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Tales Through Time: The Native Americans: Years Ahead of the Europeans

Rehmat Kaur

Volume 4 Issue 3

March 13, 2024

Tales Through Time: The Native Americans: Years Ahead of the Europeans

Image Provided by Huffington Post

It was an incredible awakening to learn that women's oppression was not universal; Indigenous women possessed property rights. If these Euro-American women from across Western society weren't aware of the glaring contrast between their circumstances, Native women were. Native women farmed with strong bodies, had autonomy over their lives, and maintained equal opportunity with men, which contradicted the ideas of female servitude and inferiority. 


Some women suffragists communicated their knowledge of Native women's higher rights with other progressives and people at large, as they inspired them. When Lucretia Mott and her husband visited the Seneca tribe in 1848, they witnessed how political authority was distributed equitably among all members of their society. Mott recounted her experience in New York, highlighting the significant role of Native women in their communities; as she stated, "Historically, Haudenosaunee women have controlled their nation’s economies, handled property concerns, and participated in all decision-making processes." As women in the United States celebrate the fact that the Constitution ultimately acknowledged the right of women to cast a vote 100 years ago, Native American women had a say in politics on this territory since the formation of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy over 1000 years ago. Non-native women, like our suffrage foremothers, benefited greatly from Native women's decades of experience. 


Gender influences obligations, but it doesn't restrict women within numerous Native societies. Early Native peoples differed, but their families and communal institutions brought them together through shared dependency and respect. In some cultures, women became warriors, like Dahteste and Lozen. In the Midwest, women frequently assisted in the hunting and harvesting of buffalo. They were also talented artisans who made blankets, baskets, jewelry, and ceramics. 


Marriage and sexual freedoms in Native tribes differed greatly, with some nations practicing polygamy and others observing monogamy and formal rituals. Women's dominance in relationships and throughout the nation was obvious in divorce, with women holding all home possessions. 


Members of the Haudenosaunee clan are descended from women and trace their ancestry back to their female predecessors. Iroquois people are born into a clan and remain there for their whole lives. Intermarriage within a clan is not permitted; therefore, when the young woman married, her husband came to reside in her longhouse, where they would establish their new home. The clan served as the primary socioeconomic element of Haudenosaunee society, led by women who oversaw their longhouse, farming, and food distribution, as well as selecting males to serve as representatives of their clan on the tribal council.   


Following European arrival, illnesses and territorial struggles killed 90–95% of the Indigenous population. Historians argue about how European expansion and migration affected Native women. Some suggest that following the initial contact, women's power fell as societies altered and evolved to become more like the dominant culture. Many tribes still valued the matrilineal inheritance of clan identity, as shown by women's major leadership roles. It may be concluded that Native Americans had significantly more rights and freedom than European women at the time, which motivated many people to work on improving society. 





Sources : How Native American Women Inspired the Women’s Rights Movement (U.S. National Park Service) ('s%20suffragist,women%20played%20in%20Haudenosaunee%20communities.  

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