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The Impact of the American Indian Boarding School Movement on Haudenosaunee Women’s Roles

Updated on December 27, 2016
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in agricultural/occupational medicine in rural upstate NY and has a Masters degree in history.

Overview

The year is 1880. Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) populations no longer live freely throughout the forests of the northeast, and are now confined to small reservation lands in the less-than-desirable areas of real estate throughout New York State, Wisconsin, and southern Ontario. As occupational shifts among Haudenosaunee males parallel this Reservation Movement, the roles of women in Haudenosaunee social, political, and spiritual activities remain largely unchanged. With the onset of a new wave of the American federal government’s imposition of assimilation-intending controls over Haudenosaunee society, generations of Haudenosaunee children are soon to be removed from their homes and sent to European-American managed boarding schools based in Christian religious teachings. Upon the return of boarding school students to their Haudenosaunee communities, the students will have learned to speak, read, and write in English, follow Christian religious teachings, dress as European Americans, and regard the American federal government as the highest authority over the land instead of their former convictions that their Haudenosaunee Confederacy home holds its own sovereignty. Through the attempted assimilation of Native American students into European American society through the Indian Boarding School Movement, will the traditional placement of women within Haudenosaunee society persevere as it had through the implementation of the Reservation Movement just decades earlier?

Two contrasting arguments arise in the study of the Indian Boarding School Movement’s effects on Haudenosaunee women’s roles. empirical historians and feminist historians have argued that the impact of the Indian Boarding School Movement on Haudenosaunee women’s roles was minimal and parallel to the greater assimilation movement of the same era. In contrast, Marxist historians and ethno-historians have a tendency to argue the “Anglo-centric education in Indian boarding school” was a highly critical factor in the shift of Haudenosaunee women’s roles.[1] Historians such as Tom Porter, Sally Roesch Wagner, David Wallace Adams, and Alice Fletcher argue these two contrasting perspectives using an array of primary source material often reflecting the author’s specific political agenda and personal perspectives. In an investigation of the impact of the American Indian Boarding School Movement (hereafter referred to as IBSM) on the roles of Haudenosaunee women within their communities, a careful analysis of these and other primary sources must be used to validate the arguments of the contrasting historians who have previously written on the subject of the IBSM’s impact on Haudenosaunee community interaction.

Through an analysis of the primary sources documenting the IBSM, one may deduce that in an investigation of the impact the IBSM played in the lives of Haudenosaunee women, the primary source evidence confirms the validity of empirical historians’ arguments of the IBSM’s minimal impact of the IBSM on the traditional political, social, spiritual, and economic roles of Haudenosaunee women within their families and communities. Although the IBSM did have a significant impact in the lives of the Haudenosaunee, the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles within their families and communities was minimal, particularly in comparison to that of the Reservation Movement of the years immediately preceding the IBSM. The IBSM failed to accomplish its goal of eradicating the Haudenosaunee and other Native American nations of their cultural links to values of matriarchy, communalism, and cooperation which conflicted with white-American values of patriarchy, individualism, and capitalism, and women’s roles among the Haudenosaunee persisted through the IBSM. However, the importance of the roles held by Haudenosaunee women was significantly diminished by the Reservation Movement’s successful enforcement of occupational shifts among the Haudenosaunee. While the roles held by women persisted, the importance of such political and spiritual roles of women diminished as increasing interaction with surrounding white communities became necessary following the shifting landscape of the Haudenosaunee people resulting from the Reservation Movement. While Haudenosaunee women during the IBSM appeared to have lost their heightened status in Haudenosaunee society relative to the position held by white women of the same period as noted by such prominent ethnohistorians as Arthur Parker, William Fenton, William Beauchamp, and Dean Snow, this shift in the status of Haudenosaunee women can be linked more heavily to the lingering effects of the Reservation Movement in New York State and Ontario than to the IBSM in the American Northeast.


[1] Joane Nagel. “American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Politics and the Resurgences of Identity” American Sociological Review, Vol.60 No.6 (Dec. 1995):.947-965.

Clarification of Haudenosaunee and Iroquoian Terminology used Herein

The term “tribalism” as used herein represents the self identification of a group of society sharing a common territory, traditional lifestyle, set of values, and interests. For the purpose of this analysis, tribalism is used in reference to the self-recognized identity of the Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca, Mohawk, and Tuscarora nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and their respective reservations and communities. As stated by anthropologist David Landy, “tribalism tends to last as long as a sense of closely knit community persists.”[1] The following analysis of the IBSM’s impact on the traditionally held roles of Haudenosaunee women focuses heavily on the placement of Haudenosaunee women within their communities through the lenses of lifestyle, values, and interests of the Haudenosaunee before, during, and after the IBSM’s implementation.

The terms “Haudenosaunee” and “Six Nations” are used herein in reference to the six aforementioned nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also referred to as the “Iroquois” by many nineteenth and twentieth century historians. In the following analysis of Haudenosaunee women’s roles, the term Haudenosaunee is used in reference to the tribalism of the Six Nations, whereas the terms “Iroquois” and “Iroquoian” are avoided to circumvent regional confusion due to these terms’ actual and perceived definitions. Whereas the term “Iroquois” has been used for centuries in reference to the specific nations belonging to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the term “Iroquoian” is not a descriptive adjective of facets of Iroquois society as one might presume. The term “Iroquoian” instead refers to a common linguistic style shared by nations including the Huron, Wyandot, Erie, Susquehanna, and Haudenosaunee among others in the northeastern woodlands spanning far beyond the range of this analysis[2].

The term “traditional” is used herein to refer to the Haudenosaunee cultural components that were practiced before the implementation of the IBSM and had persisted through the Reservation Movement. Upon a realization that no culture is static and that what is considered “traditional” is constantly in a state of fluctuation with changing times, the term “traditional” is used herein with reference to the cultural understanding of Haudenosaunee practices used in the years immediately preceding the IBSM.

The term “Longhouse” is used herein to refer to the traditional spirituality of the Haudenosaunee. Before and immediately European contact, the Haudenosaunee used the longhouse not only as a physical structure in which to live but also as a metaphor for the nations comprising the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, spanning from east to west across the northeastern woodlands. When used as a capitalized pronoun, “Longhouse” has been used for centuries in reference to the traditional spiritual teachings of the Haudenosaunee people, whereas the use of the un-capitalized noun “longhouse” refers only to the physical existence of a structural longhouse, such as in the discussion of the Reservation Movement shift in Haudenosaunee lifestyles from longhouses to nuclear family hewn-timber homes.[3] According to Lewis Henry Morgan, an anthropologist who specialized in the study of Native Americans during the early and mid-1800s, the Haudenosaunee “did not just compare their confederation to a longhouse, it was a longhouse,” stretching 240 miles, in which the five tribes gathered forming a geographic resemblance to the structural buildings in which they had traditionally resided.[4] Although the Haudenosaunee are often referred to as the people of the Longhouse, by the mid nineteenth century, the longhouse was no longer used as a home structure but instead as a place of spiritual Longhouse ceremonial gatherings. With the AIRM’s increasing impact on Native American life throughout the nineteenth century, the Haudenosaunee had adopted European-American style nuclear family homes, often in log cabin and hewn timber styles.[5]


[1] David Landy, “Tuscarora Tribalism and National Identity” Ethnohistory. Vol.5, No.3. (Summer 1958): 251.

[2] Wissler, Clark. “Material Cultures of the North American Indians” American Anthropologist, “Facts and Problems if North American Anthropology” (Jul.-Sep. 1914): 461.

[3] Dean R. Snow. The Iroquois. (USA: Blackwell Publishing, 2002) p.132.

[4] William Gould Sturges, “An Exploration of the Relationships between Houses and Forests in American History” Journal of Architectural Education (1984-), Vol. 46, No. 2 (Nov., 1992): 66.

[5] William C. Wonders, “Log Dwellings in Canadian Folk Architecture” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 69, No. 2 (Jun., 1979): 187-207.

The Reservation Movement’s Impact on Haudenosaunee Society

Throughout the nineteenth century, Native Americans were restricted to reduced tracts of lands as European-Americans increased in population and power in American territory. The American Indian Reservation Movement (hereafter referred to as AIRM) of the nineteenth century was a means of assimilating Native Americans into American society by restricting the landownership of Native Americans through the allotment of specified areas of real estate. Growing out of Jacksonian America’s expansion westward and the mounting economic power of the United States over increasingly dependent Native American nations, such legislation as the General Allotment Act of 1887 were implemented by the Federal United States Government. Pioneered by Massachusetts Senator Henry Dawes,[1] (in recognition of whom the General Allotment Act is also known as the Dawes Act), the General Allotment Act reflected the sentiment of the AIRM era’s Indian Affairs policy that if individual Native Americans were given plots of land to cultivate, they would prosper through the adoption of European-American agricultural practices and become assimilated into mainstream American culture as middle class farmers. The Native American nations to which the assimilated farmers had belonged were viewed by legislators as obstacles to the cultural and economic development of the individual Native Americans, and with the implementation of such legislation as the General Allotment Act, the tribal affiliations believed to be hindering assimilation would quickly wither away.[2] According to historian William Canby, “in 1871, Congress passed a statute providing that no tribe thereafter was to be recognized as an independent nation.”[3] The General Allotment Act removed Native American nations’ land from the title of the no longer recognized nations, and reallocated the lands in smaller allotments to individual Native Americans and Native American families.

By placing Native Americans on smaller plots of land, Indian Affairs policymakers hoped to enforce the adoption of European-American agricultural practices and occupations, thus furthering the assimilation of Native Americans into white American society. Assimilationist policymakers intended the 1887 Dawes Act to dismantle Haudenosaunee patterns of communal land ownership, making it possible to create a yeoman class of assimilated farmers tilling privately owned lands in the northeastern United States. Removed from damaging tribal ties and encouraged to use European agricultural practices, the United States Government believed Native Americans would become self sufficient agriculturalists; archetypal Jeffersonian citizens revitalizing the nation instead of “dissolute wards enfeebling it.”[4] Due to such measures as the General Allotment Act, the amount of Native American lands dwindled from 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million acres in 1934,[5] a 65.2% decrease in Native American landholdings in only forty seven years of implementing AIRM policy. Approximately 92.6% of the land lost during this period was lost between the brief duration between 1887 and 1904[6], the seventeen years immediately following the implication of the Dawes Act.

Within newly allotted reservation lands, the education of Native American students was “heavily influenced by organized religions, and when reservation schools were first set up in 1865, they too were directed by religious organizations with a goal of Christianizing the Indians.”[7] In 1878, off-reservation boarding schools were established by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to permit the education of Native American children away from the tribal environments thought to inhibit their assimilation into white society. However, an analysis of the effects of the AIRM on Haudenosaunee life asserts the notion that the damage to traditional Haudenosaunee culture had already been done, the effects of which took shape as the IBSM progressed. As ascertained by historian William Cronon, “a people who loved property little had been overwhelmed by a people who loved it much”[8] and the effects on Native American culture were profound. By 1880, the earlier politics of “Indian Removal” had now reached their temporary conclusion in the form of the Indian Reservation,[9] followed by the Indian Affairs policy emphasis on Indian education.

Once reservation land allotment had been carried through by the 1880s, policy makers moved aggressively to complete the assimilation of Native Americans into mainstream American life through educational means. The “Covenant Chain” was the treaty relationship linking the Haudenosaunee with New York during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, directing inter-cultural contacts into ambassadorial channels. Striving to keep the peace in the region while helping the Haudenosaunee slow “their own descent into dependence,”[10] Such agreements as the Covenant Chain’s allowance of two separate cultures, one Native American and one European American, to coexist without interfering with one another amidst “the growing presence and expansion of colonial powers”[11] were neglected by IBSM policymakers in their yearning to make the Native American tribalism of nations such as the Haudenosaunee obsolete through Christian education.

