Tiwi - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. The matrilineal clan is a group whose members assume common descent from an ancestrally conceived group of unborn spirit beings located in clan-specific localities in or near a body of water. In the precolonial belief system, conception is accomplished when a father locates one of these unborn spirits and sends it to his wife, who must be of the same clan origin. Each clan is named and members of a clan provide physical, moral, and emotional support to fellow clan members in numerous and diverse situations. These clans are further grouped into four larger and exogamous groups. For each individual, two clans are significant: his or her own clan; and his or her father's clan. It is among the latter clan group that one should seek a spouse. One's father's clan and the natural species with which it is affiliated is also considered to be one's "Dreaming." One's Dreaming serves as inspiration for expressive ceremonial dances, songs, and art. In the social world of the Tiwi everyone is related.

Kinship Terminology. In the first ascending generation, one's parent's siblings of the same sex are classified with the parent, and their children (one's parallel cousins) are classed with one and one's siblings. One's parent's opposite-sex Siblings are distinguished from each other, as are their children (one's cross cousins and potential spouses). One's siblings are distinguished in several ways: first by gender and then by relative age. Further distinction is made for siblings who have the same father but whose mothers are of different clans. There are two further distinctions that are behaviorally Significant although unmarked by terminology. Aminiyati siblings are those who have the same (named) father's father, and "one-granny" siblings are those who have the same (named) mother's mother. Among the latter group there is strict avoidance between siblings of the opposite sex once sexual maturity is imminent, while the potentially much larger group, those who acknowledge a common grandfather, was in precolonial days the group of siblings that was largely responsible for the integrity of the countries.

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