3. Indigenous cultures

Indeginious cultures all developed different cultures and societal norms based on their lifestyle and the people who influenced their way of living. The Mik’maq’s were semi nomadic and had created societies where all people, regardless of their gender, have equal rights and similar opportunities. With the innus, men mostly took care of the hard labour jobs as opposed to the women who took care of household chores and the kids. Although, even with the clear labour division, their community worked well since every one of their roles were essential to their survival. Iroquoians were sedentary individuals. Although men were hunters, warriors and chiefs, women had authority. This particular society was traced not only marilineal but also matrilocal and therefore women had a significant amount of power. Supposedly, nomadic indigeneous people are accustomed to labour division but each task given was equally as important as the other but all it all, each different indigenious group had developed different gender relations over time through their habits. 

From what I read, indeginious cultures seem to have been majorly dominated by men in households, in the workforce, in politics and more. A difference I noticed between indeginous peoples cultures is that they seemed to really value women and their work and treat them as equals since most of their survival requires the help of both women and men. Their opinions were heard and considered, they could attain some of the same jobs as men, they were able to make the calls on important decisions at times and more. In our western culture, for a long time, I believe that women were undervalued, and underappreciated and not only that but they were treated as objects who were there to take on more of a subservient role in the household. Not only that, but they were deprived from the same job opportunities for education as men for a while too.  Although, we are moving past that issue more and more nowadays since feminists started being more outspoken about the issues regarding the lack of equality in western societies. Another difference that I noticed was the fact that many indigenous cultures were leaning towards matriarchal rather than patriarchal.

What shocked me the most was when the text mentions that iroquoian societies were both matrilineal and matrilocal. I did not know what matrilocal meant but when I found out that it was a custom where the husband goes to live with the family of the wife and contributed to the household with his hunting i made a parallel with today’s society. The iroquoians being a matrilineal and matrilocal culture introduced me to a way of life where women are in a sense “the man of the house”. It’s not something that we see often. 

Based on the reading on indeginous cultures, we can learn that both women and men although they do different things and have different skills benefit from each others qualities since they work in harmony to survive. We learn that women in indegenous cultures had a certain amount of authority and were appreciated by the community and were treated as equals (more or less). 

Blog #3: Gender Equity in Indigenous Cultures

In Indigenous cultures, the distribution of social roles in both gender is quite fair and is based on the living contidions and the geographical location of the population groups. This distribution of roles between men and women are based on cooperation and allows the community to live more efficiently since both roles complement each other: Innu men hunted big animals while Innu women fished and captured smaller animals with traps, and important social status (shaman) could be accorded to both gender. Mi’kmaq men hunted big animals, fished and prepared weapons while Mi’kmaq women captured fish, picked berries and built camps. Iroquoian nations had a more complex social and political structure since they have a sedentary lifestyle: men were in charge of tribal councils and had authority but they were at first, approved by senor women whom also had power over longhouses since their societies are matrilineal and matrilocal. The Blackfoot Nation men hunted buffalo and went ot war while women processed buffalo meat. In all of those Indigenous populations’ cases, the division of roles in both gender were egalitarian and allowed each to use their strength in the field they are best at and to compliment each other’s weaknesses. The work of both gender were equally valued and they had social roles where both men or women could undertake. Indegenous people were also very open and acceptant towards transgenderism. The term of two-spirit was used to describe people in the indigenous societies that had both gender in their body. They were free to marry a woman or a man and had special roles that were valued in the societies such as seers and healers.

Nothing in my reading about Indegenous culture and gender role suprised me since I already knew about their acceptance towards homosexuality and equal gender division of tasks. We had to go to the Fine Art Museam at my highschool and we saw the exibition about Western colonisation of America and about Indegnous culture. That was were I first heard about how open Indegenous people were towards homosexual people since the have a very deep respect of the nature and that we are all humans before anything and that we are all part of the nature.

