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Anishinabek Matriarchy: Father or Mother’s Clan?

By: Johnny Hawk

“Power of the men was balanced by the political and social power of the Clan mothers, the women elders. Everyone in the family listened and respected the wisdom of the Gi-ma-ma-nen.”                                                                                                                                           – Wubekeniew (1995) Red Lake Anishinabek

As the prophetic New People of the Seventh Fire, the Oshkibimaadiziig, we are finding that what we are picking back up from the trail has also been subject to colonial manipulation where we need to ask critical questions before applying them to our resurgence. One of the integral institutions in our resurgence and asserting our sovereignty is to know where that sovereignty comes from. Many Anishinabek believe that we follow our Father’s Clan but when we analyze our language, teachings and natural laws we find something contrary to popular belief.

“The Earth is said to be a woman. In this way it is understood that woman preceded man on the Earth. She is called Mother Earth because from her come all living things. Water is her life blood. It flows through her, nourishes her, and purifies her.

Gitchie Manito took four parts of Mother Earth and blew into them using a Sacred Shell.  From the union of the Four Sacred Elements and his breath, man was created.

It is said the Gitchie Manito then lowered man to the Earth. Thus, man was the last form of life to be placed on Earth. From this Original Man came the A-nish-i-na’-be people.

In the Ojibway language if you break down the word Anishinabe, this is what it means: ANI (from whence) NISHINA (lowered) ABE (the male of the species).”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            – Grand Chief of Midewiwiin Society, Eddie Benton Benai, Miishomis Book


In the teachings of Grand Chief of Three Fires Mideweiwiin Society, Eddie Benton Benai in his Mishomis Book, Original Man or Anishinabe who later becomes Nanaboozho, is created and “Lowered from Above” and is directed to walk with Myingun, the Wolf to name all things on the Earth. This connects to how we get our names and the first naming ceremony. When Anishinabe walks with Myingaan he notices, everything has a counterpart and companion and he wonders where his female counterpart is. Creator says his will come at a much later time.  A teaching after this, Anishinabe leaves his Grandmother’s Lodge to go and seek his Father, the West Wind.  This confuses me as we were just told Anishinabe, Original Man or Nanaboozho was just Created by Creator and Lowered from Above.

In the Mishomis Book on how Clans were given to the Anishinabek it says the first people were living in disharmony so Creator cleansed the Earth of them through a Great Flood. Creator than gave the second peoples of Earth a Clan system for governance so they will not live in disharmony.

In other teachings compiled from various Elders by Anishinabe linguist, Basil Johnston, we hear of Geezhigo Kwe or Sky Woman who is “Lowered from Above” on the back of a turtle and gives birth to twins who destroy themselves and later on has a boy and girl. In each Creation perspective though there is a commonality of a Great Flood that cleanses the Earth of People that were living in disharmony. Nanaboozho survives on a floating log with animals and helps recreate the earth we know today as Turtle Island. In other teachings we hear Nanaboozho is one of four sons of Winona, a Human Earth Woman and the West Wind Spirit.

There seems to be two very distinct versions of our Creation stories where either it is a male of female that is first “lowered down.”  This is important because if all life is created by the Earth and later on it is a Female that is created and lowered down this helps us to understand ourselves a little more. There is no clear distinct understanding why we take on our Father’s Clan in the Mishomiis Book only that Clans were given to Anishinabek.


In our language many people including my parents tell me an old Anishinabek word for Mother is Dodem, which also is the word for Clan. Doodosh is the female breast and doodoshabo is the mother’s milk that sustains her child. In Anishnabemowiin when we say where we are from we say “N’doonjiba” which connects to the “doodem”.  I’ve always heard we will find many truths in our language and our language holds so much knowledge of who we are. The connections of these words I feel explain that Anishinabek in fact are a matriarchal people where we follow our mother’s clan.

It is the Women who cared for the Earth, the Lands, the Home and their Gardens. It was the male who left the home community and married outside of his community and lived within his wife’s community. In our Anishinabek Tradition’s after a Mother givers birth, she takes the placenta that connects her to her child and buries it out on the land. This is to connect the child to the earth and her territory. Later the Child is told to go and find that spot so they are always connected. Through the Mother we are given life and connected to the Earth, so why wouldn’t we not follow her Clan?

Human Beings in our teachings it is said were created last and the animals were told that Humans were coming and they were to help teach them.  Anishinabek have learned so much from the Bear, where to get medicines from, the fish, the four leggeds, the birds helped teach, how to build a home, how to hunt, how to gather. The animals also taught matriarchy which is exemplified in this natural law, within the animal kingdom.

Today in our communities, we see our Grandmother’s, Aunties, Daughter’s, and Sisters, take control to look after the people when there is a need. The Women organize to make sure the well-being and community are looked after. Matriarchy reveals itself naturally within our communities and yet most deny Anishinabek are a matriarchal society.

I have also heard from a few Midewiwiin Relatives that at one time, so long ago, Anishinabek in fact had Clan Mothers, which tells us we were Matriarchal.  If many say we Anishinabek are not matriarchal and follow our fathers clan, why at the same time we are told, we are our language, we are our environment, the animals help teach us because in those things are matriarchy. Our Language and Natural Laws don’t lie however in our teachings there seems to be some varying perspective where man is made a prominent figure and we must ask why that is and why some of those stories are different.


