Echota Funeral Notices

Written by Ben Frey

The following collection of funeral notices offers a unique window into the nature of both grief and belonging in the Giduwa community. Giduwa people’s deep ethos of communitarian values meant that each notification of an individual’s loss hurt the community as a whole. At the same time, the notices made a specific action request of community members that appears unique in the context of contemporary American culture: they implored friends and neighbors to come and dig the graves. Through announcing a collective loss and calling the community to action, the notices reified the community for what it was – a collective of individuals who would work for each other’s wellbeing and band together in times of loss and grief.

This work ethos reflects a deep adherence to an ancient community value. The concept of ᎦᏚᎩ (gadugi), which translates to “community to go out as is custom,” refers to the idea of cooperative labor and the belief that people will come together to help each other when the need arises. At the time of these notices, the concept of the ᎦᏚᎩ encompassed all members of the ᏍᎦᏚᎩ (sgadugi) – the town or community. Community was not something metaphorical or abstract, but an indicator of responsibility for direct action in supporting one’s neighbors.

Even in the midst of community members’ grief, strong bonds of mutual aid united Giduwa people. The notices here provide a valuable glimpse into the social and cultural norms of the time, calling us to reflect on the nature of community in our own lives. How does mutual support factor in as a quality of the community in which we live? For many of our ancestors, it reflected a willingness to enact community through concrete, embodied action. In the darkest of circumstances, Giduwa people showed love through action.