Resilience is Sifting a Cultural IdentityPresentation Transcript
Resilience is Sifting a Cultural Identity Transforming Perceptions June 7th Reno Charette American Indian Outreach
Sifting “Personal mediation – sifting-involves various layers of experience, some of which seem contradictory. While sifting can separate out uniform grains, it can also blend to gether disparate elements into a cohesive whole that has a richer flavor and texture than any of its original ingredients. [Indian women] sifted their experiences in order to preserve and refine essential ingredients;
“then they sifted these ingredients together to create their identities and values. By the same token, we can use [the life experiences of Indian women] to understand the uniqueness of [their] experiences and [their] culture, and we can blend these lives together to create a richer view of Native America.” Theda Perdue. Sifters: Native American Women’s Lives. Oxford University Press. 2001.
Essential Understanding: Federal Policy There were many federal policies put into place throughout American history that have impacted Indian people and shape who they are today. Much of Indian history can be related through several major federal policy periods. Examples: Colonization Period - Misconceptions of women’s roles Treaty Period - The role of women in war Allotment Period - Paternalism v.s. Matrilinealism Boarding School Period – Disconnect from traditions Tribal Reorganization - Women use Education, Activism Termination - Women Activist, Politicians, Leaders, urbanized Self-determination – Women Educators, Activist, Politicians, Leaders, Preservationist, Revitalizationist
Essential Understandings: Indian women There is great diversity among individual American Indians as identity is developed, defined and redefined by many entities, organizations and people. There is a continuum of Indian identity ranging from assimilated to traditional and is unique to each individual. Many Natives live in an urban setting. There is no generic American Indian. Squaw is NEVER an acceptable term.
The Old Woman who Tends the Fire of Life Oral traditions about creation and Creator. She weaves us together in the fabric of life. In tribal clan systems they are the ultimate authority in governance. Her benevolence spiritually crosses the universe to extend care and favor for her children. The community is intact if the sacred center (grandmother) is secure. Such as White Buffalo Woman of the Lakota, Grandmother Bundles of the Kiowa, and the Ceremonial Fire of the Cherokee.
Valuing Women Women in Creation Stories Women are central figures, creators, cooperative creators, namers of creation, also destroyers Women’s psycho-spiritual experiences Personal power, dreams, visions, spiritual empowerment Women at leaders and healers Female lineage may hold the rights to chieftainship Women as nurturers and teachers Women’s right to distribute the bounty of Mother Earth. Women as sacred The centrality of powerful women to social well-being is unquestioned.
Balanced Gender Participation In most gynocratic nations women were free of constraints typically found in patriarchal systems Such as ownership of property, choice of profession. Women experienced free and easy sexuality, and a wide latitude in personal style (Allen, p. 2) Gynocracy doesn’t imply that women held equal power, opportunities, or equal autonomy over their lives. A characteristic of the ideal model of adult men includes the nurturing of children. A gender complementary social and political system is necessary to maintain the physiological and spiritual health of the people.
Understanding the Purpose of Gynocratic Nations Achieving the highest human principals is the goal expected of all people. Human ideals were not applied by gender. They might be expressed through practices based in gender. Social order is focused on social responsibility rather than on privilege and on the realities of the human constitution rather than on denial-based social fictions to which human beings are compelled to conform by powerful individuals within the society. (Allen. p. 3)
Features of Gynocratic Nations The even distribution of goods among all members of the community – this philosophy based creation stories that taught cooperation and sharing as essential. Punitive forms of social control don’t exist. Meaningful encounters with supernatural beings. The welfare of the young is paramount. The complementary nature of all life forms is stressed.
Women’s Work In the home: Women have power – they distribute food and provide clothing and shelter, and influence their men with ideas. The interior work of women balances the exterior work of men – it varies from tribe to tribe and was not always equitable. It continues to this day. Women were free to chose a life path and to be as successful as they could be in that choice. They could aspire to opposite gender capacities if they were so inclined.
Separate from biological motherhood by the responsibilities of a female person for her nation as a political, spiritual, and economic leader. Marked by the beginning of her moon cycle as a time of exceptional power and a reason to seclude herself so as not to counteract another person’s personal power or ceremonial spiritual power. Womanhood
The Female Creatrix The power of intelligence, complexity, and the necessary precondition for material creation: Laguna Pueblo: Thought Woman is the supreme being, the only creator of thought – she gave names to all things, created language. This perception of female power is not limited by maternity. She is both mother and father to humanity. She sings her two sisters into life. Hopi: Hard Beings Woman – doesn’t give birth to humans, but breathes life into male and female effigies. Creation without copulation.
