April 3, 2009

The Friday Record - Colonial and Native American Women , part 4

This is the fourth and last installment of my honor's essay comparing how Native American and Colonial women were treated in their respective societies, as well as each others. To read all four parts, just click on the link 'colonial and native american women' below. It will help find all of the parts. Thanks for stopping by.

A Woman’s Place is in the House:
The Affect of Colonization on
Native American and Colonial Women’s
Place in Society

Before the Europeans arrived, it was not unusual for Algonquin and Huron, as well as other tribes to capture women from enemy tribes and make them their wives. Though they spent the rest of their lives in a foreign village, the women never forgot they were daughters of other tribes. Interestingly, many white hostages brought into Native American villages were often reluctant to return to the colonies.1

During the first century of Euro-American relations, the Canadian Indians took captives mostly for ransom. When the peace collapsed in 1753, however, the Natives started capturing English settlers to replace their members who had died in battle or as a result of the diseases the Europeans had brought with them. 2 Most of the captured people were women and children.

By choosing children, who were then adopted and treated as their own, Native Americans ensured hostages an easier transition into tribal life. Women taken captive were also treated with respect as wives, equal to that of Native women. The respect and acceptance shown to the captives worked all too well. Report after report tells how reluctant the captives were to leave the tribes. “[She] cried and roared when asked to come and begged to stay longer [and] children cried as if they would die when they were presented to us.”3 Captives often spoke of the kindness of their Indian captors. Mary Jamison said of her life among the Seneca, “I was ever considered and treated by them as a real sister, the same as though I had been born of their mother.”4

Once accepted into their fold, Native Americans never again saw non-tribal members as outsiders. Adopted children and white wives were Indian and their families mourned their return to “civilization,” some even going periodically to visit those who did not return to the tribe.5 Once incorporated into the tribe, the women were given the same rights and power as that of other tribal women. They owned the children, the land, and the household belongings. When returned to the white man’s world, they lost that power.6 Not surprising, “several women eloped in the night, and ran off to join their Indian friends.”7

The white captives had learned what the Native American women had already known— they held tremendous power within their societies. It was a power that the European interlopers misunderstood and, at times, underestimated. The native women, though appearing to be forced-laborers, were in reality the controllers of the society, including marriages, children, home, and land. The women were the driving force behind the tribe and in some instances decided who became chief or if a chief should remain in power. Though not obvious to the untrained observer the women of Native American tribes had the right to “vote” long before the women of European descent did.

After five hundred years of European-influenced rule, women are rising back to the once familiar status Native American women took for granted. Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, was the first woman ever elected to Congress and entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 1917, three years before women could vote nationally.8 Statistics show that “women have voted at an increasingly higher rate than men [and] that about 7.8 million more women than men voted in the 2000 election.”9 Now, a woman stands to be two heartbeats away from the most powerful office in the world. As Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi will be third in line to the Presidency of the United States of America. Furthermore, like Native American women in the past who were chiefs, the times appear to be shaping up that soon a woman will hold that very office.

1 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” American Encounters, 330.
2 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,”, 330.
3 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” 330.
4 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” 336.
5 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” 327.
6 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” 329.
7 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” 329.
8 “Firsts for Women in U.S. Politics,” Center for American Women and Politics
9 “Women Voters and the Gender Gap,” The American Political Science Association


Emma Lai said...

This makes complete sense. First, if you're a child and raised by a family and then suddenly ripped away from that loving family, you'd want to go back. Second, if you've lived your life completely suppressed and then are given freedom, you surely would not want to go back to a repressive society.

Thanks for sharing such a great paper!

Mary Ricksen said...

I wanna be an Indian captive! I used to dream about when I was much younger. And lately too! I always have loved to read a good native American book. From Clan of The Cave bear to the romances of today. I'm hooked. From the day I first started to read these were the novels of my choice.
This was a wonderful blog and I am so pleased to have read it.

Susan Macatee said...

Can't blame those capture women for wanting to stay. Who wouldn't want to remain in a society where you have respect and power as opposed to one where women had no rights.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I know. I've been fascinated by the Native culturals. And it's a shame we've allowed them to be destroyed. In most of their societies, women were respected and honored.


Lisabet Sarai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisabet Sarai said...

Meanwhile, European women were still effectively their husbands' property, were they not? No wonder the captives did not want to return.


Sarita Leone said...

Very interesting post!

Anonymous said...

Nice to your read your blog about online friends. You can find more friends in online to get new ideas about anything in and around the world. Indian Friends Online are dominated in this online community to reach you goal.

Indian Friends Online Community

Social Network website

Make Money Online

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone!
I would like to burn a theme at here. There is such a nicey, called HYIP, or High Yield Investment Program. It reminds of financial piramyde, but in rare cases one may happen to meet a company that really pays up to 2% daily not on invested money, but from real profits.

For quite a long time, I earn money with the help of these programs.
I don't have problems with money now, but there are heights that must be conquered . I make 2G daily, and I started with funny 500 bucks.
Right now, I'm very close at catching at last a guaranteed variant to make a sharp rise . Turn to my blog to get additional info.

http://theinvestblog.com [url=http://theinvestblog.com]Online Investment Blog[/url]