Memorial Ceremonies


Note: All traditional ceremonies that are described reflect our 
contemporary practices of today.  Through history most of our 
ceremonies were not documented - now they are a combination of "oral 
history" and "pieces" of family histories.  Over the time of several 
generations our culture and customs have changed as a result of many
social and ethnic pressures.  As our elders have said "there are no
right or wrong ceremonies - always do what your heart tells you to 
do." Do them in a good and sincere way and all of our relations of
the past will understand - be thankful to your ancestors that you
remember them in your blood.  

Cowasuck Band - Pennacook - Abenaki People - Traditional Practices
Memorial Ceremonies -

BURIAL -

When a death occurred in the village everything became very quiet as 
the people were notified.  If festivities were going on they were 
peremptorily checked.

The deceased was dressed in their best clothes, and ornaments were 
placed upon them.  If the deceased were a man, a bow and some arrows, 
in later days a gun, were placed with him, and as tradition asserts, 
in early times also a stone gouge or the like.

Two burial ground types were described in our history.  In one the 
body was wrapped in a roll of birch bark, buskani'gan, and buried two 
to several feet deep in the burying-ground, buskani'gamik, "grave 
habitation."   In the other, the Abenaki cemetery was referred to as 
a forest of coffins, such as old scaffold burials, Boskeniganiko, or 
as the skeleton land, Jibayki.  The coffin, a burying thing was 
called Boskenigan and large piece or thing of birch bark was called 
Maskwaigizitgan.

Near each village a place was located where the dead were buried, 
preferably a sandy place where excavation was easy.  High commanding 
hills or bluffs near the river were liked on account of their solemn 
dignity.

A curious tradition is recorded about the cemetery at Indian Island 
in Maine.  We would not enlarge the overcrowded graveyard, for it was 
thought that we would die to fill it up again if we did so.  If 
people died away from home, or in the distant hunting grounds, every 
effort was made to bring the remains home for interment near the 
village.

A short time before the body was buried, however, a mourning or 
funeral ceremony was performed.  The relatives and their friends 
gathered at the lodge and demonstrated their grief.  Some elderly men 
standing near the corpse chanted the following dirge for a while, the 
assemblage joining in.  Some say that it was the office of the head 
chief or Kchi Sag8mo to sing this song shortly after the death of a 
villager, and to do so again when the body in its bark wrapping was 
interred.  The song is said to be a prayer to the soul. "Now our aged 
man is going to sing a 'dead song,' me'tcinayintowa'gan," was the 
introduction phrase.

YA NI GO WE YA       NI GO WE YA     NI GO WE
MOURNING -

If the deceased person left a spouse, a company of old women, 
consisting mostly of relatives of the departed, visited the widow or 
widower and placed the mourning upon them.  This consists in modern 
times, the customs still being practiced, of a suit or dress of 
black.  It is presumed to have been formerly paint or perhaps ashes.  
This mourning was imposed upon the bereaved for a year or, if 
advisable, perhaps half a year.  During this time a strict watch was 
kept on the mourner's conduct, because it was tabooed for them to 
indulge in any of the following acts: sexual intercourse, joyful 
festivities of any kind, the use of liquor, and incidentally anything 
which would be irreverent to the memory of the deceased.  From what 
we gather, in the nature of popular opinion, the mourner was under a 
ban, hedged about the criticism and appearance of conventional 
behavior for the specified time.  Should a lapse of conduct reach the 
ears of the old women, they took off the mourning and left the 
mourner in profound disgrace.  Popular sentiment was strong enough to 
provide sufficient punishment for the offense, the disgrace being 
considered ample.

When, however, the set time had passed, the same old women visited 
the widow or widower and removed the black grab.  That evening a 
dance rite was held in which the participants, including the mourner, 
were daubed with red paint on the forehead by an old woman, the 
occasion being the signal for abandoning grief.  The dances were of 
the ordinary round type though the first song was a special one.  
When this dance was over, the mourner was free, and could marry again 
or associate without restraint amongst friends.  The rite was called 
gatsiwe'ndimak, "mourning removed."

