The Comanche Rider

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The ways of disposing of the Indian dead are many. In some places ground

sepulture is common; in others, the corpses are placed in trees. South

Americans mummified their dead, and cremation was not unknown. Enemies

gave no thought to those that they had slain, after plucking off their

scalps as trophies, though they sometimes added the indignity of

mutilation in killing.

Sachem's Head, near Guilford, Conn
cticut, is so named because Uncas cut

a Pequot's head off and placed it in the crotch of an oak that grew

there. It remained withering for years. It was to save the body of Polan

from such a fate, after the fight on Sebago Lake in 1756, that his

brothers placed it under the root of a sturdy young beech that they had

pried out of the ground. He was laid in the hollow in his war-dress, with

silver cross on his breast and bow and arrows in his hand; then, the

weight on the trunk being released, the sapling sprang back to its place

and afterward rose to a commanding height, fitly marking the Indian's

tomb. Chief Blackbird, of the Omahas, was buried, in accordance with his

wish, on the summit of a bluff near the upper Missouri, on the back of

his favorite horse, fully equipped for travel, with the scalps that he

had taken hung to the bridle.

When a Comanche dies he is buried on the western side of the camp, that

his soul may follow the setting sun into the spirit world the speedier.

His bow, arrows, and valuables are interred with him, and his best pony

is killed at the grave that he may appear among his fellows in the happy

hunting grounds mounted and equipped. An old Comanche who died near Fort

Sill was without relatives and poor, so his tribe thought that any kind

of a horse would do for him to range upon the fields of paradise. They

killed a spavined old plug and left him. Two weeks from that time the

late unlamented galloped into a camp of the Wichitas on the back of a

lop-eared, bob-tailed, sheep-necked, ring-boned horse, with ribs like a

grate, and said he wanted his dinner. Having secured a piece of meat,

formally presented to him on the end of a lodge-pole, he offered himself

to the view of his own people, alarming them by his glaring eyes and

sunken cheeks, and told them that he had come back to haunt them for a

stingy, inconsiderate lot, because the gate-keeper of heaven had refused

to admit him on so ill-conditioned a mount. The camp broke up in dismay.

Wichitas and Comanches journeyed, en masse, to Fort Sill for protection,

and since then they have sacrificed the best horses in their possession

when an unfriended one journeyed to the spirit world.

Myths and Legends