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p. 110



Now let all listen, all ye who are here assembled!

Cousins! We all are familiar with the happening of a few days ago. We are [therefore] here because of what the Creator has done.

Now the relatives have made arrangements. They have promised to obey the commands of the four messengers who said, "It is right to have a feast for the dead. Therefore this thing should be done."

Ten days have passed. Now the. relatives of the dead have made preparations and the feast is ready for the dead. Now let this be in your minds, all ye who are here present.

[The preacher here pauses. At his side sits the speaker for the mourners. In his charge is a bundle containing various gifts for those who have aided the bereaved family. The speaker has been told to whom the various presents are to go, and as the preacher pauses and bends down to receive the formal instructions he hands him the first gift. Sitting among the women mourners is a woman, the "mistress of the ceremonies," whose duty is to deliver the gifts to the intended recipients.

[After listening to the directions of the speaker the preacher resumes]:

So now the bereaved offer thanks. They thank the one who cared for the body of the dead and dressed it for burial. To that one they give this as a testimony. [The preacher names the article and the matron rising from her seat receives it and delivers it to the person named].

[The preacher again bends to the speaker at his side and receives the "second word." Again facing the audience he proceeds]:

So now of another they have thought. It is of the night watcher [or night watchers]. To this one [or to these ones], they give this roll of cloth [or skins]. And this is your thanks.

[The speaker hands the preacher the roll and he hands it to the matron who delivers it. Stooping and listening to the whispered instructions for the delivery of the next gift, the preacher after making sure that he understands straightens and again speaks]

p. 111

Now to him who wrapped the body in its burial covering for made the coffin], the relatives offer thanks.

[The gift is bestowed as previously described.]

Now the matron who has managed the funeral receives a gift of thanks.

[This named person being the one who has first received and given the gifts now remains seated while the wife or sister of the preacher rises and receiving the gift bestows it. According to Iroquois etiquette it would be an improper thing for the matron to receive her own gift and bear it before the eyes of the crowd to her seat. The recipients are supposed not to be eager to receive the gifts, the things that once belonged to the dead. Besides according to Iroquois philosophy one can not give one's self a thing.]

Now she who notified the people--the relatives desire to give thanks and offer this gift.

Now those who dug the grave--to you the relatives give thanks and offer gifts.

And now you the good friends and relatives, of what is remaining receive you this gift. [The preacher names each person for whom a gift is intended, repeating the formula given. If property of considerable value as live stock or lands is left, the speaker for the mourners in behalf of the council of heirs tells the preacher their decisions and they are announced before the audience. The modern "death feast law" provides that in the event of a man's death his property must go to his children. If he is without issue, then it reverts to his wife. If he was unmarried it was given to the nearest of kin. The law further provides that the property must be divided and apportioned at the "death feast." By the old law the nearest of kin on the clan (maternal) side received the property. Children did not ordinarily inherit their father's property, but their mother's. Their "mother's husband's" belongings went to the kin of the clan to which he belonged.]

[If the dead were an officer of any kind, the preacher announced who was to take his or her place. In order that this election be valid the person chosen must stand, if possible, in the very spot where the dead person expired.]

Now I have finished speaking for the relatives.

Now listen to another matter, all ye who are here present.

Now at this time let the [mourning] relatives cease their grieving. Now may they go and do whatsoever they wish. They are the same as ever and may speak as they please again. Now can they

p. 112

be notified of things to be done. They have now the right to engage in any current happening. No longer think their hands must be held back. If it is possible to do, now do, for the time of mourning has passed.

So now we have done our part for you, cousins. So I have done.

[The preacher resumes his seat.]

[The speaker for the mourning side arises and addresses the officiating side]:

Now listen cousins!

We have heard all that you have said and [know that] you have done your part. We believe that you have done your part. You must hold in your minds that we thank you for what you have done for us. Now I give you this [the object is named] for your trouble.

[Although the speaker is standing at the side of the preacher, the latter can not receive the gift direct, but the matron rising from her seat takes the offering and holds it out to him. Even then he does not take it but points to his wife or mother, indicating that it is to be placed in her keeping.]

[The speaker continues]:

Now we must ask your pardon for giving so small a gift; it is small and your services have been great.

Now we relieve you of your duties, the duties for which we bound you. Now you are relieved.

[The preacher rises and says]:

Now all listen to a few more words that I shall say!

Let all the people here gathered keep silent. Now is the time for the distribution of the feast. It will now be distributed, for it has been prepared and we must eat. Now let they who did the cooking distribute. Let all tarry until the feast is finished. Let hard feelings affect no one and let the matrons divide equally and overlook none. So it is finished.


110:1 Related by Edward Cornplanter, March 1906.

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