The burden is HE YA WE YA HE + HE NI YA WE YA HE + HE YA WE HO YA HE
+ GA HYO NO + YA HE + SKINOSIS'TUK ("boys") YA HE NE NO YA HE + etc.

CEREMONIES CUSTOMARY AT THE DEATH OF A CHIEF -
  
According to the wampum records of the Passamaquoddy, when the chief 
of the tribe died, his flag pole was cut down and burnt, and his 
tools of war - bows and arrows, tomahawk and flag were buried with 
him.

His group mourned for him one year, after which the Pwutwusitimwuk or 
leading men were summoned by the tribe to elect a new chief.  The 
members of one tribe alone could not elect their own chief; according 
to the common laws of the allied nations, he had to be chosen by a 
general wigwam.


ACCEPTABLE REPATRIATION PRACTICES AND CEREMONIES -

Without the specific knowledge of the exact location, time period, 
and origin of the remains any repatriation effort to duplicate an 
appropriately correct burial ceremony of the past is at best a matter 
of guess work.  It should be noted that whatever is done be performed 
with respect and honor to the ancestors.

Based on actual Algonquin based repatriation ceremonies that have 
been observed it is believed that there are many similar and common 
practices that can be drawn from our previous discussion on the 
subject.

The remains and funerary objects should be placed in a container, 
bundle, or roll of white birch bark.  In the past, large sections of 
bark (canoe length and width) would be readily available and the task 
of fabricating a man-sized roll was relatively easy.  Depending on 
the amount of skeletal remains and the availability of bark this may 
be difficult to accomplish. 

A second possible option is to fabricate a container of cedar.  The 
wood should be split to workable thicknesses (without sawing), 
preferably unfinished with bark on.  If a large amount of skeletal 
remains are intact, a cedar coffin may be more practical.    

If possible, no nails or other fasteners should be used other than 
leather, hand-made cordage, or sinew (not artificial type made of 
nylon).        

The burial hole should be dug by hand or with (old) stone tools.  
Some notations have been expressed that shell tools, such as clam 
shells, were not appropriate.  If you are attempting to bury a coffin 
sized container you may need to use shovels and other tools.  
Remember, if our ancestors had these tools they probably would us 
them instead of their hands.     

The burial site should be selected very carefully for many reasons.  
It should be protected from any further potential of being 
re-excavated in the future.   Rocky areas are difficult to work in 
and areas of possible flooding are unacceptable.  A highland 
overlooking a lake or stream is good if the soil is suitable.  
An area with a heavy growth of trees may be difficult to dig 
because of surface roots.

The orientation of the hole and the remains should be positioned in 
the same direction as found, if known.  Many remains have been found 
in shallow graves that are placed in a southerly / northerly line 
with the remains in a "fetal" or "extreme-flex" position, on the 
right side and facing westerly.  This orientation is suggested if 
further information is not available. 

 Note: Many will argue that a holy or spiritual person must perform 
the ceremony.  This may not be absolutely correct, an elder, an 
family member, pipe carrier, or other person with the right mind and 
heart on such matters can always perform the ceremonies.  There is no 
right or wrong way to do any of this - stay focused, be humble, and 
be respectful - the ancestors will help and guide you.  
  
Once the site is chosen, a pipe ceremony and prayers should be 
offered to the ancestors to seek their guidance and approval of the 
site.  A lot can be determined if you do not feel right about the 
site or the way you are going about this matter.

If you feel you are on the right path, make a tobacco offering to 
Mother Earth around the site.  If a water drum or drum is available 
have the singer or singers sing a gathering song to call the 
ancestors to the site.

Ask the ancestors to accept the remains of our ancestor back into the 
womb of Mother Earth to complete the circle of life's journey.   Pick 
the exact spot and start digging, carefully place the top soil and 
material to one side.  The hole should be made slightly larger than 
the container but not too big.  The depth to the hole should be such 
that the top of the container will have about two to three feet of 
cover when it is back-filled.

When the hole is completed make sure that it is stable and unlikely 
to cave-in.  The person that excavated the hole should make a tobacco 
offering into and around the hole.

