Nelson Bird Column

There are two things every person on earth regardless of race, class or gender has in common; everyone is born and everyone dies.

What happens between those two events is shaped by an individual’s circumstances and the choices they make.

It also applies to what happens after one passes on but in that circumstance it is the choice of others.

As we age, we tend to experience the loss of family members and friends. It seems to happen more frequent as times passes and we come to accept, as difficult as it, that it’s all part of life.

When the end does come, there are many duties to fulfill. A funeral, a wake and other traditions are planned.

In the case of many First Nation people, highly respected cultural practices are undertaken and observed.

Sometimes families are split on what should be done, when, and how.

In my own family, we tend to come together and discuss the plans until a consensus is reached.

In a family as large as ours with dozens of relatives we have our own traditions that include who will sing, officiate, eulogize and plan the traditional practices. We know who will be responsible for each task.

The burial is a big part of the tradition and afterwards, at least in our family, we’ll gather to eat and visit and share stories filled with laughter.
And for some, that is the end, but not for everyone.

The gravesite is a place where they rest and it is always a place to be respected and kept tidy; at least that’s what my parents taught me.

As children, my mom and dad would take us to the graveyard once or twice a year to clean up the graves of our grandparents and other relatives.

It was a tradition that lasted well into their later years and now that they are gone and resting in the same graveyard, it is our responsibility to do what they taught us so many years ago.

Every summer, a few of the cousins and myself make the annual pilgrimage to the reserve cemetery and do our duty.

It is a physically demanding job because usually the graveyard is overgrown with at least 3 feet high weeds.

There is no program in place at many cemeteries to up keep them. That is why it is important for us to do our part.

I also know there is a First Nation tradition that is common in many communities where graves are to be left alone and not visited again. I can accept that because it’s not my place to argue that tradition.

I also know that some family members simply have no interest in returning to the graves of their family to upkeep them…and that’s their choice.

It all comes down to the choices we make.

I choose to follow my parents way of thinking in that it’s good to pay our respects to our deceased loves ones and upkeep their graves as often as I can.

I hope the same will be done for me once my life journey is over.
There are two things every person on earth regardless of race, class or gender has in common; everyone is born and everyone dies.

What happens between those two events is shaped by an individual’s circumstances and the choices they make.

It also applies to what happens after one passes on but in that circumstance it is the choice of others.

As we age, we tend to experience the loss of family members and friends. It seems to happen more frequent as times passes and we come to accept, as difficult as it, that it’s all part of life.

When the end does come, there are many duties to fulfill. A funeral, a wake and other traditions are planned.

In the case of many First Nation people, highly respected cultural practices are undertaken and observed.

Sometimes families are split on what should be done, when, and how.

In my own family, we tend to come together and discuss the plans until a consensus is reached.

In a family as large as ours with dozens of relatives we have our own traditions that include who will sing, officiate, eulogize and plan the traditional practices. We know who will be responsible for each task.

The burial is a big part of the tradition and afterwards, at least in our family, we’ll gather to eat and visit and share stories filled with laughter.
And for some, that is the end, but not for everyone.

The gravesite is a place where they rest and it is always a place to be respected and kept tidy; at least that’s what my parents taught me.

As children, my mom and dad would take us to the graveyard once or twice a year to clean up the graves of our grandparents and other relatives.

It was a tradition that lasted well into their later years and now that they are gone and resting in the same graveyard, it is our responsibility to do what they taught us so many years ago.

Every summer, a few of the cousins and myself make the annual pilgrimage to the reserve cemetery and do our duty.

It is a physically demanding job because usually the graveyard is overgrown with at least 3 feet high weeds.

There is no program in place at many cemeteries to up keep them. That is why it is important for us to do our part.

I also know there is a First Nation tradition that is common in many communities where graves are to be left alone and not visited again. I can accept that because it’s not my place to argue that tradition.

I also know that some family members simply have no interest in returning to the graves of their family to upkeep them…and that’s their choice.

It all comes down to the choices we make.

I choose to follow my parents way of thinking in that it’s good to pay our respects to our deceased loves ones and upkeep their graves as often as I can.

I hope the same will be done for me once my life journey is over.

UC graveyard 2     UC graveyard 1

Before and after clean up at the United Church cemetery on the Peepeekisis First Nation. Photo credit: Nelson Bird.

Nelson Bird is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation.
The views shared are those of Nelson Bird and not those of CTV News.

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.