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Contact in the New World

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Western University
History 2185
Monda Helpern

Nov, 12, 2012 Contact in the New World th th -Dealing with 17 - mid 18 century but there was not as much influence of the enlightenment in the colonies -Much of our understanding of European contact comes from European clergy and their writings that were Catholic and they wanted to convert the natives in New France -Many of these men wrote much on their experiences and we don’t have much from the native cultures because their histories were mostly oral and often times the European version is interpreted as true but we know now they were very biased and Eurocentric and many comments are quite skewed -The priests who came to the colonies saw natives as wild immoral savages who needed to convert to their religion and a European way of life because it was superior and their attempts at conversion included reigning in their sexuality (seen as especially animalistic and lustful) -European was of life meant teaching them the principles of patriarchy and this meant controlling women and this conversion project has been seen in many ways and it can be seen as totally racist and destructive or it can be seen as a well intentioned effort to bring religion to them but to some extent they are all true -In North America there were many native groups with their own ways of life living in different areas Pre-contact Native Cultures: -Generally seen as egalitarian where men and women preformed different tasks but both were seen as equally valuable and complimentary -Women participated in religious and ceremonial life and they took part in group decisions and under the divisions of labour men hunted the large animals and women were generally involved in sorting the distributing the food as well as foraging and harvesting (big responsibility and they were not supervised by men) -Women made many goods like clothing, snowshoes, etc and they nurtured the children (average of 3-4 each) -Were matrilocal and matrilineal and this was good for them women because they stuck together and they shared the responsibility of raising children and labour and she would be more protected by parents -Their societies didn’t have a rigid notion of private property so more goods were passed down the mother’s line -Native women had autonomy and control over their own bodies and sexual lives and there was sexual freedom before marriage and they could choose their partners and husbands and be with other men after marriage -Men could have more than one wife and women controlled the domestic space in marriage but the distinction between private and public life was much less defined -Both sexes were free to divorce with less restriction than in Europe Contact: -When fur traders arrived society changed and white-native relationships arose -Men and women were involved in the fur trade and they had sexual relationships and sometimes they got married and this created kinship and good will as well as consolidating economic ties from which both benefited -Native daughters were usually enthusiastic about arranged marriages with white men because of the benefits -Women assisted as interpreters, peacemakers, nature guides, trappers, foragers, and craftspeople -It is debatable whether they married for pragmatic reasons or for love and if women really benefited from this status because they would have had to relocate to trading posts away from their community -They were expected to have more children because the European average was between 6-10 and this was much more than what was usual for them and they often lost control of their children because they were sent to Catholic schools -There are accounts that relationships were forced and that rape was just a part of colonization and many traders saw their sexual freedom as them being promiscuous and appropriating their women came with appropriating their land -Many women complained of assault and the trader’s view of them as property but despite the changes in their culture for the most part the traders conformed to native culture -Things changed dramatically with the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries from France and their main goal was to convert the natives to Catholicism but this meant converting them to a European way of life -They also tried to institute patriarchies related to the formation of families and the behaviour of women and they were trying to recreate their own society within these cultures Nov, 12, 2012 -Tried to change them from being nomadic to being settled nuclear families headed by the man and they wanted hierarchy and this broke up larger kinship connections -The male leaders were to decide what was before for the community and they could punish women and children who did not conform and this was new because many people argue that domestic violence did not exist before in these cultures -Women no longer had any sexual autonomy before, during, or after marriage and new European concepts were introduced like the idea of premarital chastity, promiscuity, fidelity, monogamy, and the idea of life long marriages where there were no divorces -The missionaries were shocked and appalled by the fact they felt native women were too sparsely dressed and they felt they needed to cover up and they interpreted the nudity as a sign of unrestrained sexuality -They insisted upon their coverage and gradually with their influence native men had greater control over female sexuality an
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