Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Even Native Americans Had Women Problems by Ginger Simpson

I have a wonderful reseach book, Sitting Bull, Champion of the Sioux, by Stanley Vestal.  I keep going back to one chapter in particiular because it's a fun read...The One-Man Woman.

One would expect that a man as wise in battle as Sitting Bull would be able to handle a mere woman, but this book tells a different story.  Perhaps if he'd remained monogamous rather than taking a second wife, he would have avoided his predicament.  Let me summarize for you.

Sitting Bull first married a young woman named Light Hair.  Their marriage was happy, their home harmonous--until he married a second time.  This new wife, Snow-On-Her, it seems, was a nightmare from the get go.  Unlike most men who were smart enough to marry sisters and found they were more accepting of one another, Sitting Bull married a second wife who refused to act as a hand-maiden to the first wife and concubine to her husband.  In other words, she refused to take orders from Light Hair, and rather than resign herself to being wife #2, she insisted on sharing his bed every night, along with Light Hair.  With one wife clinging to one side, and the second woman securing the other, Sitting Bull was forced to sleep on his back...when he could sleep.  His muscles ached every morning, and a peaceful night was hard to come by with the women always arguing about one thing or another.

Men usually slept in only their breechclout in case trouble erupted during the night, but Sitting Bull would have been lucky to wrestle free from his wifely confines had that happened.  He often waited until both women were sleeping in order to free himself, roll over, and get comfortable, but not often enough to ease his pain, as one woman would likely awaken and the tug-of-war began again.

Despite his reprimands, his understanding and love of peace and harmony in his home were stretched to the limit.  His explanations of the role of the second wife fell on deaf ears, and "she (Snow-On-Her) made trouble from morning til night" as the author cites.

Snow-On-Her, like any jealous woman, planned to do away with her competition.  She embarked on a rumor spreading venture, portraying Light Hair as a cheating spouse.  This in turn enraged Light Hair, who had eyes only for her husband.  On a day when Sitting Bull was away, Light Hair turned to an older woman for help. After digging a shallow pit, they placed a gun, a knife and an arrow inside the hole, afterwards, she invited the entire camp to come forward.  The result was a meal where only women who slept with one man were welcome to eat.  Despite rumor's about Light Hair's being unfaithful, she waited for her nemisis to appear.  All the men in camp were also present.

The older woman stood and asked that any man who had physically known any of the women present to come forward and point her out.  The men were also invited to take up one of the weapons and take his oath on his choice.  If he swore falsely, the weapon would kill him.  Not one man came forward.

Light Hair did not feel vendicated.  She turned on Snow-On-Her and demanded she produce the partner with whom Light Hair had supposedly been unfaithful.  The anticipating stares and silence created a tense moment.  Snow-On-Her had nothing to say.  She pulled her robe over her head and elbowed her way through the throng while they pelted her with buffalo chips until she was too far away.  Dinner continued and Light Hair dined in triumph.

When Sitting Bull learned of the scandal, he sent Snow-On-Her back to her home.  One wife's honor had been proven, and the other had been the subject of ridicule.  Any wife of his must never be publicly considered ridiculous.  As the author says, "That night he (Sitting Bull) slept soundly."

Note from Ginger:  According to another resource, http://www.standingrocktourism.com/sittingbull/view.asp?ID=5,  Sitting Bull had four wives and twelve children.  He evidently didn't learn anything from his experience as this record indicates he later remarried Snow-On-Her on a reservation.  Maybe she recognized her role this time.  :)

1 comment:

Elsa Lyons said...
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