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Wilma A. Dunaway



In A World-Systems Reader: New Perspectives on Gender, Urbanism, Cultures, Indigenous Peoples and Ecology, edited by Thomas D. Hall ( Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999)

This Article Is Copyrighted: When citing this article, be sure to cite the book in which it is published, not this website.

The Historical Setting

Between 1600 to 1750, England, France and Spain competed for the position of hegemonic world power. As part of that international rivalry, a major segment of the New World was absorbed into the capitalist world-economy. This new periphery was the extended Caribbean, stretching from northeast Brazil to Maryland. The colonizations of Virginia, Carolina, Florida and Georgia and the subsequent incorporation of their mountainous hinterlands ensued as part of the creation of this large new peripheral region. By 1700, the Southern Appalachians and their eight indigenous populations formed a buffer zone between British, French and Spanish settlements in the North American Southeast (see Figure 1). Each of the colonizers sought to take hold of the western frontier, out of fear that one of the other powers would capture those crucial mountains; for this vast region formed a geographical barrier between the Atlantic coast and the rich inland valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. All three colonizing powers knew that whoever was master of the Appalachians might hold the key to further advancement into the continent, for the Cherokees occupied sixty towns of 22,000 people and claimed the land area from northern Alabama to east Kentucky and the Shenandoah Valley. Indeed, Cherokee country was "the key" to the continued existence of four of the British colonies.


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Incorporation into the capitalist world-economy bore a high cost for indigenous Appalachians. The Cherokee economy was transformed into a putting-out system that generated dependency upon European trade goods and stimulated debt peonage. Within a few decades, Cherokee village activities were restructured from subsistence production into an export economy in which hunting for slaves and deerskins and gathering marketable herbs assumed primacy. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, slave raiders, fur traders, and land speculators carried capitalism into the inland southeastern mountains. In the early 1700s, Charleston merchants exported as many as 121,355 skins annually; and that number rose steadily to 255,000 skins by 1730. Within less than fifty years, the Cherokees lost economic and political autonomy and became dependent upon the commodities they obtained through trade with the European nations. The cultural collision between the Cherokees and the Europeans stimulated serious repercussions for the communal-subsistence economy. Looking from the vantage point of indigenous women, this article will explore the dramatic political and cultural transformations of Cherokee society that were caused by the absorption of this indigenous people into the capitalist world-system. (1)

Capitalist Bifurcation of Economic Production

Prior to European trade, women's economic activities formed the essential basis for community survival. Women produced, preserved, and prepared the majority of the village food supply and controlled the households that supplied every other aspect of livelihood. Because they contributed so much labor to the survival of their villages, women held high status within traditional customs. Children were recognized through matrilineal lineage, so women were given control over the agricultural fields and family homes. During spring planting, all residents of Cherokee villages worked together in the fields. Moreover, Cherokee laws insured women control over their food production; and women's labor in subsistence agriculture was celebrated in annual ceremonies. (2)

During the eighteenth century, Cherokee villages paid for imported European commodities by expanding their deerskin output. Consequently, the Cherokee economy was transformed into a putting-out system that required the redistribution of half the village's collective labor to the fur trade. As Cherokee households were reshaped around export activities, communal labor arrangements were replaced by a new gender bifurcation of tasks. Cherokee males were exclusively engaged in export and diplomacy activities, leaving women responsible for all the subsistence production. As villages became dependent upon European commodities purchased with male-controlled skins, the status of women diminished-- at the same time that their work load intensified.

