While I was away over the summer the local free paper, the Victoria News, did a (to my mind) high quality series on reburial and respect in Songhees and Esquimalt communities (cache). The three articles by Lisa Weighton include comments from numerous aboriginal spiritual and political leaders, and sensitively describes how Straits Salish faith asserts that the dead are always with the living. The dead do not conveniently depart to some other place, but continue in a world alongside and intersecting the world of the living.
Hence ancestral remains are not something belonging to a past which can be “gotten over” but are very much part of the present world. Laying a person to rest, or back to rest after disturbance, requires food, clothing and prayer. I don’t pretend to understand the concept well, but I have been to some such ceremonies and the power of the moment is impossible to deny. In my limited experience the article fairly represents the spiritual and emotional needs that must be met under the sad circumstance of disturbing the dead. It is incumbent on archaeologists and all citizens to not only work to minimize disturbance of the dead but to respect traditional practices. It has been impressed on me that such practices are meant to protect us, the living, First Nations or not, as well as to give comfort and respect to the dead. This should now be considered absolutely part of mainstream archaeology.