Women-centered Cultures Value peacefulness, harmony, cooperation, health, and general prosperity. Consider the inherent power of making, creating and transforming as sacred, treasured, and essential to personal and community fulfillment.
A Nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong their weapons, it is done. Cheyenne proverb
Nurturing as Leadership Women lead by caring for others, bringing them up and bringing them along through good times and bad. Women lead by helping and showing others how to live healthy, happy, and through all adversity. Women lead through nurturing activities essential to life, ceremony, celebration, and war.
Resilience Women endured the hardships of warfare, starvation, and disease to birth the next generation. Women instill values and pride in their children, teach by example, and encourage independence.
Realms of Influence Economy:
Women traditionally were economically independent and owned the home and food that was brought into it.
Women gathered approx 50% to 80% of the families diet in foods such as plants, berries, roots, and small game animals.
Unlike white women, Indian women adapted to a wage economy as early as the 19th century – survival depended on it.
As Indian men adapted to the Euro-American culture expectations of their gender contributed to increased domestic upheavals and all too often was spurred on by the effects of alcohol.
Realms of Influence Ceremonial: Women’s roles were and are central to many significant tribal world views and religious practices. What examples can you provide from the oral histories, academic coursework, or personal experiences? Healing: Women might receive spiritual powers through fasting/vision/prayer/dreams, but most often assisted their husbands. During the early reservation era, Indian religion and Indian medicine men were outlawed by the federal government. During this time women played a central role in the continuation of healing practices, especially in the collection herbs.
Boarding Schools 1878 to 1928 Farmers wife training: Sewing, dress making, cooking, table duties, house-keeping, crocheting, knitting, & laundering Hampton Institute Carlisle Indian Industrial School 106 boarding schools
Gertrude Simmons Bonnin Sioux woman from the 1920’s who was a classically trained violinist, writer and political activist First woman to serve on the Society of American Indians board of editors She formed the National Council of American Indians and became its president She used the Indian Welfare Committee as a platform to investigate the corruption of BIA.
Susan LaFleshe First American Indian female doctor and the first American Indian to hold the position of reservation physician. She graduated at the top of her class from medical school at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Susan (center) at Graduation Hampton Institute in Virginia. A member of the Omaha Tribe. She married Mr. Picotte in 1894 and set up her practice in Bancroft, Nebraska where she became distinguished by her fight against small pox.
Susie Billie: Seminole She was the matriarch of the large Panther clan, that traditionally provided most of the Seminole medicine men. She practices healing medicine that combines extensive knowledge of herbs, songs, and rituals that give the medicines their power. She was featured in a documentary film, Four Corners of Earth, that focused on the woman’s role in ensuring cultural continuity in Indian life. In 1985 she was designated an official Florida Folk Artist by the Florida Department of State. healers may give you a tea made from a shrub such as prarie willow (Salix humilis, var. tristis. This tea also was said to help bring down a fever, too. The magic didn’t lay entirely in the plant, but in the loving way it was prepared by the healer for you. Another plant used for Seminole Indian headache treatment was white sage (also called western mugwort, cudweed or Artemisia ludoviciana). Instead of making a tea out of it, you used it like an incense or like aromatherapy. You crushed the leaves and breathed in the scent.
Contemporary Healer Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail (1903-1981) 1962 recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Nursing Care. 2002 Inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame. Mrs. Yellowtail helped to bring modern health care to her people, the Crow tribe. She also fought to end abuses in the Indian Health Care system, such as the sterilization of Indian women without their consent. Mrs. Yellowtail was a nurse who traveled Indian Country to assess the health, social and educational problems experienced by Indian people. She was a midwife who practiced in the Little Horn Valley for 30 years.
Lois Fister Steele Born in 1939, enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine tribe. Best known for her work as the Director of INMED (Indians into Medicine Program) at the University of North Dakota. She has received many awards for her work as a doctor: Commendation medal from the US PHS for development of AIDS prevention and methadone demonstration programs for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe (1993) 1986-1991: Clinical Director for the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Tucson, Arizona. Currently serves as the Clinical Specialty Consultant in colposcopy and women’s health, tobacco abuse prevention, clinical research and medical information for the Tucson Area Indian Health Service.
