Trials of Manhood for Indians

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Trials of Manhood for Indians

Most ancient cultures in the world have a rite of passage for boys; when they reach a certain age and strength, they would be given a quest or a task to do. When they finished this task, they were officially considered men by the people of their tribe. Sadly, in most Western cultures we have all but abandoned the notion of a “rite of passage.” We’ve replaced manhood with an extended boyhood, and never expect people to grow up and improve themselves. I’ve compiled some observations from my study of the Native American people, and I want to share some ideas I’ve had about how we can learn about rites of passage to adulthood!

The Quest

The main part of the journey to adulthood in Indian culture was The Quest. The quest that Indian boys undertook was simple, yet difficult to complete. The boy who wanted to be considered a man had to go on a 1-2 week journey by himself, building his own shelter and hunting his own food. During this time he would commune with the spirits and find his life purpose. Was he a hunter? Was he a warrior? Or was a musician or shaman, one who would guide the tribe spiritually? Maybe he would be a sportsman, one who played sports like ones you could find at patiosport.com… Or perhaps his purpose and goal was to be a chief or an elder in the tribe, making the day-to-day choices that kept the tribe alive. The spirits would tell him what his purpose was, and how he would accomplish his visions.

His New Name

Indian children were given a name as children, one that was given to their parents by the spirits. One of the reasons for this quest was to transition the child out of childhood and into adulthood, and to do this the boy needed a man’s name. No one got to choose their own name however… It was given them by the spirits on the quest. Often, you would make a name for yourself by your actions… Much like I’ve made a name for myself around my hometown for being great at indoor basketball… Thanks Patio Sport! Although you could not choose your name, your name might be influenced by the actions you performed, such as bravery in the hunt or in a fight.

The Return

After the quest was over, the new man would return to his tribe. A ceremony was held after he arrived, celebrating his transition into manhood and honoring his accomplishment in finishing the quest. The ceremony would also recognize the man’s new name, and discard his old childhood name. He would be added to the tribe as a contributing member, and the elders would consult among themselves and the spirits about his new role in the tribe, and what his primary job would be. It’s a real shame that we no longer perform such rites… They gave everyone a place in the tribe, and in the world around them.

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America Before Europeans