Copper Eskimo - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Although they do not state so explicitly, the Copper Eskimo appear to prefer marrying people classed as cousins of varying degrees of closeness. Getting married was informal, with the couple merely setting up a separate domicile. Most marriages were arranged while the potential spouses were still children. Because of the shortage of women, owing to female infanticide, there was often a considerable gap in age between bride and groom. In such cases a young man might live in the household of a prospective Father-in-law for a period of several years while waiting for a girl to reach puberty, working in a form of premarital bride-service. At other times, gifts of important objects like sleds could be used as bride-purchase. Before the birth of children, young couples often separated in a casual fashion with the woman simply transferring her household articles. On the other hand, given the shortage of women, marriage was sometimes broken through wife stealing, a practice that often led to homicide and the likelihood of a blood feud. Tensions created by this demographic imbalance resulted in short-lived polygynous marriages, with polyandry even more rarely practiced.

Domestic Unit. Since it was considered normal for the newly married to break away from parents, residence was Usually neolocal. Sometimes single or dependent relatives might attach themselves to such units, forming stem nuclear family households. At times such nuclear or stem nuclear units joined their snowhouses or tents with those of others, but there was no regular pattern of relationships that persisted in such arrangements, and indeed the arrangements were often contracted between units lacking kinship ties.

Inheritance. There was little inheritable property, and valuable objects were often buried with the deceased. Those goods that were passed on were transferred (usually to close relatives) according to no special pattern.

Socialization. Children were treated with considerable indulgence. Disciplining took the form of ridicule or threats of supernatural punishment similar to the "bogey man" phenomenon. Parents taught adult pursuits patiently over long periods. Imitation of male and female occupations like dog driving, care of infants, archery, or cooking were encouraged. When a boy killed his first seal, the body of the animal was dragged over him by his father or another close male relative at the scene of the hunt, marking his graduation to the status of a hunter. For females, puberty usually coincided with marriage.

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