When Souls Pass, Part I

life in a village, northern exposures

porcupine-4563

I returned to Fort Yukon last summer in mid-July. A traditional chief of the Athabascans died shortly after I arrived and I attended his funeral at the Episcopal church. In our small village, everybody is welcome. I have been told that the deceased are usually kept at this church because it is one of the few places with a basement; it is very cold down there, even in the summer. We have no undertakers to embalm the dead, or to restore the look of life, or to lessen signs of trauma. When you die, your loved ones dress you for your burial and you are kept at the church until a spruce casket has been built for you and your grave has been dug…

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