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Women's History

I know we can't generalize, but I'm interested in learning about the attitudes toward women in Native American cultures. Were women held in contempt in a male-dominated society such as that of the Sioux? Were they treated brutally? I used to hear that, and now all I can find on the subject is romantic foggery about matriarchal Iroquois. Where should I be looking? Clementine.

Both of your observations are correct and they aren't in conflict with one another. Much feminist research as been done on the Iroquios Confederacy. Most such research has been done by Sally Roesch Wagner in relationship to her research on Matilda Josilyn Gage. Her conclusion and Gage's experiences point to the fact that the Iroquois Confederacy was actually an egalitarian society where women made decisions about war and gathering was as valued as hunting. So in this instance, women seem to have been treated with equal respect.

However, this doesn't mean that all Native American cultures were the same - just like no two cultures are the same today. Therefore it is feasible that while equality was the norm in Iroquois society it wasn't tolerated in the Sioux culture. However, I think that the larger problem is that we don't yet have enough research or information. We still rely on too few sources, the majority of which have been handed down by white men and therefore tainted by their biased interpretation. So I guess we need more scholars like Wagner, who can delve into other cultures. The work of Joy Harjo also points to some of this - and there is still much more to come. I hope that helps.


Amy

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