The Native American Cherokee
The ancient Cherokee were matrilineal with a complex society structure. Cherokee women had many rights and privileges other than domestic duties. Not only did married women own property, such as homes, horses, cattle and fields of growing crops and fruit trees, they also participated in both the fighting of wars and the councils of war and peace.
The Tehuanas of the Zapotec tribe of Tehuantepec, Mexico
Zapotec women call themselves Tehuanas. The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilisation. In Tehuantepec women are the heads of households, control the purse and represent the community to outsiders. To this day Tehuantepec is the centre of Zapotec culture. The city is known for its women and their traditional dress, which was adopted by the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Women dominate the local markets and love to tease and taunt men. Political power, however, is the domain of men.
The Mosuo of China
The Mosuo of Lake Lugu, which is also known as “The Kingdom of Women”, are a minority ethnic group said to be China’s last matrilineal society. Lugu lake is located on a plateau in the mountains between the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in the north west of China. Here children take their mothers’ surnames and daughters are preferred to sons.
A fascination with local traditions has led to a booming tourism industry in this once-isolated region with hundreds of thousands of Chinese flocking there for an exotic cultural experience, threatening the ancient Mosuo way of life.
The Garo of India
The Garo is one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. In the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Garo tribe, property and political succession is passed on from mother to youngest daughter. After getting married, a man lives in his wife’s house. While women own the property, the men manage the property and govern society.
The Minangkabau of West Sumatra, Indonesia
The Minangkabau are the world’s largest matrilineal society with property, family name and land passing down from mother to daughter. Religious and political affairs are the domain of men, although some women play important roles in these areas as well.
Today 4.5 million Minangs live in the homeland of West Sumatra, while about 4.5 million more are scattered throughout many Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns.