Waterlily - Ella Cara Deloria

Ryan Takach - REL306

The beloved child ceremony is a very honorable tradition. Waterlily would be christened, so to speak. Although it did not seem very important to her when she was first told of it, Waterlily would be brought further into Lakota society with this ceremony. It was a cause for great excitement throughout the tribe, as well as a bit of jealousy among the other children. When told of her dawning a gown and read paint on her face, she did not understand the excitement and importance of this great honor, but she came to know those details quickly.

There are many preparations required for such an event. Elk teeth are required for the child’s gown, and this is not easy. Each elk only provides two useable teeth, and they must also come from a female elk. However, since this was such a fascinating thing for everyone, hunters from other camp circles would save teeth for them. Rainbow always gave something in return of course. These teeth would be polished to the highest quality shine possible for elk teeth, and the gown would be painstakingly worked over.

The preparations for the ceremony lasted two years; however, Waterlily hardly noticed the passing time being occupied with her younger sister. When that special day arrived, the camp circle was in a boisterous frenzy to prepare for the great ceremony. Blue Bird bathed and groomed Waterlily with oils and perfumes. Her hair was put into two long braids, and special ribbons were tied to her hair. Her gown was completed, and she was adorned with jewelry: a necklace, belt, bracelet, and heavy shell earrings. She wore new moccasins covered with quillwork throughout, even on the bottoms. It was becoming clearer to Waterlily how honorable the title of hunka really was.

Of course the other children did not go without asking questions, for they saw the painstaking detail endured for such an immaculate event. The simple explanation for the children is that the child was saved from death and he or she should therefore be honored as a beloved child. This explanation was typically satisfactory for the children, because it was reasonable enough and took the edge off of their jealously. It was important for the other children to understand why one child is being singled out and honored, and upon understanding they are aware that the child is truly special and should indeed be honored. Moreover, the children were taught that it is shameful to be jealous of others.

Waterlily was escorted, along with three other children, on the shoulders of the men and paraded in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Blue corn was used in this ceremony to symbolize the hospitality to which they were pledging themselves by accepting their honored status. The leader of the ceremony declared his qualifications and stated his understanding of the importance of his obligation to the children and the status of hunka in general. He sang a holy song while waving a hunka wand to invoke a blessing. The wand also doubled as a pipe for tobacco, also part of many traditional ceremonies.

The major overtone in this ceremony is the understanding of their obligation to care for others before themselves. Each child was offered a drink, but before being allowed to take it was told “…though you would hastily bring water to your lips to quench your own thirst, yet you shall first stop to look about you.” When food was placed upon their tongues they were told that “whenever you sit down to eat, there may perhaps be someone waiting near, hungering for a swallow of your food. At such a time you shall remember what you have become here…..only half the morsel shall you eat, and with the other shall you show mercy.” (pp 77-78). The children were being initiated into their status, being made to understand their role in Lakota society as ones that put others before themselves and think of the good of the whole rather than the individual. Although Waterlily did not completely understand her commitment, it was a great responsibility but she would learn quickly with time the importance of her commitment. However, until she was mature she would not be expected to completely fill the shoes of her status.

After the ceremony there was nothing specific to distinguish Waterlily from the other children, and nothing more was said about her status. She must learn to casually downplay this honor, and not become to prideful.

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