According to historian Peter C. Mancall, the decline in the power of the Haudenosaunee occurred not because of growing American political power, but because American landholders, politicians, and merchants all believed that the region was needed to economically defend the new nation and to provide land for farmers. As stated by Mancall, “those who used the Erie Canal to haul the produce of the west to the growing cities of the Atlantic seaboard shipped their goods through the heart of Iroquoia.”[12] President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Bill in May of 1830 to seize control of Native American lands east of the Mississippi River. During the course of the next decade, those who had fought against the Indian Removal Act were unhappy with the progress being made towards assimilation of Native Americans. Upon an observation of the destabilized state of the few Native American nations such as the Haudenosaunee who did not relocate, Americans reluctantly believed that the only way to save Native Americans from their own destruction was through relocation. Yet what was being saved was not the Native American, but instead a “white conception of the Indian.”[13]

Some educators, such as Richard Henry Pratt of the Carlisle Indian School, believed that such removal could be achieved not through movement westward but through relocation of Native American children to off-reservation boarding schools. Such an educational imposition was believed powerful enough to remove Native American cultural practices from Native American communities and replace Haudenosaunee tribalism with Euro-American societal standards. AIRM policies such as the implementation of the 1884 Indian Reorganization Act sought to disempower tribal governments through such means as the implementation of federally overseen tribal governments to serve as puppets for further assimilation attempts[14] such as the education of thousands of Haudenosaunee students in Boarding schools across the northeastern United States and Southern Canada.

Although the IBSM was intended to supplement the assimilation of Native Americans not accomplished by the AIRM, the IBSM failed to successfully eliminate the traces of Native American culture viewed by policymakers such as Henry Dawes to be hindering the success of Native Americans. As stated by New York State governor Dewitt Clinton upon a reflection of his experiences in New York State witnessing the decline of the power of the Haudenosaunee, “when we consider, that the discovery and settlement of America have exterminated millions of the red men…we have reason to shudder at the gloomy perspective… The minister of destruction is hovering over them, and before the passing away of the present generation, not a single [Haudenosaunee] will be seen in this State”.[15] Although the Haudenosaunee were not indeed physically deceased by the turn of the nineteenth century as Dewitt Clinton had surmised, the Reservation Movement of the mid Nineteenth century sought to culturally “kill the Indian” to “save the man” by assimilating Native Americans into white society. [16] When the AIRM failed to erase cultural evidence of Native American identity separate from that of European America, the IBSM took shape in essence to finish the job of assimilation. An analysis of the societal position of Haudenosaunee women before and after the implementation of the AIRM will demonstrate the persistence and continuity of Haudenosaunee political, economic, and spiritual recognition of the traditional position of Haudenosaunee women despite assimilation attempts of the AIRM. An analysis of the societal position of Haudenosaunee women before and after the implementation of the IBSM will demonstrate the minimal impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s traditionally held societal roles within their communities.


[1] David Wallace Adams, “Fundamental Considerations. The Deep Meaning of Native American Schooling, 1880-1900”. Harvard Educational Review. Vol.58 No.1 (February 1988):18.

[2] William Canby. American Indian Law: In a Nutshell. (St. Paul: West Group Publishing, 1998) p.20.

[3] Canby p. 18.

[4] Thomas G. Andrews “Turning the tables on Assimilation: Ogala Lakotas and the Pine Ridge Day Schools, 1889-1920s.” Western Historical Quarterly 33.4 (2002):2.

[5]Canby.p.21.

[6] United States, Department of the Interior, “Report of the Secretary of the Interior, V.2” Washington: Government Printing Office, 1887. Pp. 448-475.

[7] Canby P.19.

[8] William Cronon. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. Hill and Wang: New York, 2003 p.81.

[9] Adams, P.2.

[10] Merrell James H. “Review: The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744 by Francis Jennings” The Journal of American History, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Mar., 1985): 853.

[11] William A. Starna, “Review: Beyond the Covenant Chain: The Iroquois and Their Neighbors in Indian North America, 1600-1800 by Daniel K. Richter ; James H. Merrell” Ethnohistory, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Spring, 1988): 201.

[12] Peter C. Mancall “Review: Max M. Mintz. Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary conquest of the Iroquois” The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No. 5 (Dec., 2000): 1734.

[13] B. Donald Grose, “Edwin Forrest, "Metamora", and the Indian Removal Act of 1830” Theatre Journal, Vol. 37, No. 2 (May, 1985): 190.

[14] Wilcomb E. Washburn “A Fifty-Year Perspective on the Indian Reorganization Act” American Anthropologist, Vol. 86, No. 2 (Jun., 1984): 279-289.

[15] Vivian C. Hopkins, “De Witt Clinton and the Iroquois” Ethnohistory, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Spring, 1961), p.127

[16] Official Report of the Nineteenth Annual Conference of Charities and Correction (1892): 46–59. Reprinted in Richard H. Pratt, “The Advantages of Mingling Indians with Whites,” Americanizing the American Indians: Writings by the “Friends of the Indian” 1880–1900 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973): P. 260–271.

An Analysis of Women’s Roles in Haudenosaunee Society between the Implementation of the AIRM and the Implementation of the IBSM

According to anthropologist Gail Landsman, “regardless of what ‘really’ happened in the past, we must all make do with representations of the past, that is, with images created by persons in some present.”[1] As stated by Landsman, “ethnohistorians… have traditionally worked on representing the histories of 'others,' who are 'other' in part because they did not have the means or privilege of writing their own histories."[2] Although many historians and anthropologists have written about various aspects of Haudenosaunee women’s lives in the nineteenth century, very few Haudenosaunee women had the means to record their own perspectives. Landsman’s assertions reinforce the importance of considering material culture in conjunction with documented accounts of the experiences of those who could not record their own history. In an analysis of Haudenosaunee life in the mid-late nineteenth century, it is important to use material culture evidence to substantiate the documented evidence of the lifestyles of Haudenosaunee women.

Much about the Haudenosaunee has been left "unrecorded," but fortunately, as shown through Harold Blau’s analysis of the Onondaga, indications of the “remarkable cultural persistence in spite of more than three centuries of contact” remain. The Onondaga language was still spoken, and many major Longhouse spiritual rituals were still observed in Haudenosaunee communities.[3] In 1888, the first edition of the Journal of American Folklore was published. In both the first and second volumes, historians William Beauchamp and DeCost Smith contributed articles about the Haudenosaunee using the Onondaga, a central Haudenosaunee nation located near Syracuse New York, as a case study. Their reports were fundamentally accurate, and indeed all that they described was still practiced by the Onondaga even in the 1960s at the time of Harold Blau’s research.[4]

The Haudenosaunee have woven baskets from such materials as the cornhusk[5] and sweet grass,[6] abundant throughout Haudenosaunee lands for hundreds of years. For use as containers, baskets were everyday household objects found within Haudenosaunee homes both in nuclear family hewn timber homes of the reservations, and in the longhouse homes which preceded them. After the Civil War, wealthy tourists left cities to spend their summers at resorts throughout the northeast in places like the Adirondack and Catskill mountains.[7] During the Victorian era, Haudenosaunee basket makers began making baskets for sale to their European-American tourist neighbors, and baskets shifted from being basic utilitarian objects for food and dry good storage, to decorative items sold for profit.[8] Basket makers were predominantly women, who learned the trade from their mothers, beginning to learn as children. Watching their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers gather materials and make baskets, children sometimes as young as six years of age began to learn a craft that had been handed down through the generations, often accompanied with storytelling and singing.[9]

The Civil War brought not only tourists from the cities to countryside areas inhabited by the Haudenosaunee, the war also brought widowhood and economic hardship to mothers, daughters, and wives. Many Haudenosaunee men fought with the Union during the Civil War, leaving their Native American communities in pursuit of the federal pensions they would receive in return for their service. In light of recent events such as the Indian Removal of the Cherokees from the state of Georgia in 1838 following the Reservation Movement’s influence under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Haudenosaunee were fearful of being removed from their New York State homeland and felt a strong need to defend their “land base.”[10] Whereas Haudenosaunee living on Oneida territory in Wisconsin had already been displaced from their homes in the east and enlisted primarily for the economic opportunities provided by enlistment benefits and bounty, New York State Haudenosaunee enlisted with a preemptive anticipation of future land conflicts with the hopes of winning the loyalty of their white American neighbors.

According to historian Laurence M. Hauptman, “Despite the claims of white educators, the reason for Iroquois military service in the civil war does not appear to be simple patriotism to the constitution or to the flag of the United States, so evident in the North in 1861.” What appeared to whites to be assimilative forces taking shape in the form of military enlistment in a “white man’s war” was perceived by the Haudenosaunee as logical behavior amongst a Native American culture which both respected and commended warrior roles among male community. Military service had traditionally (and still was at the time of Hauptman’s research in the 1990s) been an honored profession among Haudenosaunee males. Military service in the Civil War not only provided Haudenosaunee men with a temporary alleviation of the increasingly claustrophobic boundaries of Reservation life, it provided them with a means of validating the respect of a new generation of Native American men; with no more Indian Wars in which to fight in defense of their people to attain honor from their elders. According to anthropologist William N. Fenton, a reduction in the size of Haudenosaunee territory resulted in an increased population density, so that formerly sovereign tribes were thrown together on reservations, where the old lives of tribal distinction and autonomy were soon diminished. White farmers settled among them, further obstructing the communication between scattered Native American homesteads. The felling of the forests by American loggers spoiled the hunting of the Haudenosaunee warriors. With their hunting territory rendered devoid of sufficient game, Haudenosaunee men turned reluctantly to farming, which was traditionally women’s work. As stated by Fenton, “The paths to self respect were closed. There was no way that the young men could answer their elders, who had achieved distinction in the war out of Niagara. The body politic, moreover, was loaded with war chiefs, who unable to validate their prestige on the warpath, became the frustrated leaders of factions.”[11]

For the wives of husbands who didn’t live to return home, it was often difficult to access the pensions they thought they would receive, due to the difficult process of acquiring Civil War pensions. The process to receive Civil War pensions required such written documentation as proof of marriage and proof of death among the heavily illiterate Haudenosaunee.[12] For example, an Oneida woman named Sallie Anthony failed to receive a pension because her father’s name had been misspelled in the company G Muster Rolls.[13] Likewise, a discrepancy over the date of her husband’s death in varying sources of documentation, Louisa Hudson was unable to receive a pension despite her late husband’s military service.[14] To receive her late husband’s military pension, Achsah Halftown Shongo had to prove that her husband had drowned as well as provide documentation that she had indeed been married to Thomas Shongo. Additionally, she had to swear that she had not lived with any other man since her husband’s death.[15] Also in keeping with the moral standards of Victorian era society, Celinda Danforth was denied her husband’s pension because she had lived with another man after her husband’s death 19 years earlier.[16]

According to the research of historian Laurence Hauptman, “women filled the labor void caused by enlistment of their menfolk during the Civil War.” With men away serving with the union forces, Haudenosaunee women increased the production of such goods as apples, buckwheat, oats, horses, beef cattle, and sheep for wool. In doing so, the economy of Haudenosaunee reservations changed from one of sustainability towards a “market generated economy” driven to provide materials for meals and uniforms needed by wartime Union troops. After the war, women were displaced from this increase in agricultural production and returned to the growth of such crops as corn, beans, and wheat as had been cultivated in the pre-war years.[17]

In the spring, women continued to gather and boil sap from sugar maple trees to make syrup and sugar, for use in both everyday meals and ceremonial use in Longhouse spirituality. [18] Women also took part in the cutting and splitting of wood for the woodstove for use throughout the year. In the spring, women also tilled gardens to prepare for the summer planting of corn, peas, oats, clover, raspberries, beans,[19] apple orchards,[20] strawberries, raspberries,[21] and dozens of other food / medicinal plants.[22] Often using such tools as wooden hoes, Haudenosaunee women tended their family gardens in the nineteenth century as their mothers and grandmothers had before them.[23] In addition to gardening, women often raised animals such as poultry for sale at local markets as well as for use by their family. Likewise, women would often use milk of the family cow to make butter to sell. Such activities as gardening, basketry, and tending to small amounts of farm animals allowed women to maintain their traditional roles as the main providers of Haudenosaunee food to their families and communities.[24] According to anthropologist Judith K. Brown, “the degree to which women participate in subsistence activities depends upon the compatibility of the latter with simultaneous child-care responsibilities.”[25] The agricultural roles held by Haudenosaunee women allowed them to maintain their economic provision for their family simultaneous to child care. The money from the sale of woman-produced goods such as butter and eggs was often entrusted to women to make household purchases for goods such as woodstoves.[26]

In an era of increasing access to grocery stores and markets in the age of new forms of transportation, many Haudenosaunee felt that the only way to get good corn meal was to grow and pound the corn themselves.[27] When not in use, the mortar “stands near its owner's door, inverted to keep out the rain and dust.”[28] The mortar would be used to pound corn into a fine powder to be used in baking and cooking. Large bags woven of grass or corn husk were often used for storing corn.[29] In 1898 long after the onset of the IBSM, ethno-historian W.M. Beauchamp observed that a large part of the Onondaga corn was still braided and hung from ceilings throughout Onondaga homes to dry. One day Beauchamp, who worked extensively with the Onondaga Nation, saw an elderly Onondaga woman walking between the rows of corn with a basket on her back. As she walked, she plucked the corn on either side, alternately throwing it over her shoulder into the basket. According to Beauchamp, “corn-husk mats, bottles, etc., are yet made, and I have had from the Onondagas several corn-husk dolls.”[30] Since before European contact with the Haudenosaunee, corn husk dolls were common among Haudenosaunee children. In the nineteenth century, cornhusk dolls[31] were still made among Haudenosaunee people and were popular with young girls.

