The Female Role in America: Native Americans vs. Puritans

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Historically, women in Native American societies were treated with much more respect than female colonizers in New England. Dances With Wolves (1990) and The New World (2005) both depict tribal culture in North America in both the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Crucible (1996) and The Scarlett Letter (1995) vividly portray what it was like for women in sixteenth century New England.

In the film, Dances With Wolves, a Union soldier finds friendship and love within the Sioux peoples in 1864. Many scenes depict the tribe’s holy man, Kicking Bird, in conversation with his wife. She had no qualms in advising her husband. He took her word with no contempt, but as a great source of knowledge to consider. This cinematic depiction of a Native American woman advising a Native American man was not too unlike the reality of the Sioux nation. Sioux women had a very important place in their tribes as healers, herbalists, and sometimes holy people who gave advice (Zinn). In the Sioux nation, the position as a religious leader was not limited to men. When male chiefs were killed or lost, the position could be resumed by a woman, which shows that women had an almost equal opportunity to take important positions. In the film, a scene in which the Sioux were being attacked by the Pawnee, Pawnee soldiers tore their way into a teepee containing women and children. The women were equipped with weapons and were able to defeat the Pawnee man. This depiction rings true to the way Sioux women were. Sioux women were taught to shoot bows and carried knives, because among the Sioux, a woman was expected to be able to defend herself in an attack (Zinn). This strength and empowerment of the Sioux women truly shows the value the entire tribe placed on them. They were not weak creatures for the men to push around, but valuable members of the community that were treated with respect.

Terrence Malick’s film, The New World, provides a look at the the relationship between the...