The opening anecdote shows a French missionary astonished by the fact that women have so much power in an aboriginal society. It shows how our worldviews and cultures affect the roles of each gender for each society. In New France, for the Catholics, men had a god-given right to be the more powerful gender which gave them most, if not all, control on the women in their lives. That anecdote ends with the Jesuits telling the aboriginal man that men were the masters and in France, the women do not rule the husbands. This shows not only how colonization affected certain cultures with the arrival of new thoughts but also how we view our own worldviews as the “right” worldview more often than not.
Every indigenous group had economic activities that stemmed from what environment they lived in. However, most groups were hunter gatherers. The Mi’kmaw society were egalitarian, something found commonly in hunter gatherer groups. Very interestingly, they also had governmental structures that away laid beyond just the level of the individual. The Innu had a sexual division of labor even with food. Yet, these divisions played as complementary parties and both parts were essential for the group. The men hunted large game and the women, the smaller game, and yet its known that the women’s game provided more than half of the food supply for the community. I also found it really striking that both men and women had the right to become shamans. It’s very well known that the religious beliefs in animosity are strong in indigenous groups, and for women to hold the same influence as men in the domain of the supernatural and the natural shows how important and respected women have been for indigenous tribes.
Iroquoians not only matrilineal but also matrilocal. Men were expected to go and live with the families of their wives as the women were in charge of the longhouses and the distribution of food supplies among everyone. The more I read about these different ways of living, I noticed similarities and differences with our Western culture. Nowadays, some women still take care of the finances in their households even if the man might be the breadwinner. Sadly, it’s quite clear that our societies are very far from egalitarian, not only because of social class inequalities but also from gender inequalities being very present. A man and a woman might do the same high paying, prestigious job and yet the man will get paid more. Of course, women who’ve been following the more Western traditions have gained much more liberty and rights like voting, right to divorce, etc, but I truly believe we have along way to go. Women in the US now are facing troubles with the right to get legal abortion being under threat. Overall, I think we could learn a lot from indigenous tribes that don’t put women above men, but rather at the same level.