Courtship and Marriage The mural titled Courtship and Marriage depicts the customs of a proper way of traditional marriage in Lakota and Dakota culture. The proper way of traditional marriage was a “bought” marriage, a way of mutual agreement. In this arrangement a woman and a man formed a union of engagement and marriage through the needs of their respective families. According to Dakota anthropologist and author Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), the courtship ceremony was a ritualized process in which a young Dakota man would “catch a woman” during a legitimate time frame in which she could be wooed to be engaged to marry. “The traditional courting hour,” wrote Deloria in The Dakota Way of Life, “was towards evening when the sun hung low and men took their horses to water and elderly and old women went out for fuel and water to last the night in their tipis.” Oscar Howe painted the courtship and marriage mural in order to honor the traditional way of life. A few years after painting this mural in Mobridge, Howe met his future wife, Adelheid “Heidi” (Hampel) Howe, at her father’s clothing store in Biedenkopf, Germany, during a period of rest and relaxation from the Army unit during the Second World War. Howe courted Miss Hampel for two years from 1945 to 1947 through letters and his promise of love for a lifetime until he was able to secure her agreement to come to the United States as a German war bride. Miss Hampel agreed to this arrangement, and the two were married at the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois, on July 22, 1947. The couple remained married until Oscar Howe’s death on October 7, 1983. In the mural, Oscar Howe illustrates the elder men and women separated by the altar where the couple are arranged to marry. The scene is descriptive of traditional times during the special occasion of both families who join together during this time. Depending on the circumstances of the familial relationships, the newly wed couple would live with the woman’s family or the man’s family.
Suggested Readings Deloria, Ella Cara. Waterlily. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988. Deloria, Ella Cara. The Dakota Way of Life. Rapid City: Mariah Press, 2007.
Mural descriptions by Dr. Edward Welch, Humanities Professor – Augustana College, December 2012