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p. 107


Awe:yondo? Gawen'notgä'o

Now all hearken to what must be said!

We are gathered here because of what our Creator has done. He made it so that people should live only a certain length of time--none to be more favored than another.

Now our uncles made provisions for this event, and our grandfathers and the chiefs when they first thought of this thing [death] in those days. They had never seen death [before]. Their first knowledge came when they saw a person in an assembly die. [Strangely] no one was surprised. Soon afterwards they saw another death in the manner of the first. Soon again another died. Then did the chiefs consider the matter, saying, "We were not born to live forever." Then did the people see that they were not to live forever but only for a certain period of time. Therefore, they made certain rules. Then did they divide the people into clans, kashadenioh. Then did they divide the clans into two divisions. Now when a death occurred the other division [phratry] was to officiate at the funeral. The side that lost one of its members must quietly mourn and say nothing. The cousins must do the speaking. They must speak telling the mourners what they must think. So now first they should say, "Keep your minds up."

The preacher then turns to the mourners and addresses them as follows:

There are many of your own relations yet remaining, there are old folk and there are children.. So let these lift up your minds. Moreover here is the earth upon which we tread, everything upon it is for our comfort. There is water, springs of water and streams of water flowing over the earth. There are different plants and trees. All of these our Creator has given us. So let this lift up your minds.

So now then another.

There is the sky above our heads. There are many things there. In the forms of the stars are signs to guide us. The sun gives us light. The moon gives us light. She is our grandmother., The sun is our brother. All these are performing that for which they were created. So let this lift up your minds.

So now then another.

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It is the Gai'wiio`, the good word of our Creator. Our Creator thought that the people should hear what was in his mind. So he sent word down to the earth. He thought that the people should know what his words were. Now this should lift up your minds.

So now then another.

It is the four geniewage [ceremonies]. Now this should lift up your minds.

[If the dead person is a chief the preacher here ceases to give the chief on the mourning side an opportunity to reply. The reply is as follows]:

Cousin! I have heard all that you have laid before us--how we should keep our minds. We have commenced from the beginning of the world when the Creator made us. We have thought of the water, the springs and the streams of water. We have thought of the sky and everything therein, the sun and the moon, the words of our Creator and the four ceremonies. These things you have pointed out, Oh Cousin! These things will lift up our minds. Now, Cousin, you should know that we accept all that you have said. We can not say that we do not accept what you have said. Now we put all of your words together; we accept them all. So is the reply.

[The preacher then arises and continues]

So now again listen, all of you!

Now let every one listen.

[The preacher makes an extemporaneous speech in which he addresses the entire assembly. Afterward he selects passages from the Gai'wiio` among which the following is always repeated]

So now another message.

Now it is said that your people must change certain customs. It has been the custom to mourn at each recurring anniversary of the death of a friend or relative. It is said that while you are on earth you do not realize the harm that this works upon the departed.

[Now moreover, it is said that when an infant is born upon the earth with which the parents are dissatisfied it knows and says, "I will return to my home above the earth."]

Now it is said that grief adds to the sorrows of the dead. It is said that it is not possible to grieve always. Ten days shall be the time for mourning and when our friends depart we must lay grief aside. When you, the beings of the earth, lose one of your number you must bury your grief in their grave. Some will die today and some tomorrow, for all our days are numbered. So hereafter do

p. 109

not grieve. Now it is said that when the ten days have elapsed to prepare a feast and the soul of the dead will return and partake of it with you. It is said moreover that you can journey with the dead only as far as the grave. It is said that when you follow a body to the grave you must have prepared for that journey as if to travel afar. Put on your finest clothing for every human creature is on its journey graveward. It is said that the bodies of the dead have intelligence and know what transpires about them. It is true.

So they said and he said. Eniaiehuk. (Section 67 of the Gai'wiio`.)

[The preacher then announces certain decisions of "the dead side" and then continues with the established funeral rite, as follows]:

When the body of the dead is buried we must become resigned to our loss. It can not be helped.

[The preacher speaks to the fathers]

Now do you also do the same as the dead side and become resigned to your sorrow?

[The preacher addresses the relatives afar off]

And now you afar off who are the relatives of the dead, do you become resigned also when you hear of the loss?

The things of the past shall continue. It [death] should not hamper or stop any ordination of the Creator. Let not a death stop an event in course of progress. Let us fulfil the law of mourning for a ten-day period and have the feast at the end. We believe that the dead will return at the end of ten days. Now the Creator said, "The customs ordained by the early chiefs [regarding mourning] are right. They had no knowledge of what would happen in the future when they made the customs but the Creator spoke to Ganio`dai'io and said, 'True and good is the ceremony of your grandfathers for the time of mourning and also the death feast.'"

[When the face of the dead is unwrapped for its friends to look upon for the last time the preacher says]:

Now let all journey to the grave with the body of the dead for it is as far as we can go.

[At the grave the preacher turns to the crowd and says]

So now we thank all those who have come to this funeral ceremony to help us. So it is done.

[The body is then covered with earth.]


107:1 Related by Skidmore Lay, Cattaraugus chief, March 1906.

Next: The Death Feast