The Use of Fabrics in Native American Indian Burials
Fabrics of various kinds were employed in burial, although not generally made for that purpose. The wrappings of dead bodies were often very elaborate, and the consignment of these to tombs and graves where the conditions were favorable to preservation has kept them for long periods in a most perfect state. By exhumation we have obtained most of our information on this subject. Our knowledge is, however, greatly increased by descriptions of such burial customs as were witnessed in early times. Extracts already given refer to the use of fabrics in mortuary customs. Many others could be cited but the following seems sufficient:
After the dead person has lain a day and a night in one of their hurdles of canes, commonly in some out house made for that purpose, those that officiate about the funeral go into the town, and the first young men they meet withal, that have blankets or match coats on, whom they think fit for their turn, they strip them from their backs, who suffer them so to do without any resistance. In these they wrap the dead bodies, and cover them with two or three mats which the Indians make of rushes or cane; and, last of all, they have a long web of woven reeds or hollow canes, which is the coffin of the Indians, and is brought round several times and tied fast at both ends, which, indeed, looks very decent and well. Then the corps is brought out of the house into the orchard of peach trees, where another hurdle is made to receive it, about which comes all the relations and nation that the dead person belonged to, besides several from other nations in alliance with them; all which sit down on the ground upon mats spread there for that purpose.