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Using LaDonna Harris, Gail Small, and Angela Gonzales as examples, discuss the role of women in Native American communities. Compare and contrast these roles with the roles of Western women. How do the roles of Native American women relate to balance and harmony? What role do women play in education and community decision making? How have women worked to improve community since colonization? What role have they played in decolonization?

Native American women have historically played similar roles in their communities to Western women, but they’ve had a bit more influence. Both have always maintained social order, and have historically been expected to maintain households. But for centuries, Western women weren’t expected to do much more, and still face criticism as leaders. In contrast, Native American women have historically played important roles in tribal governance and have had more say over how their communities are run.

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The women listed here show how Native American women have a respected level of influence in their communities.

Consider how they are all in leadership positions where they work to create positive social change. It is interesting to reflect on these women’s influential roles in their communities compared with the traditional roles of Western women. Now of course, there is a lot of variety in the work Western women do in their communities, and in recent decades there have been an increasing number of Western women in impactful leadership positions. However, for many generations women in Western society were not expected to work, let alone be powerful leaders, scholars, and social critics.

This history reflects how Western society, with its roots in European thought, places more value on the input of men than of women. Consider for example, how the few women in Western politics are critiqued by the media for how they dress, yet men are not. This shows how Western women are not respected as leaders to the same extent that men are. They have always played a crucial role in maintaining the day to day operations of daily life, but are often critiqued for going beyond that professionally.

Native American women also play a critical role in maintaining balance in their communities, and a part of this includes similar expectations to run households. However, Native American women have historically been given more influence in tribal governance, meaning that they have historically had more input over how their communities are run than Western women. It is important to note of course that the influence Native American women have historically had over their personal communities does not mean that they have faced less discrimination than Western women. It was after all the West that stole native land and committed atrocious acts of violence against Native communities.

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