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Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous North America, 1400-1850

Sandra Slater

Publication Year: 2012

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the New World, Native Americans across the continent had developed richly complex attitudes and forms of expression concerning gender and sexual roles. The role of the "berdache," a man living as a woman or a woman living as a man in native societies, has received recent scholarly attention but represents just one of many such occurrences of alternative gender identification in these cultures. Editors Sandra Slater and Fay A. Yarbrough have brought together scholars who explore the historical implications of these variations in the meanings of gender, sexuality, and marriage among indigenous communities in North America. Essays that span from the colonial period through the nineteenth century illustrate how these aspects of Native American life were altered through interactions with Europeans. Organized chronologically, Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous North America, 1400–1850 probes gender identification, labor roles, and political authority within Native American societies. The essays are linked by overarching examinations of how Europeans manipulated native ideas about gender for their own ends and how indigenous people responded to European attempts to impose gendered cultural practices at odds with established traditions. Representing groundbreaking scholarship in the field of Native American studies, these insightful discussions of gender, sexuality, and identity advance our understanding of cultural traditions and clashes that continue to resonate in native communities today as well as in the larger societies those communities exist within.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The editors of this collection are grateful for the generous assistance provided by colleagues and friends as we prepared this work. The College of Charleston and the University of Oklahoma provided crucial financial support to complete this project. ...

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pp. 1-10

One cannot hark back to a time when gender roles were clear and simple or definitions of marriage were universally agreed upon. Gender roles and sexual identities have never been static, but rather constantly shift in relation to historical change and contact between groups. Questions about how societies choose to define gender identities, ...

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Subverting Gender Roles in the Sixteenth Century: Cabeza de Vaca, the Conquistador Who Became a Native American Woman

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pp. 11-29

“I became a trader and tried to ply my trade the best I could. I liked this trade, because it gave me the freedom to go wherever I wanted. I was obligated to nothing and was not a slave. Wherever I went they treated me well and fed me because I was a trader.”1 Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the man who wrote this statement, was a conquistador, ...

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“Nought but women”: Constructions of Masculinities and Modes of Emasculation in the New World

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pp. 30-53

Over the course of the early modern period of European history, adventurers and profiteers saw the lure of the New World. Men sought to achieve wealth or glory; most desired both. European men arrived in North America with a distinctly European sense of identity that directly contradicted the masculine identities and gender relations enacted by natives. ...

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Revisiting Gender in Iroquoia

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pp. 54-74

Although the unusual authority of women among the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) has been acknowledged by various observers over the centuries, others have raised doubts. Of late, however, aboriginal, feminist, and environmental movements are leading to fresh scrutiny of Haudenosaunee accomplishments. ...

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Who Was Salvadora de los Santos Ramirez, Otomi Indian?

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pp. 75-101

In August of the year 1762 a woman died in the city of Querétaro in New Spain, that is, in what we often call Colonial Mexico. She was one of thousands who perished in the epidemic of smallpox that swept through the country that year.1 ...

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Hannah Freeman: Gendered Sovereignty in Penn’s Peaceable Kingdom

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pp. 102-122

On July 28, 1797, Hannah Freeman, a tall, lean woman bent over with the burdens of age and illness, gave an account of her life to Moses Marshall.1 Marshall was Chester County’s newly appointed representative for the region’s first poorhouse, still in the planning stages. Marshall presumably set the tone for this interview with an emphasis placed on where Hannah lived, ...

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Women, Labor, and Power in the Nineteenth-Century Choctaw Nation

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pp. 123-145

Over the course of the nineteenth century, the people of the Choctaw Nation experienced tremendous change in almost every facet of their lives. Whereas traditional practices and understandings of clan obligation and responsibility had once governed the behavior of Choctaw men and women, the nineteenth century marked a transition to writing down laws ...

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Womanish Men and Manlike Women: The Native American Two-spirit as Warrior

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pp. 146-164

In the first week of 1801 a young Anishinabe warrior appeared at Alexander Henry’s fur trading post on the Park River.1 The presence of yet another Indian usually attracted little notice at Henry’s establishment, but this particular individual exhibited some oddly feminine mannerisms. Curious, Henry approached some of the Anishinabeg (Ojibwas) ...

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Two-spirit Histories in Southwestern and Mesoamerican Literatures

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pp. 165-184

This critical review of existing Greater Southwestern and Mesoamerican historical and contemporary literatures regarding two-spirit roles interrogates the discrepancies in findings across indigenous, U.S., and Latino borders. While U.S. Southwestern-centered writings often affirm the value of historical two-spirit genders, Eurocentric histories focused on Hispanic writings ...

Suggested Readings

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pp. 185-186

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pp. 187-188

Roger M. Carpenter received his doctoral degree in Native American and early American history from the University of California, Riverside. He is an assistant professor at the University of Louisiana, Monroe, and is the author of The Renewed, the Destroyed, and the Remade: The Three Thought Worlds of the Huron and the Iroquois, 1609–1650. ...


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pp. 189-202

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172034
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039966

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2012