Indigenous American Women

by Brady

When reading Indigenous American Women the question of why Native American studies in general but indigenous women especially are such a minor part of our education became very clear to me. There are a few elements that pose a challenge for us as a public to learn and understand better Native American women’s history and get out from underneath the cloud of underrepresented and stereotypical thinking of this group of people.

The first of these issues is that the majority of the voices we hear from in regards to this group of people are much skewed with prejudice from white males in literature and the media. First of all a large portion of the writings on Native American women come from the view point of white males. As stated in chapter five; “Throughout American history, white writers, politicians, and military men have authored biased works that describe Natives as being among the lowest forms of life” (25). From the beginnings of our country powerful men such as Theodore Roosevelt have depicted natives as horrible sub-humans. The stereotypes of natives started in the 18th century and have been passed down through writings by powerful white males. Mihesuah states that Native women are the best people to describe what it means to be a Native because they are “those who live it” (29). However they are rarely the ones who are telling the stories as they are instead told by the media, authors, and politicians who continue to further darken their story. As usual in history the story of these women is being told from the viewpoint of the victors. How can we as a public better understand Native American women’s history when the majority of the teachings are from these groups? “My background as a woman, as a woman of color, and as an indigenous woman of color has exposed me to a great deal of prejudice” (144). These prejudices have carried into the workforce whether it is literary or media outlets and have limited the true voices that we need to hear from. Chapter 5 states this perfectly by saying that “Most minority women scholars know that the academic playing field is not always level when it comes to race and gender” (22). Until the voices teaching us about these women come from indigenous women themselves, Native American women’s history will continue to be underrepresented.

The second issue posing a challenge to this part of history is the fact that a majority of the studies on indigenous women are based on theory. Milhesuah states it best in regards to a group of graduate students by saying, “how these graduates could call themselves Indian Historians if they had not worked with specialists in the field of Indian History” (26). The majority of our Indian Historians are learning theories that are taught by non-Natives and then trying to apply the theories to every situation (27). This is how universities are teaching Native study students and these students are then going on to teach the rest of us. The public than believes their teachings to be true which in most cases is far from the truth. Writing and learning about Native women is not an easy task as indigenous tribes take great pride in their culture and traditions and getting first person information like talking to Native women face to face is key in becoming truly educated. Milhesuah states “ but if they are allowed to enter the lives of Natives, they should be forewarned that interviewing Natives is very time-consuming, that interviewers must be sensitive to the privacy and self-respect of those women, and that their project must be important to the women whose voices they utilize” (8). In today’s academic world of quick internet searches and fast past education the necessary steps of studying indigenous women are skipped.

In the end I believe that the two main factors that are hindering us from gaining a better understanding of Native American women’s history are that the voices we hear from on this subject are prejudice and just happen to be in power and a majority of the historians who teach this topic are misinformed using theories. Until these problems are fixed Native American women’s history will continue to be a history not known to many.          

Indigenous American Women

by Matt

Native Americans have in general have taken a backseat throughout the study of history. Native American women have been even more overlooked than the others. The challenges of writing about Native American women are very specific and scholars each have their own take on what they believe should be included in the writing about Native American women. One of the biggest struggles and challenges that writers face is that scholars see the only purpose of writing about Native American women is for entertainment purposes. This is extremely negative light to write in. it basically states that there is no purpose what so ever in writing about Native women other than for just the sheer enjoyment of the people who are reading it. The women played no significance in the culture or the history of the individual tribes is what many of the scholars are basically saying when stating that Native American women’s histories only purpose is to be there to entertain the masses. Could you imagine if somebody was to say that the only purpose of studying the thirteen colonies was just for fun or we only learned and study about certain peoples’ cultures when we are bored and have nothing better to do with our time?  Native American women would play major roles in most if not all of the Native tribes. Women would play roles in economics, politics, and religion and play powerful social roles as well.[1] Native American women do not always find their way into the history books but that is not to say that they cannot. Sacagawea is the most famous Native woman that is learned about at the high school level. Without her abilities chances are Lewis and Clark would have never been able to reach the west coast of the United States. There is a lot that Native women of today take from their ancestors in how to be strong confident women and the roles that they play. Part of understanding someone else’s culture is to immerse one’s self into the culture and learn all about it. Women are a large part of cultures and to say that the only reason to study them is for entertainment is an insult to the women of the native tribes.

