sharpen sticks and run them through the skin of the arms and legs, crying as for a warrior.

It was an occasional occurrence twenty or more years ago for a squaw when she lost a favorite child to commit suicide by hanging herself with a lariat over the limb of a tree. This could not have prevailed to any great extent, however, although the old men recite several instances of its occurrence, and a very few examples within recent years. Such was their custom before the Minnesota outbreak, since which time it has gradually died out, and at the present time these ancient customs are adhered to by but a single family, known as the seven brothers, who appear to retain all the ancient customs of their tribe. At the present time, as a mourning observance, the squaws hack themselves on their legs with knives, cut off their hair, and cry and wail around the grave of the dead person, and the men in addition paint their faces, but no longer torture themselves by means of sticks passed through the skin of the arms and legs. This cutting and painting is sometimes done before and sometimes after the burial of the body. I also observe that many of the women of these tribes are adopting so much of the customs of the whites as prescribes the wearing of black for certain periods. During the period of mourning these Indians never wash their face, or comb their hair, or laugh. These customs are observed with varying degree of strictness, but not in many instances with that exactness which characterized these Indians before the advent of the white man among them. There is not now any permanent mutilation of the person practiced as a mourning ceremony by them. That mutilation of a finger by removing one or more joints, so generally observed among the Minnetarree Indians at the Fort Berthold, Dak., Agency, is not here seen, although the old men of these tribes inform me that it was an ancient custom among their women, on the occasion of the burial of a husband, to cut off a portion of a finger and have it suspended in the tree above his body. I have, however, yet to see an example of this having been done by any of the Indians now living, and the custom must have fallen into disuse more than seventy years ago.

In regard to the period of mourning, I would say that there does not now appear to be, and, so far as I can learn, never was, any fixed period of mourning, but it would seem that, like some of the whites, they mourn when the subject is brought to their minds by some remark or other occurrence. It is not unusual at the present time to hear a man or woman cry and exclaim, “O, my poor husband!” “O, my poor wife!” or “O, my poor child!” as the case may be, and, upon inquiring, learn that the event happened several years before. I have elsewhere mentioned that in some cases much of the personal property of the deceased was and is reserved from burial with the body, and forms the basis of a gambling party. I shall conclude my remarks upon the burial customs, &c., of these Indians by an account of this, which they designate as the “ghost’s gamble.”

The account of the game will be found in another part of this paper.

As illustrative of the preparation of the dead Indian warrior for the tomb, a translation of Schiller’s beautiful burial song is here given. It is believed to be by Bulwer, and for it the writer is indebted to the kindness of Mr. Benjamin Drew, of Washington, D.C.:


See on his mat, as if of yore,
How lifelike sits he here;
With the same aspect that he wore
When life to him was dear.
But where the right arm’s strength, and where
The breath he used to breathe
To the Great Spirit aloft in air,
The peace-pipe’s lusty wreath?
And where the hawk-like eye, alas!
That wont the deer pursue
Along the waves of rippling grass,
Or fields that shone with dew?
Are these the limber, bounding feet
That swept the winter snows?
What startled deer was half so fleet,
Their speed outstripped the roe’s.
These hands that once the sturdy bow
Could supple from its pride,
How stark and helpless hang they now
Adown the stiffened side!
Yet weal to him! at peace he strays
Where never fall the snows,
Where o’er the meadow springs the maize
That mortal never sows;
Where birds are blithe in every brake,
Where forests teem with deer,
Where glide the fish through every lake,
One chase from year to year!
With spirits now he feasts above;
All left us, to revere
The deeds we cherish with our love,
The rest we bury here.
Here bring the last gifts, loud and shrill
Wail death-dirge of the brave
What pleased him most in life may still
Give pleasure in the grave.
We lay the axe beneath his head
He swung when strength was strong,
The bear on which his hunger fed
The way from earth is long!
And here, new-sharpened, place the knife
Which severed from the clay,
From which the axe had spoiled the life,
The conquered scalp away.
The paints that deck the dead bestow,
Aye, place them in his hand,
That red the kingly shade may glow
Amid the spirit land.

The position in which the body is placed, as mentioned by Dr. McChesney, face upwards, while of common occurrence among most tribes of Indians, is not invariable as a rule, for the writer discovered at a cemetery belonging to an ancient pueblo in the valley of the Chama, near Abiquiu, N. Mex., a number of bodies, all of which had been buried face downward. The account originally appeared in Field and Forest, 1877, vol. iii, N, .

On each side of the town were noticed two small arroyas or water washed ditches, within 30 feet of the walls, and a careful examination of these revealed the objects of our search. At the bottom of the arroyas, which have certainly formed subsequent to the occupation of the village, we found portions of human remains, and following up the walls of the ditch soon had the pleasure of discovering several skeletons in situ. The first found was in the eastern arroya, and the grave in depth was nearly 8 feet below the surface of the mesa. The body had been placed in the grave face downward, the head pointing to the south. Two feet above the skeleton were two shining black earthen vases, containing small bits of charcoal, the bones of mammals, birds, and partially consumed corn, and above these “ollas” the earth to the surface was filled with pieces of charcoal. Doubtless the remains found in the vases served at a funeral feast prior to the inhumation. We examined very carefully this grave, hoping to find some utensils, ornaments, or weapons, but none rewarded our search. In all of the graves examined the bodies were found in similar positions and under similar circumstances in both arroyas, several of the skeletons being those of children. No information could be obtained as to the probable age of these interments, the present Indians considering them as dating from the time when their ancestors with Moctezuma came from the north.

The Coyotero Apaches, according to Dr. W. J. Hoffman, in disposing of their dead, seem to be actuated by the desire to spare themselves any needless trouble, and prepare the defunct and the grave in this manner:

The Coyoteros, upon the death of a member of the tribe, partially wrap up the corpse and deposit it into the cavity left by the removal of a small rock or the stump of a tree. After the body has been crammed into the smallest possible space the rock or stump is again rolled into its former position, when a number of stones are placed around the base to keep out the coyotes. The nearest of kin usually mourn for the period of one month, during that time giving utterance at intervals to the most dismal lamentations, which are apparently sincere. During the day this obligation is frequently neglected or forgotten, but when the mourner is reminded of his duty he renews his howling with evident interest. This custom of mourning for the period of thirty days corresponds to that formerly observed by the Natchez.

Somewhat similar to this rude mode of sepulture is that described in the life of Moses Van Campen, which relates to the Indians formerly inhabiting Pennsylvania:

Directly after, the Indians proceeded to bury those who had fallen in battle, which they did by rolling an old log from its place and laying the body in the hollow thus made, and then heaping upon it a little earth.

As a somewhat curious, if not exceptional, interment, the following account, relating to the Indians of New York, is furnished, by Mr. Franklin B. Hough, who has extracted it from an unpublished journal of the agents of a French company kept in 1794:


Saw Indian graves on the plateau of Independence Rock. The Indians plant a stake on the right side of the head of the deceased and bury them in a bark canoe. Their children come every year to bring provisions to the place where their fathers are buried. One of the graves had fallen in, and we observed in the soil some sticks for stretching skins, the remains of a canoe, &c., and the two straps for carrying it, and near the place where the head lay were the traces of a fire which they had kindled for the soul of the deceased to come and warm itself by and to partake of the food deposited near it.