Gender relations in indegenous societies are similar to the modern Western culture in the sense that there are more gender neutral jobs in the modern society such as nursing and scientific milieu, and that there are more women in the high positions such as in politics. The difference between indegenous societies and Western culture is that in Western culture, the idea that both gender are equal came much later than in the indegenous culture. We can still learn from them and adopt their values such as the open mindness towards people who identify themselves as another gender than the one they are born in. We can also learn their ideology that both gender compliment each other and that no gender should be superior than the other.

Blog 3: Pre-Western Gender Roles

What came before western culture gender norms? Were women always inferior to men? Did men always have total control over the household? It was always believed by the colonizers that Indigenous people were inferior to them because of their culture, traditions and beliefs. Many centuries later, we came to realize that what made the Indigenous people inferior actually makes them superior to the newcomers. Surprising? Not so much.

To start, women were not inferior to men! It is stated that Indigenous tribes were egalitarian and their governmental arrangement were focused on the group and not sole individual speaking for the rest of the population. Women are given responsibilities and authority. They take their place in their society and flourish. It’s the teamwork ,of both man and woman, that has gotten the Indigenous people this far. Their egalitarian mentality made both sexes important. It valued each of their strengths and, with that, used it to their advantage. Another aspect of their lifestyle, matrilineal and matrilocal, empowers women’s place in society by prioritizing their side of the family and their role in the family. Making the newly wed man move in to the women’s house and help her side of the family is something completely different from western culture, where women must take their husband’s name and move in with them. Now, it has changed where newly-weds just move out into a completely separate house. What western society can learn from their lifestyle is true equity and equality. If men and women truly worked together as equals, and were also viewed as complete equals, they could find their rightful place in society and then could our world move forward at a life-changing rate.

A fact that really struck me, while reading the text on Indigenous people’s gender relations, was that female homosexual relationships were very respected. They were seen as healers, seers and bearers of oral tradition. They had in inclusive sex-gender systems which was an experience called “two-spirit”. It basically means a female and male persona were accommodated in one body. Gender identity was expressed in various ways throughout Indigenous tribes. Natives that identified as “two-spirit” took on both female and male roles in society as well as female and male dressing habits. This identification resulted in many homosexual relationship and even female homosexual marriages. At that point of history, female homosexual relations, without the term “two-spirit”, was not included in their worldview. In addition, it was the European observers that rendered this way of life and self-identification a “sin”, of some sorts. Even though there were female and male homosexual relations, the Europeans really bashed the male homosexual relations in their transcripts.

Blog 3

In Indigenous culture, men and women seem to have pretty equal roles. The men often did the harder more laborious work and did most of the hunting and the women did more of the fishing, food preparation, made the clothes and cared for the children. Even though the men did more labour intensive jobs, both the roles of each gender were just as important. I found this surprising that something from such an early time period saw the roles of men and women as equally valued. It definitely took people of non-indigenous cultures to accept the fact that both men and women could do work that evenly benefitted one’s household. The women were always consulted and their opinions were respected when it was time to make major decisions, 

Something that shocked me the most about this culture was the “two-spirited” people that would identify themselves as both genders and take on the roles that both the men and women would have to do. I thought this was very interesting and I had no idea that this was a thing that happened because I never learned it in any history class that I took. Not only would a “two-spirited” individual take on the roles of both genders but would also wear a combination of men and women’s clothing. Two-spirit people can marry or have sexual relationships with either a man or a woman. European observers, however, used the derogatory term “berdaches” because they thought it was unmanly. 

When the Catholic Church came into play, the genders were more separated and the men were given a bit more power. The husband/father was the leader of the family and must be obeyed at all times. The French civil law made sure that children were under the legal control of their fathers and could not marry without their father’s consent until age 25 for women and 30 for men. When married all belongings were owned equally and the property was controlled by the man; however, he could not sell without consulting his wife beforehand. The Church is what gave men more power than women, the women believed that the Christian ideology undermined their power. 