Ida Elm Blackhawk’s 1941 memoir of her childhood during the late nineteenth century depicts a typical Oneida family residing in a log house. Constructed in 1888, the three bedroom house was home to Blackhawk’s parents and their 8 children.[32] Ida recalled that whenever her three sisters came home from the boarding school, “there would be ten of us at home. We only had three bedrooms.” Surrounding the house were gardens, in which kidney beans, navy beans, raspberries, and blackberries grew alongside many traditionally grown Haudenosaunee fruits and vegetables. Continuing in the tradition of Haudenosaunee women’s role as agriculturalists, Ida’s mother worked in the gardens to provide food for the table. In her 1941 memoir, Ida recalls “my mother used to leave me to take care of my little sisters and brothers… while she went to work in the garden.” Like many Haudenosaunee families, the Blackhawks raised a small amount of dairy cattle and hens. Ida recounted her childhood experiences, stating “we always had eggs. My mother used to get eggs all winter from her hens.” With the milk from her dairy cattle, Ida’s “mother made butter for home use.” Ida’s mother was not only the provider of much of the family’s food, but was also regarded by Ida as “the treasurer”[33] of family finances, with control of the family’s economic decisions. In a memoir of growing up in Oneida territory in the 1880s, Melissa Cornelius recalled that her mother sold apples to the local grocer.[34] As reinforced by historian Laurence Hauptman, “authority over the household resided in the matron and not in one of her male relatives.”[35]

In a recollection of living in Oneida territory in the last four decades of the nineteenth century, Sophie Hill reinforced the importance of motherhood and matrilineal community to the Haudenosaunee through her assertion that “when a [Haudenosaunee] woman is barren… she is usually asked to adopt a motherless child.” Through the recorded Haudenosaunee women’s experiences, evidence of cultural continuity of Haudenosaunee traditional lifestyles is apparent even despite the IBSM. Even in 1941 as she recalled her experiences in Oneida territory, Sophie Hill could not speak English, and relied on a translator to publish her memoir in English.[36]


[1] Gail H. Landsman, “The "Other" as Political Symbol: Images of Indians in the Woman Suffrage Movement” Ethnohistory, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Summer, 1992): 247.

[2] Landsman, 1992. p.247.

[3] Harold Blau. “Function and the False Faces: A Classification of Onondaga Masked Rituals and Themes“ The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 79, No. 314 (Oct. - Dec.1966): 564-580.

[4] Blau, 1966. p.565.

[5] Gene Weltfish, “Prehistoric North American Basketry Techniques and Modern Distributions” American Anthropologist, (Jul. - Sep., 1930): 449.

[6] Olivia Thornburn. “Mary Kawennatakie Adams: Mohawk Basket Maker and Artist” American Art, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 2001): 90.

[7] Anthony Wonderly, Oneida Iroquois Folklore, Myth, and History: New York Oral Narrative from the Notes of H.E.Allen and Others. (NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004) P.188.

[8] Wonderly, 2004. p.190.

[9] Thorburn, p.90.

[10] Laurence M. Hauptman,The Iroquois in the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation. (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

[11] Hauptman 1993, Pp. 14-16.

[12] Hauptman, 1993 P.129.

[13] “E.B. Goodenough to Joseph H Barrett, July 1st 1866; Moses Webster, Beter Bread, Affidavit, Mar. 20, 1980; J.J. Woodward to Record and Pension Bureau Mar. 2, 1866; C.S. Breck to Commissioner of Pensions, Jan. 17, 1866” Thomas Antone [Anthony] Pension Record, Minor’s Pension Application, 115883. Civil War Pensison Records, National Archives, Washington DC. Referenced in Laurence M. Hauptman, The Iroquois in the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation. (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

[14] “Peter Snow, John Baldwin, and Joseph Smith, Affidavit Apr. 16, 1866; Thomas

B. Green Statement of 1865; Asher Wright to Joseph Barrett, May 3, 1866” Foster J. Hudson Pension Record. Civil War Pension Records, National Archives, Washington D.C. Referenced in Laurence M. Hauptman, The Iroquois in the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation. (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

[15] “Thomas Shongo Pension Record, Wife’s pension Application 510551” Certificate

848451. Civil War Pension Records, National Archives, Washington D.C. 1903. Referenced in Laurence M. Hauptman, The Iroquois in the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation. (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

[16] “William E. McLean, M. Buttersfield, A.S.Coleman, To Be Dropped; Oct. 31, 1885;

Deposition, Case of Celinda Danforth.” Cobus Danforth Pension Record, Widow’s Pension Application 68662 Certificate 45723. Civil War Pension Records, National Archives, Washington D.C. 1885 Referenced in Laurence M. Hauptman, The Iroquois in the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation. (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

[17] Hauptman, 1993. P.131.

[18] Fred Voget. “A Six Nations' Diary, 1891-1894” Ethnohistory, 16:4 (Autumn, 1969), pp. 346

[19] Linda Maurray Berzok, American Indian Food: Food in American History. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2005) p.156.

[20] Berzok, 2005. p.23.

[21] Berzok, 2005. p.157.

[22] Voget, 1969, p.347.

[23] W. M. Beauchamp, “Indian Corn Stories and Customs” The Journal of American Folklore, 11:42 (Jul. - Sep., 1898): 196.

[24] Voget, 1969, p.359.

[25] Judith K. Brown “A Note on the Division of Labor by Sex”: American Anthropologist, 72:5 (Oct., 1970): 1073.

[26] Voget, 1969, p.348.

[27] Beauchamp, p.106.

[28] Harrington, M. R. “Some Seneca Corn-Foods and Their Preparation” American Anthropologist, (Oct. – Dec. 1908):577.

[29] Charles C. Willoughby, “Textile Fabrics of the New England Indians” American Anthropologist, (Jan. - Mar., 1905):89.

[30] W. M. Beauchamp, “Indian Corn Stories and Customs” The Journal of American Folklore, (Jul. - Sep., 1898):197.

[31] Mary Jane Lenz. Small Spirits: Native American Dolls From the National Museum of the American Indian. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004) p.66.

[32] Herbert S. Lewis, Oneida Lives: Long Lost Voices of the Wisconsin Oneidas (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005) p.2.

[33] Lewis, 2005, p.7.

[34] Lewis, 2005, p.94.

[35] Hauptman 1993, p.135.

[36] Lewis, 2005, p. 49- 51.

Overview of the IBSM in Haudenosaunee Life

The four tenets of the IBSM as identified by Native American Studies specialist Tsianina Lomowaima include the ideas that “Native Americans were savages and had to be civilized,” that “civilization required Christian conversion,” that resettlement efforts could be used to subordinate Native American communities to achieve civilization, and that Native Americans had “mental, moral, physical, or cultural deficiencies that made certain pedagogical methods necessary for their education.”[1] Educators such as Richard Henry Pratt of the Carlisle Institute took such tenets to heart in their educational practices and sought to eliminate all evidence of Native American culture from Haudenosaunee students in an attempt to create a generation of Native Americans who left their heritage behind to join white society in an ideal America of White Anglo-Saxton Protestants, complete with a unified set of values including capitalism, individualism, and American patriotism.

According to Native American historian Vine Deloria, “the Act of July 31, 1882, authorized the secretary of war to set aside vacant army posts and barracks for use as … industrial training schools for youth from the nomadic tribes having educational treaty claims upon the United States,”[2] demonstrating a major financial and legislative commitment by the United States to Indian Education by taking federally established sites and converting them into IBSM schools. The IBSM strove to educate female Haudenosaunee students with vocational training for domestic service to prepare students for life in the Euro-American communities in which they were intended to be assimilated. In 1911, at the height of the IBSM, the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs published an education manual of what Native American girls should be taught in schools, including a listing of such domestic skills as sewing, laundering, food preparation, and dairying.[3]

Parallel to the concurrent Canadian “Residential School System” the IBSM initiated a shift in Native American education from the education of children by parents and communities, to the education of Native American communities by American authorities, particularly European-American Institutions.[4] Often heavily tied to religious philosophies and Christian-based pedagogies, the goal of the IBSM to transform Native American people through the eradication of “Indian self government, self determination, and self education”[5] was aimed towards by such IBSM schools educating Haudenosaunee students as the Haskell Institute (Kansas), the Carlisle School (Pennsylvania), Hampton Institute (Virginia), Flandreau School (South Dakota), Pipestone School (Minnesota), Tomah School (Wisconsin), and others.[6] Within the schools, the socio-cultural composition of students, pedagogical consistency, intensive socialization of students, and social isolation were intended to eliminate traces of Native American culture, in effect rendering Native American political power ineffectual.[7] As identified by historian David Wallace Adams, the three principles in the “core of ideology” of IBSM schools included a heavy emphasis on Protestantism, Capitalism, and Republicanism as a means of eliminating Haudenosaunee senses of traditional Haudenosaunee Longhouse spirituality, community and cooperation / economic mutualism.[8] In essence, the Haudenosaunee “concept of greater good” and community was intended to be replaced through IBSM pedagogy with white American values of capitalism and individualism.[9]

Protestantism was the basis of IBSM school curriculums, not only to replace the Native American spiritualities such as traditional Longhouse spirituality of the Haudenosaunee, but also to “teach students to respect the superiority of America’s belief system and to disparage the hopeless primitivism of Indian cultures, supplanting the cultural norms of the tribe with those of the nation.”[10] The importance of such religious teachings in IBSM schools as Bible reading, emphasis on individual salvation, and reinforcement of practices to emphasize personal morality, were typically linked to the secular values intrinsic within nascent capitalism; specifically the emphasis on “personal industry, the sanctity of private property, and the ideal of success.” Such ideology was intended to encourage the recognition of monogamous marriage and the nuclear family as the basic unit in society, the reliance of Native American subsistence on agriculture, and the reliance on private property as the basis for economic and social organization among Native American students.[11]

Upon entrance to IBSM schools, students were dressed in uniforms and received regulated haircuts to fit the societal norms of white America. According to historian Thomas G. Andrews, the changing of Native American names to European American names, and the changing of appearances through the adaptation of European American clothing and hairstyles served only as prelude of the things to come. Having renamed their pupils in the manner of American children and dressing them to fit the part, teachers next attempted to teach Native American students English and the manual skills they would need to succeed in the “perilous currents of the American mainstream.”[12] Through a reflection of his analysis of the IBSM’s pedagogical basis in religion and capitalism, Andrews commends the “persistence of Natives”[13] despite educational assimilation attempts and attributes such persistence of Native American students to the deep desire of IBSM students to maintain cultural continuity of the communities and families that formed the only way of life they had known upon entrance to IBSM schools. Students such as Mary Kawennatakie Adams, a Mohawk born in 1917, grew up speaking Haudenosaunee languages and “did not learn English until well into adulthood.” Despite IBSM attempts to place such students in roles of domestic service, Mary Kawennatakie Adams learned traditional Mohawk basketry from her mother after completing her formal education; a trade which she then passed down to her daughter.[14]

According to the IBSM analysis of historian David DeJong, the standardized curriculum, the austerely routine lessons, the residency of Haudenosaunee students in schools hundreds of miles from their homes in New York State, the restrictive discipline of the educators, and the institutional nature of the schools all served to impede the growth of the Haudenosaunee children that policymakers and other IBSM proponents sought to educate.[15] In 1926, United States Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work sanctioned the Institute for Government Research to perform a comprehensive survey of Indian affairs known as the Meriam Report, headed by Lewis Meriam (for whom the report is named). Officially entitled The Problem of Indian Administration, the Meriam Report published in February 1928 identified IBSM schools as the dominant feature of the Indian school system, and noted that such schools made “inadequate provision for the care and education of [Native American] children.”[16]

