Barama River Carib - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Apprenticeship for marriage requires a number of years of bride-service. Each young man attaches himself to the household of a potential wife, usually any one of his bilateral cross cousins. Literally on the periphery of the household, the young man is socially isolated by taboos against talking to or looking at his prospective inlaws. The girlfriend serves as an intermediary in the youth's contribution to the hunting and other subsistence activities of the household. The period of isolation for the young man lasts until the birth of his child. He announces his new status as a father via the couvade. He remains in his hammock for several days and follows restrictions on activity and diet associated with pregnancy. Men would cut short the period of couvade in order to meet work schedules at the mines.

A daughter remains a highly regarded member of a household throughout her life. While in her natal household, she gives birth to her first and perhaps subsequent children as well. She does not leave her own mother until she is an experienced mother herself. Even then, she returns often to visit her parents. Later, she will include her dependent mother or father in her own household. During the years of mining, many adult daughters never left their parents.

The practice of polygyny continued into the mining days on a minor scale. Usually, a death or other contingency led to a plural marriage as a way of including everyone. Also, several men who aspire to the newly introduced position of headman have several wives. The Barama River Carib have no formal ceremony to mark marriage. It is accomplished by adhering to the social expectation of cooperation with a spouse on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, divorce is a de facto cessation of day-to-day cooperation.

Domestic Unit. Prior to mining, a household was composed of a man and his wife or wives and their unmarried children. These children included their own and those they had adopted. A relative from the older generation may also have been absorbed as a dependent. Divorce or death could dissolve a household, the remaining members joining existing households or forming new households with available partners. The family was temporarily extended with the expected marriage of a daughter. Her husband-to-be resided uxorilocally until shortly after the birth of his child, when he was free to establish a new household. In contrast, employment in mining promoted father-son and father-son-in-law cooperative bonds. As males secured jobs, they tended to disassociate from the pattern of sharing resources with a group of bilateral kinsmen. Employment of any duration acted to stabilize partnerships within households, and the family became extended. A son or son-in-law and his wife and children remained a part of the household.

Inheritance. There is no inheritance of any consequence among the Barama River Carib.

Socialization. Children are highly valued and indulged. Socialization takes place in the informal context of the household. Although mothers provide the primary care, fathers and older siblings regularly offer attention to children. Government schools have been opened for Barama River Carib children. Some adults also attend classes in hope of learning how to read and write English.

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