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Indigenous Women and Work

Indigenous Women and Work: From Labor to Activism

Edited by CAROL WILLIAMS
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt3fh3fq
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  • Book Info
    Indigenous Women and Work
    Book Description:

    The essays in Indigenous Women and Work create a transnational and comparative dialogue on the history of the productive and reproductive lives and circumstances of Indigenous women from the late nineteenth century to the present in the United States, Australia, New Zealand/Aotearoa, and Canada. Surveying the spectrum of Indigenous women's lives and circumstances as workers, both waged and unwaged, the contributors offer varied perspectives on the ways women's work has contributed to the survival of communities in the face of ongoing tensions between assimilation and colonization. They also interpret how individual nations have conceived of Indigenous women as workers and, in turn, convert these assumptions and definitions into policy and practice. The essays address the intersection of Indigenous, women's, and labor history, but will also be useful to contemporary policy makers, tribal activists, and Native American women's advocacy associations._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Tracey Banivanua Mar, Marlene Brant Castellano, Cathleen D. Cahill, Brenda J. Child, Sherry Farrell Racette, Chris Friday, Aroha Harris, Faye HeavyShield, Heather A. Howard, Margaret D. Jacobs, Alice Littlefield, Cybele Locke, Mary Jane Logan McCallum, Kathy M'Closkey, Colleen O'Neill, Beth H. Piatote, Susan Roy, Lynette Russell, Joan Sangster, Ruth Taylor, and Carol Williams. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09426-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Marlene Brant Castellano
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)
    Carol Williams

    The essays of Indigenous Women and Work: From Labor to Activism are set within the historical context of four settler nations—Canada, Australia, the United States, and Aotearoa/New Zealand—covering a broad span of time from the 1830s to the late 1980s. In each of these nations, the state overextended its bureaucratic reach into the intimate, conceivably “private,” and working “public,” lives of women.¹ Scholars have been necessarily vigilant in exposing the blunt instrumentality of modern state statutory formations in contouring and disfiguring Indigenous women’s experiences, and this volume participates in that analysis (Borrows 1994; McGrath and Stevenson 1996; Robert...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Aboriginal Women and Work across the 49th Parallel: Historical Antecedents and New Challenges
    (pp. 27-45)
    Joan Sangster

    Interpretations of Aboriginal women’s work have shifted over time, but they have been absolutely central to First Nations women’s experiences of colonialism. Yet, in both women’s history and Aboriginal history, there has been a “mystification” of Indigenous women’s labor, because it was often defined as nonproductive or marginal within capitalist economies; wage work was particularly neglected (Littlefield and Knack 1999: 4). Yet, by studying women’s labor in its multiple forms (paid, unpaid, voluntary, ceremonial, commodity production), and in multiple contexts (bush, urban, reserve or reservation), we can gain immense insight into how colonialism was structured, experienced, negotiated, and resisted by...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Making a Living: Anishinaabe Women in Michigan’s Changing Economy
    (pp. 46-59)
    Alice Littlefield

    Increasing scholarly focus on issues of gender in recent decades has served to highlight the many silences about women’s lives in the earlier anthropological and historical literature. One result has been a florescence of ethnographic and ethnohistorical research on women in Indigenous North American cultures, and a more richly nuanced understanding of gender roles in many of these cultures and of the gendered consequences of colonization. Scholars have also given increased attention to women’s work lives in the contemporary global economy, resulting in an expanding corpus of research and theory examining ethnic and gender aspects of the ongoing global restructuring...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Procuring Passage: Southern Australian Aboriginal Women and the Early Maritime Industry of Sealing
    (pp. 60-72)
    Lynette Russell

    I have both an intellectual and personal engagement with the history of sealing in southern Australia. A number of years ago, at a family funeral, after having completed a doctorate in historical studies, I engaged in conversation with an elderly distant cousin. He acknowledged his descent from both Aboriginal and European ancestors, as I did. He was explaining to me that his great-great-grandparents had been sealers, she a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman and he a British immigrant seaman. I confidently asserted that such women experienced terrible hardship and were often virtual slaves, pressed into involuntary labor. I had reached this understanding...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Contours of Agency: Women’s Work, Race, and Queensland’s Indentured Labor Trade
    (pp. 73-87)
    Tracey Banivanua Mar

    She stands in a freshly furrowed field at the end of a row of cane sets ready for planting. She is slightly bent over with a young baby at her feet, and in the background, out of focus and on the periphery of the viewer’s vision stands a figure in a horse and cart (figure 4.1). This image would be uninteresting and bleak if not for eye-catching detail. An invisible breeze has picked up and plays with her heavy, mud-laden skirts, creating a dynamic blur as she looks into the lens of a cumbersome nineteenth-century camera before her. The result...

