Northern Paiute - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Prohibitions against marriage of any kinsperson, no matter how distant, were formerly the reported norm. Parents attempted to arrange suitable matches, using communal hunts and festivals as opportunities for children to meet. Token gifts were exchanged by the two sets of parents, but little by way of ceremony occurred. Most marriages were initially monogamous, but later a man might take another wife, often his first wife's younger sister. Fraternal polyandry was reported, but thought to have been rare. Initial matrilocal residence as a type of bride-service was common. Marriages were intended to be permanent unions, but little onus attached to either party if divorce occurred. Children always had a place with either side.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear to small extended family was formerly the norm and remains so today. Most families can and do incorporate relatives and friends, but the arrangement is more temporary than in former times.

Inheritance. Given bilaterality, usufruct rights came from either side of the family. In some areas, however (for example, Owens Valley), a matrilineal preference was reported for the inheritance of piñon trees.

Socialization. In precontact times, given the subsistence duties of both parents, children often spent a great deal of time with grandparents. Children were considered to be responsible for their own actions from an early age, thus parents and grandparents advised more than sanctioned beyond that point.

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