"Tenderness of Heart"

Contrary to popular belief, Indian women were not treated as slaves.  In most tribes, women selected the Sachem, or leaders of the various clans, they owned all marital property and in the case of divorce, the children remained with the wife.  Men hunted, fought wars and helped with much of the heavy work, however there was a definite division of labor and responsibility with some jobs considered to be “women’s work” and below the dignity of a warrior.  Image and pride were very important to both men and women, but many of the men helped their wives whenever they could. According to the Moravian missionary, John Heckewelder, who lived among the Indians for nearly thirty years in the late 1700”s:  “If a man who wishes his wife to be with him while he is out hunting in the woods, he needs only tell her that on such a day they will go to such a place where he will hunt for a length of time, and she will be sure to have provisions and everything else that is necessary in complete readiness, and well packed up to carry to the spot.  The woman, therefore takes charge of the baggage, brings it to the place of encampment, and there immediately enters on the duties of housekeeping, as if they were at home.  She moreover takes pains to dry as much meat as she can, that none may be lost; she carefully puts tallow up, assists in drying the skins, gathers in as much wild hemp as possible for the purpose of making strings, carrying-bands, bags and other necessary articles, collects roots for drying; in short, does everything in her power to leave no care to her husband but the important one of providing meat for the family.” Dr. Daniel Drake, a physician from Kentucky, related the following:  “In 1842, when I was sailing on the northern lakes in quest of information on the condition, customs, and diseases of the Indians, a gentleman who had been much among them told me that as he was once traveling a bridle path, he saw, some distance ahead, an Indian family about to meet him.  The man had on his shoulders a heavy pack, and his wife was following him.  They instantly stepped aside into the woods, and when they resumed the path, the burden was on her shoulders.  It was evident that he had some tenderness of heart, and while they were alone he was willing to relieve her, and she willing that he should do it; but neither could consent to his performing so feminine a labor in the sight of others.  The rifle was his appropriate burden.”

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