Note: Smudging with burning sweet grass, cedar, mushroom, sweet fern, 
and tobacco can also be done during the ceremony.  Wabanki 
preferences are with sweet grass and tobacco.
       
The container with the remains is then placed in the hole.  A tobacco 
offering is made again placing tobacco over the container.  Other 
people in attendance can at this time also make an offering and 
prayer as they approach the remains.  If gifts are to be placed with 
the container, care should be made to place them around the container 
and not on top such that the depth of burial would be diminished.
  
If the singer or singers are available, sing a song for the ancestors 
that have passed-on.  Pipe and prayer ceremonies are performed at 
each step of the process.

When all that wish to make prayers and offerings are completed the 
process of burial will begin.  As in the beginning the person that 
placed the remains in the hole will place the first hand-full of soil 
back in the hole.  Each person that was in attendance can now follow 
the same process until all are finished.  The first person will 
return and finish the burial until all of the soil is returned.  The 
surface should be left slightly raised so that any settlement that 
might occur will be compensated for.  The top soil should be 
carefully replaced as well.  As a final step forest leaf matter 
should be carefully dispersed over the site to conceal the burial 
hole location.  Any excess soil should be dispersed in the area.

A final prayer and song is given to thank the ancestors for welcoming 
back the lost relation.       

The following prayers and songs may be used for the ceremony:

DEATH PRAYER

KCHI NEWAISK NANAWALMINAY   HAY  DA  NE  NAY   MAMA GE E E A
WAJE GO DA NAY MOEL   SEC PA NE MA DU GEAY DAWAY

Great spirit watch over me and when I am old
and weak give me guidance as I leave the earth.

 DEATH  SONG (TOM-TOM & STRAIGHT BEAT)
 
YA...WI A NAY   YA...WI A NAY   YA... WI A NAY   YA... WI A NAY
YA... WI A NAY   YA WI A NAY    YA... WI A NAY   YA... WI A NAY

YA WE A NAY A YA YA WE A NAY    YA WE A NAY A YA YA WE A NAY
YA WE A NAY A YA YA WE A NAY    YA WE A NAY A YA YA WE A NAY

THANKS TO OUR RELATIONS

PA E OB...  	E YO DA LE
WU ZE.....	WED ZO KA NI OW NA
O LEE......	DO GO WON GON
WU ZE....	WED ZO KA NI OW NA

(HONOR BEATS)
PAZ A GWE DA A A
OLIWNI WU ZE KCHI NAWASK

They came here and gave help to us
we thank all of our relations for their
help but first we must thank the Great Spirit.


CONTEMPORARY CEREMONIES FOR ALGONQUIN PEOPLE - 

I.	The remains are received from the place of death.

	A.	Embalming performed, if or as requested.

	B.	Remains are prepared for viewing.

		1.	Body is clothed in Native dress "regalia" or 		
		other suitable clothes.  Deceased preference should 	
		prevail if a passing request was made.

		2.	Body wrapped in blankets from neck to feet.

		3.	Head only is exposed.

	C.	Remains placed on bier or standard.

		1.	Bier - hand made of pine or cedar.

		2.	Bier - design similar to that of a ladder.

	D.	Coffin or Cedar/Pine Box are acceptable.  Ancient 	
	burials used a large roll of birch bark to enclose the 
	remains.

or-	A.	Body is cremated and ashes are placed in a suitable 
	container.

		1.	Earthenware, stoneware, or pottery is 
		preferred, copper or silver could be used, anything 
		gold or other metal, plastic, etc. would not be 
		traditional.

		2.	The container with the ashes are in view with 		
		picture or other items of remembrance of the 
		deceased.	

		3.	Cedar and or pine boughs can be placed around 
		the container. 

 II.	Layout

	A.	Bier or standard - covered with blankets, then boughs 
	of cedar or pine placed upon the blankets.

	B.	Body placed on the left side facing the congregation, 
	feet facing the West, "the looking place."

	C.	Boughs of cedar and or pine surround the remains.

	D.	Ordinarily, no flowers will be used.

	E.	Gifts for the deceased in the after-life can be 
	placed in a basket that is placed near the remains.  Gifts of 
	sweet grass, tobacco, a pipe, bows/arrows, knife, axe, bowls, 
	eating utensils, women's awl, sewing items, smudge pot, 
	medicine bags, dry corn/beans, or any other item that could 
	be used on the other side is appropriate.  These items would 
	be buried with the deceased.    

or-	As outlined with cremated remains.

