Native American Women
Essay submitted by Unknown
heavy burdens, attended to the household duties, made the clothing and the home,
husband, a patient beast of encumbrance whose labors were never done. The man, on
the other hand, was said to be an loaf, who all day long sat in the shade of the lodge
and smoked his pipe, while his overworked wives attended to his comfort. In actuality,
the woman was the man’s partner, who preformed her share of the obligations of life
descent from a common ancestor, or through a friendship system, much like tribal
into several nontotemic, exogamous, matrilineal ‘kindred’ clans, called iksa.”
(Faiman-Silva, 1997, p.8) The Cheyenne tirbe also traced their ancestry through the
patrilocal…. Matrilineality, it is assumed, followed the emergence of agriculture….”
Leacock (p. 21) then stated that she had found the Montagnais-Naskapi, a hunting
system is bilateral. The household either is of the nuclear type or is extended to include
relatives of one or both parents….” (Dozier, 1971, p. 237)
The statuses and roles for men and women varied considerably among Native
belonged to them. Because property usually passed from mother to daughter, and the
wife’s eldest brother. As a result, the husband was unlikely to become an authoritative,
by tossing his belongings out of their residence.
Women’s role in tribal governance was often influential in matrilineal societies, as among
lineages. The tribal matriarch or a group of tribal matrons nominated each delegate,
briefed him before each session, monitored his legislative record, and removed him from
In the Northeastern Woodlands and on the Plains, where hunting and warfare demanded
strenuous activity away from home, the men often returned exhausted and required a
few days to recover. Wearied by both these arduous actions and the religious fasting
that usually accompanied them, the men relaxed in the village while the women went
portrayals of lazy braves and industrious squaws. Such was not the case.
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
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
unpacking. Certain crafts were also usually their responsibility: brewing dyes, making
pottery, and weaving such items as cloth, baskets, and mats. In the Southwest,
however, men sometimes made baskets and pottery, and even weaved cloth.
In regions where hunting provided the main food supply, the women were also
and whatever food gathering or farming that could be done. In the mostly agricultural
societies in the Eastern Woodlands, the women primarily worked in the fields and the
men built the frame houses and both shared duties for preparing hides or furs. Similarly,
with the processing of animal skins. In California and in the Great Basin, most aspects
of labor, except the defined female tasks of weaving and basket and pottery making,
building, weaving, cloth manufacturing, and animal skin processing.
prestige ebbed due to continual losses and defeats and the inability to do much hunting
approving marriage partners for their children and more consistently got custody of
their children in a divorce, unlike the uncertainty of custody in earlier times.
Among many Southeast tribes the women were influential in tribal councils and in some
as “Beloved Woman,” through whom they believed the Great Spirit spoke. Consequently,
her words were always heard but not necessarily heeded. However, she headed the
influential Woman’s Council, sat as a voting member of the Council of Chiefs, and
The Cheyenne held women in particularly high regard. They played an influential role in
determining warfare and sometimes even fought alongside the men. Upon a war party’s
successful return, the women danced about while waving the scalps, exhibited their
men’s shields and weapons, and derived honors from their husbands’ deeds.
structure was in matrilineal or patrilineal. Although a few universal female-designated
work tasks existed (cleaning, nurturing, edible plant gathering, food preparation,
cooking, packing, and unpacking), others varied by region, means of food production,
that existed among Native Americans.
Dozier, E.P., (1971). The american southwest. In Leacock, E.B., & Lurie, N.O. (Eds.),
Leacock, E.B. (1971). Introduction. In Leacock, E.B., & Lurie, N.O. (Eds.), North
american indians in historical perspective. Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.
Moore, J. H. (1996). The cheyenne. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Inc.