Wisdom The experiences and knowledge of elders is valuable to cultural continuity. Repositories of cultural knowledge, oral histories, ceremonial instruction. Elder women are honored by their families and communities Seated in places of honor. Asked to lead prayers & give blessings.
Grandmas are like Center Poles Paula Gunn Allen: “Through all the centuries of war and death and cultural and psychic destruction have endured the women who raise the children and tend the fires, who pass along the tales and the traditions, who weep and bury the dead, who are the dead, and who ever forget. There are always the women, who make pots and weave baskets, who fashion clothes and cheer their children on at powwow, who make fry bread and piki bread, and corn soup and chili stew, who dance and sing and remember and hold within their hearts the dream of their ancient peoples – that one day the woman who thinks will speak to us again, and everywhere there will be peace.” The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. 1992
Protocols: Elder Women Recognize the role of social order in leadership protocols – Men are in front, but women are in charge. Modesty is a virtue that aging does not erase. Elder women have greater access to ceremony and healing because of their age and because they are past their reproductive stage of life. Historically, elder women often lived with their daughters to care for their grandchildren and help their daughters with homemaking activities.
Grandmothers Train Women Birthing – act as midwives Infant care – built in babysitters. Child care – built in pre-school First Moon – training for womanhood. Guild members – provide apprenticeships for younger women. Healers – provide training in identification, harvest, and medicine making. Final disposition of the dead – ritual and custom
Fostering the best in others Care of children Care of elders Care of the sick Care of men Care of ceremonies Care of spiritual enlightenment Care of education Care of sacred items and sacred places
Coming of Age Importance of reproductive role demonstrated by customs of recognition. Meals hosted, gifts given, purification ceremonies conducted, a young woman is redressed, blessings are bestowed. Christianity and Euro-American education pressure Indian families to treat femaleness in more modest terms.
Status, Prestige, & Honor Elk tooth dress symbol of prosperity Oral traditions feature – the beautiful woman as a highly prized virtue Beauty includes industriousness, character, devotion to family, attention to ceremony and tradition, chastity, knowledge of customs/spirituality, and recognition/pride of male relatives
Quill Guilds Robe Tanning Guilds Tipi Making Guilds Guilds – Professionalism of manufacturing skills Internal women’s organizations that guided apprenticeship through mastery of specialized skills in manufacturing items of value. Mentors utilized praise to recognize the developing skills of their protégé’s . The protégé’s paid for their initiation into the guilds by offering gifts and a meal to established masters and their associates in the guild. Standards of excellence were maintained, design conventions were adhered to, yet creativity was allowed as the availability of materials changed over time. After the reservation era, women’s guilds influenced by Field Matrons employed by Indian Agents evolved into social organizations such as mothers of soldiers, and home industries like sewing and canning.
Matriarchs in Training Learn the responsibilities of: Managing a family during crisis Funerals Illness of family members Managing a family during a celebration Determining the list of “give away” recipients Selecting a Praise Song singer or announcer Cooking, seating, serving, praying Managing a family during a ceremony Knowing the process and who is the best representative for certain ceremonial roles The training comes from assisting your elders, watching, remembering, and paying attention to detail. Being present during the process is essential to the proper training of women.
Pre-contact to pre-reservation Era 1790 - 1830 Pine Leaf, Gros Ventre captured by Crow at age 10 and became known as Woman Chief of the Crow Brave Heart Woman, The Girl Who Saved Her Brother, Cheyenne. At the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876.
