Napi & Women selecting Husbands

Napi & Women selecting Husbands

Towards the last days of Napi, the single women had their own head woman and the single men had their own Chief, who was Napi. Those chiefs could not get along and one day, the ladies’ group decided to move out of the main camp. The women moved far away and made their camp and build their pis-kun where nowadays is High River, south of Calgary.

Everything went along quite well in both camps until the single men in the main camp started to bellyache about not having single women around. They were only normal human beings and needed company of the opposite sex. There was no one to flirt with and to take out and they dare not get mixed up with the married women.  They hounded Napi until he took all the single men and they went looking for the women’s camp.

After many days their scouts located  a good sized camp by the river and saw that it was the single women’s camp. Napi and his men set up their camp on the other side of the High River. Some of the old-timers of the Piegan people still hold this place as a historic landmark.

Both groups were doing their own thing every day. Most of all each group was minding their own business, not trying to bother each other. The women were hunting their buffalo, and carried the meat on their backs. Soon they realized that being segregated from men wasn’t an easy task. How they wished their head women would change her mind about men so they could have help on these heavy jobs. Many of the women were ready to give in and looked longingly across the river. After a while the head women got tired of her women pestering her that they needed help from the men. She called a meeting and told them she decided she will meet with their chief and they all get to marry a man to help them and that goes for all of them.

In the middle of Napi’s camp, the two chiefs met to talk about the good news and had an understanding that the selection of choosing a husband should be made the day after the next full moon. All the women were glad of this news and the men were too. The head woman as a leader was to be the very first to select a husband, then after her all the other women would have their turn.
The night of the full moon came at last.  Most of the women and men just could not sleep at all that night, it was a big day for them the next day.  For some reason, the head woman was busy with her work when the women reminded her it was time to go. The other ladies were ready and dressed in their finery that day but the head women was still in her working clothes when they left. She decided that she knew she would ask Napi, so it did not matter how she looked.

All the men had gone up to the top and made a line along the river’s bank. Napi was placed right in the center of the men and he had dressed up. The women stood at the bottom, waiting for the head woman to go up and make her selection.  She looked somewhat messy and dirty but everyone knew she was a very good looking woman. She went straight for Napi but he stepped back each time she held out her hand for him and hid behind the men as he had not recognized her as the head women.  After the fourth try she gave up and held up her hand to her followers. This head lady was very upset and embarrassed over the head man of the men refusing her. She told the women to hold off while she went back to get changed and adorn herself.

As she came back, she was about the nicest looking woman the men had ever seen. This time Napi made his way towards her but now it was her turn to sidestep Napi and she choose a nice looking younger man. She then gave the signal to her woman to choose their husbands after instructing them not to choose Napi who had scorned her. As each woman came up the hill to choose a husband, Napi always got in front to be selected but they all ignored him and took another man until Napi was left over after everyone paired off.  As the head woman saw him standing there alone she went up to Napi and told him: “Stand there forever and turn into a pine tree,” which he did. That was the last time Napi was seen and as far as can be said, that lone pine tree still stands there on the bank of the Highwood River, Alberta.

Story by Percy Bullchild,  from the book The Sun Came Down, the History of the World as My Blackfeet Elders Told it

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