Burial Customs of Timucua Indians

The following regarding burial customs is from Laudonnière:

When a king dieth, they bury him very solemnly, and, upon his grave they set the cup wherein he was wont to drink; and round about the said grave, they stick many arrows, and weep and fast three days together, without ceasing. All the kings which were his friends make the like mourning; and, in token of the love which they bear him, they cut off more than the one-half of their hair, as well men as women. During the space of six moons (so they reckon their months), there are certain women appointed which bewail the death of this king, crying, with a loud voice, thrice a day – to wit, in the morning, at noon, and at evening. All the goods of this king are put into his house, and, afterwards, they set it on fire, so that nothing is ever more after to be seen. The like is done with the goods of the priests; and, besides, they bury the bodies of their priests in their houses, and then set them on fire. 1

The mourning rites for persons of the lower orders are not given, but from Pareja it appears that the custom of cutting off the hair was universal. 2 He also informs us that some object was placed with the body in the tomb. 2 In the narrative of De Grourgues’s expedition Olotocara, the nephew of Saturiwa, is said to have begged De Gourgues “to give unto his wife, if he escaped not, that which he had meant to bestow on him, that she might bury the same with him, that thereby he might be better welcome unto the village of the souls or spirits departed.” 3 Le Moyne says:

When a chief in that province dies, he is buried with great solemnities; his drinking-cup is placed on the grave, and many arrows are planted in the earth about the mound itself. His subjects mourn for him three whole days and nights, without taking any food. All the other chiefs, his friends, mourn in like manner; and both men and women, in testimony of their love for him, cut off more than half their hair. Besides this, for six months afterwards certain chosen women three times every day, at dawn, noon, and twilight, mourn for the deceased king with a great howling. And all his household stuff is put into his house, which is set on fire, and the whole burned up together.

In like manner, when their priests die, they are buried in their own houses; which are then set on fire, and burned up with all their furniture. 4

A manuscript, copies of which are to be found in both the Lowery and Brooks collections, contains an interesting account of the burial customs of the Tocobaga Indians. It is entitled “Notes and Annotations of the Cosmographer, Lopez de Velasco,” and the part which concerns the Tocobaga runs thus:

When one of the principal caciques dies, they cut him to pieces and cook him in large pots during two days, when the flesh has entirely separated from the bones, and adjust one to another until they have formed the skeleton of the man, as he was in life. Then they carry it to a house which they call their temple. This operation lasts four days and during all this time they fast. At the end of the four days, when everything is ready, all the Indians of the town get together and come out with the skeleton in procession, and they bury it with the greatest show and reverence. Then they say that all those who have participated in the ceremonies gain indulgendes. 5


  1. Laudonnière, La Floride, pp. 10-11; French, Hist. Colls. La., 1869, pp. 173-174.[]
  2. Pareja, Confessionario en Lengua Castellana y Timuquana, p. 127.[][]
  3. Laudonnière, La Floride, p. 216; French, Hist. Colls. La., 1869, p. 356.[]
  4. Le Moyne, Narrative, p. 15 (Ill.).[]
  5. Brooks MSS., Lib. Cong., translated by Miss Brooks.[]

Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top