The Origin of Gadugi

By 1820, Cherokee elites presented to whites the image that the population was so "dispersed over the face of the Country on separate farms" that villages and communal farming no longer existed. According to one chief, "local laws to govern the labour of the citizens who acted in concert in cultivating their patches have disappeared long since." Despite the glowing accounts of Cherokee progress that appeared in print, "missionaries and the Cherokee Phoenix misrepresented the degree of acculturation in the Cherokee Nation before Removal." The "civilization program" was handicapped by a fundamental problem. Cherokee women were expected to abandon several types of "men's work" that white elites did not consider respectable duties for wives.

Gender boundaries had been blurred when precapitalist Cherokee villages engaged in farming, fishing, or annual hunts. Men and women alike formed the gadugi, a labor gang that tended the fields and garden lots of elderly or infirm members of the village.

At the same time that Cherokee women took on new domestic duties, they continued their historical participation in five forms of gender-integrated work: farming, fishing, hunting, livestock raising, and the gadugi.

from:
RETHINKING CHEROKEE ACCULTURATION: AGRARIAN CAPITALISM AND WOMEN'S RESISTANCE TO THE CULT OF DOMESTICITY, 1800-1838

by WILMA DUNAWAY

*Note: Cultural information may vary from clan to clan, location to location, family to family, and from differing opinions and experiences. Information provided here are not 'etched in stone'.