The Spirit Land by Donald Vann

This is a photo of an Art Expo ‘84’ New York poster that I found most touching and reverent. The original artwork for this composition was by Donald Vann. I...
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This is a photo of an Art Expo ‘84’ New York poster that I found most touching and reverent. The original artwork for this composition was by Donald Vann. It portrays for me the one belief that is common among Native American tribes that influences death rituals and that is the focus of helping the deceased be comfortable in the afterlife or protecting them in the afterlife.

FUNERAL CEREMONIES AND MOURNING OBSERVANCES. From William J. Cleveland, of the Spotted Tail Agency, Nebraska

“Though some few of this tribe now lay their dead in rude boxes, either burying them when implements for digging can be had, or, when they have no means of making a grave, placing them on top of the ground on some hill or other slight elevation, yet this is done in imitation of the whites, and their general custom, as a people, probably does not differ in any essential way from that of their forefathers for many generations in the past. In disposing of the dead, they wrap the body tightly in blankets or robes (sometimes both) wind it all over with thongs made of the hide of some animal and place it reclining on the back at full length, either in the branches of some tree or on a scaffold made for the purpose. These scaffolds are about eight feet high and made by planting four forked sticks firmly in the ground, one at each corner and then placing others across on top, so as to form a floor on which the body is securely fastened. Sometimes more than one body is placed on the same scaffold, though generally a separate one is made for each occasion. These Indians being in all things most superstitious attach a kind of sacredness to these scaffolds and all the materials used or about the dead. This superstition is in itself sufficient to prevent any of their own people from disturbing the dead, and for one of another nation to in any wise meddle with them is considered an offense not too severely punished by death. The same feeling also prevents them from ever using old scaffolds or any of the wood which has been used about them, even for firewood, though the necessity may be very great, for fear some evil consequences will follow. It is also the custom, though not universally followed, when bodies have been for two years on the scaffolds to take them down and bury them under ground.”

“ All the work about winding up the dead, building the scaffold, and placing the dead upon it is done by women only, who, after having finished their labor, return and bring the men, to show them where the body is placed, that they may be able to find it in future. Valuables of all kinds, such as weapons, ornaments, pipes, etc.—in short, whatever the deceased valued most highly while living, and locks of hair cut from the heads of the mourners at his death, are always bound up with the body. In case the dead was a man of importance, or if the family could afford it, even though he were not, one or several horses (generally, in the former case, those which the departed thought most of) are shot and placed under the scaffold. The idea in this is that the spirit of the horse will accompany and be of use to his spirit in the “happy hunting grounds,” or, as these people express it, “the spirit land.”

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2 Comments | Report
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kathleenweetman February 14, 2016
What a wonderful poster that is..I like your shot too..Voted ..k
1Ernesto February 14, 2016
It has a very dramatic feeling of finality with a touching softness of sacredness. Thanks for the vote and the compliment on the photo.
JDLifeshots August 26, 2016
Great capture! Voted Strange Silence.

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