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    The Position of Women in Native American Tribes

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    The development of agricultural societies caused a dramatic shift in life for many people, When hunting and gathering societies switched to agriculture and farming, women tended to lose their power in society and were forced to rely on men. This is not true of the aboriginal tribes of New England. In many cases, women did as much work, or sometimes more than men. Women were treated with more respect in the Native American tribes, than in the civilizations in the Eastern hemisphere. Women among the Narragansetts did the bulk of the farming for the tribe. Men still farmed, but they were mainly only the producers of tobacco. Women would break up fields and reseed them, harvest crops, etc. This allowed them to be held to a different economic standard than what is seen by the civilizations in the classical era. Women were the breadwinners for their families within the Narragansetts, meaning they provided food for their families.

    Sometimes men would help the women, but most of the time it was the women who worked brutal hours to provide food. This social structure likely put women at a higher standard and allowed them to hold more power than the men. Narragansett women were even allowed to hold slight political power. They were allowed to be sachems, who were political advisors to the chief of the tribe. They did not have real power and could not make decisions, but they were still able to hold a political position and aid the chief. This is drastically different from women in the Eastern hemisphere, For example, women in Mesopotamia did not hold any power. They lived in a patriarchal society and men had all of the control. Awomen‘s job was to live at home and take care of her children. The Native Americans in the west lived completely different lives and show a completely different culture. Algonkian women were not as independent as Narragansett women; they lived a more hunter—gatherer type lifestyle.

    They gathered wild plants, shellfish, etc, while the men often hunted, Men would hunt deer, which contributed to ninety percent of what was eaten. The men would also hunt fish, fresh and saltwater, and bring it home to be cooked. While the men did do a little more work than the women, it does not seem like a patriarchal society developed. It appears that men and women were almost equal, which is highly unusual of agricultural societies. It can be assumed that men held more political and economic power because they contributed more food and big game to society. However, it seems that women and men worked harmoniously and women still had rights and were able to be social and intermingle among the men. The only way women were not considered equal in these societies was when they were assigned to marriage the marriages were usually arranged based on the fathers kin and the women usually did not have a say in the marriage.

    Once married, however, it can be assumed that women were still treated very well, pretty close to equal. In Algonkian societies women were also allowed to be sachems, once again giving them a little political power. Aboriginal tribes in New England seem very different than the world that was developing around them. While the majority of the rest of the world was patriarchal and harsh on women, these tribes almost treated women like equals socially, politically, and economically. There are a few instances where men held more power than women, but a lot of the time women worked as hard as men, if not harder. It is interesting to see the way women were treated in these societies compared to all of the other societies. It is interesting that women were treated so well, and it makes one curious as to why these types of society fell and patriarchy began in the west.

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