The Meriam Report addressed the fundamental problems of American Indian Education that led to the failure of the IBSM to fully assimilate Native Americans including the Haudenosaunee into American society. Such issues addressed by the report included the need to recognize individual students as competent pupils with the potential to be successful adults, the need for more efficient and highly qualified personnel, “deplorable health conditions” of the schools due to poor sanitation, the “undesirable effects of routinization” and over-scheduling of student participation in educational and civic activities,, and the importance of home and family life which had been considered detrimental to Native American education. Embroidery and sewing, among other laundry and kitchen related domestic tasks, were the basis of vocational training for work in domestic service upon the completion of female Haudenosaunee students’ IBSM education. Very few students of the IBSM schools graduated to go on to jobs suited to the students’ previous IBSM vocational training,[17] and the Meriam Report condemned such training as “mere drudgery” and insufficient training for such positions.[18]

Through home economics education, the IBSM sought to train Haudenosaunee girls to advance to “the best type of American citizenship, looking to their absorption into the general citizenship of the nation.” To do so, the IBSM strove to teach Haudenosaunee girls how to “provide a settled dwelling and elevate its domestic quality” to the standards of Victorian American lifestyles.[19] Despite 82.7% of Haudenosaunee children of the IBSM era being educated in IBSM schools, the training of Haudenosaunee girls for positions of domestic service failed to encourage 82.7% of Haudenosaunee girls to acquire Victorian American values and habits of European American home economics; domestic customs such as those asserted, however inadequately, within IBSM school curriculums.[20] The “tendency to train Indian girls largely for domestic service” was highly unsuccessful among the Haudenosaunee due to the schools’ inadequate provision of home economics courses to female students. Although such courses as “ironing” and “embroidery” were offered, Meriam explains that machine methods of kitchen and laundry chores were implemented as economical time savers, thus removing home and vocational values from such training.[21]

The civilization of Native American students using education as a “political act”[22] was assumed to require Christian conversion by assimilationist policymakers for centuries. Christianization of Native American students was used by IBSM educators to further enforce Euro-American lifestyles upon Haudenosaunee students. The separation of church and state, an underpinning of the American public school system, was not practiced in Federal Indian Boarding Schools until the 1930s[23] by which time the IBSM was nearing its natural conclusion as policymakers, educators, and the American public became increasingly disillusioned with the progress being made by the IBSM in assimilation of Native Americans. When IBSM policymakers spoke of Christianizing Native Americans, they constantly acted under the assumption that the conversion of Native Americans to Protestantism would be a crucial step in civilizing them for assimilation into Euro-American society.[24] However, according to Lewis Meriam’s analysis of the IBSM, “in the main, the religious education of the Indian has been anything but successful.”[25]

In 1799, a Seneca Haudenosaunee elder named Handsome Lake experienced the first of a series of visions, which he believed predicted an apocalyptic end of the world unless the Haudenosaunee people immediately reformed their behavior. These visions and the cultural response they generated among the Haudenosaunee gradually evolved into a lifestyle code of moral and social conduct that was dually assimilationist and traditionalist. The Code of Handsome Lake, also known as the Gaiwiio or Good Word,[26] was assimilationist in its advocacy of the nuclear family. Contrastingly, the Gaiwiio was spiritually conservative in its advocacy of “maintaining traditional beliefs and practices”[27] of Haudenosaunee Longhouse tribalism. In his resolute advocation of the societal changes recommended in his visions, Handsome Lake argued for the need to shift in lifestyle from communal longhouse homes to Euro-American nuclear family housing as the AIRM decreased the land and influence of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on their surrounding American communities; however he understood the importance of maintaining Haudenosaunee Longhouse spirituality and customs despite the altered living arrangements of Longhouse people. A study of the lifestyles of Haudenosaunee women both before and after the IBSM shows that the roles of Haudenosaunee women within their community which remained after the implementation of the AIRM remained heavily intact and unaffected by the IBSM. In 1952, seventy four years after the implementation of the IBSM, the United States Congress declared that upon an analysis of such Bureau of Indian Affairs statistical data as Haudenosaunee literacy rates, religious preferences, and the ability to speak English, the Haudenosaunee were found to be only 37.6% “advanced toward acculturation.”[28]


[1] R.P. Smith, Historical and Statistical Gazeteer of New York. Syracuse N.P. 1860 p.69 Referenced in: Swisher, Karen Gayton. Next Steps: Research and Practice to Advance Indian Education. (Virginia: West Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, 1999) p.3.

[2] Vine. Deloria, American Indians, American Justice. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983) p.11.

[3] United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Some things that girls should know how to do, and hence should learn how to do when in school. (Washington Government Printing Office, 1911) p.3.

[4] Andrea Smith, “Boarding School Abues, Human Rights and Reparations” Journal of Religion & Abuse. Vol.8(2) (2006):8.

[5] Smith, p.5.

[6] Laurence M. Hauptman, The Oneida Indians in the Age of Allotment, 1860-1920 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006) Pp.40-84.

[7] Reuven Kahane, “Multicode Organizations: A Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of Boarding Schools” Sociology of Education. 61:4 (October 1988):211-226.

[8] David Wallace Adams, “Fundamental Considerations. The Deep Meaning of Native American Schooling, 1880-1900”. Harvard Educational Review. Vol.58 No.1 (February 1988):7.

[9] Vine Deloria, Power and Place: Indian Education in America. (Colorado: American Indian Graduate Center, 2001) p.97.

[10] Andrews, P. 3.

[11] Andrews, pp. 7-11.

[12] Andrews, Paragraph 31.

[13] Andrews, Paragraph 50.

[14] Thorburn, 2001. Pp.90-93.

[15] David DeJong, Promises of the Past: A History of Indian Education.( CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1993) p.134.

[16] DeJong, p.133-134.

[17] Lewis Meriam, The Problem of Indian Administration: Report of a Survey made at the request of Honorable Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior, and submitted to him, February 21, 1928 The Institute for Government Research Studies in Administration. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1928) “Types of Training in the Schools.”

[18] Meriam (1928) Chapter IX.

[19] Meriam (1928) “Education and the Indian Problem as a Whole.”

[20] Meriam (1928) “The Ammount of Schooling.”

[21] Meriam (1928) “Vocational Training for Girls.”

[22] Delores J. Huff, To Live Heroically: Institutional Racism and American Indian Education. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997) p.xii.

[23] Smith (1860) p.6.

[24] Adams (1988) p.7.

[25] Meriam (1928) “Religious Education”.

[26] Anthony F.C. Wallace. “Handsome Lake and the Great Revival in the West” American Quarterly, 4:2. (Summer 1952):150.

[27] Arthur C. Parker, “The Code of Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet” New York State Museum Bulletin 163. No.530. (November 1, 1912.)

[28] United States Congressional House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. “The

House Resolution Authorizing the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs to Conduct an Investigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.” House Report No. 2503. (Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1952) p.159.

Contrasting Historical Perspectives on the IBSM

Throughout Tom Porter’s And Grandma Said… Iroquois Teachings as Passed down through the Oral Tradition, Porter uses firsthand accounts of students of the IBSM to reinforce his argument that the IBSM greatly altered Haudenosaunee women’s roles by displacing traditional longhouse teachings from Haudenosaunee society. Porter argues that the resulting change in gender roles among Haudenosaunee populations reflects the intended assimilation of Native American populations by the Federal Government of the United States. Porter uses stories of Haudenosaunee oral tradition recounting the importance of women on political and spiritual levels to provide insight into the role women played in Haudenosaunee culture before the cultural loss experienced during the IBSM.[1] Due to the loss of traditional Haudenosaunee cultural knowledge resulting from the training of female students for domestic vocations[2] in IBSM schools often operated by Christian religious clergy,[3] Porter attributes this loss to the implementation of the IBSM by the Federal Government.[4] Native American author Carter Revard suggested that a historian studying the effects of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles must investigate the extent to which the Christianizing efforts of the IBSM were successful in Haudenosaunee communities.[5] Revard contended that the extent to which the conversion of Haudenosaunee students by IBSM schools affected the political sphere of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy would parallel the potential loss of traditional women’s roles due to the extensive ties between Haudenosaunee political and spiritual realms. Such insinuations are enlightening, and require further investigation before a conclusion regarding the religious implications of the IBSM can be made.

Ethno-historian David Wallace Adams argues a perspective similar to that expressed by Porter, emphasizing the changes made to Haudenosaunee women’s roles in response to the IBSM. Using such evidence as the failure of the American federal government to recognize Haudenosaunee women’s roles such as that of holding custody of their children, Adams reinforces the shift from traditional roles to a more assimilated Euro-American status for Haudenosaunee women. According to Adams, policymakers concluded that the civilizing process could be carried out most effectively if it were conducted at a distance from the tribal community; which resulted in a general preference for the reservation boarding school over the day school by the late 1870s. As stated by Adams, “the problem with the day school was that although children were taught the curriculum of civilization during the day, they were instructed in the ways of savagery at night. By removing children from the camp and cloistering them in a boarding school… the civilizing process could be carried on much more efficiently.”[6]

Similarly, Margaret L. Archuletta used evidence of federal government documentation of IBSM rhetoric to argue that the IBSM successfully moved Native Americans toward a rapid assimilation into Euro-American society. Such a movement would purportedly greatly alter women’s roles among the Haudenosaunee by removing children from those environments in which their cultural knowledge of traditional gender roles would be prevented and replaced with conceptions of Euro-American societal customs. According to Archuletta,AmericanIndian boarding schools “were but one part, albeit an extremely important part, of the United States government’s comprehensive policy of attempting to assimilate its Native peoples into mainstream culture.” The idea behind this assimilation strategy was to “kill the Indian to save the man,” that by placing Native American infant into the surroundings of European American society, the child would grow to possess an assimilated American language and routine.[7]

Throughout Sally Roesch Wagner’s Is Equality Indigenous? The Untold Story of the Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists, Wagner argues that the roles of Haudenosaunee women remained largely unaffected by the IBSM and were still strongly tied to their traditional cultural pre-IBSM past even as late as the 1990s. Using the writings of Women’s rights activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Matilda Joslyn Gage from the IBSM period of the late nineteenth century, Wagner argues the perspective that Haudenosaunee Women’s roles remained intact with their traditional roots respective to the social, spiritual, and political position of the white female neighbors.[8] Using a feminist historical perspective, Wagner argues that Haudenosaunee women retained the high status of their traditional ancestry and did not fall prey to the forces of assimilation present within the IBSM. Wagner uses evidence such as the continuation of Haudenosaunee women’s ability to initiate divorce, retain custody of their children, own property, and exercise other freedoms not enjoyed by their white female neighbors of the same era to reinforce her argument that Haudenosaunee women retained their position within Haudenosaunee culture, largely unaffected by the IBSM. Wagner argues that Haudenosaunee women possessed “a revolutionary alternative to the patriarchal family, with women controlling their own bodies and having the rights to the children they bore” despite IBSM assimilation attempts. Likewise, Wagner uses documentation of Haudenosaunee Tribal Council activities spanning the late nineteenth through the late twentieth century to reinforce her argument through the presentation of such evidence as the unchanged position of Haudenosaunee women in their ability to nominate Haudenosaunee political leaders and remove the aforementioned leaders from power should they not fulfill their duties.[9] Even as of anthropologist Alex F. Ricciardelli’s observations in 1957, seventy nine years after the implementation of the IBSM, Haudenosaunee “matrilineal clan affiliation[s] continued to count in nominating hereditary chiefs” to serve as spiritual and political leaders.[10]

According to anthropologist Alice Fletcher’s Report of the International Council of Women published in 1888, at the time of the onset of the Indian Boarding School Movement in 1878, Haudenosaune women held control of their own economic decisions. As stated by Fletcher, “a wife is as independent in the use of her possessions as is the most independent man in our midst.”[11] As asserted by Sally Roesch Wagner, European American women of the 19th century envied the Haudenosaunee divorce system, gender equity, and legal freedom, still practiced despite IBSM attempts to instill a patriarchal ideology within Haudenosaunee society. Wagner cited Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the National Council of Women Convention of 1891, which stated “If for any cause the Iroquois husband and wife separated, the wife took with her all the property she had brought into the [home]; the children also accompanied the mother; whose right to them was recognized as supreme” despite thirteen years of IBSM attempts to place Haudenosaunee women in positions subordinate to men.[12]

Similarly to the position argued through the writings of Sally Roesch Wagner, sociologist Matthew Snipp uses documented evidence of first hand accounts of the IBSM period to argue that the intended assimilation of the IBSM did not alter Native American cultural practices as much as Marxist historians have perceived. Snipp made numerous statements echoing the sentiment that “despite a long and deliberate campaign to extinguish tribal culture, often with oppressive measures, the wholesale assimilation of American Indians failed to materialize.” Likewise, Snipp insisted that “measures were adopted to pressure [Native Americans] into farming, and boarding schools tried to eradicate all traces of tribal culture from Indian children” however such attempts were unsuccessful in largely altering the Native American populations’ lifestyles.[13] Echoing the sentiments of many other historians such as Alma Greene and Arthur Parker, Snipp’s writings suggest that the IBSM was unsuccessful in undermining traditional Haudenosaunee women’s roles.

