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Burial Traditions in Native Americans

Burial Traditions in Native Americans

Introduction

Death is a solely part of human live, and it is appreciated in the different manner with respect. It leads to variation in burial traditions and rituals across the globe. Each culture has the specific customs related to most occasions, including death and burial. Some of them can be considered somewhat different, strange, and unnatural. Burial traditions and customs among the Native Americans is an example of such traditions (Irish 105). This culture is considered a single specific group of people, while historically, the group diversified into various subgroups. Although the group does not share a variety of faiths and practices, most of the sacred ceremonies, such as burials, are considered exceptional. Participation in such ceremonies indicates complete understanding of the values and principles that guide spirituality (Gail). This paper intends to examine the Native American burial traditions, including all the aspects involved in the process.

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The Native American tradition is associated with belief into natural world being profoundly sacred. Therefore, many ceremonies, especially funerals, historically took place in the particular areas, and any harm to such regions was unacceptable. As a result, burial practices among the Native Americans have always been eco-friendly, showing the great respect and love of the nation for nature. During these ceremonies, the families of the deceased were responsible for taking care of the body, with slight help from friends and the public (Irish 105). As such, they made all the necessary arrangements right during the death period, including the transit of the body to the specific burial location and ways to utilize the green burial techniques. The family was also responsible for cleaning and preparation of the body, by dressing and placing it in a wooden casket (Reddy 62). After the deceased was completely prepared for the ceremony, honoring of the body was performed during two to four days before being buried.

The Native American tradition believes in life after death, considering that an individual resumes a new life after his or her period on earth is over. Therefore, actions were taken to help the deceased to comfort in the afterlife. Most tribes placed food, weapons, and other tools in the place where the dead are buried, to make sure that they find these items in their next life. This is a belief, which literally relates to the bible of life after death (Cacciatore 48). However, some tribes would even sacrifice some animals that belonged to the deceased, along with the wives or their slaves, so that they reunited in the new life after death.

As such, during the preparation of the body, several rituals were performed, to mark the identity of the deceased. There were several identification ways, including tying of a feather to hair. Moreover, the face was painted uniquely to make sure that the ancestors in the next world would be able to recognize them (Gail). The drawings were usually made with different colors, representing the earth, the sky, the sun, as well as water. In addition, the family of the deceased wished the dead a proper journey on their way to the next world (Reddy 63). They sprinkled cornmeal and water all over the body to provide nourishment during the journey. The pollen from corn is a symbol of earth renewal through the rainclouds that will later be sent by the deceased’s spirit.

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In case of old men and women, bodies were entirely wrapped in red blankets, referred to as silk. Here, a cord was left hanging from the blanket, which was considered a way for the spirit to be released into the open space. Native Americans strongly believed in life after death, and that the means of reaching the next life varied for different groups (Phillips 81). Most of them believed that death was a part of existing natural cycles in human life. It was through that the spirits kept revolving back and forth between the earth world and the spirit world. As such, the spirits had the ability to renew life as they returned. Consequently, the transition cycle was considered a privilege or honor, as it ensured the survival of people. Furthermore, Native Americans believed that spirit of the dead never died, but rather just left the body. They suggested that every deceased member of the society, still existed among them in the spirit form. Therefore, families would always involve the dead in various plans, including sitting arrangement at home, while others could continuously talk with the spirit, believing that it heard and saw everything going around.

Today, burials among the Native Americans take place in the church or any other places that are considered spiritual. In addition, before the actual funeral, friends and family may attend several services to mourn the dead, while everybody is allowed to participate in the communal dining. As Thursby (215) explains, the extended mourning period is traditionally believed to give the ascended spirits enough time to complete the earthly journey, before taking on the next trip to the spiritual world. The children are included in every aspect of funeral procedures, to show and teach them that death is a part of human life, which should be properly accepted. Therefore, most funerals involve medical staff or spiritual leaders, as well as ordained clergymen. In addition, the body of the deceased is never left alone before the burial, as the spirit needs comfort from the familiar people in the community. Finally, the funeral practices vary depending on the location and the tribe (Thursby 216). For instance, some communities, as well as the Mississippi River areas, established chambered mounds, while Native Americans from the North and Southwest made use of the earthenware jars for the cremation purposes. Evidently, many of such practices are still in place among different Native American tribes, but may have reduced in popularity as a result of the continuing civilization.

Conclusion

There comes a time in human life, when death takes place and should be accepted as the part of life. Different communities and tribes all over the world have various rituals associated with death, which may seem strange to foreigners. The Native American group for instance, as discussed in the paper, has several rituals and traditions concerning death among their loved ones. The group believes in life after death and into the continuous cycle of spirit. They suggest that a person lives on earth as to becomes prepared for the second life in the spiritual world. As such, the Native Americans, bury their loved ones with respect and support for the journey to the next life. In this specific group, burials are done in ways that are eco-friendly. In addition, the group believes that the deceased should be provided comfort and company by familiar people around, during the extended grieving moments, before the actual burial. Moreover, as noted in this research paper, the funeral processes depend on the physical location, where the death occurred and the specific tribe. Therefore, certain differences can be observed for this practice, although burial ceremonies are becoming similar today due to spread of civilization within the native populations.

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