Karok - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In aboriginal times, marriage was largely a financial transaction: the bridegroom struck a bargain with the bride's father, and the prestige of a family depended on how much money had been paid for the wife. If a man could not pay a full bride-price, he could become "half married"—that is, go to live with and work for his father-in-law. Monogamy was the norm; however, a widow was expected to marry either her husband's brother or her sister's husband, and this could result in polygyny. The newly married couple lived in the husband's parents' home. Later a husband might acquire his own house, usually adjacent to that of his parents. Either partner could seek a divorce on grounds of unfaithfulness or incompatibility; the central process was a repayment of money, with negotiation of the amount depending on the number of children.

Domestic Unit. Small extended families commonly shared a house or a group of adjacent houses.

Inheritance. The bulk of an estate was divided among a man's sons, with smaller shares to daughters and other relatives.

Socialization. From around three years old, male children left the family living house to sleep with adult males in the sweat house, where they were indoctrinated in the virtues of thrift and industry, and taught fishing, hunting, and ritual. Girls remained in the living house, learning female skills from their mothers. The recitation of myths, typically by grandparents in the family house on winter nights, was another important means of socialization.

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