Scrapbook Memories

Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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Indian Burial Customs Weird

By Dawn Scott

As we lifted the fragmented and time worn bones from the freshly opened grave, their earthy smell assaulted my nostrils while the dry rasp of them gave me an eerie feeling.

I was torn between two emotions as we began to dig into the Indian burial ground. I felt I was disturbing the dead. But on the other hand, I was fascinated, intrigued and eager to discover what the "dig" contained. My thirst of knowledge won out over my feelings of irreverence.

Cecil Durham was an amateur archeologist and was well versed in the history of Indians. We made plans to look at some of this history first hand. So we set out that morning for Fairview.

Mr. Durham explained to me that he had determined where a burial ground could be found from the information supplied to him by my father. I followed Mr. Durham, determined to learn all I could about the Indians that once roamed our area.

We located the burial grounds and began the difficult task of digging. I shuttered as we neared the skeleton itself. I would have to overcome these feelings if I were to continue the search for artifacts but my interest grew as each shovel full of dirt was lifted.

Mr. Durham, realizing my interest in Indian history, brought me a book that described the Indians and their way of life in this area. The book contained information I found almost unbelievable. I found within the pages, things I've never known about Indians before.

Mr. Durham assured me the book was factual. I was impressed by the burial customs of the Indians who once occupied the land on which we had found the graves.

The book told of the tribe having a medicine man. This is not so unusual, but part of his duties as a medicine man I found were strange indeed.

In this area, the dead were sometimes buried similar to Indian burials in the west, placed upon a scaffold made of wood. But unlike the Indians in the west who burned the bodies or left them to decay, this particular tribe had the medicine man -- whose fingernails were from four to five inches long --pull the decayed flesh away from the bones of the dead.

It was also the custom of several of the tribes to bury along with the deceased chief or brave everything he would need in the happy hunting ground. They would bury with him his war pony, his spears, bowls, bows and arrows, blankets, his favorite dog and sometimes his woman.

There have even been reports that some Indians were buried astride their horses with the horse buried standing on all fours.

Mr. Durham told me you can always tell a poor Indian from a rich one by the possessions buried with them. The one we had just unearthed was very poor; few artifacts were found. We made a systematic search of the grave and its contents, then returned everything just as we found it. The grave was covered. We only wanted to study the site, not disturb it.

Mr. Durham showed great respect for the burial grounds. Mr. Durham explained things to me as he worked. It seems that some Indians buried their dead in mounds. The bodies were placed one on top of another with only a few feet of dirt between. Whole hills can be found containing the bodies of these Indians.

If you see a perfectly shaped, mounded hill, it's a good chance you're looking at an Indian burial mound. The unusual thing about the mounds are that very few rocks will be found in the mound and the ones that are found are small in size.

"It's not good to find a nail in one of these graves," remarked Mr. Durham.

"Why? I asked, not concentrating on what he had just said.

"Because that means you have discovered the grave of a white man and you've found evidence of a coffin.

"It seldom ever happens but sometimes you run across unmarked graves where the white men have buried someone over an Indian burial ground."

We found many Indian artifacts that day and I gained even a deeper interest in Indian history. I also got to see where the Indians manufactured arrows out of flint and I got to see where a woman chief whose name was Fairview had lived with her tribe.

I thought the part about Chieftess Fairview was most interesting because I had not realized Indians allowed women to be chiefs.

As we left that day, Mr. Durham pointed out an Indian burial mound on which rested a large house. The girl that lived in that house, attended school at the same place I did. I wonder if she realized she was living on top of an Indian burial ground? I never mentioned this fact to her but the recent releasing of a book and a movie. called "The Amityville Horror" -supposedly a true account of a family plagued by demons -- discovered that the house in which they lived was built on the site of a place in which Indians were taken to die when they went insane and also was a burial ground.

 

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