Lowie's "She eloped with her sister-in-law," 1909

Lowie's essay on The Assiniboine, published by the American Museum of Natural History in 1909, reports an Assiniboine legend involving Lesbianism, which this anthropologist had noted during a study of the tribe's mythology.

A man was walking with his wife and sister. The woman wished to have intercourse with the girl. While her husband was hunting, she eloped with her sister-in-law. The man did not know where they could have gone. He looked for them in the camp, and finally concluded that they had been killed. He grieved very much over their death. In midwinter, he once went out hunting. Remembering the two women, he began to cry. He thought they must have perished from the cold. He ascended a hill. Here he heard a noise. He had no gun or knife, nevertheless he walked towards the sound. His wife and sister being dead he also wished to die.

Towards sunset he reached the place where he had heard the noise, and caught sight of a human head. He recognized his sister, and immediately guessed that his wife was also there. Stepping nearer, he saw smoke rising from among the bushes and heard a child crying by the fireplace. He could hear the women talking. His wife was playing with the infant. He knew that she must have married his sister.

He saw his sister nursing the child. Approaching he asked, 'Which of you has seduced the other?' His sister answered. 'Your wife persuaded me to elope with her.' The infant was continually crying. It looked like a football; it had no bones in its body, because a woman had begotten it. The man killed the child, then he bade the women go home. When they were near the camp, he told his sister to walk ahead. Then he killed his wicked wife with his knife. His sister ran to camp and told a man she met that her brother was slaying his wife, begging him to save her. But before the stranger arrived, the husband had killed his wife and severed her limbs from the body. He did not kill his sister. Though the slain woman had many relatives, none cared to avenge her death.[1]


Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976) pg. 320.

  1. Robert H. Lowie, "The Assiniboine," Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 4, part 1 (1909, p. 223. Also see a section on "Berdaches," p. 42.