Quechan - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Sometimes parents arranged betrothals followed by periods of gift giving and feasting. But there was apparently considerable flexibility in betrothal and marriage patterns. A man often courted a woman by playing a wooden flute outside her shelter at night, and she might invite him in to sleep with her (without having intercourse). After four nights of sleeping together, the couple was considered married. Ideally, postmarital residence was patrilocal. The typical marriage was monogamous, but polygyny was permitted. Marriages could be dissolved by either partner.

Domestic Unit. Despite the patrilocal preference, the ambilocal extended family was the predominant household unit until the 1920s, when the effects of land allotment and wage-based subsistence undermined the extended family's importance. Nuclear family households then became numerous. Yet the extended household has remained a popular option for families who have elderly relatives to care for or who want to try to ease the burden of poverty by pooling the resources of the larger household group. And even nuclear family households are frequently but a few acres away from those of close kin.

Inheritance. Until recently there was no inheritance of deceased's property; it was either destroyed (goods) or abandoned (land), lest the survivors be constantly reminded of their loss. The allotment of land and the construction of substantial housing has changed this pattern somewhat, but there is still the feeling that a deceased's personal property should be destroyed after death.

Socialization. The elders in the extended family household traditionally played a major part in the socialization of the young. Children were and are raised permissively. During their first menstruation, girls were lectured by older women about the proper adult female role; boys went through an initiation ritual in which they were made to run long distances after having their nasal septa pierced and were lectured on the ideal traits of adult Quechan males.

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