Increasingly, the deerskin trade and the European impetus to war became the central economic and political foci. The resultant new division of labor disrupted traditional production of survival essentials and intensified Cherokee dependency upon expensive core-manufactured commodities. Because hunting, diplomacy, and warfare consumed the entire year, there emerged a new gender bifurcation of tasks. Emphasis upon hunting and the trading-diplomacy process siphoned Cherokee males away from the seasonal rhythm of economic production. In addition to commercial hunting, the male labor force was proletarianized as burdeners, canoers, or pack horsemen for traders, to help build forts, to engage in slave raids, and to fight wars. The new emphasis upon hunting and warfare also necessitated greater male labor time for the production of weapons and canoes. No longer were men periodically summoned to assist with spring planting. By the mid-1700s, British observers reported that the Cherokee "women alone do all the laborious tasks of agriculture." (3)

Export production also drained away six months or more of female labor time. Between November and March, women accompanied men on the annual hunts which might range as far as 300 miles from their home villages. During the early years of the fur trade, Cherokee males had not yet adapted European horses. Thus, women walked fifteen or twenty miles a day, carrying sixty to eighty pounds of skins. After men killed the animals and dressed the hides in a preliminary fashion, women completed two tedious tasks. They dried, smoked, and packed the meat; and they cured the skins. At the peak of the Charleston fur trade, Cherokee males were marketing 255,000 skins per year. Consequently, village women must have invested more than one million labor hours to subsidize male commodity production. (4)

Gender Bifurcation of Trade

Despite the heightened demands on their labor, women did not participate equitably with men in the fur trade. Prior to capitalist incorporation, women engaged freely in long-distance exchange between the Cherokees and other southeastern groups; and their exchanges of food, clothing and decorative items were just as valued as male items. After European linkages, formal trading changed from the communal activity it had once been into a male-dominated enterprise. Because European trade was linked to political alliances, Cherokee hunters were also the warriors among the villages; and women were almost totally excluded from the male-dominated fur-trading process. (5)

Capitalist trading evolved into a bifurcated system in which males dominated trade and diplomacy. Because of their own sexism, Europeans restricted Cherokee males to transact business within the structured networks of the trading companies. European traders advanced commodities to villages for which males paid with their annual deerskin production; thus, the Cherokees became perennial sharecroppers indebted to the traders who staked them in their winter hunts. Pushed out of the capitalist market, Cherokee women operated outside the reach of formalized debt by marketing surpluses they produced as an extension of household subsistence. Women lacked control over the fur trade, but they maintained dominance over their own commodity production. They hawked their crafts and foodstuffs through the informal economy, typically to British forts or to white urban households. At British forts, Cherokee women peddled agricultural commodities in such numbers that the facilities periodically had "the Appearance of a Market." In addition to their exchanges with nearby forts, Cherokee women travelled to the coastal settlements to peddle their mountain herbs, carpets, turkey feather blankets, colorful pottery, and intricately designed baskets. (6)

Because Europeans accorded them lower status than male deerskins, women's commodities were exchanged outside the networks of formalized trade. In an attempt to bring Cherokee women under the influence of the capitalist market and make them conform to its rules, Europeans began to ban their commodities from white consumers. The British Trade Commissioners prohibited traders from accepting women's baskets, pottery, and mats because these items were cheaper than imported manufactured household goods. Moreover, the British put in place a "pass" system to regulate the peddling of women in the streets and neighborhoods of the coastal cities. Fort garrisons were instructed not to substitute indigenous crafts for manufactured household goods available through European trading companies. By 1730, male deerskins were still in demand on the world-market because they were essential to the emergent leather industry of western Europe. In fact, England prohibited the flow of deerskins from British colonies to any locations except London and Bristol. However, the trading companies identified many female commodities as economic threats because they lowered demand for European manufactured goods. European traders even began raising their own hogs and chickens, so Cherokee women no longer could dispose of those commodities in the informal sector. Consequently, British competition with women's informal trade deepened village dependence on the male-dominated fur trade. (7)

