Around the World: Day 12 South Dakota and a Lakota Funeral

Kris lived in South Dakota working among the Lakota Indians  for about 5 years. I enjoyed this introduction to the people who captured her heart… Be sure and take the time to follow the video link- it’s well worth your time.

So I moved to South Dakota seven years ago today (well…when I wrote my first draft it was today…it was November 18) … Wow!!!! So many memories keep coming back over me. Moving affected me in a lot of ways…..for one it made my taste buds mature! 🙂 It made me braver…like sleeping outside in the middle of the prairie with a bunch of scared little girls and I had to be the brave one and act like that noise we heard was NOTHING ! (Sad smile) especially not BIG FOOT!!!!! And it made me learn how to relate to many people of any age – old and young…….and it made me learn what home sickness was! :/

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Roaches…..to me roaches freak me out! I remember one time I was visiting one of my friends, and I was sitting on her couch. There was a cockroach running in and out of the cushions. I had a hard time visiting her without keeping one eye on that critter! And another time we were singing for a family and there were cockroaches all over the place. I was calmly singing and tapping my food…not to keep rhythm but to kill the bugs! Another time I touched a ladies calendar as I was explaining something to her. The calendar crunched and the bugs ran… She seemed to think nothing of it! I tried to act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened!

I think going to wakes (viewings) and funerals were the most cultural experiences for me. It would start…well….on “Indian time”….The family of the deceased one would try to have all the “religious” bases covered. Sometimes a Catholic priest would recite his Hail Mary’s and administer communion; an Episcopalian would say her part in a monotone (always a monotone!!!) from out of their prayer book, a Native Christian pastor might get up and share/read a few scriptures in Lakota (the traditional language). (I never knew what he was saying, but I think he was a genuine Christian.); a Native drum group would beat/pound/sing a Lakota song or two, the smell of burning sage would be wafted around the room to keep out the “evil spirits”, if the person had been a Veteran then the military did their honorary ritual- march back and forth/do roll call/shoot into the air; anyone else could share memories, etc……Then the family would call on the Mennonites to sing a few songs, (We would sing songs like Amazing Grace, When Burdens Come So Hard to Bear, There’s a Fountain Free.) and our pastor would share a few scriptures from the Holy Bible.

There would be one last viewing- after we viewed the body then we shook each family members hands that were there at the service. After the service we would all drive out to the graveside. In the processional it was the funeral home with the body and immediately following a truck with a couple of men on the back of it. These men would sing and beat the drum the whole way to the cemetery. There was usually people riding horses also. An incredible video clip of the honor song can be watched  here

Then we would go back to the community building where the services were taking place and eat food….lots of it. The families usually got us Mennonite ladies to help serve the food. I really enjoyed that part because we could see and visit with everyone who had come. They also would fill a plate to put under the casket. (To “feed” the spirit of the dead person.) Everyone took plates full of food home with them at the end of the meal because once food is brought to a community event the food is now everyone’s.

Then the last thing we would partake in before we would go home was a Give-A-Way. Star quilts, blankets, towels, plastic containers, fabric, pillows, clothes, etc. were given to each person who was there.

Funerals were sad times- so much hopelessness was all around us-but those times of sorrow were such good times for me/us to minister to those who were hurting.

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Well….See you later….Native Americans never liked when I said Good bye to them…..that is final….See you later is more temporary! 🙂

~Kris Mummau

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