Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dakoa Sioux Warrior Burial Ritual


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.