An interesting article of a re-created "Cree" wedding that took place in Minnesota in 1970. What really makes the article interesting is that it involved an Indigenous man marrying a white woman - a relatively risque thing for the time!
America was/is a prejudiced place. It might have been legal, but such marriages certainly weren't popular. The fact that it was reported on by a major daily newspaper is amazing to me.
Images of the news story are provided below and a pdf of the news story can be read or downloaded below.
JUNE 8, 1970 MINNEAPOLIS STAR
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One day, when the season had commenced for fish to be plentiful near the shore of the lake, Miskogwan’s grandfather said to him—“My son, the fat fish are running right now and I want you to get me some fish to make for our supper. You should ask your cousin Anangokaa to help you.” Miskogwan loved his cousin Anangokaa, so he didn’t have to be asked twice. He ran across the field to where Anangokaa lived and said, “Cousin. Let’s go fishing for grandfather.” Anangokaa agreed and they set out. Soon they arrived at the place where the creek entered the lake, and Anangokaa started to get their nets ready, as he was older and knew how to do this much better than Miskogwan. Soon, they had the nets untangled and patched a few holes. Then they put their nets in the water, and built a small fire on the shore and waited.
Anangokaa started to build them a small shelter because he figured that it would take until morning to get a good supply of fish. Miskogwan helped gather branches and tied the cordage the way that Anangokaa told him to. In due time they had a nice little place to sleep for the night. They sat by the fire and talked about all sorts of things. Miskogwan listened as Anangokaa told him about hunting bears with his father, and he wove a nice tale about the time he had to run from a Dakota who had surprised him in the woods one time—barely escaping because he was such a swift runner.
The moon arose. The wind was very calm and not a cloud was in the dark sky above. It was a very bright night, and Miskogwan looked out at their nets. He was surprised to see that almost all the floats had disappeared. “Cousin!” he said, “The nets are full. Let’s get them out.” Anangokaa waded out and to his rejoice, they were brimmed full of fish. Anangokaa asked Miskogwan to help him land the nets, and in no time at all they counted about twenty nice fish. Anangokaa told Miskogwan, “Little cousin, take two fish and cook them for us. The rest we should smoke slowly so we can bring them back to grandfather.” Miskogwan set about it immediately, and cleaned all of the fish. They roasted their meal and smoked the others. Anangokaa lazily lounged on the opposite side of the fire. Miskogwan and Anangokaa ate their fish and were happy.
A little later, Miskogwan asked Anangokaa, “Cousin, could you tell me more stories, or sing me some songs?” Anangokaa sat up and began to sing a love song. He stopped for a while and told Miskogwan another story or two, then he started singing again. Miskogwan soon fell asleep and Anangokaa followed.
Suddenly, Miskogwan was awakened by a small laugh. Startled, he whispered, “Cousin! Someone is here with us. Wake up! Let’s see who it is.” Anangokaa continued to sleep, and Miskogwan heard the laughter coming closer. Looking into the darkness, he noticed two strange and beautiful girls. He whispered louder, “Anangokaa! Wake up!” But Miskogwan didn’t receive an answer and Anangokaa continued his slumber. A bit frightened, Miskogwan grabbed a large stick from the fire to serve as both torch and weapon (if needed) and started to walk towards the two girls. No sooner than he got close enough to see them better, he fainted. When Miskogwan woke up again, he looked around and called for Anangokaa, but he was nowhere to be seen. He cried out, “Niitaawis! (cousin!)”, but there was no answer. He searched the woods and all around the shore. He looked everywhere, but could not find Anangokaa. He soon started to panic. He couldn’t return home without Anangokaa, and he was still quite young and very frightened by his disappearance.
Meanwhile, Anangokaa woke up in a strange lodge. He looked around and saw a strong looking man smiling at him. The stranger said, “Aniin young man. Welcome to my home. Can I offer you something to eat?” Anangokaa was confused and was not entirely sure he could trust this man, despite his warm smile. He politely refused the offer of food, and asked the man, “Where am I?” The man replied, “My name is Mishibizhii. My daughters saw you fishing and brought you here. I want you to be comfortable because I want you to marry one of my daughters.” Anangokaa wasn’t sure he wanted to marry anyone—especially a girl he had never seen (he was asleep and hadn’t seen them yet). He told Mishibizhii, “Bring them in so that I can meet them. I have not met them as I was asleep when brought here.” Mishibizhii called to his daughters and they stepped into the lodge. Both were very beautiful indeed. Their names were Waabigwan and Binesi. Anangokaa spoke to them both at length and he was very smitten with the older of the sisters. He told Mishibizhii, “I would like to marry Binesi”. This pleased Mishibizhii. He told Anangokaa that he would have to live with him and his family if he married Binesi. This was okay with Anangokaa, but he told Mishibizhii, “Father, I must return to my camp and speak to my poor little cousin Miskogwan, and I must return to my village to let me mother and father know what has happened to me.” “This is fine,” said Mishibizhii, “but, you must return here in one year’s time.” Agreeing, Anangokaa left with his new wife and returned to the campsite where he found young Miskogwan crying at his loss.
