Waimiri-Atroari - Marriage and Family



Marriage. The preferential marriage, according to the Waimiri-Atroari, is between people classified as bilateral cross cousins, with a strong preference for village endogamy between close relatives, either genealogically or by coresidence (there being no distinction in Waimiri-Atroari thinking). Another frequent type of marriage is between ya'wi and baski (mother's brother-sister's daughter), especially when the prospective spouses are of similar age or as a marriage for widowers. Marriages between people in the category of parallel cousins are thought of as being rather incestuous but are preferred to marriages between individuals from distant villages. There was one example of a union between an elderly yuhi and a batimki (father's sister-brother's son), thought of as highly incestuous but practiced as a temporary arrangement until a marriageable girl reaches puberty.

The Waimiri-Atroari relate that, in the past, there was a slight tendency toward uxorilocal residence after marriage, at least temporarily, in the case of intervillage marriages. The young husband was expected to work for his father-in-law and contribute fish and game to his wife's family. In recent years there has been some interference from FUNAI workers, who were attempting to change marriage customs and were ordering the young people to marry. There is no marked marriage ceremony—the young man simply moves his hammock beside his wife's. During adolescence, a period of trial marriage is common. Polygynous marriages occur but are disapproved of by FUNAI workers. There are cases of polygamy and polyandry, espedaily between groups of brothers and of sisters, sometimes with temporary exchanges of spouses. Levirate and sororate occur.

Domestic Unit. In the past the ideal Waimiri-Atroari village was a closed unit of about thirty to sixty or more endogamous bilateral kindred. In practice, the village members were usually closely related, although the WaimiriAtroari conception of kindred (aska) makes no absolute distinction between genealogical ties and those of coresidence. A village was often made up of a leader with his daughters and sons-in-law as the core members. In several present-day settlements the Waimiri-Atroari are establishing nuclear-family households.

Inheritance. The Waimiri-Atroari traditionally owned useful personal objects, but these were burned together with the body at death. Today industrially manufactured items are kept by close relatives, and the dead are buried facing east, in cemeteries, according to the customs imposed by FUNAI workers.

Socialization. Children traditionally were socialized at home. In late 1985 a school was started at one settlement, and by 1989 schools were operating in all ten settlements. Infants are always in the company of their mothers, mothers' sisters, elder sisters, or mothers' mothers when they have living relatives of these categories. Fathers and their brothers also dedicate time to their children. Social codes of behaviors between certain classes of kin are learned from infancy. In recent years the Waimiri-Atroari have been eager to have schools, which are seen as a means of gaining greater access to the national society.


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