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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Customs of courtship

Who May One Marry

Family Definition

Customs of courtship

Residence

Rules of Separation

Sexual and gender relations

Marriage Patterns

Women's roles and rights

Bands and
communities

Visual representation of nature's laws


The following entries give an overview of the various customs relating to courtship; obviously they are not exhaustive. Among all groups a bride-price was paid by the young suitor, and once the bargain was made, she went with him. However, if the young man could not afford the price for his bride, he could remain with his bride's family and 'work out' the cost by turning everything of his labour, hunting, etc., over to his father-in-law until sufficient had been paid. Then he could move his wife anywhere he wished. The first quotation applies to Algonquian-speaking peoples, the second to Athapaskan-speakers, and the third to both.

Various customs relating to courtship and marriage exist among the Indian Tribes. Some have definite ceremonies and others are devoid of any religious ceremonial. Some of the Algonkian youths, charmed with the lovely countenance of a ducky maiden, seek to win her good graces by acts of kindness and bravery which are easily interpreted, and the way is made smooth for interceding with the parents by means of gifts for her heart and hand. In some tribes, courtship is not once thought of, and the marriage ceremony is a simple bargain between the young man and the parents of the maiden, or between the parents of both. It is simply marriage by purchase, the amount given being according to the abilities and personal accomplishments of the lady. A gun or horse will buy one, and others will not sell for less than five horses. As marriage is thus easily arranged for, so divorce is easily accomplished (Maclean 1892: 39-40)

When he again came wooing, if she still favoured his suit, she prepared food and gave him of it to eat. If she desired to become his wife she made and decorated a pair of moccasins and gave them to him. If he immediately in her presence put the moccasins on his feet, they two were considered as betrothed to each other. After this the eldest nearest kin of the man visited the guardians of the woman and together they determined the price that should be paid for the woman. The standard price as six buffalo skins of their equivalent in value. But if the woman was very industrious and hospitable this price might be increased" (Walker 51).

It is somewhat ironic that Chipewyan men purchase ‘love medicine,’ ‘love magic’ or ‘love potions’ from Cree specialists to attract women, often a specific woman in their own community, and to facilitate a sexual encounter. These love medicines are employed without a woman’s knowledge and, if properly used, are believed to have an irresistible compelling effect that can last for years. This kind of sexual deception between members of the same community does not have the serious overtones of an abduction by outsiders. Yet, it is something regarded as immoral, repugnant, and potentially dangerous by Chipewyan women (Jarvenpa 295).

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