Some American Indian Beliefs About an Afterlife

When the European invasion of North America began there were more than 600 autonomous Indian nations in the region, each with its own religion. While many of these aboriginal religions focused on the harmony of present-day life rather than obtaining a reward or punishment in an afterlife, many of them did have a concept of some kinds of existence after death. A few of these concepts are briefly described below.

Concerning beliefs regarding an afterlife among Plains Indians, Charles Eastman, in Light on the Indian World: The Essential Writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), writes:  “The idea of a ‘happy hunting-ground’ is modern and probably borrowed, or invented by the white man.”

One example of life after death is found among the Pueblo Indians of North America who see life after death as the same as before death: the deceased journey to a town where they join a group with which they were associated in life. In commenting about Pueblo Indian resistance to Christianity, anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, in her book Pueblo Indian Religion, writes:  “The Pueblo idea of life after death as merely a continuation of this life is incompatible with dogmas of hell and heaven. In this life the Spirits do not reward or punish; why should they after death?”

In his book American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict, religion professor Henry Bowden reports that “the Pueblo cosmology did not recognize a place of eternal punishment.”

Going from the American Southwest to the Cheyenne Indians of the Northern Plains, we find that the souls of the dead Cheyenne travel along the Milky Way (“The Road of the Departed”) to the place of the dead. Father Peter J. Powell, in his book Sweet Medicine: The Continuing Role of the Sacred Arrows, the Sun Dance, and the Sacred Buffalo Hat in Northern Cheyenne History, reports:  “For the Cheyennes, there is no hell or punishment after life on earth.”  In his book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, George Bird Grinnell writes: “The spirit of the dead man found the trail where the footprints all pointed the same way, followed that to the Milky Way, and finally arrived at the camp in the stars, where he met his friends and relatives and lived in the camp of the dead.”

In a similar vein, writing about the Omaha Indians of the Central Plains (The Omaha Tribe), ethnographers Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche report:  “There does not seem to have been any conception among the Omaha of supernatural rewards or punishments after death.”

Most of the Indian tribes of New England envisioned afterlife as a life similar to the one they were currently living. There was no concept of reward for virtue or punishment for bad deeds. Religion professor Henry Bowden writes:  “The Massachusetts [Indians] expected to triumph over death by finding new opportunities in another realm, beyond the grave, where individual accomplishments could flourish again with undiminished vigor.”

In his book Indian New England Before the Mayflower, Howard Russell writes:  “The soul of the departed was believed to journey to the southwest, there to share the delights of the wigwam and fields of the great god Kanta (or Tanto or Kautautowit), where abundance reigns and ancestors offer welcome and feasting.”

For the Narragansett Indians in the Northeast, death was seen as a transition between two worlds. At the time of death, the soul would leave the body and join the souls of relatives and friends in the world of the dead. The world of the dead was felt to be in the southwest where the supernatural Cautantowwit and the ancestors lived. Here the souls of the deceased would spend an afterlife similar to life on earth. Passing through the gates guarded by a ferocious dog, the souls of the dead find a paradise without worry or pain. They find the storehouses filled with corn, beans, and squash; the strawberries are always in seasons; and the clams are succulent.

Not all cultures have a well-defined or well-described afterlife. With regard to life after death, this is an issue of little concern for most traditional Navajo Indians. They feel that they will find out when they die and in the meantime this is something they have no way of knowing anything about and therefore they should not waste time thinking about it. The Navajo cultural orientation is towards life, toward making this life happier, more harmonious, and more beautiful.

Traditional Native Concepts of Death

Many religious traditions, but not all, put forth an explanation about what happens after death. There are many religious traditions which claim there is an afterlife of some type, that death is not the end but is a transition. In some cultures the afterlife is seen as being similar to life, while in others there are several afterlife possibilities based on a person’s actions in this life.

It should be pointed out that in the several hundred distinct American Indian languages, there was no single world which could be translated as “religion.” This does not mean, as many Christian missionaries have assumed, that Indians did not have religion. Rather, it shows that religion was not a separate category of life but was closely integrated with the culture.

At the beginning of the European invasion, there was not a single Native American religion, but rather there were 500 religions. What this means is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make broad generalizations about traditional American Indian beliefs about death.

