Sample Paper on the division of labor between Native Americans and Europeans?


The familial structure of Native Americans was distinct in the sense that each gender had distinct duties which could not be interchanged. As with many other native communities around the world, men were tasked with conventionally masculine tasks, including hunting, preparing weapons, fishing, and fighting in wars while women were responsible for conducting household duties, including tilling land, sowing and reaping grain, gathering firewood, and baking bread, among others. Contrastingly, heterosexual European families have been known to base their livelihoods on egalitarian values, which necessitate equal division of labor between the man and woman. The purpose of this document is to offer a comparative analysis of European and Native American families. The arguments presented will rely on the proposition that: although egalitarianism is becoming the norm in contemporary European societies, a range of similarities can be drawn in gendered responsibilities between traditional European and Native Americans families.

The manner in which marriage is instigated differs significantly across the two societies. In Europe, a man is expected to approach the woman with whom he enters a relationship which could likely lead up to a marriage. The woman’s family is not involved until the woman agrees to marry the man, whereupon the two families are expected to join in a celebration of marriage through a wedding ceremony. On the contrary, the tradition in the Native American society was that the man would approach the woman’s father to whom he would propose the idea of marrying his daughter (Chrestien Le Clercq). With the father’s blessing, the young man would have the liberty to approach the girl and attempt to appease her in a one-year period, during which he would also work at his suitor’s parents’ home. The one-year period was an important starting point for division of labor, with the woman working hard to appease her suitor by making snowshoes, sewing canoes, preparing barks, among other tasks, while the man would hunt, with all the furs he collects going to the suitor’s father (Chrestien Le Clercq). The strict adherence to rules in the Native American society demonstrates why marriages were likely to last longer than those of contemporary Europe.

The main similarities between Native American and European couples is that women were charged with household duties while men were responsible for providing for their families. In Native America, both men and women were expected to understand their duties and where their responsibilities lied (Sagard; Heckewelder). Although European men are not responsible for hunting and gathering and warring activities have not been commonplace in recent history, a man is not traditionally expected to take care of the household. This is changing in the contemporary egalitarian society, whereby duties are equitably shared by both parents. Nonetheless, according to findings by Bühlmann, Elcheroth and Tettamanti (55), there is a tendency for a paradoxical simultaneity of egalitarian and inegalitarian practices in European families. This occurs with gendered practices emerging following the birth of the first children (Bühlmann, Elcheroth & Tettamanti 49). Although this occurrence is moderated by familial welfare, gendered responsibilities are not uncommon in Europe, as was the case with Native Americans.


There are significant differences in the range of duties that traditional Indian families served compared to contemporary Europeans. For instance, Native American men would not perform duties reserved for women, while in the European family setup, egalitarianism is becoming the norm. Nonetheless, gendered responsibilities commonly emerge with the birth of the first child, leading to parallels across the two communities. Thus, although egalitarianism is becoming the norm in contemporary European societies, a range of similarities can be drawn in gendered responsibilities between traditional European and Native Americans families.




Work cited

Bühlmann, Felix, Guy Elcheroth, and Manuel Tettamanti. “The division of labour among             European couples: The effects of life course and welfare policy on value–practice      configurations.” European Sociological Review 26.1 (2009): 49-66.

Heckewelder, John. Courtship, Marriage, and Gender Roles. Digital History. 1819. Available at:   

Sagard, Gabriel. Courtship, Marriage, and Gender Roles. Digital History. 1632. Available at: