Symposium sponsored by the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology
March 25, 2017. Unable to attend in person, I will make my presentation via Skype.
Indigenous Matricultures in North America
Presentation by Irene Friesen Wolfstone
My purpose is to shift the focus of feminist scholars from european matricultures to the indigenous matricultures of Turtle Island. Matriculture refers to cultural traditions that value the maternal, in its literal and metaphoric meanings, and elevate mothering for its creative contribution to cultural continuity (Passman, 1993). Heidi Goettner-Abendroth (2013), leading theorist of matriarchal studies, posits that “maternal values as ethical principles pervade all areas of a matriarchal society,” creating an attitude of care-taking, nurturing, and peacemaking in a cultural paradigm that is much broader than anthropology’s concepts of matrilineal kinship and matrilocality. Rematriation (Muthien, 2011) is the contemporary movement by indigenous cultures to reclaim and reconstruct their matricultures – a movement that follows from the deconstruction of patriarchy and colonialism.
Matriculture is embedded in indigenous language and cosmology; the English language may not be adequate to express nuanced meanings. Terms such as goddess, god, deity, religion, matriarchy, marriage and property are relevant to discussion of european matricultures; however, they are not a good fit for discussions related to decolonizing the indigenous matricultures of North America. I draw on the Inuit cosmology of sila and the ‘indweller’, Sedna, to illustrate this point.
As feminist scholars, we need to create deep alliances with indigenous sisters, learn their languages, study the ancient symbols embedded in their textiles and pottery. As we observe their struggle to rematriate, we wonder if the settler culture, too, has the adaptive capacity to reclaim matriculture as a climate change adaptation to ensure cultural continuity.
Links: Inuit Ritual of Reciprocity http://terramandala.ca/natality/6relation/inuit/
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