marriage and wedding customs of the confederated tribes of the colville reservation
Menses was an important event for females. It signified their entrance into adult society and made them eligible for marriage. An elaborate puberty ceremony was performed for girls when they reached mensus.
During mensus, women spent about a week in a separate menstrual house. Pregnant women stayed in a separate dwelling with other pregnant women. Babies were also delivered in a separate house, where mothers were accompanied by a midwife or older woman.
First marriages were arranged by the parents or grandparents, and betrothals of young children were common. Sometimes young people who fell in love were allowed to request a marriage. When a young man expressed an interest in a particular girl, his family met and decided if she came from a socially acceptable family. If they seemed compatible and well-matched, the family might, at their descretion, allow it. If permission was given, a date was set for the marriage ceremony and exchange of gifts. The groom's relatives would give gifts first, and if they were accepted, about six months later the bride's family would reciprocate. It was the father of the bride who decided if the offered betrothal gifts were acceptable.
Most people married someone from another village, sometimes even from a different tribe. Marriage into an unrelated village cemented relations between groups. Women would most often move to their husbandís village after marriage.
Weddings were simple. At a dance when a man came opposite the woman he desired he placed a stick on her shoulder, and leaving his line he danced by her side. If the woman refused him, she threw the stick off, and he had to fall back into the first line. If the woman allowed the man to dance with the stick on her shoulder until the end of the dance she accepted him and they were considered married.
Adultery was discouraged, but the penalty for a man was only general disapproval or possibly social shunning for repeated offenses. A woman who comitted this sin was punished much more severely, with punishment ranging from a beating, cutting off her nose so she was forever marked as an adulturer, bannishment from the village, or even death. Punishment was at the descretion of her husband.
Divorces were allowed and were simple.
Men of the Plateau Tribes usually had at least two wives at the same time, more if they were wealthy. Men often married sisters of the first wife. This was thought to keep the bickering and jealousy between the wives to a minimum if there was a close family tie between them. Usually the women did not mind additional wives, because the labor of the household was shared between them and more wives meant less work for each wife.
Large families were the norm, since males usually had some children with each wife.
Berdaches were present but usually didnít marry. More rarely, a man with other female wives might marry a berdache, but never as a first wife. Sometimes a berdache would marry a female who had taken on the male role of a warrior.
Berdaches were a special category of men who wore women's clothing, spent their time doing "women's work" such as basket weaving and domestic chores, and held a sacred, spiritual role in the tribe. Berdaches sometimes had sex with other men, but not always.
Berdache status was never forced on anyone. It was determined by a person's character, social behavior, and occupational pursuits, and not sexual attraction. Sometimes these men became berdaches because of dreams, and sometimes as a result of rituals or tests. The Berdache wasn't considered either male or female, but rather a third sex called an In-Between. While a Berdache could be a hermaphrodite (having both male and female genitals) or have deformed genitals, usually they were males with normal genitals.
Having a berdache in the family was considered good luck.