As the Quileute wolf pack drives most of the drama in Twilight, especially in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, the few Native women, particularly Emily Young and Sue Clearwater, may provide the most insight—not to actual roles of Native women on the reservation—but into Meyer's ideas of Native women's roles. These two characters demonstrate prevalent stereotypes and provide examples for the very topics Native feminists address in their scholarly work.
Emily Young is the most prominently featured Native female character in Twilight as fiancée to Sam Uley, alpha of the wolf pack. In this role she is also implicitly the caretaker of all the wolves/boys. Emily, as a subservient to Sam, exemplifies not a traditional role of women in the Native family, but rather a more sexist Western gender role.
Native women, in contrast, are often leaders and decision-makers in the household rather than solely the cooks and caretakers of the men. Today, women are often prominent leaders on Tribal Councils (such as the current Quileute Chairwoman, Bonita Cleveland), teachers, and activists in their communities. Women's roles have historically been equal to the roles of men and this holds true today.
A troubling message of the Twilight saga is the disfiguring scar that covers the right side of Emily's face, a scar caused by Sam's violent and uncontrollable nature. Since none of the Cullens are scarred in this way, the image of domestic violence as an accepted part of Native relationships is a possible interpretation. The frightening reality is that contemporary Native American women represent the highest statistic of domestic violence victims and deaths (Smith, 116-132).
To portray Sam's abuse of Emily—regardless of his intention or his remorse after the fact
as part of the commitment of imprinting or blind love, is irresponsible. Furthermore, that Emily claims the scars were the result of a bear attack in order to cover for Sam exemplifies the author's total disregard or ignorance of real Native issues. In addition, a young woman on a reservation would have the support of her family and community around her—while Emily is portrayed as having nobody in her social circle but a group of hot-tempered, young men.
An even more marginal Twilight character, Sue Clearwater represents the quiet dignity of a Native elder and a leader in the community. Alex Rice, the lovely actress chosen for the role of the dignified elder and mother of two teens in Twilight, played a teen herself as Sacagawea in the National Geographic film, “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West (2003)” only eight years ago. Based on these numbers, by the greatest stretch of mathematical imagination, the actress might be in her mid-twenties at the oldest.
Yet Summit Entertainment found her to be the best candidate for the role (and the only portrayal) of an elder woman. Her role in the saga becomes important as her husband Harry Clearwater dies: Sue automatically takes his place on the Tribal Council in his absence. While this may allude to the rise of Native women in power (Pember, 11-12), The Twilight Saga, in this chain of events suggests that the widow or widower of a Council member assumes Council responsibilities only upon the death of their spouse. This is false.
If this were a real scenario, Sue Clearwater could have indeed been voted onto Council because of her knowledge of the culture, adherence to traditional values, and standing in the community—but to portray her as stepping in for her husband oversimplifies Tribal political processes and shows the author's ignorance of contemporary Native life, Quileute or otherwise.
While women in leadership roles might seem relatively progressive according to Western standards, Native women have always maintained roles of authority, taking responsibility for preserving values and culture within the family and among the community (Ibid). The role of Sue Clearwater quickly shifts away from a leader on Council to a more passive and domestic role as a caregiver to the needy character Charlie Swan.