Matrilineal Tribes are Disappearing Around the World ⋆

Matrilineal Tribes are Disappearing Around the World

All across the world, people are in awe of societies that are ruled by women whether the ancient Amazons or the Wakanda. Even though there are far more societies run by men, there are still many that are led by and ruled by women!


These amazing cultures have been around for centuries and women are the leaders on a day to day basis. They pass property down to their daughters and their societies are built on relationships between women.

Unfortunately, these cultures are in a war to survive and keep their culture alive. In many cases, younger women are being drawn to city life offering good incomes and marriages outside of these cultures.

In some cases, tourism has brought attention to these cultures but there are increasing challenges to maintain their very old cultures and practices. Read on and discover these amazing cultures ruled by women around the world.

The Mosuo On Lake Luga

One of the most famous matrilineal societies is the Mosuo people who live on the shores of Lake Luga which is located near Tibet. This society is built on Buddhist culture and is very popular among tourists who are drawn to a society built around women.


Even though men are in charge of handling the political aspects of society, women are in charge of just about everything else. They run businesses and serve as head of the household. As a matter of fact, the most powerful people in the family unit are the grandmothers.

One of their most unique customs is walking marriages. Men visit women at night and then in the morning return to their homes. Women have the right to choose a single partner or several with no repercussions. Children stay in the woman’s home and keep their name and there are no requirements for men to be a part of their children’s lives but can if they wish to.

The Minangkabau In West Sumatra, Indonesia

This is one of the largest cultures consisting of 4 million people and women are equal with men even though they have traditional roles. Men are the political and spiritual leaders and women serve as head of the household. Both men and women rule and make decisions equally. One difference, women pass their homes on to their daughters while men pass their money on to their sons.


When it comes to politics, women play a significant role. Even though the chief is a male, women can have him removed from power if he does not fulfill his obligations. When discussing issues in public, there must be an agreement between both men and women.

Another aspect that makes their culture quite unique, it’s a combination of Islam and traditional customs known as adat. The Minangkabau adjust their matrilineal customs with aspects of Islam that in the traditional world would place men over women, especially when it comes to women owning property.

The Akan, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire

The Akan people are made up of 8 groups and many subgroups. When born, children belong to the same group as their mothers and remain in that group even after marriage. Men lead the groups but inheritances are passed down through the mother.


Land and houses are deemed as linage property and are also passed down by women but men can pass down the inheritances they gained during their lifetime.

The Bribri In Costa Rica

The women of Bribri are as important to their culture as the revered cocoa they prepare for sacred rituals. This matrilineal culture is rooted in Mother Nature which has managed to ride the tides of globalization through seclusion.


Approximately 10,000 Bribri live on a reserve in the Limon province of Costa Rica and the culture is a combination of traditional living and practices. The protector of their culture is the grandmother who is head of the family and responsible for passing down their culture and traditions to the younger generation.

The land is very valuable and is only passed down from mother to daughter or through another female relative.

They have faced many challenges in protecting their culture. With the intrusion of Chiquita, there has been a high demand for male labor which is in complete conflict with their female-based society. There have been many attempts to create alternative work for banana harvesting which is considered very dangerous and wearing.

The Garo Of Bangladesh

The Garo people are matrilineal but not matriarchal. They trace their lineage through women but men are still in charge of the political aspect of their society. Even though they are similar to other matrilineal cultures, the difference, the property is passed down from the mother to the youngest daughter.


In most cases, her marriage is arranged while the older daughter can select her own partner. They have multiple customs for marriage including the family of the daughter can “capture ” the chosen man and bring him to her home. If he decides to stay, they will be married but if he chooses not to, he will return home that night.

This ritual can go on until either the girl gives up or the boy agrees to marry her. The daughter can send food with a female relative to show her interest and if he accepts the food, he is accepting her proposal. Once they are married, the husband joins the wife’s house and family.

Also, it is forbidden to marry from your own clan which is defined through female descent. In recent years, their traditions have been evolving. There seem to be more Christian practices taking place and family structures are less strict due to migration to large cities such as Dhaka.

The Nagovisi Of New Guinea

The Nagovisi live on the island of South Bougainville which is west of New Guinea and north of Australia. Paramount to their culture is the garden. Marriage is not considered traditional but generally accepted as just existing if a woman invites a man to help her with her garden and they sleep in the same house.

In turn, if he refuses to eat from her garden, this leads to divorce. Women pass down their valuable gardens to their daughters and are responsible for providing food for the entire clan.

Women protect their currency in the form of shells which can be turned into jewelry which is passed down from mother to daughter. Both men and women share in making decisions equally but the woman is the head of the family.