Native American Death Beliefs
Native Americans had many different beliefs when it came to death. They did however share the belief that they should focus on helping the deceased be comfortable and protect them in the afterlife. I will give a few examples below on what a few of the Native American nations did to honor their dead.
Death rituals include placing food, weapons, jewelry, tools, or pots within the burial site for the use of the deceased in his afterlife. The Nez Perce Native American’s would even sacrifice the deceased’s horse, wives, or his slaves so they could be buried together. Other common Native American death rituals include: The medicine man or spiritual leader should lead the ritual, Gifts are buried with the deceased, Pipes are smoked, The burial is often done at a special site either close to or away from their home. They believed death was a journey to another world
Some Native American’s felt the deceased person was resentful of those that were still living and were fearful that the ghost of the dead would come back and cause trouble for anyone who used their possessions. This belief led them to burn the deceased’s house and all of their possessions. The family would move to a new house in a new location to escape the ghost of the deceased. Native Americans believed they should not impede the spirit of the deceased from finding its way into the afterlife. They also believed they should help guide or aid the spirits ascent. Some of the death rituals that were common for this purpose included: Elevating the body in a tree or on a platform, leaving an opening in the burial place or coffin (some wouldn’t bury the deceased at all), burying a horse with the body so it can carry the body into the after life, and also not saying the deceased’s name out loud for fear of calling them back to earth.