One of the other problems or concerns in writing about Indian religions in general, and about traditional Indian concepts of death in particular, is that many of those who recorded these concepts did so through a Christian frame of reference. Many of the books written about Indian religions by non-Indians are really not about traditional religions, but are filtered through Christianity and Christian concepts. Concerning beliefs regarding an afterlife among Plains Indians, Sioux physician Charles Eastman writes:  “The idea of a ‘happy hunting-ground’ is modern and probably borrowed, or invented by the white man.”

For many American Indian cultures, the focus of religion, particularly the ceremonies, was on maintaining harmony with the world. The focus was on living in harmony today, not on death. For many Indians there was an awareness of death and a vague concept of something happening after death, but this was not dogmatic. They felt that they would find out when they die and in the meantime this is something they have no way of knowing anything about and therefore they should not waste time thinking about it.

While the Christian missionaries were fully convinced that all religions must have some concept of heaven and hell, some form of judgment after death, these were alien concepts to most American Indian cultures. The missionaries took this as additional evidence that Indians did not have religion. In their classic 1911 ethnography, The Omaha Tribe, Alice Fletcher and Francis LaFlesche report:  “There does not seem to have been any conception among the Omaha of supernatural rewards or punishments after death.”

Among many of the Indian nations in Massachusetts there was the idea that after death, the soul would go on a journey to the southwest. Eventually, the soul would arrive at a village where it would be welcomed by the ancestors. In a similar fashion, the Narragansett in Rhode Island viewed death as a transition between two worlds: at the time of death, the soul would leave the body and join the souls of relatives and friends in the world of the dead which lay somewhere to the southwest.

Among some of the tribes, such as the Beothuk and the Narragansett, it was felt that communication between the living and the dead was possible. Among the Narragansett, the souls of the dead were able to pass back and forth between the world of the dead and that of the living. The dead could carry messages and warnings to the living. Among the Caddo on the Southern Plains, the living could send messages to their deceased relatives by passing their hands over the body of someone recently deceased, from feet to head, and then over their own body. In this way messages could be sent via the deceased to other dead relatives.

One common theme found in many of the Indian cultures in North America is the idea of reincarnation. The idea that life and death are part of an ongoing cycle is found among many tribes. Sioux writer Charles Eastman reports:  “Many of the Indians believed that one may be born more than once, and there were some who claimed to have full knowledge of a former incarnation.”

In the Northwest Coast area, Gitxsan writer Shirley Muldon reports:  “We believe in reincarnation of people and animals. We believe that the dead can visit this world and that the living can enter the past. We believe that memory survives from generation to generation. Our elders remember the past because they have lived it.”

Among the Lenni Lenape, female elders would carefully examine babies, looking for signs of who the child had been in an earlier life. These signs included keeping the body relaxed and the hands unclenched and reacting favorably to places and things associated with the dead relative. Writing in 1817 about one Lenni Lenape man, Christian missionary John Heckewelder reported:  “He asserted very strange things, of his own supernatural knowledge, which he had obtained not only at the time of his initiation, but at other times, even before he was born. He said he knew that he had lived through two generations; that he had died twice and was born a third time, to live out the then present race, after which he was to die and never more to come to this country again.”

Reincarnation was often viewed as something that happened not just to humans, but to animals as well. Thus, a hunter would thank the animal that had just been harvested so that the soul of the animal would be reborn as an animal with good feelings toward the hunter and would therefore allow its physical form to be harvested again.

In many Indian cultures throughout North America, the names of the deceased were not, and in many cases are not, spoken. The deceased may be spoken about, but in an indirect way that does not use their name. Among the Navajo, the name of the deceased was traditionally not mentioned for one year following death. After this year, the name of the deceased was rarely mentioned.

The possibility of naming a place after a dead person was unthinkable and would have negative consequences for the soul of the deceased (see: Indians 101: Chief Sealth [Seattle]).

Death in Pueblo and Athabascan Cultures

Funerary practices and beliefs about death are more about the living than the dead. They provide some insights into the cultures of the people. The several Pueblo cultures and the Athabascan cultures (Navajo and Apache) live in close proximity to one another in New Mexico and Arizona. These cultures, in spite of their geographic proximity, have very different beliefs about death and how to deal with dead bodies. Some of their funerary customs and beliefs are discussed below.  

