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Message-ID: <33C7C7C8.81094F6A@frontiernet.net>
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 1997 14:07:05 -0400
From: john <john@frontiernet.net>
To: Taino Inter Tribal Forum <Taino-L@corso.ccsu.ctstateu.edu>
Subject: Indigenous Women
Sender: owner-taino-l@corso.ccsu.ctstateu.edu
Precedence: bulk

Indigenous Women and traditional leadership

By Jack D. Forbes, The Circle, 30 September 1994

Tau Everyone

I&m new to the forum . My husband Manicato likes to read the messages and sometimes write messages to the forum. I found this one on the net. and I thought it might be of interest .

Taino Ti
Mrs. Mildred Nieves

One of the great problems in the world today is that key political, cultural and social decisions are being made by men alone, or by a large majority of men, with only minimal participation by women. This presents a great danger for the world because men, by themselves, are not wise enough or balanced enough. It takes both men and women to keep the world balanced and to protect the interests of future generations.

Of course, traditional First American societies gave a very strong voice to women. Along the east coast we had many female political leaders such as Queen Anne of Pamunkey village, who was the leader of the Powhatan-Renape Confederation from about 1657 until about 1715. The Manitowinniwok (Algonkians) frequently had queens, as did some tribes in the Carolinas. In the Caribbean, the Taino tribes had many female leaders, including the famous Anacaona, murdered by the Spaniards. Anacaona is one of our early heroes for her resistance to the European invasion of the island which contains modern-day Haiti.

Many other tribes had specific powers set aside for female figures, as did the Six Nations and the Cherokees. But everywhere, male chiefs and councils were limited in their authority by the power of female councils, groups of females, or strong individual women. Often, chiefs were only ceremonial figures or spokespersons, and real authority rested with elders, both male and female. Females, of course, possessed great power as the owners of houses, fields, gathering places, fruiting trees, etc.

Under the influence of white contact, however, the power of our women sometimes declined because the white males tended to want only to deal with males. Thus, ceremonial chiefs were often made to sign treaties giving away lands, when they in fact had no legal authority to any such thing without the approval of both men and women. But alcohol, fear and flattery often corrupted chiefs into signing treaties which cheated the people.

I believe that it is important that each of our nations consider today if our women have been fully restored to their traditional powerful voices. Of course, some tribal councils have many female members or even leaders, but there are other places where the white-created chief still rules, or where very few women serve on tribal councils. There are many ways to deal with this. One is to specify in the constitution that the council must be half made up of women, half of men. Another way is to create two councils, one of women only and one of men only, both of whom must approve all actions. This might be a bit cumbersome and is probably unnecessary for Native nations.

But when we look at the Middle East, at Asia, parts of Africa and Latin America, we often find that women are almost totally excluded from having any direct political voice. In these areas, I propose that constitutions be amended so that women have their own houses of parliament, separate from men, with equal power. In Islamic countries or other places where women are often discouraged from being politically exposed to unrelated males, I would propose that only women be able to vote for delegates to the women&s parliament, so that female candidates are exposed only to female audiences and voters.

This is the way it might work: suppose that a country already has a parliament composed of two houses, a senate and a house of representatives. The constitution would be amended to change the two houses into a house of women and a house of men. Each would have equal power over all legislation.

Another opinion would be to have a single parliament, with half being women and half being men, each half being elected according to a plan suitable to the customs of the nation.

We can be sure that if we had women&s parliaments in Mexico and central and South America, a very high percentage of the delegates would be strong indigenous figures like Rigoberta Menchu! Perhaps we need the same thing in the United States and Canada.

In some parts of the world, male dominance has reached such a level that women are virtually excluded from public activities (except under rigid rules of segregation or when accompanied by a husband or male relative). Male spokespersons in such societies often deny that women are inferior or disrespected. They claim it is simply customary to protect women from unwanted male contact.

If, indeed, it is true that women are not regarded as inferior in such societies, then my proposal for separate women&s parliaments should be greeted with enthusiasm. My plan does not require unwanted contact with unrelated males. It does insure that women and children are empowered and protected by having female wisdom given a formal, equal voice.

The rule of males has too often resulted in dictatorship, oppression, needless wars and horrible brutality. Without checks and balances, male rule has sometimes resulted in corrupt monarchies led by pampered and spoiled men and boys who possess unbelievable privileges to exploit servants and ordinary people, both male and female. I am thinking here of places like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but there are many others as well.

Native Americans have provided key examples of how to develop democratic and caring societies. We can serve as examples again in terms of teaching about our Native American traditions and how they can help empower women everywhere. We should check to see if our own hand or national councils adequately represent both sexes, so as to provide examples for the entire world.