The Male Role in Economic Dependency

As the fur trade expanded, Cherokee villages were "deindustrialized" of traditional male crafts that did not contribute directly to fighting wars or killing deer. Even specialized copper work and body paint preparation were displaced by European commodities. Once the males stopped their indigenous salt manufacturing, Cherokee women were compelled to exchange their precious corn for European salt. By the mid-1700s, the British could report that: "The Indians, by reason of our supplying them so cheap with every sort of goods, have forgotten the chief part of their ancient mechanical skill, so as not to be well able now, at least for some years, to live independent of us." (8) Only twenty-five years after organized trading had begun, a new generation of young Cherokees had "been brougt up after another Manner than their forefathers;" and their head warriors taught them that "they could not live without the English." Commercial hunting, population declines and frequent warfare resulted in lowered production in those agricultural and craft functions that were essential to the survival of the villages. At the same time, Cherokee males expanded their consumption of European luxury goods. The native clothing and decorative items produced by Cherokee women were replaced by European beads, metal necklaces, and British shirts and match-coats. Indigenous tobacco was displaced by West Indian imports. To demonstrate their new economic status, many Cherokee males even began to have European goods buried with them. (9)

Because demand for manufactured goods was relatively inelastic, British traders identified a commodity that would be in constant demand. Introduced to Cherokee men by 1700, rum became the trade good that spurred abandonment of subsistence production and intensified dependency upon deerskin exporting. The British Trade Commissioner reported in 1730 that white traders:

made a constant Practice of carrying very little Goods, but . . . Rum. . . . some of those Rum Traders place themselves near the Towns, in the way of the Hunters returning home with their deer skins. The poor Indians in a manner fascinated, are unable to resist the Bait; and when Drunk are easily cheated. After parting with the fruit of 3 or 4 Months Toil, they find themselves at home, without the means of buying the necessary Clothing for themselves or their Families."

While women were more reticent about altering traditional customs, they could not escape the trade dependency that male economic decisions entailed. (10)

Debt Peonage and Disempowerment of Women

The average European trading company received a 500 to 600 percent profit on deerskins, yet the Cherokees "roamed the forests almost as employees of a trading system built around the faraway demands of European society." Male rum addiction, horse stealing, and luxury-good consumption exacerbated Cherokee debt peonage; for the Europeans made the unpaid debts of any single member of the town the obligation of the entire village. In addition, traders seized assets from the clan who were kin to a deceased debtor. Consequently, women were responsible for the indebtedness of male members of their clans. To prevent transfer of matrilineal clan lands to white traders, Cherokee women were forced to provide more labor to male-dominated tasks and to sacrifice accumulated household assets. (11)

To meet village debt obligations, women increased their allocation of labor to deerskin processing. As a result, their subsistence agricultural cultivation and their craft production became more erratic. Villages that once marketed surpluses now purchased British foodstuffs at exorbitant prices. Women had avoided indebtedness for non-food household essentials through their craft production and through exchanges in the informal sector. However, that form of household subsidy disappeared, as their commodity production declined. Women had traditionally produced pottery, baskets, carpets, mats, and blankets during the winter months. By 1715, women spent November through April hunting and skin processing. In short, subsidization of the male-dominated fur trade locked women into an inescapable circle of deepening dependency on imported commodities. (12)

Expansion and Devaluation of Women's Work

While their traditional work load may have been inequitable, Cherokee women occupied a pivotal position within their communities. In precapitalist villages, women produced more of the subsistence requirements than males, and their work was as respected and as valued as that of males. What was new under historical capitalism was the correlation of a gendered division of labor and valuation of work. Under historical capitalism, there has been a steady devaluation of the work of women and a corresponding emphasis on the value of the adult male's work. (13)

As the male-dominated trade with Europeans assumed primacy, Cherokee men gradually reflected European sexism in their devaluation of women's contributions. Before capitalist incorporation, women's farming and gathering were subsistence functions equal in status to male meat production. However, trade relations with the Europeans restructured hunting from a part-time subsistence function into the central economic focus of most villages. Because Cherokee household production was not part of the cash export economy, traditional respect for women's contributions declined. The economic status of men was linked to hunting, trade, and warfare; and those activities provided the direct connection to the capitalist world-economy. In traditional villages, control over resources and distribution of subsistence goods supported women's high social prestige and authority. As trade dependency deepened, men acquired and redistributed the imports upon which the villages depended. Moreover, males disdained women's household crafts for imported commodities. The male devaluation of women's subsistence production is clear in these remarks of Cherokee Chief Skiagonota: "My people cannot live independent of the English. The clothes we wear we cannot make ourselves. They are made for us. . . . Every necessity of life we have from the white people." Despite the crucial role that agriculture and exchanges in the informal sector played in village survival, males almost never engaged in those forms of economic production. Cherokee women did the farming and produced all the household items. (14)