Athabascan Culture:

The Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

In the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascans began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples. While there are some scholars who feel that the Navajo and Apache could have begun arriving in the Southwest as early as 800 CE and some who feel that it was as late at 1500 CE, most tend to place their arrival between 1200 and 1400.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú, in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos, and cañadas (canyons). The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

Among the southwestern Athabascan groups there is a fear of death and of dealing with both the bodies and the possessions of dead people. Among the Jicarilla Apache, for example, there is a great effort to keep children from seeing a dead person. In addition, children do not associate with other children who have family members who have recently died until the family has been cleansed by the proper ceremonies. There is a concern that children may be marked by the aura of death.

With regard to the Chiricahua Apache, at death the spirits begin a four-day journey to the spirit world. For the Chiricahua,  open burial sites are very dangerous between the moment of death and the time when the grave is covered. During this time the spirit of the deceased is loose and free. It is thus able to cause mischief or harm.  Funeral rites are expected to expedite the spirit’s journey.

Traditionally among the Navajo, the body of a dead person was left on the ground in the hogan (home) which was then abandoned or the body was immediately buried. The body was allowed to decompose because the memory, thoughts, and descendents are the part which lives on. The idea of putting someone in a coffin or putting chemicals in the body to preserve the corpse is viewed with disgust by traditional Navajo.

At death, the personal property of a Navajo is buried with the corpse or it is destroyed. Traditionally, the name of the deceased is not mentioned for one year following death. After this year, the name of the deceased is rarely mentioned.

When a Navajo who has lived a full and long life dies, there is no period of mourning as it is felt that the spirit is ready to travel to another world. There is no dread of touching or handling the corpse of an old person.

With regard to life after death, this is an issue of little concern for most Navajo. They feel that they will find out when they die and in the meantime this is something they have no way of knowing anything about and therefore they should not waste time thinking about it. The Navajo cultural orientation is towards life, toward making this life happier, more harmonious, and more beautiful.

For the Navajo, birth and death are seen as opposites: one cannot exist without the other. Life is a cycle. It reaches its natural conclusion in death at old age. It is renewed in each birth. Death before old age is considered to be both unnatural and tragic. Death before old age prevents the natural completion of the life cycle.

Pueblo Culture:

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian nations who traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Among many of the Pueblos, food is placed with the body of the deceased. If the deceased had lived a good life, then little food was left with them as they would need little sustenance in traveling straight to the afterworld. On the other hand, if the deceased had not been particularly virtuous then they would need more food for their difficult journey.

Among the Keresian-speaking Pueblos of the Rio Grande area, death is viewed as a natural and necessary event: if there were no death, then soon there would be no room left in the world. After death, both the soul and the guardian spirit leave the body, but remain in the home of the deceased for four days. Then they journey to Shipap, the entrance to the underworld. The virtue of the deceased then determines the assignment to one of the four underworlds. Those who enter the innermost world become Shiwana (rainmakers) and return to the villages in the form of clouds.

Among the Zuni, the spirit of the dead lingers in the village for four days. During this time the door to the deceased’s home is left open to permit the entry of the spirit. On the morning of the fifth day the spirit goes to Kothluwalawa beneath the water of the Listening Spring. Here the spirit becomes a member of the Uwannami (rainmakers). Members of the Bow Priesthood become lightning makers who bring water from the six great waters of the world. The water is poured through the clouds in the form of rain. The clouds are the masks worn by the Uwannami.

Among the Hopi, a mask of cotton is placed over the face of the dead to represent the cloud mask which the spirit will wear when it returns with the cloud people to bring rain to the village. Four days after burial the spirit leaves the body and begins a journey to the Land of the Dead. They enter the underworld through the sipapu (sacred hole) in the Grand Canyon where they meet the One Horned God who can read a person’s thoughts by looking into the heart. Those who are virtuous follow the Sun Trail to the village of the Cloud People.

In the Hopi burials, clothing, water, and piki (a special bread) is often placed with the corpse. In many cases the Hopi will use a quilt as a burial shroud. The grave is then sealed with rocks.

When a kikmongwi (chief) dies, the staff which has symbolized his authority during his life is buried with him. In addition, his body is painted with symbols for important ritual occasions.

Among the Hopi, the spirits of children who die before they are initiated into a kiva return to their mother’s house to be reborn.

