Nivaclé - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Residence is uxorilocal, and marriage is generally monogamous except for leaders and shamans, who practice sororal polygyny (within areas of missionary influence this is not practicable). Marriage takes place after long friendship and premarital sexual relations in which the woman must take all the initiative. Men are fought over, with rival women aided by their female relatives. Men have a passive attitude toward sexual matters. Divorce is possible if either spouse wishes it. However, it is generally the woman who, as owner of the house, throws her husband's belongings out and expels him from the home.

Domestic Unit. The Nivaclé domestic unit consists of an extended matrifocal family in which up to four generations live together. The oldest grandmother is the highest-ranking authority. Nowadays, within the Mennonite sphere of influence, the nuclear family is predominant.

Inheritance. The role of shaman is generally inherited, as are some songs, passed down from father to son and mother to daughter. All the deceased's belongings are burned on the grave. Today money is inherited by the spouse or the children. Domestic animals remain in the possession of the daughters, and cultivated fields pass to the sons.

Socialization. Children are the tyrants of the family. There is no punishment other than a smile or ridicule, although reminders of the dangers of retribution by supernatural beings also serve as a means of socialization. Grandparents are in charge of education, which is imparted through discursive lore and examples. From the age of 8 or 9, children are forced to behave correctly. Punishment for misbehavior is meted out by an elderly woman from another domestic unit, who acts at the request of the parents. There is a great deal of school absenteeism, and very few young people go to secondary school.

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