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Dakota Courting and Music

Dakota Courting and Music

by Darren Renville

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Dakota Wedding (continued)

Once a union was given its blessing by the families of both the young man and woman, the two were married in a lavish ceremony, officiated over by a respected elder in their camp. At the wedding, the bride would be dressed as elaborately as her family could manage. Mary Henderson Eastman, Seth's wife, wrote that a Dakota bride’s outfit might include porcupine quill-lined moccasins, leggings layered over with silk ribbons in an array of colors, skillfully done beadwork in the floral patterns common to Dakota art, a colorful shawl shaped like a mantilla, with heavy earrings and brooches covering her chest. After the elder finished his speech, the bride’s father would call for the young man to come for her, which can be seen as paralleling the moment in a Christian wedding when the father gives his daughter away.

Tradition Unraveled

As federal attempts to assimilate the Dakota people into the American mainstream intensified, the traditional methods of Dakota courtship and marriage began to wane as the United States entered the twentieth century. Educational efforts such as the boarding school system and later federal programs such as relocation served to split apart Dakota families, making it difficult or impossible for those families to continue longstanding cultural practices such as courtship. Consequently, some flute music that had been in families for generations was lost, as was much of other Dakota ceremonial music.

Enlarge: Marriage Custom



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