Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Commanche and Apache Burials Described

From Dr. O. G. Given, physician to the Kiowa and Comanche Agency, Indian Territory, the following description of burial ceremonies was received. According to this gentleman the Kiowas call themselves Kaw-a-wāh, the Comanches Nerm, and the Apaches Tāh-zee.
They bury in the ground or in crevices of rocks. They do not seem to have any particular rule with regard to the position. Sometimes prone, sometimes supine, but always decumbent. They select a place where the grave is easily prepared, which they do with such implements as they chance to have, viz, a squaw-axe, or hoe. If they are traveling, the grave is often very hastily prepared and not much time is spent in finishing. I was present at the burial of Black Hawk, an Apache chief, some two years ago, and took the body in my light wagon up the side of a mountain to the place of burial. They found a crevice in the rocks about four feet wide and three feet deep. By filling in loose rocks at either end they made a very nice tomb. The body was then put in face downwards, short sticks were put across, resting on projections of rock at the sides, brush was thrown on this, and flat rocks laid over the whole of it.
The body of the deceased is dressed in the best clothing, together with all the ornaments most admired by the person when living. The face is painted with any colored paint they may have, mostly red and yellow, as I have observed. The body is then wrapped in skins, blankets, or domestic, with the hands laid across the breast, and the legs placed upon the thighs. They put into the grave their guns, bows and arrows, tobacco, and if they have it a blanket, moccasins, and trinkets of various kinds. One 1or more horses are killed over or near the grave. Two horses and a mule were killed near Black Hawk’s grave. They were led up near and shot in the head. At the death of a Comanche chief, some years ago, I am told about seventy horses were killed, and a greater number than that were said to have been killed at the death of a prominent Kiowa chief a few years since.
The mourning is principally done by the relatives and immediate friends, although any one of their own tribe, or one of another tribe, who chances to be passing, will stop and moan with the relatives. Their mourning consists in a weird wail, which to be described must be heard, and once heard is never forgotten, together with the scarifying of their faces, arms, and legs with some sharp instrument, the cutting off of the hair, and oftentimes the cutting off of a joint of a finger, usually the little finger (Comanches do not cut off fingers). The length of time and intensity of their mourning depends upon the relation and position of the deceased in the tribe. I have known instances where, if they should be passing along where any of their friends had died, even a year after their death, they would mourn.