Readings for June 17
Respond here to readings about Indigenous women.
6/16/2014 09:37:18 am
Mihesuah’s “Indigenous American Women” is an interesting read. I have never given much thought to the struggles Native American women must face in the world of academia. This reading made me consider how difficult it is to have a notable professional career as a Native woman. Mihesuah accomplished the difficult task, but it seems her days are often filled with “correcting stereotypes and misinterpretations of tribal histories and cultures” that her co-workers learned from television and mass media (21). She earned a place in the “white collar” workforce, but challenges of working with people who do not understand her ethnicity and cultural background stifle her achievements. The single fact that Devon Mihesuah is a woman places at her disadvantage in the career world, however combining her gender inferiority with her ethnic identification as a Native American gives her a ‘dual minority’ status. When she shares the of story of applying for a full-time position at a university and having her “dossier scrutinized far more carefully than those of white colleagues who had applied in the years before,” I felt frustrated with the injustice of American society (24). Instead of making a decision based on her accomplishments in her field of study and her capability of successfully doing the job, her race was the focal point of the judgment. The content of her character should have mattered so much more than her Native American heritage. I find it fascinating that prior to colonial contact; Native Americans had equality among the genders including women in leadership roles and positions of power. It was “the influence of Europeans’ social beliefs” that “changed the way Natives interpreted the world, themselves, and gender roles” (42). Women were not second class citizens in the tribal communities, but were instead equal to the men. It is hard to believe that even today; the European social beliefs of gender roles still stand by placing women in the submissive role while men maintain the dominant position. No wonder it is difficult for women to receive equal rights in the workplace much less women of color or women of another minority. Native American women are disadvantaged in more ways than one and it took this article to illuminate the challenges they are confronting.
6/16/2014 10:27:09 pm
I find that whether I am reading from a History book, or English book I often times discover that when it comes to the topic of women, that they have usually settled for minimal goals due to the lack of women’s rights. “Divorced from the Land” demonstrates how Native American women lose their some of their rights and was a good tool to see how gender roles have transformed. What seems to be the purpose stated in the beginning of this reading is providing a means for capturing bygone worlds that shaped Indian women’s experiences in New England. A good overall description of the life of an Indian woman is when Edwards Winslow states, “the women live a most slavish life; they carry all their burdens, set and dress their corn, gather it in, and seek out for much of their food, beat and make ready the corn to eat and have all household care lying upon them” (335). It is disappointing, even for a reader’s perspective to read about how they “divorced” Indian women from their role as agriculturists and replaced them with men. It is frustrating because Native Americans did not have the rights that they deserved to begin with that taking even more from the female part of this heritage does not seem in any way fair. The aim of the English was “aimed to divorce Indians from their possession of the land in order to establish themselves and English culture in their place” (337). With this in mind, there is a gendered division of labor and these radical changes displayed differences in aspects such as work habits, material life, and physical appearance of women. This reading really emphasizes the Native American women’s struggle with the radically-changing world which I believe adds to the list of struggles that the Natives underwent.
6/16/2014 11:14:17 pm
While reading ‘Divorced’ From the Land by Jean O’Brien it really disappointed me what the whites were doing to the Natives. Even though the English wanted to make the Natives just like the whites, they still wanted to be able to tell the difference between them and themselves. O’Brien writes: “They presented Indians such as Hannah Shiner as the complement to ‘Englishness’, thereby reminding themselves of the persistent difference between Indian survivors and themselves” (337). The fact that the English wanted to transform the Natives is disgusting, but wanting to change them but not enough to not be able to tell English and Natives apart. This disgusts me so much, English during this time were such conniving jerks. They used the Natives to get their land so that the white culture would triumph over any other culture in the world. It’s pitiful to think that my ancestors used the Natives as a rug to walk all over because the natives didn’t know what else to do. Obrien writes: “The English colonial regime imposed a different landscape, one encouraging Indians to transform their relationship to the land. Gener figured prominently in this transformation. The English aimed to ‘divorce’ Indians from their possession of the land in order to establish themselves and English culture in its place” (337). The fact that the English literally aimed to demolish someone else’s culture is horrific. Natives were encouraged by the English to adopt English work habits. Eventually they had to, or they wouldn’t survive in this twisted world. The English had a real problem with the way the Natives ran their relationships. The women often did a lot of the work while the English viewed the Native men as ‘lazy’, because of this, the English people believed that they needed to take work away from the Native women and put some on the men, “Indians were encouraged to adopt English work habits, individual ownership of land, English takes in material culture, and values structured by a market economy” (339). The English even believed that the Natives had to change their relationship into a “proper relationship”. What makes the English way proper? English even expected the Natives to wander; they did not care what happened to the Natives as long as the white culture was flourishing. The Natives ultimately had to marry whites to survive.
