Women at the Crossroads


Timucuan women in Florida, working in agriculture side by side with men

Pretty Shield was a medicine woman of the Crow Nation.  Medicine Woman of the Crow, Shield’s autobiography written with Frank Linderman is the first record of the “women’s side” of Native American Life.

I saw Strikes—Two, a woman sixty
years old, riding around the camp on
a grey horse.  She carried only her
root-digger, and she was singing her
medicine-song, as though Lakota
bullets and arrows were not flying
around her….
When the men and even the women 
began to sing as Strikes-Two told
them, she rode out straight at the
Lakota, waving her root-digger and
singing that song.  I saw her, I heard
her, and my heart swelled because she
was a woman.

~Pretty Shield in Paul Gunn Allen, ed., Spider Woman’s Granddaughters, 33

I hope that I can save
my grandchildren, but
times have changed so
fast that they have left
me behind…I am 
walking in the dark.

~Pretty Shield (1856-1944)


Additional sources:

Wikipedia: Pretty Shield


This weight on her back—which is the baggage from the Indian mother, which is the baggage from the Spanish father, which is the baggage from the Anglo?

~Gloria Anzaldua, The Borderlands/La Frontera, 82


The dark-skinned woman has been silenced, caged, gagged, bound into servitude with marriage, bludgeoned for 300 years, sterilized and castrated in the twentieth century….she has been a slave, a source of cheap labor, colonized by the Spaniard, the Anglo, and by her own people (in Mesoamerica her lot under Indian patriarchs was not free of wounding).  For 300 years she was invisible, she was not heard….Every increment of consciousness, every step forward, is a travesia, a crossing….Every time she makes “sense” of something she has to “cross over,” kicking a hole in the old boundaries.

In a few centuries, t he future will belong to the mestiza.  Because the future depends on the breaking down of paradigms, it depends on the straddling of two or more cultures.  By creating a new mythos—that is a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves and the ways we behave—la mestiza creates a new consciousness.  The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our language, our thoughts.  A massive uprooting of dualistic thinking in the individual and collective consciousness is the beginning of a long struggle, but one that could, in our best hopes, bring us to the end of the rape, of violence, of war….

As a mestiza I have no country…yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creating of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet.  Soy un amasamiento, I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that which not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meaning.

We are the people who leap in the dark; we are the people on the knees of gods.  In our very flesh (e)evolution works out the clash of cultures….Indigenous like corn, the mestizais a product of crossbreeding, designed for preservation under a variety of conditions.  Like an ear of corn a female seed bearing organ, the mestiza is tenacious, tightly wrapped in the husks of her culture.  Like kernels she clings to the cob; with thick stalks and strong brace roots, she holds tight to the earth—she will survive the crossroads.

~Anzaldua, The Borderland/La Frontera, 22-23, 48-49, 80-81

Additional sources:

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