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by: Wambdi Wicasa

The mythology as well as the traditions of our North American Indian tribes shows a religious observance of the stars and a reverence for all the heavenly bodies. The Milky Way is called the "Pathway of Departed Souls." After death it is believed, by many Indian Americans, that the spirit of the deceased passes on this pathway to the Southern Star, the abiding place of the dead. It is thought that to the Stars, the Great Spirit gave the power to watch over mortals on earth and impart to them spiritual blessings. The Star Quilt is given today as a token of thisbelief. Southwest Peoples call this "God's Eye".
It is customary at the death of a relative to enhance their glory and memorialize their name. The stricken family of the Siouxan, Gros Ventre and numerous other tribes had little pride in ownership of goods, but much pride in "honorship" -- by giving of materials to relatives and very close friends who come to help them bury their loved ones! Things are less important than people -- property always flows back to those who let it flow freely forth and the grateful recipients praise the donor's name before other people as having done well! Such are the inherited beliefs of many Indian Americans.
This explains the traditional memorial services held on the first anniversary of the death of a loved one in the family and their presentation of quilts to those who have been especially kind to the deceased.

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