Gyasi Ross: Funerals as Indian family reunions

"My family doesn’t really have reunions. Not pre-planned family reunions, anyway – you know, the kind with hats, T-shirts and what have you.

The matriarchs in our family always try to set them up, but it’s difficult.

It’s mainly money problems and logistics that prevent true family reunions from happening – we’re in a lot of different places, so it’s difficult to get everyone together at one time. Plus, my family is big and somewhat transient in nature: Lots of phone numbers change, people move and disappear for long periods of time without notice. We tend to catch up with each other when we catch up with each other – usually at some pow wow, or IGA, or Wilma Faye or Wanda’s house.

Not that we love each other any less simply because we don’t see each other. My family is very close. But most of us are, for lack of a better word, “poor.” I mean, we love seeing each other and we’re slobberingly affectionate when we actually do get to see each other. It just doesn’t happen that often, and when it does, it’s usually not under the best circumstances.

So, oddly (and somewhat morbidly), funerals have thus become our default “family reunions.” Miraculously, the hardest to find members of my family are always somehow contacted when someone dies. I’m still not sure how (Skin GPS?). Likewise, everybody in my family manages to scrape together enough finances to make it to the wakes and funerals. We take funerals very seriously."

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: 'Family Reunions' (Indian Country Today 9/25)

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