Abenaki - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Lineage exogamy was customary, which was expressed as a prohibition against marrying first or second cousins. There was, however, no system of exogamy based on Family totems. Dominant men often had more than one wife. The levirate and sororate were common. Polygyny but not polyandry was allowed, partly in recognition of male dominance, partly as social security for widowed people. Households were led by dominant men. A young married couple might reside matrilocally if the husband's father was dead or weak or already had many sons or if the wife's father was strong or lacked sons. Older dominant men might have large Households under their control, but the maturation of strong sons could lead to the breakup of such a household.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit was made up of one to four adult male warriors, a nearly equal number of wives, and a mix of children and elderly. This was the unit that moved to the interior woods in winter and to coast camps in the Summer. It was probably also the basic production unit for fishing and gathering activities even when in residence in the main village.

Inheritance. Aboriginally, families made their own houses, tools, and clothing. Sharing and gift giving were important mechanisms for redistributing items produced by specialists within and perhaps between families. Hunting and trapping territories, houses, and perhaps some portable goods were considered the property of the family as a whole, a Concept that obviated the issue of inheritance.

Socialization. Sisters were treated with formality and respect by brothers. Boys often took practical instruction from their father's brothers. Women were isolated during menstruation. Young men were also isolated for long periods and given special food if they were identified as gifted runners. Dominant fathers, caring mothers, kind uncles, and fun-loving aunts were familiar figures in the socialization of Abenaki children.


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