We have thus briefly, though it
is hoped judiciously and carefully, reviewed the subject of Indian
burial, avoiding elaborate discussion, as foreign to the purpose of the
work, simply pointing out from the carefully gleaned material at our
disposal such examples and detached accounts as may serve as guides to
those whose interest in the subject may lead them to contribute to the
final volume. Before closing, however, it is necessary to again allude
to the circular which has been forwarded to observers and call attention
to some additional matters of importance connected with the queries,
which are as follows: [Footnote: Advantage has been taken to incorporate
with the queries certain modifications of those propounded by
Schoolcraft in his well-known work on the Indian tribes of the United
States, relating to the same subject.]
1st. Name of the Tribe, present appellation; former, if differing any;
and that used by the Indians themselves.
2d. Locality, Present and Former, The response should give the range of
the tribe and be full and geographically accurate.
3d. Deaths and Funeral Ceremonies; what are the important and
characteristic facts connected with these subjects? How is the corpse
prepared after death and disposed of? How long is it retained? Is it
spoken to after death as if alive? when and where? What is the character
of the addresses? What articles are deposited with it; and why? Is food
put in the grave, or in or near it afterwards? Is this said to be an
ancient custom? Are persons of the same gens buried together, and is the
clan distinction obsolete, or did it ever prevail?
4th. Manner of Burial, Ancient and Modern; Structure and Position of
Graves; Cremation, Are burials usually made in high and dry grounds?
Have mounds or tumuli been erected in modern times over the dead? How is
the grave prepared and finished? What position are bodies placed in?
Give reasons there for if possible. If cremation is or was practiced,
describe the process, disposal of the ashes, and origin of custom or
traditions relating thereto. Are the dead ever eaten by the survivors?
Are bodies deposited in springs or in any body of water? Are scaffolds
or trees used as burial places; if so, describe construction of the
former and how the corpse is prepared, and whether placed in skins or
boxes. Are bodies placed in canoes? State whether they are suspended
from trees, put on scaffolds or posts, allowed to float on the water or
sunk beneath it, or buried in the ground. Can any reasons be given for
the prevalence of any one or all of the methods? Are burial posts or
slabs used, plain, or marked, with flags or other insignia of position
of deceased. Describe embalmment, mummification, desiccation, or if
antiseptic precautions are taken, and subsequent disposal of remains.
Are bones collected and reinterred, describe ceremonies, if any, whether
modern or ancient. If charnel houses exist or have been used, describe
5th. Mourning Observances--Is scarification practiced, or personal
mutilation? What is the garb or sign of mourning? How are the dead
lamented? Are periodical visits made to the grave? Do widows carry
symbols of their deceased children or husbands, and for how long? Are
sacrifices, human or otherwise, voluntary or involuntary, offered? Are
fires kindled on graves, why, and at what time, and for how long?
6th. Burial Traditions and Superstitions--Give in full all that can be
learned on these subjects, as they are full of interest and very
In short, every fact bearing on the disposal of the
dead, and correlative customs are needed, and details should be as
succinct and full as possible.
One of the most important matters upon which
information is needed is the "why" and "wherefore" for every rite and
custom, for, as a rule, observers are content to simply state a certain
occurrence as a fact, but take very little trouble to inquire the reason
The writer would state that any material the result of
careful observation will be most gratefully received and acknowledged in
the final volume, and he would here confess the lasting obligation he is
under to those who have already contributed in response to his call.
Criticism and comments are earnestly invited from all
those interested in the special subject of this paper and anthropology
in general Contributions are also requested from persons acquainted with
curious forms of burial prevailing among other tribes of savage men.
In addition to the many references, etc, given by the
various members of the Bureau of Ethnology, communications have been
received from the following persons, although their accounts may not
have been alluded to in this volume; should omissions of names have
occurred it is hoped attention will be called to the fact.
The writer acknowledges with pleasure the assistance he
has received in reading the proof of this volume from Mr. J. C. Pilling,
Dr. Thomas W. Wise and Mr. R. W. Hardy.
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Introduction to the Study of Mortuary Customs
Among the North American Indians
Native American Nations