Throughout Asher Wright’s Ethnohistory article entitled “Seneca Indians,” Wright uses his perspective as a missionary to the Seneca to argue a perspective similar to that of Wagner and Snipp through his assertions of the prevalence of cultural continuity among the Haudenosaunee despite the assimilation attempts of the IBSM. Using evidence of clan organization and hereditary patterns among Seneca Haudenosaunee in the first half of the twentieth century, Wright was able to make assertions such as his statement that“there were regular gradations in [elected] office and hereditary lines, but always within the clans, and consequently following the female parentage, never the male.”[14] Likewise, anthropologist Alex Ricciardelli made assertions of the cultural continuity of Haudenosaunee women’s roles through the IBSM period through his analysis of agricultural practices among Oneida Haudenosaunee. Ricciardelli was thus able to conclude that Haudenosaunee gender roles remained largely unaffected by the IBSM and stated that “modification of the women’s role occurred, but did not however, involve any great alteration of motor habits, for the 19th century Oneida woman who tended gardens, worked with the hoe, and cared for the home was performing essentially the same motor activities as the aboriginal [Haudenosaunee] woman.”[15]

AnthropologistGail Landsman warns her readers against fully trusting the historical analyses of feminist historians such as Sally Roesch Wagner, because of their controversial interpretation of the sources they have based their research upon. According to Landsman, using feminists of the IBSM period as resources upon which they have based their studies feminist historians including Wagner may have fallen prey to the illusions constructed by feminists in search of women’s rights to portray Haudenosaunee Women as holding an exaggeratedly heightened status within their society. Understanding the need to consider “the historical influence of feminist ethnography” [16] upon the study of Haudenosaunee women,Landsman warns that the portrayal of the Native American woman by suffragists began with the Haudenosaunee as a symbol of matriarchy,serving as proof that “in some cultures the natural rights of woman as the equal of man were recognized… it is fair to say that an accurate portrayal of Indian history and cultures was never the goal of such imagery.Instead, that history was constructed and appropriated as a symbol for the women’s suffrage movement.”[17]

Throughout the many analyses of the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee life, two contrasting arguments surface in the analysis of the IBSM’s effects on Haudenosaunee Women’s’ roles. empirical historians such as Sally Roesch Wagner have argued that the impact of the Indian Boarding School Movement on Haudenosaunee women’s roles was minimal within the greater assimilation movement of the same era. In contrast, Marxist historians such as Tom Porter have argued the Anglo-centric cultural assimilation achieved by Indian boarding schools was highly responsible for a significant shift of Haudenosaunee women’s roles. Historians such as Tom Porter, Sally Roesch Wagner, David Wallace Adams, Alice Fletcher, and many others of similar perspectives argue these two contrasting perceptions using an array of primary source material often reflecting the author’s specific political agenda. In consulting primary sources to research the extent of the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles such as occupational records of employment patterns, contemporary newspaper accounts of the political position of Haudenosaunee women at varying points of the IBSM progression, and firsthand accounts of Haudenosaunee living within the generations of students educated through the IBSM, it becomes apparent that the vast majority of resources provide evidence to validate the arguments of empirical historians such as Sally Roesch Wagner. To fully determine the extent of the shift in women’s roles as a result of the IBSM, one must compare / contrast the role of Haudenosaunee women in the era preceding, during, and following the IBSM to trace the cultural continuity of women’s political, economic, social, and spiritual position within their communities using primary source documentation.

Whereas Marxist historians such as ethno-historian Tom Porter have argued that the IBSM played a major role in the loss of traditional Haudenosaunee women’s roles, the facts and statistics presented by primary source documents published before, during, and after the IBSM era have shown the minimal impact of IBSM on the political, spiritual, and social roles of Haudenosaunee women within their communities. Whereas European American women were engaged in the struggle for equal rights during the IBSM, Haudenosaunee women appear to have retained much of their traditional station despite Euro-American attempts at forced assimilation of Native Americans through religiously based educational institutions. As shown through marriage practices of the Haudenosaunee surrounding the IBSM, Haudenosaunee women retained the power to divorce their husbands as well as own property even as European-American women were denied such rights during the same period.[18] Haudenosaunee women also retained custody of their children, whereas the European-American society into which the Haudenosaunee were to be assimilated through the IBSM denied women custody of their own children and placed that title with the husband.[19] Haudenosaunee women retained not only their use of the Haudenosaunee language and their vocational positions as agriculturalists; they retained their political authority in Haudenosaunee communities following the IBSM. As shown through such sources as the New York State Museum Bulletin of 1916,[20] Haudenosaunee women retained their suffrage despite attempts by the United States Government to impose a patriarchic society in which women would have minimal political power through civic education of the IBSM.

As Gage contended through her extensive experience working with Haudenosaunee women and observing their lifestyles, women retained their position as chief agriculturalists despite Victorian era trends among Euro-Americans to place men in the roles of agriculture and production, and restrain women to domestic roles and consumption.[21] Just as many Haudenosaunee women retained their occupational roles as agriculturalists despite the IBSM, women also retained their political position as clan mothers with spiritual and political influence over the Haudenosaunee Confederacy ruling decisions.[22] Also in support of the cultural continuity of Haudenosaunee women’s roles through the IBSM are the articles of historians Carr (1880s)[23] Beauchamp (1900s)[24] and Hewitt (1930s)[25] which rearticulate the matriarchal societal organization of the Haudenosaunee. For example, Hewitt’s observances of IBSM era Haudenosaunee matriarchic society reflected the socio-political organization of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy long before the onset of the IBSM.

A major basis of Tom Porter’s conclusions concerning the perceived loss of traditional women’s roles regarded the loss of Haudenosaunee cultural traditions such as speaking the Haudenosaunee language. Tom Porter used the oral reminiscences of his grandparents as well as his conversations with other Haudenosaunee students of the IBSM to argue the significant impact of the IBSM on the loss of cultural continuity through the lens of the loss of language.[26] Contrary to Porter’s argument, primary source evidence such as court transcripts and newspaper articles relate the continuation of the use of traditional languages among Haudenosaunee nations. For example, one New York Times article from 1912 recounted the inability of a court to hear a case of a Haudenosaunee woman charged with assault of another Haudenosaunee woman because there were no interpreters to translate for the women pursuing the case due to the large amount of Haudenosaunee who still spoke no English.[27] As of the 1912 article, the loss of Haudenosaunee language argued by Porter had not yet taken effect even despite over four decades of IBSM schooling in Haudenosaunee life. Such articles also show that Haudenosaunee women were active outside the domestic sphere in which Euro-American women were restrained and that Haudenosaunee women were not under the direct control of their husbands as their white American counterparts were and could thus enter into legal proceedings by their own accord and defend their property.

Tom Porter’s reflections of his childhood experiences in the years following the IBSM unintentionally contradict his theory that the IBSM had a major role in the decline of traditional Haudenosaunee women’s roles. Porter’s reminiscence of Agatha Harriet David-Chubb’s practice of traditional Haudenosaunee medicine beyond the IBSM era, his close attention to matrilineal genealogy and matrilineal clan relationships, and his emphasis on the importance of women to Haudenosaunee political and spiritual practices in the twenty first century all contradict his initial argument that Haudenosaunee women’s roles of the pre-IBSM era were lost. Likewise, the continued gender allocation of varying elements of Haudenosaunee culture as female to signify their spiritual and political importance to Haudenosaunee culture, are described by Porter with no apparent realization on his behalf that these female personified elements of nature (such as Grandmother Moon,[28]Mother Earth, and the Three Sisters[29]) are still used in the twenty first century, thus surviving the cultural loss Porter supposes took place as a result of the IBSM.

Many elements of modern Haudenosaunee culture such as performance theater also echo the cultural continuity of Pre-IBSM women’s roles into the twenty-first century. For example, the “Kaha:Wi” performance of Santee Smith of the Mohawk Nation is a nearly all female cast of Native American women performing an interpretive dance series depicting the Haudenosaunee creation story through the lens of women’s’ importance to Haudenosaunee spirituality. As shown through the “Kaha:Wi” performance program,[30] Haudenosaunee women have retained their spiritual position of elevated importance in Haudenosaunee society (relative to that of white American women of the same eras in American history) propelled by such aspects of Haudenosaunee spiritual beliefs as women’s reproductive importance, female gender assignment of the four directions on a compass as “the four sisters,” the female gender assignment of natural elements such as “Grandmother Moon,”[31] and the importance of a matrilineal society to Haudenosaunee community organization.

Throughout the sources analyzing the impact of the Indian Boarding School Movement on Haudenosaunee life, two divergent arguments arise in the study of the movement’s effects on Haudenosaunee women’s’ roles. Whereas empirical historians and feminist historians argue that the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles was minimal and parallels the greater assimilation movement of the same era, Marxist and ethno-historians argue the IBSM was a highly accountable factor in the perceived shift in Haudenosaunee women’s roles.[32] Historians such as Tom Porter, Sally Roesch Wagner, David Wallace Adams, and Alice Fletcher argue these two contrasting perspectives using an array of primary source material often reflecting the author’s specific political agenda and personal perspectives. In an investigation of the impact of the IBSM on the roles of Haudenosaunee women within their communities, a careful analysis of primary sources may be used to validate the arguments of empirical historians who have previously written on the subject of the IBSM’s impact on Haudenosaunee community recognition of traditionally held socio-political women’s’ roles.

Some historians such as Alfred Trafzer have even gone so far as to call the IBSM a “successful failure,” which not only failed to assimilate Native Americans into white society by erasing traces of Native American culture, it also provided Haudenosaunee IBSM students with “new skills in language, literature, mathematics, and history that strengthened their identities as Native Americans.”[33] Trafzer pointed out that “many children attending boarding schools returned home or moved to urban areas in a heightened manner, communicating their strength in being the first Americans in ways that preserved Indian identity.” Echoing the sentiments of other empirical historians who claim that the IBSM did not fulfill it’s intended purpose of eliminating Native American culture, Trafzer contends that Native American students of the IBSM have used the potentially negative experience of federally implemented boarding school education to produce a positive result; the preservation of Native American identities, cultures, communities, and languages which have permeated American culture even to the present moment.[34]


[1] Tom Porter, And Grandma Said… Iroquois Teachings as Passed down through the Oral Tradition. (USA: Xlibris Corporation, 2008) pp.21-25.

[2] Alex F. Ricciardelli, “The Adoption of White Agriculture by the Oneida Indians” Ethnohistory. Vol 10 No.4 (Autumn 1963):318.

[3] Paula Rothenberg. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study. (USA: St. Martins Press, 1998) p.381.

[4] Porter p.27-33, 120-125.

[5] Conversation with Carter Revard during his visit to Hartwick College, April 23rd 2009. Clark Hall.

[6] Adams p.14.

[7] Margaret. L Archuleta. Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences 1879-2000. (NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2000) p.10.

[8] Sally Roesch Wagner.. Is Equality Indigenous? The Untold Story of the Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists. (USA: Sky Carrier Press, 1996) p.1.

[9] Wagner p.2-13.

[10] Alex F. Ricciardelli, “The Adoption of White Agriculture by the Oneida Indians” Ethnohistory. Vol 10 No.4 (Autumn 1963):319.

[11] Alice Fletcher, Report of the International Council of Women. (Washington D.C.: Rufus Darby, 1888) p.239.

[12] Wagner, 1996 p.25.

[13] Matthew Snipp, “Sociological Perspectives on American Indians”. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol.18 (1992) p.356.

[14] Asher Wright, Fenton, W.N. “Seneca Indians”. Ethnohistory, Vol.4 No.3 (Summer 1957):310.

[15] Ricciardeli p.356.

[16] Kamala Visweswaran,. “Histories of Feminist Ethnography” Annual Review of Anthropology, 26 (1997):592.

[17] Gail Landsman, “The ‘Other’ as Political Symbol: Images of Indians in the Woman Suffrage Movement” Ethnohistory, Vol.39, No.3 (Summer 1992):274.

[18] Joshua V. H. Clark. Onondaga or Reminiscences of Earlier and Later Times. (NY: Syracuse N.P., 1848) p.49-50 .

[19] Matilda Joslyn Gage. “The Mother of his Children”. San Fransisco Pioneer. (September 9th 1871).

