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Choctaws Views on the Dead

In the disposition of their dead, the ancient Choctaws practiced a strange method different from any other Nation of people, perhaps, that ever existed. After the death of a Choctaw, the corpse wrapped in a bear skin or rough kind of covering of their own manufacture, was laid out at full length upon a high scaffold erected near the house of the deceased, that it might be protected from the wild beasts of the woods and the scavengers of the air. After the body had remained upon the scaffold a sufficient time for the flesh to have nearly or entirely decayed, the Hattak fullih nipi foni. (Bone Picker) the principal official in their funeral ceremonies and especially appointed for that duty appeared and informed the relatives of the deceased that he had now come to perform the last sacred duties of his office to their departed friend. Then, with the relatives and friends, he marched with great solemnity of countenance to the scaffold and. ascending which, began his awful duty of picking off the flesh that still adhered to the bones, with loud groans and fearful grimaces, to which the friends below responded in cries and wailings. The Bone-Picker never trimmed the nails of his thumbs, index and middle fingers which accordingly grew to an astonishing length sharp and almost as hard as flint and well adapted to the horrid business of their owner s calling. After he had picked all the flesh from the bones, he then tied it up in a bundle and carefully laid it upon a corner of the scaffold; then gathering up the bones...

Chickasaw Courtship and Dance

The ancient manner of Chickasaw courtship was not very taxing upon the sensitiveness of the bashful, perspective groom; since, when he wished to make known to any young lady of his tribe the emotions of his heart in regard to her, he had but to send a small bundle of clothing carefully tied up in a large cotton handkerchief (similar in dimensions to a medium-sized table cloth, very common in those primitive days of ignorant bliss, when fashion and folly were unknown) by his mother or sister to the girl he desired to make his wife. This treasure of acknowledged love was immediately taken possession of by the mother of the wished-for bride and kept for a few days before presenting it to her daughter; and when presented, if accepted, it was a bona fide acknowledgement on her part of her willingness to accept him as her husband, of which confession he was at once duly notified; if otherwise, the subject was there and then forever dropped, and the disappointed and disconsolate swain found consolation in the privilege extended to all such cases, that of presenting another bundle of clothes wrapped in a similar mantle of cotton, to some other forest beauty in which his country-so profusely abounded. But best of all, the swain, whether bold or timid, was always spared that fearful and dreaded ordeal of soliciting the “yes” of the old folks,” as his mother took that imperative and obnoxious duty upon herself, and was almost always successful in the accomplishment of the desired object. The coast being clear of all breakers, the elated lover painted his...

Micmac Customs And Traditions

My information about the customs and traditions of the Micmac Indians of Nova Scotia has been derived almost entirely from Abram and Newell Glode, the first a man of seventy-three years, the latter somewhat younger and of exceptionally pure blood for a time when none are wholly so. These two Indians have justly achieved a reputation among their tribe for intelligence and knowledge of their native lore. During the many days I have spent with them at Digby and elsewhere I have invariably found them as eager and interested in being questioned as I was in catechizing them. However, in most cases I have confirmed what they told me by information obtained from others, and I have read to them what I have written in order to avoid mistakes. It is a misfortune to these Indians that while all their tribe have been taught to read the characters invented by one of the early priests they have been debarred from learning the much simpler Roman characters by the successors of that priest, who until quite recently forbade Micmac children to attend the public schools. The Micmacs have a system of communicating while in the woods. Sticks are placed in the ground; a cut on one of them indicates that a message in picture-writing on a piece of birch bark is hidden near by under a stone. The direction in which the stick leans from its base upward indicates that in which the party moved, and thus serves as a convenient hint to those who follow to keep off their hunting grounds. The Game of Altestakun A game much in...

Yuchi Dancing

On this, the second night, about six of the before-mentioned dances were performed. Although the general characteristics and functions of the dances have been described in the last chapter, a few of the peculiarities will be given again according to the actual cases as observed on both ceremonial occasions. All of the Yuchi dances were this night performed around the fire in the center of the square. The movement was from right to left, contra-clockwise. The steps of the dancers were short, the motion being chiefly in the leg below the knee. In general effect the dance steps look more like shuffling. The foot, being brought down flat, gives forth a sound earning for the dance the name of Stamp, or Stump Dance, among the whites. Male dancers held their arm nearest the fire, the left level, with their heads and the head slightly drooped, as they said, to protect their faces from the heat and glare of the fire. The true explanation of this is probably different, but is lost in obscurity. Women never assume this posture. Their arms were always at their sides when dancing, and their feet were never raised far from the ground. Motions were constantly made, as in the Buzzard dance when the arms of the performers were lowered and raised after the manner of a buzzard’s wings. On a tree at one side near the edge of the square a space of several feet of bark had been peeled off. Here a lot of red paint of mixed clay and grease had been smeared, and this was a source of supply for those...

