Native Americans are known for their appreciation of both life and what comes after. Sharing funeral poems written by Native Americans or related to life in a tribe can be a beautiful way to honor a loved one.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Native American Poems for a Parent or Grandparent’s Funeral
- Native American Poems for a Spouse or Partner’s Funeral
- Native American Poems for a Child’s Funeral
After all, death in different cultures is often experienced and dealt with in unique ways. No matter what a family's culture and traditions are, though, planning or attending a funeral is hard. (If you'd like some help and guidance through the process, check out our post-loss checklist.)
Poetry can share themes and messages related to your late loved one’s Native American heritage. Native American funeral poems are appropriate for a parent or grandparent’s funeral, a spouse or partner’s funeral, or a child’s funeral.
Native American Poems for a Parent or Grandparent’s Funeral
Poems about death that occurs late in life often describe the richness the older person experienced as well as the lessons they learned.
This can be helpful for younger family members attending the funeral or memorial who may not have a full understanding of death yet. These poems can also provide motivation and support for loved ones to carry on despite their grief.
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1. "A Cherokee Prayer" by Kelly Spiritwind Wood
This poem is a powerful response to the death and destruction of the Cherokee tribe. Though this suggests death occurred in a malicious manner, it is likely still appropriate to share among family members in the Cherokee tribe, especially the elderly. The message of this poem is to want to be strong even when others are leaving the world and the world itself is crumbling.
2. "Death Song" by David Lee Yellowmoon Rose
“Death Song” discusses the author’s relationship to the earth and its animals and how they’re both dying together. He also talks about how he’ll return to the earth at times that once provided him with “a robe of life.”
3. "Each Time" by Wayne Scott
This poem describes lives as stories and men as histories that write the past. It discusses the act of mourning as well as moving on, bringing us all closer to death ourselves.
4. "Life Givers" by Katherine Raborn
This poem is written to an audience of younger people or children. It details the sacrifices and tears shed by their ancestors and elders. This would be appropriate to share to honor a late grandmother or grandfather.
5. "Death" by Crisosto Apache
“Death” is a somber poem in response to the dread that comes along with it. The author explains that you shouldn’t repeat the names of the dead, as it causes death itself to linger.
Native American Poems for a Spouse or Partner’s Funeral
Of course, sentiments of love are common at all funerals and memorials, but love holds particular weight at funerals for a spouse or a partner. Some of the Native American poems suggested below can be appropriate in other settings as well, while others have a strong theme of romance.
6. "Back in the Day" by David Kaw
This poem describes a courtship and the love between great-grandparents. It’s a nice choice for a wife to share about a late husband or vice versa. The tone of this poem is uplifting and full of gratitude for how things used to be.
7. "Cherokee Women" by Katherine Raborn
“Cherokee Women” details times when warriors do not return back home. It also talks about how Cherokee women are dedicated to both supporting warriors as well as praying for no more battles or tears. You may also be interested in these funeral poems for a husband.
8. "My Nakota Woman" by Ray
This poem describes a man’s love for his woman. It would be a great poem to share about a late wife.
9. "Star" by Jack Scoltock
“Star” discusses Manitou, the spiritual and fundamental life force of Algonquian tribes. The author hopes that Manitou will bring him home, as he is old and tired.
10. "Going Home" by Ray
For many, death is viewed as a way of returning home. The author describes returning to land and “the one” he loves, so it’s appropriate to share at a spouse’s funeral.
11. "You Are Part of Me" by Lloyd Carl Owle
“You Are Part of Me” is an intimate poem that describes being touched by love and kindness. It would be great to share at a spouse’s funeral among close friends. This poem also has a nice message, as it suggests that because we have experienced life and love with those we care about, they never truly leave us.
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Native American Poems for a Child’s Funeral
Finding poems for a child’s funeral can be especially difficult, as losing a child is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through. However, the following poems lend a bit of joy that’s most likely needed. They also describe the dreams and the freedom from pain that a late child can experience through death.
12. "Dream Catcher" by Jack Scoltock
“Dream Catcher” describes a sweet relationship between a child and a father who made a dream catcher to keep evil spirits away. This is a nice sentiment to share as you lay a child to rest.
13. "Eagle Feathers" by Dinah Serritelli
Though not about death, this poem is a beautiful sentiment to share from a father to a son, as it’s written from the point of view of a father giving advice. He describes the difficult journey it took for him to transform from a little boy into a man that made his own father proud. Now, as a father himself, he gently encourages his own son and says that he believes in him.
14. "Pale and Small" by Melissa Fry Beasley
“Pale and Small” describes a granddaughter wanting to dance forever to the beat of her grandmother’s drum. It’s a beautiful poem with an uplifting sentiment. After all, it suggests that a child who has passed away is simply dancing into eternity with a grandparent who may have also died. You may also be interested in these other funeral poems for a daughter.
15. "Sister Moon" by Dara Heller
This poem describes the love we receive from children and how it’s what parents want the most. It does not have a theme of death, but it can be fitting to share for a child who left the earth too early. After all, the parents were given a chance to receive their child’s love for a time, still making it powerful.
16. "The Lord’s Prayer in Choctaw" by Mike Davis
As you may know, the Lord’s Prayer is a fundamental prayer in Christianity. It’s common to share at Christian services — either a regular service or for a memorial. Reciting this prayer in Choctaw can provide another level of cultural depth to a funeral, as long as you can find someone who can do so correctly. Sharing a more general prayer with everyone may be more fitting than one written specifically for a child. It may be too difficult to do so.
Poems Help You Honor Loved Ones
You may not be the most confident writer or know too much about Native American culture. However, Native American funeral poems are a great way to capture spirit and wisdom — especially in dealing with death. Native American writings are profound and filled with love, too, as well as an appreciation for the earth that we must someday leave behind.
Not only is Native American poetry powerful in its messaging, but it is also powerful in its quiet confidence. You may find further solace in reading more Native American poems as you grieve. The collection of poems we suggested is just the beginning, as you’re free to use them as inspiration to write your own or conduct more research on the writings of specific tribes, for example.
You can also honor your parent, grandparent, spouse, or child in another way that’s relevant to Native American culture. You may also be interested in Native American death rituals. For more resources related to funeral services and end-of-life planning, learn more at Cake.