For the Hopi, the ancestors are important to their culture and they strongly feel that the physical remains of the ancestors should be treated with respect. Ancestors maintain a spiritual guardianship over the places where they are buried and they are not to be disturbed by archaeologists.

The Hopi see the clouds which bring water to their villages as ancestors and thus they petition their departed ancestors to return and to bring with them the life-giving rain. In this way, the Hopi view death as a return to the spiritual realm and from this comes more life in the form of rain.

Among most of the Pueblos, life after death is the same as before death: the deceased journey to a town where they join a group with which they were associated in life. Only the Hopi express the idea of punishment after death.

At Cochití, when a person dies, an ear of blue corn with barbs at the point is placed in the corner of the room where the death occurred. This ear of corn represents the soul of the deceased which will linger in the area for a while.

Death in the Piman and Yuman Cultures

Funerary practices and beliefs about death are more about the living than the dead. They provide some insights into the cultures of the people. The Piman (O’odham) and Yuman cultures of the American Southwest have diverse beliefs and burial practices even though they are both located in the desert regions of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. In both of these cultural groups, cremation was a common way of disposing of the dead. Some of their funerary customs and beliefs are discussed below.

Yuman Culture:

The Yuman culture tradition is in the desert and semi-desert area along the Colorado and Gila Rivers. This area includes parts of Arizona, California, Sonora, and Baja California Norte.

The Yuma-speaking tribes can be divided into four groups:

Delta: the tribes living along the lower Colorado River. These include the Cocopa, Kahwa, and Halyikwamai. During the nineteenth century, the Kahwa and the Halyikwamai, battered by the Quechan-Mohave alliance, merged with the Maricopa.

River: the tribes living along the Colorado River where it forms the border between Arizona and California, plus those living along the Middle Gila River in Arizona. These tribes include the Quechan, Mohave, Yuma, Maricopa, Halchidhoma, and Kavalchadom. During the nineteenth century, the Halchidhoma and Kavalchadom merged with the Maricopa.  

The designation Maricopa as actually an Anglo term: the people refer to themselves as Pipatsje. They originally lived along the Colorado River near present-day Parker, Arizona, but later moved up the Gila River away from the Colorado River.

Upland: the tribes living in Northwest Arizona. These include the Walapai, Havasupai, and Yavapai. The Yavapai were traditionally divided into three groups: Yavepe (also spelled Yavapé; Northeastern Yavapai), Tolkapaya (also spelled Tolkepaya; the Western Yavapai), and Kewevkapaya (also spelled Kwevkepaya; the Southeastern Yavapai.) The Walapai were divided politically into three subtribes: Middle Mountain People in the northwest, Yavapai Fighters in the south, and Plateau People in the east.

California: the tribes living west of the Colorado River include the Diegueño, Kamia, Paipai, and Kiliwa.

Among the Walapai, the dead were traditionally cremated along with their possessions. The souls of the dead departed for the ancestral land of Tudjupa in the west. There was also an annual burning of clothing and food to commemorate the dead. The practice of cremation, however, was stopped by the U.S. Army in the nineteenth century as the United States required Christian burials.

Traditionally, the Havasupai observed very little ceremony regarding the disposal of the dead. The dead were either cremated or placed in caves or rock cairns.

Among the Mohave, the deceased was cremated upon a funeral pyre. Orators would make speeches about the virtues of the deceased and songs would be sung. Articles burned with the deceased would accompany the soul to the land of the dead. After death there was a taboo on mentioning the name of a dead person.

Among the Cocopa, the soul leaves the body at the time of cremation and goes to the spirit land near the mouth of the Colorado River. However, twins go to a different place and are continuously reincarnated. After death the name of the deceased is never mentioned.

Piman Culture:

The Sonoran desert of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico is home to a number of Piman-speaking groups, primarily the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Akimel O’odham (Pima). With regard to archaeology, the Hohokam are considered to be the ancestors of the Piman peoples.

The Pima were the village agriculturists of central and southern Arizona. The Pima call themselves O’odham which means “we, the people”. They are divided into four basic groups: (1) River Pima in Central Arizona (Akimel O’odham); (2) Tohono O’odham (also known as Papago) in southern Arizona and northern Sonora; (3) Pima Bajo in Mexico; and (4) the Sobaipuri. The Sobaipuri were driven out by Apache and Spanish and intermin-gled with the other Pima groups. Traditionally they occupied the San Pedro River valley from Fairbank, Arizona, north to the Gila River junction, and the Santa Cruz River valley north to Picacho.

