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The Peoples, Their Places

The Beaver Nation: Rites of Passage

[Beaver First Nation Profile]
[Horse Lake First Nation Profile]

    
   

beaver women and childrenChildren were taught by elders, "those who know" and their classroom was the bush.  Young boys would learn that there is a difference in knowing something and knowing about something.  The most important lesson was to learn about animals.  Animals sacrificed themselves to hunters who shared with others and understood that life depended upon generosity.  When a boy reached the age of puberty he was sent away from camp on a Vision Quest.  Alone, he would fast and go without sleep.  When sleep finally came, he would dream; if he had done things properly, an animal spirit would appear to him and give him special knowledge and power.

beaver womenYoung girls also gained power when they reached the age of puberty.  A menstruating woman had the power to bring sickness or destroy a hunter's ability to provide for his family.  At first menstruation, a young girl was isolated for several days away from camp.  Someone from her family would build her a shelter and bring her food.  She would remain in isolation for several days, during which she had to be very careful where she walked.  She did not step over a game trail or over a hunter's weapon.  Her first period signaled her readiness to marry.  Marriage arrangements for a young woman were made by her family and romance had little to do with it.  The primary concern of her family was that her prospective husband was a good hunter.  The hunter may have had other wives.  Once married, she would be expected to do all the work around the camp, snare rabbits, net fish, gather berries, pack up and carry belongings to the next camp.  After giving birth, the mother and child remained separated from other family members for a month.

Reprinted from "A Sense of the Peace," by Roberta Hursey with permission of the Spirit of the Peace Museums Association and the author.