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Indian Squaws' Courtship and Marriage
Milestones Vol 10 No 3--Summer 1985

A letter from the Red Cloud Agency, after describing the style of dress worn by the squaws, which is much the same among all the tribes, says: The only weapon carried by the squaw is a knife, called "me-la", placed in a handsomely beaded case fastened to the waist belt. For occasions of ceremony and dances the buckskin dress and leggins are donned. These garments are gorgeous with bead work, the shoulders and sleeves being covered with beads in various devices representing men and animals. The leggins have the same ornaments. They are expert in the management of horses, and at a distance it is difficult to distinguish a squaw from a "buck" as their manner of riding is identical, even to the incessant punching of a pony's sides with the heels and beating the beast with a whip. In childhood they play merrily as white children do, making mud pies, building miniature lodges, and seemingly making the most of their time against the hardships of mature years. As a rule, they all paint their faces. One of their fashions is to tatoo a small round spot in the center of the forehead and a streak down the center of the chin.

The age of womanhood is hailed with gladness by the parents, and is the occasion of rejoicing in the form of a feast, to which are invited all the friends of the family. On this great occasion the joyful father of the girl gives away as many poines, robes and blankets to his friends and the poor of the tribes as his possessions permit. Now the young girl is careful of her personal appearance, as the "bucks" will watch her. She adorns herself in garments of flaming colors, paints in an extravagant manner and powders her hair with sweetsmelling leaves. Polygamy is the almost universal practice. There are three modes of marriage. The courtship of one form of marriage is conducted in a singular manner. A young "buck" becomes enamored of a young squaw, awaits a convenient time, when, approaching stealthily he wraps his blanket around her, and then, holding her in a firm grasp, pours his tale of love and devotion into her sometimes unwilling ear. This being completed, he goes to the father and the price of the maiden is agreed upon according to the young man's wealth; one to three and sometimes more ponies are given for the girl. This transaction being finished, the girl becomes the warrior's wife, whether she has said "Yes" or "No".

There is one thing certain, however, that while she remains with him she obeys him. The squaw may leave her husband, or rather she may be deserted by him, and then going back to her family she is ready to be bought again. There seems no special regard between the "buck" and the dian, strangely enough, even the strong affection for his children. Where there is no love between man and wife you would suppose this could not exist. It is nevertheless a fact that the children are dearer to all Indians than his horses. Of course, squaws grow old fast, and soon become ugly bags. At this stage they are treated as an incumbrance. Old men as well as old women have been left on the prairie to die. A small store of provisions to sustain life a few days is given them; this gone, death by starvation follows. This, I am told, is no longer practiced by the Agency Indians.

From the files of "Research Center" Carnegie Library -
Submitted by Vivian McLaughlin