McKenney's "What they call a man-woman," 1826

In a letter of August 4, 1826, published in his Sketches of a Tour to The Lakes, of the Character and Customs of the Chippeway Indians, ... McKenney writes:

My Dear * * * I had hoped to have seen one of these anomalies, which are sometimes found among the Chippeways, and I believe among other tribes in the West. It is what they call a man-woman. I have it from undoubted authority that such do exist. This singular being, either from a dream, or from an impression derived from some other source, considers that he is bound to impose upon himself, as the only means of appeasing his manito, all the exterior of a woman; and undergo all the drudgery which the men exact from the squaws. So completely do they succeed, and even to the voice, as to make it impossible to distinguish them from the women. They contract their walk; turn in their toes, perform all the menial offices of the lodge; wear, of course, petticoats, and breast coverings, and even go through the ceremony of marriage! Nothing can induce these men-women to put off these imitative garbs, and assume again the pursuits and manly exercises of the chiefs. It is like taking the black veil. Once committed thus far, they are considered as beyond redemption, (unless their vow shall be limited, as is sometimes the case; as for example, until they take an enemy alive) and live, and die, confirmed in the belief that they are acting the part which the dream, or some other impression, pointed out to them as indispensable.[1]


Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976) pg. 299-300.

  1. Thomas A. McKenney, Sketches of a Tour to Lakes, of the Character and Customs of the Chippeway Indians.'... (Baltimore: Fielding Lucas Jr., 1827 ), p. 315-16.