Native American Mortuary Practices

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Native American mortuary practices have evolved throughout time; mortuary changes coincide with changes in technology, sedentism, and religious customs. Customs evolve over time in every facet of society; however, mortuary practices are often ignored by the main piece of a population. As an employee of James Funeral Home I have learned how little the majority of the culture knows about preparing and processing their deceased loved ones. As an insider, my interest was piqued into the past mortuary practices of cultures; and also the cultural differences in these practices today. These changes throughout history, and differences today, speak to what cultures truly value and give insight into social hierarchy, family structure and social support …show more content…
Funerals became much more elaborate and death became an amorphous of sorrow, grief, celebration, and practices that deviated from today’s health code and moral standards. The Late Archaic period saw vast temperature changes and an explosion in population size. These groups of people that were once small bands of nomads are now bogged down with large groups of people. These groups could not move and forage as efficiently as the smaller groups so they began to settle in seasonal camps. They were not fully sedentary but they would settle for long periods of time based on resources. As a result of the increasing ambient temperature biotic communities were flourishing; changes in temperature caused a denser population of resources in the same areas as before. This made sustainable foraging for a group much easier and it made settling possible. Nomadic tribes were forced to move. They needed to both follow animal resources and find new biotic resources after depleting an area. With a higher density of edible flora in an area, a group could stay extended periods of time with excess of food. This sedentism gave groups a resource they had scarcely had before; free time. This newfound time coincided with the evolution of highly ritualistic mortuary practices, occult religions, and ceremonialism (North American Archeologist). In other parts of the world …show more content…
Christianity first struck the Southwestern tribes of New Mexico in the 16th century. The Spanish forcibly converted what was left of the Native populations after disease wiped out the majority of their people. With their culture stripped away the tribes also lost their burial practices. Sacred grounds were replaced by Christian cemeteries and Native Americans were encouraged to use them, often by force. For a few of the survivors, burying their family members properly according to their traditions was so important that they risked death to continue the practice (National Parks Service). Courage of this sort was seen all over the continent as Native Americans had their culture violently removed and replaced with the “correct” way of living brought over by the “civilized” world. These brave men and women who defied death to continue the most sacred practices of their culture ensured that a piece of their history can still be expressed today. This expression in the form of mortuary practices can be seen in places like Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, South Dakota. Pat Janis oversees the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Burial Assistance Program. He is a spiritual leader in a community that faces more death, at a younger age, than the vast majority of American culture. He admits that “After we got on the reservation, a lot of that stuff started

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