It is no wonder that the Cherokee women were respected and held positions of influence. As you read this list of duties and tasks that were a part of their everyday life, it makes you wonder how one person could do so much, and today, women are referred to as the "weaker sex". That certainly was not the case many years ago. Of course, they knew no other life, and they had been trained in the traditions of the Cherokee.
Try to put yourself in the position of a Cherokee woman a hundred years ago and visualize, if you will, having to do the physical labor as well as the many important decisions that they were faced with.
The women served as midwives, mourners, and dancers. They worked the fields and crops. They made clothing and pottery. The women controlled the allotting of the harvest and meat from the warrior's hunt. The women owned the home and could not be forced to leave.
A specially recognized woman prepared the sacred "black drink" for ceremonies. The women skinned and butchered the animals, prepared the skins for clothing and bedding, preserved the meat, made containers, mats and other needed household items. They gathered vegetables for food and medicine.
They used honeysuckle petals, ground between their hands, for perfume. A broken Dogwood twig was used for a toothbrush.
The women had a Council of their own, and served the people as advisors. The Women's Council selected the Peace Chief. The majority of Medicine Healers were women.
A Mother would wrap her new born child in a piece of bark cloth, decorated the infant in amulets of vines and bits of wood and colored leaves, then take the child to the nearest creek or spring and emerge the child into the water. This physical act with Mother and Child, the different parts of the forest, and water from Mother Earth's body, was to assure the child of protection and show gratitude to the Great Spirit, that is Creator of all things, that this child should grow up living in harmony with all things provided by the Creator, such as the forest, rivers, and animals. Through this process, the Mother was asking that her child be protected by the Great Spirit.
The women knew just what wood made the hottest ashes for cooking. They also knew how to use Mother Earth for refrigeration and food storage. The Mothers used honey for sweetening of acorn bread and used the Honeycomb for babies to use when cutting teeth.
Sometimes in battle, the Over-Hill Cherokee woman would take her fallen warrior husband's place on the battlefield.
The Over-Hill Cherokee woman was never taken for granted.
Author: Man Many Trees (Lee Roy Gibson), (c)1995
Printed in his publication "The Overhill Eagle", 1995