Suya - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Following initiation at about age 16, bachelors lived in the men's house and visited their lovers until they fathered a child, at which point they moved to their wife's house for the rest of their lives. There was a stated preference for marriage with a matrilateral cross cousin. Sororal or captive polygyny was practiced. Couples sometimes separated after the birth of their first child, but after the birth of a second child couples tended to stay together. Both sexes took lovers.

Domestic Unit. The most important domestic unit was the house (or sometimes two neighboring houses) consisting of older women (sisters or co-wives), their married daughters with their in-marrying husbands, and these women's children. The large house would have a single cooking fire on which all food was prepared and shared among household members, but each nuclear family had its own sleeping space in the house. Boys left their natal houses at initiation and lived with their wives' families after marriage. Extensive kinship-based food-sharing networks among houses (especially those of in-laws) ensured a fairly wide distribution of food from one house to other houses in the village circle.

Inheritance. After a person died his or her garden was usually destroyed, personal ornaments and tools were buried with the body, and sometimes pets were killed as well. Knowledge and ritual identity were passed with names before death.

Socialization. Infants and children were raised by both parents, by older siblings, and by other members of the large residential houses, who were all kin. In later socialization the name givers and other ceremonial relations played important roles. The Suya were quite tolerant of children until the onset of puberty, at which point they were expected to listen and behave properly.


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