Kaluli - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Kaluli marriages are arranged and usually set in motion by the elders of a prospective groom's longhouse, under the leadership of the groom's father. The young man and young woman to be wed are often quite unaware of Marriage plans until bride-wealth negotiations are well advanced. Bride-wealth is collected from most if not all members of the groom's longhouse, regardless of actual kin ties, and it is shared out in the same manner by the bride's longhouse Community. Sister exchange, or the provision of a groom's classificatory sister as marriage partner to a wife's classificatory brother, is the ideal, but it rarely occurs. Bride-wealth presentations are accompanied by great ceremonial, known as the "Gisaro," a ritual dance and song performance put on by the groom's kin and supporters. Upon payment of bride-wealth, the new wife is taken to the longhouse of her husband, but it may be weeks before conjugal relations begin. Marriage establishes a relationship of customary meat exchanges between the groom and his affines—particularly the father and brother(s) of the bride—which continue throughout the marriage. Polygyny is permissible, but it appears to be rare.

Domestic Unit. Within the longhouse, each nuclear Family functions as a semiautonomous unit in gardening and in making its own meals. However, since so much of social and economic life is based on the cooperative efforts of the wider range of longhouse members, and since food tends to be shared throughout the community, the entire residential community can be viewed as the unit of consumption.

Inheritance. Other than land and sago, which usually pass from father to son, personal possessions are few. Net bags, bows, tools, or items of dress or adornment are given to the surviving spouse, the children of the deceased, or close age mates.

Socialization. Young children are raised by their mothers, with the help of other women and older female children of the longhouse. A girl learns her future role early on by watching her mother and, as she grows older, by helping in the mother's tasks. Young boys soon find themselves free of responsibility, and they are encouraged to play at games or roam the territory with their age mates to hunt or fish. As a boy becomes independent of his mother's care, he moves from her sleeping platform to the unmarried men's communal hearth at the rear of the longhouse, and here he is exposed to the talk and tales of men. During a boy's teens he traditionally enters into a homosexual relationship with an older man, for it is thought that he needs semen to promote his development into full manhood. Prior to contact, the unmarried youths of several clans would go into seclusion in the bau a, or ceremonial hunting lodge, for periods of as much as a year. During this time of seclusion from women, the men and boys would go on day-long hunting trips throughout the forest, and thus each boy would have the opportunity to learn in detail the features of his territory, the behavior of the forest animals, and other elements of men's lore. This practice did not constitute an initiation per se, but it did provide a period of intense immersion in the world of men.

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