These were probably the Massasauga Indians, then inhabiting the
north shore of Lake Ontario, but who were rather intruders here, the
country being claimed by the Oneidas.

It is not to be denied that the use of canoes for coffins has occasionally been remarked, for the writer in 1873 removed from the graves at Santa Barbara, California, an entire skeleton which was discovered in a redwood canoe, but it is thought that the individual may have been a noted fisherman, particularly as the implements of his vocation nets, fish-spears, &c. were near him, and this burial was only an exemplification of the well-rooted belief common to all Indians, that the spirit in the next world makes use of the same articles as were employed in this one. It should be added that of the many hundreds of skeletons uncovered at Santa Barbara the one mentioned presented the only example of the kind.

Among the Indians of the Mosquito coast, in Central America, canoe burial in the ground, according to Bancroft, was common, and is thus described:

The corpse is wrapped in cloth and placed in one-half of a pitpan which has been cut in two. Friends assemble for the funeral and drown their grief in mushla, the women giving vent to their sorrow by dashing themselves on the ground until covered with blood, and inflicting other tortures, occasionally even committing suicide. As it is supposed that the evil spirit seeks to obtain possession of the body, musicians are called in to lull it to sleep while preparations are made for its removal. All at once four naked men, who have disguised themselves with paint so as not to be recognized and punished by Wulasha, rush out from a neighboring hut, and, seizing a rope attached to the canoe, drag it into the woods, followed by the music and the crowd. Here the pitpan is lowered into the grave with bow, arrow, spear, paddle, and other implements to serve the departed in the land beyond, then the other half of the boat is placed over the body. A rude hut is constructed over the grave, serving as a receptacle for the choice food, drink, and other articles placed there from time to time by relatives.


These are of considerable interest, not only from their somewhat rare occurrence, except in certain localities, but from the manifest care taken by the survivors to provide for the dead what they considered a suitable resting place. In their construction they resemble somewhat, in the care that is taken to prevent the earth touching the corpse, the class of graves previously described.

A number of cists have been found in Tennessee, and are thus described by Moses Fiske:

There are many burying grounds in West Tennessee with regular graves. They dug them 12 or 18 inches deep, placed slabs at the bottom ends and sides, forming a kind of stone coffin, and, after laying in the body, covered it over with earth.

It may be added that, in 1873, the writer assisted at the opening of a number of graves of men of the reindeer period, near Solutre, in France, and they were almost identical in construction with those described by Mr. Fiske, with the exception that the latter were deeper, this, however, may be accounted for if it is considered how great a deposition of earth may have taken place during the many centuries which have elapsed since the burial. Many of the graves explored by the writer in 1875, at Santa Barbara, resembled somewhat cist graves, the bottom and sides of the pit being lined with large flat stones, but there were none directly over the skeletons.

The next account is by Maj. J. W. Powell, the result of his own observation in Tennessee.

The burial places, or cemeteries are exceedingly abundant throughout the State. Often hundreds of graves may be found on a single hillside. The same people sometimes bury in scattered graves and in mounds the mounds being composed of a large number of cist graves. The graves are increased by additions from time to time. The additions are sometimes placed above and sometimes at the sides of the others. In the first burials there is a tendency to a concentric system with the feet towards the center, but subsequent burials are more irregular, so that the system is finally abandoned before the place is desired for cemetery purposes.

Some other peculiarities are of interest. A larger number of interments exhibit the fact that the bodies were placed there before the decay of the flesh, and in many instances collections of bones are buried. Sometimes these bones are placed in some order about the crania, and sometimes in irregular piles, as if the collection of bones had been emptied from a sack. With men, pipes, stone hammers, knives, arrowheads, &c., were usually found, with women, pottery, rude beads, shells, &c., with children, toys of pottery, beads, curious pebbles, &c.

Sometimes, in the subsequent burials, the side slab of a previous
burial was used as a portion of the second cist. All of the cists
were covered with slabs.

Dr. Jones has given an exceedingly interesting account of the stone graves of Tennessee, in his volume published by the Smithsonian Institution, to which valuable work the reader is referred for a more detailed account of this mode of burial.

G. K. Gilbert, of the United States Geological Survey, informs the writer that in 1878 he had a conversation with an old Moquis chief as to their manner of burial, which is as follows: The body is placed in a receptacle or cist of stone slabs or wood, in a sitting posture, the hands near the knees, and clasping a stick (articles are buried with the dead), and it is supposed that the soul finds its way out of the grave by climbing up the stick, which is allowed to project above the ground after the grave is filled in.

The Indians of Illinois, on the Saline River, according to George Escoll Sellers, inclosed their dead in cists, the description of which is as follows:

Above this bluff, where the spur rises at an angle of about 30 deg., it has been terraced and the terrace as well as the crown of the spur have been used as a cemetery; portions of the terraces are still perfect; all the burials appear to have been made in rude stone cists, that vary in size from 13 inches by 3 feet to 2 feet by 4 feet, and from 18 inches to 2 feet deep. They are made of thin-bedded sandstone slabs, generally roughly shaped, but some of them have been edged and squared with considerable care, particularly the covering slabs. The slope below the terraces was thickly strewed with these slabs, washed out as the terraces have worn away, and which have since been carried off for door-steps and hearth-stones. I have opened many of these cists; they nearly all contain fragments of human bones far gone in decay, but I have never succeeded in securing a perfect skull; even the clay vessels that were interred with the dead have disintegrated, the portions remaining being almost as soft and fragile as the bones. Some of the cists that I explored were paved with valves of fresh-water shells, but most generally with the fragments of the great salt-pans, which in every case are so far gone in decay as to have lost the outside markings. This seems conclusively to couple the tenants of these ancient graves with the makers and users of these salt-pans. The great number of graves and the quantity of slabs that have been washed out prove either a dense population or a long occupancy, or both.

W. J. Owsley, of Fort Hall, Idaho, furnishes the writer with a description of the cist graves of Kentucky, which differ somewhat from other accounts, inasmuch as the graves appeared to be isolated.

I remember that when a school-boy in Kentucky, some twenty-five years ago, of seeing what was called “Indian graves,” and those that I examined were close to small streams of water, and were buried in a sitting or squatting posture and inclosed by rough, flat stones, and were then buried from 1 to 4 feet from the surface. Those graves which I examined, which examination was not very minute, seemed to be isolated, no two being found in the same locality. When the burials took place I could hardly conjecture, but it must have been, from appearances, from fifty to one hundred years. The bones that I took out on first appearance seemed tolerably perfect, but on short exposure to the atmosphere crumbled, and I was unable to save a specimen. No implements or relics were observed in those examined by me, but I have heard of others who have found such. In that State, Kentucky, there are a number of places where the Indians buried their dead and left mounds of earth over the graves, but I have not examined them myself.

According to Bancroft, the Dorachos, an isthmian tribe of Central America, also followed the cist form of burial.