One large reason that challenges the understanding the history of Native American women is that as women of color they are overlooked a great majority of the time. There is very little known about the day to day lives and relationships that Native American women had with their families and neighbors. Men have always take a priority seat over women in terms of being studied and being remembered in the history books. Women though have played major roles in the lives of those men though and many played a part in making key decisions. It is hard to learn about a particular part of a culture if you completely ignore the existence of that part. Colored women have always had that challenge. Unless you have done something beyond extraordinary, chances are that you will be left out of the history books. Men have many ways to make it in, whether it is being a soldier or a great politician or an inventor or any way that makes even the smallest ripple. Women have to be radical and push for things to be drastically different.

Another one of the challenges that women face is that they are not even asked about their role or their history.[2] Historians and scholars continually ignore the use of Native oral accounts and will continually use only written documents. If a historian had the opportunity to talk with a person who fought in a major World War II battle or read an article or book by somebody who was not even there, they would speak to the veteran every time and listen to his story. So why is it not the same for Native American women? The scholars will not even use literature or poetry as a source. All three of these care major players in understanding particular culture’s past. Mihesuah does a great job by including an interview between her and Deborah Maloney-Pictou.[3] That is a key process in actually understanding Native American women’s history.

These two challenges make it very hard to study the role of Native American Women and thus many times it is overlooked all together.

[1] Mihesuah. Devon Abbott, Indigenous American Women. (Lincoln. University of Nebraska Press.) 163

[2] Mihesuah. 4

[3] Mihesuah. 130

Colonialism and a failure of education

by Monica

There are many challenges facing a broader public understanding of Native American women.  The most obvious is the effect of colonialism, both on the mindset of the Natives and the non-natives who are looking to learn about the culture; the second and less apparent challenge is the inability of the educational spectrum to accept oral histories as essential tools for understanding Native American women and their culture as a whole.

Mihesuah argues in the introduction of her book that native women are very concerned with keeping traditional female roles and ideologies alive despite the century’s long pressure to Westernize.  It is due to this fear of the colonial Christian culture that persuades Native women to keep quiet around researchers and indirectly contributes to current misperceptions.   “Native women have survived the “good intentions” of women reformers… that attempted to help Indian peoples by pushing assimilation, education and Christianization” by refusing to share with outsiders all the secrets and emotional bonds that separate them as both women and an indigenous culture. (xii)  White outsiders, especially female, are viewed by Native women as privileged at the expense of the Native peoples and they see any attempt by non-natives to gain information as mere means to further exploit Native women for their own causes.  Native’s feel Colonialism put a class system and a gender gap on them and they have spent years trying to undo the parasite of acculturation.

Additionally, the researchers themselves come equipped with intrinsic Colonial ideologies that further hide the truth about Native American women.  Prior to contact most Native populations were governed and situated very equally between women and men; however post-contact many women felt lost as Christian roles and patriarchal mentalities threatened to reshape their identities and drastically contest their influence within the tribe. Therefore, when non-native scholars investigate the Native American woman they tend only to see her from the Christian doctrine of gender hierarchy they are accustomed to and most write from a patriarchal standpoint with a white feminist perspective that vastly underrates the realities of Native women.  They tend also to lump Native women into one group when they are in actuality as diverse as white women in values, color, backgrounds, beliefs and motivations.  Even Native female art is viewed by non-natives in ways they want to perceive it both emotionally and in terms of utility.  Mihesuah went on to claim that this necessity to see native peoples in terms of colonial interpretations is personal and many times political in scope and the horror of the whole challenge is that today native women are beginning to pretend to be just as the non-natives are depicting them in terms of meaning and cultural identity.

Another cause for the mystery behind Native women is the educational system in the United States has placed a huge emphasis on classifying Native Americans according to the documents and books written by colonialists and those influenced by Western notions of manifest destiny wherein very few use the women themselves as sources of information. The literature primarily depicts Native females as ornamental beauties or mere concubines and most writings are devoid of the voices of Natives themselves and fail to connect the pre-colonial past with the present.  What Mihesuah argues is that there needs to be more emphasis on personal accounts of Native history and the only way to understand the way it was is to listen and document oral interpretations of the Native female culture from women living in the present.  Current writings analyze the Native women using “Eurocentric standards of interpretation and by omitting Natives’ versions of their cultures and histories” (5). The understanding that history must be objective and include only documented provable evidence prohibits outsiders from truly contemplating the accounts of Native American women.  A reciprocal and practical dialogue is the only way to do an accurate historical piece on Native American women according to Mihesuah, and although very time consuming the researcher must also be a compassionate and sensitive interviewer and respect the tribe, family and fears of the female subjects.  It is impossible to fully understand the Native woman without using oral histories as definitive sources on the subject of cultural study.  The past does effect the present and for Native women the past can only be comprehended through listening to the lessons and stories of antiquity.