On the one hand, women's household subsistence and production for the informal economy were devalued. On the other hand, women's labor contribution to skin exports remained hidden behind that of their husbands. Still the Cherokee woman was intricately controlled by the village's contract to pay its indebtedness for trade goods. To produce the deerskins needed, she was expected to become an "unpaid employee" of the men of her clan. However, those labor outputs for deerskin production remained socially invisible. Women carried loads, assisted with burnings, prepared meals, and cured skins during annual hunts-- thereby contributing more labor-hours than men. However, it was the male act of deer-killing that received acknowledgement from the Europeans; and women's inputs were seen as secondary subsidization of male production. Because this part of her work was now an extension of male work, the Cherokee woman lost the separate labor identity she had traditionally held. While women maintained control over their agricultural crops and their crafts, they had no similar jurisdiction over the deerskins they helped to produce. (15)

Women's Work and Ecological Degradation

Economic disarticulation between women's subsistence activities and the male-dominated export sector brought serious repercussions for Cherokee villages. The fur trade induced ecological change in the Southern mountains, and that environmental degradation deepened Cherokee dependence on European trade commodities and worsened the lot of village women. Greater risk of external attack triggered the movement of Cherokee towns to marginal sites that provided easier defense. Some villages were moved to more mountainous sites where crops were limited to narrow river bottoms. Thus, the Cherokees abandoned the fertile outfields they had once kept at a distance from their towns and shifted to smaller garden plots inside the villages. Thus, women no longer had enough space to produce sufficient corn; and repeated warfare destroyed women's crops. (16)

As women used more of their time and energy to subsidize the labor of males in commercial hunting, the Cherokees encountered more frequent famines. By 1756, deer had grown so endangered by the fur trade that women's hogs were being substituted for venison in the Cherokee diet. To complicate matters, male leaders neglected the public granaries that were once filled with women's grain surpluses because the villages could now depend upon British corn, pork and beef to overcome shortages. By the mid-1700s, some Cherokee towns broke up and combined with other villages because they could no longer survive the food scarcities. (17)

To facilitate deer hunting, men engaged in annual burning of meadows and wooded areas, and that deforestation complicated female work. Traditionally, women had fuelled the village fires with underbrush and dead trees. By 1740, those sources had been destroyed, so women were walking many more miles each day to gather firewood. Deforestation also eliminated several nuts, herbs, roots, fruits, and berries that women had gathered to supplement the household diet. As the number of trees declined near the villages, women produced less natural sweetener-- a household commodity they had once collected from native maples. (18)

As villages imported new species of European livestock, women's subsistence production came into direct conflict with the male-dominated trade with Europeans. Women readily adapted swine and chickens because they could be raised in pens. However, women resisted male production of large numbers of export cattle because they were afraid the animals would damage their open corn fields. By the mid-1700s, Cherokee males were importing large numbers of horses to facilitate warfare, annual hunts, and the transport of deerskins to Charleston. In an attempt to protect their crops, the women tethered the horses and surrounded their garden plots with stakes. The men were less concerned about restraining their animals, so the horses crept through the garden fencing, destroying family gardens. (19)

In addition to risks to crops, hooved livestock endangered the wild flora upon which the women depended for craft production and supplementary foods. Women lost the mulberry trees they once cultivated at the peripheries of their towns. Mulberry bark once supplied a natural resource used to produce blankets, carpets, aprons, and mats-- items that were replaced by European manufactured items by 1730. Traditionally, women had encouraged and protected rivercane and several berries, barks, and roots because they supplied natural materials for craft production. Within twenty years after their introduction to the Southern Appalachians, hooved livestock devastated those dense canebrakes upon which women depended for reeds and dyes to produce baskets, carpets, and mats. (20)