“Miskogwan! Do not cry. I have returned with a wife!” Seeing his cousin in the company of one of the girls he had seen the previous night shocked him, but soon he was happily chatting with his cousin’s new wife. They returned to their village and all the village was soon in a bustle. Anangokaa and his wife were celebrated with a feast, and young Miskogwan happily sang love songs with Anangokaa and the other men.A year passed. Anangokaa knew that it was time to return to his wife’s village, so he and Binesi stopped by Miskogwan’s wigwam to say their goodbyes. Miskogwan and his grandfather were happy to see them, but sad to see them go. “Cousin,” called Miskogwan, “When will you return?” Anangokaa said, “Niitaawis, I will come see you again soon. You are still a growing boy, and in a few years you will be a strong hunter and a great fisherman. Maybe the next time I return, I will bring you back to Binesi’s village and find you a wife.” Anangokaa winked at Miskogwan and soon they were walking away hand in hand.
The day was calm and the sky clear; the most perfect silence overtook Miskogwan and he looked at his grandfather. They both turned and watched as Anangokaa and his wife walked up a small hill together. Anangokaa turned back for a moment and waved. As they crossed the top of the hill, the sun broke over the top and for a second Anangokaa and Binesi looked as if they were shrouded in red flame. Miskogwan said to his grandfather, “I don’t want one of those, no matter how pretty they might be.” Grandfather gave a wheezy laugh and said, “Young child, one day you might want two of those.”
One of the most beautiful rivers of the Canadian north-west is the Qu'Appelle River. The name Qu'Appelle means “Who Calls”, a French name that was derived from its Cree name Kah-tep-was, or the “River that Calls”. The river flows through a beautiful valley, which is well wooded in some places, and it is connected with an interesting Indian legend.
Long ago, in the heart of autumn, the beauty of Indian summer was casting its glory over the valley. A young Cree man was traveling from the south to claim his promised bride from a village where her family lived. He paddled alone in his birchbark canoe along the beautiful river, enjoying the glorious leaves in change. Day after day he paddled, dreaming of his beloved, and of their future happiness when they returned to his village.
As darkness approached one evening, he found himself in an area that was had clusters of beautiful forest on both sides of the river. Ahead of him lay the broad stream winding through open prairie, and a far distance beyond that was the village where his future bride dwelt. Rather than stop, he decided he would paddle on. However, soon a foreboding feeling of coming evil crept up on his mind. He couldn’t understand what could be causing it, but a chill ran down his back. As he was surrounded on both sides by trees, he worried it might be the Dakota Sioux seeking to ambush him, but instead of being attacked he heard someone call his name!
Quite distinctly he heard his name called again. It floated across to him on the quiet evening air. He looked around to see if anybody was in sight, but the only thing he saw was a hawk soaring above the tops of the trees. “Who calls?” he shouted as bravely as he could, while fear seized his heart. “Who calls?” There was no reply—only the gentle breeze rustling through the colorful leaves, and the rippling of the water under his canoe. He raised his voice: “Who calls?” Again he heard his name, distinctly spoken, but not by a mortal voice he could see. Full of foreboding, he quickly paddled for the open prairie and the bright moonlight it offered.
The stream now left the forest behind, and glided into open country. After a while he thought he could see the fires of the village where his beloved lived in the distance. His mood lightened and he paddled hard, hoping to get there in short time. He soon landed his canoe and walked up the bank to where her lodge was. As he drew near the lodge, he saw her family gathered around, but their faces were sullen and many were painted black. Some of the women were wailing! It was the death song chanted for a departing spirit.
He soon found that his betrothed had fallen sick with smallpox. As she lay dying, she had called out his name several times. He thought of the voice he had heard in the woods. In silent sorrow he turned and left the village. He re-entered his canoe, floated away on the bosom of the beautiful river, and was never heard of again.
