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Speakers for the Dead were wandering representatives of a Humanist movement. Though they were not associated with any religion, they were treated with the respect accorded a priest or cleric. Speakers researched a deceased person's life and gave a speech that attempted to speak for them, describing the person's life as he or she lived it.[1]

Speakers for the Dead arose as a movement in response to the novels The Hive Queen and The Hegemon, written by the pen name of Andrew Wiggin, the Speaker for the Dead. These books gave the explanation of the Hive Queen's and Peter Wiggin's lives from their own perspectives, slowly subverting humanity's perception of the Formics and changed it from hatred and fear into sorrow over a Xenocide, the complete extinction of an alien race. The movement began soon after The Hegemon was published, as it was more relatable to the human race than The Hive Queen.[1]

Any citizen of a planet would have the legal right to summon a Speaker (or a priest of any faith, which Speakers are legally considered) to mark the death of a family member.[1]