Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

Chipewyan family size increased concomitantly with expansion and intensification of the European fur trade economy in the 19th century, and there have been dramatic increases in the 20th century. For example, census data for southern Chipewyan communities reveal a significant historical increase in the number of children reared per adult woman. The statistic has increased from an average of 2.8 children with a range of 1-5 in 1838, to 3.1 children with a range of 1-8 in 1906, to 4.8 children with a range of 1-12 by 1974. A dramatic increase in the child-bearing and child-rearing responsibilities of Chipewyan women, particularly in the past 70 years, may go a long way toward explaining the decreased participation of some contemporary women in hunting and other tasks that occur some distance from home. Such demographic trends also raise questions about models of work and gender based on synchronic ethnographies conducted in recent decades. Stated another way, prior to European contact and even quite late into the historical period, Chipewyan women bore fewer children, reared and cared for smaller families, and were more fully integrated into a comprehensive range of hunting activities (Brumbach & Jarvenpa, 1997b).

A pattern emerging in the 1980s and 1990s, and perhaps reflecting national Canadian trends, has been an increased number of out-of-wedlock children and a reluctance on the part of young Chipewyan couples either to formally marry or to form independent family households (Jarvenpa, 1999). While this is vexing for church officials and some older Chipewyan, children from such unions are often raised by one or the other set of grandparents. In some respects, this appears to perpetuate historically familiar forms of adoption in Chipewyan society (Sharp, 1979), but in the contemporary context it also contributes toward a socially isolative inward-looking stance. By not creating new family households, the network of silot'ine, or bilateral kindreds, collapses rather than spreading outward among a potential of opportunities and resources within and between communities across Chipewyan territory.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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