For this assignment, I have chosen to adopt the perspective of a Native American woman, more specifically a Cherokee. I have to admit that I am not aware of much factual history of the Cherokee, but rather I am going on things that I have heard, as well as from an article that I read, in Native Peoples Magazine, titled War Woman (Winter 1999).
As a Cherokee, I think that women are, in general, given more respect than in other cultures. The place of woman in Cherokee society has had great prominence. The Cherokee nation appears to have followed a matriarchal family system until the white men came. In the article, it says the wife, not the husband, owned both home and planting field. A few women such as Nancy Ward earned the title War Woman or Pretty Woman, entitling them to speak in councils and decide questions of war and punishment. These traditional roles of Cherokee women inexorably faded with the incursion of European settlers and missionaries.
Although the women were in charge of the family, it seems that the men were in charge of the politics and the rules. Women had to be granted the permission to speak in councils. The Cherokee's conquerers only enhanced the differences in the positions of women and men by giving more power to the men and pushing women to the background.
However, as of late, women are getting more power in the Cherokee. The article was about Joyce Dugan, principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. Dugan is only the second woman to be the chief of a Cherokee nation. The first was Wilma Mankiller back in 1985, when she became the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Even though, Dugan is only the second woman to rise to such a position, she says that gender played no part in her campaigning. The men did not look upon her as only a woman and dismiss her platform. She had encouragement from both women and men in her election, and still continue to support her because of her ideas and policies, not on the basis of her sex.
I think that the most difficult obstacles for feminism, from the Cherokee point-of-view, would be that Cherokee women may not feel connected with women of other cultures. Cherokees, as well as many other Native American groups, continue to be segregated on reservations. For many young girls and boys, the only contact that they have with non-Native Americans are when they go off their reservations for school. However, this is no guarantee that they will connect to their non-Native American peers. Some Native American women are more concerned with the politics of their land or reservation than of the United States. This leads to the feeling of unconnectedness.
A suggestion to overcome this obstacle would be education, I think. Not only education in the classroom, but also in the home and community. I think that Cherokee children, and other Native American children, may enter the non-Native American schools without knowing about who they are. So, they may possibly enter school and look to their peers as standards of who they should be, how they should act, and what they should believe. I think that it is always helpful (for all cultural groups) to educate the young about who they are, so that the young do not get lost early on.
Also, the non-Native Americans need to be educated about the Native Americans. But, we have to make sure that that education is not biased. We have to be educated about the women, the men, the children, as well as of the various Native American groups. I am not referring to specific study, but a general knowledge and awareness that all these factors make a difference. Perhaps, this type of education could lead the Cherokee (as well as other Native Americans separated from their neighbors), especially the women, to find a connection to other women.
Also, I agree with the authors that in order for women to feel connected with other women in their cultural group, they need to find commonalities (Women's Realities, 178). That is a very important aspect usually not discussed. Most people look for the differences first, but true understanding is gained only through the awareness of likeness.
My name is Minaya Littlehorse. I am a Native-American women attending the College of New Rochelle, where I recieved a full scholarship in which I am a Biology major with a minor in Math. I am very grateful to have accomplished a great deal in my life, regardless of how I have been treated as a minority and unfortunately as a young independent women in America today. Sometimes, I feel as though I am a small fish in a huge pond of stereotypes, racism and sexism. Yet, I have finally found my place as a respectable WOMAN in this society.
We live in a society where being different is NOT acceptable. In order to be recognized as acceptable women, we have to go to extremes to gain status and clout just to be passed off as being just another hard-working women trying to make a living. In the culture of Native-Americans, it is matrilineal rather than patrilineal. Meaning that we trace our ancestry througth the women ancestors instead of the male ancestors. So the roles of women have been assigned to us by our women matriarchal ansestors and have been nutured and with-held through many generations as an important part of our culture. A women, in the Native-American culture means, childbearer, mother, housewife, in some cases food provider, does everything in her power to keep homelife together no matter what the circumstances. As strong women in the tribe, we did not feel the pressures of having to be independent enough to get a job and to maticulate ourselves into the work force to bring home for the rest of the family. Native-American women found their strengths through raising their young to be able to take care of their own families and making sure that they were raised the traditional ways of the tribe. An understanding of difference begins with an examination of the specific context in which difference operates and how differences can change over time, place and circumstances. (p. 176)
I would say that the most difficult obstacles for me as a Native-American woman is that I am a Native-American woman. Just by being a strong women that doesn't quite believe in staying at home and raising children wondering why I am not able to make a difference and get accounted for it. Growing up with such strong traditions its hard to break away and deny all of the things that you heritage as struggled so hard to implant into you so that they will success pass them on. Not to say that my matriachal tradition is lagging behind in the feminism race but there is a lot to be said for the advancement of our women in the future.
The first way of overcoming any of these obstacles is to first start from the source and then we will be able to recognize the importance of our being able to come together in order to get ahead. Starting now!
I would like to make my own personal comment about this assigment that was given to us. I would like first to address the fact that it was very difficult to write about a culture that you know bearly anything about, but also that it was hard to not offend anyone in the process. I also felt that I wasn't able give a justifiable ways of overcoming these obstacles that were sufficient enough because I still don't feel as though I understand feminism completely. I did enjoy the assignment and hopefully be able to expand on it in the future.Close this window when finished.