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Eastman’s Indian Boyhood (1902) does not reveal a clue to sexual development. This may be indicative of a reserved attitude, or of the truth. Anyway, as Karsch-Haack (1901 [1983:p243]) notes some authors in the middle of 19th century dedicated the racial decay of New Caledonian man to “countless immoralities” (“beispiellosen Ausschweifungen”) perpetrated by women “from childhood on”. According to Bales et al. (1994):
“On the whole,
American Indian societies were more permissive than any of the European
Christian nations that began the conquest of Native America in the late 15th
century. Among Indians, virginity was not necessarily prized in either sex.
Sexual experimentation was regarded as ordinary adolescent behavior, and many
tribes permitted—indeed expected— young people to gain sexual experience
before marriage. […] As in other cultures,
Native American sexual life and identity developed during childhood. The
process varied from tribe to tribe in native
Williams observes that sex was not interpreted as a sin, or as restricted to some reproductive role, instead as a “major blessing from the spiritual world, a gift to human beings freely enjoyed from childhood to old age. […] Children’s sexual play was more likely to be regarded by adults as an amusing activity than as a cause for alarm. This casual attitude of child rearing continued to influence people as they grew up, and even after their marriage”.
Addressing “the typical American Indian as it was before he knew the white man”, Eastman states that within marriage ceremonials, “[e]ach girl […] approached the sacred rock and laid her hand upon it with all solemnity. This was her religious declaration of her virginity, her vow to remain pure until her marriage. If she should ever violate the maidens’ oath, then welcome that keen knife and those sharp arrows!”.
Voget (1961:p99-100) sketches the rather “inclusive” sexual life of young native Americans, including bestiality, homosexual encounters, coital pretence, contests, quasi-introductions, etc.:
gangs of boys served as a special source for sexual knowledge and
experimentation. Such a group of Tenetehara boys would
attempt to lure young girls into the bush, where they would attempt
intercourse and other sex play. […] Sexual contests of one kind or another
were conducted by Crow gangs. The
erect penis would be measured against that of another claimant to determine
the larger and they would divide according to clans and bet on champions who
would attach a line to the penis and then drag a stone as far as possible.
Like the Mohave, Crow youths would bet
on ejaculation distance. A large penis was prized and preadolescents would
pull on the pubic hair to stimulate growth and sometimes they would put on an
irritating plant juice on the penis to make it swell. […]. Both boys and girls seem to have graduated
to heterosexual contacts at an early age. Societal recognition of the fact is
afforded by the brother-sister respect-avoidance behavior commonly initiated
between the ages of 7 and 10.
A white informant told Erikson ([1963:p126]) that “Indian
parents not only let their children masturbate, they teach them to
masturbate”. In study by Havighurst and Neugarten (1955)
comparing white American and Indian children and adolescents, the category
“sex” was commented upon only by a few subjects (p101, 109). The
For a very brief identification of puberty, courtship and marriage customs, see Prizker.
Berdaches (with a Reference to Ontogeny)
Native ideologies on the ontogeny of a ‘berdache’ are ethnically diverse (Callender and Kochems, 1983:p451-3). Associated cases, however, typically include statements on active, early intervention. Trexler (2002)argues that the executive power to assign a small boy’s gender was vested in parents, rather than being the boy's free choice. Sources on berdache stress cross-sex occupational preferences in childhood (Whitehead, 1981 [1986:p87]).
Data on the age of first homosexual behaviour are probably rare (see Roscoe, 1994) which leaves the point of berdache’s sexual inauguration blank in most cases. “While growing”, Arctic berdarche boys engaged in homosexual behaviour as passives. Late 17th century Illinois men, not satisfied by their women as they were not sufficiently forthcoming, sexually trained groups of boys “from childhood” as passives to satisfy their needs. Ellis (1927):
“If we turn to the
Menarchal rites used to be common feature of native coming-of-age.
As reviewed elsewhere, in California these include that of the Shasta (Silver 1978:p215), Achumawi (Olmsted and Stewart 1978), Chimariko (Silver 1978:p209), Modoc (Ray 1963), Yuki (Gifford 1965:p69-70), Ninesan (Powers 1976:p423), Concow Maidu (Jewell 1987:p102), Lake Miwok (Callaghan 1978:p268), Wintu (Du Bois 1935:p53), Gabriellino (Johnston 1962:p63), but not Yokuts (Spier 1978:p479) and Tübatulabal (Voegelin 1938:p46-7). Comparable female puberty ceremonies were held by all the Juaneñ:o, Serrano and Pass, Desert and Mountain Cahuilla. In others, transition ceremonials were not associated with menarche (Cupeño), or with the menarche of one of several participants (Luiseño).
Achumawi ceremonies were social festivals “with members of neighboring villages invited, much singing of ribald songs, and, on one day of each session, sexual intercourse” (Olmsted and Stewart 1978:p232). The Modoc also celebrated a girl’s first menses with a dance of notification, which was essentially a way of publicizing the fact that the girl was now ready for marriage. The festival also provided a period of “social pleasantry, love making, and sexual experimentation for young men and women, particularly the unmarried” (Ray 1963:p72). This announcement function was also described for the Gabrielino.