In Veragua the Dorachos had two kinds of tombs, one for the principal men, constructed with flat stones laid together with much care, and in which were placed costly jars and urns filled with food and wine for the dead. Those for the plebians were merely trenches, in which were deposited some gourds of maize and wine, and the place filled with stones. In some parts of Panama and Darien only the chiefs and lords received funeral rites. Among the common people a person feeling his end approaching either went himself or was led to the woods by his wife, family, or friends, who, supplying him with some cake or ears of corn and a gourd of water, then left him to die alone or to be assisted by wild beasts. Others, with more respect for their dead, buried them in sepulchers made with niches, where they placed maize and wine and renewed the same annually. With some, a mother dying while suckling her infant, the living child was placed at her breast and buried with her, in order that in her future state she might continue to nourish it with her milk.


In view of the fact that the subject of mound-burial is so extensive, and that in all probability a volume by a member of the Bureau of Ethnology may shortly be published, it is not deemed advisable to devote any considerable space to it in this paper, but a few interesting examples may be noted to serve as indications to future observers.

The first to which attention is directed is interesting as resembling cist burial combined with deposition in mounds. The communication is from Prof. F. W. Putnam, curator of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology, Cambridge, made to the Boston Society of Natural History, and is published in volume XX of its proceedings, October 15, 1878:

He then stated that it would be of interest to the members, in connection with the discovery of dolmens in Japan, as described by Professor Morse, to know that within twenty-four hours there had been received at the Peabody Museum a small collection of articles taken from rude dolmens (or chambered barrows, as they would be called in England), recently opened by Mr. E. Curtiss, who is now engaged, under his direction, in exploration for the Peabody Museum.

These chambered mounds are situated in the eastern part of Clay County, Missouri, and form a large group on both sides of the Missouri River. The chambers are, in the three opened by Mr. Curtiss, about 8 feet square, and from 4-1/2 to 5 feet high, each chamber having a passage-way several feet in length and 2 in width, leading from the southern side and opening on the edge of the mound formed by covering the chamber and passage-way with earth. The walls of the chambered passages were about 2 feet thick, vertical, and well made of stones, which were evenly laid without clay or mortar of any kind. The top of one of the chambers had a covering of large, flat rocks, but the others seem to have been closed over with wood. The chambers were filled with clay which had been burnt, and appeared as if it had fallen in from above. The inside walls of the chambers also showed signs of fire. Under the burnt clay, in each chamber, were found the remains of several human skeletons, all of which had been burnt to such an extent as to leave but small fragments of the bones, which were mixed with the ashes and charcoal. Mr. Curtiss thought that in one chamber he found the remains of 5 skeletons and in another 13. With these skeletons there were a few flint implements and minute fragments of vessels of clay.

A large mound near the chambered mounds was also opened, but in this no chambers were found. Neither had the bodies been burnt. This mound proved remarkably rich in large flint implements, and also contained well-made pottery and a peculiar “gorget” of red stone. The connection of the people who placed the ashes of their dead in the stone chambers with those who buried their dead in the earth mounds is, of course, yet to be determined.

It is quite possible, indeed probable, that these chambers were used for secondary burials, the bodies having first been cremated.

In the volume of the proceedings already quoted, the same investigator gives an account of other chambered mounds which are, like the preceding, very interesting, the more so as adults only were inhumed therein, children having been buried beneath the dwelling-floors:

Mr. F. W. Putnam occupied the rest of the evening with an account of
his explorations of the ancient mounds and burial places in the
Cumberland Valley, Tennessee.

The excavations had been carried on by himself, assisted by Mr. Edwin Curtiss, for over two years, for the benefit of the Peabody Museum at Cambridge. During this time many mounds of various kinds had been thoroughly explored, and several thousand of the singular stone graves of the mound builders of Tennessee had been carefully opened. Mr. Putnam’s remarks were illustrated by drawings of several hundred objects obtained from the graves and mounds, particularly to show the great variety of articles of pottery and several large and many unique forms of implements of chipped flint. He also exhibited and explained in detail a map of a walled town of this old nation. This town was situated on the Lundsley estate, in a bend of Spring Creek. The earth embankment, with its accompanying ditch, encircled an area of about 12 acres. Within this inclosure there was one large mound with a flat top, 15 feet high, 130 feet long, and 90 feet wide, which was found not to be a burial mound. Another mound near the large one, about 50 feet in diameter, and only a few feet high, contained 60 human skeletons, each in a carefully-made stone grave, the graves being arranged in two rows, forming the four sides of a square, and in three layers. The most important discovery he made within the inclosure was that of finding the remains of the houses of the people who lived in this old town. Of them about 70 were traced out and located on the map by Professor Buchanan, of Lebanon, who made the survey for Mr. Putnam. Under the floors of hard clay, which was in places much burnt, Mr. Putnam found the graves of children. As only the bodies of adults had been placed in the one mound devoted to burial, and as nearly every site of a house he explored had from one to four graves of children under the clay floor, he was convinced that it was a regular custom to bury the children in that way. He also found that the children had undoubtedly been treated with affection, as in their small graves were found many of the best pieces of pottery he obtained, and also quantities of shell-beads, several large pearls, and many other objects which were probably the playthings of the little ones while living.

This cist mode of burial is by no means uncommon in Tennessee, as it is frequently mentioned by writers on North American archaeology.

The examples which follow are specially characteristic, some of them serving to add strength to the theory that mounds were for the most part used for secondary burial, although intrusions were doubtless common.

Caleb Atwater gives this description of the


Near the center of the round fort was a tumulus of earth about 10 feet in height and several rods in diameter at its base. On its eastern side, and extending 6 rods from it, was a semicircular pavement composed of pebbles such as are now found in the bed of the Scioto River, from whence they appear to have been brought. The summit of this tumulus was nearly 30 feet in diameter, and there was a raised way to it, leading from the east, like a modern turnpike. The summit was level. The outline of the semicircular pavement and the walk is still discernible. The earth composing this mound was entirely removed several years since. The writer was present at its removal and carefully examined the contents. It contained

1st. Two human skeletons, lying on what had been the original
surface of the earth.

2d. A great quantity of arrow-heads, some of which were so large as
to induce a belief that they were used as spear-heads.

3d. The handle either of a small sword or a huge knife, made of an elk’s horn. Around the end where the blade had been inserted was a ferule of silver, which, though black, was not much injured by time. Though the handle showed the hole where the blade had been inserted, yet no iron was found, but an oxyde remained of similar shape and size.

4th. Charcoal and wood ashes on which these articles lay, which were surrounded by several bricks very well burnt. The skeleton appeared to have been burned in a large and very hot fire, which had almost consumed the bones of the deceased. This skeleton was deposited a little to the south of the center of the tumulus; and about 20 feet to the north of it was another, with which were

5th. A large mirrour about 3 feet in breadth and 1-1/2 inches in
thickness. This mirrour was of isinglass (mica membranacea), and
on it

6th. A plate of iron which had become an oxyde, but before it was disturbed by the spade resembled a plate of cast iron. The mirrour answered the purpose very well for which it was intended. This skeleton had also been burned like the former, and lay on charcoal and a considerable quantity of wood ashes. A part of the mirrour is in my possession, as well as a piece of brick taken from the spot at the time. The knife or sword handle was sent to Mr. Peal’s Museum, at Philadelphia.

