Native American women from the late 19th century endured a lot. They were removed from their homes and had their lives interrupted to make way for new settlers, for economic ambitions, and for what Americans referred to as their “superior civilization” (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005). In addition to being forced to live on reservations (where they could no longer live as they chose; they had very little to no control over what they ate, and what they did) some were going to war to fight for their family, land and freedom. Male warriors, women and children were constantly on the move to avoid pursuing troops” (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005). A great example of a women fully involved in the war was Lozen; part of Geronimo’s band of War Springs Apache. She was skilled in locating the enemy and was a true warrior (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005). Lozen helped Native Americans evade and attack the U.S. army.
As mentioned earlier, other Native Americans were forced to live on reservations. At these reservations Native Americans were unable to support themselves either by farming or hunting; they became virtual prisons. They had to get their food and clothing from federal agents who often embezzled as much as they dispensed. These events helped shape how Native American thought about society. With the way they were treated by the “Americans” it is obvious they would view “Americans” as negative, and controlling their lives; that they were a part of a society that did not accept their ways.
In accordance with Through Women’s Eyes by Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil, alongside reservation life, U.S. policy forced native children into government-run boarding schools and were forced to be their definition of civilized by reeducating theme in the values and ways of dominant American culture. Thousands of children a year were taken from their parents and sent to schools to stop “dressing, speaking, thinking and believing ‘like Indians’ ” (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005). There is evidence of repeated and harsh punishments that testify to girls and boys who didn’t want to give up their Indian ways. The schools also forced “students” to train their “American values” by acting as servants in the homes of nearby white families (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005).
As hard as the boarding schools were, some Native American women were able to acquire English literacy and other useful skills in the boarding school system; they worked in reservation agencies, became teachers and few became public advocates for their people (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005). Boarding schools were a positive experience for those who were able to use their learning, but a hardship for the others.
White women and Native American women had different views on life, but similar values. They both valued their families, their chores, and being a mother. They might have disagreed about boarding schools and Americanization; but at the end of the day they are both women, who have families to take care of.
Americanization refers to the policies of the United States government and public opinion that there is a standard set of cultural values that should be held in common by all citizens (NationMaster, 2005). Some women supported it because they viewed it as a positive thing (traditionally white women who were “Americans”), while others resisted it because there was nothing wrong with their current values and way of living. This time period for women was harsh for some, but also provided many women with opportunities to grow and be independent.
Dubois and Dumenil (2005). Through women’s eyes. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
NationMaster Encyclopedia (2005). Americanization of Native Americans. Retrieved February 18, 2008 from http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Americanization-(of-Native-Americans)