Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (with a New Preface)

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (with a New Preface)

Article excerpt

ALLEN, Paula Gunn, THE SACRED HOOP: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (with a new preface). Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992, 311 pp., $14.00 softcover.

ANN GOETTING *

The Sacred Hoop is a collection of essays, first published in 1986, that eloquently debunks Eurocentric interpretations of traditional tribal lifestyles. ProfessorAllen, an American Indian of Languna Pueblo and Sioux heritage, tells of woman-centered American tribal societies characterized by matrilocality, matrifocality, matrilinearity, maternal control of household goods and resources and female deities the magnitude of the Christian God. These gynocratic social systems flourished before the European conquest and persist in reduced magnitude into the present. Traditional tribal lifestyles are more often gynocratic than not, and they are never patriarchal. Gynocracy does not imply domination of men by women; rather it represents a social order marked by equality, peace, cooperation, health, general prosperity, and harmonious balance among all of the earth's natural elements. Allen's work challenges the notion of the "universal" devaluation of women by identifying these woman-centered cultures and then going on to attribute significant components of modern American social life to their influence.

Allen's message to modern feminists is compelling: the feminist theories that are embraced today are derived, through various channels, from American Indian political thought and action (p. 220). Early tribal life is the primary inspiration for the feminisms that we teach our students and the models of human organization that we uphold as ideal. This book urges us to recognize the contribution of American Indian tradition to modern feminism and also to include "tribal-feminism" in our repertoire of mainstream feminism. …

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