Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Native American Grave Posts of the Sioux and Chippewa Indians

Native American Grave Posts of the Sioux and Chippewa Indians

     These are placed at the head or foot of the grave, or at both ends, and have painted or carved on them a history of the deceased or his family, certain totemic characters, or, according to Schoolcraft, not the achievements of the dead, but of those warriors who assisted and danced at the interment. The northwest tribes and others frequently plant poles near the graves, suspending therefrom bite of rag, flags, horses’ tails, &c. The custom among the present Indians does not exist to any extent. Beltrami speaks of it as follows:

Here I saw a most singular union. One of these graves was surmounted by a cross, whilst upon another close to it a trunk of a tree was raised, covered with hieroglyphics recording the number of enemies slain by the tenant of the tomb and several of his tutelary Manitous.

The following extract from Schoolcraft relates to the burial posts used by the Sioux and Chippewas.  Is after the picture given by this author in connection with the account quoted:

Among the Sioux and Western Chippewas, after the body had been wrapped in its best clothes and ornaments, it is then placed on a scaffold or in a tree until the flesh is entirely decayed, after which the bones are buried and grave-posts fixed. At the head of the grave a tubular piece of cedar or other wood, called the adjedatig, is set. This grave-board contains the symbolic or representative figure, which records, if it be a warrior, his totem, that is to say the symbol of his family, or surname, and such arithmetical or other devices as seem to denote how many times the deceased has been in war parties, and how many scalps he has taken from the enemy—two facts from which his reputation is essentially to be derived. It is seldom that more is attempted in the way of inscription. Often, however, distinguished chiefs have their war flag, or, in modern days, a small ensign of American fabric, displayed on a standard at the head of their graves, which is left to fly over the deceased till it is wasted by the elements. Scalps of their enemies, feathers of the bald or black eagle, the swallow-tailed falcon, or some carnivorous bird, are also placed, in such instances, on the adjedatig, or suspended, with offerings of various kinds, on a separate staff. But the latter are superadditions of a religious character, and belong to the class of the Ke-ke-wa-o-win-an-tig (ante, No. 4). The building of a funeral fire on recent graves is also a rite which belongs to the consideration of their religious faith.