Paula Gunn Allen and the Feminine in Indigenous Traditions

-Paula Gunn Allen: raised on the Laguna Pueblo reservation, received a masters in English and Ph. D. in Native American Studies.  The Sacred Hoop= collection of critical essays, literature analysis, and contemporary portrait of Native women.  Grandmothers of the Light= collection of female centered mythology from Native American traditions organized with critical introductions.

-Spirit of Woman: has many manifestations but all speak to the same creative and vitalizing power, “necessary precondition for material creation and she, like her all her creation, is fundamentally female,” (The Sacred Hoop 14).

-“She who thinks rather than she who bears”: creative process is not a biological act but an act of song, breath or thought; more profound than simple biological reproduction.

Ex. Thought Woman of the Keres Pueblo and Hard Beings Woman of the Hopi

-Feminine as symbol of self-sacrifice, peaceful cooperation, generosity, vitality and creative and healing powers.

Ex. in various creation stories centered on female deities/spirits

-Evidence of gynocratic practices in pre-colonial tribal settings.  Interior/domestic chief was usually a woman in many tribes; these women were charged with maintaining balance, internal harmony, distribution of goods, and crime and punishment.

Ex. Iroquois Confederacy, Cherokee Women’s Council, Magnus of the Narragansett, the Massachusettes Confederacy, Wampanoag Confederacy

-Gunn Allen writes about the “gynocidal motive behind the genocide” of Native American peoples; the genocide was a result of fear of the gynocratic ways in place among Native peoples during colonization.

-Western religion, primarily Christianity and Catholicism, played a huge role in the shift from gyncratic societies to patriarchal structures in native traditions as well as the erasure of the majority of gynocratic practices and histories.

Ex. Handsome Lake and the Iroquois Confederacy, British re-education of the Cherokee, Paul Le Jeune and the Montaganais

-Overall displacement of female goddesses or spirits with male-gendered creators.

Ex. Spider Woman to Tawa in Hopi tradition, Cherokee goddess of river foam with masculine thunder god

-Native roots of feminist movement; 16th century revolt of Iroquois women against unmitigated warfare included boycott of lovemaking and childbearing and was instantly successful since the men realized no children meant no warriors; Sacagawea’s appropriation by Eva Emory Dye.

-Contemporary Issues facing Native women are similar to those facing Indians in general (low birth rate, general fertility problems, low life expectancy, high disease rate, low life expectancy, ect.); women must re-claim their stories to combat the erasure of female power, both spiritual and political.

– Theresa Snyder

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