Article abstract: Kinship relationships of various types have often formed the basis for political and social customs among native North Americans, including systems both much like and vastly different from those of Europeans
Like almost all cultures around the world, traditional American Indian cultures considered family relationships to be of paramount importance. Family relationships could be quite complex, as could the larger units of social organization. Therefore, a number of terms must be noted before American Indian social organization can be examined.
The largest societal group was the tribe, or nation. The precise number of tribes that have existed in North America is difficult to ascertain, since many were virtually exterminated by the European invaders, but they certainly numbered in the hundreds. Within some tribes were moieties, two subgroups within the tribe, often identified with particular animals. The next group was the clan, identified by close familial relationship. Finally there was the family group, extended or immediate. Among various Indian tribes, these groups were of varying importance.
The term “matrilineal” describes a society in which lineage, property, and various powers are passed down from mother to daughter. Patrilineal societies pass property and power from father to son. Patrilocal societies are those in which wives move into their husbands’ households; in matrilocal...
(The entire section is 2176 words.)
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