Iroquois Kinship System Anthony Sifuentes ANT 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Instructor Mario Tovar March 5, 2012 The Iroquois is the group I have decided to do my research of kinship systems on. This will come from what I have found in the text of chapters three and four of the text. The Iroquois is a unilineal descent group. This means that descent is traced back through one sex or side of the family. They traced their bloodline through the female side of the family, meaning they were a matrilineal descent group.
These groups are not as common as patrilineal descent groups, which trace their bloodlines through the male side of the family. Horticultural societies used the matrilineal descent group because of women having a key part of the food producing role. They also owned land. The likelihood of a society being or remaining a matrilineal society depends upon how much food is obtained from hunting and herding. The more meat and food gathered by men as a result of this will drive down the role of women as major food producers.
The fact that descent groups extend beyond any one individual because it goes beyond any one person’s lifetime allows things to remain in a group for a long time. This includes property, land, hunting and fishing territories, animals, and even knowledge. Iroquois matrilineage gave women the right to fields and tools, since they were a horticultural society, this made sense. Women did most of the cultivating of the crops and they should have the rights to both the land and tools to reap what is sown. They also lived in longhouses.
These were long structures in which nuclear families lived in different compartments inside the house. After marriage, the Iroquois were matrilocal, meaning the husband lived in the wife’s community or longhouse. The eldest woman of a matrilineage was the most influential in decision making, including the allocation of resources and property. (Nowak & Laird, 2010, Chapter 4) This greatly differs from today’s society in that most of the bloodlines are traced back through the male’s side of the family. Also, most of the ecisions that I have heard of or seen are made and decided by the oldest or most respected man of a family. This is not to say one is more right than the other. In my own personal experience, on my father’s side, which is Mexican, my grandfather was the patrilineal leader of the family. The best way I can explain it is that my family roots for nuclear purposes goes to my grandparents on that side. Once my grandfather passed away, my grandmother took over as matrilineal leader. She passed away not long after him and that role was overtaken by my oldest aunt and her husband, with my aunt carrying the authority on that side.
Marriage among the Iroquois had to be exogamous. This means that they had to marry outside their lineage or clan. The Iroquois kinship system recognizes two groups: parents and siblings who are too closely related to marry, and potential spouses and in–laws. A person may marry a cross-cousin, where parallel cousins are considered as close as siblings. Parallel cousins are treated to and referred to as siblings and their parents and treated to and referred to as parents. They are traced through matrilineage and are in the first group.
In the Iroquois system, they cannot marry parallel cousins, but can and should marry cross-cousins. Sometimes referred to as the sibling-exchange system, it keeps wealth in the family and reasserts alliances between lineages. There are laws in American preventing cousins and family members from marrying. Aside from the legal ramifications, marrying within a nuclear family is dangerous, biologically. It is not as bad when it goes out as far as cousins, but there is a social stereotype against marrying someone close to you within the bloodline.
I personally do not a problem with second or third cousins marrying, but I have never had to go through knowing or wondering if someone in my family or if I was going through the marriage process with a cousin. Marriages in the Iroquois society were easily dissolved. Since everything went through the female side of the marriage, the man was an outsider living in the village. If the woman did not want to be married to him anymore, she packed his belongings and left them on the steps of the longhouse. When the man returned, he saw his things, realized the marriage had been terminated and returned to his own village.
Marriages in today’s society are much more differently dissolved. Today, we have to go through the process of dividing property, belongings, child support and visitation and well as money. A man or a woman cannot simply come home and realize a marriage is ended. We must go through courts and make sure that things are done according to laws. In what I have experienced, being married and divorced twice, people should think more before marrying. I do not regret marrying either time, but more thought should be put into it and more work should be put into marriages to make them last. Kinship affects my life in a very big way.
My family lines are important to me and I enjoy finding out where I come from and who my ancestors were. I also live it every day, because I currently live with my girlfriend, who has two children that are not mine. I find it difficult to discipline them because I am not their father and struggle with ways to make the house work sometimes. I believe that kinship is important and should be talked about and worked on by all of us to make our lives easier. Reference Page Nowak, B. , & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural anthropology. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc. https://content. ashford. edu