You are here:

Cemetery/Scaffold Burial


I was born in Europe moved to the US as a teenager and have lived in three different states, currently I live in California.
I long to receive a "Scaffold Burial" upon my death ideally wrapped in a Buffalo or Bear Hide so that,as I depart,I may have a chance to be blessed by the sun and the stars and the wind and the rain and the morning dew, the sound of birds and tree leafs

As a US Citizen I feel that I should be allowed this as a Legitimate Civil Rights Choice.

If necessary I would consider affiliation.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my concerns and I hope you may assist me or guide me.

With Regards, Joe

Hi Joe,

Lucky for you, you're not the only person in the US who wants this, although you ARE in a minority; however, it's not yet an approved form of disposition for non-native peoples, so don't die yet! We do tend to make progress on these things, however; the first open-air cremation facility was established in Crestone, Colorado a couple of years ago, and there's a Zoroastrian-style tower-of-silence area proposed down in Texas so things do evolve.

George Russell, who runs the Huntsville, Texas area burial ground might be worth contacting, as you say you're willing to 'consider affiliation'. I have no experience with Mr. Russell and am not making a direct recommendation, but his group does advertise being willing to accommodate wishes like yours, and I get the feeling he'd go to bat for your right to do so on his land. has an account written by some visitors back in 2007, and from that site you can identify links to help you contact him.

No matter what, if you're committed to this process your most important step is writing down, in detail, what you want - and then funding it in advance. You could do this with a pay-on-death bank account payable to the Executor of your estate; just make sure that that person is THE person who will be contacted first, at the moment of your death so that you don't get scooped up into a process that's not what you want, because the will (where people think they're supposed to put these things) usually doesn't get read til well after the decisions about what to do with the body have been made.

Because what you want is currently non-traditional, you'd be well-advised to lay all of the groundwork in advance. This will probably mean going ahead and locating - and buying - your buffalo hide (it will make a great conversation piece). You might want to practice building a few scaffolds in the backyard and once you get the parts figured out (with the cooperation of your cemetery operator, like George perhaps), pre-cut them, pack them up, write out the instructions, and store them.

Obviously you're going to have some logistics to figure out, like how to tell others to get your body up onto the platform in the woods, how to set the poles so that they don't fall over right away (and upset everybody), but I suppose this might be where some of the fun is, yes? A video might help, enlisting some friends to get all the roles right. Do get a DNA test and put that with the cemetery's records so that, should a crow drop a bit of you down the road, you don't send the local sheriff's office into a 30,000 dollar forensics investigation tail spin.

There may be a number of complications - legally and otherwise - so having a cooperative cemetery owner with the proper spirit of adventure and defense of your rights is likely mandatory. Reading some of George's interviews online suggest he just might be your guy. Let me know how it works out, ok? You can contact me through the Natural Burial Company (

Download our free natural funeral planner and make your own adjustments. A word of advice: I'd put your ideal scenario down as your Plan A - what you want - but do go ahead and make a Plan B, what you want done in case you're hit by a bus tomorrow ("b" is for bus). You can use our planner for that, just in case the world doesn't catch up to you before you need it to.

hope that helps!

In trees,



All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Cynthia Beal


Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions like this. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters as well as natural burial, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.


Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Cemetery Association of Oregon. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and over a decade of running the Natural Burial Company, founded in 2004. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions, and I own two historic cemeteries the feature natural burial, based in Oregon.

American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

©2017 All rights reserved.