Importance of Studying History: Native American Society

Women played a very important role in the everyday lives of Native American society. When the Europeans first set landed in the New World they discovered that it had already been settled, but they intended to “assimilate” the so-called “savages” because their society looked different from what the Europeans were used to. Native American women and their roles are scarcely mentioned in historical record. If women are mentioned at all, only their responsibilities in the household are described. This ignorance caused white society to form a distorted picture of native women, where their role matched the more passive one white women had in their own society. Discovery of new facts, research and analysis this explains the importance of studying history. They did not understand the importance the family represented as the dominant institution of society, nor the part women played outside of the family, or the freedom they that they. Stereotypes soon developed then the information got generalized and eventually produced an image that mostly had nothing to do with the original context. While the voices of Native American are hard to find in the historical record, it does not mean that they are not there. In this essay I will work to show that women in Native American societies played an important role throughout history.

Why do people study history

European immigration came with the effect of dangerous claims to territory and removing Native Americans from their land. Europeans came to make new homes for themselves among other reasons and the Native American people welcomed these immigrants, sharing their skills and possessions with the strangers. The Native Americans taught the new Europeans how to build cover, grow crops, hunt, and prepare for harsh winters. After gaining their trust and ability to now care for themselves, they took advantage of the Native Americans generosity. Along with pushing many Native Americans off their land, the Europeans brought new and deadly diseases which caused the deaths of Native Americans in exponential numbers, sometimes considered to be genocide by many scholars. As the number of Europeans grew larger, the Native American population decreased.

Colonial Era

During the colonial period of North America, Native American women had a role in society that contrasted with that of the colonists. Many women were leaders in their respective tribes. Other women were given the task of taking care of the children and making the food, their other roles varied between tribal groups. In many tribes, such as the Algonquin’s and Iroquois, the men were responsible for hunting while the women tended to the fields and gardens. There were often long periods of time in which the men were not in the community because they were away hunting, therefore, women played a major role in the family and exercised significant control over social and economic factors within the tribes while the men were away.

Agriculture was put under the trust of the women. They saw to the fields, both growing and harvesting the vegetables and other plants for the tribe. Tribal women like those in the Algonquian tribes planted their fields meticulously and in a way that kept the land sustainable for future use through methods like slash-and-burn. Women in the Iroquois tribes often controlled the distribution of food among their people. The woman’s perceived position as beings of spiritual power gave women in some tribes the opportunity to be healers as men were more commonly shamans, midwives, and herbalists.

In many different tribes, like those that encompass the Iroquois Confederacy, the families were matrilineal, where the family line is continued through the women. Women also participated in politics, for example Hopi women were allowed to discuss their ideas during tribal meetings and got to vote alongside the men. In many Native American societies, it was common for marriages to be arranged the male heads of the family, but women controlled whether or not they wanted a divorce.

Revolutionary Era

Native American Women played various roles during the Revolution. After the end of the French and Indian War, the varied 13 colonies claimed territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains. To try and prevent war between the colonists and the Native Americans, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, forbidding the Americans from settling beyond the Appalachian Mountains, among other things. The colonists, enraged at what they believed to be an overextension of imperial power, continued to invade westwards. This left the region in the hands of the American settlers and the Native American tribes, who engaged in intense conflicts during and after the war.