While there are many challenges to interpreting the history of Native American women, all are easily overcome if the researcher is willing to suspend their inherent Western monocultural, ethnocentric perspective and allow for personal accounts to not only contribute but form the basis of their historical perspective.



Indigenous American Woman

by Tre

This assignment asks a great question pertaining to the outlook of our history. Which two factors pose the greatest challenge to a broader public understanding of Native American women’s history? Indigenous women especially are such a minor part of our education became very obvious to me. I believe we can all start off by agreeing that, when it comes down to the two different factors, it becomes real bias by not giving both sides of the story.  I feel that it all comes down to who it is that is explaining the situation. Throughout history all we ever see is men telling the story, you rarely if ever see any women telling their own side of the story. Even more traditionally there are usually white me telling the story, and the media and books are usually written by white males as well. The second factor I personally believe posts a greater challenge to a broader public understanding is the fact that the people who study Native American women base their findings on theories and not actual evidence or facts. Our society when it comes to history has always been like this, and it is coming to the forefront to historians now a days. People are starting to finally realize the bias, and more women stories are being put out in history, some changing history as we speak in major ways. A the general stories you where use to hearing are changing drastically because the women and their sides of the story gives another outlook on things.

To speak on the first issue, back to what I said my first factor was, the majority of people who already have a prejudged idea of predominantly the white male, but have also been prejudged by many other races as well. Most of history is written by a white males, politicians and army men. History about Presidents, and history about all the wars are told by the white man. History has a lot more to offer if it was told by multiple cultures because more information would be provided. America holds back a lot of information from society, making people more bias to hearing any other story of history, from what they already have learned. Through these one sided stories we, as a nation have built up the bias that Native Americans are at the bottom of the food chain so to speak. As time goes on, these stories are passed down through generations still being told by the white man.

The second issue posing a challenge to this part of history is the fact that a majority of the studies on indigenous women are based on what people have heard, believed or off of a basic theory. Milhesuah states it best in regards to a group of graduate students by saying, “how these graduates could call themselves Indian Historians if they had not worked with specialists in the field of Indian History” (26). If you think about it, the history that the Indian historians is more than likely being taught the information by people that are not even natives, people that never have even went through and understood the material, just basing things off the theories. For example, that’s just like me as a African American trying to teach another person about the Asian culture or history. Yes, I might have a pretty good understanding about Asian history but most of my research is based off theories that I too had to learn at some point (27). This is how universities are teaching Native study students and these students are then going on to teach the rest of us. It becomes a chain reaction, theories on top of theories. This causes people to start becoming bias to one story, believing they are true when in reality, if a real native American was to come along and actually tell there side of the story, the entire story could possibly change. The native American culture a tough culture to write about because there are not a lot of history books with an actual native American narrating the book. The only way to teach and educate students is getting the inside scoop on things by receiving that insight from an actual Native American woman.

This book was interesting and helped provide me with a lot of information. It goes to show how drastically our society is changing to reach out to other cultures, hearing them out and inputting there information to our history.

Two most influential factors

by Kyle

There are numerous factors impacting the challenge to a broader public understanding of Native American Women’s history. The two most influential are the residual effects of colonialism on the relationships between Native Americans and European Americans and the mediums for which historical information is transferred from generation to generation. Colonialism created lasting negative effects on Native American cultures and Christian culture’s view of Native Americans. Native Americans are aware of the past relations with Christian cultures and some are resistant to sharing their cultures with anyone tainted by the Christian ideals. Christian culture does not believe in the validity of oral history, so the biases of the Colonial age still linger in the documentation of Native American history today.

Colonial Americans forced Christian culture on Native populations affecting tradition amongst the native tribes in the form of confusion within the gender roles of women. Mihesuah argues that Native American Women lost their prominent roles in their tribes as the Native American Men were drawn towards the benefits of a patriarchal society. The effects of this culture clash vary from tribe to tribe and woman to woman. Mihesuah makes note that Native American cultures are not transposable with one another. She says, “there is no such thing as the culturally and racially monoliths Native woman.” Today’s Native American Women range from full blooded culturally orthodox women to “mixed-heritage” and/or  “mixed-blood” women who retain some cultural values but have combined them with the Christian culture. Both see themselves superior towards the other and this conflict can span between tribes and even within families.

