Pomo - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. Kin groups were the most important social unit. Such groups shared, and many still share, labor and its fruits, and support each other politically. There was an institution of "special friend" (with a term that worked like kin terms), which could be established between two Individuals by a ritual exchange of gifts. The chief with the largest kin group was usually the most powerful. Having no kin was the ultimate in poverty: there was no social security, no one to provide food when one's own efforts failed. The kinless Person was fair game for any aggressor as there was no one to avenge a wrong.

Kinship Terminology. The Pomo groups have elaborate systems of kin terms, distinguishing father's father from mother's father, and father's mother from mother's mother. Although there are distinct forms for grandchildren, in many families reciprocal terms are used. For example, in Southern Pomo, a woman who addresses or refers to her maternal grandmother by a word built on the root -ka-, or her paternal grandmother by one with -ma-, would in turn be addressed or referred to with words constructed with -ka- and -ma-, respectively. The parents of the grandparents are often designated by the grandparent terms, or more specifically by a phrase, but Southeastern Pomo has unique terms for great-grandfather and great-grandmother. The Kashaya kinship system has been labeled as of the Hawaiian type, that of the Southern Pomo as Crow, and the rest as Omaha. Nevertheless, most share certain features: siblings of grandparents are called by the same terms as the grandparents. At the parent level, most of the languages have separate terms for one's father's older and younger brothers, and for mother's older and younger sisters, but only one term for father's older and younger sisters and one for mother's older and younger brothers. Descent is reckoned evenly on both the paternal and maternal sides. It was a grave insult to say the name of the dead in the presence of a living relative. In Kashaya, however, the dead could be referred to by a kinship term suffixed by -ya', to indicate Respect.


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