The public radio program Native America Calling today addressed funeral issues in regard to Native American traditions. I called into the program to contribute information about the similarities between Native American traditions and Muslim or Jewish traditions in regard to burial.
While all three cultural traditions are essentially green in their burial practices – no embalming, using biodegradable natural materials around the body – there are differences. The tradition for Jews and Muslims is to bury the body within 24 hours, while Native Americans may hold onto the body for four days of ceremony before burial.
Without embalming, refrigeration is required to keep decomposition at bay. The availability of dry ice makes it possible to keep a body at home for up to four days and cold enough to avoid the use of toxic embalming fluid. As Elizabeth Knox, an expert on home death care told me, you can freeze a body solid with dry ice if you’re not careful.
Here’s the description of today’s show at the web site for Native America Calling:
When you lose a loved one, you’re faced with many decisions: Cremation or burial? What kind of casket? Embalming, or not? Many funeral homes know that you are grieving and stressed and they use this to their advantage. They often insist that you have to have a certain kind of burial by law. Are home funerals legal in most states and is embalming required by law? Have you thought about the environmental consequences of a burial? Guests include Marcia Racehorse-Robles (Shoshone-Bannock) of Bannock Pride Caskets.
If you are interested in the traditions of Native Americans regarding funeral planning, listen to this program!