Woman and men have had the same roles in our society because we were nomadic people who lived in vast, harshly cold, open areas. If a woman had to wait for her husband to come back to bring in some food from the hunt or chop the wood or keep the home warm, she would not survive.
Women had to know how to survive. The men had to know how to cook when they were out somewhere. The dress for the woman and the men was almost identical. They both wore pants, but the shirttail for the men was a bit longer and the woman had a hood for a baby carrier, but some men also had hoods and carried babies.
Women did not wear dresses. It would be very difficult to walk in the deep snow wearing a dress and snowshoes. Some women who had the time did make dresses for traditional dances only. Now it seems that society expects different roles from men and women, and that is kind of confusing.
My mother taught me that the ability to give birth gives a woman a lot of power. We are used to that power in a good way. She taught me that men are vulnerable and can be easily taken advantage of, and that we should be respectful toward them and not overpower them.
I grew up traditionally, speaking the Gwichin language and following the caribou migration. From both my parents and my grandparents, I learned that womanhood means being respectful towards others and being willing to work, not expecting others to do everything for you.
When I was chosen by my people to speak out to protect our lands, they did not talk about my being a woman. They chose me as one of the people they thought could do the job best. They expected results from my work as an advocate for the Arctic Wildlife refuge and the birthplace of the porcupine caribou, not as a woman.
Every Day Is A Good Day