Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nez Perce Womanhood


As promised a little more insight into being a Nez Perce woman in the 17 and 1800's. The children of Nez Perce families were taught by their grandparents. The grandfathers taught the boys how to make weapons, hunt, fish, track, and fight. Grandmothers taught the girls how to take care of their families, do the chores, and help their men. The elders passed down the stories of the trickster coyote and how "The People" came to be. By reading books of their legends you see how the legends taught the children basic truths about life and how to conduct themselves to be good Nez Perce.

Grandmothers also taught the girls about the coming of age and were by their sides during marriages and the births. When a girl began her menstrual cycle she would stay in the menstrual lodge for the duration of her bleeding. They believed the women carried strong powers during this time and were susceptible to getting pregnant.

This isolation served a purpose. They held private discussions about personal problems and conditions of health, exchanged views on herbal medicine, and composed songs. The cooked their own meals in the lodge and did not touch anything outside nor could they attend any ceremonies during this time.

They used buffalo hides with the fur still on for menstruation pads or buckskin and milkweed. The pads were put in a hole in the middle of the dwelling and buried.

After puberty girls were no longer allowed to play with boys and stayed in a lodge with their grandmothers and aunts and taught the ways of women.


Paty Jager
www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com
Photo source: First People
Source: Nez Perce Women in Transition, 1877-1990 by Caroline James; NeeMePoo by Allen P. Slickpoo, SR. and Deward E. Walker, Jr.

19 comments:

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Paty, as always, fascinating info on my favorite tribe! I'm so glad you included the info on the, ahem, pads. I always wondered what life was like without tampons.

Keep these great posts coming!

Paty Jager said...

Hi Tanya,

I'm glad someone besides me is interested in this tribe.

Susan Macatee said...

Really cool info, Paty!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Paty,
Fascinating information. Like Tanya I wondered what native women used during their period in those days. I know that women used rags, because I can vaguely remember my mum and aunties soaking their rags each month

Regards
Margaret

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I enjoy your posts on the tribe. When I was a Camp Fire Girls leader we did a lot of studying of their customs and myths. Love it!

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Susan. I've been immersing myself in this tribe for the trilogy I'm writing.

Margaret, it is one of those things that you wonder about given the modern conveniences we have these days.

Paisley, thanks for stopping by. I've been fascinated with this particular tribe since growing up in their valley.

Becky said...

I enjoyed this post about this tribe. Like Tanya, this is a favorite tribe of mine.

Lauri said...

Great info, Paty. I always love the 'little known facts' you share!

Tanya Hanson said...

Paty, I have to admit to a teensie tad of jealousy that you got to grow up in the Wallowa. Me, it's just been boring suburbia LOL.

Paty Jager said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, BEcky.

Ahhh, Lauri, you know me. I love to unearth trivial tidbits! LOL I'm glad others like them as well.

Tanya, I've never been in suburbia! I grew up in the boonies(Wallowa County), always lived on acreage, and I am moving to the remote side of the state.

Eunice Boeve said...

Paty,
Good blog. As you know I have a Nez Perce woman of mixed race (white/Indian) in the book I'm working on now. One thing I found in my research; the Nez Perce, at least the women, wore their braids over their chests instead of down their backs. I was pelased to see the picture of the little girl with her braids hanging down in front of her.

Paty Jager said...

Eunice, I can't remember exactly but I did read about the braids being pulled forward. the hair also depicted whether they were married or not but I can't remember what it was and I had to return that book to the library. Think I'll look it up when I go to the library next week to look at a reference book.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Did they get to leave the lodge during the periods, or did they have to stay inside for the whole week? Great info!

Paty Jager said...

Sarah, They had to stay in the menstrual lodge the entire time they were menstruating.

Mary Ricksen said...

Wonderful information. I love hearing this kinda stuff. Not too thrilled with the equipment, but I wouldn't mind a week away from my DH. With him 24-7 too much.
They had the right idea!

Paty Jager said...

That's true, Mary! I can think of many times during period I wish I could have been off by myself rather than dealing with the dh or even the kids.

Kitty LissieGirl said...

OH my goodness! You are one of the few people that talk about life in the menstrual lodge with details such as what they wore to absorb it and other information shared in the lodges between families. Thank you so much.

Kitty LissieGirl said...

As mentioned before I love the article regarding what women wore as menstrual "pads". I really wanted to know, though, how in the world did those ladies keep their buckskin and fur-lined garments in place? They didn't wear underwear...

Paty Jager said...

Kitty, I believe they used rawhide to tie the hides, like a string bikini. I would assume, don't quote me, but it makes sense that part of the reason they stayed in the menstrual lodge was because they couldn't move around and do as much with the skins tied to them.