2.5 Chapter Summary

Key Summary Points

  1. Understanding death-related practices of the past, and how many of them revolved around the acceptance of death and dying, provides an opportunity to think beyond death-based fears and anxieties that many people have today. It ultimately teaches us that how we view and deal with death is malleable and subject to change.
  2. There are numerous death related customs and rituals that have been practiced by humans throughout our history.
  3. There are 4 key factors that led to the distancing of death in North American non-Indigenous society, beginning in the late 1800s: increasing life expectancy; the enhancement of medical knowledge, skill and technology focusing on avoiding death; the movement of the cemetery outside of the city; and the professionalization of the death industry.
  4. There is much cultural diversity among Indigenous peoples in Canada, making it challenging to provide a quick synopsis of Indigenous death-related beliefs and practices. One common motif is the circle of life, which represents death as just one part of the life cycle and a transition point to the spirit world. Colonization, including forced conversion to Christianity and the Residential School system (IRS), resulted in the decimation of traditional Indigenous beliefs and practices that are now being relearned and reclaimed through oral knowledge transfer from community Elders.

Additional Resources

Alberta Health Services (AHS). (n.d.). Indigenous peoples and communities in Alberta. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjjwvnEi8v2AhVNWs0KHWbwCHUQFnoECAgQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftogether4health.albertahealthservices.ca%2F14632%2Fwidgets%2F56737%2Fdocuments%2F34245&usg=AOvVaw12uFc0ihHub2kgUB1H_Xb0

Anderson, M. & Woticky, G. (December 19, 2018). The end of life is an auspicious opportunity for healing: Decolonizing death and dying for urban Indigenous people. International Journal of Indigenous Studies, 13(2),48-60. https://doi.org/10.32799/ijih.v13i2.32062

Aries, P. (1974). Western attitudes toward death: From the middle ages to the present. The Johns Hopkins University Press. https://books.google.ca/books?printsec=frontcover&vid=LCCN73019340&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Barkwell, L. (n.d.). Metis culture: Metis death rituals and ceremonies. https://www.metismuseum.ca/media/document.php/11728.Metis Death Ceremonies.pdf

Cancer Care Ontario. (n.d.). Teachings to support grief and loss in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. https://www.cancercareontario.ca/sites/ccocancercare/files/assets/ACCUGriefAndLoss.pdf (or access PDF in the Media Library)

Jacobsen, M. (March 29, 2016). ‘Spectacular death: Proposing a new fifth phase to Phillppe Ariès’s admirable history of death. Humanities, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020019

Murray, K. (April 16, 2015). Reflecting on death: First Nations people. Life & Death Matters. https://lifeanddeathmatters.ca/reflecting-on-death-first-nations-people/

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). (n.d.). Reports. https://nctr.ca/records/reports/

O’Connell, M. (May 7, 2014). ‘Corporatization’ of funeral industry drives quest for alternatives. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/corporatization-of-funeral-industry-drives-quest-for-alternatives-1.2626007


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On Death and Dying Copyright © 2022 by Jacqueline Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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