|Native American Traditions|
|Many Native Americans desire a wedding which reflects their Indian heritage. You must understand where relatives and ancestors may have originated from to plan the wedding reflecting your heritage.We have included certain traditions and customs that reflect specific tribes in the United States. Please feel free to contact us with your comments, and any other traditions which you would like us to include.
Native American culture is composed of many tribes, each with distinct traditions and customs. It is difficult to characterize any aspect of a wedding as being “Native American”. Some traditions are common to many tribes, while others are unique.Most Native Americans believe that in the universe there exists the Great Spirit – a spiritual force that is the source of all life. The Great Spirit is not pictured as a man in the sky but it is believed to be formless and to exist throughout the universe. The sun is viewed as a manifestation of the power of the Great Spirit.
Some Native American wedding ceremonies are informal, while others are quite formal. When they were not small and informal, they were solemnized with feasts and merrymaking. Evening is the traditional time for the ceremony to occur.
Water is used as a symbol of purification and cleansing. The bride and groom have a ceremonial washing of hands to wash away past evils and memories of past loves.
“Native American legends and myths have existed for thousands of years and are still relevant today. Many stories are moral tales about humankind’s relationship with the natural world, as well as several inspiring and poetic tales about love and the ritual of courtship. Indian poems had their roots in the songs and chants of tribal life. The Indians wrote songs and poetry for practical purposes as well as to deal with the invisible forces in their lives. They helped the people to conduct their lives honorably and assisted them through times of great emotion and need”. There are many moving stories in this book about marriage, courtship and puberty rites and celebrations, including even some suggested recipes!
Singing is the dominant form of musical expression, with instrumental music serving primarily as rhythmic accompaniment. Native American love songs are often played by men on flutes. Principal instruments have been drums and rattles, flutes and whistles.A very powerful musical presentation may be that of a group of men sitting around a large double-headed drum, singing in unison and drumming with sticks.
Music styles vary from region to region. For example, music in the Great Plains is tense, pulsating, forceful, with a high range and preferably falsetto; in California, it is produced by a relaxed throat.
A custom among the Northern Californian Native Americans*, which was unique to them, is that of half-marriage and full-marriage.In a full marriage, two kinsmen represented the future bridegroom. After agreeing on a price, in accordance with the family’s wealth and social standing, the bridegroom – usually with his father’s help – would pay the bride’s family. The future social status of the family and the children depended on the price, therefore the bridegroom was willing to pay as much as he could possibly afford.
In half-marriage, the man would pay about half the usual price for his bride. The man would live in his wife’s home under her father’s jurisdiction. A man might have to half-marry because of a lack of wealth or social standing, or if his father did not approve of his bride. A woman’s family might allow her to half marry because they had no sons and needed another man in the family, or if there were Shaman powers in the family. About one in four marriages were half-marriages.
The bride’s dress may be woven in symbolic colors: white for the east, blue for the south, yellow (orange) for the west; and black for the north. Turquoise and silver jewelry are worn by both the bride and the groom in addition to a silver concho belt. Jewelry is considered a shield against evils including hunger, poverty and bad luck.
*The tribes of northern California include the Klamath, the Modoc and the Yurok.
A Delaware Native American girl who reached puberty may have had her union prearranged by her parents. Often a couple just lived together as man and wife. To mark the occasion, there was a simple exchange of jewelry, blankets or a belt of wampum to the girl’s parents. If the parents accepted the gifts the union was sanctioned.The young bride would wear a knee-length skirt of deerskin and a band of wampum beads around her forehead. Except for fine beads or shell necklaces, the body would be bare from the waist up. If it were a winter wedding, she would wear deerskin leggings and moccasins and a robe of turkey feathers. Her face would be painted with white, red and yellow clay.
The Pueblo bride wore a cotton garment tied above the right shoulder, secured with a belt around the waist.
White corn meal symbolizes the male and yellow the female. The Navajo combine the two meals into a corn mush and put it into a wedding basket before the traditional ceremony.The Navajo bride was an equal partner to her husband. The couple would share the maize pudding during the ceremony to symbolize the marriage bond.
