Women have long history of being the chief among tribes

To the Editor,

Recently a young Lumbee man said that Hillary Clinton couldn’t be a “chief” because she was a woman. I am sure the Cherokee People would take issue with this in large part because of the legacy of Principle Chief Wilma Mankiller.

I am sure many tribes across Indian Country would say there is no gender in the term “chief.” Let’s look at the history of American Indian people over thousands of years and examine what roles women have traditionally played in governance.

American Indian societies have long been matriarchal. Male controlled society arrived with European Occupation. Pre-Occupation, property was held in the hands of the women of North America. Decisions were made by Clan Mothers. It has been said of American Indian tribes even today that men earn the purse and women are the decision makers of the home in deciding where and how to spend it.

Women have been principle leaders of more than 500 independent American Indian nations on this continent of North America for thousands of years. Over a decade of involvement with hundreds of these American Indian nations, I find Lumbee women to be some of the most respected decision makers of all people. Whether they be our wives, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our nieces or our BFF, Lumbee men depend on the wisdom and support of Lumbee women.

Roles in traditional American Indian societies are based more on functions, knowledge, skills and abilities rather than gender. Some of our best beadwork today is done by males.

American Indians do differentiate between genders in some things. In our powwow circle, men dance counter clockwise while women dance clockwise or in harmony with nature. Moving counter clockwise in this man’s world has brought us racism, sexism, bigotry, hypocrisy, domestic violence, child and elder abuse and much chaos.

Maybe it’s time for the turtle and largest nation of North America to be led by a Clan Mother. Face it, without Clan Mothers, Indian Country might never have survived. So Lumbee men and women, I ask you to think with your Tribal minds and hearts, if you have any?

If you don’t recognize being tribal yourself, why should anybody else?

Eric R. Locklear


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