More on Iroquois (Native) Women and Feminism

holly martelle hayter (martelle@EXECULINK.COM)
Tue, 6 Feb 1996 13:55:23 -0500

months ago which I think makes some important points regarding feminism and
Native women in both the past and present (and is a good summary of this
basic argument).
In the introduction to "Negotiators of Change: Historical
Perspectives on Native American Women," (1995 Nancy Shoemaker, ed. New York:
Routledge) Nancy Shoemaker notes:

(pg. 3) - "Sifting through these stereotyped images to appreciate Indian
women's viewpoints and motivations is our greatest challenge....The cultural
and gender biases of our sources and the paucity of Indian voices from the
past naturally allow considerable room for debate."

(pg. 5) "Much of the recent literatue on Indian women views gender as a
fundamental, yet non-hieararchical, social category. Women and men had
complementary roles of equal importance, power and prestige."

(pg. 7) "why do Indian women have independence and authority?
Three explanations:
1) basic principle of individual autonomy which structured social and
political relationships, including relations between men and women;
2) women's work was vital to native economies;
3) women's responsibilities in bearing and raising children brought
certain kinds of authority within the community at large "

(pg. 12) "Many Indian women share with Mary Crow Dog a skepticism about
feminism and conider the issues raised by the "women's movement" not only
alien to the Indian experience but also potentially harmful to the Indian
community as a whole."

(pg 13) "some define a distinctively Indian feminism - would acknowledge the
achievements and leadership of Indian women while taking into account the
uniqueness of the Indian situation, the continuing importance of the
extended family, and the need to improve conditions for all Indians (and not
just for Indian women)."

"POWER is not tangible, measurable, immediately observable and knowable, but
instead the many different manifestations of power need to be situated and
contextualized to be understood"

Just some further food for thought

Holly Martelle Hayter
U of Toronto