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Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Course Code
Jennifer Carlson

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Chapter 4: Women in an Egalitarian Society: The Montagnais-
NASKapi of Canada- Eleanor B. Leacock (Pages 43-54)
Egalitarian: believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights
and opportunities
Eleanor Leacock provides descriptions of gender and family relations among the
Montagnais- Naskapi, aboriginal people who survived by hunting and gathering
Her research involved close examination of the Jesuit Relations (diaries kept by the
Jesuits working in the 17th century in what is now Quebec and Newfoundland and
Provide us with descriptions of ‘family’ and gender relations in a foraging society and the
argument about how the ways foragers acquired their livelihood shaped both their family
organization and the gender relations typical in their society
Also provide vivid descriptions of how family and gender changed as these people
abandoned hunting for trapping and trading with Europeans
Described a society in which people lived in small groups and acquired their subsistence
by co-operating with teach other daily
Indicated division of labour based on gender but didnt entail systematic gender inequality
Autonomy: right or condition of self-government
Autonomy that women had in this society related to dependence all people had on the
group according to Leacock
People depended on each other every day, co-operation and generosity were central to
daily subsistence
oThis autonomy and absence of private property formed the basis of the gender
egalitarianism common in foraging societies
Montagnais-Naskapi lived in small hunting groups which functioned as families do in
Composition of those units consisted of many nuclear family units which werent
necessarily related by blood

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oThis kind of larger unit, containing several nuclear families, is common in
foraging societies and horticultural societies
oFor the Montagnais-Naskapi, hunting groups were the units of production,
consumption, child rearing, and residence as long as they were hunters
oThese units made up the ‘economy’
oBecause women placed a central role in these units, they placed a central role in
the economy
Women in an Egalitarian Society: The Montagnais- Naskapi of Canada- Leacock
Lived in tents constructed of 20-30 poles; tent might be shared by about 18 people
Until recently, they still lived mostly in tents, wore moccasins and often women retained
their traditional hairstyle
Le Jeune, a Jesuit missionary, lived with a Montagnais band in the winter of 1633-1634
and his accounts give picture of their lives in the days when they depended on hunting for
food, clothing, etc
3-4 families, usually related, lived in one large tent; men, women and kids travelled
together, working and contributing to the group to the best of their ability
Within the group, the social ethic called for generosity, co-operation and patience
Those who didnt contribute to the group were not respected
Montagnais had no leaders, the ‘chief’ Le Jeune referred to were apparently men of
Important matters were resolved through considered discussion
At the time leadership in specific situations fell to the person who was most
Principle of autonomy extended to relations between men and women
oLe Jeune saw women as powerful figures that had choice of plans, undertakings,
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