I. Women’s Work in Indigenous Societies

Session Date and Time: 
Thursday, 9 May 2019 - 9:15am to 10:30am
Geography 212
Session Organizer(s): 

Session in honor of Jessica Mae Orozco

This session will explore the roles of women in different Indigenous subsistence economies, which could be pastoralist, hunting and gathering, as well as, horticultural subsistence systems (including small-scale farming and fishing). The geographical area is global, from the southern part of the globe stretching to the north including the arctic. Women’s work is often unrecognized both on the local level as well as the international level; in calculating the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in economics, the women’s unofficial work such as preparing food, taking care of children, cleaning, and washing clothes, is not included. However, the work of women is not limited to the domestic sphere, women also do work outside the domestic sphere with fishing, hunting, herding animals, which is considered by anthropologists as well as the local men, as men’s work. In addition, historically, women are gathering fruits and plants in a hunting and gathering society, and women often tend to the fields in small-scale farming while the men do clearance of the forest for farmland.

The session welcomes presentations about Indigenous women’s work either in the past or in present day. The research can be archaeological, historical, or anthropological. We are especially interested in presentations, which focus on understanding how the role and the status of Indigenous women in subsistence economy were transformed over time due to colonization.The presentations can also address the issue concerning; gender roles in the Indigenous communities are changing and new strategies for surviving and maintaining different Indigenous identities are being formed in present day. Many women in Indigenous communities are today working as wage-laborers and professionals, bringing in money to the family. Their income often facilitates the continuation of the subsistence practices, leading to changed power relations and changed practice of the subsistence activities. Still they are not always recognized as the breadwinners in the national legislation and not granted the same rights as the men. We welcome explanations drawing on historical factors, such as the legislation and regulation of Indigenous peoples and anthropologists’ ethnographic description of them, for creating this situation.

Time Abstract
, Janelle - Athabasca University

I have noticed in my research on wild food contamination with sakâwiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree) communities in Canada’s oil sands region that almost every family I know has a female member who is missing or murdered. This is difficult to ignore while doing ethnographic and ethnobiological research and I consider how ethnobiological knowledge is affected when there is violence against women. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada released reports and calls to action in 2015 in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. In this paper, I review the these documents along with the currently available transcripts from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and present women’s ethnobiological knowledge from them. I then provide a list of ways that ethnobiologists can further commitments to reconciliation. In loving memory of Jessica Orozco.

, Jessica - Community College of Vermont

How does learning about traditional knowledge of plants imbue life with meaning? How can restoring knowledge empower women in our relationships with one other and our communities? I will present here on my current research to write an ethnobotanical field guide to common edible and medicinal Haudenosaunee plants. In the process of gathering archival materials, I have noticed that the collections implicitly convey historical and scientific data as men's collections of men's knowledge. But as gardeners, gatherers, and caretakers of family, much cultural knowledge of plants is Haudenosaunee women's knowledge. Haudenosaunee female archetypal roles are seed keepers, gardeners, processors of food, and gatherers of medicine. I will share how I am shaping the processes of research and applied elements of this project, so that it rematriates archival and ecological knowledge to women in Haudenosaunee communities, in alignment with their lifework as botanists, herbalists, midwives, gardeners, mothers, daughters, and seed keepers. 

, Ebba - Champlain College, St Lambert

This presentation aims to understand how the role and the status of Sámi women in the kinship system and the reindeer herding were transformed over time in Norway and Sweden. Reindeer herding has become a dominant male occupation with the implementation of the nation-states' reindeer herding legislation. The younger generation in reindeer herding families often links the Sámi identity to the work of the father in the family, in addition, the Swedish legislation makes it difficult for women to take up reindeer herding. The situation in the reindeer herding family is further complicated when the father is of Sámi descent and the mother is of Swedish descent. This research proposes that the ascribed ethnic identity of the Sámi women became linked to the identity of the brothers and husbands with the implementation of the modern legislation, and still is, although Sweden and Norway are striving to be gender equalitarian societies.

Black Elk
, Linda

The famous stereotype that precolonial Native American women were devalued and mistreated within their communities is still wreaking havoc on our people to this day. Early anthropologists often misinterpreted and misrepresented various cultural norms and behaviors due to issues such as racism,  exoticism, and preconceptions. For example, many early researchers claimed that tribal menstrual rites were an avoidance of “dirty” or “polluted” women, still others made traditional relationships between men and women seem abusive or exploitative. These falsehoods have  contributed to the extensive and systemic devaluation of Native American women by mainstream society. Interviews conducted with Native American elders and other knowledge holders shed new light on the roles and worth of women in Native and First Nations societies, and may serve to correct misconceptions and stereotyping by non-Natives.

, Abderrahim - The Pennsylvania State University
, Gary - Global Diversity Foundation

Understanding indigenous’ and gendered perceptions of water access and management is essential to dealing with increasing water scarcity in Morocco. Participatory and qualitative methods were used to discussions with men and women their perception of water availability, management and priorities for water use. Our results highlight difficult trade-offs between two main uses for water: agricultural irrigation and drinking/ domestic water. Water used for agricultural irrigation is exclusively overseen and controlled by men. In the face of water scarcity, men are diverting more water to agricultural irrigation. The result is that women must walk longer distances to collect domestic water. Rather than being marginalized by change, women are becoming more vocal advocates for themselves and their households’ need for clean drinking water in the face of water scarcity.