Topic: Burials

Choctaw Religion

The Choctaw never worshiped idols, or any works of their own hands, as other savage nations. They believed in the existence of a Great Spirit, and that He possessed super-natural power, and was omnipresent, but they did not deem that He expected or required any form of worship of them. They had no idea of God as taught by revealed religion no conception of His manifold mercies, or the atonement made for sin. All they felt was a dread of His attributes and character, made (manifest to them by the phenomena of the heavens. But in common with the believers of the Scriptures, they held the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. They differed from them, however, as to the location of heaven and their views of happiness and misery. Heaven, or the happy hunting grounds, in their imagination, was similar to the Elysian fields of the heathen mythology. There the spirit of those who had been virtuous, honest and truthful, while on earth, enjoyed, in common with youthful angels, all manner of games and voluptuous pleasures, with no care, no sorrow, nothing but one eternal round of enjoyment. They believed that angels or spirits seldom visited the earth, and cared but very little about doing so, as being supplied in heaven with everything suitable to their wants, nothing was required from the earth. According to their notion, heaven...

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Registers of the Parish of Michilimackinac

The records from the register at Michilimackinac are here provided as they were translated by Edward O. Brown back in 1889. His translation came from a transcript of the original, which latter is kept in the parish church of Ste. Anne, at Mackinac. Annotated throughout are Mr. Brown’s biographical knowledge of the events of Michilimackinac and the people within. Don’t pass over the footnotes for the record, you may find a biographical reference hidden there!

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Register of Interments in the Parish of Michilimackinac

The register of interments was evidently not as carefully kept as those of marriages and baptisms. The following first four entries have been abstracted from the baptismal register, being entered after the records of baptisms on the death of the child previously baptized. The record kept by Father Le Franc, beginning in 1754 and continuing through 1760, is continuous, and entered in one portion of the register, headed “Registre des morts depuis le ler aoust 1754” 1Register of deaths after August 1, 1754 . The remaining entries were scattered miscellaneously among the marriages and baptisms, but have here been assembled in chronological order. Died August 10, 1743 [Marie Coussante, daughter of Joseph Hins]; she was the first one buried in the new church built by her father, under the holy water font. She [Marie Athanase, slave of Charles Hamelin] died fortified with all the sacraments, on January 24, 1748, and was buried in the church the following day beside her deceased mistress. Died [Jacques, son of Jacques Dumay, baptized February 1, 1748] a few days afterward and was buried in the church near the little Hins girl. The child [Augustin Laffertiere dit jasmin, baptized February 27, 1752] died 2 or 3 months afterwards and is buried in the cemetery on the left hand side on entering. August 1, 1754 was interred in the cemetery of this mission the body...

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Burial Customs of Southern Ohio

The origin and age of the earthworks of southern Ohio and the adjoining sections of Kentucky and West Virginia have remained unsolved questions. The works are remarkable for three reasons, namely, their size, number and forms. By their size and number it is quite evident they were erected by a sedentary people, a numerous people who occupied the country for a long period, and by their forms it is shown these same people possessed certain recognized customs and beliefs which caused them to erect the great circles and squares, octagons and other figures, so accurately and skillfully constructed. And so the questions arise, By whom were the vast works raised? and, For what reason was the rich and fertile land abandoned? The first of the many groups of earthworks to be described was that at Marietta, on the Ohio at the mouth of the Muskingum. These were surveyed by Capt. Jonathan Heart, and his map, together with descriptive text, appeared in Vol. I, No. 9, of The Columbian Magazine, published in Philadelphia in May, 1 787. Other accounts were soon printed, to be followed in 1848 by the great work by E. G. Squier and E. 11. Davis, this. being the most interesting and most valuable volume ever published on American antiquities. During latter years many of the sites described at that time have disappeared through the cultivation of...

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Biloxi and Pascagoula Burial Customs

The “Siouan Tribes of the East,” whose burial customs so far as known are detailed on the preceding pages, were carefully studied some years ago, at which time all available notes were gathered and presented in a single volume. A few years before the preparation of this most interesting bulletin a discovery of the greatest importance was made by another member of the bureau staff, Mr. Gatschet, who, while engaged in Louisiana in 1886, discovered a small band of Biloxi, some of whom spoke their old language, which Gatschet soon found was Siouan. The Biloxi therefore belonged to the great Siouan family, and the neighboring Pascagoula were probably of the same stock. These were among the first of the native tribes encountered by the French in 1699, and, fortunately, a sketch of their burial customs has been preserved. The account was written by a French officer about the year 1730, and, as quoted by Swanton, reads: ” The Paskagoulas and the Billoxis never inter their chief when he is dead, but they have his body dried in the fire and smoke so that they make of it a veritable skeleton. After having reduced it to this condition they carry it to the temple (for they have one as well as the Natchez) and put it in the place occupied by its predecessor, which they take from the place which...

