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.

One thought on “Gender Equity in Indigenous Cultures

  1. I understand what you meant by “They had to come to the American continent and forcefully brainwash the aboriginal people into believing that all that nonsense was true” yet I think that the ideology during that time and the actions taken against women were not considered “horrible”. It was instead considered “normal” and the free will and power were given to women by other civilizations was considered “abnormal”.

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