Published June 5, 2018
America is a vast melting pot of nations so this is naturally reflected in the many different ways people approach dating. But what is sometimes overlooked is the culture of the indigenous people who were dating in this country long before Christopher Columbus declared he’d discovered a whole new world. If you want to meet local singles it would do you no harm to appreciate the incredible diversity of cultures on your doorstep, and learn a bit about the fascinating history of Native American dating.
It goes without saying traditional Native American matching was quite different to anything that would be practiced by the generations of settlers. Unlike the boy meets girl, takes girl to bar, drink together scenario of, say, the Irish or Italian communities, Native Americans often went in for communal courtships. Rather than meeting up for one-on-one outings, a whole bunch of eligible males and females would get-together and enjoy a dance. This would vary from tribe to tribe, but a common example of this ritual was known as the Crane Dance.
This was an action taken very seriously by all concerned, with the women making the most of the opportunity to impress potential suitors by wearing brightly-colored clothing and adorning themselves with decorations and flamboyant headresses. Their menfolk could spend some time making their choices among the eligible girls because these dance marathons could last a couple of days.
Etiquette demanded the male made his preference known to his own mother, who would then approach the mother of the woman who’d caught his eye. The respective mothers would have to approve this potential union. If they were in agreement, the next stage of this protracted audition ceremony was for the aspiring brave to be informed he was welcome to come over to the female’s lodge. Romantically, the tradition was for the male to wait until nightfall before entering. When everyone else was sleeping off the long day’s merriment, he approached the object of his heart’s desire and shone a light. When she woke, she saw his face and if she was happy with what had been revealed to her from the darkness, she blew out the candle. The following day he had become part of her family.
The dating process could get more complicated if she decided not to extinguish the flame that night. Then the onus fell on him to pull out all the stops and try and woo her the following day. If the first night lantern did not have the desired effect, the next weapon in his matchmaking arsenal was known as the courting flute. Placing himself before the lodge, the suitor began playing a seductive lilt on this instrument, hoping his dextrous fingerwork and floating melodies would entice her to come out to watch. That night he would repeat the procedure of creeping inside the sleeping quarters and displaying a lantern. His hope would be that the courting flute had melted her previously icy reception, and this time she would blow out the flame.
Obviously these actions represent a very different way of dating. But they helped cement a relationship with the entire family being involved. Nowadays that sense of passionate romance lives on, although many Native Americans prefer browsing online profiles than playing courting flutes!