Women (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Women have held more central and more powerful roles within Indian communities than outsiders have often realized, although in many cases their power was diminished after tribal contact with Europeans
The lives of Indian women have been as varied as those of any women. Not only have their experiences differed greatly among regions and tribes (and among individuals within those groups), but also Indian women’s lives have undergone significant changes historically, both before and after colonization.
Perhaps the most useful generalization one can make about Indian women is that they have often been overlooked and misunderstood by non-Indians. In popular films and novels, when included at all, Indian women typically have been depicted as more passive and less important than Indian men. Indian women have also often been missing from studies authored by historians and social scientists.
The few American Indian women who have gained widespread attention among non-Indians quite often have been those thought to have come to the aid of settlers. Probably the most famous of such women is Pocahontas, who popular legend has credited with saving the life of Captain John Smith and assisting the settlers of the Jamestown colony. In visual images of the colonial era, Pocahontas was used to embody the New World—imagined as a welcoming, feminine, and fertile body. Other women remembered by non-Indians for their...
(The entire section is 2473 words.)
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