(special thanks to www.indiansun.com for some of this information)
The Hopi Native girl, after undergoing important rites of adolescence, (usually between the age of 16 and 20) is ready to receive suitors. In former days it was customary to give an informal picnic on the day following an important ritual.If a girl had decided on a youth as a future mate, she would extend to him an invitation to accompany her and would present him with a loaf of qomi, a bread made of sweet cornmeal in lieu of somiviki (maiden’s cake). Since this invitation was tantamount to being engaged, boys would only accept the invitation from girls they were willing to marry.
A Hopi young man would propose to a maiden by preparing a bundle of fine clothing and white buckskin moccasins. He would leave the bundle at her doorstep and if she accepted it, she accepted him as her future husband.
The females then washed the hair of the engaged couple in a single basin. The hair of the bride and groom was then entwined to signify their lifelong union.
With hair still interwoven the bride and groom walk to the edge of the mesa to witness and pray to the rising sun.
Algonquin speaking people include the Cree, the Ojibwa or Chippewa, the Ottawa, the Montagnais, the Naskapi and others.When a young man chooses a mate in the old way, he went with her family (matriarch society). The custom was usually determined by the growing season. In warmer climates, where women would raise crops to support the families, they were considered the providers. In cooler climates where families subsisted on hunting performed by the men, the communities were considered patriarchal.
The Pipe Carrier, the officiant, makes sure they are well aware of this commitment. If the couple separates and goes their separate ways, in the eyes of the Creator, they are still husband and wife. The Pipe Carrier will not perform the ceremony unless the couple is very serious.
Each person makes a declaration that they choose to be known as husband and wife. Then they smoke from the pipe. Tobacco is offered and accepted by the officiant.
At the ceremony, the sponsors make a commitment to help the couple.
Known commonly as the ‘Apache Wedding Prayer’, ‘Indian Wedding Blessing’, and other variants, the following is a prayer commonly recited at weddings in the United States. We have learned fromwww.wikipedia.org that it is not associated with any particular religion. It was written for the 1950 Western movie Broken Arrow and has no known connection to the traditions of the Apache or any other Native American group. We include this because you may be looking for it.
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.
The Cherokee wedding ceremony is a very beautiful event, whether it is the old fashoned, or ‘ancient’ ceremony or a modern one. The original ceremony differed from clan to clan and community to community, but basically used the same ritual elements.
Because clanship is matrilineal in the Cherokee society, it is forbidden to marry within one’s own clan. Because the woman holds the family clan, she is represented at the ceremony by both her mother (or clan mother) and oldest brother. The brother stands with her as his vow to take the responsibility of teaching the children in spiritual and religious matters, as that is the traditional role of the ‘uncle’ (e-du-tsi). In ancient times, they would meet at the center of the townhouse, and the groom gave the bride a ham of venison while she gave an ear of corn to him, then the wedding party danced and feasted for hours on end. Venison symbolized his intention to keep meat in the household and her corn symbolized her willing to be a good Cherokee housewife. The groom is accompanied by his mother.
After the sacred spot for the ceremony has been blessed for seven consecutive days, it is time for the ceremony. The bride and groom approach the sacred fire, and are blessed by the priest and/or priestess. All participants of the wedding, including guests are also blessed. Songs are sung in Cherokee, and those conducting the ceremony bless the couple. Both the Bride and Groom are covered in a blue blanket. At the right point of the ceremony, the priest or priestess removes each blue blanket, and covers the couple together with one white blanket, indicating the beginning of their new life together.
Note: This excerpt is from www.cherokee.org.
A wedding vase is traditionally used by Native American couples in the Southwest but it is being used increasingly by couples everywhere drawn to the culture’s spirituality and reverence for nature, the earth, and the environment.
During the ceremony each person drinks from a spout to symbolize both individuality and unity. The Sea and Sky Vase is one-of-a-kind, (shown on the left) hand etched and hand painted in New Mexico. It measures 8″ tall and is signed by the artist Geraldine Vail, a Navajo Indian.
It is important to know that these vases are made to hold liquid for a very short period of time. The vase should be emptied and dried promptly after the ceremony and should never be used as a vessel for liquid which will destroy the vase.
Special thanks to Lois Pearce, Master Bridal Consultant of Hamden, Connecticut, for her time and energy gathering the majority of information used here. We also wish to thank the Association of Bridal Consultants for their assistance.
Please note that the information contained in this category should be considered general in nature. We believe it to be a true and accurate representation of some of the customs and traditions for this country or religion. Information provided by individuals and organizations is assumed to be correct.
You are welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions for changes, additions or deletions.