Burying the dead

Indian Cemetery

Indian Cemetery


After the massacre,   John Preston, John Danskin, John Kneeland, Louis Chevret and others helped load the bodies of the victims onto wagons and transport them to the Indian burial ground along the banks of the Mad River.

“Not a word was spoken by the Indians—not a sign of mental suffering given while they were unloading the bodies from the boats until the form of an aged woman was reached, the body of the wife of their old chief.  Then their grief burst forth in the wildest form with frenzied wails and screams of human sorrow, which they seemed unable to control for a time.  Throughout the long day of transferring their dead, they showed no resentment or blame of any kind toward their friends and ever after showed their appreciation of the kindness and sympathy offered them in their trouble. “ [Arcata Union obituary of Caroline Wright, Lucy’s daughter), transcript provided by Susie Van Kirk].

My guess is that Sarah Preston, John’s wife, provided this description for the obituary.

My husband, as I’ve mentioned, is Yurok, and when a family member dies and is buried in Orleans, the family digs and prepares the grave by hand.  There is a great deal of important ceremony that takes place to ensure the departed is sent off to the next life with love and care.

So many people died that day.  Even if only the twenty-eight bodies that Gunther saw  were taken to Union for burial, that is twenty-eight graves to dig.  The equivalent of a classroom full of children .


4 Responses to Burying the dead

  1. Olmanriver says:

    The family names, but not first initial matches, of those white men who helped are also on the indentures list from your Invitation-to-others post :

    “Preston, J.C. Preston, J.C. John m 25
    Preston, J.C. Preston, J.C. Jane (wife) f 20
    Preston, J.C. Preston, J.C. George (cousin) m 4
    Preston, A.M. Preston, A.M. Sam m 13
    Preston, A.M. Preston, A.M. Jasper m 15

    Danskin, G Danskin, G Ginney f 27
    Danskin, G Danskin, G Jim (son) m 11
    Danskin, G Danskin, G Sarah (dau) f 9
    Danskin, G Danskin, G Anna f

    Kneeland, J.A. 04/1861 Kneeland, J.A. Jasper m 15

    Chevret, Leon Chevret, Leon George m 8 Bought 18 months previously by L.C. from C. Clarke of Mattole for $30
    Chevret, Leon Chevret, Leon Bob m 21
    Chevret, Leon Chevret, Leon Mary (wife) f 22
    Chevret, Leon Chevret, Leon Kitty (dau) f 4
    Chevret, Leon Chevret, Leon Mad River Billy m 18
    Chevret, Leon Chevret, Leon Lucy (wife) f 16

    Only Mr. Kneeland’s initials match up exactly, but Mad River Billy, from your Survivors post, ended up with the Leon Chevret above. A year later after the massacre he is listed as being 18 years old. His comments on the Survivor thread reveal that at 17, he already had children and a family. Family making started earlier back then than now.

    Do you think these are brothers of the men in you post?

  2. lynette77 says:

    Isn’t that interesting… After the massacre, and then again in the fall of 1861, Natives were forced to leave the area and go to the reservations.
    My guess is that at least some of those that indentured natives did so hoping they would be able to stay. Some, I’m sure, just wanted to retain their slave labor, but I would like to believe at least some indentured natives to prevent them from being separated from their families and sent to reservations with deplorable conditions.

    1861, Aug. 10, Humboldt Times, DOMESTICATED Indians. Mr. Robenson of Eel River, called upon us yesterday and showed us a petition.. asking Capt. Lovell to take charge of domesticated Indians… until the Indian Agent shall have time to remove them to the Reservation. In the present hostile state of the savages, when incursions are constantly being made, there is great liability that they may suffer the fate intended for hostile Indians only. These peaceful Indians should certainly be placed upon the reservation immediately, and kept there in future

  3. Kathy says:

    UC Berkeley executives say they thought they had legal authority to keep the remains in the public institution’s vast collection, which also includes about 10,000 remains of Native Americans.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/16/MNPK195PD6.DTL#ixzz0OVXXORTr

    The issues you raise are current.

    • lynette77 says:

      For those that missed it, Tony Platt did a great article for the North Coast Journal on this subject entitled, Grave Matters

      Imagine if the remains disturbed belonged to your mother.

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