Anthropology 232 Mid-term I

Here is a paper that I wrote for my ANTH 232 Native American Studies Class during Winter term 2012.  Not my best piece of work I was a little swamped with assignments and wrote it in about a half hour.  I should have set a little more time aside to work on it.  Having not put forth my best effort resulted in my first B on an assignment, albeit a B+, in the year I have been back in college.

Marriage and Courtship Practices of the Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne

            Courtship and marriage practices of the Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne Indian tribes were remarkably similar to one another.  Most of the significant steps or processes of their courtship and marriage customs were the same, however, there are a couple differences.

Courtship may or may not have taken place between the man and woman before a marriage.  The woman may have just caught the man’s eye at one time or another, and in doing so the man may have decided that he wanted her as his wife.  While courtship did not always take place with either the Arapaho or the Southern Cheyenne, when it did it may have lasted for a brief time, or perhaps years, depending upon the circumstances.

Courtship practices common among the tribes included the man going to visit and talk to the woman for a period of time.  This was done in attempt to woo her and he may have also brought her gifts at these meetings.  Sometimes the man courted the woman through song and dance.  Other practices were a little odd, mischievous, or even taboo by western culture standards.  One practice was that a man would tamper with the smoke-draughts of the tepees to make them fill with smoke, so that the girl would come outside to fix the problem, where she would be met by the man looking to talk to her.  Pre-marital sex was frowned upon by both tribes and a chastity rope was sometimes used to prevent this from happening.  If a man ambushed a female, forcibly removed this rope, and touched her genitalia or had intercourse with her, it was understood as his promise of marriage to her.  If she did not scream for protection, it was understood as her promise to him.  After her molestation her mother or other female relatives would seek his parents and arrange their marriage.  Refusal of marriage after this pre-marital sex was punishable by death.

The marriage customs of the Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne are strikingly similar.   Both tribes allow polygamy and it was common for a man to marry his first wife’s younger sisters.  The number of wives a man had depended on his wealth or accomplishments.  For both tribes, marriages were pre-arranged and the woman’s family was asked by the man’s family for their approval of the marriage.  If approval was given, the woman rarely went against her brother or fathers decision, although she was asked her opinion and had the right to refuse the arrangement.  This showed her respect and love for him.  After permission was given to marry, the man would typically work for the woman’s family for a period of time up to two years, before finally marrying the woman.  Once this labor agreement had been completed then it was time for the marriage to take place.

The marriage ceremony consisted of the man’s male family bringing over their best ponies to be given to the woman’s male family members, sometimes accompanied with other gifts.  The woman’s male family members would in turn give an equal number of their best ponies, which were also sometimes accompanied by gifts.  In Southern Cheyenne tribes, the two families would have a feast following this exchange, which was prepared by the new wife’s female family members.  For Arapaho tribes this exchange came after the feast.  After the ceremony commenced the wife would be joined in a tepee by her new husband and his male relatives, where they would joke, share war exploits, and tell each other stories of their past.

There are a couple significant differences between the Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne.  One of those differences was in which family members of the man would ask for permission of marriage, from the bride’s family.  In the Southern Cheyenne tribe, the man’s father, brothers, or paternal uncles are sent to ask the woman’s brother, father, or paternal uncles.  In the Arapaho tribe, the man’s mother, sisters, or paternal aunts are sent to ask the woman’s brother, father, or paternal uncles.  Another difference between them was that with Southern Cheyenne tribes the future husband’s female family took the future wife and dressed her in an array of marriage clothes, painted her face, and braided her hair before the marriage feast.

The important ties and relationships within Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne families were shown through their courtship and marriage customs.  One obvious way that this was strongly displayed was by the fact that Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho women rarely disobeyed, or decided against their brother’s or father’s decision, for them to marry the man.  Not only was this the tribal custom, but it shows the strong brother and sister or father and daughter bonds, and the love that she has for the person giving her away to marriage.

I think that the ties and relationships between the families of the man and woman that were getting married were important and were shown throughout the marriage process.  If the families were enemies then permission for the man to marry the woman would not be given by the woman’s family.  Another way that the strong ties between the families marrying were shown was typically the man marrying the woman was her brother’s friend; however, this was not always the case as was shown in the two narratives.  The importance of the relationships between the families was also shown through the custom of trading ponies and other goods as a sort of gift exchange, showing the respect that they had for one another.  It was also shown through the feast that they had during the marriage ceremony.

The Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho had very similar courtship and marriage customs; however, there were a couple unique differences between them.  Their courtship and marriage customs also reflected the importance of ties within and between families, something you even see today in most modern day societies.


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