Unlike most other traditional societies, the Powhatan community was eccentric given that it was matrilineal in nature. In other words, women of Powhatan had more significant roles than men contrary to what was happening in other communities. In this sense, this essay examines Powhatan women and what their life was like during the colonial period.
Powhatan Women During the Colonial Period
During the colonial period, the Powhatan women also played vital roles in shaping the history of Jamestown. While the male members of the Powhatan community invariably showed hostility towards the settlers, the Powhatan women attempted to extend a helping hand to the intruders 1. The interaction of the Indian Powhatan women with the people considered as pale strangers in the location known as the “James City” military compound helped in enriching the history of the colony1. This is to say that the Powhatan women participated in the formation of the colony as well as the development of its history through their positive interaction with the strangers. For example, it is the intervention of Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan, that prevented the execution of English commander James Smith1. Powhatan women also voiced their concerns in matters of administration during the colonial period.
The Life of Powhatan Women During the Colonial Period
During this period, the life of the Powhatan women was multifarious1. In general, the these women had roles compared to their male counterparts. The jobs performed by women also differed in relation to the degree of skills needed1. Among the tasks for wmen was building houses known as yehakins2. In other cases, it is the women who owned the houses. The Powhatan women were also occupied with gathering firewood and food and making cordage, platters, wooden spoons, mats, mortars, and pottery2. Besides these functions, the Powhatan women also prepared meals, grew crops, made clothes, and raised children. The women of Powhatan community also gathered edible plants, and this demanded that they have sufficient knowledge in determining which fruits were useful and edible for the community2. The Powhatan women were also the barbers for the children and men.
During migration, the women were tasked with conveyance issues. This took place so that men could be prepared and armed for combat. The three fundamental plants grown and cultivated by the Powhatan comprised of squash, beans, and corn. These three crops were termed as the three sisters in the Powhatan myth. The women from the different tribes which formed the Powhatan community were also responsible for preparing meals3. When cooking, a large community pot was placed outside, and the women served children and men from the pot. Since there was no standard breakfast, dinner or lunch, it was the duty of the women to replenish the food to ensure that men and children were constantly fed3.
The Powhatans society was matrilineal in nature. Subsequently, this implied that tracing of the familial tree began from the mother. In the same vein, matters of inheritance were arranged from the mother’s origin3. The recognized queens from the Powhatan community were women rulers who attained the status from the matrilineal lineage3. The daughters and sons of Powhatan women rulers were titled princesses and princes respectively. These titles were considered authentic only in situations where the children originated from a female, as well as, in situations where the fathers, known as, weroance were still alive3…”
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