Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lakota Girl: Or How I Taught the Cornhusker Football Team to Talk About Menstruation

I am enrolled in a History course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where about half the students in the class are on the UNL Football team. They are in the Big 10 this year, which, I guess, is a big deal.

I was so excited when my professor asked us to bring in a discussion topic about a traditional Native American mode of teaching/learning. I used the opportunity to present the Lakota practice of Puberty Ceremonies for girls at the onset of first menstruation. 

In this tradition, girls are removed from society and taken to live with a female elder from the tribe for a week. The elder instructs the girl in the way of female wisdom, socially appropriate methods of dealing with her menstrual flow, the goodness of being a woman, her connectedness to all of life through it's existence, and the beauty that can dwell with her in this state. Furthermore, the elder teaches the girl a few games that the girl will then come back to the tribe to play, further teaching them symbolically about the flow of life itself. The process is complete when the tribe holds a giveaway and has a feast to celebrate the girl's transition.

Tradition dictates that people learn through a combination of examples being given, stories being told, and the availability of advice and counsel, culminating in application of practice. This program is a fine example of these ideas, and I was excited to talk about the implications of this.

I find it useful to talk about my own experience (... and since this is my blog, i do what I want!). It is an interesting contrast to the awkward moment where all third graders are herded into the library of the elementary school to watch a severely outdated filmstrip about "becoming a woman", regardless of individual maturity and readiness.
There were a few squirms when I began, but I was surprised and elated at student responsiveness. We talked about the strangeness of dominant (European modeled) society's removal of elements of life, which elements are essential to human existence, from educational practice.  Even the football players had something to say! They commented about how it was interesting how we are taught to be separate from our bodies in the educational system of dominant society. There are two women in the class, sisters, who are Lakota themselves. It was very insightful to learn further, that this practice is still in use today.

May this people never "vanish" as Curtis so  unabashedly claimed they would.


Jasie said...

This is so amazing. I love that you discussed this in class and that you shared it here. How beautiful.

harold and maude said...

i'm so in love with you/this right now.

Marge Bjork said...

YESSSSSSSSSS! that is my dream class! I want to make everyone in the world talk about periods. Except for my dad.