Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Descriptions of Fox, Sauk and Potawatomie Burials

Fox, Sauk and Potawatomie Indian Burials

Dr. P. Gregg, of Rock Island, Illinois, has been kind enough to forward to the writer an interesting work by J. V. Spencer, containing annotations by himself. He gives the following account of surface and partial surface burial occurring among the Sacs and Foxes formerly inhabiting Illinois:
Black Hawk was placed upon the ground in a sitting posture, his hands grasping his cane. They usually made a shallow hole in the ground, setting the body in up to the waist, so the most of the body was above ground. The part above ground was then covered by a buffalo robe, and a trench about eight feet square was then dug about the grave. In this trench they set picketing about eight feet high, which secured the grave against wild animals. When I first came here there were quite a number of these high picketings still standing where their chiefs had been buried, and the body of a chief was disposed of in this way while I lived near their village. The common mode of burial was to dig a shallow grave, wrap the body in a blanket, place it in the grave, and fill it nearly full of dirt; then take split sticks about three feet long and stand them in the grave so that their tops would come together in the form of a roof; then they filled in more earth so as to hold the sticks in place. I saw a father and mother start out alone to bury their child about a year old; they carried it by tieing it up in a blanket and putting a long stick through the blanket, each taking an end of the stick.
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I have also seen the dead bodies placed in trees. This is done by digging a trough out of a log, placing the body in it, and covering it. I have seen several bodies in one tree. I think when they are disposed of in this way it is by special request, as I knew of an Indian woman who lived with a white family who desired her body placed in a tree, which was accordingly done. Doubtless there was some peculiar superstition attached to this mode, though I do not remember to have heard what it was.
Judge H. Welch states that “the Sauks, Foxes, and Pottawatomies buried by setting the body on the ground and building a pen around it of sticks or logs. I think the bodies lay heads to the east.” And C. C. Baldwin, of Cleveland, Ohio, sends a more detailed account, as follows:
I was some time since in Seneca County and there met Judge Welch. *** In 1824 he went with his father-in-law, Judge Gibson, to Fort Wayne. On the way they passed the grave of an Ottawa or Pottawatomie chief. The body lay on the ground covered with notched poles. It had been there but a few days and the worms were crawling around the body. My special interest in the case was the accusation of witchcraft against a young squaw who was executed for killing him by her arts. In the Summit County mounds there were only parts of skeletons with charcoal and ashes, showing they had been burned.
W. A. Brice mentions a curious variety of surface burial not heretofore met with:
And often had been seen, years ago, swinging from the bough of a tree, or in a hammock stretched between two trees, the infant of the Indian mother; or a few little log inclosures, where the bodies of adults sat upright, with all their former apparel wrapped about them, and their trinkets, tomahawks, &c., by their side, could be seen at any time for many years by the few pale-faces visiting or sojourning here.
A method of interment so closely allied to surface burial that it may be considered under that head is the one employed by some of the Ojibways and Swampy Crees of Canada. A small cavity is scooped out, the body deposited therein, covered with a little dirt, the mound thus formed being covered either with split planks, poles, or birch bark.
Prof. Henry Youle Hind, who was in charge of the Canadian Red River exploring expedition of 1858, has been good enough to forward to the Bureau of Ethnology two photographs representing the variety of grave, which he found 15 or 20 miles from the present town of Winnipeg, and they are represented in the woodcuts, Figures 8 and 9.  Photos of the Potawatomie Indians Here


Fig. 8.—Grave Pen.