Marriage or Wedding Ceremony

Note: All traditional ceremonies that are described reflect our contemporary practices of today. Through history most of our ceremonies were not documented - now they are a combination of "oral history" and "pieces" of family histories. Over the time of several generations our culture and customs have changed as a result of many social and ethnic pressures. As our elders have said "there are no right or wrong ceremonies - always do what your heart tells you to do." Do them in a good and sincere way and all of our relations of the past will understand - be thankful to your ancestors that you remember them in your blood.

Cowasuck Band - Pennacook - Abenaki People - Traditional Practices Pennacook - Abenaki - Marriage or Wedding Ceremony


Prior to any marriage agreement an exchange of gifts between the families is required. A box (size not important) of birch bark, cedar, or some other acceptable material would be given from the MAN's family to the WOMAN and the WOMAN's family would do the same for the MAN. The boxes would have to be decorated to illustrate the good virtues, skills, or other reasons why that they looked favorably on that person to allow for the marriage. If no good could be found, the marriage agreement could not be made.


The Marriage ceremony is a major gathering for families, clans and friends.

Songs for the Gathering call everyone and an announcement of a marriage is made. A circle of people is formed with the marriage party in the center.

Four (4) Men plus the MAN form an East to West line on the North side of the gathering.

Four (4) Women plus the WOMAN form an East to West line on the South side of the gathering.

This forms two (2) groups which face toward the Elder Man (Sag8mo) & Elder Woman which perform the marriage. They are facing East in the center of both groups with the DRUM behind them.

Men's, Women's , and Gathering Greeting songs are sung.

The Elder Man & Elder Woman approach both groups separately to inquire about their intentions and about marriage between clans.


A Marriage Pole is put in place at the eastern entrance of the circle. Anyone who does not approve of the marriage may strike the pole with a club, tomahawk, or stick. This is done to show their disapproval. The disapproval must be resolved by the families and elders or the marriage is stopped. If no one strikes the pole the marriage proceeds.

A blanket is placed at the base of the Marriage Pole as a place to place Marriage Gifts. Colored ribbons signifying the two family clans of the marriage, are tied to the Marriage Pole.


Elder Man & Woman approach both groups together and the purification with smudge is performed - sweet grass is preferred.

A Pipe Ceremony and Prayers are made with the marriage group.

Song of Medicine and Prayers is sung while the Circle is smudged.


The Elders ask the group about their desire to give the two to one another. The Men's group offers the MAN and the Women's group offers the WOMAN for Marriage.

The Elder Woman takes the MAN and circles the marriage group, inside the circle of people, four (4) times to indicate approval of WOMAN. Love song is sung.

They return to the center and the MAN takes his place next to the WOMAN facing the Elders.


Families and friends, we are gathered together in the sight of the Creator to witness and bless the joining together of NAME (Woman) and NAME (Man) in marriage.


Marriage was established by the Creator, who created us male and female for each other.

With the Creator's presence and power we have been given the example of the love of husband and wife.

Elders explain importance of marriage and duties to one another.

Woman's role to control the lodge, food, family, spirit, culture, and medicine.

Man's role to protect the family, lodge, and food - to hunt and provide meat & game.

Both to Love and Honor All Relations.

NAME (Woman) and NAME (Man) come to give themselves to one another in this sacred bond.


I ask you now, in the presence of the Creator and all of your Relations, to declare your intention to enter into the sacred union with one another.

NAME (Woman), will you have NAME (Man) to be your husband, to live together in sacred marriage?

Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

Woman: I WILL.

NAME (Man), will you have NAME (Woman) to be your wife, to live together in sacred marriage?

Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

Man: I WILL.


The marriage of NAME (Woman) and NAME (Woman) unites their families and creates a new one. They ask for you blessing.



ill all of you uphold and care for these two persons in their marriage?



Creator, giver of all life, Bless with your goodness NAME (Woman) and NAME (Man), who come now to join in marriage.

Grant that they give their sacred words to each other in the strength of your love.

Enable them to grow in love and peace with you and with one another all their days.

Kchi Oliwni.

Prayers song is sung.


Man to Woman

I, NAME (Man), take you, NAME (Woman), to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. These are my sacred words.

Woman to Man

I, NAME (Woman), take you, NAME (Man), to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. These are my sacred words.


Women's group brings Basket with Food - Vegetables.

MAN Presents Empty Basket to WOMAN.

Food from other Women given to WOMAN and presented to MAN.

Food placed in MAN's empty basket - WOMAN takes basket with food.

Harvest or Green Corn Song is sung.


These rings are the outward and visible sign of the unity of this couple. Creator bless the giving of these rings, that they who wear them live in your peace and your favor all the days of their lives.

Kchi Oliwni.

Man to Woman

Name (Man), I give your this ring as a sign of our marriage. Woman to Man

Name (Woman), I give your this ring as a sign of our marriage.


MAN & WOMAN hold hands MAN on left side of WOMAN. With this scared ring of sweet grass, which symbolizes the unbroken circle of life, we unite them as one. This sweet grass ring is placed over their held hands.

Sweet Grass Ring placed over held hands by Elders. The colored ribbons of the clans are removed form the pole and also tied around their hands.


