Duane Champagne: Role of women lost in modern tribal society

"The significant role that women played in many Native American communities is often forgotten. While recovering culture includes seeking to restore songs, ceremonies, stories, and traditional knowledge, women should play a central role in future community and national relations. Many nations like the Iroquois were matrilineal and some say matriarchal, meaning that for many issues women ruled. Scholars often debate whether one tribe or another was matrilineal or patrilineal. There are some Indian nations, like the Southern California Takic speaking nations, that were patrilineal. Nevertheless, even among the Takic nations, a women’s birth clan ensured that she was respected and honored by her patrilineal in-laws.

In some cultures, like the Muskogee speakers of the southeast, the world is divided into upper-lower, sky-earth, white-red, or male-female cosmic powers. The world of people was influenced by both male and female spiritual powers. Balance between the two cosmic powers was the desired state that helped ensure balance, harmony, well-being, good crops, good hunting, and victory over enemies. The role and social-cultural position of women varied among tribal communities in as many ways as each indigenous nation had its own creation teachings, ceremonies, and relation to the sacred. Each nation needs to understand its specific feminist history.

In the contemporary world, male and female relations are much more ambiguous within many Indian communities. The frequent reports of family abuse visited upon children and spouses does not conform with the understandings we have about the past relations of respect and honor held between men and women."

Get the Story:
Duane Champagne: Recovering the Feminine (Indian Country Today 7/24)

Related Stories:
Charles Trimble: A crisis of faith amid abuses in Catholic Church (7/22)
Harold Monteau: Somewhere in Indian Country, domestic violence (7/18)
Karonienhawi Thomas: Saying no more to violence against women (7/18)
Ray Cook: Taking a stand to put end to violence in Indian Country (7/15)

Join the Conversation