Suya - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. There were two fundamental types of groups in Suya society. One of these, the nuclear family, was based on the idea that parents and their children shared a common biological substance. The nuclear family was the basic unit of production and residence but was not stressed in the ritual system and had little temporal depth. The Suya contrasted the bodily relationship that characterized the nuclear family with the other form of group identity—names. Names consisted of fixed sets of words that an individual received shortly after birth from a certain relative, who in turn had received that same set as an infant from an older relative. With the names came an entire public social identity—membership in two pairs of ceremonial (not matrimonial) moieties, body-painting styles, song styles, and even particular ritual privileges that were passed from name giver to name receiver. A boy usually received his names (social identity) from someone classified as his "mother's brother" and a girl from someone classified as her "father's sister" (in what is usually referred to as the extended or classificatory sense). Names could not be passed within the nuclear family, and brothers were usually given names that placed them in opposite moieties. In this dual system, the enduring groups were those formed by name-set transmission, and knowledge and ritual prerogatives were passed through them.


Kinship Terminology. There were several sets of kin terms, the application of which was made more complex by the fact that every individual could trace more than one relationship to most of the other members of the community. The address terms showed an Omaha cross-cousin terminology. Terms of indirect reference revealed the importance of the house unit as a group. Most distant relatives were addressed by one of the words of their name set.

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