Matrix Cultures








The Matrilineal Country of Laos

In Laos, the majority of cultures have been matrilineal and matrilocal right up to the present day. This includes not only the indigenous peoples but also the main Lao ethnicity, among whom the youngest daughter traditionally inherits the land and cares for the parents in their old age.

According to a recent report from the UN agency CEDAW, “daughters make up a majority of those who inherit from their parents. In connection with this, in the majority of Lao society, the husband moves in with the wife’s family after marriage…This matrilineal tradition is a special tradition of Lao society, which acknowledges the value of caring for the mother and father until their death and of carrying out the appropriate funeral rites after their death.”

Many of the aboriginal peoples in southern Laos follow matrilineal and matrilocal custom. These include the Brau, Suay, Nyahon, and Katang. They are (or were until quite recently) longhouse people, farmers with an animist culture and ancestor veneration. The Katang used to carve breasts on the ladder leading up to their longhouses, which could run up to 100 meters long. These great lodges joined 30 families in one extended building walled with braided leaves.

The Brau once lived in lodges with up to six families together, but today only those in the most inaccessible areas live in longhouses. They treasure ancient brass gongs and hold an annual buffalo sacrifice ceremony, and most have resisted first Buddhism and now the Christian missionaries. So have their Oy neighbors. A missionary source comments, “In the past, Oy society was more matriarchal than it is now.” [Online:]

The Nyahon appear to have a pronounced gender-egalitarian ethic. They are matrilineal and matrilocal, with sons and daughters inheriting equally. Pre-marital sex is not stigmatized, and young people are free to spend nights with their lovers in the "Flower Houses."
They too are animist farmers.

The matrilineal and matrilocal Suay live on the banks of the Mekong river, scattered across Thailand, southern Laos and northern Cambodia. They are esteemed as the best elephant handlers, and work clearing land and moving timber.


CEDAW report on Laos

And a site run by Christian missionaries, describes the aboriginal Laotian cultures in an effort to more effectively undermine them: