Julianne Jennings

American Indian women have long been honored with the name “life giver” for their gift of motherhood to the tribes. In addition, most Native American women were masters at making beautiful blankets, baskets, pottery and jewelry. They gathered materials to build homes for their families and understood the curative properties of wild plants to heal the sick. American Indian men knew women were the source of life and acknowledged that their wisdom and strength was essential for group survival. Thus in modern times, we are no different from our European counterparts going to great lengths and personal expense to make sure our children have the best clothes, schools, lessons, coaches, and more.

We begin economizing the moment our are born in order to save money and set it aside for the best of college educations. We surrender our own personal wants, preferences and even needs so that they will have everything necessary for a successful future. In fact, most of us would literally give our own lives for our children because no sacrifice is too great; surrendering all for the sake of something or someone. It is the act of giving up, offering up or letting go. Sacrificing our preferences should never compromise biblically, theologically or doctrinally but often requires us to make adjustments in order to accommodate generationally and systematically.

Sacrifice is a way of teaching the next generation to think unselfishly and possibly recognize common ground in terms of deference and preference. Deference is a learned and practiced submission based on conviction, or politely giving in to another, or courteous respect whereas, preference is based on feeling and tradition. 

The idea that women, Native or otherwise, have to make those choices every moment of every day while men don’t have those same commitments or time constraints. Mostly, men don’t end up splitting their mental lives between the two worlds of home life and work life. They can close the door on each to go to the other. Women, on the other hand, have to juggle both together and make decisions for children, family members, close friends, (and themselves) that effect the outcomes for everyone.

Recently, I had to make the decision (preference) to leave my job and forget about pursuing my doctorate studies to save my seventeen year old daughter, who suffers from drug induced psychosis. How the effects of her drug and alcohol addiction (failing school, cutting, paranoia, attempting suicide), on the emotional life of the mother, grandmother, and aunt can drag down even the strongest of women, and bring about surprising decisions for the woman as well as the child who is struggling with addictive behaviors. Yet, there are opportunities that arise from spending time in the emotional world of the addictive child: learning what brought about the addictions or acting-out behaviors and working through those to the closer bond between mother and child...

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