Monday, January 12, 2015

Sexuality Among the American Indians of the Past by Ginger Simpson

Today, I’m addressing courting and marriage; specifically the presence of plural wives in the tribes of the old west, most notably the Lakota Sioux.  Since Gay Rights are a hot topic in the news these days, I’m also including information about homosexuality among American Indians in the 1800s.

The number of men killed during battle or buffalo hunts was often the reason for having more than one bride.  With honor being the backbone of the American Indian, remaining relatives frequently took on families left behind in the case of death. If one brave had only one wife and his brother was killed, leaving behind two, then it wasn't uncommon for that man to become the husband to three.

Quite often, a singular wife might suggest her spouse marry again to ease her workload while giving her a senior status in the household.  Little is written about the sexual habits in the research books I've used, so I always wonder how accurate our romantic notions are in the novels we create about the American Indian tribes. Thankfully, we write fiction and can enhance what we don't know to be certain.

How surprising to learn of the respect and attention given to males we would today consider homosexuals.  These tribal members were more the transvestite types, called 'winkte,' and although feared to some degree, they weren’t hated. 

Rather than participate in male roles such as hunting and warring, the 'winkte' dressed as women and took up quilling, tanning, and other female duties.  They lived in their own tepees at the edge of camp, which was an area usually reserved for ancient widows and orphans.  I'm not quite sure why there would be orphans since most research indicates the Sioux were very family oriented, and the tribe was considered an extended family who took care of their own, but as I continue to write Western Historical, I’m bound to learn the answer by researching.  Perhaps the ‘orphans’ were of an age that they no longer required care.

But, back on track…the 'winkte' were believed to acquire their 'womanly' skills through supernatural inspiration.  Pieces of work completed by a 'winkte' were considered more desirable and often cherished. Some also deemed the transvestites to have healing powers and sought them out to name their children. Of course, the names were considered secret and not used, but still hopefully strengthened the child.  Girls were never given 'winkte' names.

Although those men who dressed as women were given respect in most ways, male warriors were instructed that even though a 'winkte' lived and worked as a woman, to engage in sexual relations with one was cause for retribution after death.  The belief held that in the land beyond, the warrior wouldn’t be allowed to live in the main circle, but away from the rest where the 'winktes' would torture him.  I suppose it worked as the Sioux held the 'beyond' in the greatest reverence.

There appears to be no documentation of obvious lesbianism among the female tribal members.  This may be attributed to the 'dream' instructions given to young women that warned of avoiding perversion.  Obviously, fear played an important role in instilling the goal of wife and mother, as no record exists of old maids among the Sioux.  I found it very interesting that men were given greater acceptance of their differences while women were more restricted and basically 'scared straight.'

 cover by Michelle Lee

I hope you enjoyed this tidbit of information, so much that you might check out Destiny’s Bride, published by Books We Love, and one of my western historical romance novels that includes similar research about the Lakota, peppered in to give historical credence to my story.  You can find Destiny’s Bride along with my other books on my Amazon author’s page:

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