Sunday, July 31, 2011

Native American: Mourning, Sacrifice, Illustrated


The above subjects are coincident with burial, and some of them, particularly mourning, have been more or less treated of in this paper, yet it may be of advantage to here give a few of the collected examples, under separate heads.

One of the most carefully described scenes of mourning at the death of a chief of the Crows is related in the life of Beckwourth,who for many years lived among this people, finally attaining great distinction as a warrior.
I dispatched a herald to the village to inform them of the head chief’s death, and then, burying him according to his directions, we slowly proceeded homewards. My very soul sickened at the contemplation of the scenes that would be enacted at my arrival. When we drew in sight of the village, we found every lodge laid prostrate. We entered amid shrieks, cries, and yells. Blood was streaming from every conceivable part of the bodies of all who were old enough to comprehend their loss. Hundreds of fingers were dismembered; hair torn from the head lay in profusion about the paths; wails and moans in every direction assailed the ear, where unrestrained joy had a few hours before prevailed. This fearful mourning lasted until evening of the next day. ***
A herald having been dispatched to our other villages to acquaint them with the death of our head chief, and request them to assemble at the Rose Bud, in order to meet our village and devote themselves to a general time of mourning, there met, in conformity to the summons, over ten thousand Crows at the place indicated. Such a scene of disorderly, vociferous mourning, no imagination can conceive nor any pen portray. Long Hair cut off a large roll of his hair; a thing he was never known to do before. The cutting and hacking of human flesh exceeded all my previous experience; fingers were dismembered as readily as twigs, and blood was poured out like water. Many of the warriors would cut two gashes nearly the entire length of their arm; then, separating the skin from the flesh at one end, would grasp it in their other hand, and rip it asunder to the shoulder. Others would carve various devices upon 

their breasts and shoulders, and raise the skin in the same manner to make the scars show to advantage after the wound was healed. Some of their mutilations were ghastly, and my heart sickened to look at them, but they would not appear to receive any pain from them.

The Choctaw widows mourn by never combing their hair for the term of their grief, which is generally about a year. The Chippeway men mourn by painting their faces black.
I omitted to mention that when presents are going round, the badge of mourning, this “husband” comes in for an equal share, as if it were the living husband.
A Chippeway mother, on losing her child, prepares an image of it in the best manner she is able, and dresses it as she did her living child, and fixes it in the kind of cradle I have referred to, and goes through the ceremonies of nursing it as if it were alive, by dropping little particles of food in the direction of its mouth, and giving it of whatever the living child partook. This ceremony also is generally observed for a year.
Benso gives the following account of the Choctaws’ funeral ceremonies, embracing the disposition of the body, mourning feast and dance:
Their funeral is styled by them “the last cry.”
When the husband dies the friends assemble, prepare the grave, and place the corpse in it, but do not fill it up. The gun, bow and arrows, hatchet, and knife are deposited in the grave. Poles are planted at the head and the foot, upon which flags are placed; the grave is then inclosed by pickets driven in the ground. The funeral ceremonies now begin, the widow being the chief mourner. At night and morning she will go to the grave and pour forth the most piteous cries and wailings. It is not important that any other member of the family should take any very active part in the “cry,” though they do participate to some extent.
The widow wholly neglects her toilet, while she daily goes to the grave during one entire moon from the date when the death occurred. On the evening of the last day of the moon the friends all assemble at the cabin of the disconsolate widow, bringing provisions for a sumptuous feast, which consists of corn and jerked beef boiled together in a kettle. While the supper is preparing the bereaved wife goes to the grave and pours out, with unusual vehemence, her bitter wailings and lamentations. When the food is thoroughly cooked the kettle is taken from the fire and placed in the center of the cabin, and the friends gather around it, passing the buffalo-horn spoon from hand to hand and from mouth to mouth till all have been bountifully supplied. While supper is being served, two of the oldest men of the company quietly withdraw and go to the grave and fill it up, taking down the flags. All then join in a dance, which not unfrequently is continued till morning; the widow does not fail to unite in the dance, and to contribute her part to the festivities of the occasion. This is the “last cry,” the days of mourning are ended, and the widow is now ready to form another matrimonial alliance. The ceremonies are precisely the same when a man has lost his wife, and they are only slightly varied when any other member of the family has died. (Slaves were buried without ceremonies.)

Native American Burials: Cremations

Native American Burials: Urns

Native American Burials: Mummies

Native American Burials" Caves

Native American Burials: Burial Mounds

Native American Burials: Stone Cists

Native American Burials: Graves

Native American Burials: Pt Burials

Native American's Wampum                     Massacre on the Wabash, the Miami Indians Defeat of St. Clair