To the southwest of this tumulus, about 40 rods from it, is another, more than 90 feet in height, which is shown on the plate representing these works. It stands on a large hill, which appears to be artificial. This must have been the common cemetery, as it contains an immense number of human skeletons of all sizes and ages. The skeletons are laid horizontally, with their heads generally towards the center and the feet towards the outside of the tumulus. A considerable part of this work still stands uninjured, except by time. In it have been found, besides these skeletons, stone axes and knives, and several ornaments, with holes through them, by means of which, with a cord passing through these perforations, they could be worn by their owners. On the south side of this tumulus, and not far from it, was a semicircular fosse, which, when I first saw it, was 6 feet deep. On opening it was discovered at the bottom a great quantity of human bones, which I am inclined to believe were the remains of those who had been slain in some great and destructive battle: first, because they belonged to persons who had attained their full size, whereas in the mound adjoining were found the skeletons of persons of all ages; and, secondly, they were here in the utmost confusion, as if buried in a hurry. May we not conjecture that they belonged to the people who resided in the town, and who were victorious in the engagement? Otherwise they would not have been thus honorably buried in the common cemetery.

Chillicothe mound. Its perpendicular height was about 15 feet, and the diameter of its base about 60 feet. It was composed of sand and contained human bones belonging to skeletons which were buried in different parts of it. It was not until this pile of earth was removed and the original surface exposed to view that a probable conjecture of its original design could be formed. About 20 feet square of the surface had been leveled and covered with bark. On the center of this lay a human skeleton, over which had been spread a mat manufactured either from weeds or bark. On the breast lay what had been a piece of copper, in the form of a cross, which had now become verdigris. On the breast also lay a stone ornament with two perforations, one near each end, through which passed a string, by means of which it was suspended around the wearer’s neck. On this string, which was made of sinews, and very much injured by time, were placed a great many beads made of ivory or bone, for I cannot certainly say which.

Mounds of stone. Two such mounds have been described already in the county of Perry. Others have been found in various parts of the country. There is one at least in the vicinity of Licking River, not many miles from Newark. There is another on a branch of Hargus’s Creek, a few miles to the northeast of Circleville. There were several not very far from the town of Chillicothe. If these mounds were sometimes used as cemeteries of distinguished persons, they were also used as monuments with a view of perpetuating the recollection of some great transaction or event. In the former not more generally than one or two skeletons are found; in the latter none. These mounds are like those of earth, in form of a cone, composed of small stones on which no marks of tools were visible. In them some of the most interesting articles are found, such as urns, ornaments of copper, heads of spears, &c., of the same metal, as well as medals of copper and pickaxes of horneblende; works of this class, compared with those of earth, are few, and they are none of them as large as the mounds at Grave Creek, in the town of Circleville, which belong to the first class. I saw one of these stone tumuli which had been piled on the surface of the earth on the spot where three skeletons had been buried in stone coffins, beneath the surface. It was situated on the western edge of the hill on which the “walled town” stood, on Paint Creek. The graves appear to have been dug to about the depth of ours in the present times. After the bottom and sides were lined with thin flat stones, the corpses were placed in these graves in an eastern and western direction, and large flat stones were laid over the graves; then the earth which had been dug out of the graves was thrown over them. A huge pile of stones was placed over the whole. It is quite probable, however, that this was a work of our present race of Indians. Such graves are more common in Kentucky than Ohio. No article, except the skeletons, was found in these graves; and the skeletons resembled very much the present race of Indians.

The mounds of Sterling County, Illinois, are described by W. C. Holbrook as follows:

I recently made an examination of a few of the many Indian mounds found on Rock River, about two miles above Sterling, Ill. The first one opened was an oval mound about 20 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 7 feet high. In the interior of this I found a dolmen or quadrilateral wall about 10 feet long, 4 feet high, and 4-1/2 feet wide. It had been built of lime-rock from a quarry near by, and was covered with large flat stones. No mortar or cement had been used. The whole structure rested on the surface of the natural soil, the interior of which had been scooped out to enlarge the chamber. Inside of the dolmen I found the partly decayed remains of eight human skeletons, two very large teeth of an unknown animal, two fossils, one of which is not found in this place, and a plummet. One of the long bones had been splintered; the fragments had united, but there remained large morbid growths of bone (exostosis) in several places. One of the skulls presented a circular opening about the size of a silver dime. This perforation had been made during life, for the edges had commenced to cicatrize. I later examined three circular mounds, but in them I found no dolmens. The first mound contained three adult human skeletons, a few fragments of the skeleton of a child, the lower maxillary of which indicated it to be about six years old. I also found claws of some carnivorous animal. The surface of the soil had been scooped out and the bodies laid in the excavation and covered with about a foot of earth; fires had then been made upon the grave and the mound afterwards completed. The bones had not been charred. No charcoal was found among the bones, but occurred in abundance in a stratum about one foot above them. Two other mounds, examined at the same time, contain no remains.

Of two other mounds, opened later, the first was circular, about 4 feet high, and 15 feet in diameter at the base, and was situated on an elevated point of land close to the bank of the river. From the top of this mound one might view the country for many miles in almost any direction. On its summit was an oval altar 6 feet long and 4-1/2 wide. It was composed of flat pieces of limestone, which had been burned red, some portions having been almost converted into lime. On and about this altar I found abundance of charcoal. At the sides of the altar were fragments of human bones, some of which had been charred. It was covered by a natural growth of vegetable mold and sod, the thickness of which was about 10 inches. Large trees had once grown in this vegetable mold, but their stumps were so decayed I could not tell with certainty; to what species they belonged. Another large mound was opened which contained nothing.

The next account relates to the grave-mounds near Pensacola, Fla., and was originally published by Dr. George M. Sternberg, surgeon United States Army:

Before visiting the mound I was informed that the Indians were buried in it in an upright position, each one with a clay pot on his head. This idea was based upon some superficial explorations which had been made from time to time by curiosity hunters. Their excavations had, indeed, brought to light pots containing fragments of skulls, but not buried in the position they imagined. Very extensive explorations, made at different times by myself, have shown that only fragments of skulls and of the long bones of the body are to be found in the mound, and that these are commonly associated with earthen pots, sometimes whole, but more frequently broken fragments only. In some instances portions of the skull were placed in a pot, and the long bones were deposited in its immediate vicinity. Again, the pots would contain only sand, and fragments of bones would be found near them. The most successful “find” I made was a whole nest of pots, to the number of half a dozen, all in a good state of preservation, and buried with a fragment of skull, which I take, from its small size, to have been that of a female. Whether this female was thus distinguished above all others buried in the mound by the number of pots deposited with her remains because of her skill in the manufacture of such ware, or by reason of the unusual wealth of her sorrowing husband, must remain a matter of conjecture. I found, altogether, fragments of skulls and thigh-bones belonging to at least fifty individuals, but in no instance did I find anything like a complete skeleton. There were no vertebrae, no ribs, no pelvic bones, and none of the small bones of the hands and feet. Two or three skulls, nearly perfect, were found, but they were so fragile that it was impossible to preserve them. In the majority of instances, only fragments of the frontal and parietal bones were found, buried in pots or in fragments of pots too small to have ever contained a complete skull. The conclusion was irresistible that this was not a burial-place for the bodies of deceased Indians, but that the bones had been gathered from some other locality for burial in this mound, or that cremation was practiced before burial, and the fragments of bone not consumed by fire were gathered and deposited in the mound. That the latter supposition is the correct one I deem probable from the fact that in digging in the mound evidences of fire are found in numerous places, but without any regularity as to depth and position. These evidences consist in strata of from one to four inches in thickness, in which the sand is of a dark color and has mixed with it numerous small fragments of charcoal.

