Native American Matriarchal Influence and Generational Healing 

Good Medicine Stories and Concepts from my Northern California Indigenous Ancestors
The story-art on this website is dedicated to the oral histories and directives my Native elders shared on courtship, reproduction, love, family, and unity. To our mentors, instructors, counselors, and relatives of other nations who have paved a path toward healing...I APPRECIATE YOU!


My friend on the left, Adrian represents the Pit River Nation of Northern California.

"A Soul's Journey: Spirit to Body and Beyond"

Procreation is a beautiful voyage, a sacred gathering of celestial personae collected from the matriarchal and patriarchal lineage. The journey of an awaiting spirit begins in the spirit realm. An ideal forms in the eyes, churns in the mind then eventually connects to two hearts. Love embodies two people to conceive a sacred symbol of unity. A male holds the female; out of his body, he releases his ancestors into her body. He gives away his family to hers. A part of him leaves his line that will never return. She is a vessel of many voices, faces, mannerisms that will blend her family universe with his. Her body will build the bone frame, donate the organs, incubate the new lineage, and bring three spirits to life as one. Their symbol will embody every part of them.

Love is spiritual and serious. Conception is a story contrived of three lives, or more should nature bless an addition.

The spirit hovers over the mother, protects her, feeds her breath, and lingers until a tiny heartbeat signals when it is time for the spirit to enter the little body and become a soul. The mother must be strong for two lives. The father must prove his manhood and his devotion to the heritage that grows inside the two bodies in which he gave himself. Thump---one beat of the father's blood enters the child's heart. Thump---another one follows when the mother's blood leaves the heart. Creator wrote this rhythm and rhyme. The child's body forms, makes decisions, meets obstructions, and learns how to strategize. A tiny body prepares for another journey to the third phase of life.

Two bodies speak in movements, cues, pain, strain, and emotions. Mother and child are in unison. When the time to deliver comes, a woman is at her strongest and a man is at his weakest. He cannot feel the pain, but his contribution to life is a promise to Creator. His place is one of great responsibility and all the stars in the sky will watch him succeed or fail. When the body of his child enters into the mother's birth canal toward the living land, he must have a shelter for them to live in. He must provide comfort for both bodies' rest, and have sustenance for them to recover their strength. The bloods in their waters flush their child into existence. If he does not fulfill his promise, it is noted in the stars at night and the clouds by day. When he comes to the end of his life, his records will tell Creator if he was a good father who will go to his ancestors, or did not meet his responsibilities and must stay in the Darklands.

A child's first breath begins a tale written in actions, words, ways, and wisdom.

Every human comes to life through two parents. A mother's body is our gate. The father's body is our guide. Whether the child will become more than one spirit body in the later years, its first-life journey came from a father's seed and a mother's egg. Life grows in the womb that it leaves and will never enter again.

Love is wind, light, vapor, time—it gives, takes, endures, ends then continues
Love is complicated, placated, fathomless, and heals
Hate abhors love, mixes poisons out of lies to hurt, steal and destroy. 


"Two Hills and a Wedding (Unity Ceremony)"

Early Indigenous weddings were not nuptials in the modern definition.The principal concept to wed was an adjoining of family clans. My mother, Connie Heenan-Manuel told me this story. She was Pit River, Modoc (paternal) and Yuki, Sinkyone-Redwood Pomo (maternal).

The story starts when an individual saw someone from a neighboring clan out gathering food or on a hunt. They liked them, watched for them, and then they met. Clans did not speak the same language, but courtesy is universal. The two exchanged dialects, established communication, became friends, and built a bond. They learned each other's ways, words, and decided to make their friendship known. They discussed their situation with their family leaders. If their family approved then they arranged to meet the friend.

The friend was an honored guest. If the family approved of them, they sent gifts back with the friend for their clan. If the gifts were accepted, an invitation was remitted. A visit was not a date; visits spanned over days and nights for the friend to meet the community. The visits were tests that got harder and more demanding. The two friends had to learn methods, protocols, and distinguish faces. Their friendship was tested to see if it could advance toward a relationship. If the couple became serious and their families got along, the decision to join was theirs alone to make. This was a point to proceed to the most important step, or part ways permanently. If they felt respect, devotion, security, trust, and commitment to a unified future, they had officially fallen in love.

The process took time due to their differences and unfamiliarity, balance needed maintenance. Should children be in their future, their health and wealth was established before conception. Spiritual leaders were consulted before the announcements. Once approval and agreement was achieved then plans for a Unity Ceremony began. This took time due to the seasons' harvests. Older, wealthier families were required to show gratitude with gifts. Material was collected from both homelands. Wealthy families had to protect their status. If their loved one's chosen partner was poor but showed ambition and passed the tests, they were accepted. Doubts, disputes, and questions of character or intent needed to be known before the Unity Ceremony ensued.

The Unity Ceremony was not a daylong event; it consisted of several days. The location was determined by its convenience for each clan's travel distance. A council, made up of the oldest members and medicine people who represented both families, helped the couple with the decisions and conducted the ceremony. The best hunters and fishers provided the meats and pelts. The artists created gifts for everyone, dolls were made for the children. An arbor was built for the ceremony, and one for the gift feast. Camps were set on two hills closest to the ceremony grounds. The families separated to the camps for preparation. On the dawn of the ceremony, the camp closest to the east started to sing when they descended the hill. The other camp waited until they heard the song, then they joined in and began their descent. This procedure was based on the spiritual belief that real adoration and respect is carried on friendly winds to one's beloved no matter how far away they are. They could be miles apart but hear their voices call. Spiritual bonds can transcend the distance of death.

