Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tribal Sexuality of the Sioux

A few days ago, I touched on courting and marriage, specifically the presence of plural wives in the tribes of the old west.  The main reason for having more than one was often dictated by the number of men killed during battle or buffalo hunts, and the honor of relatives to take on the families left behind.  If one brave had only one wife and his brother was killed, leaving behind two, then it wasn't uncommon for that man to become the husband to three.  Quite often, a singular wife might suggest her spouse marry again to ease her workload while giving her a senior status in the household.  Little is written about the sexual habits in the research books I've used, but I always wonder how accurate our romantic notions are in the novels we create about the American Indian tribes. Thankfully, we write fiction and can enhance what we don't know to be certain.

I was surprised to learn of the respect and attention given to males we would today consider homosexuals.  These tribal members were more the transvestite types, called 'winkte,' and although feared to some degree, they were not hated.  Rather than participate in male roles such as hunting and warring, the 'winkte' dressed as women and took up quilling, tanning, and other female duties.  They lived in their own tepees at the edge of camp, which I was suprised to learn was an area usually reserved for ancient widows and orphans.  I'm not quite sure why there would be orphans since most research indicates the Sioux were very family oriented, and the tribe was considered an extended family who took care of their own. As I continue to share my findings with you, perhaps I'll discover the answer.

The 'winkte' were believed to acquire their 'womanly' skills through supernatural inspiration.  Pieces of work completed by a 'winkte' were considered more desireable and often cherished. Some also deemed the transvestites  to have healing powers and sought the to name their children. Of course, the names are considered secret and not used, but still hopefully will strengthen the child.  Girls were never given 'winkte' names.

Although those men who dressed as women were given respect in some ways, male warriors were instructed that even though a 'winkte' lived and worked as a woman, to engage in sexual relations with one was cause for retribution after death.  The belief was in the land beyond, the warrior would not be allowed to live in the main circle, but away from the rest where the 'winktes' would torture him.  I suppose it worked as the Sioux held the 'beyond' in the greatest reverence.

There appears to be no documentation of obvious lesbaniasm among the female tribal members.  This may be attributed to the 'dream' instructions given to young women that warned of avoiding perversion.  Obviously, fear played an important role in instilling the goal of wife and mother, as no record exists of old maids among the Sioux.  I found it very interesting that men were given greater acceptance of their differences while women were more restricted and basically 'scared straight.'

I hope you're enjoying this series of information about the Sioux.  It used to be research for me, now it's become a passion.  Back soon.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Ginger, people haven't changed, have they?

Paty Jager said...

Interesting information.

I agree about the fiction. I had one person contact me who was writing a thesis on Native Americans and he asked me where I'd learned that the Nez Pece kissed because I have them doing it in my novels. I told him I hand't come across that information but my romance readers expected kissing.

Ginger have you seen anything about Native Americans kissing in your research?

Unknown said...

Caroline, in so many respects, we haven't changed much.

Paty, I haven't come across much about courting and romance other than the American Indian tribes were very private in their relationships. Since women were believed to hold so much "evil" power at certain times of the month, even holding hands in public was frowned upon. In some plain's tribes, Courting was done beneath a blanket, where my only reference has noted that they put their faces close together and whispered endearments they were denied sharing in public. A marriage ceremony among the Cheyenne entailed a women being carried to the lodge of the young man's father on a blanket and left there. Until they had a tepee of their own, it wasn't uncommon for newlyweds to share the lodge of their family for a long period of time. Not much privacy for consummating, huh?
I'm reluctant to take anything I find on Wikipedia as legit, since there is no source of information listed for some. I did however, find a Sioux word for kiss:

IPUTAKE / Kiss/ ee - pue - dah - kay

I'm not going to give up. I'll keep researching.

Paty Jager said...

I've read about the several different tribes courting in blankets and knew about the "evil" of women at certain times of the month. I look forward to seeing what you dig up.

Beth Trissel said...

Very interesting Ginger. I've studied the Eastern Woodland Indians, not the western so much. The Shawnee tribal member told me that homosexuality was strongly frowned upon--historically speaking. The Eastern woodland Indians were introduced, to put it mildly, to Europeans very early on so had several centuries of trading and warring with, taking and adopting the fortunate captives into the tribe, marrying them...acting as these warriors were far more westernized and that is bound to influence their mindset. As to courtship, captive accounts I've read say they could be ardently devoted to a woman.

Unknown said...

In Eve Ball's book, James Kaywaykla a Warm Springs Apache, stated that the Apache did not kiss. They believed it was dirty. Title is "In the Days of Victorio"