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ASESHATE:KA'TE GRIEF SERVICES
A Non-Profit Organization
Akwesasne, Ontario, Canada & Akwesasne, New York, USA
By Richard Mitchell
In our tradition, when a loved one passes on from the earth, the first thing that will happen is that the family will request for a speaker from the opposite clan of the one that passed on. The speaker will first go to the funeral home, he will speak to the body and he will tell "the Creator gave every person on this earth so many days that they will be here, he does not let us know how long it will be, but it has happened that the Creator has made this the day for you to go back, this is the day that your time on earth has now come to an end". The speaker will have clothes with him that he will tell the body "these are the clothes that you will wear for your journey back to the Creator's land, this is the best that we can do and we hope that your mind will be at peace". We will tell the body that these will be the clothing that they will wear for the next two nights and that we will speak to the body again when they get back to their house. The clothes are sometimes picked by the family or by the person before they passed on.
Now, when the body goes back to the house, the speaker will talk first to the deceased as soon as it gets there, before the family goes to view the body. The speaker will tell the body "now, you have come back to the place where you have lived during your time on earth, what is going to happen is you will be here for the next two nights". One of the most important things that we will tell the body is that for the next two nights there will be many people who will come here to see you. Some people who live in our communities do not think with a good mind and they do things that are bad. The Creator never meant for that to happen but some people they still do bad things. It might happen that someone will come here and they will try and (hire) tell you to do bad things and they will want you to hurt someone, they will try and use you to bring sickness to another person, now I will tell you, if someone does come here and tries to tell you to do bad things that you will not let that happen. The Creator when he put everyone on the earth, he gave every person love and that is the way that your mind was and that is the way its going to be while you will be here for the next two nights. We will also tell you that it may be hard for you because some of the people who were very close to you, they will have a hard time with your passing and they will take it very hard. We encourage you to not let that disrupt your journey to where you are going (back to the Creator).
Now the speaker he will talk to the family at the wake. He will tell the family that this thing that happened, it is going to happen to all of us some day, but this day is the day that the Creator has has selected for the one who has passed on. This happens some time "all of a sudden" and it is always very difficult for the family to understand why it happens. The Creator, he intended that we do not know how many days we will have on this earth and today he has chosen the one before us to go back to the Creators land. The speaker will tell the family that there is nothing we can do to stop this (death) and that the people will have to try and accept that their loved one is passed on and that for the next few days they will only be able to look at the body and then on the third day that will come to end also.
In the beginning of time, the Creator after he made the earth, he made a man and he used the way he looked to make this man. He also made a woman and his thought was that the man and woman will make families and that the families will grow. Both of these creations were made from the earth and he breathed into their mouths and they were given life, that is how the human beings were made. These people roamed the earth, the Creator had given them everything and the families grew. They did not know of anything bad at that time, everything seemed good and they lived for a long time and then one day, one person fell right to the ground. The person had no life, the people back then, they tried to pick p the body but he kept falling. Over and over, the body just fell when they tried to pick it up. So because they did not know what happened because this never happened before, the people made a scaffle and they put the body on that sacffle and back in those days there was a certain bird species that would eat at the body until there was just bones left. Time passed on and another person died, the people had done the same thing, they put the body on a scaffle and the birds ate at the body. No words were spoken back then, they would just put the body out and let it be eaten. Now it happened that there was a little girl, she had died too, her body became lifeless and they did the same thing, they put her body on the scaffle and the birds ate at it. Now it happened that amongst the people, there was one man who was considered a leader, he kept thinking of what was happening and one night he went to sleep and he had a dream. The next day, he gathered all the people to tell hem about his dream. The first thing he told them, he said do not be afraid of what I will tell you. He said there is no person here on earth that is going to be able to not die, it will happen to each of us and we are not to be afraid of death as that is the way the Creator intended it to be that we will roam the earth for so many days and then we will go back to where he lives. The man said, the Creator made all of us from the earth, he is the one who gave us our spirit and what we are suppose to do when we pass on, is that we are suppose to go back into the ground. Our bodies will go back to the dirt that we were made from and the spirit that the Creator gave to us, it will go back to him. The man told them, death is traveling around and we cant see it, it carries a stick and it will strike at any time and we cant stop it. This thing is called the "great darkness" that is what the old people, our ancestors call death. That is what happens to this family here, the great darkness or death has struck this family. Sometimes it can happen that this thing will hit our community more than once and it will take three people at one time. At that time, the man also told the people that their will be words spoken when they have a death and that they will condole the family. The man said that they will tell the family that it is a sad time or them but the Creator meant for the earth to continue its duties. It will be difficult for the ones who remain on earth to have to see a loved one pass on but it would even make it more difficult if s person passed on and then the Creator stopped the sun from shining the next day. So, this means that although we lose a loved one, that we have to remember that the Creator will continue for life to go on. All the things that he created for us will continue to do their duty and we must go on with our lives. We will cheer you up a little bit and lift your mind by telling you that the Creators gifts will continue their duties, the sun will continue to shine and bring us warmth and daylight so do not be too sad because things could be worse.
