Sumu - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Sumu men often took more than one wife, but it is unclear if polygamy was an aboriginal practice. Conzemius (1932) reported that non-Sumu marriages were forbidden, and offspring from such unions would be killed. Girls were betrothed at an early age, when a suitor asked the girl's parents directly. Even today the suitor must show his capacity to provide for his intended wife and bring her parents firewood, meat, produce, or other esteemed items. The Sumu may have once practiced patrilocal residence, but now newlyweds live with either in-laws until their own house is completed. The new groom avoided contact with his mother-in-law, who stayed secluded when he was at home. Divorce simply meant the separation of the couple and apparently was unaccompanied by any ritual. During the twentieth century, mixed marriages with Miskito, Pech, Blacks, and mestizos have become common. Today, perhaps due to missionary influence, most Sumu men have only one wife.

Domestic Unit. The extended family is the most common domestic arrangement. Lodges once contained three or more families under the same roof, but today each family normally has its own house.

Inheritance. Transfer and inheritance of land and property occur traditionally along kin lines, usually between males.

Socialization. Children learn traditions and subsistence lessons through daily apprenticeship alongside their parents. Boys sharpen hunting skills by playing with scaled-down spears and bows and arrows, and they accompany fathers on hunting, fishing, and farming trips. Girls learn domestic chores while helping their mothers. The grandmother cares for infants when the mother is gone, and grandparents and other elders enjoy relating tales and traditions to youngsters.

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