WWI Fourteen Native American women served as members of the Army Nurse Corps during World War I, two of them overseas. Mrs. Cora E. Sinnard, a member of the Oneida Tribe and a graduate of the Episcopalian School of Nursing in Philadelphia, served eighteen months in France with a hospital unit provided by the Episcopal Church. Charlotte Edith (Anderson) Montureof the Iroquois Nation also served as an Army nurse in France. Charlotte was born in 1890 in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada. In 1917, she left her job as an elementary school nurse to join the Army Nurse Corps. She later referred to her service in France at a military hospital as "the adventure of a lifetime." Charlotte passed away in 1996, at the age of 106. http://www.defense.gov/specials/americanindian/women.html
WWII Nearly 800 Native American women served in the military during World War II. Elva (Tapedo) Wale, a Kiowa, left her Oklahoma reservation to join the Women's Army Corps. Private Tapedo became an "Air WAC," and worked on Army Air Bases across the United States. Corporal Bernice (Firstshoot) Bailey of Lodge Pole, Montana, joined the Women's Army Corps in 1945 and served until 1948. After the war, she was sent to Wiesbaden, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation. American Indians have served with distinction in United States military actions for over 200 years. During World War II, more than 44,000 American Indians, out of a total Native American population of less than 350,000, saw military service. http://www.defense.gov/specials/americanindian/women.html
Indian Women on the Homefront Women took over traditional men' s duties on the reservation, manning fire lookout stations, and becoming mechanics, lumberjacks, farmers, and delivery personnel. Indian women, although reluctant to leave the reservation, worked as welders in aircraft plants. Many Indian women gave their time as volunteers for American Womens' Volunteer Service, Red Cross, and Civil Defense. They also tended livestock, grew victory gardens, canned food, and sewed uniforms. A wealthy Kiowa woman in Oklahoma sent a $1,000 check to the Navy Relief signed with her thumbprint. Alaskan women trapped animals to earn war bond money. By 1943, the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association) estimated that 12,000 young Indian women had left the reservation to work in defense industries. By 1945, an estimated 150,000 Native Americans had directly participated in industrial, agricultural, and military aspects of the American war effort. http://www.defense.gov/specials/americanindian/wwii.html
WWII First Female American Indian to enlist in the Marine Corps Private Minnie Spotted-Wolf of Heart Butte, Montana, enlisted in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in July 1943. She was the first female American Indian to enroll in the Corps. Minnie had worked on her father's ranch doing such chores as cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck, and breaking horses. Her comment on Marine boot camp "Hard but not too hard." http://www.defense.gov/specials/americanindian/women.html
Korean War Sarah Mae Peshlakai, a member of the Navajo Tribe from Crystal, New Mexico, enlisted in the Women's Army Corps in 1951, and served until 1957. Peshlakai trained as a medical specialist and was assigned to Yokohama Army Hospital in Japan, where she helped care for casualties from the Korean battlefields. Pearl Ross, a member of the Arikara Tribe from the Fort Berthold Reservation, joined the Air Force in 1953, and trained as a medical specialist. Her first assignment was to the Air Force hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Pearl was then assigned to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where she worked in the 865th Medical Group at SAC HQ (Strategic Air Command Headquarters). During the Vietnam era, she saw many men who had been wounded in the combat theater. Pearl volunteered for overseas duty, but was turned down because the Air Force was hesitant to send women to Vietnam. http://www.defense.gov/specials/americanindian/women.html
Vietnam American Indian nurses served in MASH units in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Mary TsinnajinnieCohoe , Navajo, served in Vietnam as an American Red Cross "Donut Dolly." "We were the moral boosters," Cohoe said. "I supported the American G.I." Cohoe said she remembers telling her father she was leaving for Vietnam. "I told him, 'I'm going to Vietnam to be with brother to take care of him,' " Cohoe said. As a Donut Dolly, she said, she had the highest security clearance that enabled her to enter the battlefields and camps where soldiers spent their time. "I thought there were thousands of us (Donut Dollies) serving, but I found out there were only 700 of us in all different branches," Cohoe said. http://www.turtletrack.org/Issues03/Co05312003/CO_05312003_Women_Military.htm http://www.californiaindianeducation.org/educational_news/roycook/2009/indian_women.html
Warriors Indian women from many of the Montana tribes became warriors during the dog era and have continued the tradition to modern times. Brave Heart Woman - Cheyenne Minnie Spotted Wolf – Blackfeet
Operation Iraqi Freedom A Hopi Indian, Lori Piestewawas given special honors by tribal representatives from across the country because she was the first service woman killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first known Native American service woman known to have been killed in combat. The 23-year-old soldier from Tuba City, Ariz., died from injuries when her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, was ambushed on March 23 near Nasiriyah, Iraq, by enemy forces in Iraq. She was promoted posthumously. http://www.defense.gov/specials/americanindian/inner.html
Shifting through Grace Goals in carefully managed poise that is calm, controlled, quiet, strong, determined, devoted, gentle, yet firm and unwavering, kind with a soft touch and a light step. Modest and keenly attentive to aesthetic details and a regal like behavior becoming of a woman deserving of honor and respect.
Shifting through Humor Humor can empower resiliency during times of stress and grief. Bonding A quick wit is socially & culturally valued. Humor is a teaching tool. Teasing clans Coyote stories in oral traditions. Many elder women have no shame and use humor to teach lessons that will make young women blush.