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Santee Burial Customs

Siouan tribes extended southward into the central portions of the present State of South Carolina, and the Santee were undoubtedly members of this linguistic family. One of their villages probably stood on the shore of Scott Lake, in the valley of the Santee about 10 miles southwest of Summerton, Clarendon County. Here, near the shore of the lake, is a conical mound of earth, and scattered over the surrounding area are many fragments of pottery and other traces of an Indian settlement, but the surface has been modified by the waters of the Santee during periods of flood, and consequently the greater part of the surface as it was at the time of Indian occupancy has been washed away or covered by alluvium. This site is, in a direct line, a little more than 60 miles northwest of Charleston, and the village may have been one visited by Lawson during the first days of January. 1701. The mound may have been the one referred to by Lawson, who, after mentioning his meeting with the Santee, continued: “Near to these Cabins are several Tombs made after the fashion of the Indians; the largest and chiefest of theta was the Sepulchre of the late Indian King of the Santees, a Man of (Treat Power, not only amongst his own subjects, but dreaded by the Neighboring Nations for his great Valour and...

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Monacan Burial Customs

During the autumn of the year 1608 a party of the colonists from Jamestown, led by Capt. Newport, ascended the James to the halls, the site of the present city of Richmond, and leaving their boats, continued westward “into the Land called the Monscane.” This was the territory of the Monacan, a Siouan people who were ever enemies of the Powhatan tribes of the tidewater region, which extends eastward front the line of the Falls to the Atlantic. Moving westward from the Falls the party discovered the Monacan villages of Massinacak and Mowhemenchouch. Although the eastern boundary of this tribal territory was so clearly defined its western limits are not known, but at some time it undoubtedly extended westward to the mountains beyond the Jackson Valley. The Rivanna was near the center of this region, and at or near the mouth of this stream, on the left bank of the James, in the present Fluvanna County, Virginia, was one of the most important Monacan towns, Rassawek as indicated on the map prepared by Capt. John Smith. An Indian village seldom remained for many years on a, given spot, its position being shifted back and forth, as certain causes made necessary; therefore, it is more than probable that remains of an old settlement encountered on the river bank some 3 miles above Columbia indicate the site of Rassawck during some...

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Seminole Burial Customs

The Seminole, the immigrants from the Creek towns who settled in Florida during the eighteenth century, were little influenced by the whites until very recent years. Living as they did in the midst of the great swamps of the southern part of the peninsula, with no roads penetrating the tangle of semitropical vegetation, and with even the location of their settlements unknown to the occupants of other parts of Florida, they were never visited, and seldom seen except when they chose to make journeys to the traders near the coast. Consequently the burial customs of the people, as witnessed 40 years ago, were probably little different from those practiced during the past generations. The account written at that time referred particularly to the death and burial of a child: ” The preparation for burial began as soon as death had taken place. The body was clad in a new shirt, a new handkerchief being tied about the neck and another around the head. A spot of red paint was placed on the right cheek and one of black upon the left. The body was laid face upwards. In the left hand, together with a bit of burnt wood, a small bow about twelve inches in length was placed, the hand lying naturally over the middle of the body. Across the bow, held by the right hand, was laid an...

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Chickasaw Burial Customs

The Chickasaw lived in the hilly country north of the Choctaw, and although of the same stock they were ever enemies. Many of their customs differed and instead of the elaborate burial ceremonies of the Choctaw, “They bury their dead almost the moment the breath is out of the body, in the very spot under the couch on which the deceased died, and the nearest relations woeful lamentations; the women are very vociferous in it, but the men do it in silence, taking great care not to be seen any more than heard at this business; the mourning continues about a year, which they know by counting the moons, they are every morning and evening, and at first throughout the day at different times, employed in the exercise of this last duty.” More details of the ceremony were recorded by Adair, who was well acquainted with the manners and customs of the Chickasaw, having traded among them for many years. According to his narrative: “When any of their. people die at home, they wash and anoint the corpse, and soon bring it out of doors,after a short eulogium, and space of mourning, they carry him three times around the house in which he is to be interred, stopping half a minute each time.” The excavation was described as being clean inside, and after the body had been deposited within...

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Yuchi Customs

Birth Customs Before child-birth takes place the prospective mother retires to a secluded temporary camp always east of the usual dwelling. Here she is attended by one or two old women relatives and her mother. In order to facilitate delivery a decoction is made by placing a bullet in a cup of water, and the woman is given this to drink. During delivery she lees flat on her back on the floor or on the ground. Sometimes the family induces an old woman to come and help the woman in labor by sitting on her abdomen so that she...

