MIDWINTER RITES OF THE CAYUGA LONGHOUSE

“I am John Buck’s messenger [referring to a wampum string]. Therefore, listen; John Buck says in olden times of my forefathers was able to recall their departed relatives to see them again, the living ones will make one accord whatever their number will be will get a feast at a certain house for the dead ones, and when the living ones will assemble at the appointed place will take a sliver off their bark door where it turns…and enter noiselessly in the house where the feast is spread out for the dead, and they will all now set down next to the wall of the house on the ground…and one is appointed to address the Great Creator at intervals he would throw Indian tobacco on the fire, he would ask the Creator to send their dead relatives for they are desirous to see them again, and when he sends it, his speaking, he will sit down again, and they will let the fire go down till the light ceases, so that the house becomes dark and no one is allowed to speak or make any noise, and in a little while they will hear people coming outside, and they will enter the house and will set themselves around the spread feast, and the assembled living ones will wait until the dead ones are about done eating then the living ones will kindle the slivers of bark which they have brought with them, and the dead ones are now seen through this light.”  [In the preceding quotation I have added some punctuation and made a few grammatical alterations to make the sense of the letter clearer. F.G.S.].”

Frank G. Speck, in collaboration with Alexander General (Deskáheh). Midwinter Rites of the Cayuga Longhouse. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1949, renewed, re-printed in 1977, p166.

Aa_Six Nations Belts Horatio Hale 1871