Full blooded Native American Women view themselves as unblemished and true to their culture. Their close relatives or even their children who have left the reservation and indoctrinated Christian culture into their lifestyle, such as the use of technology or the written word, creates a lack of trust between the family members. Full blooded Native Americans feel they are “more Indian” then the mixed-heritage “sellouts.” This expressed concern to avoid dilution of traditional values creates a cultural gap making it difficult for the broader public of the primarily Christian cultured America to study Native American history. The only chance for oral history to be transferred to written language for Native American Historians is through the mixed-heritage Native Americans. The obstacle between full blooded and mixed heritage remains a challenge to overcome due to a lack of trust.

The mixed-heritage Native Americans feel they are part of a “superior class” given their white blood. However, the mixed-heritage Natives were riddled with the struggles of the dichotomy of the two cultures. Away at college, Native Americans would play the role of the Christian culture. They would read history as written from the perspective of the Colonial Powers who create an image of an inferior race being civilized. Their college professors would reject the validity of oral history. Oral history is not objectionable in the western culture because there is no provable science behind personal accounts. The western style of history, therefore, is comprised of written word. The written word being authored by members of the western culture creates a bias towards Native American culture. Mihesuah describes the western method of pursuing historical knowledge as being strongly exaggerated due to this bias and the historians will approach interviews with a set goal in mind.

When mixed-heritage Native Americans return to their respective tribes they would play the part of a Native American in accordance with the traditions of their tribes. The knowledge they learned at college would be invalid in the eyes of their peers and families because of the break in traditional education. Native Americans are fully aware that the Christian culture looks upon their traditions as crazy and when approached by a Historian, they are hesitant to divulge their culture.

The greatest challenge

by Gaby

The greatest challenge to a broader understanding of Native Americans is the education college students are receiving on the culture, which leads to another key challenge, successfully communicating with Native Americans themselves. Chapter five, In the Trenches of Academia, Mihesuah discovers that students aren’t learning to experience and relate to Native American culture, “I raised the question of how these graduates could call themselves ‘Indian historians’ if they had not worked with specialists in the field of ‘Indian history.’ The answer came in one statement that illustrates the problem of academic elitism: “Unlike professors at other universities, I teach them to be theoretically informed!”…This departmental theorist believes that an understanding of the theories of elite scholars, (many of whom have never met a Native), is adequate for anyone to understand, interpret, and categorize the life experiences and belief systems of people from other cultures.”

So, rather than becoming experts through fieldwork and hands on experience, students are typically learning of a culture through dry lectures and distant observation. This kind of education does not bring understanding or passion to life. So neither the students nor the general public are receiving a proper education on the cultural history or present day struggles and lifestyles of Native Americans. Even Native American students get stuck in the trap of a dry education that does not inspire change or activism. “Away from home and the security of family, young Natives look to their professors for guidance and knowledge. Because most of their professors are non-Natives with little firsthand knowledge of the realities of tribal life, the students have few role models to emulate.” (pg. 33).

Education is not only lacking in the subject of Native American culture, but also in understanding people like Mihesuah and other people claiming to be ‘activists’ and ‘feminists’. Many do not understand their goals and see them as militant and disruptive in a negative way. They are threatened by the change these individuals are attempting to evoke.  On another note, as we see in chapter 12, Feminists, Tribalists, or Activists?, many of those advocating for Native Americans do not identify with those titles being used negatively against them. “Not every Native woman has the same ideas about what feminism or activism means. A Hopi student commented…that she does not refer to herself as either a feminist or an activist.” (pg. 160).

Because of this poor training, students and the general public are not learning how to properly communicate, creating a tension between cultures. Historically, our government and society have shown a huge lack of concern over maintaining and respecting tribal culture causing Native Americans to be guarded and on the defense. This can be particularly seen with women, who are no longer “honored like they once were” (pg. 34). Abuse in all aspects is common and targeted toward women in ways that men do not experience. Thankfully this works in a positive way with women getting more involved in their local government and sending their children off to get a proper education.

