Yellow Bird: Grief the same among all cultures
"I moved to Grand Forks about 18 years ago. There was a death in the community of someone I knew. That was when I learned there are differences between American Indian and non-Indian rituals of death.

Specifically, the non-Indian rituals are not as long as ours, nor do they follow the procedures we do. Most significantly, we don’t leave the deceased person until they are buried.

When the body is brought back to the reservation from the funeral home, the family and community stay with the deceased person. As the community pays its respects, relatives or friends of the deceased feed the people who come by.

These wakes used to be held in the family home. Today, they are usually in the community center because of the large number of people who attend.

Church songs are usually sung, people talk about the person, and there is American Indian singing and sometimes drum songs, depending on the person who passed away. We stay with the person until the hearse returns to take the person to where he or she will be buried. A ceremony is held at the gravesite, and the people — not the funeral home — cover the grave.

We then return to the community center, where relatives and friends have been bringing gifts. Those gifts are given out to the community. The family takes the place of the person who has passed away, and thanks the community for helping the deceased relative when he or she was alive."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: Rituals differ, but grief is the same (The Grand Forks Herald 11/6)

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