"On a wide grassy bank of the Missouri River on the Yankton Sioux/Ihanktonwan Oyate Reservation in South Dakota, Brook Spotted Eagle stands watching five young girls raise a tepee. It's early August, and the girls are taking part in a four-day coming-of-age ceremony revived in the 1990s by the Brave Heart Women's Society. "I was part of the first group who went through this Isnati coming-of-age ceremony 13 years ago," Brook recalls. Brook's mother, Faith Spotted Eagle, is one of the women who re-established the Brave Hearts. With American and European contact, many such societies and ceremonies have been lost in the past 100 years. In 1994, Faith and the Brave Hearts interviewed grandmas from three states about what they remembered of the Isnati Awica Dowanpi coming-of-age ceremony. "In the old days," Faith Spotted Eagle says, "as soon as a girl had her first moon, her menses, she would immediately be isolated from the rest of the camp and begin a four-day ceremony where she was taught by other women. So we symbolically set up one camp a year and have the girls come in for four days." In traditional Yankton Sioux culture, everyone had a niche, a role. One of the roles of the women who were part of the Brave Hearts was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield and help the families. "In a way we are doing the same thing today with the modern-day Brave Hearts," Faith Spotted Eagle says, "bringing back our people from emotional death."" Get the Story:
Four Days, Nights: A Girls' Coming-Of-Age Ceremony (NPR 9/6)
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