But in order for things to really change the education system needs to change its approach. Professors should be encouraging students to practice activism, and fieldwork, and to create relationships with individuals, families, and tribes. “Native graduates will return to their tribal communities so they may utilize their education to help their tribes govern themselves without interference from the federal government. When Natives create their own destinies they also create self-esteem, confidence, emotional and financial security, and respect for others. By becoming informed, they also become empowered.” (Pg. 33)

Two factors

by Jon

The two factors I believe pose the greatest challenge to a broader public understanding of Native American women’s history are language and education.

The American conception of education has disenfranchised Native Americans. The two major reasons that prove this claim stem from the book. The first reason is historic Indigenous schools. The second reason is constructs of academia/university.

First, schools set up to educate Native American youth prioritized white colonial culture. Teachers, administrators, and the curriculum held certain expectations of what was considered “valuable” and what ought be taught. Milesuah explains, “The teachers also relentlessly reinforced the importance of learning and retaining values of white society. At the same time they repressed Cherokee values, thereby causing confusion among the more traditional students” (Pg. 67). This contradiction in value was confusing to native students. The author argues that many Indigenous people felt torn and abandoned by both cultures. These schools specifically disenfranchised indigenous women, thus, were a major challenge to a broader public understanding of Native American women’s history.

Second, current academic traditions and trends marginalize a greater understanding of Native American women’s history. Milesuah argues the concept of academic theory is divisive, “theory has become a commodity which helps determine whether we are hired or promoted in academic institutions” (Pg. 27). Milesuah goes on to argue, that successful native scholars are indoctrinated and lose their sense of indigenous identity. She explains, “instead of becoming culturally responsible, many scholars – often those in power positions – remain firmly ensconced in a colonial mindset, teaching their course from a monocultural, ethnocentric perspective, while at the same time becoming intolerant of anyone who might have a different vision” (Pg. 25). This problem uniquely mystifies a broader public understanding of Native American women. Successful male and female scholars are torn between the colonial culture that defines their success and their original indigenous culture that links them to their heritage.

Native American languages have and are under attack. The text argues that only 175 languages remain from the 300 (or more) that existed at the time of contact (Pg. 149). The two major reasons that prove this claim stem from the book. The first reason is historic treatment of the language. The second reason is the English languages ability to subsume other languages.

The first reason is historic Indigenous schools. The second reason is constructs of academia/university.

First, Indigenous schools – as mentioned earlier – prioritized the white culture over native culture. This prioritization resulted in a loss of native languages from indigenous youth. Many learned English and in learning English lost their native tongue. These schools propagated the idea that learning English was the only necessary language. Milesuah articulates, “through attendance at boarding schools, intermarriage, and exposure to the non-Indian world, many young Natives have lost interest in tribal cultures, and many do not see the need to learn their languages” (Pg. 149).

Second, the English language has the ability to take over and manipulate other words. This ability makes English a potent language. When English consumes the vernacular of secondary languages it reduces the need for these secondary languages. For example, our state name of Idaho. This is a native word that English consumed. Other words include: chipmunk, moose, hickory, chocolate, tomato, cocaine, kayak. This decrease in native languages is not unique to North/Central/South America. For example, the Basque language has also declined in speakers. A characteristic shared by both language groups is both nations – Basques and Native Americans – suffered from imperialist nation-states. Conclusively, it seems that self-determination is linked cultural preservation. Cultures that lack the capacity to determine their own future lose their language, culture, and h

Indigenous American Women Extra Credit

by Victoria L.

 The Native American tribes that survived Manifest Destiny encountered relentless roadblocks from the U.S. Government and various religious establishments, which prevented them from adequately preserving their culture and language. There are two significant components that affected women of Native American ancestry: the suppression of a tribe’s mother tongue and the inferior education system both on the reservations and off.