6/17/2014 12:27:37 am
Devon Mihesuah’s “Indigenous Women” serves as yet another solidifying source in regards to the concept of women being viewed with inferiority. Being a woman is one thing, and being someone of a Native decent is quite another. Put the two together and you’re in for an inevitable challenge. However, Mihesuah also brings up the point of how not everyone practices their indigenous heritage. In fact, many may not even acknowledge it. At one point she speaks of going to an interview and talking with a 98-year-old woman. Based on the woman’s age, she most likely assumed that, out of tradition, she was actively involved in activities that were associated with her Cherokee heritage. When asked if she spoke the language and attended stomp dances she retorted with a sharp, “Hell no, I’m no heathen” (xvi). Just goes to show that you can’t make assumptions about ones practices, or even ones heritage. This being said, we as a society shouldn’t make assumption about one’s gender or appearance either- whether it be in the job industry specifically or simply in every-day life.
6/17/2014 12:40:46 am
Women, no matter what background, have always struggled for their rights and power in the world. For Indigenous women, this was not a problem until the English showed up. Jean M. O’Brien’s “Divorced from the Land” does a good job of explaining the struggles that Indian women faced, especially at the start of the new world. O’Brien explains that the English perceived the Indian women as “slaves” because they did a lot of the agricultural and laborious work: “In fact, most labor the English would have considered as male work was performed by Indian women” (335). I find this very interesting because the women were obviously stronger and had more important jobs in the Indigenous society. The English believed that men and women had certain roles that they had to pertain to and so they didn’t know what to do when the roles were reversed. The English did not understand this reversal of roles and so they tried everything they could to conform the Indians to their societal standards. Part of this conformity required them to change their relationship with the land. O’Brien writes: “The English aimed to ‘divorce’ Indians from their possession of the land in order to establish themselves and English culture in their place” (337). The English wanted to transform the Indians whole view on the land, gender roles, and society so that they could take over. This makes me think that they English were so scared of the Native Americans, because the women did “manly” jobs, that they felt the only chance they had to stay in America would be to destroy their culture.
6/17/2014 01:39:38 am
Much of Native American Feminist Theory observes the postcolonial indigenous population through an intertribal lens as they face the affects of the Christian and patriarchal settlement of their native land. In the article “Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism” Devon Mihesuah delineates that the forces that have been working to erase the Native American Population have held a significant impact on the relationships between Native Americans themselves. This internal factionalism is a result of the rift in American Indian tradition and Euro-American drive for modernity; Some Indians cling to tradition while others see change as necessary to survival. Mihesuah concedes that writing can be a source of empowerment to Native American women it also can be considered as a necessary form of Euro-American conformity in which Native women can find agency, “Writing is a way to empower us, to state that we are not victims and that we are attempting to find answers and solve problems,” (23) Mihesuah admonishes the higher understanding that comes from the composition of writing, she later states that truth and honesty by means of “complete storytelling’ should be the ultimate goal. Mihesuah looks on the objective and subjective relationship that Native history has with it’s sources of documentation, stressing that the only way to gain a full understanding is to fully comprehend the Native American first-person perspective- a perspective that is generally not being taught in schools. Throughout the process of decolonization one must consider that Indigenous women scholars and students fine empowerment through American Indian studies. Mihesuah explains that this area of study includes “economic development, ecosystem science and management, policy analysis, lobbying, program management, enterprise management, and environmental resource practice, with certificates in planning stages for museum studies, Native journalism and recovering indigenous knowledge.”(33) Mihesuah depreciates Native American Literature as a viable source of Native understanding because it adds to the purely aesthetic stereotype surrounding Indigenous tradition. Mihesuah further goes on to juxtapose the modern sources of empowerment for Native Women with an explanation of the colonial past as a source for disempowerment to indigenous people.
