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.