Friday, March 2, 2012

Dakota Women's Virgin Feast Dance

Dakota Women's Virgin Feast

Among the Dakotas, women are not excluded from joining in their feasts or dances; they dance the scalp dance while the men sit round and sing, and they join in celebrating many of the customs of their tribe. But the Virgin's Feast has reference to the women alone; its object is not to celebrate the deeds of the warrior, but rather to put to the test the virtue of the maiden. Photos of the Dakota Indians

Notice was given among the Indians that the Virgin's Feast was to be celebrated at Little Crow's village; the time was mentioned, and all who chose to attend were welcome to do so.
The feast was prepared in the neighborhood of the village. The boiled corn and venison were put in wooden bowls, and the Indians sat round, forming a ring. Those who were to partake of the feast were dressed in their gayest apparel; their long hair plaited and falling over their shoulders. Those who are conscious of error dare not approach the feast, for it is a part of the ceremony that they shall be exposed by any one present. Neither rank nor beauty must interpose to prevent the punishment. Nay, sometimes the power of innocence and virtue itself is not sufficient to guard the Dakota maiden from disgrace. Photos of Native American Indian Women
And was Wenona unworthy? The white snow that covered the hills was not more pure than she. But Red Cloud cared not for that. She had refused to be the light of his wigwam, and thus was he avenged.
Wenona advanced with the maidens of the village. Who can describe her terror and dismay when Red Cloud advances and leads her from the sacred ring? To whom shall the maiden turn for help? To her brother? his angry countenance speaks not of comfort. Her friends? the smile of scorn is on their lips. Her lover? he has left the feast.
Her determination is soon made; her form is seen as she flies to the woods. Death is the refuge of the friendless and the wronged.
But as night came on the relatives of Wenona wondered that she did not return. They sought her, and they found her lifeless body; the knife was deep in her heart. She knew she was innocent, but what did that avail her? She was accused by a warrior, and who would believe her if she denied the charge?
And why condemn her that she deprived herself of life, which she deemed worthless, when embittered by unmerited contempt. She knew not that God has said, "Thou shall do no murder." The command had never sounded in her ears.
She trusted to find a home in the House of Spirits—she may have found a heaven in the mercy of God.
The fever of the following summer spared neither age nor youth, and Red Cloud was its first victim. As the dying Harpstenah saw his body carried out to be placed upon the scaffold—"He is dead," she cried, "and Wenona was innocent! He hated her because she slighted him; I hated her because she was happy. He had his revenge, and I mine; but Wenona was falsely accused, and I told him to do it!" and the eyes were closed—the voice was hushed in death.
Wenona was innocent; and when the Virgin's Feast shall be celebrated in her native village again, how will the maidens tremble as they approach the sacred ring! Can they forget the fate of their beautiful companion?
And when the breath of summer warms to life the prairie flowers—when the long grass shall wave under the scaffold where repose the mortal remains of the chief's sister—how often will the Dahcotah maidens draw near to contrast the meanness, the treachery, the falsehood of Red Cloud, with the constancy, devotion, and firmness of Wenona!