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.