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  Noble Faces, Strong Voices: Exploring "The Spirit of Indian Women" Back to the List of Slideshows
"Bless me with a long and prosperous life."
Slide 13 of 14

I was ready to spend ten days in the mountain wilderness as a young woman. This was my last preparation for a future as a renowned medicine woman.

When I got to the base of the mountain, I picked up two stones and put them inside my dress above the belt. I went quickly up the slope without stopping until I was almost at the top. As I had been taught, I loosened my belt and let the first stone drop, saying, “When I have children, that is the way they will come, with me on the run.”

I dropped the second stone at the top and said, “This is the way the afterbirth of the child will come. I will never have trouble bearing my children.” I continued to follow the teachings. When I washed my face in the creek, I would use fir boughs to dry off so my hands did not touch my face. Otherwise I would wrinkle early in life.

I blew a breath toward the rising sun and whispered, “May the Great Spirit protect my youth for many years to come.” I rubbed my hands and feet with the green boughs, blowing first to the sun and then to my fingertips and toes, praying they would remain small and unwrinkled.

I never touched my hair with my hands, only with the comb. I would groom myself each dawn beside mountain streams and greet the rising sun either by sitting and looking toward it or by standing with arms extended in deep prayer. I prayed for future success, always ending with, “May the Great Spirit and Creator spare my life from accidents, illness, deformity, and laziness. Bless me with a long and prosperous life. Make me, dear God of the Heavens, to be honest and strong in character, to face life with an honorable, truthful, and strong will, without fearing man or beast.”

Mourning Dove, Salish

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