Chipewyan - Marriage and Family

Marriage. First marriages were arranged by parents, and girls were often betrothed in childhood. Patrilateral cross-cousin marriage may have been preferred. Polygyny, usually of a sororal type, was permitted and occurred most often among group leaders and skilled hunters. In aboriginal and early-contact times marriage was unaccompanied by ceremony, but today is attended by a Roman Catholic service. In the past the newly married couple resided with the bride's family until the birth of their first child, at which time they might take up residence with the husband's family. In more recent times bilocal and neolocal residence patterns have become prevalent. The option of divorce was available to both husband and wife, but was rarely exercised. Divorce is rare among present-day Chipewyan as well.

Domestic Unit. In the historic period and probably in aboriginal times as well, the basic unit of social organization was the hunting group, consisting of a male head and his wife, their unmarried children, and, depending on the male head's hunting skill and influence, their married children and their families. Throughout the seasonal round of subsistence activities, this basic unit remained intact. Involvement in the fur trade, sedentization, and acculturation undermined this traditional pattern and in the twentieth century has resulted in greater emphasis on the nuclear family. Even among those Chipewyan who continue to hunt and trap, the traditional pattern has been broken as men leave their families behind in the villages and hunt alone or in small groups.

Inheritance. In aboriginal and early contact times an Individual's property was destroyed at death. Today property is Divided evenly between the deceased's survivors.

Socialization. As in adult life, the work responsibilities of adolescents and children fell most heavily on females. There was no rite of initiation recognizing puberty or adulthood for males; for females first menses was marked by a period of isolation. Among contemporary Chipewyan, boys and girls are allowed to play together until about age ten and then are kept apart in separate play groups.

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