Native American Women Prior to European Contact

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In Native American culture, it was common to see many women with powerful roles in the community. Most families were Matrilineal , with the woman’s family in charge. When the Europeans arrived in the late 1600’s to early 1700’s the roles of women began to change from the usual life they had before, to a whole new set of guidelines.

In the early days of our history (before Europeans explored the new world) Native Americans settles all over the western hemisphere. While the men were predominantly hunters, the women played a large role in the villages. First and foremost, women were honored and respected creatures because they could bear children. They also had the choice to keep the baby, or abort the pregnancy. Women had very much respect in their tribes. Indian women worked hard for their families as well as the men. The women provided homes and shelters, owned property in which they planted crops, and also provided the family with food. Although women could not be priests , their opinions and thoughts were appreciated and accepted by councilmen of the tribe . Since marriages in the Native American cultures were typically more of a partnership, women could choose to divorce their husbands when ever they’d like . In addition to that, it was common for women in the tribes to marry more than once in their lifetime. This ideology of their culture, and many other aspects, were foreign and very much a sin to the European, Christian, explorers.

When Europeans arrived, the powerful women not only shocked them, but fueled their fight to convert them into a “white society”. Because the fir trade was becoming increasingly important to everyone in the new world, women were pulled from their field and village work, and put into other tasks like processing and preparing animal skins . When they weren’t helping their husband’s trade, they were forced to use new farm tools, like hoes . Not only did they abandon their crafts and tool making, but their opinions in council...
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