My theory is that the mound was built by gradual accretion in the following manner: That when a death occurred a funeral pyre was erected on the mound, upon which the body was placed. That after the body was consumed, any fragments of bones remaining were gathered, placed in a pot, and buried, and that the ashes and cinders were covered by a layer of sand brought from the immediate vicinity for that purpose. This view is further supported by the fact that only the shafts of the long bones are found, the expanded extremities, which would be most easily consumed, having disappeared; also, by the fact that no bones of children were found. Their bones being smaller, and containing a less proportion of earthy matter, would be entirely consumed.

At the Santa Rosa mound the method of burial was different. Here I found the skeletons complete, and obtained nine well-preserved skulls. The bodies were not, apparently, deposited upon any regular system, and I found no objects of interest associated with the remains. It may be that this was due to the fact that the skeletons found were those of warriors who had fallen in battle in which they had sustained defeat. This view is supported by the fact that they were all males, and that two of the skulls bore marks of ante-mortem injuries which must have been of a fatal character.

Writing of the Choctaws, Bartram, in alluding to the ossuary, or bone-house, mentions that so soon as this is filled a general inhumation takes place, in this manner:

Then the respective coffins are borne by the nearest relatives of the deceased to the place of interment, where they are all piled one upon another in the form of a pyramid, and the conical hill of earth heaped above.

The funeral ceremonies are concluded with the solemnization of a
festival called the feast of the dead.

Florian Gianque, of Cincinnati, Ohio, furnishes an account of a somewhat curious mound-burial which had taken place in the Miami Valley of Ohio:

A mound was opened in this locality, some years ago, containing a central corpse in a sitting posture, and over thirty skeletons buried around it in a circle, also in a sitting posture, but leaning against one another, tipped over towards the right, facing inwards. I did not see this opened, but have seen the mounds and many ornaments, awls, &c., said to have been found near the central body. The parties informing me are trustworthy.

As an example of interment, unique, so far as known, and interesting as being sui generis, the following description by Dr. J. Mason Spainhour, of Lenoir, N.C., of an excavation made by him March 11, 1871, on the farm of R. V. Michaux, esq., near John’s River, in Burke County, N.C., is given. The author bears the reputation of an observer of undoubted integrity, whose facts as given may not be doubted:


In a conversation with Mr. Michaux on Indian curiosities, he informed me that there was an Indian mound on his farm which was formerly of considerable height, but had gradually been plowed down; that several mounds in the neighborhood had been excavated, and nothing of interest found in them. I asked permission to examine this mound, which was granted, and upon investigation the following facts were revealed:

Upon reaching the place, I sharpened a stick 4 or 5 feet in length and ran it down in the earth at several places, and finally struck a rock about 18 inches below the surface, which, on digging down, was found to be smooth on top, lying horizontally upon solid earth, about 18 inches above the bottom of the grave, 18 inches in length, and 16 inches in width, and from 2 to 3 inches in thickness, with the corners rounded.

Not finding anything under this rock, I then made an excavation in the south of the grave, and soon struck another rock, which, upon examination, proved to be in front of the remains of a human skeleton in a sitting posture. The bones of the fingers of the right hand were resting on this rock, and on the rock near the hand was a small stone about 5 inches long, resembling a tomahawk or Indian hatchet. Upon a further examination many of the bones were found, though in a very decomposed condition, and upon exposure to the air soon crumbled to pieces. The heads of the bones, a considerable portion of the skull, maxillary bones, teeth, neck bones, and the vertebra, were in their proper places, though the weight of the earth above them had driven them down, yet the entire frame was so perfect that it was an easy matter to trace all the bones; the bones of the cranium were slightly inclined toward the east. Around the neck were found coarse beads that seemed to be of some hard substance and resembled chalk. A small lump of red paint about the size of an egg was found near the right side of this skeleton. The sutures of the cranium indicated the subject to have been 25 or 28 years of age, and its top rested about 12 inches below the mark of the plow.

I made a farther excavation toward the west of this grave and found another skeleton, similar to the first, in a sitting posture, facing the east. A rock was on the right, on which the bones of the right hand were resting, and on this rock was a tomahawk which had been about 7 inches in length, but was broken into two pieces, and was much better finished than the first. Beads were also around the neck of this one, but were much smaller and of finer quality than those on the neck of the first. The material, however, seems to be the same. A much larger amount of paint was found by the side of this than the first. The bones indicated a person of large frame, who, I think, was about 50 years of age. Everything about this one had the appearance of superiority over the first. The top of the skull was about 6 inches below the mark of the plane.

I continued the examination, and, after diligent search, found nothing at the north side of the grave; but, on reaching the east, found another skeleton, in the same posture as the others, facing the west. On the right side of this was a rock on which the bones of the right hand were resting, and on the rock was also a tomahawk, which had been about 8 inches in length, but was broken into three pieces, and was composed of much better material, and better finished than the others. Beads were also found on the neck of this, but much smaller and finer than those of the others. A larger amount of paint than both of the others was found near this one. The top of the cranium had been moved by the plow. The bones indicated a person of 40 years of age.

There was no appearance of hair discovered; besides, the smaller bones were almost entirely decomposed, and would crumble when taken from their bed in the earth. These two circumstances, coupled with the fact that the farm on which this grave was found was the first settled in that part of the country, the date of the first deed made from Lord Granville to John Perkins running back about 150 years (the land still belonging to the descendants of the same family that first occupied it), would prove beyond doubt that it is a very old grave.

The grave was situated due east and west, in size about 9 by 6 feet, the line being distinctly marked by the difference in the color of the soil. It was dug in rich, black loam, and filled around the bodies with white or yellow sand, which I suppose was carried from the river-bank, 200 yards distant. The skeletons approximated the walls of the grave, and contiguous to them was a dark-colored earth, and so decidedly different was this from all surrounding it, both in quality and odor, that the line of the bodies could be readily traced. The odor of this decomposed earth, which had been flesh, was similar to clotted blood, and would adhere in lumps when compressed in the hand.

This was not the grave of the Indian warriors; in those we find pots made of earth or stone, and all the implements of war, for the warrior had an idea that after he arose from the dead he would need, in the “hunting-grounds beyond,” his bow and arrow, war-hatchet, and scalping-knife.

