- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

NATICK, Mass. (AP) - A group of men beat on a large drum at the front of Eliot Church. About 100 tribe members turn their backs to the drummers and face the back of the church as WarriorWoman and StrongMedicine Bear walk through a set of doors, each holding a large feather.

Suddenly, a chant begins and the two, holding hands and in tribal dress, stop momentarily at the end of the church aisle and face their tribe.

In unison, the two lovers begin dancing together up the aisle where they meet Chief Caring Hands.

WarriorWoman and StrongMedicine Bear are getting married.

But unlike other Praying Indian wedding ceremonies, WarriorWoman and StrongMedicine Bear’s wedding is one for the history books.

The couple’s recent ceremony became the first Natick Praying Indian wedding at Eliot Church in 340 years.

“To be here and surrounded by family on this day is no mistake,” said Chief Caring Hands, who officiated the ceremony.

The ceremony was the first Praying Indian wedding held at the Eliot Church in 340 years. The Praying Indians once worshipped and held wedding ceremonies at the Eliot Church regularly when the church’s founder and former reverend John Eliot brought them to settle in Natick in 1651.

In the 1670s, a Wampanoag leader attacked white settlers. The attack instilled fear in the settlers and tribal movements in the area were restricted. Some tribes, including the Praying Indians, were banished to Deer Island, where many of them died.

StrongMedicine Bear is a descendant of several tribe members who were banished.

StrongMedicine Bear, whose given name is Shawn Silva, is also one of 12 children belonging to Chief Caring Hands, also known as Rosita Andrews. He and WarriorWoman - or Lisa Carlson - have two children together alongside children from previous marriages.

The ceremony including a ceremonial dance entrance and exit, an opening speech from Chief Caring Hands, singing and an exchange of vows.

“You have taught me how to love,” said WarriorWoman in her vows.

“I had lost my rib and you have made me complete,” said StrongMedicine Bear in his vows, a nod to the Eve’s origin tale in the Bible, when God created her from Adam’s rib.

For StrongMedicine Bear, the ceremony held special significance.

“To stand here, to get married here, where John Eliot preached, where my ancestors worshipped, is extremely meaningful,” said StrongMedicine Bear. “This is not only for me but for my future and my children so that they too can now get married here.”

StrongMedicine Bear designed and sewed Warrior Woman’s dress for the ceremony. He was also sporting new full arm length tattoos specifically designed and tattooed for the ceremony.

“I saw these in a vision,” said StrongMedicine Bear.

The church ceremony was private, but a public ceremony and “grand entry” was held at the Natick Praying Indian annual powwow event at Cochituate State Park.


Information from: MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.), https://www.metrowestdailynews.com

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