In the past Native American children typically achieved an education away from the reservation at a boarding school; where they experienced substandard instruction and abusive treatment from their teachers. Presently issues still exist in regards to providing an adequate version of Native American history, though the cases of abuse are not as prevalent. Many mainstream schools still teach their students a very biased and ill-informed history of the Native Americans. “Modern indigenous mothers still must carefully review their children’s textbooks for stereotypical images of Natives.”[1] Education is the place where children receive their first take of what the real world is like. Children experience more than just learning to read and write in the classroom, they also learn to socially interact with their peers and authoritative figures. Instead of being placed in an environment that encouraged the Native American students success, they were discriminated upon, abused, and thereafter discouraged from trying to actively participate in the conventional American society. Due to the inaccurate textbooks and pervasive stereotypes about the Native Americans, a large proportion of Americans have little to no understanding of what life is truly like for the indigenous people.  The author, Devon Abbott Mihesuah, a member of the Chactaw nation described a personal experience of prejudice when applying for a promotion, where she suggested that the panel she interviewed with scrutinized over her application far more than her white colleagues. [2] Despite having a college education, and actively working in her community, Mihesuah had to go to extra lengths to achieve her promotion. The fact that she had to prove herself better than the typecast Native American shows us how ignorant society is in regards to anything contrasting the normal American culture. The understated approach at teaching N.A. history has done future generations, whether they be Native American or otherwise, a major disservice. The textbooks, teachers, and media endorsed the hackneyed version of  U.S. History and the Native Americans participation as savages which permits the racist and stereotypical assumptions many Americans have towards Indigenous Americans. The U.S. Government also effectively destroyed nearly half of the languages that many of the tribes were founded on. A Santa Clara Pueblo named Tessie Naranjo explained, “Your world view is embedded in the language.” With that statement in mind, a culture can be lost without its language.

A culture is preserved in a great deal from its language, for many of the indigenous people, their methods of communication were maintained only through spoken word. Prior

to the first landing of the Pilgrims, there was a prodigious and diverse stretch of indigenous tongue being spoken across the nation, following it only 175 of about 300 survived.[3] Dixie Davis, a Yavapai who once attended a boarding school explained, “While there, when she attempted to speak her language she had her mouth washed out with soap, was given no food, and ‘they beat me up’”.[4] Davis recognized the importance of preserving her language and maintained it despite the repercussions. For the women who retained their mother tongue after leaving the boarding schools felt a deep sense of pride, which encouraged them to pass the language on to future generations. The Hopi women continue to play an active role in protecting their sacred culture. At the University of Arizona they have a youth program that promotes the use of “tribal languages as they learn arts and crafts. “[5]

Despite that a large portion of Native American heritage and culture was lost to the expansion of the United States, and the information that we do have available is often looked over or misinterpreted, it is still possible for the existing natives to band together and provide a more accurate look at history. If these tribes can survive the U.S.’s unceasing effort to disband them, then they can continue on and contribute the lacking representation of Native Americans in our history. Most textbooks provide little detail on the lives of women; the same is true in regards to the lives of indigenous women. The ball is now in their court to fill in the missing gaps, and correct the mistaken perceptions many Americans have of their history.

[1] Devon Abbott Mihesuah, Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003): pp 56.

[2] Mihesuah p. 24

[3] Mihesuah, pp. 149.

[4] Mihesuah pp. 149-150.

[5] Mihesuah pp. 152.

Which two factors. . .

by Layne

Which two factors pose the greatest challenge to a broader public understanding of Native American women’s history?

The two factors that pose the greatest challenge to understanding Native American women’s history is that the first factor would be is that Native American women are extremely educated, articulate and can do anything that their so-called white counterparts can do and probably do it to a much better degree.  The second factor would be to be able to overcome the radical, racial and gender stereotypes that Indigenous women have been plagued with for centuries.

Devon Abbot Mihesuah’s main argument for the first factor is that some Native American women are just as educated as their white peers.  She writes that many Indigenous women have taken the right steps to get the education that will put into the seats of higher learning and establish themselves as the experts in their chosen field.  She herself has done this and probably set the example for other Native American Women to do the same.  Another branch of this argument is that most Indigenous women are not looked upon as leaders, either in their fields of expertise or in the tribes themselves.  In chapter 11, Mihesuah states that women had very important roles early on like Alice Jemison, who was Seneca and Laura Kellogg, who was an Iroquois that fought for tribal rights.  The women could be compared to Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Nation (though probably not as extreme Nation) as pioneers for tribal rights.  Women in the 20th Century have carried on this tradition, like Wilma Mankiller, who was tribal chief of Oklahoma Cherokee nation.  This is probably the equivalent of be elected a Governor of a state, or other high office of leadership.  Native American women like these proves her argument that you can be placed in a position of leadership if you take the time and put forth the sincere effort that if any goal if worth reaching for it can be achieved with hard work and perseverance.

