Walking among birds of fire: Nehiyaw beliefs concerning death, mourning, and feasting with the dead

Title: Walking among birds of fire: Nehiyaw beliefs concerning death, mourning, and feasting with the dead
Authors: Baillargeon, Morgan G. F
Date: 2004
Abstract: Walking Among The Birds of Fire: Nehiyaw Beliefs Concerning Death, Mourning and Feasting with the Dead, investigates two primary questions among the Nehiyaw (Plains Cree) of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana with a particular focus on the Nehiyaw at Muskwachees (Hobbema, Alberta), an hour south of Edmonton: (1) In the Nehiyaw world-view, what understanding do people have about their relationship between the living and the dead? (2) To what extent are the Nehiyaw involved in feeding and feasting with the dead? This thesis examines the various feasts and celebrations, dances and memorial events that take place to feed, feast, and honour the community's deceased friends and family members. For the Nehiyaw, there is a recognition that although the souls of the deceased belong to another dimension they are still very much part of the living Nehiyaw community, and as a result the deceased are treated as community members. As souls, or spiritual beings, they are believed to be closer to the Creator, and in this state are in a better position to carry the prayers and petitions of the living to the Creator and to bring the Creator's blessings to the community or to family members. At the same time, the souls of the dead are feared for the malevolent activities they can cause. Consequently, to keep them at a distance, the souls of the dead are fed and feasted with, and invited to dance with the community on numerous celebrations through the year, in some cases on a weekly or daily basis. For all intents and purposes, the Nehiyaw as a whole are involved in feeding and feasting with the dead on a daily basis. Whether the true population of the Four Bands and Pigeon Lake is 10,000 thousand or 15,000 thousand, the odds alone would suggest that on practically every day of the year someone in the community is feeding the soul of a departed relative. Any given day of the year is likely to be the anniversary date of the relative of some community member. When a feast for the dead takes place it is not only the newly deceased who is fed but all of the community's dead. An interesting finding through this research has been the consistency between in belief and practice over the past hundred years, which makes a very interesting point about the accuracy and reliability of oral tradition.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/29075
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
NR01670.PDF24.34 MBAdobe PDFOpen