Yuchi Annual Town Ceremonies

The following account of the annual ceremony of the Sand Creek Yuchi is based upon notes made at the time, and upon incidental information derived from participants. It deals chiefly with the 1905 celebration although there was no appreciable difference between that of 1904 and the event of 1905. The Preliminary Day. – According to the evidences of maturity observable in the corn in the neighboring fields, and the approaching phase of the moon, the town chief or head priest (Jim Brown) appointed and announced, to the townspeople scattered through out the neighboring district, a day of general assembly, at which small bundles of sticks about two inches in length (Fig. 37) were distributed to the heads of families. The number of sticks in the bundles indicated the number of days that should pass before the ceremonies would take place. The day had already been decided upon by the chief and was announced at this preliminary meeting. A stick was thrown away each morning thereafter until but one remained, and that was the day of the next assembly at the public square. Dancing took place at this meeting to give a little practice to the men, as they said. Arrangements were also made for the repair of the lodges, and the obtaining of the beef for the barbecue which was to close the event. In other words, this meeting was purely preparatory. All the top earth was carefully taken from the square and placed in a heap behind the north lodge. When the day arrived for the formal celebration to commence, the Yuchi took care to be on hand...

Religion of the Six Nation Tribes

With the exception of the Tuscaroras, each of the Six Nations has one or more council houses, in which the people assemble for business or purely Indian ceremonies, religious or social. There is also a council house or town hall on the Mount Hope road of the Tuscarora reservation, but the pagan party has no footing among this people. The council houses, formerly built of logs, are practically in disuse, and frame buildings, about 40 by 80 feet, with fireplace or simple chimney at each end, which allows separate sittings for the sexes, have taken their place. A new building of this kind on the Tonawanda reservation and 1 at Carrollton, on the Allegany reservation, are indicated on the maps of these reservations. The sides of 3 ancient council houses at Cattaraugus and of 2 at Tonawanda are also indicated. The religious differences of the Indians actually characterize grouped settlements on each reservation. Thus, the majority of the Christian Indians live upon the central road in Onondaga, upon and east of the main road of Tonawanda; between Salamanca and Red House, in Allegany; and upon the main route from Versailles to Irving, in Cattaraugus. As a general role, both internal and external comforts, conveniences, and indications of thrift are alike in contrast. The pagans chiefly occupy the western and southeastern parts of Tonawanda, the Carrollton district, and the country below the Red House, in Allegany, and almost exclusively people the Newtown and Gowanda roads, in Cattaraugus, There are exceptions, but the groupings are everywhere maintained. Onondaga Reservation Onondaga Reservation at Onondaga the council house is central upon what is...

The Tablita or Corn Dance

The question of physical condition is one less dependent upon diet than the mode of life which renders general development a result, No better test of a high grade of physique could be found than the prolonged and fatiguing dances, lasting for the greater part of as day, indulged in at all of the pueblos. I have witnessed three of these great dances and several minor ones. At San Domingo, August 12, 1890, 200 dancers, male and female, participated, led by 2 choruses, each of 40 male voices. This display being regarded the finest to be seen among pueblos, with the exception of that at Zuñi, I confine my description to the dance as I saw it there, with occasional allusions to those of Santa Clara and Laguna. The Tablita or corn dance has for its purpose supplication for rain. Most of the choruses chanted by the attendant musicians are invocations to the clouds. The tablet worn by the women upon their heads is figured with the scalloped lines of cumulus clouds, and on either side, and between them a bolt of lightning. In common with many of the old Indian rites among the Pueblos, this also has been utilized by the Catholic Church and made to serve for the support of a church ritual. Early in the day mass is said in the church and a sermon preached. The body of the congregation at these services is usually composed, of visiting Mexicans, the Indians maintaining an indifferent and fluctuating attendance. Throughout the village meanwhile active preparations are in progress for the dance. Feasting and bartering are at their...

Ceremonial Dances in the Pacific

By Ernie Pyle One of the last stories written Fay Ernie Pyle before his tragic death on le Island was about the Indians of the First Marine Division on Okinawa. It is reprinted here by permission of Scripps-Howard Newspapers and United Feature Syndicate, Inc. The ceremonial dances, according to Marine Combat Correspondent Walter Wood, included the Apache Devil Dance, the Eagle Dance, the Hoop Dance, the War Dance, and the Navajo Mountain Chant. Besides the Navajos, Sioux, Comanche, Apache, Pima, Kiowa, Pueblo, and Crow Indians took part in the Ceremonies. Okinawa — (By Navy Radio); — Back nearly two years ago when 1 was with Oklahoma’s 45th Division in Sicily and later in Italy, I learned that they had a number of Navajo Indians in communications. When secret orders had to be given over the phone these boys gave them to one an-other in Navajo. Practically nobody in the world understands Navajo except another Navajo. Well, my regiment of First Division Marines has the some thing. There are about eight Indians who do this special work. They are good Marines and are very proud of being so. There are two brothers among them, both named Joe, Their last names are the ones that are different. I guess that’s a Navajo custom, though I never knew of it before. One brother, Pfc. Joe Gatewood, went to the Indian School in Albuquerque. In fact our house is on the very same street, and Joe said it sure was good to see somebody from home. Joe has been out here three years. He is 34 and has five children bock home that...

The Annual Creek Busk

The solemn annual festival held by the Creek people of ancient and modern days is the púskita, a word now passed into provincial English (busk); its real meaning is that of a fast. In the more important towns it lasted eight days; in towns of minor note four days only, and its celebration differed in each town in some particulars. The day on which to begin it was fixed by the míko and his council, and depended on the maturity of the maize crop and on various other circumstances.

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