The conversation that developed over Sunday’s Mothers’ Day post left me mulling changes to the status of women and children in Native America. Traditionally, in much of Indigenous North America, Native women were viewed as the healing and creative force in the community; they were the Life-Givers. Women were also the leaders, making decisions for the welfare of the community and choosing the war chiefs. Children were the future, and were held dear. They, along with elders, occupied the heart of the community.
When Europeans came to Turtle Island they brought new ideas about women and children as commodities. Settler governments and their agents refused to negotiate with Native women leaders, even though the women “owned” the land and the community’s material goods. Over time, the settlers forcefully and brutally undercut women’s authority; one can speak truthfully about the “rape” of the Indigenous Americas.
Of course, not all Europeans disliked Native women, and marriages between settlers and Indigenous women were frequent in the early days of settlement. Those of us Natives from the Northeast and eastern Midwest tend to be light complected, showing the genetic flow of over four hundred years of inter-marriage. Pigmentation can be a source of both invisibility and survivance. Continue reading