Autumn 2017 edition - page 20-21

Humans as a species like to believe that
they are constantly improving and further develop-
ing, stepping away from their out dated views and
embracing more modern concepts such as gender
equality and acceptance of sexuality. This - to an
extent - is being achieved and can be seen in, for
example, the rise of feminism across the world.
However, the idea that we have been improving
upon a society completely ridden with inequality is
not necessarily true as there are certain communi-
ties throughout history whose beliefs and hierarchy
could rival our level of development nowadays.
An example of such a society would be that
of the Cherokee tribe, the people of which were
indigenous to the South-eastern United States and
held very different morals to ones we would natu-
rally associate with a historical civilisation. Some of
the beliefs of this community even surpassed those
of the current day when it came to acceptance as
they accepted and permitted many things that are
still controversial today, such as the understand-
ing that gender identity cannot be split into simply
male and female, seen through their introduction
of a third gender called two-spirit to encase those
who didn’t fit into the confines of the basic gender
regulations, a realisation that many still strongly
oppose despite the scientific evidence that there is
a wider spectrum of gender than is traditionally be-
lieved. It is also known that Cherokee people were
unbothered by sexuality and were accepting of
homosexual and polygamous relationships, some-
thing that is once again incomprehensible to many
around today, once again highlighting the decline in
development from the origins of this ancient com-
munity to the modern day.
Another very interesting concept within
Cherokee traditions was the way in which women
were treated. Not only were women seen as equal
to their male counterparts- something that despite
what is preached nowadays is still not the case- but
female elders possessed the highest positions with-
in their communities, something that they believed
to be only natural. This was showcased by the shock
shown by Attakullakulla- a Cherokee leader –when
he went to negotiate trade agreements in 1757 with
a governor in South Carolina and found there to be
no women at the meeting. His disbelief was seen
when he asked the governor ‘since the white man
as well as the red was born of woman, did not the
white man admit women to their council?’ which
brings across a solid yet rather simple reason for
gender equality. Also, Cherokee people also had
very intriguing views on a topic that to this day is
still heavily taboo and that the mere mention of
can cause great discomfort to those who have not
experienced it: menstruation. The Cherokee peo-
ple traditionally believed menstrual blood to be a
source of feminine strength and even that it held
the power to destroy enemies, something that con-
trasts so greatly with the modern conception that it
is a sign of weakness and an excuse for moodiness
and complaint. Cherokee views aren’t just a reflec-
tion as to what people still strive towards today, but
also introduced a very interesting contrast to those
existing at the same time. An example of this is how
traditionally couples could freely divorce and how
women were allowed even more freedom to do so
than men. This introduces a compelling divide be-
tween their society and the rest of the world where
divorce was frowned upon as a whole, especially
by those associated with the church, though this
distaste was furthered towards women as in many
parts of the world they were traditionally seen as in-
ferior and their opinions and viewpoints were often
looked over due to their lack of education, some-
thing they themselves had no choice in. Altogether,
traditional Cherokee beliefs were a stark contrast to
others circulating at the time and were surprisingly
more developed than many seen today, making
them seem a tribe even further advanced that any
modern society and consequently suggesting that
more needs to be done today in order for us to
reach this standard of equality.
People are desperate to believe that we are
progressing as a species in order to feel pride and
a sense of achievement as they believe they are
better and more advanced than their ancestors
simply by existing in this time in which they know
to be fairer; they don’t feel any pressing need to
personally do something to combat the remaining
inequality. If we were to become more aware to the
fact that ancient traditions demonstrated a greater
sense of equality than that of the today, then we
may be shrouded with an overwhelming sense of
guilt as we will have realised we haven’t necessarily
progressed and may currently be living in a society
even less developed that one prominent hundreds
of years ago, and so would hopefully feel the need
to take action and genuinely fight to even up the
playing field. People want to avoid this sense of
responsibility which could be the reason such pro-
gressive ideals are often looked over and replaced
by the gory traditions or more animalistic nature of
tribes and ancient civilisations.
Daisy Berry
Tribal Beliefs
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