Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Cree / The People

Article: Women

"Historians have poorly documented the important roles the Aboriginal women played in Indian societies. The women had equally important roles in the determination and survival of their people. Women are depicted as slaves and drudges."

Lskowew (Cree) woman. Word derives from "fire", iskotwew, Fire a strong element, a candle flame represents life in other cultures. Fire depicts light of life and created to the image of the Creator. (Danny Musqua) Woman portrayed as: life giver, providing sustenance, protector of cultural values such as truth." Men had to turn to women when their moccasins wore out from lack of buffalo. Men held women in high esteem, relied on their knowledge of herbs, healing plants. Respected knowledge of healthcare and as healers and spiritual leaders, midwives and constructed shelters, hutch and teepees.

"Women were hard working and strong, economically independent and actively involved in the public sphere. They had considerable personal autonomy and independence. They controlled their own sexuality and had the right to divorce and own the products of their labor.

"Fur traders were shocked by the physical strength of Aboriginal women, by their clothing and beautifying styles, marriage, child rearing practices and what they perceived as drudgery of the woman's lives. In the European women's ideal world, women were frail, depended to men an incapable of laborious tasks. In contrast the Aboriginal women made substantial contributions through small animal hunting, fishing and gathering, when big game hunting failed women were the sole providers for their families and communities. Furthermore, the economic contributions they made translated into considerable personal autonomy since women were generally responsible for distribution of their labor and were owners of the household."