Blog 3 : Aboriginal Gender Norms

”Gender and Culture Diversity in the Early Contact Period” discusses the culture of the diverse Indigenous communities living on the continent, in the early days of New France settlement, and emphasizes the importance, or lack thereof, given to gender in these communities. During that time, most Aboriginal groups were living off of hunting-gathering, fishing of agricultural practices, taking advantage of the multitude of resources around them. Both men and women took on over the work and shared the tasks. All of egalitarian attitudes, the continent was inhabited by a mix of matrilineal and patrilineal societies. Men were considered leaders in most cases, but women still occupied positions of authority and had the right to participate in the decision-making process of everyday life. Also, in some communities, both men and women could take on the role of shaman. In general, the distribution of power among gender differed greatly from one group to another, and most often than not, it was attributed based on lineage and past experiences rather than on one’s sex. A third gender called the ”two-spirit” also lived within some of these groups, but each had its own way of interpreting and understanding this reality. In most cases, these two-spirited individuals held particular cultural and social roles. Overall, men and women of Indigenous societies shared power and were seen as equals in most aspects of life.

When comparing these old ways of living to the modern western ones, I realize that there are as many differences as there are similarities. Indeed, even if women were seen as equals, just like us, men still held more power over women than women held over men. However, for a long time, this was not the case in western societies. Women’s work was seen as worthless, and they could not get the same job opportunities as men, even if they had better credentials than them and were more fit for the position. Also, everything in western culture has always been genderized, but never – or almost never – in aboriginal ones, and this is what has struck me the most. That, and their acceptance towards homosexuality. I feel like their way of living is so ordered and well put together, that gender should play a more significant part in their everyday life. I always thought that them living in harmony came from a system similar to our old one, where gender was put over skills. Otherwise, nothing else really struck me about Aboriginal communities since I learned a lot about them in a class I took last semester.

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