Jennie Bobb and her daughter Nellie Longhat, of the Oklahoma Lenape, 1915. Settlers and their government forced the Lenape into successive displacements from their homeland in the Land of the Dawn, west from what is now New Jersey and Pennsylvania, then to Indiana, to Kansas and Oklahoma. Eastern Algonquin peoples regarded them as the ancestral root of their peoples.

“Lenape kinship system has matrilineal clans, that is, children belong to their mother’s clan, from which they gain social status and identity. Hereditary leadership passed through the maternal line, and women elders could remove leaders of whom they disapproved. Agricultural land was managed by women and allotted according to the subsistence needs of their extended families. Families were matrilocal; newlywed couples would live with the bride’s family, where her mother and sisters assisted her…”

Why does women’s history matter? It seems like a simple answer — because we’re here, we’ve contributed and we’re human. But there’s more. Max Dashu has dedicated her life’s work to recovering the truth about women’s and indigenous histories — truths that have been omitted and erased from history books and misrepresented by the men who wrote those books. Without that history we don’t know how we came to be in this colonialist, patriarchal system and we don t know that there is a potential for something different. The saying, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is an ominous warning — patriarchy didn’t occur out of thin air, it was part of a process wherein women’s positions of power were eroded and women were systematically silenced and oppressed, often through violence.

March is Women’s History Month in the United States and March 8th is International Women’s Day. It’s an opportunity to remind ourselves that, despite all the work that’s been done, there is more to do. The history of colonialism, patriarchy, indigenous cultures, and women reminds us that the systems of power we know now have not always been there and need not always be.

Dashu is an artist and an educator who has presented hundreds of slide talks at universities, community centers, bookstores, schools, libraries, prisons, galleries, festivals and conferences around North America and in Mexico, Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Australia. She is known for her expertise on ancient female iconography in world archaeology, goddess traditions, women shamans, witches and the witch hunts.

Dashu founded The Suppressed Histories Archives in 1970 to research and document women’s history from an international perspective.

To support Dashu’s work, you can donate to her indiegogo campaign.

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