  11. CHAPTER 5 From “Superabundance” to Dependency: Women Agriculturalists and the Negotiation of Colonialism and Capitalism for Reservation-era Lummi
    (pp. 88-103)
    Chris Friday

    In 1857, the first agent on the Lummi Reservation in Northwest Washington, Edmund C. Fitzhugh, observed: “their women are industrious, and do most of the work and procure the principle part of their sustenance; they cultivate potatoes, and generally have a superabundance, so that they dispose of a great many to whites. . . . [They] raise a goodly number of potatoes” (ARCIA 1857: 326, 329). Such efforts were not part of a federal push to create agriculturalists out of fishers.¹ Instead, agricultural cultivation (including potatoes) was an integral cultural and economic feature of Indian² peoples’ lives in the greater...

  12. CHAPTER 6 “We Were Real Skookum Women”: The shíshálh Economy and the Logging Industry on the Pacific Northwest Coast
    (pp. 104-119)
    Susan Roy and Ruth Taylor

    On prominent display in the Sechelt First Nation’s tems swiya Museum is a large photograph depicting a group of shíshálh women—Mary Joe, Violet Jeffries, Mary Anne Jeffries, Carrie Joe, and Madeline Joe—rolling cedar logs down the mountainside in the early 1940s (figure 6.1). The women hold sticks designed for the task, and Mary Anne Jeffries, who stands in the center, displays the large handsaw used to cut the tree into more manageable sections. Carrie Joe provides the explanation for the image: “We used to make our own wood in them days. We even cut the tree down, hand...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Unraveling the Narratives of Nostalgia: Navajo Weavers and Globalization
    (pp. 120-135)
    Kathy M’Closkey

    For decades, researchers have investigated the impact of market economies on Indigenous peoples’ lifeways and natural resources. My chapter reveals how incorporation of Navajo pastoralists into the American wool and livestock markets via the trading-post system initiated a turning point in Diné history. The passage of the Dawes Act in 1887, during Grover Cleveland’s first administration, triggered the loss of over 80 million acres of tribal lands and ultimately impoverished thousands of Native Americans. That same year, revisions proposed to the wool tariff initiated a change in federal policy that ultimately held profound consequences for Navajo woolgrowers and weavers. Although...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Labor and Leisure in the “Enchanted Summer Land”: Anishinaabe Women’s Work and the Growth of Wisconsin Tourism, 1900–1940
    (pp. 136-147)
    Melissa Rohde

    In 1922 the federal Indian service conducted a series of industrial surveys on reservations aimed at determining the success of its effort to educate and assimilate the nation’s Native people. Officials at the Lac du Flambeau and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservations in northern Wisconsin began visiting homes in the spring. Trudging from home to home, officials collected data on employment and family relations and recorded their impressions of the industriousness of the people they examined. Although local officials evaluated women primarily on the basis of their ability to “keep house,” their reports nevertheless revealed that female members of the...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Nimble Fingers and Strong Backs: First Nations and Métis Women in Fur Trade and Rural Economies
    (pp. 148-162)
    Sherry Farrell Racette

    Nurse Tracy, from Wally Dion’s Red Worker Series (2005–6) is the Saulteaux artist’s visual response to those who suggest that the demographic shift toward an Aboriginal majority in the province of Saskatchewan will lead to economic collapse (figure 9.1). Dion’s Red Workers, with their obvious references to the heroic workers of Soviet Socialist Realism and the propaganda art of the Chinese Cultural Revolution challenge the prevalent and persistent construction of Aboriginal people (both male and female) as nonproductive and nonworking. The large portrait of Nurse Tracy sets a strong young woman gazing into the future, her shoulders squared, against...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Northfork Mono Women’s Agricultural Work, “Productive Coexistence,” and Social Well-Being in the San Joaquin Valley, California, circa 1850–1950
    (pp. 163-178)
    Heather A. Howard

    This chapter examines Native women’s agency in the transformation of economic life in Central California over the century that followed the establishment of American jurisdiction in 1848. I focus on Northfork Mono women’s seasonal migratory labor patterns in relation to their efforts to sustain family and community physical and social well-being under the complex circumstances of land dispossession particular to California.¹ Native societies in California survived and persisted, despite overwhelming odds posed by land dispossession, in great part as a result of women’s resourceful efforts to maintain the kinship structures, and to continue aspects of cultural life tied to traditional...

