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  • Negotiating Gender in Native North America
  • Fay A. Yarbrough (bio)
Loretta Fowler. Wives and Husbands: Gender and Age in Southern Arapaho History. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010. vii + 382 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-0-8061-4116-9 (cl).
Gunlög Fur. A Nation of Women: Gender and Colonial Encounters Among the Delaware Indians. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009. viii + 251 pp.; ill; tables. ISBN 978-0-8122-4182-2 (cl).
Rebecca Kugel and Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, eds. Native Women’s History in Eastern North America before 1900: A Guide to Research and Writing. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. xii + 467 pp.; ill; tables. ISBN 0-8032-2779-5 (cl); 0-8032-7831-4 (pb).
Tiya Miles. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. xii + 315 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-0-8078-3418-3 (cl).

At first glimpse, the temporal and geographical coverage of the books under review is quite disparate: Rebecca Kugel and Lucy Murphy have assembled essays that cover eastern North America from contact to 1900; Gunlög Fur’s monograph examines the Delaware (or Lenape) from the mid-seventeenth through the eighteenth century; Tiya Miles’s story of the Diamond Hill plantation in Cherokee country centers on the first half of the nineteenth century, though her discussion of how the house was preserved and memorialized brings her account to the present day; and Loretta Fowler’s anthropological study of the Arapaho begins in the mid-nineteenth century and ends almost ninety years later. What links these works together, however, is one central question: how did ideas about gender shape interactions between different cultures? The cultures in question are namely American Indian and European, later Euro-American, although these studies demonstrate the great variation possible within these categories. For example, native groups engaged in agricultural production to differing degrees; some chose to adopt African slavery while others rejected or modified it; they may have determined lineage matrilineally or patrilineally; and they responded to efforts to convert them to Christianity with everything from devotion to ridicule. Native people, moreover, noticed [End Page 211] that Euro-American attitudes toward native peoples varied depending on the entities involved: religious missionaries, state officials, federal authorities, or members of the military.

Kugel and Murphy’s anthology provides a useful starting point for discussing the other works under review as they have assembled a primer for scholars interested in gender among native peoples. The collection includes some of the most influential essays written about women in native societies, as well as a new introduction by the author whenever possible. These introductions are often as interesting as the original essays. For instance, Rayna Green describes her clear political agenda to engage the Red Power and New Feminist movements by including previously unheard native women’s voices when she wrote “The Pocahontas Perplex.” Green, furthermore, is disappointed that her theory remains relevant: non-Indians continue to use such images as “the princess” or “the squaw” to project their own meanings of gender and native identity onto the bodies of native women and then weave those representations into their own family histories, as well as such larger national narratives as the importance of Pocahontas to the survival of Jamestown, or Sacajawea’s assistance in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Another example is Theda Perdue’s introduction to “Cherokee Women and the Trail of Tears,” in which she illuminates the evolution of her thinking with regard to the declension model, which argued that Cherokee women’s status declined because of contact with Euro-Americans. In part, Perdue’s later examination of non-elite women led her “to the conclusion that women’s power and status were remarkably consistent and stable” (277). Nancy Shoemaker’s introduction reconsiders the kinds of primary sources she would use today to write “The Rise of Fall of Iroquois Women,” such as legal records produced by county and state officials in communities adjacent to native populations. Each introduction offers insight into the workings of the scholarly mind, including how an author approached a particular topic with regard to theory and historiography, and how an author’s thinking may have changed over...


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