Navajo - Marriage and Family
Marriage. Navajo marriages are the result of economic arrangements between kin groups. The great majority of Marriages were always monogamous, but polygyny was permitted until recently, and it is estimated that about 10 percent of Navajo men had two or more wives. By far the most common form of polygyny was sororal. Residence for newly married couples was ideally uxorilocal, but there were many departures from this practice when economic circumstances made another arrangement preferable. It was also fairly common for couples to move from the wife's to the husband's residence group, or vice versa, at some time after their marriage. Neolocal residence was very unusual in the past, but is becoming increasingly common today, as couples settle close to where there are wage work opportunities. Both marriage and divorce involve very little formality, and the rate of divorce is fairly high. But the great majority of divorces take place between spouses who have been married less than two years.
Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit in Navajo society is the biological or nuclear family. Its members traditionally live together in a single hogan (an earth-covered log dwelling) and take their meals together. The basic economic unit is the extended family, a group of biological families who live close together and share productive resources such as a maize field and a flock of sheep and goats in common. An extended family unit most commonly comprises the household of an older couple, plus the households of one or more of their married daughters, all situated "within shouting distance" of one another.
Inheritance. Basic productive resources are the collective property of the extended family and are not alienable by Individuals; they are passed on from generation to generation within the group. Jewelry, saddles, horses, and many kinds of ceremonial knowledge are treated as personal property, However. Individuals have considerable freedom in disposal of these, although it is always expected that a woman will leave most of her personal property to her daughters and that a man will leave much of his property to his sister's children.
Socialization. Children were and are raised permissively, and there is a marked respect for the personal integrity even of very young children. The main sanctioning punishments are shaming and ridicule. Children receive a good deal of Formal training in various technical and craft activities from their parents, and boys may be schooled in ceremonial lore and ritual practice by their fathers or by their mothers' brothers. The recitation of myths by grandparents and other elders also contributes to the education of Navajo children.