News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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October 7, 2013

A melting pot wedding

Lakota and Christian traditions fuse prayer, dancing, drums at Pioneer Days

TERRE HAUTE — Two hearts. Two traditions. One love.

Under the bright, sunny sky, beside the lake at a local southside park Sunday, a couple was bound together in a wedding ceremony that combined Native American traditions and “mainstream” traditions.

A couple from two different traditions, Gary and Janis LaPlante, were pronounced husband and wife in front of dozens of witnesses, which included not only their family and friends but also the visitors of Fowler Park during its annual Pioneer Days event.

Gary and Janis met two and a half years ago through social media, Janis LaPlante said enthusiastically. At that time, Gary was living at a reservation in South Dakota.

Although they come from two different traditions, the couple has a lot in common.

“I have been drawn to Native American spirituality probably for a good 30 years and have practiced it and lived it. He just topped it off,” Janis said.

With common interests, the couple fell in love. Their first ceremony, a Lakota Pipe ceremony, was held two years ago.

And on Sunday, they made it official and legal.

“We are combining this wedding ceremony using both cultures: American Indian and mainstream society,” the groom, Gary LaPlante said.

The short ceremony began with singing and drums, as Gary held up the traditional eagle feather to the sky. Gary, Janis and their supporters on each side then turned in four directions and quietly prayed. They stood on a quilt with a star in its center.

Toward the end of the ceremony, the couple’s hands were tied together by the eagle feather (with a red ribbon at its end), which bound the couple together.

“We ask the spotted eagle to tell the Great Spirit to watch over us,” Gary said.

“We’re tied together with this higher power through prayer, sending prayers … for our walk in life,” he said before the ceremony.

Also part of the ceremony were the Christian traditions, including the vows, the exchange of rings and the unity candle. A chaplain led the ceremony.

The use of the Bible is also significant to the couple.

They used the “words from the higher power through the Bible to recognize and bring blessings to the ceremony,” Gary said.

The bride and groom vowed to take each other “to have and to hold from this day forward” all through life’s joys and difficulties, “till we are separated by death.”

The exchange of rings were a “constant reminder of those promises,” and the unity candle brought two lives into one.

They sealed it with a kiss.

The timing of the wedding is also significant.

Fowler Park held its annual Pioneer Days Saturday and Sunday, an event that features old-fashioned crafters, local artists and village folk. Participants and visitors step back in time (to the 1800’s) to re-create pioneer activities and lifestyles.

The teepee the LaPlantes set up for their wedding is also from that time period.

“This is an 1870 dwelling,” Gary said as he stood inside the teepee. A tarp on the teepee was used in 1870, he said.

“The whole energy of here is going back in time and recreating what was then,” Gary said.

So there’s no “better time for us to blend our beliefs, our lifestyles … and learn about how it was in the past and that way, we really establish ourselves in the now,” he said.

“It will manifest what we should do in the future,” he added.

And their future is love.

“We are on a forever honeymoon,” Janis said, as the couple smiled and held each other inside the teepee.

“Forever, yes,” Gary agreed.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299.

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