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Woodland Indians

Despite the fact that there were a number of important differences between Puritan women and women among the native peoples that Puritan settlers first encountered, there were also at least some key similarities. This paper examines the ways in which the lives of Puritan and native women diverged from each other as well as the less common ways in which they converged.

It is important to note at the beginning of this discussion that Puritan women were far more homogeneous as a group than were American Indian women, who may have seemed similar to each other as heathens from the view of the colonists but in fact belonged to a number of different cultural and linguistic groups. However, the Eastern Woodland Indians (as the tribes with whom the Puritans came into contact are now called) shared key beliefs and practices, including the practice of owning land in common. Such communal land-ownership (both in terms of hunting as well as in terms of farming) practices are generally associated with relatively egalitarian societies. This was true of the Woodland Indians; although tribal elders had far more power than younger tribal members, all members of the tribe could look forward to gaining power and respect as they grew older.

Women had less power than did men in the Eastern Woodland cultures, but they did hold some positions of formal power in the tribal structure in all of the groups with which the Puritans had contact and in some of these tribes (including most importantly the Iroquois) older women had a significant amount of power in determining tribal law and policy. ( Puritan women had relatively less status vis-a-vis their husbands in no small measure because of the theocratic nature of Puritan society. Few Christian sects grant women even near equal power (although arguably some, such as Quakers, do), but Puritan families were especially hierarchic...

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Woodland Indians. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:28, December 06, 2021, from