[20] “The Constitution of the Five (Sic) Nations” New York State Museum Bulletin. State University of New York. (April 1916):11

[21] Matilda Joslyn Gage, New York Evening Post, November 3rd 1875. Referenced in: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Woman, Church, and State (Chicago IL.: Charles Kerr, 1893).

[22] Matilda Joslyn Gage. New York Evening Post. (September 24th 1875). Referenced in: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Woman, Church, and State. (Chicago IL.: Charles Kerr, 1893).

[23] Lucien Carr. “On the Social and Political Position of Woman Among the Huron-Iroquois Tribes” Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Vol.3: 207-232.

[24] William Beauchamp. “Iroquois Women” Journal of American Folklore, VOl, 13 NO 49 (April-June 1900):81-91.

[25] John B. Hewitt. “Status of Women in Iroquois Polity before 1784” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1932, (1932):475-488.

[26] Porter p.153.

[27] “Iroquois Too Much For Him” Court at a Standstill Until Interpreter Is Found for Indian Dialect”. The New York Times.(June 9, 1912).

[28] Porter p.76.

[29] Porter pp.54-58.

[30] Santee Smith. “Kaha:WI: Here On Earth” <Interpretive Dance Performance Program Pamphlet> (Toronto ON.: Dance Umbrella of Ontario, June 2007).

[31] Smith (2007)pp.2-3.

[32] Joane Nagel. “American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Politics and the Resurgences of Identity” American Sociological Review, Vol.60 No.6 (Dec. 1995).954.

[33] Alfred E. Trafzer, Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 200) p. 1.

[34] Trafzer p.1.

Throughout Tom Porter’s And Grandma Said… Iroquois Teachings as Passed down through the Oral Tradition, Porter uses firsthand accounts of students of the IBSM to reinforce his argument that the IBSM greatly altered Haudenosaunee women’s roles by displacing traditional longhouse teachings from Haudenosaunee society. Porter argues that the resulting change in gender roles among Haudenosaunee populations reflects the intended assimilation of Native American populations by the Federal Government of the United States.Porter uses stories of Haudenosaunee oral tradition recounting the importance of women on political and spiritual levels to provide insight into the role women played in Haudenosaunee culture before the cultural loss experienced during the IBSM.[1]Due to the loss of traditional Haudenosaunee cultural knowledge resulting from the training of female students for domestic vocations[2] in IBSM schools often operated by Christian religious clergy,[3]Porter attributes this loss to the implementation of the IBSM by the Federal Government.[4] Native American author Carter Revard suggested that a historian studying the effects of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles must investigate the extent to which the Christianizing efforts of the IBSM were successful in Haudenosaunee communities.[5] Revard contended that the extent to which the conversion of Haudenosaunee students by IBSM schools affected the political sphere of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy would parallel the potential loss of traditional women’s roles due to the extensive ties between Haudenosaunee political and spiritual realms. Such insinuations are enlightening, and require further investigation before a conclusion regarding the religious implications of the IBSM can be made.

Ethno-historian David Wallace Adams argues a perspective similar to that expressed by Porter, emphasizing the changes made to Haudenosaunee women’s roles in response to the IBSM.Using such evidence as the failure of the American federal government to recognize Haudenosaunee women’s roles such as that of holding custody of their children, Adams reinforces the shift from traditional roles to a more assimilated Euro-American status for Haudenosaunee women. According to Adams, policymakers concluded that the civilizing process could be carried out most effectively if it were conducted at a distance from the tribal community; which resulted in a general preference for the reservation boarding school over the day school by the late 1870s. As stated by Adams, “the problem with the day school was that although children were taught the curriculum of civilization during the day, they were instructed in the ways of savagery at night. By removing children from the camp and cloistering them in a boarding school… the civilizing process could be carried on much more efficiently.”[6]

Similarly, Margaret L. Archuletta used evidence of federal government documentation of IBSM rhetoric to argue that the IBSM successfully moved Native Americans toward a rapid assimilation into Euro-American society. Such a movement would purportedly greatly alter women’s roles among the Haudenosaunee by removing children from those environments in which their cultural knowledge of traditional gender roles would be prevented and replaced with conceptions of Euro-American societal customs. According to Archuletta,AmericanIndian boarding schools “were but one part, albeit an extremely important part, of the United States government’s comprehensive policy of attempting to assimilate its Native peoples into mainstream culture.” The idea behind this assimilation strategy was to “kill the Indian to save the man,” that by placing Native American infant into the surroundings of European American society, the child would grow to possess an assimilated American language and routine.[7]

Throughout Sally Roesch Wagner’s Is Equality Indigenous? The Untold Story of the Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists, Wagner argues that the roles of Haudenosaunee women remained largely unaffected by the IBSM and were still strongly tied to their traditional cultural pre-IBSM past even as late as the 1990s.Using the writings of Women’s rights activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Matilda Joslyn Gage from the IBSM period of the late nineteenth century, Wagner argues the perspective that Haudenosaunee Women’s roles remained intact with their traditional roots respective to the social, spiritual, and political position of the white female neighbors.[8] Using a feminist historical perspective, Wagner argues that Haudenosaunee women retained the high status of their traditional ancestry and did not fall prey to the forces of assimilation present within the IBSM.Wagner uses evidence such as the continuation of Haudenosaunee women’s ability to initiate divorce, retain custody of their children, own property, and exercise other freedoms not enjoyed by their white female neighbors of the same era to reinforce her argument that Haudenosaunee women retained their position within Haudenosaunee culture, largely unaffected by the IBSM. Wagner argues that Haudenosaunee women possessed “a revolutionary alternative to the patriarchal family, with women controlling their own bodies and having the rights to the children they bore” despite IBSM assimilation attempts. Likewise, Wagner uses documentation of Haudenosaunee Tribal Council activities spanning the late nineteenth through the late twentieth century to reinforce her argument through the presentation of such evidence as the unchanged position of Haudenosaunee women in their ability to nominate Haudenosaunee political leaders and remove the aforementioned leaders from power should they not fulfill their duties.[9] Even as of anthropologist Alex F. Ricciardelli’s observations in 1957, seventy nine years after the implementation of the IBSM, Haudenosaunee “matrilineal clan affiliation[s] continued to count in nominating hereditary chiefs” to serve as spiritual and political leaders.[10]

According to anthropologist Alice Fletcher’s Report of the International Council of Women published in 1888, at the time of the onset of the Indian Boarding School Movement in 1878, Haudenosaune women held control of their own economic decisions. As stated by Fletcher, “a wife is as independent in the use of her possessions as is the most independent man in our midst.”[11] As asserted by Sally Roesch Wagner, European American women of the 19th century envied the Haudenosaunee divorce system, gender equity, and legal freedom, still practiced despite IBSM attempts to instill a patriarchal ideology within Haudenosaunee society. Wagner cited Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the National Council of Women Convention of 1891, which stated“If for any cause the Iroquois husband and wife separated, the wife took with her all the property she had brought into the [home]; the children also accompanied the mother; whose right to them was recognized as supreme” despite thirteen years of IBSM attempts to place Haudenosaunee women in positions subordinate to men.[12]

Similarly to the position argued through the writings of Sally Roesch Wagner, sociologist Matthew Snipp uses documented evidence of first hand accounts of the IBSM period to argue that the intended assimilation of the IBSM did not alter Native American cultural practices as much as Marxist historians have perceived. Snipp made numerous statements echoing the sentiment that “despite a long and deliberate campaign to extinguish tribal culture, often with oppressive measures, the wholesale assimilation of American Indians failed to materialize.” Likewise, Snipp insisted that “measures were adopted to pressure [Native Americans] into farming, and boarding schools tried to eradicate all traces of tribal culture from Indian children” however such attempts were unsuccessful in largely altering the Native American populations’ lifestyles.[13]Echoing the sentiments of many other historians such as Alma Greene and Arthur Parker, Snipp’s writings suggest that the IBSM was unsuccessful in undermining traditional Haudenosaunee women’s roles.

Throughout Asher Wright’s Ethnohistory article entitled “Seneca Indians,” Wright uses his perspective as a missionary to the Seneca to argue a perspective similar to that of Wagner and Snipp through his assertions of the prevalence of cultural continuity among the Haudenosaunee despite the assimilation attempts of the IBSM. Using evidence of clan organization and hereditary patterns among Seneca Haudenosaunee in the first half of the twentieth century, Wright was able to make assertions such as his statement that“there were regular gradations in [elected] office and hereditary lines, but always within the clans, and consequently following the female parentage, never the male.”[14] Likewise, anthropologist Alex Ricciardelli made assertions of the cultural continuity of Haudenosaunee women’s roles through the IBSM period through his analysis of agricultural practices among Oneida Haudenosaunee. Ricciardelli was thus able to conclude that Haudenosaunee gender roles remained largely unaffected by the IBSM and stated that “modification of the women’s role occurred, but did not however, involve any great alteration of motor habits, for the 19th century Oneida woman who tended gardens, worked with the hoe, and cared for the home was performing essentially the same motor activities as the aboriginal [Haudenosaunee] woman.”[15]

AnthropologistGail Landsman warns her readers against fully trusting the historical analyses of feminist historians such as Sally Roesch Wagner, because of their controversial interpretation of the sources they have based their research upon. According to Landsman, using feminists of the IBSM period as resources upon which they have based their studies feminist historians including Wagner may have fallen prey to the illusions constructed by feminists in search of women’s rights to portray Haudenosaunee Women as holding an exaggeratedly heightened status within their society. Understanding the need to consider “the historical influence of feminist ethnography” [16] upon the study of Haudenosaunee women,Landsman warns that the portrayal of the Native American woman by suffragists began with the Haudenosaunee as a symbol of matriarchy,serving as proof that “in some cultures the natural rights of woman as the equal of man were recognized… it is fair to say that an accurate portrayal of Indian history and cultures was never the goal of such imagery.Instead, that history was constructed and appropriated as a symbol for the women’s suffrage movement.”[17]

Throughout the many analyses of the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee life, two contrasting arguments surface in the analysis of the IBSM’s effects on Haudenosaunee Women’s’ roles.empirical historians such as Sally Roesch Wagner have argued that the impact of the Indian Boarding School Movement on Haudenosaunee women’s roles was minimal within the greater assimilation movement of the same era. In contrast, Marxist historians such as Tom Porter have argued the Anglo-centric cultural assimilation achieved by Indian boarding schools was highly responsible for a significant shift of Haudenosaunee women’s roles.Historians such as Tom Porter, Sally Roesch Wagner, David Wallace Adams, Alice Fletcher, and many others of similar perspectives argue these two contrasting perceptions using an array of primary source material often reflecting the author’s specific political agenda. In consulting primary sources to research the extent of the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles such as occupational records of employment patterns, contemporary newspaper accounts of the political position of Haudenosaunee women at varying points of the IBSM progression, and firsthand accounts of Haudenosaunee living within the generations of students educated through the IBSM, it becomes apparent that the vast majority of resources provide evidence to validate the arguments of empirical historians such as Sally Roesch Wagner. To fully determine the extent of the shift in women’s roles as a result of the IBSM, one must compare / contrast the role of Haudenosaunee women in the era preceding, during, and following the IBSM to trace the cultural continuity of women’s political, economic, social, and spiritual position within their communities using primary source documentation.

Whereas Marxist historians such as ethno-historian Tom Porter have argued that the IBSM played a major role in the loss of traditional Haudenosaunee women’s roles, the facts and statistics presented by primary source documents published before, during, and after the IBSM era have shown the minimal impact of IBSM on the political, spiritual, and social roles of Haudenosaunee women within their communities.Whereas European American women were engaged in the struggle for equal rights during the IBSM, Haudenosaunee women appear to have retained much of their traditional station despite Euro-American attempts at forced assimilation of Native Americans through religiously based educational institutions. As shown through marriage practices of the Haudenosaunee surrounding the IBSM, Haudenosaunee women retained the power to divorce their husbands as well as own property even as European-American women were denied such rights during the same period.[18] Haudenosaunee women also retained custody of their children, whereas the European-American society into which the Haudenosaunee were to be assimilated through the IBSM denied women custody of their own children and placed that title with the husband.[19]Haudenosaunee women retained not only their use of the Haudenosaunee language and their vocational positions as agriculturalists; they retained their political authority in Haudenosaunee communities following the IBSM. As shown through such sources as the New York State Museum Bulletin of 1916,[20] Haudenosaunee women retained their suffrage despite attempts by the United States Government to impose a patriarchic society in which women would have minimal political power through civic education of the IBSM.

