Native and Black Women in French Louisiana

Stefanie Steiner, University of Klagenfurt

Even though marriages were allowed between Frenchmen and baptized indigenous women in the 17th century to gain a foothold in this big territory, these men were criticized for having taken on indigenous traits than that the women had assimilated. From the founding of French Louisiana in 1699 onwards, the French colonial empire tried to exercise tight control over the sexuality and relationships of indigenous women. The Europeans were influenced by demographic, economic, cultural, and imperial circumstances, as good relations with Native tribes were essential for the existence of the colony and French women were hardly sent to the colony. Métissage with black women was not officially tolerated for a long time through the Code Noir, which was introduced in 1724 by the French institution and who regulated slavery and with it also the interaction of citizens with slaves. Baptism, linguistic adaptation, and the assimilation of Native women into colonial society resulted in métissage-children becoming culturally French over time, while children from black women weren’t recorded in official documents. This presentation will focus on the impact of the French colonial empire through the founding of French Louisiana on the indigenous population of North America. In this regard, the interaction, métissage, and role of women, before and after the French takeover will be highlighted. These aspects form the basis for cultural studies of native gender history. It is the root to better understand and comprehend contemporary grievances in relation to identity crises rooted in the colonization of their homeland and slavery.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 122. Multidimensional perspectives on Women's Movements