Women and Children Placed at Risk

In addition to the stresses associated with famines and ecological change, Cherokee women were impacted by several other economic and physical risks that accompanied the fur trade. Because of the demands for labor in the West Indies and in the emergent North American colonies, Indian slaves were the first profitable commodity to attract the interest of the world-economy in Southern Appalachia. By 1681, the capture and selling of Cherokee slaves had begun. Indeed, the Cherokees' initial diplomatic mission to Charleston in 1683 was aimed at seeking relief from slavery raids. In the early 1700s, 70 percent of the Indian slaves in South Carolina were women and children. Because of increased slave raiding and intensified warfare, the daily lives of Cherokee women were filled with new physical dangers. Women engaged in work that made them easier targets than men for intruders. As the woodlands around the villages were deforested, women walked longer distances to retrieve daily firewood. Women did most of their agricultural work in outfields distant from the villages, and enemy raiders sometimes killed them before they could run to safety. (21)

In addition, Cherokee women were required by purity taboos to isolate themselves in separate huts during and after menstruation or childbirth. Violation of these purity taboos was equal to murder in the severity of sanction. Such isolation made women particularly vulnerable to sudden attacks by intruders. Cherokee villages insisted that their untouchable women segregate themselves from public interaction in small huts at a considerable distance from their households. Cherokee males believed that anyone who touched or walked near these women would be polluted. Because these women were not situated within defensible range, they stayed in their purity huts at the risk of their lives. (22)

Capitalist incorporation of Cherokee villages brought additional health dangers to women. During the 1700s, a devastating disease was transmitted to the Indian towns about every four years, spreading 93 epidemics from the coastal European settlements. In addition to the greater risk of death, women were often blamed when European diseases struck Cherokee villages. When the 1738 smallpox epidemic was transmitted from Charleston in trade goods, Cherokee medicine men contended that the sickness had been sent among them as punishment for the adulterous behavior of the village's married women. When the male doctors could not cure the villagers, they destroyed their "physic pots" believing that they had lost their divine power by being polluted by women who had broken marriage laws and purity taboos. The punishment for such violations could include stoning, mutilation, whipping, or death of the accused women. (23)

As direct outcomes of capitalist incorporation, women and their children were placed at risk in three other ways. Male rum drinking not only expanded the work load of women, but alcohol addiction also created an upsurge in domestic violence. Under Cherokee law, women could kill or abort infants; but men who engaged in these practices were charged with murder and could expect the death penalty. Even in the face of declining populations, women engaged more often in abortion and infanticide, in order to accompany their husbands on hunting expeditions. According to Cherokee custom, women kept their infants inside a cradleboard while they were breast-feeding the first year. As women spent more time on hunts and in processing deer skins, they left their babies inside the cradleboards longer periods. As a result, the women unintentionally deformed the skulls of their children. (24)

Political Disempowerment of Women

Before capitalist incorporation, the Cherokees were an agglomeration of independent villages, without any unifying structure to facilitate coordination of all the dispersed settlements. Each separate town was populated by members of seven matrilineal clans, and every individual Cherokee derived his or her political alignment from membership in one of the clans. To be without a clan was to be without rights. Although women could not hold office, they exercised authority over the clans. Married women of child-bearing age held a council that nominated candidates for chief and subchief of each clan. These males, then, comprised two hierarchical councils of red and white clans who alternately directed village affairs. Headed by the most prominent warrior, the red organization functioned during three significant dilemmas faced by the town: external warfare, external diplomacy, and trade alliances with outsiders. In cases of unresolved disagreements, the white council made the final decision. (25)