I think that we can learn a lot from gender in Indigenous culture. From the beginning, they viewed both men and women as equals even though the work that they did was different, the work that either of them did was essential and equally important. We still have this problem in our culture where men and women aren’t entirely seen as equals. As a society, we have come a long way but we still have a lot that we can work on. Men and women still aren’t paid equally and that isn’t fair because the same amount of hard work is done by women as it is by men. In our culture, when women decide to stay home and rais their children, it is looked down upon by certain people but in Indigenous culture, the women took care of their kids and were seen as important because they were shaping their kids to be good ad learn how to do certain things and grow up to be strong individuals. 

It was interesting to see how that so early on, there was a group of people that viewed women to be equals with the men. I was surprised that even though the women didn’t do such laborious jobs that their jobs of keeping the food, home and children intact was just as important as hunting and building. For us, when women would stay home to clean, cook and care for children it was seen as not as important because they weren’t the breadwinners of the family.

Blog 3: Indigenous Matriarchal Roles

Contrary to europeans culture, the indigenous culture wasn’t patriarchal but matriarchal, in indigenous culture there was no such thing as gender. Both genders were equally important to sustain a balance in native America society. Indigenous culture rested in being matriarchal which allowed both genders to have an active role in their society. The two went hunting and shared an important role in the tribe. In other ways, the text mentions how men could take a decision without consulting their wife’s beforehand. Making so that they are included when it comes to having a choice in important matter instead of being brushed away in like in European culture where men lead, and women followed without being able to say anything. In other aspects European women were seen as unfit to lead which is why there was a lack a woman in power at that time.

What stood out to me the most from reading this text was how important women are in indigenous culture which is something unthinkable in Europeans culture. Where you were raided to believe that men are responsible for everything and that they must all they can to provide. While the women were more of a stay at home and prepare what the men bought. This way of thinking is why for a long-time woman were seen as the housewife and the men the provider. If Europeans had adapted the first nations way of thinking, then maybe today we would see should a cap when it comes to men and women.  

European culture is still very dominate in modern society, but due to improvement and new ideologies like equal right, more and more women have a voice and important powerful roles in society. The more the time passes from the colonialist mindset the more opportunity and changes appear for women to be placed as equal to men.

Blog 3: Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period

After reading “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period” I learnt a lot regarding how societies were organized. There is an obvious difference between the European and the Indigenous culture. More specifically, there is a huge difference in equality within genders.

At the very beginning, the Indigenous culture was mainly matriarchal societies. It wasn’t until their population began growing that men became an important part of the society. For some indigenous groups, these men were even chosen by the women! However overall, the indigenous society followed an egalitarian structure. Men had responsibilities to fulfill but so did women. All tasks were distributed equally. Both men and women were appreciated for the work they did, without taking their gender into consideration. Because of this, men didn’t have a higher power over women. People were treated as equals.

For the indigenous society, their way of living seemed completely normal. It wasn’t even something that was spoken about because this is what worked best for them. Why would they discriminate women when they all needed to work together to have an organized society? Unfortunately, this changed quickly upon the arrival of the Europeans. This equality between genders was a shock to them. They were used to a patriarchal society, and they wanted to implement this mindset on anyone who lived differently. They believed that women would have no say or vote in what was decided. For example, marriage wasn’t a commitment to someone you loved. Marriage was a social institution. Women were not seen as equals with men but instead as someone who will obey men and not have a voice.

This European mindset is still seen today. However after lots of hard work, determination, and sacrifice, some aspects have changed over time . It’s still going to a lot to have an equal society, and while that may sound discouraging I believe someday in the far future the European mindset will be completely faded from our culture.

