Feast of the Dead (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: The Feast of the Dead provided an outlet for mourning the dead and promoted tribal unity
The Feast of the Dead was a Native American religious ceremony that provided several villages a chance to gather together, reestablish friendships, and collectively mourn their dead. Though the Feast of the Dead is frequently referred to as an Algonquin ceremony, it was also practiced by Huron and Iroquois nations.
Every few years, tribal councils gathered and announced the date and location for a Feast of the Dead. The bodies of the dead were disinterred from their temporary burial sites to be reburied in a common grave. Family members exhumed the bodies and prepared them for the ceremony. They removed the flesh, which was burned, and wrapped the remains in beaver robes. Each village then traveled to the placed selected by the councils. At the site, a large pit was dug. The inside was lined with beaver robes. The bones of the dead and the goods that had been buried with them were suspended from a platform. In turn, each family threw their deceased and grave goods into the pit, which was covered with mats, bark, and logs.
When the Northeastern Indian nations broke up and moved west or north, it became increasingly difficult to gather tribes for a Feast of the Dead. The Mohawk and Seneca tribes continued to practice a variation of the ceremony into the twentieth century.
(The entire section is 238 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!