The facts set forth will doubtless convince every Mason who will carefully read the account of this remarkable burial that the American Indians were in possession of at least some of the mysteries of our order, and that it was evidently the grave of Masons, and the three highest officers in a Masonic lodge. The grave was situated due east and west; an altar was erected in the center; the south, west, and east were occupied the north was not; implements of authority were near each body. The difference in the quality of the beads, the tomahawks in one, two, and three pieces, and the difference in distance that the bodies were placed from the surface, indicate beyond doubt that these three persons had been buried by Masons, and those, too, that understood what they were doing.

Will some learned Mason unravel this mystery and inform the Masonic
world how the Indians obtained so much Masonic information?

The tomahawks, maxillary bones, some of the teeth, beads, and other bones, have been forwarded to the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D.C., to be placed among the archives of that institution for exhibition, at which place they may be seen.

Should Dr. Spainhour’s inferences be incorrect, there is still a remarkable coincidence of circumstances patent to every Mason.

In support of this gentleman’s views, attention is called to the description of the Midawan a ceremony of initiation for would-be medicine men in Schoolcraft’s History of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1855, , relating to the Sioux and Chippewas. In this account are found certain forms and resemblances which have led some to believe that the Indians possessed a knowledge of Masonry.


While there is a certain degree of similitude between the above-noted methods and the one to be mentioned subsequently lodge burial they differ, inasmuch as the latter are examples of surface or aerial burial, and must consequently fall under another caption. The narratives which are now to be given afford a clear idea of the former kinds of burial.

Bartram relates the following regarding the Muscogulges of the Carolinas:

The Muscogulges bury their deceased in the earth; they dig a four-foot, square, deep pit under the cabin, or couch which the deceased laid on in his house, lining the grave with cypress bark, when they place the corpse in a sitting posture, as if it were alive, depositing with him his gun, tomahawk, pipe, and such other matters as he had the greatest value for in his lifetime. His oldest wife, or the queen dowager, has the second choice of his possessions, and the remaining effects are divided among his other wives and children.

According to Bernard Roman, the “funeral customs of the Chickasaws did not differ materially from those of the Muscogulges. They interred the dead as soon as the breath left the body, and beneath the couch in which the deceased expired.”

The Navajos of New Mexico and Arizona, a tribe living a considerable distance from the Chickasaws, follow somewhat similar customs, as related by Dr. John Menard, formerly a physician to their agency:

The Navajo custom is to leave the body where it dies, closing up the house or hogan or covering the body with stones or brush. In case the body is removed, it is taken to a cleft in the rocks and thrown in, and stones piled over. The person touching or carrying the body first takes off all his clothes and afterwards washes his body with water before putting them on or mingling with the living. When a body is removed from a house or hogan, the hogan is burned down, and the place in every case abandoned, as the belief is that the devil comes to the place of death and remains where a dead body is. Wild animals frequently (indeed, generally) get the bodies, and it is a very easy matter to pick up skulls and bones around old camping grounds, or where the dead are laid. In case it is not desirable to abandon a place, the sick person is left out in some lone spot protected by brush, where they are either abandoned to their fate or food brought to them until they die. This is done only when all hope is gone. I have found bodies thus left so well inclosed with brush that wild animals were unable to get at them; and one so left to die was revived by a cup of coffee from our house and is still living and well.

Lieut. George E. Ford, Third United States Cavalry, in a personal communication to the writer, corroborates the account given by Dr. Menard, as follows:

This tribe, numbering about 8,000 souls, occupy a reservation in the extreme northwestern corner of New Mexico and Northeastern Arizona. The funeral ceremonies of the Navajos are of the most simple character. They ascribe the death of an individual to the direct action of Chinde, or the devil, and believe that he remains in the vicinity of the dead. For this reason, as soon as a member of the tribe dies a shallow grave is dug within the hogan or dwelling by one of the near male relatives, and into this the corpse is unceremoniously tumbled by the relatives, who have previously protected themselves from the evil influence by smearing their naked bodies with tar from the piñón tree. After the body has thus been disposed of, the hogan (composed of logs and branches of trees covered with earth) is pulled down over it and the place deserted. Should the deceased have no near relatives or was of no importance in the tribe, the formality of digging a grave is dispensed with, the hogan being simply leveled over the body. This carelessness does not appear to arise from want of natural affection for the dead, but fear of the evil influence of Chinde upon the surviving relatives causes them to avoid doing anything that might gain for them his ill-will. A Navajo would freeze sooner than make a fire of the logs of a fallen hogan, even though from all appearances it may have been years in that condition. There are no mourning observances other than smearing the forehead and under the eyes with tar, which is allowed to remain until worn off, and then not renewed. The deceased is apparently forgotten, as his name is never spoken by the survivors for fear of giving offense to Chinde.

J. L. Burchard, agent to the Round Valley Indians, of California, furnishes an account of burial somewhat resembling that of the Navajos:

When I first came here the Indians would dig a round hole in the ground, draw up the knees of the deceased Indian, and wrap the body into as small a bulk as possible in blankets, tie them firmly with cords, place them in the grave, throw in beads, baskets, clothing, everything owned by the deceased, and often donating much extra; all gathered around the grave wailing most pitifully, tearing their faces with their nails till the blood would run down their cheeks, pull out their hair, and such other heathenish conduct. These burials were generally made under their thatch houses or very near thereto. The house where one died was always torn down, removed, rebuilt, or abandoned. The wailing, talks, &c., were in their own jargon; none else could understand, and they seemingly knew but little of its meaning (if there was any meaning in it); it simply seemed to be the promptings of grief, without sufficient intelligence to direct any ceremony; each seemed to act out his own impulse.

The next account, taken from M. Butel de Dumont, relating to the Paskagoulas and Billoxis of Louisiana, may be considered as an example of burial in houses, although the author of the work was pleased to consider the receptacles as temples.

Les Paskagoulas et les Billoxis n’enterent point leur Chef, lorsqu’il est décède; maïs-ils font sécher son cadavre au feu et a la fumee de façon qu’ils en font un vrai squelette. Âpres l’avoir reduit en cet état, ils portent au Temple (car ils en ont un ainsi que les Natchez), et mettent a la place de son prédécesseur, qu’ils tirent de l’endroit qu’il occupoit, pour porter avec les corps de leurs autres Chefs dans fond du Temple ils sont tous ranges de suite dresses sur leurs pieds comme des statues. A l’egard du dernier mort, il est expose a l’entree de ce Temple sur une espèce d’autel de table faîte de cannes, et couverte d’une natte très-fine travaillee fort proprement en quarreaux rouges et jaunes avec la peau de ces mêmes cannes. Le cadavre du Chef est expose au milieu de cette table droit sur ses pieds, soutenu par derriere par une longue perche peinte en rouge dont bout passe au dessus de sa tete, et a laquelle il est attache par milieu du corps avec une liane. D’une main il tient un casse-tete une petite hache, de l’autre un pipe; et au-dessus de sa tete, est attache au bout de la perche qui soutient, Calumet plus fameux de tous ceux qui lui ont été presentes pendant sa vie. Du reste cette table n’est guères élevée de terre que d’un demi-pied; maïs elle a au moins six pieds de large et dix de longueur.

