Saturday, April 23, 2016

Death Rituals of the Hupa and Yurok Indians of Califoirnia

Death Rituals of the Hupa and Yurok Indians of Califoirnia



   Customary Descriptions and facts are as strongly developed as farther north along the Pacific slope. This entire western coast region thus forms a unit that differs from the interior and eastern parts of the continent, in which such observances are usually a less conspicuous feature than public and tribal ceremonies. By far the most important of the customary observances in California are those relating to death.. Photos of California Indians Here
   Death was considered to cause defilement and almost everywhere brought after it purification ceremonies. In the Northwestern region these were particularly important, and among such tribes as the Hupa and Yurok the observance of religious purification from contact with the dead, the most essential part of which was the recitation of a certain formula, was the most stringently exacted religious custom. The method of disposing of the dead varied locally between burial and cremation, cremation being practiced over at least half of the state. Air burial and sea burial were nowhere found. Mourning, which consisted primarily of singing and wailing, began immediately upon death and continued for about a day, sometimes longer by the immediate relatives of the deceased. Among some tribes this mourning commenced with full vigor some time before impending death, often during the full consciousness of the patient and with his approval. Mutilations on the part of the mourners were not practiced to any great degree, except that the hair was almost universally cut more or less, especially by the women. Among many tribes the widow, but she only, cut or burned off all her hair. 
Hupa Indians of California

     Mourning observances were almost always carried further by the women than men. Among some tribes of the Sierra Nevada the widow did not speak from the time of her husband's death until the following annual tribal mourning ceremony, except to one attendant, or, in cases of actual necessity, to women only. In the Sierra Nevada was found also the custom of the widow smearing her face and breast with pitch, which was not washed or removed until this annual ceremony. Except in the case of the Northwestern tribes, who possessed more elaborately constructed houses of wood, the house in which a death had occurred was not used again, but was burned. Objects that had been in personal contact or associated with the deceased were similarly shunned and destroyed. The name of the dead was not spoken. Even the word which constituted his name was not used in ordinary discourse, a circumlocution or newly coined word being employed. It is certain that this stringently observed custom has been a factor in the marked dialectic differentiation of the languages of California. The mention of the name of the dead, whether intentionally or accidentally, in some cases aroused feelings of fear connected with his spirit, but more generally was objected to as causing grief, which appears to have been actually and often intensely felt on such occasions. California Indian Photos and Images Here 
Yurok Indians

    In Northwestern California the naming of the dead could be compensated for only by the payment of a considerable sum. Practically the only form of curse or malediction known, other than an occasional indirect allusion to the object of the malediction as being in the condition of a corpse, was a reference to his dead relatives. Some property, but more rarely food, was buried with the dead. The idea that such articles were for his use in the world of the dead was not so strong a motive for such acts as, on the one hand, the feeling that the objects had been defiled by association with him, and on the other, the desire to give expression to the sincerity of the mourning by the destruction of valuables. On the whole, however, the immediate observances of death paled in importance before the annual communal mourning ceremony, which was everywhere, except in the Northwestern region, one of the most deeply rooted and spectacular acts of worship.