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Thanksgiving Feasts, and Feasts for the Dead

This story comes from Simon Pokagon's 1898 collection Indian Superstitions and Legends.

In the spring-time of each year our forefathers held Ma-gosh-e-win -- a religious feast of prayer and thanksgiving, -- rejoicing that winter had passed, and that all nature was alive again. At such times they erected in the centre of their camping-ground a high pole, on which they hung all their old, cast-off garments. Around this pole men, women, and children would sing and dance. The prayer of their song was, that Kigi Manito, who had brought back Ke-sus, the sun, -- melting the snow and unlocking the ice-bound lakes and streams, -- would look down upon his dependent children with love and compassion, and give them peace and plenty through another year. After the close of this feast they celebrated the feast for the dead.

All would march among the camp-fires; shaking hands whenever they met, singing in plaintive tones, "Ne-baw-baw-tchi-baw-yew ash-an-dis-win at-chak ne-bod" ("We are wandering about as spirits feeding the souls of the dead"), and at the same time eating, and throwing part of their food into the fire. This practice of feasting the dead, and of burying their weapons and utensils with them, was done in the same spirit as that in which the dominant race provides clothing, flowers, and marble for its dead. I believe there is no race on earth that has more reverence for its dead than ours. Our greatest sorrow, in being driven from our homes, has been our separation from the graves of our fathers, which we loved so much.

No greater insult can be given to Indians than to speak evil of their dead; for, say they, "The dead cannot speak for themselves; and the living that will not defend them are worse than Mau-tchi Manito (the Devil)."

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More stories to read:

 Native American legends about the dead
 Myths about the Great Spirit
 Myths about the sun

Learn more about:

 Odawa mythology
 Ottawa language
 Ottawa people



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