Today there are a lot of different kinds of wedding ceremonies and for Cree people, there is a choice to go with current, Christian Canadian tradition or follow traditions of the past. Traditional Cree marriage was very different a long, long time ago from how marriage is done today. It’s not that common to see traditional Cree ceremonies today, in many ways it’s not that practical but there are lots of couples, like my dad and Joanne who included a lot of Cree tradition in their ceremony.
Traditionally, the fathers of both the partners would speak and agree to the marriage of their children. At other times, the male would ask the father of the female for the right to marriage. Once the decision was made, the couple would go on their own and become husband and wife. Often they would begin their lives together as husband and wife and very little was done in the way of marking the occasion. There was not often a ceremony, but at times a celebration and a feast. Life was a lot different hundreds of years ago, I can’t imagine marrying someone I didn’t really know or having my dad make the decision for me!
Today there are lot of ways to pledge your love and commitment to each other. Many Cree people go with Christian traditions; church, ceremony, white dress, etc. Many others will exchange rings or will have a commitment ceremony like my dad and Joanne had.
The ceremony itself is often very short. I copied what the Elder who married dad and Joanne said because I really like it.
First he said, in Cree: Creator, I pray for you to bless this union and allow this couple good health, well being and a long life together.
Then, he translated what he said for those in the gathering who did not speak Cree: I've asked the Creator to bless this union and allow you good health, well being and a long life together.
Dad and Joanne chose to exchange rings. There aren’t always rings at a commitment ceremony; often there will be feathers or no object at all, depending on the couple. Dad and Joanne also chose not to say any vows, but some couples do.
It’s all pretty interesting, mixing new and old traditions to create new traditions. Dad and Joanne will certainly remember their very special wedding forever, and I know I will too.