Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going Green

Green Willow? Green Corn? Both are names I have given to two of my Native American characters.

Green Willow is the name I gave to my Anasazi medicine woman of Chaco Canyon in 1054 A.D. Green Corn is the name of my Lenni Lenape woman in Western Pennsylvania in June 1744.

I guess I like green.

Actually, I pulled Green Willow's story out to use in Book 4, Aurora Remembrance, and I may change her name. I like her story too much to have cut it down to nothing to make it fit into my novel's word count parameters. Even as I wrote it, but for the word count, I wanted to expand this story.

Green Corn has her name in honor of the ceremony that was practiced in the spring by the Lenni Lenape. There is a reason for her name, so it stays.

The tribes lived on opposite sides of the continent, but had much in common.

1.) They were both agrarian societies, with the women responsible for growing the food crops.

2.) Like most Native American agrarian societies, the clans were matrilineal and matrilocular. The women were the heads of their families and the clans. When couples married, the husband either moved in with the wife, or visited the home of the wife but continued to live with his own clan. The women owned their homes and crop lands. Their children belonged to their clans, not to the clans of their husbands.

Men and women had different responsibilities. However, they were much more equal in status than women in either patriarchal Native American societies (more predominate in hunter-gatherer tribes) or the European societies of the Americas until within the last century.

The war chiefs were generally promoted based on ability. However, the tribal chiefs (sachems in the eastern tribes) who governed and negotiated treaties with the Europeans were selected either by virtue of their descent from the women of their clan or they were chosen by the clan matriarchs. The women spoke at the tribal councils and occasionally served as a chief.

In the eastern tribes especially, the women did not worry about themselves or their children being abused by their husbands. If a husband beat his wife, he had to deal with revenge from the men of her clan. Parents did not strike their children, but corrected them verbally. The most physical form of child discipline known was to dump a bowl of cold water on a child's head.

I imagine there will be several Christian readers, including members of my own faith, who will not appreciate the attitude Green Corn has towards the Bible. However, I have tried to be historically accurate.

Most Christian sects of the day used the Bible to oppress women to a secondary status, claiming the Adam and Eve story dealt with Eve's sexual seduction of Adam. To overcome this supposed female weakness, women were to be submissive to men. They must obey their husbands. Women had limited property rights and very little recourse to abuse. They had no active voice in government or religious affairs.

During the 17th and 18th centuries in North America, many women (especially indentured servants who were often treated like slaves) who survived being captured by the northeastern American tribes, preferred to be adopted into the tribe rather than return to "civilized" Christian society. Many chose to live with the greater freedom and status women enjoyed among the Native Americans.

I think it was all summed up well in Marty's thoughts after she heard Green Corn's story:

"Marty was stunned into silence, unsure what to say. She dare not explain that where she comes from, it is mostly a Christian society. Women have a voice in their family and government affairs. They do own land and they have as many rights as men. Society is very much opposed to any kind of abuse. But then, Marty realized, it has not always been that way. Women had to struggle many years to claim their rights. She knew the nation was already making plans for a big celebration of the 250 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in two years. Yet, she was a freshman in high school in 2020 when the nation celebrated the centennial of women gaining the right to vote.... "

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