April 3, 2014
Native American Gender Roles
Native Americans have so much history behind them that we tend to forget how important they were. There has been such a misconception on the position of women among Native American Indians. Indian women were always active, busy in the camp, carried heavy burdens, attended to the household duties, made the clothing, and prepared the food for the family. I feel like Native American woman have gotten the reputation as being the slave of her husband, a patient beast of encumbrance whose labors were never done. On the other hand, the Indian man has the reputation that all day long he would sit in the shade while his overworked wives attended to his comfort. What people do not see is that in actuality, the woman was the man's partner, who performed her share of the obligations of life and employed an influence quite as important as his, often more powerful. The roles for men and women varied considerably among Native Americans. Also, each tribe's cultural orientations expressed different gender roles. In matrilineal and matrilocal societies, women had considerable power because property, housing, land, and tools, belonged to the women. Property usually passed from mother to daughter, the husband would join his wife's family, he was more of a stranger at first to the family but then yielded authority with his wife's eldest brother. As a result of yielding authorities, the husband was unlikely to become an authoritative, domineering figure. In the Northeastern Woodlands and on the Plains, where hunting and warfare demanded strenuous activity far away from home, the men often returned exhausted and required a few days to recover. Wearied by both these actions and the religious fasting that usually accompanied them, the men relaxed in the village while the women went about their many tasks. Seeing only female busyness in these native villages, White observers misinterpreted what they saw and wrote inaccurate stereotypical portrayals of the Native American men and women. On the other hand, In the Southeast and Southwest men and women performed their daily labors with observable equality because the men did not go out on grueling expeditions as did the men in the Northeast and Plains. In California, the Great Basin, and Northwest Coast, the sexual division of labor fell somewhere between these two variations.
Women had certain common tasks in each of the U.S. culture areas: cleaning and maintaining the living quarters, tending to children, gathering edible plants, pounding corn into eal, extracting oil...