  17. CHAPTER 11 Diverted Mothering among American Indian Domestic Servants, 1920–1940
    (pp. 179-192)
    Margaret D. Jacobs

    In the early twentieth century, many young Indian women took up domestic service in white women’s households in urban areas of the American West such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The boarding school system had trained Indian girls in domesticity and then “outed” many of them to work among white families in the vicinity of the schools. After leaving boarding schools, many Indian women found few other employment prospects and used domestic service work as part of a patchwork of seasonal economic strategies. Most women found this work tedious and their employers imperious. In particular, many...

  18. CHAPTER 12 Charity or Industry? American Indian Women and Work Relief in the New Deal Era
    (pp. 193-209)
    Colleen O’Neill

    This chapter begins with a picture of a young Navajo woman sitting in front of a sewing machine, surrounded by mattress ticking in what looks like a semi-industrial context (figure 12.1). For her, such industrial employment within her reservation community was undoubtedly welcomed because the Navajo economy, like the rest of the United States, was in deep trouble. People suffered as they watched their pastoral way of life slip away; a process largely engineered by federal authorities who reduced their livestock herds in order to preserve Navajo range lands for long-term economic benefit. But, in the short term, without their...

  19. CHAPTER 13 “An Indian Teacher among Indians”: Native Women As Federal Employees
    (pp. 210-224)
    Cathleen D. Cahill

    In 1913, Salena Kane (Pottawatomie) wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (CIA) asking for “protection” against the superintendent of the Shawnee Indian School in Oklahoma. Kane was furious that Superintendent Buntin had ignored her requests for employment in favor of hiring white women, in violation of Indian Office regulations. Demonstrating familiarity with Indian Service rules Kane forcefully made her case, first to Buntin and then to the commissioner:

    I went to Superintendent’s office and talked to him about it and . . . told him I thought an Indian had ought to be given a position in preference to...

  20. CHAPTER 14 “Assaulting the Ears of Government”: The Indian Homemakers’ Clubs and the Maori Women’s Welfare League in Their Formative Years
    (pp. 225-239)
    Aroha Harris and Mary Jane Logan McCallum

    In the summer of 1945, Indian Homemakers’ Clubs from southern Ontario congregated in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory for their first annual convention. The gathering marked eight years of the Clubs’ existence in Canada and signaled a significant era of First Nations women’s cultural and political activity. Six years later in September 1951, some 300 Maori women gathered in Wellington, New Zealand, to attend the inaugural conference of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. The first such meeting of Maori womanhood, it was the pinnacle of many months of organizing, and many decades of Maori women’s participation in women’s voluntary organizations. The Clubs...

  21. CHAPTER 15 Politically Purposeful Work: Ojibwe Women’s Labor and Leadership in Postwar Minneapolis
    (pp. 240-253)
    Brenda J. Child

    Before there was a relocation program, the migration of Ojibwe people to the city took place in stages, sometimes separated by decades, and resulted in new journeys to familiar but changing landscapes. Milwaukee, Chicago, Toronto, Duluth, and other Great Lake cities were gathering places and fast-growing centers of urban Indian life in the postwar years. Dispossession made people hungry for new experiences. Minneapolis and Saint Paul, cities established in the Dakota homeland, were foremost destinations for tribal people moving from both the prairies and northern lake country of the upper Midwest. Wartime industries and job shortages opened doors to new...

  22. CHAPTER 16 Maori Sovereignty, Black Feminism, and the New Zealand Trade Union Movement
    (pp. 254-267)
    Cybèle Locke

    An incident occurred in 1982 at the Auckland Trade Union Centre in New Zealand—a small group of Maori radicals, called Black Unity, who ran the Polynesian Resource Centre were accused of antitrade unionism and racism and, consequently, were evicted from the Auckland Trade Union Centre with the assistance of the New Zealand police. This article explores the radical ideas of Maori sovereignty and Black feminism propagated by Black Unity that inflamed Auckland trade unionists, focusing on the writings of the group’s spokeswomen, Ripeka Evans (known earlier as Rebecca Evans) and Donna Awatere.¹ Their key demand was that the racist...

  23. CHAPTER 17 Beading Lesson
    (pp. 268-270)
    Beth H. Piatote

    The first thing you do is, lay down all your hanks, like this, so the colors go from light to dark, like a rainbow. I’ll start you out with something real easy, like I do with those kids over at the school, over at Cay-Uma-Wa.

    How about—you want to make some earrings for your mama? Yeah, I think she would like that.

    Hey niece, you remind me of those kids. That’s good! That’s good to be thinking of your mama.

    You go ahead and pick some colors you think she would like. Maybe three or four is all, and...

  24. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 271-278)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 279-299)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 300-305)