Human Flower Project
Monday, June 30, 2008
HFQ #2: A Canoe of Sympathy
Has anyone seen or heard of this funeral ritual from the Great Lakes region?
Sue writes from Grandville, Michigan:
When my great-grandma passed, the Indians in Northern Michigan filled a canoe with flowers and placed it on her porch. What does that mean? Was she a Native American?
Sue says that her “gramma,” Viola Wolfod AuFrance, “looked very Indian, but she was born in Jackson, Ohio.” She and Sue’s great-grandfather, Harvey AuFrance, lived in the vicinity of Burt Lake, Michigan, near Indian River. “They were very poor but Grampa was a legend on Burt Lake as a cottage caretaker and fishing guide.” Sue thinks one or both of her great-grandparents may have been Chippewa Indians.
Wooden diorama (detail) from Maine, c. 1920
Photo: Rustic Furniture
“I had a picture of the canoe and cannot find it,” Sue writes depairingly, “but it was hand built filled with wildflowers and was very beautiful. I talked to a very old Native American Indian and he told me it was a very-good-friend ritual, and it gives the body everything to travel to the new world.” After searching locally and cyberspatially, Sue’s turned up no more information. She hopes to understand this beautiful funeral custom, and perhaps learn more about her ancestor, too.