6/17/2014 02:29:57 am
‘“Divorced” from the Land’ discusses the changes of Indian women and families, illuminating “how gender roles had been transformed, how Indian peoples made a living in the wake of their dispossession, and how they retained aspects of earlier material culture n combination with the adoption of new ways of being in the world that ensured their survival” (334). I intend to focus mostly on gender roles, because it relates very closely to Devon Mihesuah’s “Indigenous American Women”. While I wouldn’t classify myself as a feminist, I do feel strongly that everyone, including women, should be equal based off the fact that we are all human beings. It is very obvious in European documents that they “viewed Indian women as ‘slaves’ because, unlike English women, they performed virtually all the agricultural labor in their societies” (335). Part of me can comprehend that fact that if someone is only exposed to life one way then they would pass this kind of judgment, but a larger part of me cannot help but be infuriated by European ignorance. This view of Indian women as being “slavish” was not accurate at all, and by feeling superior to this group of people, Europeans took matters into their own hands to change the Native lives. This meant that Native women would transform “their work habits, material life, aesthetic emphases, and even physical their appearance” (341). Europeans also encouraged Indian men to enter service, both military and whaling industry (346). I cannot wrap my head around the fact that Europeans felt this was helping or positively affecting the lives of Natives. It seems the only result of these changes was the “diminishment of Indianness” (334) and made a lasting negative effect on the lives of Native men and women.
6/17/2014 02:38:15 am
Jean O’Brien’s “Divorced from the Land” discusses the changed gender roles of Native women since colonization and colonization’s effect on Native Americans’ land. Colonists portrayed “the Native American woman as ‘squaw drudge’ who toiled endlessly for her ‘lazie husband’” (335). Native American women did actions that were not perceived as normal from the colonial view point. It seemed strange to them that women were taking care of the crops and thus they labeled the husbands lazy and the women as having “‘a most slavish life’” (335). A Native American woman was given a lot of responsibility versus the colonial woman who lived in a very sexist setting and who was expected to do needlepoint daily and was considered a failure if she was not able to produce male children. However, the Native American viewpoint on women started to change after interacting with colonists. O’Brien states that by late seventeenth century, “most Indian individuals and families were incorporated into English communities” and “the prosperity of Indian societies, based on diversified agricultural economies and intensive use of seasonally available plant and game resources, was undermined as the English gained possession of nearly all the Indian land” (336). O’Brien says the English’s control over the Native land “resulted in the recasting of Native gender roles” (336). The Natives were forced to conform to colonial style if they hoped to survive their changing world. No longer did they outnumber the colonists, but instead they became “a minority population within their own homelands” (336). Gender was greatly influenced by these factors. The English needed this “divorce” if they wished to have their own ways of life succeed over the Natives’. Shocked by the power women had in tribes, the colonists searched for a way to move the Native woman into the traditional colonial woman style. They “place[d] Indian women and men in a ‘proper’ relationship to the land” (337). The colonists devised a plan that would force this: they would allow Native Americans to keep small plots of land, but the Natives would have to agree to the cultural change around them. While some resisted, the Chakcom Native American family is an example of a family that did not. Native American dress style also began to change; Hannah Lawrence adopted linen and cloth and English style gowns to replace the animal skins and her traditional tribe clothing. These small English, twisted victories “illuminate how gender roles [had] been transformed” (334). Native women gave up their farming and turned to crafts like basket making instead which brought some sort of income to their families.
6/17/2014 03:02:04 am
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