American Indian Women, Telling Their Lives

American Indian Women, Telling Their Lives

American Indian Women, Telling Their Lives

American Indian Women, Telling Their Lives

Synopsis

Indian women's autobiographies have been slighted because of the assumption that women had a secondary and insignificant role in Indian society. Gretchen M. Bataille and Kathleen Mullen Sands cogently demonstrate in this book the creative vitality of autobiographies that, despite differences in style and purpose, clarify the centrality of women in American Indian cultures. Included is a comprehensive, annotated bibliography or works by and about American Indian women.

Excerpt

The Cheyennes speak for American Indian women of all times and in all tribal communities. But American Indian women have not been spared the attitude that until recently assumed the inferiority of all women. The view that the responsibilities of Indian women were less significant than male roles permeates early writings about native societies and appears in contemporary accounts about the position of American Indian women as well.

The popular view of American Indian women disseminated by historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and educators, as well as novelists, accords women a low status because of the nature of the duties they performed. One anthropologist has written, for example:

The Indian Country of the Upper Missouri was a man's world before the white man's civilization penetrated that remote portion of the interior of our continent. Indian men were the hunters and warriors. As partisans they led war parties. As chiefs they deliberated in tribal councils and negotiated intertribal peaces. They were the seekers of visions, the makers and manipulators of powerful medicine bundles, and the conductors of prolonged and involved religious rituals. Women, on the other hand, were the diggers of roots and collectors of berries, the carriers of firewood and drawers of water, the dressers of hides and makers of tipis and clothing. As homemakers and housekeepers they performed scores of tasks necessary to the welfare of their families. But their role was a humble one. The Indian woman's inferior status. . . .

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