As Gage contended through her extensive experience working with Haudenosaunee women and observing their lifestyles, women retained their position as chief agriculturalists despite Victorian era trends among Euro-Americans to place men in the roles of agriculture and production, and restrain women to domestic roles and consumption.[21] Just as many Haudenosaunee women retained their occupational roles as agriculturalists despite the IBSM, women also retained their political position as clan mothers with spiritual and political influence over the Haudenosaunee Confederacy ruling decisions.[22]Also in support of the cultural continuity of Haudenosaunee women’s roles through the IBSM are the articles of historians Carr (1880s)[23] Beauchamp (1900s)[24] and Hewitt (1930s)[25] which rearticulate the matriarchal societal organization of the Haudenosaunee.For example, Hewitt’s observances of IBSM era Haudenosaunee matriarchic society reflected the socio-political organization of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy long before the onset of the IBSM.

A major basis of Tom Porter’s conclusions concerning the perceived loss of traditional women’s roles regarded the loss of Haudenosaunee cultural traditions such as speaking the Haudenosaunee language. Tom Porter used the oral reminiscences of his grandparents as well as his conversations with other Haudenosaunee students of the IBSM to argue the significant impact of the IBSM on the loss of cultural continuity through the lens of the loss of language.[26] Contrary to Porter’s argument, primary source evidence such as court transcripts and newspaper articles relate the continuation of the use of traditional languages among Haudenosaunee nations. For example, one New York Times article from 1912 recounted the inability of a court to hear a case of a Haudenosaunee woman charged with assault of another Haudenosaunee woman because there were no interpreters to translate for the women pursuing the case due to the large amount of Haudenosaunee who still spoke no English.[27] As of the 1912 article, the loss of Haudenosaunee language argued by Porter had not yet taken effect even despite over four decades of IBSM schooling in Haudenosaunee life.Such articles also show that Haudenosaunee women were active outside the domestic sphere in which Euro-American women were restrained and that Haudenosaunee women were not under the direct control of their husbands as their white American counterparts were and could thus enter into legal proceedings by their own accord and defend their property.

Tom Porter’s reflections of his childhood experiences in the years following the IBSM unintentionally contradict his theory that the IBSM had a major role in the decline of traditional Haudenosaunee women’s roles. Porter’s reminiscence of Agatha Harriet David-Chubb’s practice of traditional Haudenosaunee medicine beyond the IBSM era, his close attention to matrilineal genealogy and matrilineal clan relationships, and his emphasis on the importance of women to Haudenosaunee political and spiritual practices in the twenty first century all contradict his initial argument that Haudenosaunee women’s roles of the pre-IBSM era were lost.Likewise, the continued gender allocation of varying elements of Haudenosaunee culture as female to signify their spiritual and political importance to Haudenosaunee culture, are described by Porter with no apparent realization on his behalf that these female personified elements of nature (such as Grandmother Moon,[28]Mother Earth, and the Three Sisters[29]) are still used in the twenty first century, thus surviving the cultural loss Porter supposes took place as a result of the IBSM.

Many elements of modern Haudenosaunee culture such as performance theater also echo the cultural continuity of Pre-IBSM women’s roles into the twenty-first century. For example, the “Kaha:Wi” performance of Santee Smith of the Mohawk Nation is a nearly all female cast of Native American women performing an interpretive dance series depicting the Haudenosaunee creation story through the lens of women’s’ importance to Haudenosaunee spirituality. As shown through the “Kaha:Wi” performance program,[30]Haudenosaunee women have retained their spiritual position of elevated importance in Haudenosaunee society (relative to that of white American women of the same eras in American history) propelled by such aspects of Haudenosaunee spiritual beliefs as women’s reproductive importance,female gender assignment of the four directions on a compass as “the four sisters,” the female gender assignment of natural elements such as “Grandmother Moon,”[31] and the importance of a matrilineal society to Haudenosaunee community organization.

Throughout the sources analyzing the impact of the Indian Boarding School Movement on Haudenosaunee life, two divergent arguments arise in the study of the movement’s effects on Haudenosaunee women’s’ roles.Whereas empirical historians and feminist historians argue that the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles was minimal and parallels the greater assimilation movement of the same era, Marxist and ethno-historians argue the IBSM was a highly accountable factor in the perceived shift in Haudenosaunee women’s roles.[32]Historians such as Tom Porter, Sally Roesch Wagner, David Wallace Adams, and Alice Fletcher argue these two contrasting perspectives using an array of primary source material often reflecting the author’s specific political agenda and personal perspectives. In an investigation of the impact of the IBSM on the roles of Haudenosaunee women within their communities, a careful analysis of primary sources may be used to validate the arguments of empirical historians who have previously written on the subject of the IBSM’s impact on Haudenosaunee community recognition of traditionally held socio-political women’s’ roles.

Some historians such as Alfred Trafzer have even gone so far as to call the IBSM a “successful failure,” which not only failed to assimilate Native Americans into white society by erasing traces of Native American culture, it also provided Haudenosaunee IBSM students with “new skills in language, literature, mathematics, and history that strengthened their identities as Native Americans.”[33] Trafzer pointed out that “many children attending boarding schools returned home or moved to urban areas in a heightened manner, communicating their strength in being the first Americans in ways that preserved Indian identity.” Echoing the sentiments of other empirical historians who claim that the IBSM did not fulfill it’s intended purpose of eliminating Native American culture, Trafzer contends that Native American students of the IBSM have used the potentially negative experience of federally implemented boarding school education to produce a positive result; the preservation of Native American identities, cultures, communities, and languages which have permeated American culture even to the present moment.[34]

The Persistence of Women’s Roles in Haudenosaunee Society after the IBSM

Within Haudenosaunee matriarchal society, pre AIRM and IBSM Haudenosaunee women held the power to elect male leaders of religious, political, and social organizations.[35] Haudenosaunee women retained their traditionally held power to elect the political and spiritual leaders in Haudenosaunee communities following the IBSM, even as anthropologist Ann Eastlack Shafer conducted her case study on the Allegheny Reservation in 1941. As Eastlack studied the “modern” Haudenosaunee culture of 1941, such evidence of the persistence of Haudenosaunee women’s traditional roles in their communities became apparent as she gathered evidence for her analysis of the apparent changes and contin

[1] Tom Porter, And Grandma Said… Iroquois Teachings as Passed down through the Oral Tradition. (USA: Xlibris Corporation, 2008) pp.21-25.

[2] Alex F. Ricciardelli, “The Adoption of White Agriculture by the Oneida Indians” Ethnohistory. Vol 10 No.4 (Autumn 1963):318.

[3] Paula Rothenberg. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study. (USA: St. Martins Press, 1998) p.381.

[4] Porter p.27-33, 120-125.

[5] Conversation with Carter Revard during his visit to Hartwick College, April 23rd 2009. Clark Hall.

[6] Adams p.14.

[7] Margaret. L Archuleta. Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences 1879-2000. (NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2000) p.10.

[8] Sally Roesch Wagner.. Is Equality Indigenous? The Untold Story of the Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists. (USA: Sky Carrier Press, 1996) p.1.

[9] Wagner p.2-13.

[10] Alex F. Ricciardelli, “The Adoption of White Agriculture by the Oneida Indians” Ethnohistory. Vol 10 No.4 (Autumn 1963):319.

[11] Alice Fletcher, Report of the International Council of Women. (Washington D.C.: Rufus Darby, 1888) p.239.

[12] Wagner, 1996 p.25.

[13] Matthew Snipp, “Sociological Perspectives on American Indians”. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol.18 (1992) p.356.

[14] Asher Wright, Fenton, W.N. “Seneca Indians”. Ethnohistory, Vol.4 No.3 (Summer 1957):310.

[15] Ricciardeli p.356.

[16] Kamala Visweswaran,. “Histories of Feminist Ethnography” Annual Review of Anthropology, 26 (1997):592.

[17] Gail Landsman, “The ‘Other’ as Political Symbol: Images of Indians in the Woman Suffrage Movement” Ethnohistory, Vol.39, No.3 (Summer 1992):274.

[18] Joshua V. H. Clark. Onondaga or Reminiscences of Earlier and Later Times. (NY: Syracuse N.P., 1848) p.49-50 .

[19] Matilda Joslyn Gage. “The Mother of his Children”. San Fransisco Pioneer. (September 9th 1871).

[20] “The Constitution of the Five (Sic) Nations” New York State Museum Bulletin. State University of New York. (April 1916):11

[21] Matilda Joslyn Gage, New York Evening Post, November 3rd 1875. Referenced in: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Woman, Church, and State (Chicago IL.: Charles Kerr, 1893).

[22] Matilda Joslyn Gage. New York Evening Post. (September 24th 1875). Referenced in: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Woman, Church, and State. (Chicago IL.: Charles Kerr, 1893).

[23] Lucien Carr. “On the Social and Political Position of Woman Among the Huron-Iroquois Tribes” Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Vol.3: 207-232.

[24] William Beauchamp. “Iroquois Women” Journal of American Folklore, VOl, 13 NO 49 (April-June 1900):81-91.

[25] John B. Hewitt. “Status of Women in Iroquois Polity before 1784” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1932, (1932):475-488.

[26] Porter p.153.

[27] “Iroquois Too Much For Him” Court at a Standstill Until Interpreter Is Found for Indian Dialect”. The New York Times.(June 9, 1912).

[28] Porter p.76.

[29] Porter pp.54-58.

[30] Santee Smith. “Kaha:WI: Here On Earth” <Interpretive Dance Performance Program Pamphlet>(Toronto ON.: Dance Umbrella of Ontario, June 2007).

[31] Smith (2007)pp.2-3.

[32] Joane Nagel. “American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Politics and the Resurgences of Identity” American Sociological Review, Vol.60 No.6 (Dec. 1995).954.

[33] Alfred E. Trafzer, Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 200) p. 1.

[34] Trafzerp.1.

[35] John B. Hewitt, “Status of Women in Iroquois Polity before 1784” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1932,(1933):478.

The Persistence of Women’s Roles in Haudenosaunee Society after the IBSM

Within Haudenosaunee matriarchal society, pre AIRM and IBSM Haudenosaunee women held the power to elect male leaders of religious, political, and social organizations.[1] Haudenosaunee women retained their traditionally held power to elect the political and spiritual leaders in Haudenosaunee communities following the IBSM, even as anthropologist Ann Eastlack Shafer conducted her case study on the Allegheny Reservation in 1941. As Eastlack studied the “modern” Haudenosaunee culture of 1941, such evidence of the persistence of Haudenosaunee women’s traditional roles in their communities became apparent as she gathered evidence for her analysis of the apparent changes and continuity of Haudenosaunee traditions through the IBSM and AIRM era of assimilation attempts.[2] Even as William N. Fenton conducted his case study of the Onondaga Reservation in 1962, Haudenosaunee women serving as “clan matrons” still exercised their traditionally held power to elect tribal chiefs[3] despite IBSM attempts to eliminate traditional Haudenosaunee community structure. Notwithstanding the IBSM, Haudenosaunee women retained “the respect women, especially clan mothers, held in [Haudenosaunee] society.”[4]

In the face of the attempted implementation of a patriarchal yeoman society idyllically envisioned by policymakers structuring the AIRM, and the IBSM use of rigidly structured patriarchal atmosphere of boarding schools, Haudenosaunee women retained their status in Haudenosaunee society equitable to and even sometimes elevated above that held by men. Haudenosaunee women did not become submissive subjects to male power in the societal structure of their contemporary female Euro-American neighbors. [5] The “cultural genocide” of the IBSM unsuccessfully attempted to change the perceptions of societal norms among Native American schoolgirls among such matriarchal nations as the Haudenosaunee in the assimilationists’ drive to instill a sense of patriarchal societal organization among Native American communities.[6] Even after the IBSM’s invasive attempt to assimilate the Haudenosaunee into an idealized white America, Haudenosaunee women living in reservation communities which still heavily followed Gaiwiio tribalism continued to lead “lives not of degradation but of honor and respect. Such accounts challenged the Victorian evolutionary idea that western women occupied the highest place of honor among the range of world cultures.”[7]

Many educators, policymakers, and ordinary American citizens believed that to assimilate Native Americans, Pratt was correct in his assessment that “indigenous youth must leave their families and reservations, and be educated in close association with Euro-Americans.”[8] Once separated from their families and reservation communities by boarding school environments hundreds of miles from home, female Haudenosaunee students were taught household skills such as sewing, cooking, and laundering as the basis of their vocational training to keep them within the domestic sphere as was the norm for their Euro-American female contemporaries. In the years before the IBSM, basketry was a popular trade held by Haudenosaunee women, allowing them the economic power of self-employment and the ability to provide for their families. Despite IBSM attempts to place Haudenosaunee women in domestic labor occupations such as laundresses and seamstresses, the popularity of making wicker, sweet-grass, and bark baskets (for sale as utilitarian containers and art objects to both Native and non-Native Americans) among Haudenosaunee women persisted[9] and has allowed many Haudenosaunee women to exercise the power of financial independence from husbands not shared by their female Euro-American neighbors at the time of the IBSM. Basket making remained a major source of income for many Haudenosaunee women throughout the twentieth century, especially the practice of splint-basketry among Mohawk women[10].

