Western Apache - Marriage and the Family



Marriage. Distant patrilateral cross cousins in the father's clan or phratry were considered ideal and some marriage partners reflect such exchange in several successive generations. Sororal polygyny, levirate, and sororate marriages all occurred. Chastity was highly valued and girls were extremely shy when interacting with boys. During the first few days of a marriage the couple did not necessarily sleep together and sometimes were chaperoned by a female relative of the wife. Residence was matrilocal with the son-in-law responsible for hunting, protection, and labor on his in-law's farm. Rather strict mother-in-law avoidance is still practiced by many Apaches. Divorce was easy and could be effected by either party.

Domestic Unit. Gotah were composed of several generations with a core of matrilineally related women. Some contemporary residence units still reflect this structure, but with jobs frequently requiring sons-in-law to be elsewhere, many families have other arrangements. But, even in families living in tract-style houses it is not unusual for a number of matrilineally related relatives to be close neighbors and for unmarried daughters with small children to compose part of a household. This pattern reflects both high rates of illegitimacy and poverty and traditional views of kinship and residence patterns.

Inheritance. Personal property was often destroyed or buried with an individual, but possessions could be given to any close relative or friend prior to death. Today some items are buried with the body, but the bulk of the estate is divided among a person's children.

Socialization. Apaches value above all else the autonomy of the individual. This applies to children as well as adults, and thus children are often indulged.

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