Ket - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Prolonged Russification and migration have profoundly modified Ket society. In the past it was apparently comprised of localized patrilineal clans grouped into exogamous phratries. Each clan had defined sacred places and cemeteries; shamans and elders provided leadership. Property marks defined clan lands and goods. Inheritance, strictly patrilineal, usually ultimogenous, was symbolized by family fetishes ( alali). Summer households were usually nuclear families; winter households were extended.

Kinship. Today there are primary terms (mother, father, brother, sister), descriptive terms (mother's brother, etc.), and classificatory terms (persons of grandparental generation without distinction for gender or line of descent, etc.). Within generations, relatives older than Ego are upgraded; those younger are downgraded. Nevertheless, neither levirate nor sororate occur, in line with Russian Orthodox prohibitions. Marriage is strictly monogamous and, until the Russian Revolution, was indissoluble. The mother's brother prepared a boy's first real bow, gave his nephews and nieces presents, and adopted them if they were orphaned.

Marriage. Until recently the father of a proposed bridegroom would send an older kinswoman as go-between to the proposed bride's kin. She would bring, in silence, a cauldron with cloth or a dress as a present. Later the groom's kinspeople would come seeking approval from the bride and her family. This was usually refused several times until the groom's kinsmen promised to treat her well and not beat her. The key gift would be fifty squirrels killed by the groom and his father and brought by the groom's older-women relatives. The wedding was begun by washing the bride's hair, a task of three of the groom's older female relatives. In the ceremony, the bride and groom sat together in the overall assembly, which was divided by phratry. A shaman and his assistant officiated, albeit without costume or tambourine—with only his drumstick for divination. After the feasting, the bride and groom returned to their parents for three days; until then they could not speak to each other. Nonvirgin brides lost one-third of their bride-price.


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