Articulation with the world-system necessitated a political structure that permitted the Europeans to negotiate with the Cherokees as a single corporate entity. It was more rational and more efficient to collect trade debts, make treaties, engineer war alliances and seek reparations from one leader who was the "Mouth of the Nation" and who could enter into agreements that "should be binding upon him and all the Nation." Thus, the British pressured the loosely-knit Cherokee towns toward secularization and centralization of their nonstate political mechanisms, culminating in a regional "priest-state" comprised of representatives from all the towns. Now the Cherokees abandoned their ultra-democratic methods to support, instead, a single tribe-wide sentiment and to legitimate that decision with universally-applied sanctions against violators. Because of the distance between settlements, selected spokesmen acted at the regional capitol on behalf of their villages, establishing a system through which the Europeans could easily manipulate a small number of elite males. (26)

As the Europeans expanded their diplomatic and trade manipulation of Cherokee males, the political participation of women eroded. Traditionally, matrilineal clans played a key role in village politics; and a seven-member advisory panel represented all the divergent interests. With the advent of regional council meetings, however, clans were no longer equitably represented; and women had fewer avenues through which they could bring pressure to bear upon the males. After the emergence of the "tribal half-government," the white clans no longer shared village leadership-- a change in traditional governance that silenced the political voices of half the female population. Cherokee settlements diminished in number from sixty towns in 1715 to 39 towns in 1755. When towns died or relocated, women's positions within their clans shifted. While males retained their war and trade reputations, women lost any status or political clout they may have held in the old town and had to assimilate themselves into the new community. (27)

As political deliberations were centralized, women's sphere of influence contracted. As the role of clans and towns narrowed, so did the political participation of women. Traditionally, each matrilineal clan had chosen a "Beloved Woman" as its leader; and these seven women formed the Women's Council, headed by the "War Woman." These women leaders were selected because of their long service or sacrifice for the village. The "War Woman" was the most highly respected because she had either lost many male family members to war, or she had shown great courage on the battlefield. Nancy Ward was the most famous eighteenth-century Cherokee War Woman. The Women's Council selected the candidate for town chief, and their nominations were usually approved by the male-dominated town council. Women lost this power when the British began to select Cherokee leaders through war commissions or through trade co-optation of elites. (28)

As instances of warfare multiplied, so did the British demand for Cherokee warriors; and, in the minds of the Europeans, women should have no place in decision-making about war. Even though a few male Cherokees defended the right of women to participate in such councils, the regional government eventually relented to European custom. Ultimately, the British imposed their sexist prejudices by excluding women from their deliberations with Cherokee males. Women even lost the right to determine the fate of war captives, once males began to sell such unfortunates to the British for slave exports to the Caribbean. (29)

In the traditional Cherokee way of life, she who controlled essential resources garnered power. Because farming and child rearing were primarily their responsibility, Cherokee women controlled the means of production: village lands. By the mid-1700s, however, Cherokee men were ceding lands to Europeans to settle trading debts, without the input of women. Within little more than fifty years, the British extinguished Cherokee claims to nearly 44 million acres-- more than half their ancestral territory. Moreover, the Cherokees wasted more than half of those natural resources to pay male debts to European traders. In treaties that parallel contemporary Third World "debt for nature swaps," Cherokee lands were transferred from local villages to distant capitalists, forever altering the central roles of women in this indigenous society. (30)

Theoretical Reprise

When the capitalist world-system incorporates a new frontier, dramatic social changes are set into motion. If we explore this process from the perspective of the rich core nations, we see that incorporation is the long-range civilizational project of capitalist colonizers. Driven by the economic and cultural logic of historical capitalism and by their own ethnocentric sense of superiority, the intruders mythologize their domination as a lofty mission to implant "civilization" and "progress" on backward barbarians. Frontier histories have typically been constructed from the viewpoint of the colonizer, the indigenous people being transformed into "a ghost" from the past of the land area captured by the invader. If we view the process from the bottom up, as this research does, we ask questions from the perspective of the indigenous people; and we attempt to "represent that ghost" and to give voice to a people whom colonizers have obliterated from written history. (31)

