Children 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.
Young 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.