Burial Customs of the Caddo Tribe

Before the corpse is taken out from the house, those present pass their hands over it, from head to feet, and then over their own person. Messages are sent through the deceased to other dead relatives. 1 Anybody arriving too late to see the deceased will go to the grave, to the east side, and, making a pass over the grave, will pass his hands down his own person. This rite is repeated at the other sides of the grave, south, west, north.

Graves are made near dwelling houses, 2 nowadays on your own land. At the time of the land allotment White Moon’s grandmother selected as her land the place where her daughter and grandson, White Moon’s mother and little brother, were buried. The daughter of a neighbor 3 is buried here, too. During the period of my inquiry Hanoshi’ (Gen. II, 25) died. She was to be buried, according to White Moon, near her sister, Sadie (Gen. II, 23) whose grave was near their mother’s house where both women had continued to live. House and burial place are at Kudadosa where White Moon’s mother and brother lived and were buried. But the burial places like the houses of these two related families are separate. In another place are buried, near one another, several of White Moon’s paternal relatives, his father, Mr. Blue, his father’s mother, his father’s three sisters and a parallel cousin. These graves, some of which were made before 1900, are on land now belonging to Sam Houston 4 (Gen. I, 24) whose mother was the oldest sister of Mr. Blue. Sam Houston got the land from Biskuachu, a paternal parallel cousin. 5 The body of Mr. Blue was brought from some distance (Fort Cobb) to be buried in this place (Binger) which “seemed like home to them.”–From the evidence, it seems as if members of the same family were buried together, and that for burial purposes kinship was reckoned through the mother.

The head of the grave must be at the west, 6 facing the rising sun. The grave diggers stand at the east end of the grave and one shoots to the west, 7 into the grave. Then they let down the blanket-wrapped body. They put into the grave whatever they think the deceased should take with her or him, for a woman, cooking utensils, plates, etc., clothing; and for a man, besides clothes and blankets, bow and arrows “to defend himself on his road if anything bother him,” since “evil things 8 try to get the soul before reaching heaven.” 9 As such “evil things” are abroad at night the bow and arrows for the deceased should be made in the day time. 10 A woman will protect herself with her knife. If the deceased is interfered with, he will linger about until the shaman sets him on the right road again. According to Ingkanish the besetting evil things are bad kaayu (ghosts) or tsaki’u (ki’u, horn), “devils” with horns. They are on both sides of the road which is “awful hard” to travel. It is narrow. There is a big river crossed by a small log. 11 After you pass over that foot log you are safe, and you go on to naawantikuki’das (our father all home) or, as it is also called, kiwat’hae’me (home big) or kiwat’hae’me kuki’das, which is above, to the west. 12Citations:

  1. Shawnee funeral guests send gifts via the deceased, to their dead kin (Voegelin).[]
  2. Cp. Harrington, 285.[]
  3. This woman White Moon’s grandmother called dahai’’, younger sister; but White Moon insists that between the two women there was no kinship.[]
  4. Named undoubtedly for General Sam Houston with whom Caddo were in contact during their Texas sojourn in 1825-1840.[]
  5. See p. 71.[]
  6. Cp. Dorsey 2: 65.[]
  7. Formerly they shot arrows to notify the “master of the house” to whom the dead went (Hatcher, XXX, 294).[]
  8. According to Dorsey 2: 62-64, cannibals who eat the dead. Compare soul eater reported for Choctaw (Swanton 3: 195).[]
  9. Hayuna naa’a, above or there high where is father. Cp. Mooney, 1096, 1098, 1099.[]
  10. It is the ghost itself that would fetch them, according to Dorsey, and the appearance of a ghost is a sign of death in the family.[]
  11. Reported among Choctaw (Swanton 3: 218-219) and Shawnee (Voegelin).–Spanish?[]
  12. Cp. Creeks (Swanton 1: 512) and Southeast in general (Swanton 2: 709-710).[]

Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921.

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