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(1850 - 1895) U.S.A.

Catlin - Dance to the berdache

Mohave shaman


Sahaykwisa was a full-blooded Mohave woman, a lesbian, a hunter, a farmer, and she practiced Shamanism (which is a type of witchcraft). Her story has been passed down as part of an oral tradition, so her sad story is tainted by the views of those who tell it. She was known for cross dressing (though she did not pass as a man and never tried to... her gender was common knowledge, she just seems to have felt more comfortable in male attire). She had several wives (all of whom knew that she was a woman).

The first wife eloped with a man after being repeatedly teased by the members of their tribe. However, she later returned and begged to be taken back. But, she continued complaining about the harsh comments, so Sahaykwisa told her to leave. Then, her first wife took another husband (this was not the man she eloped with earlier). Sahaykwisa took another wife shortly there after. The first wife, along with the people who had teased her before, mercilessly teased Sahaykwisa's new wife to point that the first and second wife got into a fight at a local dance, cheered on by the crowd around them. Shortly after, her second wife left as well.

She then began to court another married woman. (It's important to note here that in Mohave culture, men could 'seduce' married women and lure them away and take them as their wives, but the first husbands also had the right to fight for their wife.) At first she was not very well received. However, when she returned and asked the woman to grind corn for her, the woman complied. (Another important note: grinding corn was something that Mohave women traditionally did once arriving at her new husband's camp. So, in essence, she was accepting Sahaykwisa's advances by grinding her corn for her.) On the third visit, the woman eloped with Sahaykwisa.

But, it only lasted for a short period of time and the woman then returned to her husband. The husband had felt that he could not fight with a woman over his wife despite the encouragements of those around him, so when Sahaykwisa began hanging around again, trying to win the woman's heart again, he decided to show her once and for all (at some personal risk as people warned him that she could put a hex or spell on him). So, to 'show her what a real man is like', he brutally ripped Sahaykwisa's clothes off and raped her in the bushes. She left without saying a word.

After that, she began being with men and is not known to be with another woman (other than the tells of 'bewitching' women in dreams). It is important to note here that there was not a change in Sahaykwisa's sexual orientation. She was probably trying to protect herself by being with men from being raped again. Also, it is common for a woman who has been raped, both lesbian and straight to become very sexually active with men after the rape for a variety of reasons. This fact may have also played a role in her new behavior. She also became known for her constant and excessive drinking after the rape, and this do seem to support this fact.

She supposedly fell in love with an older man who turned down her offer to live together because of her masculine nature. She was accused of 'bewitching' him to have sex with him once in a dream before his death. Later, she started having an affair with the man's son and the son's best friend. The three of them travelled around together, working in different areas.

It is said that Sahaykwisa became sad and missed the presence of the women that she had 'bewitched' so she started looking for ways to die. So, one night she got drunk as a skunk and 'bragged' to her male companions that she had 'bewitched' the old man. They were so angered that they first raped her, then threw her into the Colorado River where she drowned. When people found out about her murder, no one cared to do anything because they believed that witches not only deserve to be murdered, but that they even wish it.

This story is probably one of the saddest story of what society can do to women loving women.


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