23 imagesIn recent years some African American community and religious groups have created African-based coming-of-age rituals to address the contemporary needs of their youth. If our daughters use their potential, they will understand that their work can take them far beyond their block, community, city, etc. We want them to move, shake and create foundations because they understand that their actions can greatly influence our universe. Second, we want to secure from our community the support and responsibility to bring out the best in these girls. With the ceremony for our daughters, we and the community are telling them, "Go forward…,” but understand that “…you have been counted.” Through this ceremony, our girls will always know that there is a correct path that they have the option to choose. And in the event that they make a wrong turn, they will know that they have a community that values them as members and will help them to find the way back.”
19 imagesTraditionally almost every Western Apache girl had a puberty ceremony preparing her for womanhood. This is no longer true, however puberty ceremonies continue to be performed on a regular basis, usually during the summer months. Na ii ees is a ritual enactment of the Apache origin myth known as “Changing Woman”. Changing Woman’s power grants longevity. The power is transferred to the pubescent girl through songs sung by the medicine man. Na ii ees plays a vital social role in Apache culture. It serves a number of different functions including bringing clan relatives together, strengthening kinship obligations, and encouraging “moral” behavior by identifying and reinforcing the four life objectives of physical strength, a good disposition, prosperity, and a healthy old age. Na ii ees is symbolic of an ideal state of happiness for Apaches. The myth of the Changing Woman and her personification by the pubescent girl link the past traditions to the present. The timing of the ceremony is one month to several months after she starts her first menstrual period. Today, while the girl usually stays in the camp anywhere from four to seven days, the ceremony takes place on Saturday and Sunday mornings, with some singing and dancing on Friday and Saturday evenings.