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.
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.