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Diversity in American Native Tribes as Shown Through Women's Roles in Interacting with European Explorers

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True understanding of the plethora of native peoples groups scattered across the Americas comes with the general impression of diversity. From religious beliefs, inhabited regions, economic engagements, and political bodies, the many native peoples of America epitomize the wide variety of differences that could be possible; their diversity is limitless. Nearly any aspect can be selected to display diversity between to separate Native American tribes or peoples, but perhaps one of the most unique selections could be the functioning of women as political and diplomatic ambassadors towards the onslaught of both European explorers and settlers. Contrary to popular belief, a good deal of tribal cultures allowed women to become important influencing figures within social and political situations; the Powhatan peoples were one of these tribal groups. One of history's most famous examples was Pocahontas: who acted as a translator, diplomatic mediator, and eventual oversea representative for her peoples. However, women in the Taino culture, though exemplified for their agricultural importance in history accounts, were never recorded to have a woman to engage in any sort of diplomatic communication between the native people and the invading European explorers. Diversity within Native American tribes and culture groups is clearly illustrated through the stark contrast between women's role in the Taino and Powhatan tribes when attempting diplomatic relations with the European explorers and settlers.

The Taino tribe, an isolated culture group once existent within the Caribbean, was one of the first Native American tribal groups to encounter European settlers. Few written accounts exist from the people today, however evidence from the peoples' first encounter with the Europeans can be gathered through Columbus' account of his explorations through and around modern day Hispaniola.[1] According to Columbus when initialing encountering the island, he and his crew were originally feared by the people but then eventually met by a male monarch that greeted them and served as representative for his people.[2] Though his mentions of the women were brief, Columbus' first impressions of the women were that they were "timid yet wonderfully loving" and outstripped the men in general work.[3] So the Taino women were described as hard, societal workers but with no note of political power. Doctor Duval later extrapolated on the occurrences after Columbus' narrative ended: the cruel seizure and eventual enslavement of the Taino people at the hands of the Spanish.[4] Though she did remark the Taino people resisted enslavement and petitioned the Spanish people to cease their atrocities, no mention was made of women playing a particular role in advocating for diplomacy.[5 It would seem that women held little station as diplomatic or political figures within the Taino culture.

The Powhatan people, a plethora of adjoining clans that existed on the southeastern coastline of Virginia, are one of the more popularly known Native America encounters with European settlers due to Disney portrayals in movies like Pocahontas. When British settlers first established the colony of Jamestown in the early 1600s, it was only through Indian provision of foodstuffs that they were able to continue surviving.[6] Much to the annoyance of the Powhatan, the English continued to subsist off of their charity for the following years, making little effort to garner their own supplies.[7] When threatened to cut off supplies and warned of their seizure of Indian land, British settlers retaliated against Powhatan tribes through a series of bloody skirmishes over resources.[8] To help mediate and translate between the two warring factions, interpreters would travel between the two groups to relay messages; Pocahontas served as one of those interpreters.[9] However, bloodshed over land and food continued so the Powhatan devised a daring plan to amend relations with the British by kidnapping and imprisoning the British settlement leader, John Smith, then staging his execution so that Pocahontas might intervene in last minute to "rescue" the Englishman.[10] With the hostilities still not completely quelled, the Powhatan people sanctioned a marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe, a British settler, so that their union might be symbolic Powhatan and British eventually uniting. Shortly after her marriage, Pocahontas travelled to England and met with English gentry, serving as a both a model and an ambassador in honor of her people; she died at the end of her journey in England.[11] Not only did Pocahontas act in the service of her tribe until her death, her actions provided a notable, yet short-lived, cease to hostilities between the Powhatan and English peoples.[1 ] Though there is not mention of multiple women within the tribe who acted under diplomatic power, Pocahontas' important station as an ambassador between the uncooperative and hostile British is symbolic of the enhanced freedoms given to women within the Powhatan tribe. This woman-led



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