Thursday, May 07, 2009

La Mujer Indigena

La Mujer Indigena, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

Reflecting upon the Ecuador Youth Leadership Exchange, the youth created a dance that portrayed various aspects of indigenous history in South America. I've written somewhat about this already, but I have not yet mentioned the roles played by Margarita and Flor. They specificaly represented indigenous women in Ecuador.

When Rhonda and I traveled to Ecuador in the summer of 2008, we observed many women still use the traditional form of dress. In fact, this was more true for women than for men, though we certainly observed both.

This photograph also makes me reflect on an activity we did as a group. Inspired by the Iroquois Constitution, the Ecuador youth created an activity where the women got to vote on who would carry the flags during the powwow. They were allowed to select one woman and two men. The women judged the candidates on such characteristics as honor and trustworthiness, and then voted according to who they believed most exemplified these traits.

By separating the powers between men and women, men got to hold most positions of honor, but they did not get to vote. Women held a remarkable power of selection and veto in the affairs of the tribe. It is an interesting variation on democracy that created a separation of powers that pre-dates the three branches of US government. In fact, we studied this issue precisely because we wanted to learn more about the indigenous influence on American democracy.

I'm glad to say this group handled the exercise with much dignity and respect for everyone involved.

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