The Destruction of Native Burial Mounds in the Midwest (or Why NAGPRA Exists)

Smithsonian Magazine has a great piece entitled “White Settlers Buried the Truth About the Midwest’s Mysterious Mound Cities.” The splendor of the mounds was visible to the first white people who described them. But they thought that the American Indian known to early white settlers could not have built any of the great earthworks that dotted the midcontinent. So the question then became: Who built the mounds? Early archaeologists working to answer the question of who built the mounds attributed them to the Toltecs, Vikings, Welshmen, Hindus, and many others. It seemed that any group—other than the American Indian—could serve […]

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A party with death: How one local group is organizing for the inevitable

“Julia Porter had hit some milestones. She fell deeply in love with the man she wanted to marry. They moved in together and exchanged vows. But the responsibilities — not to mention paperwork — of being a partner and wife made her realize more than before that if she died suddenly, she’d have matters left unattended. What would happen to the handmade magazines her sister made for her when they were teens, the letters her husband wrote her, the drawings she’s carefully kept? One could say that she realized, at 27, that she’d be leaving a legacy. So, Porter started facing her death. She helped […]

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Want to Plan for Your Death and Funeral? Here’s How

“Planning for your death and funeral is probably not something at the top of your mind. There will be time for that later, when you’re older, right? But death planning is one of those uncomfortable, yet crucial, topics it’s never too early to start thinking about. This is where pre-need funeral arrangements come in: You can plan all the details of your body disposition and funeral so the burden doesn’t fall to your loved ones.” Read the rest of Christine Colby’s article in The New York Times.

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@Road_To_Now podcast on The History of American Cemeteries

I’m a big fan of The Road to Now podcast and was very happy to be asked to participate in this week’s episode. I can’t believe how much ground we covered in 38 minutes—the history of cemeteries, why Christians bury instead of cremate, how American cemeteries are different, the impact of the Civil War on the growth of the federal government and its obligation to care for the war dead, the role of the women of the South in caring for the Confederate war dead and how the story about Confederate war memorials is more complicated than we thought, the […]

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Caitlin Doughty and I have had long talks about the desecration of human remains…

A great recent piece in VICE about Caitlin Doughty and her new The New York Times Best Selling book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.  In the VICE piece, she mentions that we have had long conversations about desecration of human remains.  (You know, the normal stuff that people chat about.)  Come to think of it, we have had long conversations about topics that many people may find somewhat disturbing… From the VICE piece: “A lot of those contextually normal ceremonies from the book you’re mentioning might be seen as grisly to some readers. […]

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But WHY Can’t I have a Tibetan Sky Burial?

I get this question a lot.  The question came up when Lee Webster and I participated in a #TalkDeath web series last summer in Episode 5: Who Owns Your Body?, and then I wrote a guest piece for the Talk Death website on the subject.  Check it out. The Talk Death episode is below.  Lee and I talk about a bunch of other interesting stuff too.

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Gleaned from the 2017 NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Survey Part 1: Funeral Consumers Need Education

Since 2012, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) has surveyed consumers to “measure consumer awareness and perceptions of funerals and funeral services to help NFDA members improve the quality of service they provide to families.”  The findings have been fairly consistent from year to year, although clear trends have been identified.

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Cremation Rate Update

The National Funeral Directors Association and the Cremation Association of North American have recently released cremation rates in each of the 50 states for 2015 and projected cremation rates for the next decade or so. NFDA’s data indicates that the cremation rate in the United States in 2015 was 47.9%. CANA’s estimate is slightly higher than NFDA’s – 48.6% in 2015. Keep in mind that the first crematory was installed in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1876 but 100 years later, the cremation rate was still under 10%.  In 2000, the cremation rate was approximately 26%. CANA projects that by 2020, the […]

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