West Greenland Inuit - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Most marriages were monogamous, but Polygyny was occasionally practiced. No marriage ceremony existed before the advent of Christianity. Divorce was not Unusual as long as a couple had no children. After the introduction of Christianity this pattern changed completely, and divorce was not legalized in Greenland until the passage of a marriage code in 1955. Virilocality was predominant, but in case of a shortage of hunters in the wife's family, the young couple might settle there. Today, young couples and many single persons as well move to a home of their own if it is possible to acquire one.

Domestic Unit. Several extended families, who probably often were related, spent the winters together, but during the summer the families who had shared a longhouse lived in separate tents in camps. Over the years, the households have become smaller, with an average of 3.3 persons per dwelling in Greenland in 1988.

Inheritance. When the head of a family died, his personal belongings were usually placed in the grave. If the oldest son was already in possession of an umiaq and a tent, or if he was still a child, these items went to someone else, who was then obliged to support the widow and her small children.

Socialization. Children were and still are given much attention. They were brought up permissively but disciplined by mockery and ostracism, and occasionally by threats of interference by external non-Eskimo agents. They learn from experience to cope with unexpected difficulties. Children must learn to control themselves and not show open aggressiveness. At present, some of the responsibility of the upbringing of children has been transferred to kindergartens and schools where different methods and other values may prevail.

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