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(Re)writing, (Re)righting, (Re)riteing Hupa Womanhood: Cutcha Risling Baldy and The Flower Dance Revitalization

Issue: Vol 47 No. 3–4 (2018)

Journal: Bulletin for the Study of Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/bsor.37432


In We Are Dancing For You, Risling Baldy explores the meaning and process of the revival of the Ch'ilwa:l, the Flower Dance, a coming-of-age ceremony for women of her tribe. The text opens with an epigraph from Lois Risling, a Hupa medicine woman and the author's mother, "The Flower Dance is a dance that I wish all young women could have. . . .[This dance] does heal. That kind of intensive trauma where women have been abused and mutilated both spiritually and emotionally and physically." (ix). These words offer a sense of what is at stake in this text. As Risling Baldy explains, Native women in what is now known as California were targets of strategic attacks of genocide by settler colonial governments through rape, murder, missionization, boarding schools, and assimilation. Such attacks worked to erase Native women's leadership, power, and ceremonial traditions. We can see the legacy of similar acts of violence in the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two spirits across North America. This work is personal, too, as Risling Baldy is a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe in northern California.1 She reflects on her own relationship as scholar and participant of the revitalization of this dance. Risling Baldy's text is particularly interesting in the nuanced ways she links the revival of this ceremony to Hupa cosmology, feminist theory, critiques of menstrual "taboos," embodiment, and decolonial futurity.

Author: Abel R. Gomez

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