IBSM boarding schools tried to teach Haudenosaunee students skills and trades that would be useful in white society, utilizing stern disciplinary measures to force assimilation. However, IBSM requirement of domestic service vocational training for female students was often not applicable for use by Haudenosaunee students after their return to their reservation communities.[11] Traditionally, Haudenosaunee women held roles as agriculturalists,[12] supplementing the small percentage of the Haudenosaunee diet of male provided meat with vast amounts of female cultivated fruits and vegetables. The “female Industry”[13] of agricultural production carried political ramifications, providing women with the power make economically viable political decisions such as the cessation of war through their control of Haudenosaunee food supplies. In pre-AIRM Haudenosaunee culture, land was not viewed as eligible for ownership by people, as Haudenosaunee Longhouse spirituality placed ownership of the land upon which humans live in the hands of the Creator.[14] As the AIRM progressed before the onset of the IBSM, Haudenosaunee lands were held communally in practice, and were often held in title on paper by women. Even after the IBSM, Haudenosaunee lands appear to have been communally owned, and were usually held in title by the women of the community.[15]

Before the IBSM, the Haudenosaunee were heavily dependent on agriculture for sustenance. Growing large crops of corn, beans, squash, strawberries, and dozens of other plant foods, Haudenosaunee women of the pre-AIRM period cultivated large fields and stored vast caches of food for the winter months.[16] While the AIRM reduced Haudenosaunee dependence on agriculture as increasing contact with Euro-American neighboring communities provided the Haudenosaunee with increased means of acquiring food, Pre-IBSM Haudenosaunee women continued to cultivate traditional foods in gardens for both ceremonial and practical uses. Even in anthropologist Clark Wissler’s 1914 analysis of the material culture of Native Americans of the northeastern woodlands, Wissler recognized the Haudenosaunee as “intensive agriculturalists,”[17] even thirty six years[18] after the Richard Henry Pratt opened the doors of the Carlisle Indian School as Haudenosaunee women continued to maintain “care of the family garden.”[19] Before the AIRM, Haudenosaunee women “raised maize in large quantities,”[20] and even throughout the century following the implementation of the IBSM Haudenosaunee women have continued to cultivate the traditionally used foods of their ancestor’s tribalism. As shown through the research of anthropologist Judith K. Brown, “land was often registered in female names”[21] both before and after the IBSM’s conclusion.

Haudenosaunee women are recognized within their Six Nations communities as spiritual beings, closer than men to Mother Earth. Due to their ability to bear children, Haudenosaunee women are believed even in modern times to hold knowledge incomprehensible to men and are thus revered for their spiritual power.[22] According to historian William Beauchamp, numerous female keepers of the faith called Onahtahonetah[23] held positions also held by men in the strongly interconnected political and spiritual spheres of Haudenosaunee society even after the AIRM’s attempted assimilation of Native Americans into idyllic Euro-American society. As shown through the twentieth century memoirs of Haudenosaunee elders such as Tom Porter,[24] Ted Williams’[25] and Alma Greene’[26] women retained their traditionally held positions within Haudenosaunee medicine societies and continued to practice the cultivation / gathering and use of traditionally used Haudenosaunee medicinal plants far beyond the conclusion of the IBSM and into the late twentieth century. Upon the research of Haudenosaunee lifestyles by anthropologist Anthony Wallace in 1952, Wallace concluded that the spiritual position of women emphasized by Haudenosaunee tribalism such as that encouraged by Handsome Lake’s Gaiwiio was still a large part of Haudenosaunee community. Even thirty years after the IBSM’s conclusion, Wallace concluded that the “Gaiwiio is still practiced today.”[27]

According to anthropologist David Landy, “nowadays [Tuscarora] people generally abide by the decisions of the council because they really feel loyalty to it and the nation”[28] without having to resort to law enforcement using Euro-American infrastructure. This loyalty to local tribalism by the people of the Tuscarora Nation is a demonstration of Haudenosaunee women’s maintenance of social, spiritual, and political power through the continued reliance of Haudenosaunee communities on women’s installation of male leaders, even as of 1910. As ascertained by anthropologist George P. Murdock in 1934 following the conclusion of the IBSM, “indeed of all the people of the earth, the [Haudenosaunee] approach most closely to that hypothetical form of society known as the matriarchate,”[29] acknowledging the persistence of Haudenosaunee women’s place within their communities despite the IBSM’s attempted imposition of a patriarchal social order.

Games such as lacrosse and the Peach Stone Game have permeated Haudenosaunee society, and were heavily prevalent in Haudenosaunee households of the nineteenth century both before and after the implementation of the IBSM. The Peach Stone Game is played by both Haudenosaunee children and adults in social gatherings and spiritual ceremonies. The Peach Stone Game is played with six peach pits, ground smooth and blackened with fire on one side to become game pieces called stones. The pits are placed in an 11” diameter x 3” deep bowl, and the bowl is cast down onto a table or bench, jumbling the peach stones. It is the goal of the two players to have at least five of the six peach stones of the player’s color facing upwards in the bowl.[30] Beans are often used as counters of wins, as the winner of each game continues on to try his luck against the next competitor. The Peach Stone game has been played for centuries by the Haudenosaunee, and was observed by Jesuit missionary Jean de Brebeuf as early as 1636.[31] According to Mohawk elder and ethnohistorian Tom Porter, the Peach Stone game is played ceremonially for the enjoyment of the creator. The game has been played ceremonially by followers of Longhouse spirituality to gain attention of creator. It is believed by Longhouse followers that the Peach Stone game was a gift to humans from the Creator for enjoyment.[32]

Lacrosse has also been played for centuries by the Haudenosaunee. A game in which “2 bands of contestants trying to carry or throw the ball between the two guarded poles at either end of the ground”[33] was often played not only for recreation but also for spiritual purposes, believed to fulfill dreams and heal the sick by appeasing spirits.[34] Lacrosse was also played to symbolize war, used for competition between neighboring tribes and nations to settle differences without the devastation of warfare.[35] Lacrosse gained popularity among the European-American neighbors of the Haudenosaunee, and was deemed the national sport of Canada in 1867.[36] As of the 1895 research of William Beauchamp using the Onondagas as a case study of Haudenosaunee culture, Beauchamp asserted that “lacrosse is still a favorite” sport among the Haudenosaunee.[37] Oneida resident Josiah Charles’ memoir of his 1880s childhood in Oneida territory confirms the prominence of lacrosse still present in Haudenosaunee communities in the late nineteenth century.[38] As shown through photographic accounts of Haudenosaunee lacrosse games and teams of the late nineteenth century, lacrosse sticks of the 1800s had longer nets than are used in the twenty-first century, such as the lacrosse sticks used by Haudenosaunee lacrosse players as including the Caughnawaha Lacrosse Club in 1867.[39] The continued spiritual use of lacrosse and the Peach Stone Game reinforces the continuity of a matriarchal spirituality which places women in an equitable status to men, as opposed to placing women in a state of social and political dependency upon male superiors as contemporary Victorian white women experienced in the late nineteenth century.


[1] John B. Hewitt, “Status of Women in Iroquois Polity before 1784” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1932, (1933):478.

[2] Ann Eastlack-Schaffer. “The Status of Iroquois Women” Unpublished Masters Thesis in Anthropology. University of Pennsylvania. (1941):105.

[3] William N. Fenton, “This Island, the World on the Turtle’s Back” The Journal of American Folklore. 75:398 (Oct-Dec 1962):294.

[4] Nancy Shoemaker, “An Aliance beween Men: Gender Metaphors in Eighteenth Century American Indian Diplomacy East of the Mississippi” Ethnohistory. 46:2 (Spring 1999):244.

[5] Alexander Goldenweiser, “Functions of Iroquois Women in Society.” The American Anthropologist. (1915):376.

[6] Andrea Smith, “Boarding School Abues, Human Rights and Reparations” Journal of Religion & Abuse. Vol.8(2) (2006):6.

[7] Visweswaran, P.598.

[8] John H. Moore, The Political Economy of North American Indians.. (USA: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993) p.46.

[9] Grene Weltfish “Prehistoric North American Basketry Techniques and Modern Distributions” American Anthropologist. Part 1 (Jul.-Sep. 1930) p.459.

[10], Olivia Thornburn “Mary Kawennatakie Adams: Mohawk Basket Maker and Artist” American Art, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 2001):90-95.

[11] Rothenberg. P.382.

[12] Beauchamp. P.81.

[13] Beauchamp p. 87.

[14] Wall, p.24.

[15] Judith K. Brown, “Economic Organization and the Position of Women Among the Iroquois” Ethnohistory. Vol.17 No.3/4 (Summer-Autumn 1970): 151-167.

[16] Gordon Day. “The Indian as an Ecological Factor in the Northeastern Forest” Ecology 34:2 (Apr. 1953):332.

[17] Wissler p.461.

[18] Smith, (2006) p.6.

[19] Eastlack-Schaffer. p.98.

[20] Albert Ernest Jenks. “Faith as a Factor in the Economic Life of the Amerind” American Anthropologist, (Oct.-Dec. 1900):678.

[21] Brown p.160.

[22] Steve Wall, To Become A Human Being: The Message Of Tododaho Chief Leon Shenandoah. (Virginia: Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc., 2001) p.41.

[23] Beauchamp, W.M. “Onondaga Notes” The Journal of American Folklore. 8:30 (Jul.-Sep. 1895):212.

[24] Porter (2008).

[25] Ted Williams, Big Medicine From Six Nations. (N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2007).

[26] Alma Greene, Forbidden Voice: Reflections of a Mohawk Indian. (London: Hamlyn Publishing Group).

[27] Wallace (1952) P.150.

[28] Landy, P.262.

[29] George P. Murdock. Our Primitive Contemporaries. (NY: MacMillan Company, 1934) p.302

[30] William Beauchamp, “Iroquois Games” The Journal of American Folklore. 9:35 (Oct-Dec 1896):270.

[31] Beauchamp, (1896) p.271.

[32] Porter (2008) p.197.

[33] Beauchamp, (1896) p.271.

[34] M.R. Harrington. “Some Unusual Iroquois Specimens” American Anthropologist. (Jan-Mar. 1909):89.

[35] Thomas Vennum. American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994) p.222.

[36] Colin G. Calloway “Review of American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War by Thomas Vennum Jr.” The New England Quarterly 68:2 (Jun. 1995):335.

[37] W.M. Beauchamp. “Onondaga Notes” The Journal of American Folklore. 8:30 (Jul.-Sep. 1895):213.

[38] Lewis, (2005) p.360.

[39] Vennum, (1994) p.173.

Conclusion

In an analysis of documentation of the impact of the IBSM on Haudenosaunee women’s roles, it is necessary to compare and contrast the role of Haudenosaunee women in the eras preceding and following the IBSM to trace the cultural continuity of women’s political, economic, social, and spiritual position within their communities. From an analysis of the primary sources documenting the IBSM, one may conclude that in an investigation of the impact the IBSM had on the lives of Haudenosaune women, the validity of empirical historians’ arguments of the IBSM’s minimal impact on Haudenosaunee women’s societal status is validated. IBSM Schools were intended to serve as “agencies for social cohesion and assimilation”[1] using Protestant patriarchal ideology and a capitalistic focus on individualism. The IBSM “policy of forced acculturation”[2] through federally administered boarding school education failed to erase all traces of traditional Haudenosaunee lifestyles as it had intended, as traditionally held Haudenosaunee women’s social, political, spiritual, and economic roles persisted through the IBSM and even into the present.


[1] Adams, (1988) p.6.

[2] David Wallace Adams, “More than a Game: The Carlisle Indians Take to the Gridiron, 1893-1917” Western Historical Quarterly 32.4 (2001):Paragraph 2.

Special Thanks

Special Thanks to my husband for encouraging my research!
Special Thanks to my husband for encouraging my research!

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