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Historical Challenges That Native American Women Have Faced

736 words - 3 pages

Martha Garcia and Paula Gunn Allen both write in their essays of the challenges that Native American women have historically faced and continue to confront to this day. Major contributors to these challenges are the stereotypes and misconceptions by white male anthropologists and missionaries who studied the Native American tribes and found the women subservient and passive. Both of these authors strongly disagree in this characterization of Native American women and instead portray them as important and honored members of their tribes who will struggle but will continue to have a tremendous impact on the future of their tribes. Garcia’s research concentrates on previously published works on Cheyenne women by white men and reexamines these studies through a feminine point of view. As these white men migrated West, they recorded their observations. Unfortunately their reports were flawed and biased because the white men’s access was limited due to their outsider status and gender. These early observations reported Native American women performed menial work for the tribe such as berry picking. Garcia notes that what these men did not realize and understand was the rich communal life these women shared while berry picking. These men were also not aware of the culturally valued norms of feminine behavior such as modesty, kindness and being private, which led them to see these women as passive and subservient. The Cheyenne women were simply possessing the natural tribal values encouraged for women. By looking at the reports through a feminine lens, Garcia found that Cheyenne women have historically held an extremely important role within their culture, especially in their religious ceremonies. Cheyenne women were traditionally treated with equality by the men in their communities and treated with respect. From her research, Garcia found that Cheyenne women had visions, dreams, participated in sweat lodges and shared equally in performing traditional native activities right along with the men of the tribe. Paula Gunn Allen’s article compliments and expands on Garcia’s article by revealing the important role Native American women play in their people’s physical and cultural survival. Due...

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