Like indigenous peoples, women's voices have also been silenced from official world history. This investigation of the Cherokee frontier calls attention to our need to examine more closely the unusual impacts of capitalist incorporation upon women. Historically and in the contemporary period, the intrusion of capitalism has generated many more negative side-effects for women than for males. (32) Even when Cherokee males benefitted economically and politically, women lost their pivotal roles in the village economy, polity and culture. As Cherokee households were reshaped around export activities, communal labor arrangements were replaced by a new gender disarticulation between women's subsistence activities and the male-dominated export sector. Under historical capitalism, there was a steady devaluation of the work of Cherokee women and a social inflation of the value of the men's labor. While females had done an inequitable share of precapitalist labor, women's work held high status within traditional customs. As villages became dependent upon European commodities purchased with male-controlled skins, the work load shifted even more inequitably upon women. However, traditional respect for women's subsistence production declined; and women's contributions to the export economy were disguised as minor subsidies to male labor.

Women's work load may have been inequitable in primitive horticultural societies, but that work was respected and publicly acknowledged. Moreover, women owned the means of production and controlled the products of their labor. In capitalist societies, women no longer own production resources, their work is devalued, and they do not control what they produce. As it incorporates new zones of the globe, capitalism embraces two antithetical labor recruitment mechanisms: (1) an historical proletarianizing of males into laborers who produce surplus commodities for the market and (2) a simultaneous historical concentration of women's labor into arenas that are never fully or fairly remunerated. Thus, a society undergoing the transition to capitalism experiences a realignment of labor so that the economic contributions of women are devalued. Women are transformed into "the last link in a chain of exploitation," permitting by their unpaid labor the reproduction of the work force and the unrewarded subsidization of male-dominated labor. (33)

In contemporary peripheries of the capitalist world-system, poor women must move back and forth continually between household subsistence, assistance in export production, and activities to generate a few commodities that will be exchanged in the informal sector. Despite their complex interlinkages across several economic arenas, however, such women are less likely than males to receive remuneration or acknowledgement for their labor. Essentially, "women's work" is socially-invisible because much of it is unpaid or rewarded only indirectly through male intermediaries; and there is a tendency to view it as a form of domestic labour without economic value. However, females subsidize the production of capitalist commodities, like the Cherokee deerskins, through devalued household labor and through their unpaid assistance to spouses.

This research also calls our attention to another aspect of the incorporation process that is usually ignored. Significantly, there could be no expansion of the capitalist world-system without rivalry over environment. Land and territory are the basic impetus for exploitation of the peripheral zones, for it is the capture of their raw materials that propels the growth of core manufacturing. Thus, economic restructuring around commercial hunting endangered or wasted the pool of natural resources upon which the Cherokees relied. However, capitalism externalizes to women several ecological costs that males do not experience. After the fur trade ecologically degraded the Southern mountains, women's natural resources diminished-- thereby deepening Cherokee dependence on European trade commodities. To meet village debt obligations, women increased their allocation of labor to deerskin processing. As a result, their subsistence agricultural cultivation and their craft production fell sharply, weakening their control over village production even further. Women engaged in work and purity taboos that made them easier targets than men for warring intruders or slave raiders, and women were disproportionately affected by the frequent epidemics that struck Cherokee villages. Articulation with the capitalist world-system also necessitated a political structure that permitted the Europeans to negotiate with the Cherokees as a single corporate entity. As governance was centralized, males assumed primacy in decision-making about the natural environment.