There was once a young man named Sikihpsis, who was out hunting with his older friend Meschakanis. It was early winter and the ground was dusted with snow and it was easy to track deer and moose. They were deep in the woods and on the trail of what looked like a huge moose when a sudden snowstorm swept in. They soon became lost and were terrified that they might die if they couldn’t find shelter soon.
As they staggered around in the blinding snow, Meschakanis spotted a wigwam in the distance. They lost sight of it several times in the whiteout, but eventually they made their way there and entered the door. The lodge was empty and looked like it was abandoned many seasons ago, but it offered them shelter from the storm and they soon had a warm fire going to warm themselves. Eventually they fell asleep.
During the middle of the night, Sikihpsis was awakened by an intense chill. He wondered if the fire had gone out and he sat up to get more wood and rekindle it. To his horror he saw a strange woman with black hair and white clothes kneeling over his friend Meschakanis’ body. Her hair draped around his face and she was making a horrible sucking sound!
As she sat up from Meschakanis’ body, Sikihpsis noticed that his friend looked like he was frozen as ice. The woman turned to Sikihpsis and crawled forward towards him. She pushed him down on his back and soon her face was so close to his that he could see her terrible black eyes and his face was surrounded by her hair. As she stared into his eyes, she suddenly stopped and sat back. She said to him, “My, aren’t you a handsome young boy. I would kill you as I did your friend, but it would be a shame to waste such beauty.” She continued, “I will spare your life, but you must never tell anyone what you saw here this night, or I will kill you.” With that, she turned from Sikihpsis and crawled out of the lodge, leaving him frozen in fear. Sikihpsis soon rekindled the fire and was sad for the death of his friend. The next day he made his way back to his village and slept for several days. He never told anyone what he saw. When asked what happened to his friend Meschakanis, Sikihpsis said that he had fallen through the ice and was lost.
That spring, Sikihpsis was out hunting for ducks when he happened to run into a strange and beautiful young girl. She was not from his village and when he asked her who she was, she said that her name was Keewatin, and that she was on her way to visit her relatives on the other side of the lake. They began to talk and soon they were happily gazing into each other’s eyes and Sikihpsis forgot all about hunting ducks that day. Sikihpsis asked her to come visit his mother and to take a rest for a while, as the walk to the other side of the lake would take a long time and she should rest before she undertook such a journey. She accepted and his mother was very taken with Keewatin. After a few days, Keewatin seemed to forget all about her trip to visit relatives and eventually Sikihpsis and Keewatin married.
Years went by and Keewatin gave Sikihpsis ten beautiful and strong children. She was a loving wife and he was a loving husband to her.
One cold and blustery winter night when they were sitting in their lodge, Sikihpsis thought of the night when his friend Meschakanis was killed and he was spared death at the hands of the ice witch. He looked at his beautiful wife, to whom he had always told the truth, and a sudden urge came to him to tell her about that night. She was peacefully sitting next to the fire sewing. Sikihpsis sat down next to her and said, “My wife, I have never told anyone what I am about to tell you.” He continued, “Once, on a night just like tonight, I encountered a witch who killed my friend with her cold breath and who spared me.” Keewatin looked at him and said, “Why do you tell me this?” Sikihpsis said, “I love you and you are my closest confidant. I feel that I must tell someone, or else I may go mad.”
Keewatin stood up. She turned to Sikihpsis and he saw that her eyes were the cold, black eyes that had stared into his all those years ago! Keewatin screamed, “Why did you speak of that? Why did you speak of that night? I should kill you for that, because now I cannot stay with you any longer!” She seemed to radiate cold and Sikihpsis shivered and shrank away from her. She said, “Sikihpsis! Now I must leave, but again I will spare your life! Our children need a father, but you have robbed them of a mother by speaking of that night. You have broken the spell and I must now return to the forest where I must haunt the trees during the winter.” She then turned and rushed from the lodge and Sikihpsis sat alone, cold and crying for Keewatin.
From that day forward, every winter, Sikihpsis searched the forests around his camp whenever a snowstorm blew, hoping to see his beloved Keewatin. He sometimes thought he heard her voice in the wind, or caught a glimpse of her through the driving sleet, but he never saw his beloved wife again.
Ojibwe Flutes were for making the music of love
After the drum, the other traditional instrument found most commonly in Ojibwe culture is the wooden flute.
The flute was generally about 15 to 20 inches long, usually with six holes, and constructed of cedar. Its tone is regulated by a carved, movable block. Melodies are often love-songs. Oral history states that young men would alternate singing songs and playing slow flute melodies to court a potential partner.
