Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Nakawé / The People

Article: Women's Roles And Responsibilities

The role of women of long ago entailed a wide variety of duties. They were caregivers, housekeepers, decision-makers, and were responsible for the well being of the household. Women took on domestic duties that might be considered feminine, but they worked just as hard as the men to ensure that their families did not lack the necessities of life.

Women were responsible for food preservation and preparation. They dried meat, berries and edible roots in the summer so that they would have a variety of foods to eat in the winter. They also made hides so that they could make clothing for their families. Mothers and Grandmothers were responsible for the education of children, especially girls. They taught the girls how to work, to be good mothers and how to have respect for others and for themselves. It was very important for a young girl to know all these things, because she would become the teacher when she had her own family.

Girls were taught on behaviour, they were told how to act when they were around men, boys, Elders and strangers. The way they presented themselves reflected on how they were taught. A girl was judged on her behaviour, if she was loud and flirted with other men/boys, the parents would comment that she was not the sort of person that they would want to be with their children.

Grandmothers and mothers were responsible for teaching girls about pregnancy. They taught the young women how to act when they were expecting, what to eat and things that they could not do during this time. Young women were told that their moods during pregnancy would affect their unborn child.
Spiritual beliefs were the main focus of educating young children. They were encouraged to attend feasts and ceremonies whenever possible. The grandmothers and mothers taught the girls of the protocol of attending them. Feasts and ceremonies taught children that they had to pay homage to a higher power and to respect Mother Earth.

The accomplishments of women were not the sort that would bring them fame, but to assure that their families did not lack the things that they needed. Women were responsible for the quality of the family life. Women were intent to be in the background, very private and invisible to much of the other people in the community.