Mythology, Women & Society: Growing the Groundswell

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

Women and the Global Imagination: Reimagining the Myth of Sedna by Hila Ratzabi, posted on Prairie Schooner on Tue, 02/24/2015 

Selected bibliography

Haarmann, H. (2007).  Foundations of culture: knowledge-construction, belief systems and worldview in their dynamic interplay. Frankfurt, Berlin, New York: Peter Lang.

Leduc, T. B. (2010). Climate research, interdisciplinarity and the spirit of multi-scalar thought. Religion and dangerous environmental change: Transdisciplinary perspectives on the ethics of climate and sustainability, 2, 119-144.

Leduc, Timothy (2010). Climate Culture Change. Univ. Ottawa Press.

Leduc. T. (2007). Sila dialogues on climate change: Inuit wisdom for a cross-cultural interdisciplinarity. Climatic Change, 85, 237-250.

Stott, J. C. (1990). In search of Sedna: Children’s versions of a major Inuit myth. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 15(4), 199-201.

Thursby, J. (2011). Sedna: Underwater Goddess of the Arctic Sea.  In P.Monaghan (Ed.), Goddesses in world culture volume 3. (pp.193-204). ABC-CLIO


This entry was posted in .... Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mythology, Women & Society: Growing the Groundswell

  1. Dawn Work-MaKinne says:

    I don’t know where is the right place to leave a comment! I loved your presentation at ASWM on Saturday and would really like to have a copy of the PowerPoint. Might you be willing to share? I would love to stretch my mind! Bright and deep blessings, Dawn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.