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 it includes a nice, although possbily out-of-date, summary of mating patterns/cousin marriage in native north american societies [pgs. 227-229 – links added by me]:


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:


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.)

personality goes a long way…

in this past sunday’s linkfest, i posted a link to an article about how some researchers found that the ‘big five’ personality traits don’t really seem to apply to some south american hunter-gatherers — the tsimané. i have to admit that i didn’t really pay close attention to the report until jayman commented on it (thnx, jayman!). what the researchers apparently found is that tsimané personality traits don’t fall into a big set of five categories, but rather a ‘big two.’

from the original research article [pdf – pg. 10+]:

“Evidence for the five-factor structure of personality among the Tsimane of Bolivia is weak. Internal reliability is generally below levels found in developed countries. The five-factor model did not cleanly emerge in any of the exploratory or confirmatory factor analyses, and Procrustean rotations did not produce strong congruence with a U.S. sample. Procrustes analysis, which is arguably the most forgiving test for replication of the FFM (McCrae et al., 1996), yielded an average congruence coefficient of 0.62. This is well below the benchmark of 0.90 and considerably less than most congruence scores found in other cross-cultural applications of the Big Five (McCrae et al., 2005; Schmitt et al., 2007)….

“Exploratory factor analysis yields a personality structure that is largely distinct from the Big Five….

“The internal reliability of the first two derived factors in Table 5 (five-factor solution) and Table S1 (unrestricted factor solution) is high, supporting the possibility of a ‘Tsimane Big Two’ organized according to prosociality and industriousness, as described above. These two factors show significant response stability; response stability for the first derived factor is stronger than for any of the Big Five…. However, these Big Two are not the two higher order factors of Digman (1997), characterized as stability and plasticity by DeYoung (2006), which neatly subsume the Big Five by merging Extraversion with Openness and Agreeableness with Conscientiousness and Neuroticism. Our factors instead cut across the Big Five domains. These results are consistent with the findings of Ashton, Lee, Goldberg, and de Vries (2009), where higher order factors emerge because lower order facets load onto multiple factors. Not only do we find that items load onto multiple factors, but the loading coefficients in our exploratory factor analyses are generally lower than those found in previous studies of the Big Five.

“Our findings provide evidence that the Big Five model does not apply to the Tsimane. Our findings also bring into sharper focus past reports from developing societies where the FFM was not clearly replicated. Of the 50 countries reported in McCrae et al. (2005), only India, Morocco, Botswana, and Nigeria produced average congruence scores less than 0.90. The lowest congruence scores reported by McCrae et al. are 0.53 and 0.56 for Openness in Botswana and Nigeria, respectively. In the African and South Asian countries from Schmitt et al. (2007), internal reliability for Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness is similar to what we report for the Tsimane. Because the samples from the developing countries in Schmitt et al. and McCrae et al. are
primarily college students, more representative samples from these countries may have produced even lower congruence scores and internal reliability.”

so, the big five maybe don’t fit some other populations, either! hmmmm. curiouser and curioser.

again, i have to admit that i haven’t thought very much about this, but i feel kinda dumb right now in that i think i’ve been forgetting first principles when it comes to these personality things, namely, human biodiversity! why should we suppose that all human societies everywhere will fit into the big five categorizations? we shouldn’t be assuming that at all!

but jayman’s already neatly summed up the problems with personality research and hbd, so there’s no need for me to repeat what he’s said:

“While the HEXACO model is interesting, and certainly feels more ‘complete’ than the Big Five, I will say that personality research in general still has a *long* way to go, hence I don’t put too much faith in such models (or most ‘models’ in social science, for that matter). A big part of the problem is that too much of psychological research has been done on WEIRD people, and even then on the segment of those who are college students, and this has been a major stumbling block in trying to gauge the gamut of human behaviors….”

just to note, in the tsimané article, the researchers point out that “most studies of the FFM have been restricted to literate, urban populations, which are uncharacteristic of the majority of human evolutionary history.” they also say that their study of tsimané personality types using the five-factor model is the FIRST done on an illiterate, indigenous society. oh, dear.

more from jayman…

“HBD Chick, more than most, has demonstrated the importance of sometimes very specific behavioral traits, which are quite heritable. Muslim honor killing is one such example (where does that fit in HEXACO?). It’s very clear that standard personality tests do not capture heritable behavioral traits that are of great significance.

