Baniwa-Curripaco-Wakuenai - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Wakuenai marriage rules prescribe phratrie exogamy and a preference is expressed for marriage with patrilateral cross cousins (although either cross-cousin category is acceptable). Direct sister exchange is often practiced between preferred affinal lineages and sibs, and, in some cases, preference is expressed for marriages between people from equivalently ranked sibs of different phratries. Marriages are usually monogamous and arranged by the parents of the bride and bridegroom. Patrivirilocality is the dominant residence pattern; however, the rule of bride-service gives rise to temporary, and sometimes permanent, uxorilocality. Communities thus often include affinal relatives and can evolve into multisib/multiphratric communities or, in cases of two long-standing exchange partners, moieties. Evangelical missionary intolerance has greatly undermined residence patterns and cross-cousin marriage, thereby contributing to permanent uxorilocality. Husband-wife bonds are usually stable through a lifetime, but, in cases of infidelity or maltreatment, the affected party simply leaves his or her spouse.

Domestic Unit. Households generally consist of nuclear families, although elderly parents may reside with one of their married children. Even in the multifamily longhouses of the past, nuclear families were distinct spatial, social, and economic units. Nevertheless, villages today often appear as patrilocal extended families of several generations, with important interconnections among individual households.

Inheritance. The Wakuenai do not have a system of private property in lands or resources regulated by transmission. Phratry members' unlimited access to lands and resources is best understood as collective ownership. Cultivated gardens and houses are, nevertheless, considered private spaces; access is limited to nuclear families and, like other products of labor, they are considered to be individually owned. Traditionally, houses were abandoned after the death of their owners and garden lands could later be used by other phratry members. An individual's few possessions are either buried with the deceased or divided among his or her children.

Socialization. Past the age of weaning (3 years of age), children gradually begin to learn their roles—girls help their mothers with gardening and domestic chores, and boys often form play packs engaging in male pursuits such as hunting and fishing. Parents or grandparents discipline children by scolding or admonishing. The most intensive instruction is accomplished in initiation rites (at 8 to 10 years of age for boys; at first menstruation for girls) in which children are taught the laws of the ancestors on correct social living (generosity, avoidance of violence and revenge), receive instruction in sacred myths and rituals, and learn a variety of skills useful in adult life. Through ritual fasting and abstinence, initiates learn to control physical needs, demonstrating they are fully cultural beings capable of controlling their own destinies. Missionary intolerance of these rituals has greatly undermined their performance and, consequently, the traditional basis of authority over children. Mission schools and cult activities have in many cases completely supplanted the socializing function of initiation rites.


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