historic mating patterns of native north americans

still on vacation** (i know – it’s disgusting! (~_^) ) — but still reading! a bit.

i picked up this book (pub. 1969) in a used book store the other day (yes, an ACTUAL book store!). it includes a nice, although possbily out-of-date, summary of mating patterns/cousin marriage in native north american societies [pgs. 227-229 – links added by me]:

“COUSIN MARRIAGE

First-cousin marriage was permitted or perferred by a small minority of peoples….

“On the northern Northwest Coast, cross-cousin marriage was the preferred kind of union. If no first cross-cousin was available to a man, he chose a more remote cousin designated by the same word in the language. Among the Haida, a boy of ten years of age ideally went to live with his mother’s brother, who gave him his education in the lore of the sib as well as in practical matters. When the boy reached marriageable age, he ideally married his mother’s brother’s daughter and continued to live in the house of his mother’s brother. When the latter died, the boy, who was now the deceased’s son-in-law and also his sister’s son, inherited his house, land, and chattels as well as his social position and prestige. If no mother’s brother’s daughter was available to a young man, he might substitute a father’s sister’s daughter, who was designated by the same kinship term in the language….

“Among the Kaska, inland from the Northwest Coast, the only first cousin a man was permitted to marry was his mother’s brother’s daughter. This was the preferred marriage, although many men had to be content with cousins further removed or with unrelated wives. At Lake Teslin, between the Kaska and the coast, and among the Chipewyans farther east, a man could marry only his father’s sister’s daughter.

“Proceeding farther east to the Cree and Ojibwa, we find a different picture. Although marriages with both kinds of first cross-cousins were permitted, they were less frequent than those with more remote cousins. Double cross-cousin marriage sometimes occurred; a man married a woman who was both his mother’s brother’s daughter and his father’s sister’s daughter at the same time. This could happen only when two men in the older generation had exchanged their sisters, each marrying the other’s sister. The offspring from these unions would be double cross-cousins. Figures on the frequency of single cross-cousin marriage show that the mother’s brother’s daughter was married more often then the father’s sister’s daughter. The pattern of the Montagnais-Naskapi of the Labrador Peninsula was similar to that of the Cree and Ojibwa.

“In California and Oregon, cross-cousin marriage was permitted or perferred only by a small minority of tribelets, and in every case the mother’s brother’s daughter was singled out. In the Great Basin, cross-cousin marriage was permitted in a minority of localities but was nowhere the preferred form. In the Southwest, only the Walapai permitted a man to marry either variety of cross-cousin. The Maya of the Yucatan appear to have had both kinds of cross-cousin marriage at the time of first Spanish contact, although the evidence is indirect….

Parallel cousin marriage [like fbd marriage – h.chick] was tolerated in a very few localities, but was nowhere a preferred form.

complicating matters though:

“POLYGAMY…

The vast majority of North American peoples practiced polygyny. It was probably most frequent in the northern part of the Plains and Prairie areas…. Actual figures obtained from the records of priests among the Crees and Ojibwas indicate an incidence of polygyny in former times well over 20 per cent. Another area of common occurrence was the Northwest Coast. Although polygyny was limited to the wealthier class in this area, mainly because of the great amount of the bride price, it seems to have exceeded 20 per cent in many localities.

“Exclusive monogamy was the rule among the Iroquois and a few of their neighbors. This is to be expected in cultures in which matrilineal descent and matrilocal residence were coupled with female ownership and control of agricultural land and houses, not to mention the unusual authority of women in political affairs. Here the men literally moved in with their wives, who could divorce them merely by tossing their personal effects out of the door of the longhouse….”

ruh-roh! (~_^)

“The only other area where female dominance approached this level was that of the western Pueblos in the Southwest. Here the picture was similar, and exclusive monogamy prevailed. The other instances of exclusive monogamy were scattered and occurred in both bilateral and patrilineal societies. They do not lend themselves to any ready explanation.

