Nganasan - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Traditional marriage was concluded between young people at about 17 to 18 years of age, when they had shown they were capable of caring for a family: a man by success in the hunt and reindeer herding and by the ability to prepare sleds, tipis (Russian: chum ), poles, and a wooden cradle; a woman by her ability to set up a tipi, process hides, sew clothes, and prepare food. Control over these matters was by the oldest generation. All negotiations between the clans of the groom and of the bride were conducted by specially selected persons, who reached an agreement about the gifts to be exchanged. During the first period after the wedding the young couple lived alternately with the parents of the groom and those of the bride. Then they set up their own dwelling and, with the support of relatives, organized their household economy. Premarital children were never an obstacle to a marriage and often remained in the family of the bride's father. Today marriage is registered in the village soviet in accordance with the law. The young couple settle in with parents or other relatives in the village, or at a hunting site. They eventually receive a government apartment.

Domestic Unit. Previously the nomadic collective included several related families. Now nuclear families predominate, usually consisting of a married couple in their productive years and their children. Parents often prefer to live separately from their grown children, unless they are left alone (i.e., by the death of a spouse). Older children usually study far from the family dwelling, returning only for vacations. Cooperation between families is common, and it is obligatory to provide old people with game from the hunt.

Inheritance. According to traditional law, the youngest son inherits his father's reindeer and his livestock mark. The nomadic dwelling is usually left at the grave site; sometimes it continues to be occupied by those who lived with the owner before his death (after a cleaning ritual has been carried out).

Socialization. Earlier, all education pertaining to the hunt, reindeer breeding, fishing, and knowledge of the kinship system and the management of the economy took place in the family or the nomadic group. Today the government, through kindergartens, schools, and special schools, has taken this obligation upon itself—for the most part tearing the children away from the traditional family. The influence of the family is sufficient, however, to make people regard their language as their native one, to value their ethnic identity, and to have some knowledge of their traditions. Usually after about the age of 30, having completed their schooling and returned to their family and their traditional activities, children begin to reacquaint themselves with their traditional culture.


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