Blog 3: Indigenous Gender Roles

According to the text, “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period” gender in Indigenous cultures was very equal in comparison to the Western World. Men were usually in charge of hunting large game and warfare. On the other hand, women still played an important role by trapping animals and fishing. They prepared the food every night and made clothing for their family. They made sure their families had shelter and took care of the kids. The major leaders were usually men, however women’s opinions and perspectives were heard and respected on important decisions. In some cases, such as the clans along the Great Lakes, the husband lived with the wife’s family and contributed to it by giving them the meat that he would catch hunting during the day. Once the animals were caught; the women of the longhouses would decide how the meat would be split and prepared. In other clans, women were symbolic figures in religious ceremonies, and they would perform the Sun Dance. Another aspect that is brought to the table throughout the paper is gender relations. For example, gender relations were very important for the Innuits of northern Quebec. Bonds came together during winter and would intermarry to forge stronger partnerships which would lead to cooperation and mutual support. These bonds depended on gender relations and were only possible through those marriages. Gender relations were also important during New France. The French civil law was a powerful way of bearing o gender relations. They created les Filles du Roi which was a system that allowed unwanted women in France to move to New France and marry the men living in the New World.

There were similarities between the Indigenous people gender roles and the Western World gender roles. Just as the Natives, women in New France were not as important as men, however they did play important roles in society. For example, nuns were very important because of their major role in the development of education, social services, medicine and many more. I mentioned before how Indigenous men were masters, however the women’s opinions were heard. It was the same case in the Western World, however only for women of high rank. High class women had informal political power which meant they gave their advice on a situation to their husband who was the leader. Women had administrative and estate duties, however had no leader power. To continue, there were many differences between the Indigenous people and the Western people. Women in Aboriginal societies had more status and authority than most European counterparts. The Western World follows a patrilineal and patriarchal lifestyle which is very different from Indigenous beliefs. Also, it was okay for men to have more than one wife which was against religion for Europeans. Another aspect that shocked the Western people was the fact that sex before marriage was normal for the Natives and they could choose their own spouse.

Aspects that struck me the most were in the section of the Indigenous people who lived along the Great Lakes. They adopted political systems to their societies and had a confederacy council made up of only men. No female took part in this political system; however, the men were chosen by senior women. What impressed me was the fact that women were in charge of choosing who was worthy of those high positions. Females had a considerable status and authority with matrilineal societies which meant that the descent was traced by female line. Also, women had a high power in the longhouses because of their vital role in life which was the capability of reproducing. Another aspect that surprised me was how important buffalos were for the people living in the Interior Plains. Men oversaw hunting the large game and warfare. On the other hand, women oversaw buffalo economy and traditional healing.

Blog 3: The Good Old Days

Reading this article really reinforced my hope that one day the patriarchy will be dismantled and a more egalitarian and equal society will exist where women are just as important economically, socially, culturally and linguistically, as men. It has been done before – so why can’t it happen again?

There are some major differences to the more gender equal societies of past indigenous communities, to that of the patriarchal colonial system that we live within today.

Women of the Mi’kmaq people were incredible contributors to society, expected to fish and trap animals for food, set up and break their camp sites, prepared all the food and was responsible for feeding everyone as well as taking care of the children entirely.

Women today are beginning to champion their independence more and are taking on more societal responsibilities as feminism take effect. But these changes are recent and are still only in their infant stages. Typical family models are still based on patriarchal ideas and there is a definite difference of an individual mindset versus a community one. Society isn’t setup to support communities but rather the individual or pairs of individuals and makes it very hard for women to be able to support herself entirely where as the single man, or bachelor idea, is more popular and accepted as normal.

The Innu of Northern Quebec had societies that effectively balanced the gender relations and where “men’s and women’s roles were complementary and equally essential.” (Keough, Campbell 17) Western society enforces a standard that prevents something like this from happening. centuries of subordination and oppression makes it difficult for women to overcome the boundaries that enforce the binary divide.

The idea of Two Spirit really lifts my heart and makes me wish with all my might that it was a universal idea. Growing up as a Tomboy myself, I consistently felt pressured to adhere to certain ideas of what a girl was supposed to be. It is a pressure that has plagued me my entire life and I can’t help but wonder if the idea of “masculinity and femininity were accommodated in one body.” (Keough, Campbell 19) was a universal idea, then maybe I wouldn’t have had such a hard time and feel more comfortable with my gender expression and identity.