The dead were buried in a rock crevice and covered with stones or in a stone cairn roofed with logs. To accompany the spirit on its four day journey to the Underworld in the east, food and possessions were also interred with the body. A short speech by a relative usually accompanied burial. In this speech, the deceased would be asked not to return.

Among the Tohono O’odham, warriors killed in battle were cremated by scalp takers.  

Among the Akimel O’odham the custom was to destroy a house where death had occurred and to build a new house a few meters away.

The Hohokam cremated their dead. Along with the body, pottery, palettes for preparing body and face paints, and ornaments were also burned.

Flora Sombrero Lind 1923 – 2010

My mother passed away on June 25, 2010 at her home in Richfield, Utah. She was 86. My brother, sister and I were by her side when she breathed her last breath.

This is the tribute I gave at her funeral:

Another elder in our Navajo Nation has left us. It is significant for our tribe to lose those who are fluent in our language and remember the traditional and ancient way of Navajo living. My husband Jeff called my mom a National Treasure. All elders of all American Indian tribes are National Treasures.

Julius Sombrero and family

From L-R: My grandfather Julius Sombrero, Uncle Delbert, Aunt Bessie, Aunt Nellie holding one of her children, my mom Flora with two of Nellie’s children standing in front of her. One of those children, the one on the far right came to the funeral, her name is Sallie.

My mom was born in Inscription House, Arizona on the Navajo reservation, it is estimated in 1923. She was number 5 of 11 children born naturally in a hogan. My mother’s father was a medicine man, a very prominent position in any tribe. We visited him, my grandmother and all our relations every summer. I love the reservation. I love to recall the sensory experience of it, the scent of sage brush, cedar beams inside the hogans, the smoke of the juniper fires burning in little pot belly stoves, coffee brewing, potatoes frying, the smell of a thunderstorm as it hit the hot red sand. It was a beautiful tranquil place, a spiritual place for me.

[more below]

I have a long diary entry from 2006 that I wrote about my mother’s older brother Robert Sombrero who inherited the medicine man knowledge from my grandfather. I want to read a short excerpt that features my mom.


The stories about Robert Sombrero were legendary in our home as I was growing up. My mother spoke with tremendous pride when recalling memories of her older brother. She would tell us that he was the “nicest, kindest man”. He would take care of his younger brothers and sisters like they were “little chickens.” My mom was a toddler when she saw her first white man. She was walking around the Inscription House trading post when she heard someone loudly enter. When she spotted the man she was so frightened that she ran to Robert. He scooped her up in his arms and she felt safe and protected. Through out the years whenever Uncle Robert’s name came up she just simply repeats “he held me when I saw my first white man…he could out run a horse…he was so nice to us…” since we’ve all heard the details for decades now.
My Relations

From L-R: Unidentified trader, my Aunt Mary, (who attended the funeral, she’s 81 now) my Grandfather Julius Sombrero, my Grandmother Elsie Littleman and my Uncle Robert Sombrero Sr.

My mother and several of her siblings were forcefully taken away to the government’s boarding school in Tuba City, Arizona in the late 1930s. My mother ALWAYS recalls this episode with pain and tears. She describes her mother sobbing as she watched her little children having their hair cut off, the tiny rolls of hair left at her feet and riding away in the back of a pickup truck. My mother didn’t stop crying for months at the school. They were dusted with lice powder and she resented this because she insists that they were clean, “we were not dirty animals, we were clean!” She said they were not allowed to speak Navajo and they were inhumanely punished if they did. Her 8 year old sister Zonnie died there, crushed and trampled in a crowd. Her older sister Nellie ran away from the school so many times that they took her shoes away. Without shoes she still ran away and only made it to the 3rd grade when she finally was able to stay home. My grandfather, Julius Sombrero missed his children so much that he would ride his horse the 60 miles to visit them when he could.

The other half of the children, including my Uncle Robert were hidden in Inscription House canyon. These kids never went to school nor learned much English. They all stayed on the reservation and lived in the traditional manner; in hogans, no electricity nor running water. They tended herds of sheep and goats. They grew corn, squash and melons. The women wove rugs and baskets to trade at the local trading posts.

