More than 150 years ago, in 1839, the United States forced the Cherokee Nation West of the Mississippi River into what later would become the state of Oklahoma.The weather was unusually harsh that winter and the cold,the disease and the hunger cost the Cherokee Nation the lives of "at least four thousand of the fifteen thousand people who traveled the thousand miles West" (Perdue 93).
Not only was the journey a very cruel and dangerous one for the Native Americans, but it also upset their tribal lives, particularly the tribal lives of the Cherokee women. This essay will focus on the position of the Cherokee woman in her tribe before and during the relocation West. Native American woman, particularly the Cherokee, lived and thrived in a matrilineal society long before the Europeans immigrated to North America."Traditionally Cherokee women had a voice in Cherokee government.
They spoke freely in council, and the War Woman (or Beloved Woman) decided to the fate of captives" (Perdue 94). The Cherokee men would live in houses that belonged to their wives and to their wife's family.Many tribal members believed that "marriage gives no right to the husband over the property of his wife; and when they part she keeps the children and property belonging to them" (Perdue 95). Even the fresh produce and other'belongings' of a Cherokee belonged to the women because they were the primary farmers.
The Cherokee women owned their own fields and tended their own crops. The Cherokee women were also very adamant and vocal peacekeepers.In 1787, Benjamin Franklin received a letter from a Cherokee woman telling him that she had told her people to maintain peace with the white settlers."She had filled the peace pipe for the warriors and she enclosed some of the same tobacco for the United States Congress in order to unite symbolically her people and his in peace".