Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nez Perce Family Life in the 1700's

By Paty Jager

Here is some insight into Nez Perce family life in the 17 and 1800's I learned while researching for my Nez Perce Spirit trilogy.

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. They 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 who taught them the ways of women.

To help make the premise work for my heroine in Spirit of the Mountain, she is the daughter of the chief and is allowed to live with her parents even after she is of age to be in the women’s lodge.

Blurb for Spirit of the Mountain.

Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, has been fated to save her people ever since her vision quest. When a warrior from the enemy Blackleg tribe asks for her hand in marriage to bring peace between the tribes, her world is torn apart.

Himiin is the spirit of the mountain, custodian to all creatures including the Nimiipuu. As a white wolf he listens to Wren’s secret fears and loses his heart to the mortal maiden. Respecting her people’s beliefs, he cannot prevent her leaving the mountain with the Blackleg warrior.

When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin must leave the mountain to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…

Wren’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. “My gift is to save The People. The weyekin who came to me in my vision quest said this.” She wrapped her arms around herself as if staving off a cold breeze.
Himiin hated that they argued when they should relish their time together. He moved to her, drawing her against his chest, embracing her. The shape of her body molded to his. Her curves pressed against him. Holding her this way flamed the need he’d tried to suppress.
He placed a hand under her chin, raising her face to his. The sorrow in her eyes tugged at his conscience. To make her leaving any harder was wrong. But having experienced her in his arms, he was grieved to let her go. Even for the sake of their people.
Her eyelids fluttered closed. Her pulse quickened under his fingers. Shrugging off the consequences, he lowered his lips to hers. They were softer than he imagined. Her breath hitched as he touched her intimately. Parting his lips, he touched her with his tongue, wanting to see if she tasted as sweet as she smelled.
She tasted of sweet honey straight from the bosom of a bee tree.
One taste was not enough. He pulled her closer, moving his lips across hers, tasting and savoring the feel of them.
Her mouth opened and she sighed.
 His body came to life. The sensations transcended anything he’d experienced before. How could one woman make him feel powerful and vulnerable at the same time? Why did he wish to crush her to him and never let go and yet feel compelled to treat her with the tenderness
one would give the tiniest of creatures? He couldn’t continue this way.
To hold her, to touch her soft skin. He would never be able to let her go.
He must.
He released Wren and stepped back, avoiding her eyes. How could he show her the sensations she brought to him then turn around and tell her they couldn’t see one another anymore?


Maggie said...

Great post Paty! A few years ago we traveled thru western Montana and the Idaho panhandle, we followed parts of the Nez Perce and Lewis & Clark trails , it was a fanscinating vacay. Was too quick a trip to see all I wanted to. Your Spirit of the Mountain sounds wonderful, it's going in my TBR pile.

Paty Jager said...

Maggie, You're trip sounds fun. I grew up in the valley where the Chief Joseph band summered and that's what was the catalyst for writing this trilogy. Thanks!

Devon Matthews said...

Very nice excerpt, Paty, and your cover is beautiful!

Unknown said...

Awesome post, Paty. This group is definitely going to put the perk back in the western genre by sharing with our readers the reasons we love to write western historical novels and the history behind them. My favorite tribe is the Lakota, Sioux, and that's been my choice of American Indians to use in my own novels. So many similarities among all the tribes, yet a few differences, too. Very interesting.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Devon!

Thanks, Ginger. I think this is a great venue to show readers how wonderful western romance is not only for the accuracy of the historical element but the great characters who built this country.

Peggy Henderson said...

I love reading about Indian customs, especially if it's one of the lesser-written-about tribes (in romance novels).I used an incidence that occurred while the Nez Perce fled through Yellowstone in the 1870's to get to Canada in my latest book. (Of course, as I always do with the actual history, I tweak it to suit my story).
One of our favorite places to picnic in Yellowstone is along Nez Perce Creek. I always try and imagine what it must have been like back then, and for the Indians as they tried to escape the army.

Paty Jager said...

Peggy, The third book of this series is set during the Nez Perce flight to Canada and I have their trek through Yellowstone in the book.

Alison E. Bruce said...

The Nez Perce practices remind me of The Red Tent.

Andrea Downing said...

Found this a particularly interesting post, Paty, especially as recently watched the dvd about the Lewis and Clark exhibition during which the Nez Perce (so-named because Lewis misunderstood them and thought they were saying they pierced their noses) were so helpful. Of course, we promised to be friends until the rivers ran dry etc.--Europeans' usual inability to keep their word when it came down to land...

Jacquie Rogers said...

I love the diversity in Native American culture. Where I grew up (Idaho), we mostly learned about Nez Perce, Paiute, Bannock, and Shoshone. Here in Seattle, the coastal Indians (Lummi, Tulalip, Skagit, Macah, Nootka) had very different customs so it has been fun learning about them, too.

When you have to change a custom, do you include that in the actual story? or do you use an Author's Note for that?

Paty Jager said...

Thanks for stopping in Alison.

So true Andrea. And the trilogy is all about the Nez Perce or Nimiipuu's desire to remain on the land they felt was taken out from under them.

Jacquie, I didn't change any customs, but if a custom didn't work I found a way to make the story work without needing the knowledge. Or if I couldn't find out everything I felt I needed, I'd ask my Nez Perce consultant if I could write a scene "this way" and not be unfactual. If she said yes, I put it in that way if she said no, I reworked the scene.

Ciara Gold said...

Loved reading your information on the Nez Perce. I'm currently researching the Cheyenne and hoping to make a trip into Colorado soon for more fact finding, but this helps. Gave me some questions I can ask. Thanks for sharing.

Paty Jager said...

You're welcome, Ciara. I enjoy researching the Nez Perce.

Lauri said...

Such great information. I never tire of hearing about all your research! Wonderful book and series!

Paty Jager said...

Thanks Lauri! I enjoy doling out the info I learn.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I am always intrigue by Native American customs. Thanks for sharing.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks for stopping in Caroline!

Lyn Horner said...

Fascinating info, Paty. I'm currently researching Choctaw and Kiowa traditions for my next book. The hero is half Kiowa and half French-Choctaw. Lots of cultural differences.

I love your book covers!

Paty Jager said...

Hi Lyn. It is amazing the things that are similar and the things that are so different between each tribe.

Thanks! The cover artists at The Wild Rose Press did a great job with my spirit covers.