When the two parties arrived at the ceremony grounds, they entered into the arbor together. The families mixed and sat in a circle. This signified there were no differences between them, the gifts and duties were shared, and their lands were sovereign under their agreement. The families prayed, sang, and danced together for days. The cooks fed everyone. Nobody left without a gift. After the ceremony was done, the guests returned to their homelands and did not regard their neighbors as strangers anymore. Their family laws established protection, responsibility for raising the children, the lands' sources were shared, communication opened, and they would be honest to one another.

Over the generations, languages mixed, songs, dances, and stories were similar but never the same in other clans. A wedding was not material oriented or singular. When time progressed the concept of love was contaminated by distorted emotions and impulses, bonds were broken, families split apart, and feuds took roots. When separation and disputes went unresolved, the strength and beauty of the Unity Ceremony diminished. It is a memory, but not a myth or a legend. Descendants who attended the Unity Ceremonies made the old stone bowls and artifacts that were/are unearthed centuries later. Their spirits never forget. This story returned to heal and restore bonds that are neglected but not broken.
~*~ Retold by Cathi Rose Manuel


"The Original Foster Care Family System"

Childcare is an ultimate responsibility. Babies are born spiritually pure; their minds are open to their natural and supernatural worlds. In ancestral times, if a child was orphaned, abandoned, unable to be cared for by blood relatives or mistreated, it was the Indigenous way to place them in a secure home. Before colonial invasion and influence, the Indigenous system was organized to take care of a child out of loyalty and concern; this is still a practice. The payments were gifts of protection, learning experiences, passing on knowledge, and sharing love.

Children start life innocent, vulnerable, inquisitive, and will reflect the excellence, success or failure of the family-community who raised them. Babies' cries measure the quality of the care they receive in their home environment. Children's bodies are not to be violated, injured, deprived, cursed or mistreated. The home is a sanctuary where children and family need to feel secure, nourished, content, and healed of stress.

Love from parents, care-givers, relatives, and community should be available. The child comes first because she/he did not conceive themselves. Our elders did not teach to discriminate on who could provide love and shelter to a child who is not biologically theirs. Grandparents, aunties, uncles, unrelated individuals, Two-Spirit couples, and single people are qualified to provide and teach a baby to become a strong, well-endowed adult.

Hold a baby, look at their little face, THINK about the new life that depends on the decisions the adults around them make. Do we want that baby to grow up addicted, a criminal, angry, suicidal, incarcerated, and killed or missing? Indigenous babies face greater odds against them; let us not bound them to generational trauma.

Teach them their history and cultural identity, but instill in them generational healing that family-community love provides. A baby represents a new generation whose strength begins with our own. Our ancestors rescued children from systems designed to take them away and strip their uniqueness. Creator gave us our systems; he never took them back. Our babies' advantages need to exceed their disadvantages. Family is their first teachers. We are here because an ancestor and elder passed on their wealth of wisdom when we were new to this world. Babies do not charge anyone to love them, but they have ways of payment that reflect in their smile. They will grow up to return what is given someday. 


Coastal Ohlone/Southern Marin Miwok Territories

To my matriarchs:

[Left] My father's mother, Emma Jeff-Manuel, Dry Creek Pomo, (she was a skilled basket-maker and spiritually gifted. Dad was a young boy when he escaped Sherman Institute. He traveled from Riverside back to the Geyserville Rancheria, and recalled his mother had dinner ready when he walked in. It is my feeling that she knew he was coming.)
Father's paternal grandmother was Anastacia Comchetal.
Father's great-great grandmother, Tsupu, Marin Miwok, (in her late teens her village was burned down by Capt. Vallejo's troops. Survivors were marched north to Benecia. She fled west to Fort Ross where she met her Coastal Pomo husband, Tomas Khamchethal Sr. Their son, Tomas Jr. raised his brother's orphaned children. He changed our family last name to Manuel and his own last name to Smith for protection.)
Mother's paternal grandmother, "Mollie" Winn-Heenan, (niece of Modoc warrior, Kintpuash, aka Capt. Jack. Grandma Mollie was on the Nome Cult Death Walk when she was four years old. She and her sisters survived the march from Shasta/Modoc counties into Round Valley. Her sisters returned north but she stayed and had a family.)
Mother's maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Frank, Sherwood/Redwood/Sinkyone Pomo, (Grandma Lizzie was beaten, raped, forced to marry her European master but made a new life when she was freed. She had many relatives who died or were marched on the Blood Run Death Trail.)
I appreciate my patriarchs too, but the family histories were delicately preserved by my mothers.

© Copyright 2025 Mobirise - All Rights Reserved
Website Author: Cathleen "Cathi" Manuel
BA--American Indian Studies and English--Creative Writing
College of Ethnic Studies MA Candidate
San Francisco State University
Stories and Images are for Educational Purposes Only.

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