The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century

By Francis Parkman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII. 1636, 1637. THE FEAST OF THE DEAD.

HURON GRAVES.--PREPARATION FOR THE CEREMONY.--DISINTERMENT. -- THE MOURNING. -- THE FUNERAL MARCH. -- THE GREAT SEPULCHRE. -- FUNERAL GAMES. -- ENCAMPMENT OF THE MOURNERS. -- GIFTS. -- HARANGUES. -- FRENZY OF THE CROWD. -- THE CLOSING SCENE, -- ANOTHER RITE. -- THE CAPTIVE IROQUOIS.-- THE SACRIFICE.

MENTION has been made of those great depositories of human bones found at the present day in the ancient country of the Hurons.1 They have been a theme of abundant speculation;2 yet their origin is a subject, not of conjecture, but of historic certainty. The peculiar rites to which they owe their existence were first described at length by Brébeuf, who, in the summer of the year 1636, saw them at the town of Ossossané.

The Jesuits had long been familiar with the ordinary rites of sepulture among the Hurons, -- the corpse placed in a crouching posture in the midst of the circle of friends and relatives; the long, measured

____________________
1
See Introduction, 76-77.
2
Among those who have wondered and speculated over these remains is Mr. Schoolcraft. A slight acquaintance with the early writers would have solved his doubts.

-159-

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