#20 Singing the ‘Brave-Song’
     (Regina Flannery, 1940-1948)

The most daring men in battle were said to have been those who wished to die. Men who were grieving over the loss of loved ones were believed to have been especially prone to this indirect method of suicide. Others took this way of gloriously ending their lives out of a sense of pique, or in order to vindicate their honor. In this latter case it was customary for a man who had something discreditable to account for, either on his own part or on the part of some member of his family, to publicly announce that he was about to die by singing the “brave-song” or “death-song” as he rode around the camp circle. This indicated that he would seek the earliest opportunity of losing his life at the hands of the enemy while accomplishing some particularly outstanding war deed.

In the other type of situation, it was taken for granted that a woman would succumb to the pleas of a man who had publicly announced his intention of virtually committing suicide. Such a man, by singing the “brave-song” as he circled the camp, indicated that he would seize the first opportunity thereafter to encounter the enemy and make no effort to defend himself.

If a brave young man were killed by the enemy, his parents went even further in the expression of their grief, and sometimes had to be restrained from committing suicide.

[#20] Gros Ventre: “Singing the ‘Brave-Song,’” from Regina Flannery, The Gros Ventres of Montana, Part I. [field date 1940-1948] Washington, DC: Catholic University, 1953, pp. 92, 191, 205.

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