Roles of Women and Men
Native Americans for Kids
No matter where Native American tribes lived in America, there was a lot of work to be done to survive. They had to hunt, farm, prepare food for the winter, build homes, make their own clothing, and protect themselves from their enemies. In the typical Native American society, the work was divided up between the men and the women. They each took on different roles in society in their daily lives.
Although each tribe and region was different, the division of labor between men and women was generally similar across most of the Native American tribes. The women were responsible for work around the house, like cooking and raising the children. The men were responsible for work away from the home, like hunting and raiding.
Typical Women's Work
The women were generally in charge of the home and sometimes the fields. They worked extremely hard.
- Cooking - The women cooked and prepared the meals. This could involve skinning and cleaning the animals, gathering fruit and nuts, building a fire, and smoking meat to be stored for the winter.
- Crafts - Women had a variety of crafting skills they used around the home including making baskets, weaving cloth, preparing animal hides, and making clothing.
- Harvesting - In many tribes the women were responsible for harvesting the crops. The men might help in this task, but it generally fell upon the women.
- Other Jobs - Women had a variety of other jobs including raising the children and gathering firewood. When a tribe moved, it was generally the woman's job to pack up the home for moving and then set it back up at the new location.
The men were in charge of the tribe's activities away from the home.
- Hunting - The primary job of the men was hunting and fishing. Animals were not only used for food, but their skins were used for clothing and, in some cases, to make their homes.
- Fighting - Men also were responsible for making war and protecting the village.
- Crafts - Typical men's crafts had to do with their jobs such as weapons for hunting and boats for fishing and traveling.
- Other Jobs - In most Native American tribes men were the political and religious leaders. They often did the heavy work such as building permanent homes and planting crops.
- In some cases, men worked on detailed crafts such as ceremonial jewelry.
- The women were in charge in the homes. They often owned the home and everything in it.
- Women were well respected in the tribes for their hard work and providing food from farming.
- Men and women had different roles, but generally had equal rights. In some tribes, the chief was a man, but he was elected by the women.
- Today, around 25% of the Native American tribes that are recognized by the federal government are led by women.
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