I wanted to know more about this issue and I found out that the key to begin to understand this situation and why Aboriginal women deserve their careful listening , I must examine how both Native and non-Native gender relations were developed during Canada's colonial history.
I have clear that as settlers first arrive to "Canada" they brought their European patriarchal model that greatly contrasted with the Indigenous society , and they imposed it as they took over the territory.
My objective is to understand how this drastic alteration of women influence affected them as a group and how it still impacts in the Aboriginal women situation across Canada today by comparing the women roles before and during colonization and presenting a cultural group that has been used as perfect example of women power and equality.
WOMEN IN PRE-CONTACT ABORIGINAL SOCIETIES
Before the arrival of colonizers , Indigenous women traditionally played a central role within Aboriginal family, government and spiritual ceremonies ; they were powerful and strong .
Men were hunters , responsible for providing food , shelter and clothing.
Women were responsible for the domestic sphere and for bearing and the early socialization of children.
Women were viewed and respected as life-givers.
Motherhood was honored as key to the continuation of the culture and wasn't always defined by the biological role, but was understood as a position of leadership and responsibility for caring and nurturing others.
As well, women were wonderful horticulturalists and contributed to small hunting and gathering . They were responsible for distributing the products and their labors , even land holdings.
In marriage, husbands and wives respected and honored one another and they took care of each other honesty and kindness . Men were were respected for the spiritual and and physical strength and women were respected by their spiritual and mental strength .
As a result, we can see that although women roles and culture varied between First Nations, they all shared three main characteristics: gender roles were complementary , women were able to hold positions of leadership and their central roles within their societies is often reflected in the religion and spiritual part of the culture.
INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND THE COLONIZATION
Colonization has greatly affected Aboriginal women . In order for the the colonizers to claim Aboriginal land it was important for them to ensure that Aboriginal women became colonized as well .
"A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground"
The settlers had a predeterminate ideas of appropriate female behaviour and status .The European ideal of womanhood or "how a woman need to behave" , revolved around female domesticity. The Europeans believed that a women's role was to cater to their fathers , husbands or nearest male relative , and to support her family . Unlike Aboriginal women in their pre-contact societies ; in the European model women had no voice ,and no power . They were considered only a property of men , treated as objects . It was't simply that women had no rights ; once they married they had no legal existence, they were legally dead : no custody of their children or rights to their own property and earnings and no vote . They didn't even have control of their own body.
"The two shall become one and that one is the man."
In this way, the European ideal of women was projected on Aboriginal societies because settlers thought it was the only way of contrasting savagism with civility ; they believed how a society treated its woman determined its evolutionary state .
Without trying to understand Indigenous culture and listen to them, colonizers judged Aboriginal women using their Victorian and Christian model . For them, Aboriginal women appeared "antithetical to the natural condition of women" .
As a result , missionaries and colonizers worked together to colonize Aboriginal women in Canada and condemned everything about their lifestyle and personal being (authority, appearance , economic and spiritual important positions... ) . Missionaries directly attacked Aboriginal women's lives and characters that showed their autonomy and independence .Indigenous women were ABUSED . Settlers destroyed the rights of both sexes to divorce , sexual freedom outside marriage and female ownership and power .
Unlike European women, Aboriginal women faced a different kind of sexism based on racism and misunderstanding ; their burden was more severe : to be "good" they had to abandon their own culture , exile themselves from their people and transform into the European ideal . THOSE EFFECTS HAD ACCOMPANIED THEM UNTIL NOW .
Commonly called the Iroquois Confederacy or the League of Five Nations , the Confederacy is properly called the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (people of the Long House) and they occupied the Eastern Woodlands cultural area. The Confederacy is made up of the Mohawks , Oneidas , Onondagas , Cayugas and Senecas and was intended as a way to unite the nations with a common goal to live in harmony . Each nation maintains its own council with Chiefs chosen by the Clan Mother , but allows the Grand Council to deal with issues affecting the nations within the confederacy.
THE STORY OF CREATION
It was a woman, Sky Woman, who came to the Earth through a hole in the Sky to care for the Earth and creates life .
THE FORMATION OF THE CONFEDERATION
Jigonsaseh or the Mother of Nations helped the Peacemaker in the foundation of the Six Nations' Great Law, which emphasizes a balance between gender roles.
Families are based primarily on the clan system. They start with a female ancestor with all those dwelling in her long house linking back to her . Each family was called the long house family with the Clan Mother as the head. All female descent will live in the long house their entire lives bringing their husbands to live with them.
Children in the long house family were much closer to women ; because women were more often taking care of the property and crops while men were out hunting or fishing .
Children called their mother and their mother's sisters all "mother" , leaving them with a great sense of security and collective love .
The roen Elders holder respected positions within the communities as the wisdom keepers: to impart traditions and help raise the children.
THE CLAN SYSTEM
Among the Haudenosaunee are groups who come together as families called clans. As a matrilineal society , each clan is linked and passed down by a common female ancestor , with women taking a leadership role within each clan.
The clans are represented by birds and other animals , taking example of their characteristics and teachings. They are divided into three elements: water, land and air . Each member of a clan is considered a relative even if they belong to different nations .
They are the true leaders within the Haudenosaunee communities . It is a title which is passed down to female relatives through a clan .
It is her responsibility to look out for the welfare of the clan by controlling the actions of the Chief and ensuring that he is performing his duties in accordance with the Great Law. In fact , she has the ultimate power to select and depose the Chiefs .
Clan Mothers are also responsible for naming children from their own list of clan names and approving marriages.