During an interview with a Red Lake elder, Sister Inez Hilger was informed that flutes were quite popular long ago. The informant stated that, “…the pretty tunes of the flute were used by young men to make girls aware of their presence. Flutes were made of cedar twigs or sumac stalks”.
Trader Thomas McKenney, en route with Governor Lewis Cass during a trip through Minnesota in 1826, heard such a flute and wrote:
“Nothing can be more mournful in its tones. It was night, and a calm rested on everything; and it was moonlight, all of which added to its effect. We saw the Indian who was playing it, sitting on a rock.… We afterwards learned that this Indian was in love, and that he would sit there all night indulging in this sentimental method of softening the heart of his mistress, whose lodge he took care should be opposite his place of melody, and within reach of his monotonous but pensive strains.”
Today knowledge of flute playing is still strong and a number of expert flute players are passing their teachings to new generations.
Adapted from Hilger, M. Inez (Mary Inez). 1951. “Chippewa Child Life And Its Cultural Background.” Bulletin. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
Cloud Catcher, a handsome youth of the Ojibwa, offended his family by refusing to fast during the ceremony of his coming of age and was put out of the paternal wigwam.
It was so fine a night that the sky served him well as a roof. He had a boy's confidence in his ability to make a living, and something of fame and fortune, maybe. He dropped on a tuft of moss to plan for his future and drowsily noted a mysterious face in the bright moon.
He suddenly awoke to find that it was not day and the darkness was half dispelled by light that rayed from a figure near him. It was the form of a lovely woman.
"Cloud Catcher, I have come for you," she said.
As she turned as if to walk away, he felt impelled to rise and follow. But, instead of walking, she began to move into the air with the flight of an eagle, and endowed with a new power, he too ascended beside her. The earth was dim and vast below, stars blazed as they drew near them, yet the radiance of the woman seemed to dull their glory.
Presently they passed through a gate of clouds and stood on a beautiful plain with crystal clear ponds and brooks watering noble trees and leagues of flowery meadow; birds of brightest colors darted here and there, singing like flutes; the stones were agate, jasper and chalcedony. An immense lodge stood on the plain, and within were embroideries and ornaments, couches of rich furs, pipes and arms cut from jasper and tipped with silver.
While the young man was gazing around him with delight, the brother of his guide appeared and reproved her, advising her to send the young man back to earth at once. But she flatly refused to do so. Relenting to the wishes of his sister, the brother gave a pipe, a bow and arrows to Cloud Catcher as a token of his consent to their marriage. Her wished the couple happiness.
Cloud Catcher could hardly look at the brother who was commandingly tall and dazzling in his gold and silver ornaments. The brother could not be seen most of the day while his sister was absent part of the night.
One day, the bother permitted Cloud Catcher to go with him on one of his daily walks. As they crossed the endless and beautiful Sky Land, they glanced down through open valley bottoms on the green earth below. The rapid pace they struck gave to Cloud Catcher an appetite and he asked if there were no game. "Patience," counseled his companion.
On arriving at a spot where a large hole had been broken through the sky, they descended from the sky and reclined on mats. A silver ornament on the brother's dazzling regalia came off and he flung it into group of children playing in front of a lodge. One of the little ones fell and crying as he was carried inside the lodge.
Upon hearing of the incident, all the villagers left their sports and labors and looked up at the sky. The tall brother cried in a voice of thunder, "Offer a sacrifice and the child shall be well again."
So a white dog was killed, roasted, and in a twinkling it shot up the feet of Cloud Catcher, who, being empty, attacked it voraciously. Many such walks and feasts came after, and the sights of earth and taste of meat filled the mortal with longing to see his people again.
Later Cloud Catcher told his wife that he wanted to go back to the earth. She consented after a time saying, "Since you are better pleased with the cares, the ills, the labor, and the poverty of the world than with the comfort and abundance of Sky Land, you may return; but remember you are still my husband, and beware how you venture to take an earthly maiden for a wife." She then rose lightly and clasped Cloud Catcher by the wrist and began to move with him through the air.
The motion lulled him and he fell asleep, waking at the door of his father's lodge. His relatives gathered and gave him welcome, and he learned that he had been in the sky for a year. He took the privations of a hunter's and warrior's life less kindly than he though to, and after a time he enlivened its monotony by taking to wife a bright-eyed girl of his tribe. In four days she was dead. The lesson was unheeded and he married again. Shortly after, he stepped from his lodge one evening and never came back. The woods were filled with a strange radiance on that night, and it is asserted that Cloud Catcher was taken back to the lodge of the Sun and Moon, and is now content to live in heaven.
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.
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