“Indeed, it may turn out that it may not be possible to boil down human behavioral traits into simple dimensional systems because the range of behavioral traits is so great, and encompasses behavioral responses designed for fairly specific situations (which sounds almost like a sacrilege coming out of a reductionist like me); for example, how does one account for the ideological divide between libertarian liberalism of Anglo societies and collectivism/communism of Eastern Europe and China on the other (a divide, which, itself, is really only relevant for highly organized societies with a long history of civilization and agriculture)?

“Perhaps one day they’ll cook up a system that can broadly encompass the range of behavior, but that day is not today.”

(note: comments do not require an email. tsimané fellow.)

the kato

i thought i’d start running through pinker’s “war deaths chart” to see if i can work out any/some of these populations’ mating patterns. already posted about the semai (low violence rates, outbreeders) and the yąnomamö (greater violence rates than the semai, inbreeders).

now i’m just going to begin at the top of the list and work my way down — so today it’s the cato kato indians of california (or the cahto depending on your spelling preferences):

pinker - war deaths per 100,000 people per year - the kato

as you can see, the kato are at the top of pinker’s list. (in the 1840s, the kato were fighting the yuki, so remind me to post about them, too.)

from The North American Indian. Volume 14 [pg. 11]:

Marriage was arranged between the two persons concerned without consulting anybody else. Having secured a girl’s consent her lover went clandestinely that night to sleep with her, and at dawn he stole away. The secret was preserved as long as possible, perhaps for several days, and the news of the match transpired without formal announcement, even the girl’s parents learning of their daughter’s marriage in this indirect fashion. His marriage no longer a secret, the young man might then erect a house of his own. The bond was no more easily tied than loosed, for either could leave the other for any reason whatever, the man retaining the male children and the woman the female. Children were not regarded as belonging any more to the paternal than to the maternal side. When adultery was discovered, the only result was a little bickering and perhaps an invitation to the offender to take up permanent relations with the new love.”

sounds like cousin marriage was not insisted upon in kato society. otoh, sounds like there were no proscriptions against it, either. so matings in kato society could’ve been close — at least some of the time.

from Native Americans: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Peoples [pgs. 156-57]:

Marriage was generally a matter between the couple involved, although girls were generally prepubescent when married. The Cahto practiced polygyny as well as the taboo that prevented a man from addressing his mother-in-law directly. Divorce was easily obtained for nearly any reason.”

again, no apparent insistence upon, or prohibitions against, cousin/other close marriage. however, from here [pg. 247] we learn that the pre-contact kato population was ca. 1,100 individuals. that’s not very many! with such a small population, it would be very difficult, indeed, to avoid inbreeding. (don’t forget, too, because native americans went through a bottleneck coming to the americas, they’re all relatively related to one another — genetically speaking. so any inbreeding would be even more inbred than in other populations — if that’s the right way to put it [i know it’s not!].)

interestingly, from Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8: California [pg. 244]:

“The Cahto lacked a true tribal organization. During precontact time there are estimated to have been 50 villages, with the permanent settlement situated in the three valleys where the town of Cahto once stood, and the towns of Branscomb and Laytonville now stand.”

another question is whether or not the kato married non-kato people. they were, apparently, on quite friendly terms with the pomo indians and many of them spoke pomo. did they marry out? dunno.

so, the kato? i’m gonna call it: probable inbreeding.

kato lady (she looks nice!):


previously: the semai and the fierce people

(note: comments do not require an email. cato.)

“the fierce people”

the yąnomamö of brazil/venezuela:

these guys are the unsemai — from steven pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature:

“Helena Valero, a woman who had been abducted by the Yanomamö in the Venezuelan rain forest in the 1930s, recounted one of their raids:

“‘Meanwhile from all sides the women continued to arrive with their children, whom the other Karawetari had captured…. Then the men began to kill the children; little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but they caught them, and threw them on the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet, they beat them against the trees and rocks. . . . All the women wept.'”

yikes. =/

according to pinker, the annual yąnomamö death rate due to warfare was something like 275 out of 100,000 in the mid-twentieth century. definitely higher numbers than the semai:

pinker - war deaths per 100,000 people per year - the yanomamo

warfare here, of course, refers to battles between villages (perhaps, too, between alliances of villages — i don’t know — haven’t finished reading the book yet!). and because there is so much violence between villages, the yąnomamö have to be wary [pg. 131]:

“Daily activities begin early in a Yanomamo village. One can hear people chatting lazily and children crying long before it is light enough to see. Most people are awakened by the cold and build up the fire just before daybreak….

