Friday, May 24, 2013

PIma Indian Burial Ceremony

Pima Indian Burial Ceremony

The Pimas of Arizona, actuated by apparently the same motives that led the more eastern tribes to endeavor to prevent contact of earth with the corpse, adopted a plan which has been described by Capt. F. E. Grossman and the account is corroborated by M. Alphonse Pinart  and Bancroft.
Captain Grossman’s account follows:

see caption

Fig. 2.—Pima burial.

The Pimas tie the bodies of their dead with ropes, passing the latter around their neck and under the knees, and then drawing them tight until the body is doubled up and forced into a sitting position. They dig the graves from four to five feet deep and perfectly round (about two feet in diameter), and then hollow out to one side of the bottom of this grave a sort of vault large enough to contain the body. Here the body is deposited, the grave is filled up level with the ground, and poles, trees, or pieces of timber placed upon the grave to protect the remains from coyotes.

Burials usually take place at night without much ceremony. The mourners chant during the burial, but signs of grief are rare. The bodies of their dead are buried if possible, immediately after death has taken place and the graves are generally prepared before the patients die. Sometimes sick persons (for whom the graves had already been dug) recover. In such cases the graves are left open until the persons for whom they are intended die. Open graves of this kind can be seen in several of their burial grounds. Places of burial are selected some distance from the village, and, if possible, in a grove of mesquite trees.

Immediately after the remains have been buried, the house and personal effects of the deceased are burned and his horses and cattle killed, the meat being cooked as a 99repast for the mourners. The nearest relatives of the deceased as a sign of their sorrow remain within their village for weeks, and sometimes months; the men cut off about six inches of their long hair, while the women cut their hair quite short.***

The custom of destroying all the property of the husband when he dies impoverishes the widow and children and prevents increase of stock. The women of the tribe, well aware that they will be poor should their husbands die, and that then they will have to provide for their children by their own exertions, do not care to have many children, and infanticide, both before and after birth, prevails to a great extent. This is not considered a crime, and old women of the tribe practice it. A widow may marry again after a year’s mourning for her first husband; but having children no man will take her for a wife and thus burden himself with her children. Widows generally cultivate a small piece of ground, and friends and relatives (men) plow the ground for them.

Fig. 2, drawn from Captain Grossman’s description by my friend Dr. W. J. Hoffman, will convey a good idea of this mode of burial.