Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Indigenous culture were mainly matriarchal societies. When their population continued to grow, they started to develop certain political systems and social hierarchies that were mainly consisted of men, however, those men were almost always chosen by the senior women depending on certain indigenous groups. Essentially, both men and women were seen as equivalent and were both respected for their physical and mental abilities. Nobody was discriminated based on their skills and everyone had their own responsibilities and roles in society. For instance, men were seen as the hunters, the protectors and the chiefs of the community, while women also had fairly high authority and status and were equally taking into consideration.
European and Indigenous cultures are quite different in many aspects including, politics, economics, gender roles, etc. Back in the days, when France and England colonized the indigenous lands they started to make changes in their world views and forced the indigenous community to adopt a new mindset politically, economically and gender role wise. In the western culture, masculinity is greatly admired while, femininity is portrayed as weak and naive. For the french European newcomers, implementing their own patriarchal Christian cultures were based on a mindset were women back in their countries would have no say in an important decision making situation and were expected to play their “women role” in society which was cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children. Fundamentally, both the french and the english colonized the aboriginals and enforced a new regime where women were treated as inferior.
Moreover, the westernized culture is still quite similar today, not as severe as before. However, their are definite injustices between men and women in society. For instance, many of the political leaders of the country are men and most of the people in leadership positions whether its economically or politically tends to usually be men. One aspect that struck me in the Indigenous community is that it was mainly matriarchal, it is something quite surprising and to some extent refreshing to hear since we are so caught up in a world run by men that we tend to easily disconnect from our feminine energies at times. In the indigenous community, they treasured both male and female and regarded them as equivalent to society.
By: Vanessa. K
First of all, the cultures described in the text are very different from my culture. In French and English culture from that time, the woman was clearly a less important member of the society then the man. The women had very little freedom and had to listen to the husband that they can’t even chose. In French culture, women were oppressed and were considered less important then men, the only important women were the nuns, because the nuns were responsible for important institutions like the hospitals and the schools. Of course, in my culture, these things don’t really exist anymore. Women can choose who they want to marry and can decide pretty much everything concerning their life.
What stuck me the most about Indigenous culture is the fact that women could actually be more important then men in the family, because at that time, a woman to be more important then a man in the family was something unimaginable in the European culture. Also, women were equal to males and were very respected by everybody in the society. It’s very surprising, because even in our modern society, we have problems with equality between genders, but the Indigenous society from that time was more advanced in this aspect then the present Western world. So, our society should really learn and understand that women are just as important as men in the family and in the society.
Society should be a place where both men and women work together to make our world a better place. Women are just as important as men in a family and it’s something that everybody should understand. Through the years, the place of the women in the society changed a lot.
After reading the article “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period”, I have learnt not only more about the European laws at the time but also the structure of the Aboriginal’s society. For one, the main difference between the two societies (Aboriginal and European) is that the European society follows a patriarchal structure, whereas most of the Aboriginal societies follow a more egalitarian structure. Not only are women treated more equally within the Aboriginal societies, but they are also much more appreciated and respected than the women belonging to the European societies.
For instance, within the Mi’kmaw and Iroquoian societies, the women were not viewed/treated the same as the women within the European societies. Both the Mi’kmaw and Iroquoian societies emphasize the importance of women and their role in the societies function. In the Mi’kmaw societies the women’s duties included taking care of the children, set up camp, fish, cooking and most importantly their opinions were much desired when it came to big decisions. Whereas, in the Iroquoian women were responsible for often times choosing the men who would become apart of the Council. Nonetheless, even in the Iroquoian societies did women both have a lot of authority. Although both of these societies are matrilocal, they do share aspects within the patrilocal Aboriginal societies. In the sense, where both societies do not favor one gender over the other (like in the patriarchal structure), rather they are seen as equally important within their society.