C’est sur cette table qu’on vient tous les jours servir a manger a ce Chef mort en mettant devant lui des plats de sagamite, du bled grole boucane, &c. C’est-la aussi qu’au commencement de toutes les recoltes ses Sujets vont lui offrir les premiers de tous les fruits qu’ils peuvent recueillir. Tout ce qui lui est présente de la sorte reste sur cette table; et comme la porte de ce Temple est toujours ouverte, qu’il n’y a personne prépose pour y veiller, que par consequent y entre qui veut, et que d’ailleurs il est éloigne du Village d’un grand quart de lieue, il arrive que ce sont ordinairement des Etrangers, Chasseurs Sauvages, qui profitent de ces mets et de ces fruits, qu’ils sont consommes par les animaux. Mais cela est egal a ces sauvages; et moins il en reste lorsqu’ils retournent lendemain, plus ils sont dans la joie, disant que leur Chef a bien mange, et que par consequent il est content d’eux quoiqu’il les ait abandonnes. Pour leur ouvrir les yeux sur l’extravagance de cette pratique, on a beau leur representer ce qu’ils ne peuvent s’empecher de voir eux-mêmes, que ce n’est point ce mort qui mange; ils repondent que si ce n’est pas lui, c’est toujours lui au moins qui offre a qui il lui plait ce qui a été mis sur la table; qu’apres tout c’etoit la la pratique de leur pere, de leur mere, de leurs parens; qu’ils n’ont pas plus d’esprit qu’eux, et qu’ils ne sauroient mieux faire que de suivre leur example.

C’est aussi devant cette table, que pendant quelques mois la veuve du Chef, ses enfans, ses plus proches parens, viennent de tems en tems lui rendre visite et lui faire leur harangue, comme s’il etoit en état de les entendre. Les uns lui demandent pourquoi il s’est laisse mourir avant eux? d’autres lui disent que s’il est mort ce n’est point leur faute; que c’est lui meme qui s’est tue par telle débauche on par tel effort; enfin s’il y a eu quelque défaut dans son gouvernement, on prend ce tems-la pour lui reprocher. Cependant ils finissent toujours leur harangue, en lui disant de n’etre pas fâche contre eux, de bien manger, et qu’ils auront toujours bien soin de lui.

Another example of burial in houses may be found in vol. vi of the publications of the Hakluyt Society, 1849, , taken from Strachey’s Virginia. It is given more as a curious narrative of an early writer on American ethnology than for any intrinsic value it may possess as a truthful relation of actual events. It relates to the Indians of Virginia:

Within the chauncell of the temple, by the Okens, are the cenotaphies or the monuments of their kings, whose bodyes, so soon as they be dead, they embowell, and, scraping the flesh from off the bones, they dry the same upon hurdells into ashes, which they put into little potts (like the anncyent urnes): the annathomy of the bones they bind together or case up in leather, hanging braceletts, or chaines of copper, beads, pearle, or such like, as they used to wear about most of their joints and neck, and so repose the body upon a little scaffold (as upon a tomb), laying by the dead bodies’ feet all his riches in severall basketts, his apook, and pipe, and any one toy, which in his life he held most deare in his fancy; their inwards they stuff with pearle, copper, beads, and such trash, sowed in a skynne, which they overlapp againe very carefully in whit skynnes one or two, and the bodyes thus dressed lastly they rowle in matte, as for wynding sheets, and so lay them orderly one by one, as they dye in their turnes, upon an arche standing (as aforesaid) for the tomb, and thés are all the ceremonies we yet can learne that they give unto their dead. We heare of no sweet oyles or oyntments that they use to dresse or chest their dead bodies with; albeit they want not of the pretious rozzin running out of the great cedar, wherewith in the old time they used to embalme dead bodies, washing them in the oyle and licoure thereof. Only to the priests the care of these temples and holy interments are committed, and these temples are to them as solitary Asseteria colledged or ministers to exercise themselves in contemplation, for they are seldome out of them, and therefore often lye in them and maynteyne contynuall fier in the same, upon a hearth somewhat neere the east end.

For their ordinary burialls they digg a deepe hole in the earth with sharpe stakes, and the corps being lapped in skynns and matts with their jewells, they laye uppon sticks in the ground, and soe cover them with earth; the buryall ended, the women (being painted all their faces with black coale and oyle) do sitt twenty-four howers in their howses, mourning and lamenting by turnes, with such yelling and howling as may expresse their great passions.

While this description brings the subject under the head before given house burial at the same time it might also afford an example of embalmment or mummifying.

Figure 1 may be referred to as a probable representation of the temple or charnel-house described.

The modes of burial described in the foregoing accounts are not to be considered rare; for among certain tribes in Africa similar practices prevailed. For instance, the Bari of Central Africa, according to the Rev. J. G. Wood, bury their dead within the inclosure of the home-stead, fix a pole in the ground, and fasten to it certain emblems. The Apingi, according to the same author, permit the corpse to remain in its dwelling until it falls to pieces. The bones are then collected and deposited on the ground a short distance from the village. The Latookas bury within the inclosure of a man’s house, although the bones are subsequently removed, placed in an earthen jar, and deposited outside the village. The Kaffirs bury their head-men within the cattle inclosure, the graves of the common people being made outside, and the Bechuanas follow the same general plan.

The following description of Damara burial, from the work quoted above , is added as containing an account of certain details which resemble somewhat those followed by North American Indians. In the narrative it will be seen that house burial was followed only if specially desired by the expiring person:

When a Damara chief dies, he is buried in rather a peculiar fashion. As soon as life is extinct some say even before the last breath is drawn the bystanders break the spine by a blow from a large stone. They then unwind the long rope that encircles the loins, and lash the body together in a sitting posture, the head being bent over the knees. Ox-hides are then tied over it, and it is buried with its face to the north, as already described when treating of the Bechuanas. Cattle are then slaughtered in honor of the dead chief, and over the grave a post is erected, to which the skulls and hair are attached as a trophy. The bow, arrows, assagai, and clubs of the deceased are hung on the same post. Large stones are pressed into the soil above and around the grave, and a large pile of thorns is also heaped over it, in order to keep off the hyenas, who would be sure to dig up and devour the body before the following day. The grave of a Damara chief is represented on page 302. Now and then a chief orders that his body shall be left in his own house, in which case it is laid on an elevated platform, and a strong fence of thorns and stakes built round the hut.

The funeral ceremonies being completed, the new chief forsakes the place and takes the 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 assisted in placing dead members of his tribe. He described it in detail and drew a rough diagram of its position and appearance within. He was asked if an entrance could be effected, and replied that he thought not, as some years previous his people had stopped up the narrow entrance to prevent game from seeking a refuge in its vast vaults, for he asserted that it was so large and extended so far under ground that no man knew its full extent. In consideration, however, of a very liberal bribe, after many refusals, he agreed to act as guide. A rough ride of over an hour and the desired spot was reached. It was found to be almost upon the apex of a small mountain apparently of volcanic origin, for the hole which was pointed out appeared to have been the vent of the crater. This entrance was irregularly circular in form and descended at an angle. As the Indian had stated, it was completely stopped up with large stones and roots of sage brash, and it was only after six hours of uninterrupted, faithful labor that the attempt to explore was abandoned. The guide was asked if many bodies were therein, and replied “Heaps, heaps,” moving the hands upwards as far they could be stretched. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information received, as it was voluntarily imparted.