Sifting through Conflicting Perceptions Indigenous selection of new materials and ideas they choose to integrate in whole or part into their culture to meet their needs and wants while preserving their unique identity. Euro-Anglo view and of Indian identity based on their needs and wants reflected in policy, law, imagery, and myth to name a few.
The Queen represents the psychological reaction Europeans expected of the Indigenous peoples to colonial action. The Queen acts as the fantasy landscape’s alter ego that does not embrace Europe’s intrusion. Like Indian men, she symbolizes the potential disruption of the colonial process.
American Queen 1575 to 1765 Portrayed as a Mother-Goddess – Queen figure. Nurturing, but dangerous Bare-breasted and full bodied. Raw sexuality Lush and potent beauty Exotic & beautiful Latin & Greek influences Barbarous/Powerful/Dangerous Personally strong Armed with weapons Protector A warrior woman In heavy Caribbean jewelry and feathers she appears aggressive and militant. She represents the opulence and peril of the New World.
Social Commentary on Colonialism Europe’s relationship with Africa and America: The darker-skinned women are keeping Europe stable. Yet, the weaker woman holds them by a rope suggesting her grip on them – control. The metal bands around the arms of the darker women represents shackles. The Europe figure appears fragile, pale, and modest. Her private parts are covered and her eyes are downcast. William Blake, Europe Supported by Africa and America 1792
A Short Lived Queen As the conquest and taming of the wild land continue, images of the Queen fade to be replaced in Western literature and art by the Princess figure. Colonial America breaks its ties with the Queen of England and begins a new journey of independence from a ruling class. Imagery in art and literature follow.
A National Myth for a New Nation Pocahontas becomes the icon for early American identity. She is the image of Indian-White relations She becomes the leading character in poems, plays, novels, etc… Reality and accuracy of detail are forsaken in favor of the emergence of the American identity.
Boarding School Competitions Pageants Best Costume competitions Increasing detail and complexity in creative design Opportunity to share and borrow creative ideas Dances at celebrations Public attraction to Indian dance and dress Early female activists, like Sara Winnemucca, use the popularity of their Princess – buckskin image to attract crowds to their lectures on the plight of Indian people on the reservations.
Sara Winnemucca In 1880, she pleaded the Indian’s cause before President Rutherford B. Hayes, but the promises made were later broken by the federal government and her people lost their trust in her. However, she persisted and by the end of her life gave more that 400 speeches to gain public support for the Paiutes.
Rodeo Queens Lucy Yellowmule, a Crow Indian girl, (from Wyola, MT) was elected to be Queen of the 1952 Sheridan Wyo Rodeo. The Sheridan community was the first one in the United States and in rodeo history to have elected by popular vote, an Indian girl to reign over its annual rodeo. At this time, there were signs in shops and cafe windows in Sheridan, "No Indians or Dogs Allowed," and "No Indians Served here.“ By publicizing Lucy on radio, in newspapers, personal appearances at rodeos, before civic groups, at different kinds of meetings and in private homes, describing the historic background of Lucy and her four Indian attendants, public opinion was aroused to the point where discriminatory signs disappeared in Sheridan. Lucy Ann Yellowmule, 1st Crow Indian Rodeo Queen in 1952. From Wyola, MT She exemplified a sign of the times = integration of Indian presence and culture into the mainstream.
The Native View of the Princess Calgary Stampede Princesses Kristen Tubby, 2007-08 Choctaw Princess
The term Princess has two interpretations Indian Use of the term: Representative Market recruiter Cultural ideal Role model Event figure head Non-Indian Use of the term: Sexual object She is a servant for white men She is good because she acculturates in some fashion She is pretty with Caucasian features
How Montana Benefits from Empowered Native Women We are no longer strangers in our own neighborhoods We have challenged the misconceptions about the roles of Native women within and outside our tribal communities. Socio-economic conditions in MT benefit from empowered women seeking to improve their communities Government to Government relationships Reflect the perspectives of both genders and increase Native representation at the bargaining table. Cultural diversity is an asset to our uniqueness in the Nation. Montana is a leader in Indian education, Indian legislators, and Tribal Colleges. The days of spaghetti westerns are done The Native women of today are assertive, confident, culturally grounded, biculturally competent, and dedicated to excellence in their fields of expertise.