Matrix Cultures








The Kirikirish of Texas / Oklahoma

The people who came to be known as the Wichita called themselves the Kirikirish, “pre-eminent people.” They spoke a Caddoan language, related to Pawnee and Arikara. W.W. Newcomb described the Kirikirish as living in “matriarchal families” consisting of “a woman, her husband, unmarried children, daughters and their husbands with their children.” Sisters cooperated in all the work of farming, tanning, making clothes, cooking and building their thatched conical houses.

Women gave birth in a tipi. Afterward an elder woman “who was knowledgeable about one of the important deities, Bright Shining Woman, took the infant to a river and bathed it, while praying to her and to another important deity, Man-Never-Known-on-Earth, for the welfare of the child.” Bright Shining Woman was the Moon, who controlled all life-bearing and growth. She was also called First Woman.

Earth gave birth to everything and nourished it. She gave medicine and was associated with breath and wind, life and death. People prayed to her before undertaking journeys. [Newcomb 8-13]


The village of Ollolai, Sardinia

The mountain village of Ollolai in the Barbagià region of Sardinia is said to have been founded by Berbers. While the Berbers of northwest Africa are patrilineal today, this has not always been the case. The Guanche people of the Canary Islands, who spoke a Berber (Imashagh) language, kept a matrilineal system until the Spanish wiped them out in the 16th century, and that other Imashagh speakers in north Africa, the Tuareg, are matrilineal.

Sibylle von Cles-Reden described the culture of this Sardinian hill village in the early 1960s: “The matriarchy of Ollolai is very far-reaching. The bridegroom does not choose the bride, but the reverse; and a trial marriage follows. If the bridegroom does not suit, at the conclusion of the trial period he is shown the door. If he is allowed to remain, however, he must always address his wife as merri mea – ‘milady.’ These practices are all the more surprising in view of the patriarchal conditions which prevail in the Barbagià as a whole.” [von Cles-Reden, 166]


The Xikrin of Brazil

"Xikrin families live all together in a hierarchy of female authority — grandmother, daughters, grand-daughters, husbands, sons, brothers—in the family hut." An area by the village oven, behind the chief’s house, was a female terrain.

The Xikrin have women’s societies which do body-painting and other art. Some women choose not to marry, and enjoy sexual freedom while farming their own plots of land. [Tschopik, 31]