Tlingit - Marriage and Family
Marriage. The preferential marriage pattern was patrilateral cross-cousin marriage—to father's sister's daughter; the second choice was a member of the paternal grandfather's or great-grandfather's clan; and a third choice was a member of any clan in the opposite moiety. Marriage within one's clan and moiety were strictly forbidden under penalty of death or ostracism. Arranged marriages have rapidly decreased during this century, although patrilateral marriages are still encouraged. Monogamy was the general rule among the lower classes, and polygamy was practiced by a few high-status men and women. Divorce was rare, as it was seen as an offense against the clans of both spouses. Marriage prohibitions within the clan and moiety are still subscribed to in principle, though broken frequently in practice.
Domestic Unit. Until the turn of the century, the lineage community longhouse served as the residential unit. Recent government housing projects have largely eliminated the need for community households. Presently, lineage and clan households have more symbolic than economic significance, serving as the repository for the ceremonial objects and as a symbol of clan identity.
Inheritance. Formerly, property was passed on within the matriclan with much of the wealth going from uncle to nephew. Presently, material possessions are inherited in typical American fashion, although ceremonial goods are still expected to be passed on in conformity with traditional rules.
Socialization. Many elders played an active role in the education of Tlingit youth. Aunts extolled the virtues of respectable clan leaders, and maternal uncles rigorously and rigidly guided their nephews through adolescence, teaching them basic hunting, fishing, carving, and fighting skills. Grandmothers or maternal aunts spend considerable time with pubescent girls, preparing them for childbearing and teaching them clan history and domestic skills such as food preparation, basket weaving, and basic hygiene. Elders still maintain a strong influence even among the large number of members who have attended college.