Native American smoke curing a human corpse
The Kwakwaka’wakw people of the Pacific Northwest United States participate in a ritual in which their dead are smoke cured – in trees and several at a time, and eaten.
The corpse was one of the Kwakwaka’wakw dead members. They used to bury their dead on trees. The body was placed in a box, and these boxes were placed on branches a considerable distance up a tree. There the boxes were piled one on top of the other. The bodies, when so exposed to the action of the freely circulating air, mostly mummify. A corpse is taken down from the tree and is soaked in salt water. The shaman takes hemlock twigs, the leaves of which have been removed, and pushes them under the skin, gradually removing all the decayed flesh until nothing but the skin remains. After this is done the body is placed on top of the small hut in which the novice (initiate) is living while he is staying in the woods. The hands of the body hang down. Its belly is cut open and spread with sticks. The initiate was expected to smoke-cure the bound corpse for the final ritual. During the ritual the aspirant and the senior members of the brotherhood (Hamatsa) devoured portions of the corpse.
“The drying mummy”, photo by Edward S. Curtis, 1910.