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Native American Culture/San Felipe Death And Burial Customs

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Question
Hello,
I live in Santa Fe with my San Felipe partner of four years.
His sister is very close to death as I write this. I know she will be taken home to the pueblo according to tradition when she dies. I also know some of the customs after after death.

My question is:  How do I fit in?  I want to be supportive of my partner and his family yet not do anything inappropriate. Should I stay away, take food, call, ask to go to the fourth day feast, ask to help with the feeding on day four, send flowers,or something else?

The family and my partner are very upset, so asking them is not feasible now. I am Caucasian. I appreciate your time and sharing
of your expertise     

Thank you,
Jane Stewart

Answer
Of course, so much rests on your relationship with his family. If you find that under normal circumstances, family members engage you in conversation on everyday subjects, or ask about how your work is going, etc., then you can certainly assume you are considered family. You respond in the way you would when any family member is dying. You ask the head of the family what you can do to help. You offer to look after little kids, etc. Since most Keresan Pueblos are practicing Catholics, (as well as their traditional religious practice) you will want to attend the funeral mass. You won't be the only Anglo there. You might want to find a mass card for the family connected with the Pueblo's Patron Saint (Felipe de Neri? Make sure.)You might also speak to a priest weho serves the local traditional parishioners. If you can find him, Father Rocca up at Chimayo is a storehouse of wonderful counsel and experience. Keep your ears open, but don't ask specific questions regarding the traditional rituals and prayers. If you are to be included in those as well, you'll be told, otherwise, as is typical, the family will change the subject or look away. Don't press your partner, as he is partially constrained by his own beliefs against sharing the specifics of San Felipe religious practices with those not raised in the belief system (not just Anglos, this includes other Native people, too). I would recommend that you also ask what you can bring to contribute to the feast and gathering afterwards and offer to help serve those to be fed. Offer things that are easily forgotten. Ice in a big cooler? Extra fresh vegetables? Maybe a run to Costco in ABQ? You will be shown, by your willingness to fit in, how and where you will fit in. Most of all, mourn your partner's loss as he would if the loss were yours. We're all people, after all!

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Richard Sutton

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As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at www.sailletales.com I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.

Experience

My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

Publications
I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, www.kivatrading.com and our Ebay Store.

Education/Credentials
UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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