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  Noble Faces, Strong Voices: Exploring "The Spirit of Indian Women" Back to the List of Slideshows
The women emerging are the hearts of the nations.

Megisi, Turtle Mountain Ojibway
Slide 11 of 14

A girl always started her fast at the first sign of menstruation, usually at an age between twelve and fifteen. She was regarded as immediately contaminated and not allowed to come in contact with her family for ten days. When she did return, she had to take several sweat baths and put on a complete change of clothing. The discarded clothing was tied in a bundle and put in the fork of a tree near the menstrual tipi.

In the old days, no village was complete without such shelters reserved especially for the women during their periods. They were usually located downstream so as not to pollute the water used for cooking and drinking. Men absolutely shunned the women at this time. They were believed to cause ill luck and sickness to any man who came in contact with them.

A girl prayed about motherhood at this time. Although she had to stay away from the sweat lodge and from hunting, fishing, and gambling gear, she could pick berries and dig up roots. She could not pick herbs or make love potions. She stayed away from camp, but if she had to go there, she never went behind a tipi or stepped near the head of a bed. If she came near someone already ill, she might make that person die.

The girl was purified when she returned and stayed in her parents’ tipi, thereafter rigidly chaperoned. She was wrapped in a virgin’s cape so men could not see her body. After a girl returned from the isolation of the menstrual hut, [the culmination of] her intensive spiritual training, she was looked upon as a woman of value.

Mourning Dove, Salish

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