Honoring traditions-Changing Woman
by Don Decker, YAN News
In April of 2015, a puberty rite ceremony was held in Middle Verde for Mikayla Mix, daughter of Mickey Mix of Middle Verde and Ryan Thomas of Camp Verde. Godparents Joeman and Sheila Jackson cosponsored the ceremony with David Kwail as sponsor. Medicine man Hart Preston, Jr. of San Carlos, Arizona conducted the 4 day ceremony on the sacred grounds of Middle Verde where a makeshift camp was established for both of the families. It was here that the community meals were prepared over the camp fires.
This ceremony is the most important ceremony left for the Yavapai-Apache. It tells of a time at the beginning when the earth was created and the Yavapai-Apache were given one more opportunity to redeem themselves from past transgressions against the Creator. And it is through the Changing Woman “I’zhan’nah’le’heh’ ” that brings final salvation for those living in the present world. This ceremony is done with many songs and dedication of the medicine who has purified himself and his singers to conduct the ceremony. A sweat lodge is constructed along the river in Middle Verde and it is here that prayers are offered for a successful ceremony for all that are involved.
Mikayla received extensive counseling through medicine man Preston during the ceremony. On Friday morning, Mikayla was dressed by her Godmother in a a traditional wikiup that was built in the camp. This process also entailed the meeting with the medicine man after the dressing to guide Mikayla on her journey to become a woman-called “Na-ii’ase’ ” or massage by the godmother Sheila Jackson. This message that was held on the following morning on Saturday brought the community members to witness this tradtion of massaging by Sheila. Traditional Apache beliefs tell of the Na’ii’ase as a time when the young woman becomes pliable and strong in life as she receives this massage and directions from those who guide her along this 4-day process.