For women, the most dooming articulation between Cherokee environment and European world-system was the commodification of land that accompanied capitalist expansion. Ultimately, women even lost their traditional control over the means of household production, as males settled their trading debts by ceding more than half of Cherokee ancestral lands to Europeans. We can see direct parallels between eighteenth-century Cherokee women and today's peripheral nations. To pay international debts, Third World countries initiate capitalist development projects that cause ecological devastation and waste the natural resources from which women have drawn subsistence resources. Moreover, recent "debt-for-nature swaps" shift ecological control from indigenous women to core corporations and to foreign nongovernmental organizations. (34)


1. Wallerstein, 1989; Dunaway 1994

2. Perdue 1985; Hudson 1976; Fogelson 1990

3. Dunaway 1994; Fogelson and Kutsche 1961; Williams 1927: 68

4. Hudson 1976; Catesby 1683-1749, vol. 1: ix; Dunaway 1994

5. Reid 1976; Gearing 1956; Dunaway 1994

6. Sellers 1934; Corkran 1962; McDowell 1958-72, vol. 2: 218; Carroll 1836, vol. 2: 482; Bartram 1791: 53; Adair 1775: 388, 424-25

7. McDowell 1955: 131-32, 201, 126-28; McDowell 1958-72, vol. 2: 137-39, 150, vol. 3: 346; Adair 1775: 240; Dunaway 1994

8. Williams 1928: 112; Williams 1927: 77-78; McDowell 1958-72, vol. 3: 344; Adair 1775: 456

9. Williams 1928: 112; McDowell 1958-72, vol. 1: 255; Williams 1927: 76-77; Sellers 1934; Corkran 1969: 26

10. Jacobs 1954: 35; Williams 1927: 77

11. Corkran 1962: 6, 26; Jacobs 1954: 35; Williams 1927: 76-77; Salley 1928-47, vol. 1: 188; Hudson 1976; Reid 1976

12. Adair 1775: 414, 422-25; Hudson 1976

13. Perdue 1985; Mooney 1900; Wallerstein 1983: 25

14. McDowell 1958-72, vol. 1: 45, vol. 3: 321-22; Hudson 1976; Dunaway 1994; McDowell 1955: 127; Blumberg 1978; Adair 1775: 422-25

15. Corkran 1969; Hudson 1976; Reid 1976; French and Hornbuckle 1981

16. Amin 1974: 390-94; French 1977: 297-98; Bartram 1791: 284; Adair 1775: 94; Grant 1933

17. Thornton 1990; McDowell 1958-72, vol. 2: 264, 118-19, 151; Williams 1927: 179-81, 67; French 1977

18. Hudson 1976: 308; Adair 1775: 407-10, 416; Williams 1928: 477-78, 490-91

19. Williams 1928: 257; Adair 1775: 240, 263, 138-39, 406; Silver 1990

20. Silver 1990; Bartram 1791: 185-87; Jacobs 1954: 49; Williams 1928: 478

21. Crane 1929; Snell 1972: 96; Salley 1928-47, vol. 5: 197; Dunaway 1994; Hudson 1976; Adair 1775: 407-408

22. Hudson 1976; Adair 1775: 125-26

23. Thornton 1990; Mooney 1900; Adair 1775: 232; Reid 1976

24. Adair 1775: 5, 198; Jacobs 1954: 26; Williams 1927: 60, 89-91; Corkran 1969; Owsley and Guevin 1982; Reid 1976

25. Corkran 1962; Perdue 1980: 20-21; Foreman 1954: 7; Gearing 1956; Reid 1976

26. McDowell 1955: 188; Gearing 1956; Corkran 1962

27. Gearing 1956; Williams 1927; Thornton 1990; Adair 1775; Hudson 1976

28. Foreman 1954; Gearing 1956; Corkran 1962; Mooney 1900

29. Hamer and Rogers 1972, vol. 3: 279-280; Reid 1976: 69; Adair 1755: 152-53; Snell 1972

30. Palmer 1875-93, vol. 1: 291; DeVorsey 1961: 162-63; Royce 1884; Mies and Shiva 1993

31. Dunaway 1996; Trouillot 1995: 147; Wolf 1982

32. Mies and Shiva 1993

33. Blumberg 1978; Hopkins and Wallerstein 1987; Mies, Bennholdt-Thomsen, and Werholf 1988

34. Smith 1984; Mies and Shiva 1993



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