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Cahuilla Burial Customs

As soon as a Cahuilla dies, he is washed, dressed, and taken to the ceremonial house, kishumnawat. The members of his clan gather round the body and sing all night. If the deceased was a man, the Creation story is sung, if it was a woman, a song about the Moon is sung, for the Moon was the teacher and best friend of the women. If death has occurred to either man or woman by accident, the Battle song is always sung. They sing for a while and then stop and cry and blow upwards three times. This is all done to send the spirit to a peaceful abiding place. Up to the time of contact with the Mission Fathers, cremation was universally practiced. After that, they began to bury their dead. One old Indian in explaining this to me said, “We used to burn our dead, but the white people told us that was wrong. Now the white people do as we used to and burn their dead, but we bury ours as they taught us to.” After they have sung all night over the body, it is put in a rude coffin and carried to the Indian graveyard. Cloth, food, and often bedding also are put in the coffin. The Indians claim it will be useful for the spirit, if it can not find a resting-place elsewhere...

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Natchez Burial Customs

When referring to the burial customs of the Natchez, that most interesting of the many tribes of the lower Mississippi Valley, the early writers by whom the tribe was visited seldom alluded to the rites which attended the final disposition of the remains of the less important members of the nation, but devoted themselves to describing the varied and sanguinary ceremonies enacted at the time of the death and burial of a Sun. Swanton has already brought together the various accounts and descriptions of these most unusual acts, and consequently they need not be repeated at the present time. Nevertheless the first two will be quoted to serve as means of comparing the remarkable ceremonies followed by members of this tribe with the manners and customs of their neighbors. Of the two accounts given below, Swanton said ” The first was given to Gravier by the French youth whom Iberville left in 1700 to learn the Natchez language, and the second details the obsequies of a grand chieftainess of which the author Penicaut claims to have been a witness in 1704.” The Frenchman whom M. d’Iberville left there to learn the language told me that on the death of the last chief they put to death two women, three men, and three children. They strangled them with a bowstring, and this cruel ceremony was performed with great pomp, these...

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Menominee Burial Customs

The Menomini (Menominee Tribe), whose home when first encountered by Europeans during the early years of the seventeenth century was west of Lake Michigan, evidently possessed many customs quite similar to those of the Ojibway. Their dead were usually deposited in excavated graves, but they also had some form of scaffold burial. “The Menomini formerly disposed of their dead by inclosing the bodies in long pieces of birchbark or in slats of wood, and burying them in a shallow hole. When not in the neighborhood of birch or other trees, from which broad pieces of bark could be obtained, some of the men would search for the nearest dugout, from which they would cut a piece long enough to contain the body. In some instances sections of hollow trees were used as coffins. In order to afford protection against wild beasts, there were placed over the grave three logs-two directly on the ground and the third on the others. They were prevented from rolling away by stakes driven into the earth. ” More modern customs now prevail with the greater body of the tribe, and those who have been Christianized adopt the following course: A wooden coffin is made and the body laid out in the ordinary manner. The burial takes place usually the day on which death occurs. The graves are about 4 feet deep. Over the mound...

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West of the Alleghenies Burial Customs

The burial customs of some western Algonquian tribes were, in many respects, quite similar to those of the New England Indians. It will be recalled that soon after the Mayflower touched at Cape Cod a party of the Pilgrims went ashore and during their explorations discovered several groups of graves, some of which “had like an Indian house made over them, but not matted.” They may when erected have been covered with mats. The similarity between this early reference and the description of certain Ojibway graves, two centuries and more later, is very interesting. Writing from “American Fur Company’s trading establishment, Fond du Lac, July 30, 1826,” McKenney told of an Ojibway grave then standing at that post, near the extreme southwestern corner of Lake Superior. “The Indians’ graves are first covered over with bark. Over the grave the same shelter is made, and of the same materials, as enter into the form and structure of a lodge. Poles are stuck into the ground, and bent over, and fastened at the top; and these are covered with bark Thus the grave is inclosed. An opening is left. like that in the door of a lodge. Before this door (I am describing a grave that is here) a post is planted, and the dead having been a warrior, is painted red. Near this post, a pole is stuck in the...

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Choctaw Burial Customs

Thus the greater part of the southern country was claimed and occupied by tribes belonging to the Muskhogean group, who were first encountered by the Spanish explorers of the early sixteenth century, and who continued to occupy the region until removed during the first half of the nineteenth century. For three centuries they are known to have remained within the same limited area. On the west were the Choctaw, whose villages extended over a large part of the present State of Mississippi and eastward into Alabama. And to this tribe should undoubtedly be attributed the many burial mounds now encountered within the bounds of their ancient territory, but the remains as now found embedded in a mass of sand and earth forming the mound represent only one, the last, phase of the ceremonies which attended the death and burial of the Choctaw. These as witnessed and described by Bartram were quite distinct. “As soon as a person is dead, they erect a scaffold eighteen or twenty feet high, in a grove adjacent to the town, where they lay the corpse lightly covered with a mantle; here it is suffered to remain, visited and protected by the friends and relations, until the flesh becomes putrid, so as easily to part from the bones; then undertakers, who made it their business, carefully strip the flesh from the bones, wash and cleanse...

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