In a communication received from Dr. A. J. McDonald, physician to the Los Piños Indian Agency, Colorado, a description is given of crevice or rock-fissure burial, which follows:

As soon as death takes place the event is at once announced by the medicine man, and without loss of time the squaws are busily engaged in preparing the corpse for the grave. This does not take long; whatever articles of clothing may have been on the body at the time of death are not removed. The dead man’s limbs are straightened out, his weapons of war laid by his side, and his robes and blankets wrapped securely and snugly around him, and now everything is ready for burial. It is the custom to secure if possible, for the purpose of wrapping up the corpse, the robes and blankets in which the Indian died. At the same time that the body is being fitted for internment, the squaws having immediate care of it, together with all the other squaws in the neighborhood, keep up a continued chant or dirge, the dismal cadence of which may, when the congregation of women is large, be heard for quite a long distance. The death song is not a mere inarticulate howl of distress; it embraces expressions eulogistic in character, but whether or not any particular formula of words is adopted on such occasion is a question which I am unable, with the materials at my disposal, to determine with any degree of certainty.

The next duty falling to the lot of the squaws is that of placing the dead man on a horse and conducting the remains to the spot chosen for burial. This is in the cleft of a rock, and, so far as can be ascertained, it has always been customary among the Utes to select sepulchers of this character. From descriptions given by Mr. Harris, who has several times been fortunate enough to discover remains, it would appear that no superstitious ideas are held by this tribe with respect to the position in which the body is placed, the space accommodation of the sepulcher probably regulating this matter; and from the same source I learn that it is not usual to find the remains of more than one Indian deposited in one grave. After the body has been received into the cleft, it is well covered with pieces of rock, to protect it against the ravages of wild animals. The chant ceases, the squaws disperse, and the burial ceremonies are at an end. The men during all this time have not been idle, though they have in no way participated in the preparation of the body, have not joined the squaws in chanting praises to the memory of the dead, and have not even as mere spectators attended the funeral, yet they have had their duties to perform. In conformity with a long-established custom, all the personal property of the deceased is immediately destroyed. His horses and his cattle are shot, and his wigwam, furniture, &c., burned. The performance of this part of the ceremonies is assigned to the men; a duty quite in accord with their taste and inclinations. Occasionally the destruction of horses and other properly is of considerable magnitude, but usually this is not the case, owing to a practice existing with them of distributing their property among their children while they are of a very tender age, retaining to themselves only what is necessary to meet every-day requirements.

The widow “goes into mourning” by smearing her face with a substance composed of pitch and charcoal. The application is made but once, and is allowed to remain on until it wears off. This is the only mourning observance of which I have any knowledge.

The ceremonies observed on the death of a female are the same as those in the case of a male, except that no destruction of property takes place, and of course no weapons are deposited with the corpse. Should a youth die while under the superintendence of white men, the Indians will not as a rôle have anything to do with the interment of the body. In a case of the kind which occurred at this agency some time ago, the squaws prepared the body in the usual manner; the men of the tribe selected a spot for the burial, and the employee at the agency, after digging a grave and depositing the corpse therein, filled it up according to the fashion of civilized people, and then at the request of the Indians rolled large fragments of rocks on top. Great anxiety was exhibited by the Indians to have the employes perform the service as expeditiously as possible.

Within the past year Ouray, the Ute chief living at the Los Piños agency, died and was buried, so far as could be ascertained, in a rock fissure or cave 7 or 8 miles from the agency.

An interesting cave in Calaveras County, California, which had been used for burial purposes, is thus described by Prof. J. D. Whitney:

The following is an account of the cave from which the skulls, now in the Smithsonian collection, were taken: It is near the Stanislaus River, in Calaveras County, on a nameless creek, about two miles from Abbey’s Ferry, on the road to Vallicito, at the house of Mr. Robinson. There were two or three persons with me, who had been to the place before and knew that the skulls in question were taken from it. Their visit was some ten years ago, and since that the condition of things in the cave has greatly changed. Owing to some alteration in the road, mining operations, or some other cause which I could not ascertain, there has accumulated on the formerly clean stalagmitic floor of the cave a thickness of some 20 feet of surface earth that completely conceals the bottom, and which could not be removed without considerable expense. This cave is about 27 feet deep at the mouth and 40 to 50 feet at the end, and perhaps 30 feet in diameter. It is the general opinion of those who have noticed this cave and saw it years ago that it was a burying-place of the present Indians. Dr. Jones said he found remains of bows and arrows and charcoal with the skulls he obtained, and which were destroyed at the time the village of Murphy’s was burned. All the people spoke of the skulls as lying on the surface and not as buried in the stalagmite.

The next description of cave burial, by W. H. Dall, is so remarkable that it seems worthy of admittance to this paper. It relates probably to the Innuits of Alaska.

The earliest remains of man found in Alaska up to the time of writing I refer to this epoch [Echinus layer of Dall]. There are some crania found by us in the lowermost part of the Amaknak cave and a cranium obtained at Adakh, near the anchorage in the Bay of Islands. These were deposited in a remarkable manner, precisely similar to that adopted by most of the continental Innuit, but equally different from the modern Aleut fashion. At the Amaknak cave we found what at first appeared to be a wooden inclosure, but which proved to be made of the very much decayed supra-maxillary bones of some large cetacean. These were arranged so as to form a rude rectangular inclosure covered over with similar pieces of bone. This was somewhat less than 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 18 inches deep. The bottom was formed of flat pieces of stone. Three such were found close together, covered with and filled by an accumulation of fine vegetable and organic mold. In each was the remains of a skeleton in the last stages of decay. It had evidently been tied up in the Innuit fashion to get it into its narrow house, but all the bones, with the exception of the skull, were minced to a soft paste, or even entirely gone. At Adakh a fancy prompted me to dig into a small knoll near the ancient shell-heap, and here we found, in a precisely similar sarcophagus, the remains of a skeleton, of which also only the cranium retained sufficient consistency to admit of preservation. This inclosure, however, was filled with a dense peaty mass not reduced to mold, the result of centuries of sphagnous growth, which had reached a thickness of nearly 2 feet above the remains. When we reflect upon the well-known slowness of this kind of growth in these northern regions, attested by numerous Arctic travelers, the antiquity of the remains becomes evident.

It seems beyond doubt that in the majority of cases, especially as regards the caves of the Western States and Territories, the interments were primary ones, and this is likewise true of many of the caverns of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, for in the three States mentioned many mummies have been found, but it is also likely that such receptacles were largely used as places of secondary deposits. The many fragmentary skeletons and loose bones found seem to strengthen this view.