Yuit - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. The Asiatic Yuit are unique among Eskimo groups in having clans. On St. Lawrence Island the clans—each with a distinctive name—continue to function in selection of marriage partners, composition of boat crews for hunting, transmission of the "name soul" to newborn clan members, and social support of all kinds. Clan names usually were derived from traditional camping areas; for example, the "Meruchtameit" are the "people of Meruchta," a hunting site used for centuries by a particular family group. One of the St. Lawrence clans, the "Aimaramka," is composed of people whose forebears migrated from Siberia, and extended family relatives and fellow clansmen are still found in the nearest coastal Siberian village. Descent was and continues to be patrilineal. Through life a Person remains a member of his or her clan of birth. Even though marriage was clan-exogamous, women maintained certain Social and religious ties and practices with their natal group.

Kinship Terminology. In addition to clans, the overall pattern of terms used to designate kin also significantly separates the Yuit from most other Eskimo groups. Although the more widespread Eskimo pattern designates all cousins by a single term—as is done in American society—the Asiatic Yuit follow a different model, that of the Iroquois terminological System. Behavior toward one another expected of cross cousins is culturally structured to be the familiar "joking relationship," and patrilineal parallel cousins show unstinting support and help for one another. So close is that relationship, in fact, that the terms for brother and sister are used interchangeably with those for a patrilineal parallel cousin. Relations Between a person and his or her mother's sister's children, although not as close as those with patrilineal parallel cousins, are still supportive and nurturant. The Yuit also had the institution of fictive "brothers," by which two unrelated men engaged in drumming and singing contests as well as exchange of goods and sexual access to the partner's wife.

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