Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Chippewa Indians Scaffold Burials

Chippewa Indians Scaffold Burials


Keating thus describes burial scaffolds:

On these scaffolds, which are from eight to ten feet high, corpses were deposited in a box made from part of a broken canoe. Some hair was suspended, which we at first mistook for a scalp, but our guide informed us that these were locks of hair torn from their heads by the relatives to testify their grief. In the center, between the four posts which supported the scaffold, a stake was planted in the ground, it was about six feet high, and bore an imitation of human figures, five of which had a design of a petticoat indicating them to be females; the rest amounting to seven, were naked and were intended for male figures; of the latter four were headless, showing that they had been slain, the three other male figures were unmutilated, but held a staff in their hand, which, as our guide informed us designated that they were slaves. The post, which is an usual accompaniment to the scaffold that supports a warrior’s remains, does not represent the achievements of the deceased, but those of the warriors that assembled near his remains danced the dance of the post, and related their martial exploits. A number of small bones of animals were observed in the vicinity, which were probably left there after a feast celebrated in honor of the dead.


The boxes in which the corpses were placed are so short that a man could not lie in them extended at full length, but in a country where boxes and boards are scarce this is overlooked. After the corpses have remained a certain time exposed, they are taken down and burned. Our guide, Renville, related to us that he had been a witness to an interesting, though painful, circumstance that occurred here. An Indian who resided on the Mississippi, hearing that his son had died at this spot, came up in a canoe to take charge of the remains and convey them down the river to his place of abode but on his arrival he found that the corpse had already made such progress toward decomposition as rendered it impossible for it to be removed. He then undertook with a few friends, to clean off the bones. All the flesh was scraped off and thrown into the stream, the bones were carefully collected into his canoe, and subsequently carried down to his residence.