Ewenki - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Monogamy is practiced among the Ewenki and clan exogamy has been the norm. Boys and girls enjoy considerable freedom in choosing their spouses, although there have been cases of arranged marriages in which a girl of 17-18 may marry a boy of 7-8. In Chen Barag, elopement still occurs. The couple in love may set up a felt tent with a xianrenzhu beside it. During the night, the girl sneaks out and gallops away with her lover, and in the newly built xianrenzhu an elderly woman marries them simply by rearranging the girl's eight pigtails into two. Normally after the nuptial night spent with the bride's family, the newlyweds set up their own household within the husband's clan. Divorce is rare. Both levirate (excluding the elder brothers of the husband) and sororate (excluding the elder sisters of the wife) were common. Cross-cousin marriage, as the preferential marriage form, is no longer practiced.

Descent and inheritance traditionally followed the male line. The family head was the eldest male, but pieces of family property, such as shotguns and reindeers, were passed on to the youngest son.

Ewenki kinship terminology is partially classificatory and partially descriptive. While terms for father, mother, husband, and wife are definite and clear, other terms are not, making very little distinction between relatives from the father's side and those from the mother's side. Sex distinctions are clear in some instances but not so clear in others. The Ewenki seem to be more conscious of relative age than of generation differences, and sometimes they use the same term for people of different generations.

Socialization is informal and begins early. Hunting and tending herds are the principal themes. Competitions are frequently held to encourage learning of these necessary skills, and both boys and girls participate in horse racing and lassoing horses.

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