Campbell, Lara & Keough, Willeen G., “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early                Contact Period.”, Gender History: A Canadian Perspective, Oxford University Press. September 23rd, 2013.

Gender Equity in Indigenous Cultures

As Quebec teenagers, we all have experienced the boredom of attending history classes. From the young age of seven years old, we were taught how Quebec’s first inhabitants were indigenous people, we have learned how they lived and how they met the Europeans. All that was not very exciting when we were kids, because it was taught to us in such a monotonous tone that we could not help zoning out or falling asleep. But what if I told you that First Nation’s history is all but boring!

After reading the study ‘’Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period’’, I was reminded of the greatness of the First Nations. Every single aspect of their society was carefully organized to assure the common good. Roles would be separated between men and women not based on gender, but on abilities. Men and women had different responsibilities to fulfill, and these tasks completed each other. There was a great number of different civilizations and all of them had different ways to hierarchize society, separate powers and roles, and of pass down heritage, yet, almost all of them gave a big place to the women in society. They were fair. For example, in the Iroquois civilization, the women decided how to distribute the meat that was hunted and brought to the matrilocal household by the men. Such content in one sentence! This is so different from what we know! In our society, men do not bring what they worked for to the families of their spouses and then, let their spouses decide on how to use it. Because in the indigenous civilizations women are treated with a great amount of respect and work in partnership with men, I had this illusion that women were praised and put on a pedestal and what not, because in my head such equity in a society is unimaginable. Let’s take our Canadian political system for instance. Yes, women have the right to participate in the political sphere of society, but we have been socialized to believe that the country should be led by men. BUT WHY? The Iroquois Clan chiefs were chosen by the elderly women, who were well respected, and their society worked very well might I say. Why, at a moment in history, did people start stripping women of their capabilities?

The European settlers had a very different view of gender than the aboriginal people. They had this very anchored idea that women were delicate beings unable to handle hard work, she was subordinate to the husband and had to obey him. All concepts of ‘partnership’ and ‘working together’ and ‘using each other’s different talents to complete each other’ are completely lost. Women in position of authority belonged to the church and were still under a male figure of authority superior to theirs. Public life, private life, all was ruled by men. Horrible. Stupid. Pointless. The worst part is that, marginalizing their own women was not enough! They had to come to the American continent and forcefully brainwash the aboriginal people into believing that all that nonsense was true! I am glad that, in the documentary we saw of the Wet’suwet’en, their spokesperson is a woman. To me, this means that colonialism was not strong enough to whipe out all ancestral beliefs and traditions and it gives me hope.

Blog 3: How gender developed over the years.

Unlike what I thought, gender equality existed since the beginning, since indigenous people. Back then, power was distributed equally between men and women, each of them had their own different responsibilities and work to do that completed one another in the end. They were both appreciated and known for what they do, if anything, women were a bit more appreciated in their work than men. While reading the “Gender and culture diversity in the early contact period”, it surprised me a little how we can tell that there was not a lot of problems in that time, everyone was satisfied with what they have and gender problem did not exist and men did not mind for women to be in charge.

With that being said, when the European came, everything has changed. They did not like how women and men were given equal rights and decided to change that. In their time, men and women did not share power but men had it all. Men were in charge of all the tasks and everything had to go the way they wanted it to. I have to say that, what struck me the most was when they said that marriage was not based on a personal choice but it was a social institution. How can anyone spend their life with someone they do not love nor have feelings for. It is really hard to think how that went and harder to think that it still goes in some countries.

After years, women decided to do something about this inequality and wanted to adjust it like how it was with indigenous people. After years of not being listened to and being ignored, they finally have what they wanted. We can not say it is everywhere around the world but a lot of countries started to give women their rights and equal power. So even after being under the control of men for too long, they are finally free now. And once again, in some parts in the world there is no gender problem.