The Lummi Nation healing poles at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tim Evanson

Harlan McKosato: Why is it so hard to talk about death in Indian Country?

Harlan McKosato, a citizen of the Sac and Fox Nation, is doing his best to stay alive. What about you?
Death is known to many tribal peoples here on Turtle Island as the Great Mystery – because it is mysterious. We have our beliefs about what happens when we die, but most of us are not 100 percent sure. I have faith that there is an afterlife but many people find that absurd. Agnostics and atheists seem to be gaining momentum, especially among our young people who find it hard to believe something that can’t be proved.

Some Native cultures are forbidden to talk about death, which is strange to me. It’s really the one certain thing we all have to face. Why not bring it out into the open? Why not have a discussion with life and death as the main topics? I’ve heard my elders tell our tribal stories about our traditional beliefs and the journey that lies ahead and I’m thankful.

Why do we want to live here on Earth if there’s a better life awaiting us somewhere else? Why prolong the inevitable? If there’s a place called heaven, why not get there as quick as possible? If there’s a place across that big river and all of our relatives are waiting, what are we waiting for? But we insist upon living here on Earth. That’s why we try to have a healthy diet, get exercise and go to the doctor. We are trying our best to stay alive in human form.

Read More on the Story:
Harlan McKosato: Death and Dying: Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven, but No One Wants to Die (Indian Country Media Network 6/29)