Re: matriarchal cultures

Patrick J Crowe (
28 Apr 1995 10:36 EDT

In article <>,
(Gerold Firl) writes...
>In article <3mm0pv$>
(Carl Bentsen) writes:
>>I recently had an argument with a friend (at least, I think he's still one)
>>in which I postulated that a number of indigenous or primitive or
>>however-you-want-to-describe-them cultures that are not based on
>>Judeo-Christianity were matriarchal.
[stuff deleted]
>>I don't mean that women were doing
>>_everything_, but rather, that women had more decision-making power, or
>>were at least equal to men in this respect.
>A more recent example, not so much obscured by time, history, and the
>deliberate efforts of the judeo-christian-islanic priesthood to obscure the
>record, is found in the iroquios nations. There, the women of the tribe
>formed a "supreme court", with veto power over the decisions of the male
>political leadership.
[remainder deleted]
Well, the Iroquois (Hodenosaunee) are the group I'm doing my research on,
and as I've said in previous incarnations of this thread, there's no good
reason to consider any known society as a true matriarchy. The Hodenosaunee,
however, are my typical example of an equiarchy. Contrary to the above
quote, there was no "supreme court," but *everyone* had something of a
veto power. Let me explain how it all worked:

Hodenosaunee descent is matrilineal, meaning each person belongs to their
mother's clan. They also used to be matrilocal, meaning when a man got
married he would move to join his wife's family. The League was composed
of five, later six, tribes or nations, each of which had fairly small
number of villages and some three to ten clans. The villages each had
two 'councils,' one composed of the adult males, one of adult females;
each pretty much took care of their own business. The League Council
was composed officially of fifty chiefs from the five nations plus a
varying number of other, unofficial chiefs.

These chiefs represent both their nation and their clan, and their
positions are more or less hereditary within the clans. All are males.
When a new chief was needed, the female head of the clan (segment) to
which the position belonged would recommend a replacement to be approved,
in order, by the clan, nation, and League Council. If this person did a
poor job of representing his clan, the female head could "remove his
antlers" thereby creating a vacancy.

Compromise and consensus were the order of the day for four reasons: 1)
a chief had to represent his own clan or risk being replaced; 2) he had
to represent his wife's clan, or life at home could become rough; 3)
decisions of the Council had to be unanimous; and 4) nobody was required
to abide by its decisions.

Hope that helps (if anyone is still reading this)
-Pat Crowe, SUNY at Buffalo