Modern Matriarchal Studies

Website / Blog Helheta Gunilla Madegård

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When I the other day looked for articles written by the nowadays so popular  science journalist in Sweden; Karin Boys, who has written a book about modern DNA-research; My European Family The First 54,000 YearsI came across an expression, which perfectly suits the mission in this thread, namely the word "faktaresistens" which translated into English would be "resistance against facts", and more precisely in this case regarding the reluctance among the established Western scholars themselves to admit the existence of certain kind of facts; namely the facts that women not at all voluntarily subdue to male dominance and never have. Quite the contrary it sooner looks as if men has been obliged to use a lot of coercive mesaures, such as not at least violence or threat of violence and brain wash, to make that happen.

It´s hard to understand  why someone who totally ignores all the facts lined up page after page with tiny little letters in the substantial work of Robert Briffault; The Mothers, 1927 published just som few decades before his own; namely the great "Father of Modern Anthropology" himself; Claude Lévi-Strauss´, was rendered such a worldwide fame, not at least in comparison with the treatment of the highly qualified work of Marija Gimbutas, which in contrast has been totally erased from the map due to its supposed "non-scientific" content. Lévi Strauss has never been able to prove anything and especially not so with his assumptions about the origin of society made up by men making business with one another with their women as commodities.

Furthermore I happened to overhear an interview made by Karin Boys with the two archaelogists and authors of popular science; Björn Hagberg and Martin Vidman about their recently published book: Varför krigar människan? (Why do man make war?) in wich she asked them about their opinion of Marija Gimbutas theories of the peaceful cultures in Old Europe, seen in the light shed by the new DNA-research, which many scholars claim has rendered her  theories evidence.

But these two archaeologist specialists, believe it or not, then just shook their heads like two questionmarks to state that they didn´t have a clue about whom she was.


Zuni Indian man and Northern Cheyenne woman wearing regalia, Indian Pueblo Culture Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico USA.


First some facts about the place where Claude Lévi-Strauss made his only fieldwork: the state Matto Grosso in Brazil, (se the first map below!) and the few tribes he met there in his first expedition only for some weeks and later in his second for about half a year.

Quoting from Wikipedia:"The couple (Dina and Claude Lévi Strauss) lived and did their anthropological work in Brazil from 1935 to 1939. During this time, while he was a visiting professor of sociology, Claude undertook his only ethnographic fieldwork. He accompanied Dina, a trained ethnographer in her own right, who was also a visiting professor at the University of São Paulo, where they conducted research forays into the Mato Grosso and the Amazon Rainforest. They first studied the Guaycuru and Bororó Indian tribes, staying among them for a few days. In 1938, they returned for a second, more than half-year-long expedition to study the Nambikwara and Tupi-Kawahib societies. At this time, his wife suffered an eye infection that prevented her from completing the study, which he concluded. This experience cemented Lévi-Strauss's professional identity as an anthropologist. Edmund Leach suggests, from Lévi-Strauss's own accounts in Tristes Tropiques, that he could not have spent more than a few weeks in any one place and was never able to converse easily with any of his native informants in their native language, which is uncharacteristic of anthropological research methods of participatory interaction with subjects to gain a full understanding of a culture.

As there is no further information about past or present tribes in the area on Wikipedia, I refer to this paper instread, about the different tribes living in the neighbourhood in the great plain stretching from Bolivia R downwards through Argentina (se map nr 2!) as some of them are the same as in Mato Grosso and some of them might be mentioned in the pages of Briffault´s The Mothers, pasted in on this page, as they abandon of information about the kind of more or less "matriarchal"  habits, mentioned in Rodenborgs article above, which by no chance might be considered to represent the custom of exchanging wifes, which  by Claude Lévi Strauss is proposed being the universal pattern from having made up the Origin of Society.

"This article reviews the historical and present prospects of ethnohistorical and ethnographic work in the South American Gran Chaco. Geographically the Chaco is a semi-arid central South American plain, some one million square kilometers in size, encompassing portions of northern Argentina, eastern Bolivia, and western Paraguay. Average rainfall oscillates around 800 mm/yr, with the peripheries being wetter and the central Chaco drier. Some 250,000 indigenous people belonging to more than twenty ethnic groups live in the Chaco.

Traditional ethno- linguistic categorization classies them into six main linguistic groups:

1. Mataco-maká (Wichí-Mataco, Chorote, Nivaclé-Chulupí, Maká),

2. Guaycurú (Toba, Toba-Pilagá, Pilagá, Mocoví, Mbayá-Caduveo),

3. Lule-Vilela (Chunupí),

4. Lengua-Maskoi (Lengua, Sanapaná, Angaité, Enenlhet),

5. Zamuco (Chamacoco-Ishir, Ayoreo)

6. Tupí-Guaraní (Ava-Chiriguano, Chané, Tapiete, Isoseño-Guaraní, and Guaraní Occidental).

The last group is the largest, including nearly 100,000 people, of whom the majority live in Bolivia.

References still used in contemporary anthropological/ethnological reserarch in South America:


1. Mainly, the ones by Samson d’Abbeville (1657), Retz (1732), Lozano (1733), Anónimo (c. 1735), Cardiel (1772), Dobrizho er (1784), Camaño (1789), Campos (1883), Corrado (1884), Aráoz (1885), Cardús (1886), ouar (1883, 1886), Baldrich (1890), Pelleschi (1897), Cattunar (1911), Nino (1912), Nordenskiöld (1912) and Belaie (1932).



