Afterlife Injustices: The Desecration of Native American Burial Grounds

Long before the first Europeans landed on the shores of what we now know as the United States, many nations of beautiful, cultural people roamed the mountains and prairies.  They treated the land with great respect…and looked at death not as an end to life, but as a step on a journey toward becoming one with the Earth and the elements. To ensure safe passage into the next realm of existence, certain burial ceremonies and rituals were done, and it was the general understanding that the land that was used for burial was sacred ground…not to be touched.

After much bloodshed and manipulations, these nations of what we now call Native Americans (although the word “America” was not a name they ever used, but rather the name of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci that was coined in the year 1507) had their land taken from them.  They not only had to suffer the indignities of being removed from their regions and placed in specified areas…they also had to leave behind the remains of their ancestors.  One can only imagine their sadness of having to be relocated and leave their homes and watching the land they had come to love and respect being torn apart and built on.  One can only imagine their sorrow at the knowledge that this continued desecration was going to anger their loved ones who lay beneath the ground.

First, let’s look at some of the different nations and their burial customs.  The Hopi tribe  held to the belief that souls would fly west, with the righteous having an easy journey, and those who weren’t encountering many hardships along the way. The Hopi would wash and clothe their dead respectfully, and bless them with prayer feathers, or ankwakwosis.  and leave traditional foods and herbs for their departed loved ones.

Many of the Navajo believed in reincarnation…and to ensure that a soul was born again, it must live a life in accordance with the laws of balance and good health to reach an old age.  This would please the Dawn Woman who would take the soul and place it in the next lifetime.  However, a violent or self-inflicted death…or one that was unexpected….it can bring about the “chindi”, a very negative spirit that will wreck havoc on the family.  There were other Navajo tribes that were very celestial in their beliefs regarding the afterlife….believing that souls traveled to the Dance Hall of the Dead via the Milky Way.

The Pueblo observance of All Souls Day included preparing many different types of foods and taking the prepared dishes to churches for the deceased who they believed would visit on November 1 of each year.  The safe passage to “sipapau” (where the tribe had originally formed from the Earth) was dependent on the loved ones still in this realm to observe the importance of the resources which had served them well for so many centuries.  This included using cedar oil in preparing the dead for burial, because cedar had so many uses.

The most well known and talked about of the burial grounds that belonged to the nations of people who were indigenous to this land are the “mounds” that are found scattered throughout the United States.  The people who constructed these are often referred to as the “mound builders” and are believed to have been creating these mounds for the dead before the pyramids in Egypt were constructed.

It is thought that the first of these mound builders were the Adena tribe, possibly building the mounds over the remains of the more honored members of the nation.   There have been many theories about these mounds, from them being originally built by Vikings, the peoples of the lost civilizations of Atlantis and Mu, other possible ancient peoples having been there before…basically a lot of that was to justify the Europeans taking the land from the people who were already here…inferring that they really didn’t belong here either and had destroyed the civilization that had built the mounds.

This is but a fraction of the history of how the people of these nations honored their ancestors who had gone before them…and it is quite clear that there is a strong belief that the desecration of many of these burial sites is one reason for the many hauntings across the United States. While many of the mounds were preserved, there were thousands of  graves that were forgotten as the people native to this land were moved time and time again.  These graves became foundations for homes and businesses….many of which have since reported being haunted by the angry spirits whose remains had been so carelessly built over.

There are many legends throughout the United States of hauntings that have been attributed to homes being built over these graves.  In the town where I live, legend has it that there were no villages of native peoples built within the city limits…because all of it was burial ground.  There were several accounts about one home in particular where the builders were unearthing bones and bits of pottery.  It’s no surprise that the home is considered one of the most haunted in our town.  There is also many legends of an old cemetery where there is an unmarked grave of two members of an unknown nation were crudely buried after surprising two fur trappers who had been sampling some of the corn liquor they had been making in a copper still.  This cemetery also has a history of strange occurrences.

One of the most famous (and most widely debunked) cases of a haunting being attributed to desecrated burial ground was the case of the home in Amityville Long Island that became the focus of a bestselling book and movie “The Amityville Horror”.  Through all the talk of demonic possession and evil entities, there was a man, a self described expert of the paranormal named Hans Holzer. He was one of the many who were intent on finding an answer to what lay beneath the home. He claimed that a psychic told him there was an “Indian there”…and he developed the tale of the Shinnecock tribe who had supposedly used the land that the home was built on as an enclosure for those who were mentally ill and dying. This claim has been strongly refuted by the Shinnecock nation, as they were not ever in that particular area of Long Island.

It would be impossible to get the proof of where all of the desecrated graves would be….so many were built over and have been lost with the passage of time. The people who were native to this land held great respect and reverence for the soul’s passage from this world into the next one….what must the ancestors be thinking when they see this destruction of what they held to be sacred? Of course it can be argued that the souls have passed on, and they are no longer concerned with the matters of this world..but there are those that believe their anger is crying out from the graves so thoughtlessly plowed over and built upon.

Hauntings, as we know, are well nigh impossible to prove irrefutably. Natural explanations for what appear to be paranormal events are studied all the time. If there are ghosts, there are many different theories and ideas as to where they come from or what reason they choose to haunt a particular location. There is no solid proof that the desecration of the ground that holds the remains of many nations of richly diversified people causes a location to have paranormal activity.  The sad thing is…it shouldn’t matter.  Respect needs to be shown to the graves of those who were here before us….haunted or not.


Here is some thing that I came across that was written mostly by the same person whom wrote this for me very interesting here

Written By Angela Sangster copy right 12/14/09 All copy rights reserved no parts of this  story  may be used without permission. Thank you Angela Sangster



7 thoughts on “Afterlife Injustices: The Desecration of Native American Burial Grounds”

  1. One thing I meant to mention in this article…the United States government has never been very concerned with the desecration of these graves. So much is destroyed in this country in the name of progress.

  2. I really liked this article, It touches my heart, It speaks of my ancestors, I have alot to say about it , but for some reason I can’t seem to put it into words. Thanks to my best friend Angie for doing the research for this, and sharing it with me, she knew it would touch my heart.

  3. I think it was terrible how the first people were treated here in “America”. If any group of people are entitled to reparitions from the gov. it would be the Native Americans (I really dont like that term but it is much better than the more oft used “Indians”)

  4. I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

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