Indian Women

Throughout history, the roles of women have been important in shaping society. Indian Women are pioneers in the making of Native American Culture. As primary caregivers for their children and the elderly, Native American women were also acknowledged as leaders in tribal communities. While the men hunted, women would manage the structure of family. They built and dismantled tepees the families lived in. Food, clothing and shelter were the focus in the lives of Native American Women as they maintained many roles. They were diligent in planting, cultivating and preparing food. To make fine corn meal a flat thin rock called a Mano was used to grind corn. Early in life girls worked with their mothers learning the art of making jewelry, pottery, tools and basket weaving. Skilled in the crafting clothing ornaments, Women would also collect firewood and water as part of their daily responsibilities.

In many Native American Communities women had powerful influence. They carried political status to nominate and recall chiefs in position. Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American Woman M.D., was regarded as the leader by her Omaha tribe whom she had devoted her life to, according to the website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (1998). Indian Women also determined the number of children to rear and could make the decision to divorce. The role of medicine woman was held in the highest regard. This position of prestige was held by a woman that had an inherited the right to practice healing. Herbs, berries and plants were used with secrets passed down from generations.

Though midwives were common in many tribes, it was customary for the women to go off alone to give birth. Many women died during the birthing process. Precautions to prevent this were taken during pregnancy that included special diets and changes in daily activities. Faith and spirituality were an important in the daily life for Indian Women. Prayer for the abundance of food, good health and safety of their tribes were traditions that helped them remain grounded.

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