The fundamental importance of the relationship which we shall term 'matti-filiation' has been amply demonstrated, and it is around mothers that all forms of domestic grouping seem to be ordered. The primacy of the mother-child relationship has been reported for practically all Negro societies in the New World, and our findings do not substantially conflict with these reports, except that we would point out that this is a relationship of fundamental importance in any society. What throws it into high relief in the West Indies is the fact that males are marginal in many ways to the whole complex of domestic relations, particularly in their roles as husband-fathers. Though the male head of the household occupies an important position as the nominally dominant person, responsible for, and with well-defined rights over, the other members of the household, and particularly his spouse and children, we find that ii"} fact his authority is undeveloped, and that his spouse becomes the real powercentre of the domestic group. This is true even in Perseverance where there is a much greater dependence of women on the earning capacity of men, and far fewer cases of women achieving complete control of household groups. It is not only with their spouses and their own
children that men lack real authority, for unlike a matrilineal system they do not exercise responsibilities in relation to their sisters, and their sisters' children. It is within their own families of procreation, and towards their mothers, that men's fields of responsibility lie. There does not arise any question of the society having to find a solution to what Richards has called 'the matrilineal puzzle'. As she says, 'in most societies authority over a household, or a group of households, is usually in the hands of men, not women, as are also the most important political offices' (1). In the sector of Guianese society with which we are dealing, men have very little authority either over household groups, or in other spheres of political and economic life. Women on the other hand have a clearly defined status as mothers, and it is by virtue of this status that they exercise authority and leadership within the household group.