The Creator also created the moon, our grandmother, and he gave her duties too and we lift up your mind by telling you that the moon will continue the duty she has. We will also tell you that the winds will also continue their duty and they will help us breath. I will also tell you that the foods that he gave us, they will not stop, they will keep growing, the plant life (gardens) will still grow and the birds will still sing tomorrow morning. We will tell you that it will be difficult and you will not be able to see clearly anymore. Although it will be difficult, you must know that all other life will continue.
Now, when we speak on the final day at the funeral. We start with speaking to the family.
Each family member is spoken to, and usually if its a man and his parents are still alive we will address the parents. We will tell them that this would be a difficult time for them because the one that they brought into this world has now gone before them. We tell them that they did heir best to raise their son and teach him the ways to become a man and to raise a family and that they should be proud of all the good things he was able to accomplish. We will tell them that they will on some days have a hard time when they think that their son will knock on their door to stop and visit like the way it was when he was alive but that it will not happen. That they should prepare themselves for a big change in their lives and that their loved one will no longer be part of their lives but that they will have each other and they will still have love and other family members and that today, all they have left of the one who passed on is the memory of good times and the body to look at but that too will come to end.
Next, we will address the mans wife. We will tell her that she will have a hard time as the one that she became together with to make a family with has now gone on. We will explain that their is only memories left and that she should cherish those memories and remember the good times they had and that alone will help her during hard times. We will also tell her that she will now have to be strong also for the ones that are left behind (children). We will tell her that she will have to continue to show her love to the rest of her family and that will help her through the hard times ahead. We will tell her also hat there will be times when she is going to think he will be there with her to do some of the things that they did when he was alive but that it just wont happen and that she will have to prepare herself for those hard times. We will tell her that right now she can look at the body but soon hat will stop too because his body will be put back into the ground the way he Creator intended.
We will also speak to the ones who called deceased "father" we will tell them that today is a difficult time in their lives and that the one who raised them and loved them and brought them to the ceremonies and helped take care of them when they were sick and he worked hard for them so that they could have food and clothing, that now he has passed on. We will tell them that they too will have a hard time as it will happen that they expect to see their father some days but that it just wont happen. We tell them that they will have to be strong minded and help each other and help their mother who is still here for them. We will also tell them that they continue to share the love that their father shared with them and all the things he passed on to them that they can take those things and share them with their children. We encourage them to remember all the good things and teachings that their loved one provided them and to cherish those teachings.
We will also address the brothers and sisters in similar speech.
We will follow with cousins and friends.
These areas that are addressed to the family can be added to with more personal information of things that the deceased enjoyed doing with relatives. It would be the same type of speech if it was a woman that passed on ie; the husband would be spoken to in a similar manner.
We will encourage the ones who have gathered to try and not grieve too hard as that may cause the one who has passed on difficulty and obstruction with their journey.
Now the last thing that will happen is that the speaker will address the deceased and tell him that he will now take his mind off of all the things left on earth and he will that the deceased do not let and grieving get in the way of his journey and to not let it disrupt what the creator intended. He will tell the deceased that their mind be at peace and that whatever they enjoyed on earth has come to an end and the things he owned they will be taken care of by he ones left behind.
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