Today’s guest post comes from Renee Boomgaarden, known as Renee in North Dakota.
A couple of weeks ago, husband and I were invited to a ceremony that a Native American friend organized to commemorate the fourth anniversary of his mother’s death. Our friend is Arikara, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) who live on the Ft. Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota.
The ceremony took place in Bismarck while our friend was camping at the United Tribes Technical College Pow wow. It was conducted by Eric, a Lakota Indian from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is our Arikara friend’s spiritual advisor. Eric explained that the Native American period of mourning lasts four years, and the purpose of the ceremony was to set free the mother’s spirit and bring her children out of the mourning world.
Our friend and his five siblings lined up by the camper and we observers sat across from them. A plate of food and a glass of water for the mother’s journey into the next world was set on a nearby table. The ceremony began with all present getting smudged with cedar smoke, fanned on us out of a shell with a leather-bound bunch of eagle feathers. Eric then stood between us and the siblings and directed two Lakota traditional singers to sing the song to help the mother’s spirit leave this world and travel to the next. He said prayers in Lakota to the four winds/directions. Then he brushed each of the siblings head to toe with the eagle feathers and wiped under each of their eyes with his fingers to remove any tears.
Eric then directed the singers to start the Song of Welcoming, to welcome our friend and his siblings out of the world of mourning into our world. Each sibling was given a taste of corn meal and a drink of water. We observers very formally shook hands with each of the siblings while Eric said another Lakota prayer. We then sat down to a potluck supper, the oldest person going through the line first.
Everyone mourns in their own way and in their own time. Our friend was very happy at the conclusion of the ceremony, surrounded by friends and family, sharing a meal, at peace.
Describe a ceremony that gives you comfort.