Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
7 Indigenous Peoples of the World: Symbolism in Grief
Indigenous Peoples of the World
Symbolism in Grief
From a modern Western perspective the mortuary practices of many indigenous groups around the world are among the most diverse. Indigenous peoples, as defined by the World Bank, are closely attached to ancestral territories and their natural resources, and are generally subsistence oriented. Indigenous peoples often are also the non-dominant groups in a society. Despite cultural evolution of surrounding groups, indigenous groups might eschew modern mortuary practices for their own traditional, mourning customs. The practices of indigenous peoples provide a window into the historic continuity of certain behaviors that precede colonialism or settlement by more dominant groups.1
Religious beliefs play an essential role in mortuary behavior and mourning rituals for the great majority of the cultures discussed in this book. For peoples who have been the target of missionary expeditions, these behaviors and rituals can be confounded by traditional, indigenous beliefs and those of the adopted religions. In one example, Quincy Newell discusses how baptized Indians in California, between 1776 and 1821, approached major rituals accorded with birth, marriage, ← 93 | 94 → and death at Mission San Francisco. While over 600 Indians were baptized at the Mission, only some completely embraced the Catholic religion.
Few children lived past the age of two at the Mission. Disease in the crowded and unsanitary conditions, lack of dietary variety, and stress of acclimating to an unfamiliar culture were all cited as causes of...
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