“Sororal polygyny — that is, the marriage of a man to two wives who were sisters — probably occurred wherever polygyny was to be found. A number of Plains tribes had no other form. A man in this society was especially anxious to acquire an eldest sister as a first mate, with an eye on acquiring her younger sister if and when he could afford them…. [I]t is easy to see that polygyny had more utility in societies where male mortality in hunting and warfare was high. The Plains was one of these areas. Among the Eskimos, where a man had more difficulty in supporting multiple wives, the extremely high male mortality was offset by female infanticide. This partially explains the more modest amount of polygyny present in the Arctic.”

more on native north americans eventually! (^_^)

previously: mating patterns in colonial mexico: the mayans and the kato

**not hbd chick

(note: comments do not require an email. haida guys.)

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14 Comments

  1. I always wondered, since, I began reading your site, whether the Iroquis confederation was in the early stages of out breeding, since they had rules about how husbands should be exchanged between tribes, stuff like that.

    Reply

  2. Sounds like the Iroquois had the right idea. But, then, why were so dang aggressive militarily? BTW, they routinely replenished their supply of warriors by “adopting” young males in the neighboring tribes they defeated. That they practiced argriculture more extensively was said to have given them a military advantage — I guess because an army moves on its stomach. They certainly ranged further in their predations than predominantly hunter/gatherer groups.

    Reply

  3. @luke – “Sounds like the Iroquois had the right idea. But, then, why were so dang aggressive militarily?”

    well, the iroquois were (apparently) monogamous, but i actually haven’t found out whether they married cousins or not. as an iroquois, you would not have been allowed to marry anyone in your clan, but your clan was reckoned along the maternal line, and since it was the men who moved between clans, it would’ve been permissible for you to marry your mother’s brother’s daughter (since your mother’s brother would’ve moved to another clan when he married and his kids would belong to that other clan), your father’s sister’s daughter (since your father’s sister would’ve been in another clan — the clan out of which your father moved), and possibly your father’s brother’s daughter, as long as your father’s brother hadn’t also moved into your mother’s clan when he got married. (got all that? (~_^) )

    in fact, the iroquois kinship system — which was named for the iroquois, after all — rather encourages cross-cousin marriage (presumably mbd marriage). but after a ca. 20 minute google search, i haven’t found any info on whether or not the iroquois married their cousins. i’ll keep working on it (another day)! (^_^)

    Reply

  4. “The other instances of exclusive monogamy were scattered and occurred in both bilateral and patrilineal societies. They do not lend themselves to any ready explanation.”

    “Among the Eskimos, where a man had more difficulty in supporting multiple wives”

    I’d have thought the simple practical explanation of the 2nd quote would be the most likely default explanation for the 1st quote.

    .

    @Luke
    “Sounds like the Iroquois had the right idea. But, then, why were so dang aggressive militarily?”

    Paradox of an internally peaceful, high synergy society – they’re capable of generating more external military power then their neighbors.

    Reply

  5. @grey – “Paradox of an internally peaceful, high synergy society – they’re capable of generating more external military power then their neighbors.”

    yes! good point.

    do we know was iroquois violence directed mostly towards non-iroquois then? versus inter-iroquois-clan feuding or something like that? i have no idea about anything re. native americans.

    Reply

  6. “Paradox of an internally peaceful, high synergy society – they’re capable of generating more external military power then their neighbors.”

    More bad news for the Anglophone west, and other Euro countries being enriched at the moment. The Chinese will simply walk in.

    Reply

  7. @hubchik

    “do we know was iroquois violence directed mostly towards non-iroquois then?”

    good point, my

    “Paradox of an internally peaceful, high synergy society”

    should have had a question mark after it.

    I was assuming again, based on them inventing Lacrosse – although that might be wrong too :)

    Reply

  8. The similarity of lacrosse to certain traditional ball games on the other side of the Atlantic has been used as evidence for more eventful transatlantic cultural contact than was once supposed. In this model Europeans introduced the woodland Indians to the sport which is thought to appear at around the time Vikings reached North America.

    Reply

  9. “The similarity of lacrosse to certain traditional ball games on the other side of the Atlantic”

    Interesting. I was thinking more in terms of the parallel with Anglo culture creating large team sports. (That’s a very tenuous correlation obviously.)

    Reply

  10. @grey – “’do we know was iroquois violence directed mostly towards non-iroquois then?’

    “good point, my ‘Paradox of an internally peaceful, high synergy society’ should have had a question mark after it.”

    Further Research is RequiredTM (~_^)

    Reply

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