Women and Men
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Women and Men

The first first societies in America were molded around survival as a tribe, as a people, as a family. The people believed they had their gods to thank for this. On the Plains, where they knew God as Napi or the Old Man, they told of how he tried to bring men and women together to form families.


On the plains the people hunted buffalo and lived on the flat of the prairie. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
On the plains the people hunted buffalo and lived on the flat of the prairie. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Old Man made the world and everything on it. He had done everything well, except that he had put the men in one place and the women in another, quite a distance away. So they lived separately for awhile. One day Old Man said to himself "I think I did everything well, but I made one bad mistake, putting men and women in different places. There is no joy or pleasure in that. I must make men mate with women. I will put some pleasure, some good feeling into it. Otherwise the men won't be keen to do what is necessary. I myself must set an example."

The men lived in squalor, with no tipis to sleep under and only rotting skins to wear. But they were skilled hunters and Old Man hoped that if the women could only see the men they would want to be with them.


The women looked at the men... their matted hair, smelled the strong smell coming from their unwashed bodies. They looked at their dirty skin. They said to each other "these beings called men don't know how to live... they're dirty and they smell. We don't want people like these!" Then all the women threw rocks and shouted "Go away!"

Old Man said "it was no mistake putting these creatures far away from us. Women are dangerous. I shouldn't have created them."


But in time, the legend says, the men and women were drawn to each other, finding ways to live together. The division of roles between men and women differed from place to place. Often the men were dominant, but in other bands history followed a mother's bloodline. In farming cultures the women grew crops that fed more mouths than the hunters could feed with meat. The work of butchering animals, tanning skins and raising the children fell to the women while warfare and hunting went to the men. And on the Plains, the story says, the men gave thanks to the creator for their good fortune.


The women came... their bodies were fragrant with the good smell of sweet grass. Their cheeks shone with the sacred red face paint. Old man exclaimed "why these women beings are beautiful! They delight my eyes! Their bodies are sweet smelling and alluring. They make our hearts leap."


This was what the Old Man Napi wanted: families... here for a long time to come. Families that would become a people.

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