Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 

The Culture of the Luiseño Indians, by Philip Stedman Sparkman, [1908], at


After the death of a husband his wife used to cut her hair short as a sign of mourning. Some follow this custom still. If a person was unmarried, some near relative might cut her hair off. A grandmother may do this on the death of a grandchild. Men never cut their hair as a sign of mourning.

When a person dies people blow three times, with the idea of assisting his soul or spirit (heart) to rise to the sky.

Before the arrival of the friars the dead were always cremated.

A religious ceremony of much importance is that of burning the clothes of deceased persons. This is generally held one year after their death. Some clans have now given up this practice, but others still keep it up. When the clothes of a person are to be burnt, the feast-chief of that clan does not perform the ceremony himself, but employs some one else to do so, usually the feast-chief of another clan. Large quantities of calico, and sometimes other articles, are given away at these ceremonies by those

p. 227

of the deceased person's clan. But those of the same clan are not given any of these articles, only those of the clan of him who performs the ceremonies for the feast-chief.

At the image ceremony images are made of deceased relatives and are burnt. It is customary to give away many articles at this ceremony, but those of the clan to whom the deceased people belong do not receive any of the gifts.

Another religious ceremony which was formerly of great importance was the killing of an eagle or condor, usually the former. Usually a young eagle was taken from the nest when nearly full grown, and kept for some time in captivity, the feast-chief of the clan having charge of it, though others were expected to contribute food towards its support, such as rabbits and ground-squirrels, or, in more recent times, fowls if the former were not available. Sometimes an eagle might be shot for this ceremony, but a live bird was much preferred.

The golden eagle has regular nesting places, to which it is said to return every other year. Some of these places were considered to be the property of the clan, and it was not permissible for another clan to take eagles from them.

Next: Appendix: Plants Used by the Luiseños