#14 The Rarity of Suicide; When the Camp Moved
     (M. Inez Hilger, 1935-1942)

Suicide was a rare event among the Arapaho. A person who committed suicide, it was believed, would not enter the same place in life after death as did other Arapaho. “That’s what they claimed.”

In the very early days very old people sometimes asked to be left behind to die when the camp moved. If the old person had only distant relatives, the wish was sometimes granted; near relatives were never known to do so. A Southern informant related one such instance:

Our old people tell how persons who were a hundred years or older would ask to be left to die when camp was moving. They tell of a woman who was left like that at her own request at a place in Wyoming, now called Hell’s Half Acre (east of Casper, between Casper and Hudson). We were still with the Northern Arapaho at this time. On the following morning when the men went to look for her, she could not be found. She had disappeared. There were no tracks of her own or of any beasts to be found. It was thought that maybe a beast had devoured her. She was never heard of again. It was after that that the peculiar formations in the cave at Hell’s Half Acre began to be formed.

Most informants were agreed that only persons who committed suicide had died in a bad state since they had not had time to again become good persons… Some informants, however, said that suicides did not continue to live after death. Still others said that they did, but only after they had roamed on earth longer than the conventional 4 days… Arnold Woolworth, an 80-year-old Southern man, said: … The only ones we thought did not live on were those that had committed suicide…

Rarely did anyone commit suicide. A person doing so was thought not to enter the place in life after death to which other Arapaho went.

…Since all adult persons were believed to have premonition of death 4 days before it occurred, the only persons who did not have the opportunity to be good persons when death overtook them were suicides. Suicides were, therefore, denied happiness after death.


[#14] Arapaho: “The Rarity of Suicide; When the Camp Moved,” from M. Inez Hilger, Arapaho Child Life and its Cultural Background 
Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1952, pp. 104, 161, 225, 228.


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