Dogrib - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Prior to the introduction of Roman Catholic wedding rites, marriage was unmarked by ceremony. Courtship became de facto marriage, which stabilized after the birth of a child. At least until then, temporary matrilocality was the norm and has continued to be observed by traditionminded families. After that, the young family might join the band or hunting-trapping group of one of the husband's primary relatives or remain with that of the wife. Before conversion to Catholicism, some superior providers took more than one wife. Once the Dogrib became Roman Catholics divorce was unacceptable. An individual may, however, leave a church-sanctioned spouse to establish an enduring common law marriage with another person.

Domestic Unit. Aboriginally, probably two or more related conjugal pairs and their children occupied the temporary shelter. Permanent housing has always been in short supply; the log cabins and the more recent government house were and are apt to be occupied by two or three related Generations.

Inheritance. Into the nineteenth century, the death of a significant adult was accompanied by the destruction of not only the deceased's property but that of the bereaved relatives. In more recent times, inheritance of economically important goods—houses, guns, toboggans, canoes—is according to the needs of the immediate family members.

Socialization. Children have always absorbed moral values and standards of behavior by listening to the comments and gossip of their elders. In the bush camp or isolated hamlet where people still rely heavily on the products of the land, little girls by the age of six or seven begin to help their mother in fetching firewood and water. They also "pack" and tend their infant siblings. Boys observe the activities of their fathers but are not pressed into chores as early as girls, although they may be tending the rabbit snares by age ten or twelve. At about fourteen, boys join with their father or older brother on hunting-trapping tours. In contemporary times, with primary-grade schooling available even in the bush communities, Dogrib parents hold the ideal of having their children learn English and gain other advantages of White schooling. There is, however, a high rate of truancy that is not effectively restrained by parents. Since the 1950s, a minority of young Dogribs have gone on to high school and postsecondary education "outside."

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