Holding Our World Together:
Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community
By Brenda J. Child
Viking Books | 164 pp | $22.95 usd /$24.00 can
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Discussion »
American Indian men have long known that women within American Indian families, tribes and communities play very influential and significant roles.
Brenda J. Child in "Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community" brings this concept to life. The title alone was enough to make me want to read this book from Viking Books.
Child is a tribal citizen of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota, Previously, Child authored "Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900 - 1940."
I particularly like the fact the Child is Ojibwe, which allows her to write with authority as a academic and as an Anishinaabekwe - or Indian woman. It is time for American Indians to tell our own stories.
Child is impressive because she mixes her life experiences as an Ojibwe with her historian skills to write an amazing account that covers several centuries on the role of women in Indian society.
Throughout "Holding Our World Together," Child, the Ojibwe writer, teases the reader with Ojibwe words when appropriate that seem very natural given the content of her work. Child also provides biographically sketches to Ojibwe women who maintained influence in their communities.
Child, the academic, provides her notes, complete with her references at the end of "Holding Our World Together." Child carefully wove in Ojibwe tribes of the United States with the Ojibwe First Nations of Canada, which is seldom done in writings.
While Child is not overly exhaustive in her presentation into a glimpse of Ojibwe life over the centuries in this short book, Child covers a lot of ground to make her case of the influence of women throughout history.
Writing about the Ojibwe before Euro-American contact, Child writes:
“Ojibwe women were born into a society that valued their participation in the material and spiritual well-being of their community. Women were thought to hold an innate strength because of their life-giving ability ”
Even after contact, Ojibwe women worked to retain their influence within their families and communities. Child writes about how seasons and ties to nature allowed for Ojibwe women to maintain a systematic sense of order within their families and communities by passing down traditions down from one generation to the next. Within Ojibwe communities, women were the guiding forces for the spiritual well-being of their families and communities.
Traditionally, Ojibwe women harvested the wild rice in the waterways of the Great Lakes region and did some farming, while Ojibwe men fished and hunted. As the reservation system was implemented and one era ushered in a new one, Ojibwe women learned to adapt to new gender roles and expectations, according to Child.
Child provides a chapter on boarding schools called "Mount Pleasant," which discusses the removal of Ojibwe children from their homes.
“Indian boarding schools were a unique form of segregated education to emerge in the history of the United States and, like other forms of segregation, served the interests of a white society,”
She sheds light on the relocation era of the Ojibwe to cities, particularly Minneapolis. Child points out it was Ojibwe women who began the urban Indian agencies that still exist today to assist urban Indians who live in Minneapolis.
"Holding Our World Together" is a must read for those who want to learn more about American Indian women's influence to keep their families and tribal communities together and strong.
updated March 16, 2013 6:00 am edt; posted August 18, 2012 10:30 am edt