“The entrances are all covered with dry brush so that any attempt to get through them is heard all over the village. There is always a procession of people leaving the village at dawn to relieve themselves in the nearby garden, and the noise they make going in and out of the village usually awakens the others….

This is also the time of day when raiders strike, so people must be cautious when they leave the village at dawn. If there is some reason to suspect raiders, they do not leave the confines of the upright log palisade that surrounds the village. They wait instead until full light and leave the village in armed groups.”

would it surprise you to learn that the yąnomamö are pretty closely inbred? from pinker:

“Among the Yanomamo … two individuals picked at random from a village are related almost as closely as first cousins, and people who consider each other relatives are related, on average, even more closely.”

the yąnomamö prefer to marry their first cousins — specifically their cross cousins, outside their patrilineage, but within the village. from chagnon [pgs. 141, 144, & 150]:

“[M]en [can] marry only those women they put into the kinship category *suaboya.* By collecting genealogies that showed who was related to whom in specific ways, it was then possible to specify any man’s ‘nonmarriageable’ and ‘marriageable’ female kin. As it turned out, men could marry only those women who fell into the category of kin we would call ‘cross-cousin.’ These are, from a man’s point of view, the daughters of his mother’s brother or the daughters of his father’s sister…. The rule, therefore, is that the Yanomamo marry bilateral cross-cousins. Bilateral means ‘both sides,’ that is, father’s *and* mother’s side of the family. From their vantage, therefore, one of their marriage rules is, ‘Men should marry their *suaboya*.’ In a very real sense, this is like saying ‘We marry our wives,’ for men call their wives and their female cross-cousins suaboya. Thus, to ask, ‘Whom do you marry?’ seems somewhat peculiar to them. They marry their wives, as real people are supposed to do….

“The general Yanomamo rule about marriage, insofar as it can be phrased in terms of descent rule, is simply that everyone *must* marry outside of his or her own patrilineal group. The Yanomamo patrilineage is, therefore, an exogamic group: All members must marry outside of it into a different patrilineage…. In Yanomamo society, one’s cross-cousins will always belong to a different lineage but parallel cousins will belong to your own lineage….

“Each person belongs to the patrilineage of his or her father, and all men marry women who are *simultaneously* their Father’s Sister’s Daughters (hereafter FZD) *and* their Mother’s Brother’s Daughters (hereafter MBD). …

“The ‘ideal’ model presented above (Figure 4.8) represents each man as marrying a woman who is simultaneously his MBD and FZD. In actual practice, this rarely happens, largely because of physiological and demographic reasons…. What *does* happen is that men marry women who are sometimes FZDs or sometimes MBDs.

how long have they been mating like this? who knows?

read more about yąnomamö marriage patterns here.

now, excuse me a sec while i indulge my other pet interest: the types of houses that different peoples construct for themselves (and their families). we saw before that quite a few cousin marrying populations live in homes that exclude outsiders (courtyard houses, for instance), while non-cousin marrying populations like the english live in homes that sorta invite outsiders in (like around the village green).

what sort of houses do you think the yąnomamö live in (traditionally anyway — hint: a shabono — more cool pics via google)?:


from chagnon again [pg. 131]:

Kaobawa’s village is oval shaped. His house is located among those of his agnatic kinsmen, that is, men related through males ties. The occupy a continuous arc along one side of the village. Each builds his own section of the village, but in such a way that the roofs coincided and could be attached by simply extending the thatching. When completed, the village looked like a continuous, oval-shaped lean-to because of the way in which the roofs of the discrete houses were attached. Each house, however, is owned by the family that built it. Shararaiwa, Kaobawa’s youngest brother, helped build Kaobaw’s house and shares it with him. He also shares Koamashima, Kaobawa’s younger wife….”

apparently, there can be several shabonos in one village. the way that the extended family/clan’s houses all open on to the family’s central yard, and the houses’ backs face out to the world in a very uninviting way to strangers, reminds me of other inbred groups’ clan houses — like the hakka walled villages of southern china. those two — the shabonos and the hakka walled villages — are both even defensive in nature — the shabonos have a pallisade around them.

h/t henry harpending. (^_^)

previously: when did you stop beating your wife? and the semai and there’s no place like home

(note: comments do not require an email. yąnomamö kid.)