Iroquois - Marriage and Family
Marriage. At one time marriages were a matter of Individual choice, but in the historic period the matrilineage, particularly the mother, played an increasingly important role in the arrangement of marriages. Postmarital residence was matrilocal. Polygyny was practiced, but by the late eighteenth century had entirely disappeared. Divorce was possible, and when it occurred the mother retained full control over her children.
Domestic Unit. The basic economic unit consisted of matrilineally extended family groups of women, their spouses, and their children. Each extended family group occupied a longhouse within which individual nuclear families occupied designated sections and shared common hearths. Each longhouse was under the control and direction of the elder women in the extended family group.
Inheritance. Traditionally, property was inherited Matrilineally. In the 1980s matrilineal inheritance continued to be practiced among Iroquois on reservations in the United States, but not so for those in Canada, where the government has enforced a patrilineal system of inheritance.
Socialization. The life cycle pattern of the Iroquois is not well understood. There was a clear dividing line between the activities of men and women and the ideals of male and female behavior, and roles were communicated to children by elders through oral traditions. Except for those who achieved political office, no formalized rites of passage marked the transition to adulthood for boys or girls.