Navajo - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Navajo marriages are the result of economic arrangements between kin groups. The great majority of Marriages were always monogamous, but polygyny was permitted until recently, and it is estimated that about 10 percent of Navajo men had two or more wives. By far the most common form of polygyny was sororal. Residence for newly married couples was ideally uxorilocal, but there were many departures from this practice when economic circumstances made another arrangement preferable. It was also fairly common for couples to move from the wife's to the husband's residence group, or vice versa, at some time after their marriage. Neolocal residence was very unusual in the past, but is becoming increasingly common today, as couples settle close to where there are wage work opportunities. Both marriage and divorce involve very little formality, and the rate of divorce is fairly high. But the great majority of divorces take place between spouses who have been married less than two years.

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit in Navajo society is the biological or nuclear family. Its members traditionally live together in a single hogan (an earth-covered log dwelling) and take their meals together. The basic economic unit is the extended family, a group of biological families who live close together and share productive resources such as a maize field and a flock of sheep and goats in common. An extended family unit most commonly comprises the household of an older couple, plus the households of one or more of their married daughters, all situated "within shouting distance" of one another.

Inheritance. Basic productive resources are the collective property of the extended family and are not alienable by Individuals; they are passed on from generation to generation within the group. Jewelry, saddles, horses, and many kinds of ceremonial knowledge are treated as personal property, However. Individuals have considerable freedom in disposal of these, although it is always expected that a woman will leave most of her personal property to her daughters and that a man will leave much of his property to his sister's children.

Socialization. Children were and are raised permissively, and there is a marked respect for the personal integrity even of very young children. The main sanctioning punishments are shaming and ridicule. Children receive a good deal of Formal training in various technical and craft activities from their parents, and boys may be schooled in ceremonial lore and ritual practice by their fathers or by their mothers' brothers. The recitation of myths by grandparents and other elders also contributes to the education of Navajo children.

Also read article about Navajo from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Deborah White
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 27, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
I really love your article about the Navajo Marriage. I would like to know who wrote this and where did they get their information.
Pius Debrum
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 23, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
Yes I do agree I have a research and I have great! details for Navajo Marriage.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 19, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
I have been researching the Navajo people for a college report and I loved the great information on this site. It has been extremely informative. Thank you.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 28, 2014 @ 12:12 pm
I have a daughter, who is white , that is with a Navajo man . When I ask of their intention's regarding marriage he is somewhat ambiguous and says that marriage is not a very formal thing and that it is more of an agreement , inferring that it is a very loose relationship . Notwithstanding the legal ramifications I realize that ALL relationships are just that an agreement between two people , but our worlds are so different. We as parents and Christians are very concerned.
This does not leave me with a comfortable feeling especially if there are children that come out of this relationship .
He is a very quiet and hard working man and we are trying to understand more about him and the Dene' way . I know that this is not an ideal match and that it flies in the face of tradition , but they are both educated and intelligent people and seem to care and work well together.
I ask as a father and am genuinely concerned for both of these people as they do not seek council from any Elder .
Please if you could shed any advise or information in this matter it would be greatly appreciated , as I realize that they are trying to stir two very different cultures together . We as parents are not not apposed to this only concerned . Thanking you in advance , Bill Mowery/ Father
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 26, 2014 @ 4:16 pm
Traditionally, a navajo man marrying a white women is acceptable in Navajo culture. As far as Navajo women are concerned its a higher standard because of the matriarchal blood line. They are encouraged to marry within their tribe. As far as what I've heard an Elder say about divorce is that back then divorce was handled simply by packing up and moving out. Of course today it is different but that could explain the simple minded response of marriage as an agreement.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 22, 2015 @ 11:11 am
My occupation often requires me to be with various nations, Navajo, Jicarilla, Tewa and others, when a tribal member has died. I have not found a culture world wide where these are not sensitive times. I feel awkward and rather stupid when I enter tribal lands and do not have the knowledge of what constitutes good manners.

I have asked at the university and other places. The best answer I have received is "Speak to the governor of the Pueblo." This is a big state with many nations. I am interested in learning good manners as they apply to different nations and passing on the information to my coworkers.

I am thinking that someone may have studied cultural manners, traditions and differences in the nation's of the Southwest. I am willing to do a lot of reading or to meet with people who possess broad knowledge. I am not an anthropologist and my occupation does not make it possible to spend many years studying. I am looking for information on basic manners. For example, I know from travelling that in parts of Thailand it is not allowed to touch anyone on the head, even a child. Also, when entering a home, step over rather than on the thresh hold. In my culture, I often meet people from other countries who speak 12 inches from my face, which because I am not accustomed to that, I find myself backing away and feeling uneasy.

Can anyone help or direct me to abroad source of information on basic good manners and traditions and beliefs regarding death? Thank you in advance for any help you may offer.
William Wolf
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 30, 2016 @ 7:07 am
I was in Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB San Antonio, Texas in 11/65 through 4/66. One of my flight mates was a Navajo Indian named Yatzee. I am sure that he would not remember me. He should be around 70 years old as I am. Can you tell me his full name and if he is still living?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 9, 2017 @ 9:21 pm
My great grandfather was full blooded Navajo his name was Charles Hawkins and my grandmother was Bertha Hawkins,I am trying so hard to find out my heritage of the Navajo Indian and to which tribe That I would be from, ANY information would be so much appreciated.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 1, 2017 @ 6:18 pm
Hello Lynne,

The customs of different Native Cultures are all different.

As far as death customs with the Apache, the name of the deceased person shouldn't be used, as they believe this summons the dead person. Also never give anything to anyone that has a snake or an owl on it, because these animals are considered to represent death.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: