A traditional Iroquoian wedding

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton County Chief Walt Red Hawk Brown officiated a traditional Iroquoian wedding for tribal member Kermit Ashleigh Lewis and Courtney Benee’ recently during the tribe’s 30th annual Corn Harvest Powwow and School Day in Courtland.

A tribal news release described the wedding ceremony from start to finish, sharing the significance of some of its key aspects.

  1. WEDDING PARTY ENTERS THE SACRED CIRCLE

Tribal Member Donnie One Feather Freeman plays the native flute as the wedding party walks into the sacred circle of life to accept the wedding vows.

  1. INDIVIDUALITY ACKNOWLEDGED

De-kes and Gol-yag are the names for “bride” and “groom,” respectively, in the tribe’s Iroquoian language Da-sunke. Lewis and Benee’ were originally wrapped, individually, in blue blankets, which represented their own individuality upon entering the sacred circle.

  1. COMMITMENTS AND REMINDERS

Once they entered the circle as part of the wedding ceremony, the Gol-yag and De-kes were presented with four small pebbles — blue, white, tan and red in color. 

The groom presented the bride with the white stone, which represented “clear conscience of commitment” and that the mind and spirit are free as they search for knowledge, and the red stone, which represented “wisdom and fire” as a commitment to sharing and harmony, to include seeking guidance from the Great Spirit (Creator) before they take action.

The De-kes presented the Gol-yag with the blue stone, which is the stone of creativity, representing shared knowledge that they both create in their spirits that soar in a sky of unlimited possibilities. She also presented the groom with the tan stone, the “Stone of Remembrance,” which was a reminder that they walk the sacred circle of life leaving deep tracks for others to follow — children.

As Chief Brown officiated, the wedding party consisting of tribal members stood behind the De-kes and Gol-yag while carrying traditional Iroquoian wedding symbols. In the front row, David Spirit Hawk Brown carried the peace arrow; Caroh Water Blossom Holley carried the white blanket; Teressa Chenabuck Baxter carried the basket of bread; in the back row, Rickie Two Beavers Boone stood ready to remove the blue blanket of individuality from the groom; Venessa Savage stood ready to do the same for the bride; and Rebecca Lane stood ready with the double-neck vase.

  1. THE VOWS OF THE ARROW AND BREAD

The Gol-yag presented a peace arrow to the De-kes with a spoken commitment that he will always keep meat on her table and protect and provide for her up to his last walk into the setting sun.

The De-kes took the native basket with bread and presented a piece to the Gol-yag with a spoken commitment that she would always prepare food for him as provided by his arrow and that their bed would always be warm with the blue stone.

  1. COMMITMENT TO ONENESS

Then the blue blankets were removed, and the bride and groom were wrapped together in a white blanket representing their commitment to oneness — one mind, one body and one purpose.

  1. DRINK OF UNITY

They were offered the double-neck vase, and they drank the wine from it.

  1. HUSBAND AND WIFE

Lewis and Benee’ were presented to the public and announced as Gol-yag (Husband) and De-kes (Wife).

After this, they were directed to go to the “Long House” and salute each other.

  1. CERTIFICATE OF IROQUOIAN MARRIAGE

Following the ceremony, Lewis and Benee’ joined for a photo with Chief Brown, presenting their Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe Certificate of Iroquoian Marriage that was presented to them.