Sifters: Native American Women's Lives

Sifters: Native American Women's Lives

Sifters: Native American Women's Lives

Sifters: Native American Women's Lives

Synopsis

In this edited volume, Theda Perdue, a nationally known expert on Indian history and southern women's history, offers a rich collection of biographical essays on Native American women. From Pocahontas, a Powhatan woman of the seventeenth century, to Ada Deer, the Menominee woman who headed the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1990s, the essays span four centuries. Each one recounts the experiences of women from vastly different cultural traditions--the hunting and gathering of Kumeyaay culture of Delfina Cuero, the pueblo society of San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez, and the powerful matrilineal kinship system of Molly Brant's Mohawks. Contributors focus on the ways in which different women have fashioned lives that remain firmly rooted in their identity as Native women. Perdue's introductory essay ties together the themes running through the biographical sketches, including the cultural factors that have shaped the lives of Native women, particularly economic contributions, kinship, and belief, and the ways in which historical events, especially in United States Indian policy, have engendered change.

Excerpt

The role of individuals in history presents a major challenge for the study of Native American women. The sources are often silent on Native women both because they are Native and because they are women. When Native women do appear in the documentary record, they are usually nameless, and even books devoted to Native history and women's history frequently reflect the sources by condemning their subjects to anonymity. For a few Native women, however, we can ferret out enough information to present outlines and interpretations of their lives. The women whose biographies appear in this volume probably are not representative of all women in Indian societies; only extraordinary behavior created a paper trail that is sufficient to reconstruct their lives. By standing out, they also compromised the corporate ethic that has traditionally governed Native lives. Nevertheless, their stories reflect their cultures and the historical periods in which they lived. They reveal the diversity of Native Americans and the common threads that link their histories. As anomalous as they may be, the lives of these women serve to personalize and feminize the story of Native America.

Readers who would like to know about many other Native women should begin with Gretchen Bataille's Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993), which includes short bibliographies as well as biographical sketches. Like all editors, I had to be selective in terms of subjects and authors, and I relied on my own knowledge of the field . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.