III.	Chapel Service

	A.	Holy Man-Woman - Medicine Man-Woman - Sag8mo .

		1.	Prayers.

			a.	Great Spirit / Creator / God.

			b.	Cardinal Directions and Elements - 
			Pipe or Smudge is used. 

			c.	Prayers for the spirit of the 
			deceased, family and friends.

	B.	Family and Friends.

		1.	Prayers.

		2.	Remembrance Words.

	C.	Drum (If in attendance).

		1.	The drum and singers are smudged and blessed.

		2.	Sings a gathering song at start of service to 
		welcome ancestors to join ceremony.

		3.	Sings an honor song prior to and following 
		prayers.

		4.	One drums continuously, steady muffled heart-
		beat cadence.

IV.	Removal to Place of Burial or Return of Ashes to Mother Earth

	A.	Bier carrying the deceased will be carried to and 
	placed within hearse by chosen family and friends.

	B.	Cortege will embark to grave site.

 or-	Ashes can be kept with the family or returned to Mother Earth 
	as desired by the deceased or family.  Placing the ashes upon 
	the waters of a river or ocean carry them to all places on 
	Earth.  Placing them on Mother Earth can return them to a 
	favorite place such as a beach, mountain or hill top, 
	woodland area, or meadow.  Distributing them into the air 
	carries them with the winds to all places on Mother Earth.
 
V.	Grave Site (Local regulations or codes may prevail)  

	A.	Preparation of liner.

		1.	Fill almost half way with surrounding earth.

		2.	Cedar or pine boughs may surround opening.

	B.	Lowering device.

		1.	Will be used as standard.

	C.	Removal from Hearse.

		1.	Individuals placing the deceased within the 
		hearse will now remove and carry same to grave site.

		2.	Deceased and bier shall be placed upon 
		lowering device, if used.  Cedar or pine boughs 
		arranged around bier to create a connection to Mother 
		Earth.

	D.	Holy Man-Woman - Medicine Man-Woman - Sag8mo. 		

		1.	Will offer prayers much in the same manner as 
		those at the Chapel with the inclusion of parting 
		remarks.

		2.	Sacred Pipe and or Smudge may be used here if 
		desired.
		3.	A Tobacco offering will be made into the 
		Earth, and then all others will do the same if 
		desired.    	

	E.	Drum.

		1.	The drum and singers are smudged and blessed.

		2. 	Sings gathering song to start grave side 
		service and at the culmination of the memorial 
		service will sing one last honoring song.

	F.	Lowering of the Deceased.

		1.	Deceased will be lowered into burial liner by 
		family or friends acting as bearers.
	 	2.	Personal items may be placed with the 
		deceased as described previously.

		3.	A Tobacco offering is made on the deceased 
		and will be covered with remaining earth.

		4.	Liner lid will be put in place by cemetery 
		personnel, preferable after the family departs.   


 SPIRITUAL WORDS -

Die there			Dalina
He/she is dying			Gadona
He/she dies			Macina
One dies			Macinamek
It ends, he/she dies		Macihla
Many die			Msalimacinak
Death				Macinaw8gan

It grieves someone		W8wzigaldam
Being gone forever		Askaosaw8gan 
Travel				Lakanni
Travel back			Bedegakanni
Old people, ancestors		Neg8nzosak
The ones who were
before us, the ancestors	Nik8nk8goagik
Bury someone			Agwankaha
Earth				Ki / Aki
Above land			Spemki
Sky				Asokw
Christian, praying person	B8batamwinno
Great Spirit			Kchi Niwaskw
God, the lord			Tabaldak
The one who come to us		Nawawas
Jesus				Sazos
Blessed Soul			Wli Mjejakw

All My Relations		N'dalgommek
(Grand)Mother Earth		Nokmes Ki
(Grandfather) Sky		Mahom Asokw
Tobacco				Wdam 	 				               

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