The siblings who went to boarding school mostly left the reservation and became assimilated into cities, as was the government’s plan. My mother and Caucasian father, Rulon Lind settled in central Utah where we grew up. My mother did not teach us Navajo… deliberately. She wanted us to speak English well and she was advised at the boarding school as she was growing up that the Navajo language would slow her children down. We did learn a few words however when we pressed her and when we heard her speaking to our relatives on the rez.

The history of all the American Indian tribes is tragic. It is estimated that there were 8 million American Indians in 1492. They reached a low point of less than 250,000 in the late 1800s after enduring the government’s extermination order which was later changed to an assimilation project as a solution to the Indian problem. Our American Indian cultures are still endangered today and losing elders like my mom is one of the reasons. To give you a little more insight into my mother’s background, the entire Navajo tribe was forcefully removed from their lands in 1864, they were force walked almost 300 miles away to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Fortunately, they were able to return but the tribe was devastated by this trauma. However, my mother told me that our family was lucky, they were able to hide deep in the canyons and high on top of Navajo Mountain and did not go on The Long Walk. But it was still difficult for them to endure this wartime atmosphere and overcome it. In order for the Navajo to return to their lands they had to sign a treaty with many demands, one was that all the children would be given up to the government boarding schools to be assimilated. They were still enforcing this when my mom was of school age.

Flora in polka dots

My mom survived boarding school. She married Harry Butler Sr., a Navajo man in 1945 and had two sons, Harry Jr. and Tommy Ray. Harry Jr. died as an infant from pneumonia and Harry Sr. was killed when Tom was a baby. Mom was left with a 3 year old son.  She soon joined the LDS Church and served a Southwest Indian Mission among the Zuni people from 1951-53 while Tommy was being taken care of by mom’s dear friends Lynn and Myrle Fowler.

Wedding Flora Sombrero & Rulon Lind

After she successfully completed her mission her future husband, my dad Rulon Lind read about her mission in a newspaper. He was so impressed with her devotion to the church that he wrote to her and asked to meet her. She accepted the invitation and met him at the Lyric Theater here in Richfield for a first date in 1953. They were married Jan. 14, 1954 in the St. George Temple.

Dad adopted Tommy and then he and mom had four more children; myself, Spencer, Nathan and Naomi. I was born in dad’s hometown of Vernal, Utah and my brothers and sister were born here in Richfield.

Mom was best known for her sense of humor. Her broad smile and laugh will never be forgotten. She loved fresh water fishing, camping and arrowhead hunting.  She used her Navajo cooking skills she learned while growing up on the reservation to char whole corn on embers and roast meats at our campsites. She was often asked to make fry bread for large church gatherings. She loved to entertain onlookers with her dough handling skills and joking conversation. Flora loved looking for rocks for her beloved rock garden and transplanting plant snippings from her many friends. She also loved to visit her relatives on the reservation as often as possible. She loved to travel and has made many road trips around the nation.

Recent painful milestones for her and us were losing her husband, my dad Rulon in 1999, her sons Tom in 2005 and Spence in 2006.

When I saw my mother for the last time I was reminded of something an elder in the Ponca tribe said about her after seeing her photo from last year:


Our elders seem to begin to take on the look of Mother Earth as they age, with the cracks and crevices of character and living making maps across their faces.

We are going to miss our mom very much.

I would like to thank publicly my brother Nate and my sister Naomi.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and it was difficult for me to be physically helpful to my mom. Nate and Naomi took complete care of her after our dad passed. Naomi drove back and forth between Richfield and Vernal to check on mom and attend to her emergencies. We finally moved her to Richfield to make it easier for Naomi.  In fact, when she got to the point of needing constant care Nate moved in with her 11 months ago. I’m so appreciative to him for being devoted to her every need. I didn’t worry as much knowing that she was being cared for 24/7.

I also want to thank you all for being with us today to give us strength. It’s so nice to see your faces and know that you care.

We love our mother very much and today we honor her special heritage that is a huge part of our identity. We will do what we can to keep the Navajo culture alive.

Obituary in The Richfield Reaper


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Neeta, Nathan and Naomi Lind

Funeral Program Cover