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A Girl’s Coming of Age – Išnáti Awíčalowaŋpi

Išnáti Awíčalowaŋpi – preparing for womanhood, was performed when a young girl realized the change taking place in her life was a sacred thing.

The ceremony was held to purify her in preparation for becoming a woman and bearing children. Her family built a tipi and gathered necessary objects for the ritual conducted by a holy man.

On the day of the ceremony, sweetgrass was burned, and all the ceremonial objects were purified with the smoke. The pipe was smoked, and prayer was offered up to Wakáŋ Táŋka, to the four directions and the earth.

In the ceremony, a buffalo skull was a central object. It was colored with red paint to symbolize the earth. Cherries and water were placed before the skull. Tobacco was spread in the shape of a cross, and blue paint was displayed to symbolize the coming together of earth and sky.

The holy man then gave the girl a piece of buffalo meat, and the water and cherries were passed to her family members. A feast was held, and a giveaway took place. The goodness and holiness that came to the young girl also then extended to the whole tribe.


The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. Recorded and Edited by Joseph Epes Brown. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953.
The Gift of the Sacred Pipe. Based on Black’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown. Edited and Illustrated by Vera Louise Drysdale.