Since the “invaders” came to this land in 1492, Indigenous women have always been seen possessions and not for the qualities that they possess. They are breaking this mold and are now seen as women who are strong and educated and are closely tied to their heritage and their tribe. These women are the ones who have tried to preserve the ways and culture as best as they can and try to pass them down to the next generations of Native Americans.  On page 152, Mihesuah writes of two women, Marlene Printup and Mary Annette Clause.  These two Native women feel it is their duty to pass down the skills of beadwork to their children.  Clause said, “I feel it is very important to pass our culture along.”  This education and passing of culture is important in changing the stereotypes that have plagued this people for so long.  They are not what are termed by such a harsh, derogatory name called the “squaws”, they are a strong, noble race that has a strong, rich heritage.  The media still portrays Native American women as being white women wearing dark makeup and wearing a black wig, or like the Disney version of Pocahontas.  Mihesuah delved into this concept of the in accuracies that plague Indigenous women in the movies and television.  The white race has done little to stop this perpetuation of this perception.  But through activism, there have been Native American women that have formed production companies and are fighting the stereotypes that have plagued Native Americans for centuries.  More movies and television shows will be made to show Indigenous women in the proper and true light of how these women are changing things for their people and their tribes.

Only through a strong positive voice, activism and leadership will the plight of the Native American woman be looked at and re-evaluated.  All genders and races need to see the struggle that these women go through on a daily basis and can hopefully understand what they are truly going through.

Culturalism and Assimilation

by Tekinah

Upon contact with white Americans the Native American tribes have been confronted with many dynamisms that have threatened not only their culture but also their existence. The history of Native Americans on this land, dates back further than any other group of Americans. Unfortunately this history may cease to be cultivated and shared. Our text, “Indigenous American Women,” points to some very specific challenges that threaten this possibility. The two obstacles that I’ll be recognizing are, culturalism and assimilation.

The cannon of Literature is a vey rigidly controlled accreditation system that determines and validates what history is considered Literature. The works of Native Americans entering this vault would further the spread and understanding of Native American history, by allowing their acceptance and usage as literature into grade schools and colleges across this nation, however; Culturalism impedes this attempt by causing factions and quarrels over who is qualified as authentic Native Americans and who’s accurately informed when volunteering the information needed in telling the history of Native Americans. Cultralism, as defined by the author is, “forms of oppression that dovetails with racism” () This oppression occurs within tribes and is imposed by Native Americans onto other Native Americans. It’s founded upon the grounds of  “blood quantum and power. Culturalism either encourages assimilation and acceptance of western values as superior or it can instigate intertribal racism.  When Natives marry whites, they have the power and prestige to share whatever Native American history they wish, but they may lack the right traditional view to share it. On the other hand, when some of the Native Americans possess the knowledge of traditional Native American culture; if they are “mixed blood,” they are disqualified spokespersons because of their ratio of native to non-native blood.  With discouragement like that yielded by culturalism; this culture experiences a pronounced sifting process that leaves very few qualified Natives to help to broaden societal understanding.

Assimilation in and of its on accord is also a very threatening factor. Many of the tribes discontinue the use of their native languages and the practice of cultural rituals and religion all in attempt to assimilate to Western culture. Recorded in our text, “the Native languages are dying – of 175 languages, 50 are spoken by two or more generation, 70 are spoken only by elders, and 5 are spoken by less than ten persons” (.) Without one of the most crucial elements of understanding the culture and diversity of Native Americans, language; it is impossible to broaden or even preserve the culture. Although there are many Natives Americans that have completely abandoned the traditions of their culture, some of the older generations remain in touch with tradition and they remain loyal to it. With mild exception of their old age, which may not allow them to actively display their tribal dances any longer or articulate the history of their Native American culture, they are very well qualified to do so as traditionalist. However, even knowledge of the culture can not be relied upon heavily for increased awareness and understanding of the culture by the older generations of Natives, as many of them have witnessed and experienced the retributions of those that failed to adapt western culture thus, encouraging their own assimilation. The author recalls an interview with an elder of Native American culture saying; “Ten years ago I conducted an interview with a ninety –eight year old Cherokee woman. When I asked if she spoke Cherokee and attended stomp dances — a logical question considering that she was a full blood and descended from a prominent Cherokee leader she answered, Hell no, I’m no heathen”(.)

These two, culturalism and assimilation, both hinder understanding of Native American history. They lead to sub challenges including dispositions of inferiority of the culture in both society and academe; inferiority imposed by those that are natives and non-natives. As long as culturalism and assimilation are factors there will always be few Native Americans qualified to pen and advance this culture; leaving non natives to interpret and write about native history.