COLONIZATION: God made man, Man killed God and made himself God

All Earth’s people at one time were tribal peoples and therefore would’ve based their society on the natural environment which most likely was of matriarchal influence. European Colonization that has dominated the world can find its beginnings in Egypt. The story of Jesus is a common story passed down from ancient Egypt that is merely “astrotheology”, worship of the sun and its movements.  Romans eventually took this knowledge that expressed the Creator’s power through the Sun and made man into God creating the Christian Religion to keep the populous distracted and obedient to manmade hierarchy religion to be controlled.

Most of the common Religions have in some way a connection to the occult fraternity that is Freemasonry. Since the Egyptians there seems to be this common organized fraternity behind many of the leading institutions who colonize peoples of the world using the same formula of imposing illusions that creates obedience and control. They take the sacred knowledge of peoples and nations around the world and ban it, to hide the truth or manipulate it and impose their own lies for control.

There are many branches and religions connected to this grand fraternity such as the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, A Roman Catholic Military Order whose members comprise of the Jesuits, the Monarchy and even Politicians of Canada are members. The Jesuits were sent in to neutralize, learn our languages and customs and convert our peoples to Christianity they were used as scouts to help colonization efforts.

Some of our people even have mistaken the Jesuits and newcomers as Gods. Sickness from these newcomers that infiltrated our communities only helped in the conversion of our peoples as our peoples thought baptism and accepting their religion would serve as a cure. In the Huron/Wendat peoples Jesuits learned the Wendat language and told the Jesus Story creating things such as the Huron Carol. Making Jesus into a Wendat so those peoples can identify.

So if our ceremonies eventually became illegal and banned and many converted into Christianity why do we believe our institutions such as the Clan system would not be manipulated as well to help us convert and change our most integral institution that connects us to our lands.


Throughout our interactions with our so-called allies, the new comers, we have invited them into our communities and left ourselves and our sacred institutions open to infiltration and manipulation.  The colonizers only recognized the authority of the men in our communities and whereas most treaties were signed not by the authority of our women the true title holders but signed and accepted by men. Most of our treaties and agreements are invalid because they disregard the authority of our Nations the women.

Our so-called allies, the British, also misappropriated our symbols to create an illusion to keep us distracted and obedient. They used wampum belts and obtained our peace and alliances through agreements such as the Two Row Wampum Belt and the 1764 Niagara Covenant Chain Belt. This also demonstrates the misappropriation of our cultural diplomacy tools that have been manipulated. So if these things can happen I’m sure the fundamental institution that is our clan system would also have the same colonial stains.

In the colonial interactions of these newcomers from 1700’s- 1800-‘s many of our own influential peoples were initiated in the new comers occult fraternities. Joespeh Brant a Chief of the Six Nation became a Free Mason where he is also credited for breaking up this Indigenous Confederacy as a result for his allegiance to the Crown. An Anishinabek Georg Copeway, Kahbehgobow who documented and translated many Anishinbek customs was also a Freemason. Why this is important is because it helps illustrate how our institutions were subject to manipulation by so-called allies in collaboration with our own influential peoples propped up by these allies. Today we need to also be critical who we invite in and who we may allow drive our institutions and movements.

As our institutions slowly became infiltrated and manipulated and outright banned, we were made to adopt new ways of beings, which included laws. How the colonizer is able to go and steal other lands is through these occult organizations such as the Vatican’s laws, using Papal Bulls and the Law of Water, Maritime Admiralty Law.  Today we blindly accept the Law of the Water, which is all about currency, the law of shipping resources, the only way it can be accepted on land is by consenting to register yourself as a corporation under the birth certificate where the corporate entity of your name is a product and owned and involves a court system.

The Law of the Land is our Clan System and the Women and once we know who we really are and uphold our Law of the Land their illusions can start crashing down. We need to empower our Women and before we begin any Resurgence of our Nation, assertion of Jurisdiction and Sovereignty we need to educate ourselves on what is behind many laws and customs we have today and why we follow our Father’s Clan and not our Mothers.

Sovereignty is first asserting our Spirit Name and our Clan Responsibility. I am only raising the questions as why do we follow our Father’s Clan and not our Mother’s? In everything we are as Anishinabek it reveals we are matriarchal but many of our people refuse this and call that blasphemy even most elders. I have attended some ceremonies and gatherings of our Midewewiin where I assumed I would find some answers and noticed a lot of Patriarchal and behavior from leadership where women were scolded and in positions not as prominent as their male counterparts.

If we are to regain who we are, we need to ask some critical questions where we are not trying to be disrespectful but the reality is even our Clan System and Medicine Societies are not exempt form the colonial stains and influence. We need to empower our women to take back their rightful places of authority within our Nation and I do believe we as Anishinabek follow our Mothers Clan and are a Matriarchal People, it reveals it self in so many places. We need to further ask these questions and seek the truth before any resurgence of our own institutions and sovereignty or we will keep perpetuating a colonial lie.

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1 Comment

Shannon Misquadis
Shannon Misquadis
Sep 01, 2023

I am from the Anishinaabek. We are a matriarchal society, originally.

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