Ute - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriages were often arranged by parents and relatives. Marriage to blood relatives (extended to first and second cousins) was forbidden. Wedding ceremonies were informal, and premarital intercourse at the girl's residence was considered marriage. Band exogamy was generally preferred. Polygyny existed and both the levirate and sororate were practiced; however, monogamy was the norm with less than 10 percent practicing polygamy. Divorce for reasons of sterility, infidelity, and incompatibility was and is common. Children usually remain with the mother. Residence was almost always matrilocal. Bride-service is not reported for the Ute, although it was common in other Great Basin groups.

Domestic Unit. Traditional households often included relatives such as grandparents and occasionally a spouse of one of the children. This pattern continues today. Singleparent families are very common because of high divorce rates. Households are often swelled by near kin as resources are combined in times of economic stress.

Inheritance. Inheritance patterns were poorly developed, for most personal material goods were burned at the death of the individual. Rights to eagle aeries, springs, and garden plots were passed down to surviving family members.

Socialization. Children were desirable and much attention was paid to the pregnant mother, birth, and child rearing. Often young children were tended by older siblings and by grandparents. Children were spoiled and indulged in a permissive environment. Ridicule was the primary means of discipline. Puberty rites were observed for both girls and boys. First menses was celebrated by the family by offering instructions to the girl and imposing food taboos and behavioral restrictions until the end of menstruation. Male puberty rites were not so well defined, but they usually revolved around the first killing of a large game animal. The boy was forbidden to eat of this kill, which was often given to an older relative. To celebrate the event further, the boy was bathed by a special hunter and painted red. Traditional education in crafts, Subsistence skills, and oral histories were provided to children by the appropriate grandparent. Education levels among Ute youths are low, with only half completing high school.

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