Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

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Indigenous Divine Creatrixes

b2ap3_thumbnail_cloudy-sky-5.jpgSky Woman (Haudenosaunee). Spider Woman (Pueblo). Copper Woman (Pacific Northwestern nations). Selu (Cherokee). To nearly all Indigenous nations of Turtle Island (most of the Americas), the ancient creators of the Earth, her inhabitants and humanity are Women who are complemented by a male either through Her offspring or a partner.

Indigenous Women Creators made life from their bodily fluids, from their thoughts, from their words and actions. Because of Their creative powers, these very things became holy in human women forever after: our menstrual and childbirth blood, our thoughts, our words, and our actions are holy. We are holy. Traditional Indigenous peoples know this, practice this, and to this very day keep the rituals and laws that demonstrate that belief.

This is not a modern or feminist reinvention, not someone's interpretation, nor a plain-old lie made up by people who just want a counter-narrative to the monotheistic god story the Europeans brought here. No archaeological digs are needed to prove this fact. No anthropological analysis of statues or cultural frameworks are needed either. We do not need to use our imaginations to conjure the possibility of the primacy of Woman to Indigenous peoples.

This is not Indian Feminism; they are real Native American cultural beliefs and practices.b2ap3_thumbnail_selu-statue.jpg

Though non-Native academics, historians, and fiction writers continue to dismiss, re-write, and speak authoritatively about Indigenous peoples' divine originators that often subjugate or entirely eliminate First Woman, the facts remain irrefutable. Even though some Native peoples today who were ethnically-cleansed and christianized by the Indian boarding schools even claim the ancient primacy of a Native male-god, the facts still remain. At right is a bronze statue of Selu, First Woman of the Cherokees, from Cherokee, North Carolina.

Where can we find those facts of the primacy of Indigenous Creatrixes?

1) Native Traditions Today. Native Americans have been practicing their traditions, uninterrupted despite colonization, since time immemorial, albeit more carefully and secretly after the colonizers arrived. These traditions include girls' coming of age rituals and women's medicine societies. The traditions come almost exclusively from the teachings within the people's Creation Stories that centralize Women.

2) Native Women's Governing Roles Today. Several Indigenous nations in the United States have continued their governments as they were before colonization. Some of those nations, like the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and to some extent the Cherokees, include women's governing councils and women's high governmental offices (like Beloved Woman, Clan Mother, Jigonsaseh). This demonstrates women's primacy in the nations.

3) Native Written Records. Native Americans have impressive historic, WRITTEN records of their traditions and laws. These records include wampum belts, birch bark books, scrolls, maps, winter counts on buffalo hide, and carved wooden or pottery rods. Just like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into stone and writing on papyrus, Native American forms of writing are also legitimate sources of cultural history that Native people today can understand.

3) Contemporary Oral Traditions. Indigenous Faithkeepers and Historians publicly recite or ritually enact their Creation Stories annually. They also write books and make movies and blog posts! In these creation stories, Women are central and respected. The ancient traditions of Native peoples are as alive as the Native people are themselves--living, breathing examples of the centrality and respect for women inherent in the creation stories.b2ap3_thumbnail_corn-maze-entrance.jpg

So-called scholarship or opinion essays that try to minimize or completely dismiss the primacy of Women in Native American creation stories and cultures should be viewed in a similar light to the backlash against the European Goddess scholarship published decades ago by revered researchers like Gimbutas and Stone. The establishment does not like to have its power and control questioned and de-centralized--and accepting the reality that, in what is now America, the Divine Creatrix always reigned supreme, can be pretty hard for some to swallow. But as the Mothers of the Nations all know, if we keep dishing it out in small spoonfuls mixed with honey, gentle singing, and lots of love, eventually fear dissipates and the medicine of truth is going to go down.

Listening to Heartbeat Drum Song by the Indigenous a cappela women's group Ulali will inspire all:



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Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.


  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Sunday, 01 May 2016

    No wonder the Europeans were so desperate to Christianize the Native Americans. Their beliefs were a challenge to their faith.

  • Dr. Mays
    Dr. Mays Sunday, 01 May 2016

    Thank you for writing your insightful comment, Thesseli. For the earliest European settlers, the egalitarian, woman-centered Indigenous societies in the East that honor the Divine Creatrix were in opposition to Christian theology. Of course, those same settlers came from ancestors of ancient cultures that also worshiped the divine feminine long before christianity.

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