This is the state in Brazil; Mato Grosso where Claude Lérvi-Strauss and hiss wife Dina did their  fieldwork


And the marked red place that stretches from Bolivia down to Argentina is the great South Amercan opplain called Gran Chac

Here you get a better map for to perceive in what way these two different places in South-America is connected to each other:

M A T R I L I N E A L   A N D   M A T R I  L O C A L   T R I B E S
A C R O S S   T H E   W O R L D   S T I L L   E X I S T I N G   U  P   U N T I L
A R O U N D  T H E   20th  CE N T U R Y  A N D / O R   T O D A Y 



by Robert Briffault published




On these two following pages 268-269 Briffault gives following examples:

The tribes at Formosa, which Montesqiu encountered

Inuits from Labrador

Inuits from David Strait and Cumberland Sound

Aleuts of Kadiak Islands

Iroquis and Huron tribes in North America

Algonkin tribes in Canada

Canadian tribes of Great Lakes


Note specially this comment:

"Cayaga tribes send for Mohawks to supply with a number of husbands for their women so that the race with counted its descent through the women only, might not are esxtinguished."

The Senecas of there Iroqiuis


Briffault´s referents being ; J.A.M. de Moyra de Malta, J. MacLean, F. Boas, E.W. Nelson, U Lisiansky. H.J. Holmberg. J F Laifitau. P.F. X. de Charlevoix, D. Cameron



On the following two pages 270-271 Briffault continues to give examples of the matrilineal and matrifocal patterns among the native tribes in  Alaska, Canada and North America - among the Sioux, Crees, Pawnees, Osages and other allied tribes, Omahas, Kiowas, Mandans and other Dakota tribes, as well as among the Sauk and Foxes at the Mississippi valley and Natchez and in Florida among the Seminole.

At the Queen Charlotte islands; Haidas, in Alaska among the Déné, Ahts and Nutkas of  Vancouver and among the Chinooks.

His referents being;

W.M. Beauchamp, LH Morgan, J McDonnell, J. Dunn, GA Dorsey, J Gregg, E James, Prince Maximillian zu Tied, M Marston, Le Petit, Clay MacCauley, C. Harrison, AG Morice, GM Sproat



Among the Youkut, Patwin and Maidu of California


Kwakiutl of British Columbia (Reference: Boaz)


And then he contiues to the south-western tribes of New Mexico and Arizona and the Pueblo-indians referring to Tylor.


Thereafter the Zuni-people of Central America


His referents being: A Ross, S Powers, RB Dixon, Kostromitonov in FP Wrangel,  KB Tylor, MC Stevenson, AL Kroeber


I don´t find this report of the Seri people´s extremely primitive lifestyle specially credible. Perhaps its author felt urged  to produce such a narrative about this natives as they were one of the toughest to make resistance against the Spanyards as well as the English introders into their territory, and it might therefore has been temptating to blame the lack of normal patriarchal "civilisation" for this obtrusive behaviour.


Anyhow the Seri women above does´nt look  that "primitive" to me, neither the kind of  life they lived of the scarce photos I have found.





People on the Caribean Islands and in Mexico - Yucatan

Kekchi Indians of Guatemala

The tribes  of the province of Caracas

Bibri of Costa Rica

In the Peruan Inca monarchy matrilocal marriage was customary

Various tribes of the Orinico

Moxcos New Granada

The Arawaks of British Guyana

The Tupi tribes of Brazil


And now we have reached the place where Lévi-Strauiss encountered his indians; namely Mato Grosso in Brazil and the Bororos, Chavantes and the Guyacurus i.e. the most important among the tribes of the Gran Chaco; also according to the referents;


1)Yves d´Evreux, Voyage dans le nord du Brésil pp 821

2)F Krause, In den Wildnissen Brasiliens p.325

P Ehrenreich Beiträge our Volkenkunde Brazilian p.27

G.von Koenigswald "Die Caraja-Indianer" Globus p 237

3) V. Frid and P. Radin Contribution to the study of the Bororo Indians" Journal of the Anthropological Institute xxxxvi p. 390 According to another account the husband continues to dwell in the men´s common house until the death of his wife´s father, when he succeeds in the latter´s place (K. von den Steinen, Under den Naturvölkern Zentral-Basilien p. 501

4) P.J. Quiroga "Breve Notices del viajae que hizo for el rio Paraguay, 1753-54" in Collection de Documentes Imedites para la History de Espana, vol. civ, p. 441

5. J.E Pohl Reise in Innern von Brazilien vol ii, p. 195

practising  matrilineal and matrilocal customary.


As do also the Guatos of the Araguay river as well has the tribes along the Mbayas and among the Terenos and the Matacos and the Lenguas and Abipones, as well asa among the the Tsoroti, Bakairi,  Caingang of southern Argentina.


And furthermore among the Fuegias.

BRAZIL _ GRAN CHACO - exactly where Claude Lévi Strauss made his fieldwork.

Tribes of Carajas


The Guyacurus; the most important among the tribes of the interior, in the region of Gran Chaco, had the same pattern

Matrilocal marriage was the rule among the tribes of the Gran Chaco

Mbaye, Terenos , Matacos, Lenguas, Tsoroti, bakairiCaingang of the southern Argentina

This is how it continues page after page!