Amer, Anth.


Show Summary

These people are very averse to having a dead body in the house, and the corpse is placed in the grave box at the earliest possible moment. This is so marked that the relatives frequently dress the person in the new burial clothing while he is dying in order that he may be removed immediately after death. After death the body is placed in a sitting posture on the floor; the knees are drawn up and the feet back, so that the knees rest against the chest and the heels against the hips; then the head is forced down between the knees until the back of the neck is on a line with the tops of the knees; the arms are drawn around encircling the legs above the ankles and just under the forehead. It is then tied with strong cords to hold it in this position and drawn up through the smoke hole in the roof and carried to the graveyard, where it is placed upon the top of an old grave box while one is being made for it. . . . When the box is ready, usually the next day, the body is placed in it upon a deerskin bed, while other deerskins or cloth covers are thrown over it. All of the small tools of the deceased are placed in the box and a cover of rough planks is fastened down over the top with wooden pegs. Just before the body is placed in the box the cords that bind it are cut, in order, they say, that the shade may return and occupy the body and move about if necessary. . . .

None of the relatives touch the body, this work being done by others. The housemates of the deceased must remain in their accustomed places in the house during the four days following the death, while the shade is believed to be still about. During this time all of them must keep fur hoods drawn over their heads to prevent the influence of the shade from entering their heads and killing them. At once, after the body is taken out of the house, his sleeping place must be swept clean and piled full of bags and other things, so as not to leave any room for the shade to return and reoccupy it. At the same time the two persons who slept with him upon each side must not, upon any account, leave their places. If they were to do so the shade might return and, by occupying a vacant place, bring sickness or death to its original owner or to the inmates of the house. For this reason none of the dead person’s housemates are permitted to go outside during the four days following the death. . . .

The night following, when the people prepared to retire, each man in the village took his urine tub and poured a little of its contents upon the ground before the door, saying, "This is our water; drink"—believing that should the shade return during the night and try to enter, it would taste this water and, finding it bad, would go away.1

1Nelson, E.W.n/an/an/an/a, "The Eskimo about Bering strait," Bur. Amer. Ethnol., Ann. Rep., 18: 314, 313.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Amer, Anth.

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Amer, Anth.

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Amer, Anth.," Amer, Anth. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed May 28, 2022,

MLA: . "Amer, Anth." Amer, Anth., Vol. 18, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 28 May. 2022.

Harvard: , 'Amer, Anth.' in Amer, Anth.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 28 May 2022, from