ELDERS acknowledge Marriage.

You have declared your consent and sacred words before the Creator and this gathering of family and friends. May the Creator confirm your sacred words and union and bless you both.

Now that NAME (Woman) and NAME (Man) have given themselves to each other by their sacred words and with the joining of hands, I announce that they are husband and wife.


Those whom the Creator has joined together, let no one break apart. The marriage pole is taken down and burned in the fire.


Creator, you have heard their sacred words of marriage. We ask for your blessing upon NAME (Woman) and NAME (Man) that they keep their marriage union, and grow in love and goodness together that their lodge may be filled with your blessing and peace forever.

Kchi Oliwni


May the peace of the Creator be with you always.


Song - Round Dance - Recognition as Married Couple

MAN & WOMAN dance four (4) times around gathering group

People give gifts to WOMAN & MAN to put in basket and boxes

Typical gifts to MAN - axe, knife, tools, hunting gear, etc.

Typical gifts for WOMAN - cooking utensils, sewing items, etc.


Honoring Song for the Feast.

Feast for all at the Marriage Gathering.

Notes on Gift Giving & Feast:

While it is understood that the Woman & Man that are married will receive gifts, the families of them are obligated to give gifts to the Elders and Marriage party. Gifts of tobacco to the Elders and the Drum are necessary for the Pipe ceremonies, Prayers, and the songs.

The families of the Woman and Man are obligated to put on the Feast.

Items Needed:

Marriage Boxes / Baskets
Smudge Bowl & Smudge
Sweet Grass
Pipe & Tobacco
Drum & Singers
Tobacco Gifts
Marriage Pole
Colored Ribbons for Families
Blanket for Gifts
Basket for Food Exchange
Food (Corn, Squash, Beans, etc.)
Sweet Grass Rings
Rings (Optional)
Gifts (for Marriage Party & Elders)
Marriage Gifts
Feast Food


According to the wampum records of the Passamaquoddy it was the duty of the young Indian Man who wished to marry to inform his parents of his desire to marry - he would state the name of the Girl. The Man's father then notified all the relatives and friends of the family that his son wished to marry the named Girl.

If the friends and relations were willing, the Man was permitted to offer himself into marriage. The father of the Man prepared a clean animal skin (bear, beaver or deer) which he presented to his son.

With the skin, the Man went to the wigwam of the Girl's father and placed the hide at the back of the wigwam or Nowteh. The Girl's father then notified his relations and friends, and if there was no objection, he ordered his daughter to seat herself on the skin, as a sign that the young Man's offer of marriage was acceptable.

The usual wedding ceremonies were then held, namely, a public feast, followed by dancing and singing. These gatherings usually lasted at least a week.


Later in history after the Passamaquoddy adopted the Wampum laws the, marriage ceremony was more complicated and may have followed a formal protocol.

The young Man would inform his parents of his desire to marry a specific Girl. The Man's father would then receive the consent of other relations and friends. Following this, another young man, a runner, was appointed to be the Keloolwett or marriage messenger.

He would take a string of wampum called the Kelolwawei, and would go to the wigwam of the Girl's father. Usually he was would go with many others who wished to witness the announcement. He would read the marriage wampum in the presence of the Girl and her father.

This was a formal statement that the Man wanted to marry his daughter. The messenger and his party, then returned to the young Man's wigwam to wait for a reply.

After the Girl's father notified his relatives and friends and they had given their consent, the wedding was permitted to go on.

The usual ceremonies then followed. The young Man first presented the bride to be with a new dress. She, after putting it on, went to his wigwam with her female friends, where she and her group formally greeted him by shaking hands. This was called Wulisakowdowagon or salutation greeting.

She then returned to her father's house, where she seated herself with her following of old women and girls. The groom then assembled a group of his friends, old and young men, and went with them to the bride's wigwam to greet her in the same manner. When these greetings were over a great feast was prepared by the bride, enough for all the people.

The bridegroom also prepared a similar feast. Both of these dinners were cooked at an open fire and when the food was ready they cried out K'waltewall ''your dishes.'' Every one understood this, which was the signal for the marriage gathering to come and join in.

The marriage ceremonies continued when the wedding party set themselves in their best dress and attire and formed two processions, that of the bride entering the assembly wigwam first.

In later times it was customary to fire a gun at this point as a signal that the bride was in the hall, whereupon the groom's procession entered the hall in the same manner, when a second gun was fired. The Geptins (lower chiefs "Sag8mis" or the chief's "Sag8mo's" assistants) of the tribe and one of the friends of the bride then led the girl to the bridegroom to dance with him.

At midnight after the dancing a supper was served, to which the bride and groom went together and where she ate with him for the first time. The couple were then addressed by an elder man (or possibly an elder woman), called the Noiimmikokemit, on the duties of marriage.

Finally, a number of old women accompanied the new wife to her husband's wigwam, carrying with them her bed clothes. This final ceremony was called Natboonan, taking or carrying the bed.

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Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook - Abenaki People

840 Suncook Valley Road, P.O. Box 52
Alton, New Hampshire 03809-0052
Phone: 603-776-1090
Email: cowasuck@tds.net