Mescalero Apache - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Although polygyny, especially sororal, was practiced, the new law code forbids it. Until very recently those men having more than one wife would marry one "in the White man's way" (legally, according to American law) and other(s) "in the Indian way" (with a formal ritual uniting two families). Even today, if a man is widowed and there is a Marriageable woman in his dead wife's matrilineage, it is expected that the man will seriously consider marrying again within the lineage. Divorce used to be by mutual consent or by the wife simply removing her husband's belongings from her house; now, of course, American law is followed. Mother-in-law avoidance was standard practice for men even into the mid-1950s; however, it seems no longer to be practiced even though men still often report feeling "uncomfortable" around their mothers-in-law.

Domestic Unit. A woman owns the family home and everything in it; she and any brothers and sisters share primary responsibility for raising the children, including discipline; the father is friend, confidant, and protector. It is Common for a household to be comprised of a woman and her children, children of her sisters, her husband or consort, her unmarried brothers and sisters (especially if the parental home is unavailable for any reason), children of her unmarried children, and often a "grandparent," who may be a biological grandparent or an aunt or uncle of the mother through her matrilineage. Children have a great deal of freedom Concerning with whom they will live; often the choice is to live with a maternal aunt. Foster parenting is common, and frequently older children are sent to live with grandparents if the older people are living alone. It is considered especially appropriate to have been raised by one's grandparents.

Socialization. Socialization is through the matrilateral extended family; any older person has the license to correct those younger. Children are expected to learn through observation and practice rather than through questioning or direct verbal instruction. Even today, much of moral and social significance is taught by "elderlies" through stories. Individual rights are respected, even those of small children; the elderly are accorded great respect, even when they claim no special knowledge.

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