At the beginning of the 16th century among Native Americans, an Amerindian mode of reproduction was the norm - universal marriage near the age of puberty.
Marriages among the Point Barrow Eskimo are “usually arranged by parents, sometimes
when principals are mere children”
(cf. Sumner, 1906:p382-3). Among the
Behring Strait Eskimo, “[f]rom the lower
In a study on adolescents (Edwards, 1992), the average age of first sexual intercourse among sexually active students was 13.6 years among males and 14.2 years among females.
See further: Eskimo (Generalia); Arapaho, Assiniboine, Athabascans, Blood/ Blackfoot, Cajuns, Cherokee, Cheyennes, Chipewyans, Apache Chiricahua, Comanches, Crow, Dakota, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Hopi, Huron, Ingalik, Copper Inuit, Iñupiat, Iroquois, Kaska, Kiowa-Apache, Klamath, Kutenai, Kwakiutl, Lakota, Menominee, Mohave, Mantagnais / Naskapi, Navajo, Nootka, Ojibwa, Omaha, Osage, Papago, Pawnee, Paiute, Point Barrow, Pomo, Powhatans, Qipi, Quinault, San Ildefonso, Sanpoil, Seminole, Shoshone, Shuswap, Sioux, Tinglit, Tolowa, Ute, Walapai,Yokuts, Yurok, Zuñi
D. F., Growing Up Sexually.
Last revised: Jun 2005
 Karsch-Haack, F. (1901) Uranismus oder Päderastie und Tribadie bei den Naturvölkern, Jb Sex Zwischenst 3:72ff. Reprinted 1983 (Schmidt, W. J. (Ed.), Vol.1:p229-96
 Stein, C. & Hörschelmann, F. (1855) Handbuch der Geographie und Statistik für die Gebildeten Stände. 7th ed. Vol. 1 Leipzig: Hinrichs, p353
 Bales, R., Weil, T. & Murdock,
T. (1994) Indians: Native North Americans, in Bullough, V. L. & Bullough,
B. (Eds.) Human Sexuality: An
 Williams, W. L. (1990) Indians of
 Voget, F. W. (1961) Sex life of the
American Indians, in Ellis, A. & Abarbanel, A. (Eds.) The Encyclopaedia of Sexual Behavior, Volume 1.
 Erikson, E. () Childhood and Society. Second, revised
and enlarged edition.
 Havighurst, R. J. & Neugarten,
B. L. (1955) American Indian and White
Children: A Sociopsychological Investigation.
 Prizker, B. M. (1998) Native
Americans: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and Peoples. 2 vols.
 As taken from Carpenter, E. (1914) Intermediate Types among Primitive Folk.
R. C. (2002) Making The American Berdache: Choice or Constraint? J Soc Hist 35,3:613-36. Cf. Benjamin,
H. (1966) The Transsexual Phenomenon.
 Whitehead, H. (1981) The bow and
the burden strap: a new look at institutionalized homosexuality in native
North-America, in Ortner, Sh. B. & Whitehead, H. (Eds.) Sexual Meanings.
 Roscoe, W. (1994) How to Become a
Berdache: Toward a Unified Analysis of Gender Diversity, in Herdt, G. (Ed.) Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual
Dimorphism in Culture and History.
M. (1802) Account of Billing's
 Quaife, M. M. (Ed., 1947) The Western Country in the 17th Century: the Memoirs of Lamothe Cadilla and Pierre Liette, Chicago. As cited by Trexler (2002:p624), op.cit.
 Ellis, H. (1927) Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume II: Sexual Inversion. 3rd ed. [http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/3/6/1/13611/13611-8.txt]
 _Voyages and Travels_, 1814, part ii, p. 47. [orig. footnote]
 A. Lisiansky, _Voyage, etc._,
 _Ethnographische Skizzen_, 1855, p. 121.
 McCaa, R. (1994) Marriageways in
 Murdock (1892:p410); Parsons, E. C.
(1906) The Family.
 Sumner, W. G. (1906) Folkways.
 Nelson, E. W. ( 1899) The Eskimo
 Boas, F. (1888) The Central Eskimo. 6th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology; Parsons (1906:p70)
 Condon, R. G. (1987) Inuit Youth: Growth and Change in the
 Bean, L. J. (1978) Western Pomo and Northeastern Pomo.
 Lewis, O. (1973) The Effects of White Contact upon Blackfoot
 Teit (1900:p321); Parsons (1906:p73-4)
 Richardson (II, p23); Mackenzie (cxxiii)
 Bancroft (I, p276 et seq.); Mayne, Four Years in British Colombia and Vancouver Islands, p276 (Nutkas)
 Van Martius (I, p322)
 Falkner (p124); Kind and Fitzroy (II, p152 et seq.)
 Shoshones (Lewis & Clarke, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, p307), Arawaks (Schomburgk, II, p460; Brett, p99 et seq.), Marcusís (Van Martius, I, p645)
 Edwards, S. (1992) Among Native American Teenagers, Sex Without Contraceptives is Common, Fam Plann Perspect 24,4:189-91