Matriarchal Cultures: the Native American

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Gender role, Matriarchy Pages: 7 (2287 words) Published: September 30, 2012
Matriarchal Cultures:
The Native American

There has long been debate among anthropologists about matriarchal societies. But that is a historical result of last 500 years of European military expansion and extermination of native cultures. There are a few societies whose status as matriarchies is disputed among anthropologists and this is as much a debate about terminology as it is about interpreting how another society defines status and such, their self-understanding as opposed to our imposition of categories on them. Among anthropologists, there are theories that support the plausibility of having prehistoric matriarchies. And if we look more at the complexity of societies, we're liable to find that the answer to why a particular arrangement developed in particular cases and may vary from case to case.

Conversely enough there are many more matrilineal and matrilocal societies. A lot of people tend to interchange the definition of matrilocal and matrilineal with matriarchal. Matrilocal is when a husband who marries a woman must move to her community/village. Matrilineal is a descent system based on unilineal descent that gives the mother's family certain terms of kinship than the father's family. Matriarchal is when women have control of a community. Matrilocal and matrilineal societies do not mean that the women hold more power than the men. Inheritance and lineage does not equal power. Whereas, matrifocal is the gravitating toward or centering on the mother. Native American's were well known to have a matriarchal system. Most early societies were organized around matrilineal lines. Women were the center of society, before agriculture, women generally raised children, cooked, gathered fruits, vegetables, etc. Men hunted. In this role, women were the first scientists. They learned how to cultivate plants, and domesticate animals. They learned methods of food preservation. They learned how to build better houses. Women were the ones responsible for the development of civilization. There were a lot of societies that were both matriarchal and patriarchal before Christianity took over. Some indigenous tribes were accepting of androgyny and women taking on men's roles before Christianity came into play.

Most Native American tribes had traditional gender roles. In some tribes, such as the Iroquois nation, social and clan relationships were matrilineal and or matriarchal, although several different systems were in use. One example is the Cherokee custom of wives owning the family property. Men hunted, traded and made war, while women cared for the young and the elderly, fashioned clothing and instruments and cured meat. The cradle board was used by mothers to carry their baby while working or traveling. However, in some, but not all tribes a kind of transgender was permitted. Apart from making home, women had many tasks that were essential for the survival of the tribes. They made weapons and tools, took care of the roofs of their homes and often helped their men hunt buffalos. In some of the Plains Indian tribes there reportedly were medicine women who gathered herbs and cured the ill. In some of these tribes girls were also encouraged to learn to ride and fight. Though fighting was mostly left to the boys and men, there had been cases of women fighting alongside them, especially when the existence of the tribe was threatened.

There has been such a continual misconception as on the position of women among Native Americans. Because she was active, always busy in the camp, often carried heavy burdens, attended to the household duties, made the clothing and the home, and prepared the family food, the woman has been depicted as the slave of her husband, a patient beast of encumbrance whose labors were never done. The man, on the other hand, was said to be a loaf, whom all day long sat in the shade of the lodge and smoked his pipe, while his overworked wives attended to his comfort. In actuality, the woman...

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