One of the things that had surprised me about the Aboriginal societies is their belief of “two-spirits”. A concept by which can be explained as a person sharing both a feminine and masculine spirit in themselves. Not only did the fact that these ideals existed so long ago surprise me, but also the fact that they were accepting of such an ahead of the times way of thinking. Not only were those who were “two-spirited” accepted in their communities, they were praised. Later on taking important roles in their society (depending on the group), from being healers, seers or those who would teach traditions to future generations orally. We can see the contrast between the societies way of thinking as the Aboriginal societies had a more openminded way of thinking whereas the European’s society was very conservative. For example, in Aboriginal societies, having sexual relations before marriage was not seen as doing any harm, whereas in the European mentality, having premarital relations decreases your worth.
According to the text “Gender and Cultural diversity in the early contact period”, in Indigenous culture, gender wasn’t classified. In fact, both men and women were equal, no one was superior or inferior. Both men and women have their own roles in society. In indigenous culture, men hunt and gather, women take care of the children, prepare the meals and controlled the distribution of food in their communities. Both men and women could become shamans. Compared to Indigenous culture, European culture was different. Just like in Indigenous culture, men were also in charge of hunting and gathering and women of children, but the big difference is that women did not have power in society, they were not allowed to take any decision. A man was perceived as the ruler of the family.
Today, in Western Culture, the conception of gender changed. Now, Women are getting more right like example : the right to vote, to work, to divorce, etc. Although, there are still some inequalities between the two sexes like for example in some places, men are still getting paid more than women. Even though gender roles changed, people are still making stereotypes about men should be working and women staying at home. A lot of people think it is not “normal” to see a man cooking or taking care of the kids.
What struck me in the text is the part where the author said that in European cultures, the husband was considered as a firm and his wife had to obey him in all worldly matters. When I first read this part, I was shook and upset because back in the days, women were just seen as object, they did not have any authority and were not allowed to take any decisions. I was upset when I saw this part, because to me all of us are humans and we should all have the same rights. In some countries, men are still seeing superior to women and it is sad because in some places like in the Middle East or Asia, women do not have much freedom.
Early French colonizers had a vast masculine space. The only women know with power were nuns which were composed of women and played major roles in the development of the colony’s education, the medical department and social services. Marriage during those years was not a matter of personal choice based on romantic inclinations. The husband was the leader and the wife and children were to obey him. Even with the rule of the husband, he was unable to sell joint assets without consulting the wife.
Indigenous people were encountered during the early colonizer days by both the French and English colonies. Women in indigenous society had a lot of power over men, which the two colonies did not. Aboriginal women contributed to the labour and some even hunted small prey. Furthermore, they were given the right to decide for the entire community. Aboriginal people had the right to choose who they would marry based on their romantic relationships, they were also given the right to have sexual relationships before marriage.
Today, a lot has changed from the culture of indigenous people. Yet, some similarities have not vanished. Today, similar to the indigenous society, the woman has the right over the property she owns and can decide to share with her husband. Any financial decision made over it cannot be executed without the consent of the women. Personally, the fact that men were authorized to marry multiple women even when they possess such a strong role in that society struck me the most. I would think that women in such a society would keep a hold onto their husband, but on the contrary, they allowed them to have multiple relationships. Indigenous cultures show that women have always had an essential role in society and that the culture propagated by European countries which believes that women should not work and always be dominated by men is wrong.
According to the text “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period”, it states that in numerous indigenous cultures, the male and female roles were both equally important to their social structure. It mentions how the male would catch the larger game for their tribe whereas the women would catch the fish and sort the berries for their tribe. The text clearly mentions how important both the male and female roles are to the tribe, since they both contribute greatly to how the tribe functions and nourishes themselves. The text also mentions how in the indigenous culture, the male could and would not make any decisions without consulting their wife. This shows how they value the opinion of the women in their society.
In contemporary western culture, the gender roles have greatly improved. Women now have more rights compared to a couple years ago. However, women still do not get paid the same amount that a man does, for the same job which is something that should be resolved soon. This is a difference between the the indigenous culture and the contemporary western culture, because the wage gap shows how women are not completely seen equal to men. Whereas in the indigenous culture, the women and men are seen as equally important to their tribe and contribute the same amount of work that helps sustain their people.
Something that shocked me about this text was that in the indigenous culture, there is a sex-gender system called the “two-spirit”, where native people assume a third gender. In this term, the native person would fulfill both the masculine and female gender roles.