Why should we learn history

Historians, such as Alan Taylor, assert that contact with the Euro-Americans resulted in the shift of women from their traditional spheres because of war-related disturbances and specific American policies made after the war. Books, encyclopedias, and of course history essay examples are the main resources for studying history. In his book The American Revolution: A Continental History, 1750-1804, Taylor explains that guidelines during and after the war called for the ‘civilization’ of Native peoples. This meant turning a population from a hunting-based society to a more agricultural one. U.S. policymakers believed that farming could not be a significant part of Native life already if women were the main contributors to the process. Thus, the U.S. government instead encouraged Native women to take up sewing and weaving as well as attempted to force the men to farm. By reversing the gender roles this caused severe social problems that ran contrary to Native cultural customs.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, it was unclear which side the Native Americans would decide to join. For the Iroquois Confederacy, they mostly chose to side with the British, because of their alliance. Many Iroquois were fearful of colonists conquering their lands, and saw an alliance with the British as the best way to prevent it from happening. There was one campaign that obliterated hundreds of acres of crops and orchards, that had mainly been the dominion of the women. This also served to kill thousands of Iroquois, both outright and through the subsequent period of starvation. Some Native American tribes were known for having women in positions of political power beyond simply controlling the food. Elder women in the Iroquois tribes gathered in clans to decide who would sit on the tribe or village council. It was not usual for women to go into combat and some women earned titles relating to their time on the battlefield. Women who sat as leaders of their tribes, like Queen Anne and Weetamoo, were known for their involvement in battle.

Why is knowing history important

The early republic era was significant for eastern Native Americans. The new policy implemented in the U. S. continued to be uncertain for some time, but by the mid-1820s the government began to remove eastern Native Americans west of the Mississippi. By the mid-1840s, the removal method had destroyed what remained of the so-called “middle ground” that had previously linked Native Americans and European cultures together since the early days of colonization. Historians and critics maintain that Native Americans were a central point of American politics and culture in the early republic era. Euro-Americans thought that Native Americans stood in the way of the U. S. expansion west because in the three decades following the Revolutionary War, the U. S. conquered Native Americans, herded them onto inferior lands, and pushed them to the margins of American society. The Jeffersonian idea of equality differed dramatically when compared with the reality of a nation stratified along the lines of gender, class, race, and ethnicity. Preceding the Revolution, many Native American societies had stable and delicate diplomacy between Euro-Americans and the many European powers vying for control of the New World. Furthermore, in many parts of North America, Native Americans dominated social relations. In the book A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815 by Gregory Evans Dowd, the author discusses the relationship between men and women and the universe. Men acted in the regions of hunting and fighting. Their relationships with others was colored by their occupations as killers. Women, on the other hand, were their natural counterparts. Primarily they were growers, not simply nurturers but producers as well. In the Delaware tribe, women could be considered prophets. In fact, the first Delaware prophet to mount to a political challenge was a woman. Among all Eastern Woodlands peoples, women were the primary agriculturalists, although with the introduction of pastoralism in the colonial era, men, as well as women, had taken to the raising of livestock.

Why is history interesting

During this time more and more people were writing about the relationship between gender and the “plan of civilization” for the Native Americans. In ‘Native Women in the Early Republic,’ Theda Perdu analyzes the role of Euro-Americans’ accounts of Native American women, particularly their seemingly ‘uncivilized’ or unfeminine gender roles and behavior, in molding early U.S. Native American policy like what was to be expected of men and women. The Native Americans conceptions of gender continually frustrated the US government as they continued to try and “civilize” the Native Americans.


The antebellum period is known as the period of western expansion and Manifest Destiny, in which Americans forged a great nation out of the wilderness. In reality, the obtaining and settling of the West took place over a great deal of bodies — Native American mostly. The policy of the early antebellum period was assimilation or removal, usually both. Native Americans had to either adapt to Euro-American culture or keep being moved farther West. Native Americans were urged to adopt European customs, clothing, religion, and farming culture. Some obeyed these suggestions, none more successfully than the Cherokee. In just a few short years, the Cherokee created a system of printed symbols for their language as well as a published a Cherokee newspaper that had English translations for non-Cherokee readers. Many Cherokee’s imitated Euro-Americans by dressing like them, converting to Christianity, owning and running plantations and even owning slaves. A number of Native American women and men and elite Euro-American elites supported the placement of Native children into ‘white’ households throughout the United States, thus on and off-reservation boarding schools began to gain popularity. For white patrons, integrating Native American children into their homes supported U.S. colonist expansion. For the group of parents who placed their boys and girls in the homes of Euro-Americans, learning the forms of knowledge valued within the mainstream white societies in their midst was a vital step in guaranteeing political, economic, and regional sovereignty. Certainly, Euro-American colonists’ desires for Native American slaves and indentured servants put countless Native American people—particularly women and children—in Euro-American homes, dramatically reshaping Native politics, communities, and even nations in the process.

