Maliseet - Marriage and Family



Marriage. At time of contact most marriages were monogamous, although a chief might have had more than one wife. A young man was required to perform bride-service for his future father-in-law for a period of one year. With the acceptance of Catholicism, polygyny disappeared and bride-service fell into decline, although at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Maliseet still felt that a man should live with his wife's parents until at least the birth of the first child. When the government of Canada adopted regulations defining membership of Indian bands in terms of male-centered principles, this temporary matrilocality conflicted with the Government's view that the bride should join her husband's band when they came from different reserves. This patrilocal pattern has weakened ties among a grandmother, her married daughter, and grandchildren in many cases. If divorce occurs today (despite church proscriptions), it usually is restricted either to Maliseet with spouses from outside the Indian Community or to cases in which one spouse has permanently left the native community.

Domestic Unit. Until recently, three-generation families were very common. Despite European norms favoring the two-generation family, a shortage of housing, the presence of unmarried or divorced mothers, and lack of employment opportunities still encourage the formation of three-generation families.

Inheritance. No set patterns for inheritance exist other than that present in the larger non-Indian community.

Socialization. Generally, children were allowed much Freedom. They learned from their mistakes rather than from parental admonition. Education was informal and children acquired the necessary adult skills appropriate to their sex through imitation and practice. The threat of externally sanctioning supernaturals, the equivalent of bogeymen, kept small children away from dangerous places. Contemporary parents sometimes use threats of supernatural punishment following death or punishment by a human agent such as a priest or schoolteacher if the child misbehaves.


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