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Postby chiggerbit » Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:52 pm

Did I post this one yet? Some of the burial practices mentioned here remind me of the description of Black Hawk's burial. Now that I think about it, I remember seeing the remnants of an old, very weathered cedar stump placed on the ground beside Black Hawk's burial place. Also reminds me of the Siberian customs.

Southeastern Native American Burial and Funeral Practices

Southeastern Native American
Burial and Funeral Practices

By Alvie Walts

Caddoan Mounds State Park, Burial Mound, Alto, TX


For thousands of years, the funeral practices of the Mound building Native Americans were passed down through oral communication and preserved in the society.

The modern Native American tribes of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Chickasaw, Biloxi, Caddo and several others were part of the Mississippian Mound building Culture.

While many mounds were artificially manufactured by the community for religious and social purposes some of the mounds were funeral mounds of the elite society within the community.

The funeral practice was to bury the elite Royal household with their belongs inside a house. As the destroyed structures were covered with earth the funeral mounds would develop higher into Earth Mounds.

There were several different ways in which the different groups would bury the elite members which were according to the various traditions in the area in which they lived. Various positions of the deceased in the burial chambers were placed in side, sitting and even standing positions according to ceremonial, cultural and religious practices of the community.

The deceased and their house were then covered with dirt and over time as other royal descendents were buried with their house and their belongings the earthen mounds gradually developed. ----------

A rare Stone Grave house, Eastern Kentucky


A grave house, in the Southern United States is a wooden or stone structure built over a grave in the form of a small shelter covering. The grave house is probably a amalgamation of European, Native American and African traditions. The tradition is known among several Native Americans tribes in the United States and is seen as far as north as Canada and as far South as Louisiana.

In Native American and African pre-Christian religions many did not believe in a heaven or hell but that the spirits of their ancestors lived among them today. A grave house then was seen as a “spirit house” for the deceased. This is also seen among Europeans in both Pre-Christian pagan religions and Christian Catholic beliefs such as purgatory.

The Grave house tradition among Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and Creek is also a cultural remnant from the religious beliefs of the ancient Native Americans of the Mound building culture and the ancient practice of funeral burial among those tribes.

Several different practices revolve around Native American funeral traditions and developed over time. One of which is seen in the leaving of food at the grave which is observed in several Native American tribes. The tradition is also seen in Mexico with the Catholic Dia de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” holiday which is actually a Pre-Christian Native American tradition.

Some general guidelines though may be useful in knowledge and recognition of a grave that may belong to a Native American.

Recent Graves

1. Tobacco left or burned at the Grave

2. Ceremonial Grave house

3. Food left at the Grave

4. Personal objects left at the Grave

5. Cedar left at the Grave (Protection against Evil Spirits)

Older Graves

1. Ceremonial Grave house

2. Burial on a hill away from cemetery

3. Burial position of the deceased

An example of a Northern Algonquin Native American Funeral Rite

A person who has followed the Path of Live may gain admission to the Land of the Souls

Internment takes place four days after death

After interment, a spirit house is built and a spirit plate is offered to house and feed the spirit, which may remain after death while preparing to depart to the Land of Souls

A person’s personal possessions are buried with the body. They include a medicine bundle, a bowl and spoon with some corn, tobacco and pipe if the person had one. This is so that the soul may partake in the Festival of Souls, which welcomes them to the Land of Souls

For Four Days after the burial, family and community members keep a fire burning on the grave mound. During this time the souls travels to the Land of Souls

The family mourns for one year

Etowah Mounds, Georgia, attributed to the ancestors of the Muscogee Creek Nation


Menawa, Creek Chief, by Charles B. King

Burial customs practiced by Freedmen

As told by
Lucinda Davis

Creek Freedwoman

....The Creek sho take on when somebody die!

Long in de night you wake up and hear a gun go off, way yonder somewhar. Den it go again and again, jest as fast as they can ram de load in. Dat mean somebody die. When somebody die, de men go out in de yard and let people know dat way. Den dey jest go back in de house and let de fire go out and don't even tech de dead person till somebody get dar who has a right to touch de dead.

When somebody had sick dey build a fire in de house, even in de summer and don't let it die down till dat person git well or die. When dey die dey lit de fire out.

In de morning everybody dress up fine and go to de house whar de dead is and stand around in de yard outside de house and don't go in. Pretty soon along come somebody what got a right to tech and handle de dead and dey go in. I don't know what give dem de right, but I thinking dey has to go through some kind of medicine to get de right, and I know dey has to drink de red root and purge good before day tech de body.

When dey git de body ready dey come out and all go to de graveyard, mostly de family graveyard, right on de place or at some of the kinfolkses.

When dey git to de grave somebody shoots a gun at de north, den de west, den de south, and den de east. Iffen dey had four guns dey used em.

Den dey put de body down in de grave and put some extra clothes in with it and some food and cup of coffee, maybe. Den dey takes strips of elm bark, and lays over de body till it all covered up, and den throw in de dirt.

When de last dir throwed in, everybody must clap dey hands and smile, but you so hadn't better stomp on any of the new dirt around de grave, because it bring sickness right along wid you back to your own house. Dat what dey said, anyways.

Jest soon as de grave filled up, dey built a little shelter over it wid poles like a pig pen and over it over wid elm bark to keep de rain from soaking down in de new dirt.

Den everybody go back tot de house and de family go in and scatter some kind of medicine round de place and build a new fire. Sometimes dey feed everybody before dey all leave for home.

Every time day have a funeral dey always a lot of de people say, "Didnt you hear de "stikini" squealing in de night" I hear dat stikini all the night! De "stikini" is de screech owl, and he suppose to tell when anybody going to die right soon. I hear lots of Creek people say day hear de screech owl close to de house, and sho' nuff somebody in de family die soon.

6 Feedback.

Posted by Cyndie:
I really enjoyed the burial practices highlighted above. Not far from where my ancestors lived in North Carolina, there is an area called Mr. Gilead where moundbuilders buried their dead. Around there, I have found some Goinses who have been buried upright, supported by tree stumpes. Their graves indicate this by having etched footstones of a person and three straight lines supporting their deceased. This is in Moore and Montgomery counties, North Carolina.
Sunday, October 29th 2006 @ 3:18 PM
Posted by Alvie Walts:
Cyndie, yes, it is my belief that such practice is obvious attributed to ancient Native American traditions of the Moundbuilder culture. Gravehouses are also one of those features. Although also seen in Europe, the Gravehouse was incorporated in the South due to a admixture of cultures including Native American and African. One such grave was documented in some of my ancestors where no headstones were found, they were buried away from the cemetery up on a hill and had gravehouses over the graves but no headstones. Thanks for the reply.
Monday, October 30th 2006 @ 8:13 AM
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