In Alan Taylor’s The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies, he found references to Native American women serving alongside men in the War of 1812. These women were classified as “cooks” in the pension records of the War. Dolly, the wife of Oneida war hero Captain Honyere fought alongside Oneida warriors at the Battle of Oriskany. Taylor writes, “…using her gun to good advantage. When her husband became wounded in the right wrist, she loaded his gun for him and continued to fire her own gun when not busy assisting her husband.” With the heavy combat near the Canadian frontier during the War of 1812, it is not unbelievable to imply that Iroquois women were more than just “cooks” during the war. Along with the pension records that Taylor studied, he also found evidence that 15 Native women, from New York served in the War of 1812. According to records in the New York State Archives, five of these women or their families received military pensions for officially serving as “cooks.”

Civil War and Reconstruction

The Civil War did not only affect the men who fought for the Union or Confederacy, it also greatly changed the lives of the wives, children, and families of those involved in the war. Just like white Euro-American women at the time, Native American women were at home caring for family and children while the husbands, fathers, and brothers were fighting. In The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War, author Clarissa Confer recalls a people enduring years of hardship while also struggling for their future as the white man’s war impeded on both the physical and political integrity of their nation.

Just as the Cherokee experienced great change during and after the Civil War, so did Iroquois women. They experienced a major shift in their roles as wives during the war. During the initial half of the 19th century, there was a sort of change from being a woman whose realm, or “sphere,” was outside the house to a woman whose sphere was now inside the house. More and more white Euro-Americans were teaching Native American women that their realm was in the house and not tending to the fields or gardens. Because of this that aspect of the Iroquois women’s identity quickly vanished. Iroquois women were originally raised in their realm of the outdoors—they planted, grew, and harvested food, which could then be used for their own household and sold to make a profit. The prevalent Euro-American culture encouraged taking women out of their usual outdoor realm and making them work in the house. Thus, their ability to accomplish tasks once natural to them was gradually cleared out of Iroquois life. Gibson, author of the article “Native Americans and the Civil War,” writes, “Assimilation not only removed the unique identity held by each Native American tribe in the United States, but assimilation also took away their voices.”

Another concern that developed within the Cherokee nation was that of marriage between Native Americans and Euro-American or African-American suitors. As Clarissa Confer, a historian in the Creek and Cherokee tribes, points out, “Cherokee laws were more concerned with protecting Cherokee women from unscrupulous white grooms: In order to marry a Cherokee woman, a white man had to get the signatures of at least ten “Cherokees by blood.” She also says that African immigrants also intermarried on the same terms as Euro-Americans. This was done, by both sides, as a means of finding protection within both those bonds and lands. Sometimes interracial marriage helped people obtain benefits from the government.

However, no one was treated fairly when it came to the Civil War. Those who remained neutral during it were no better than those who chose sides. Every Native American and Euro-American faced the possibility of starvation, the loss of family, or even death. More than 600,000 individuals died during the Civil War. Women lost their husbands and went through much trouble to gain support from the government for their families. Native American involvement in the Civil War reflects the struggles of an oppressed people that are still fighting to gain support from their government today.


In conclusion, Native American women were not simply people who ran the home. They were always an integral part of their societies whether they were managing the fields, taking care of the children, making decisions on behalf of the tribe, or even fighting in battles alongside their husbands. In fact, they were a great deal of importance and were essential to the tribe in other ways as well. Women made tools and weapons. You can also explore this in more detail in the essay on history on student sites. Many Native American tribes believed that the women had more healing power and had an intense connection to the spirit world that they could then tap into when the tribe needed it. There was a feeling of mutual respect between Native American men and women. Without their help, it would have been very difficult for the Native Americans to survive.