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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Family Definition

Who May One Marry

Family Definition

Customs of courtship

Residence

Rules of Separation

Sexual and gender relations

Marriage Patterns

Women's roles and rights

Bands and
communities

Visual representation of nature's laws


The nuclear family of today was rare among Indigenous groups, existing only insofar as a man could take his wife and move away from the camp, in effect setting up his own independent household. He could only do this after he had paid off any obligations to his father-in-law, and perhaps when his wife was about to have their first child. Usually such a bold move indicated a strong personality, one associated with being a chief, and other family and supporters would gravitate to the nuclear family and form a community. Extended families were the norm, as Driver notes: "Extended families would appear to be widespread if we noted low frequencies. Practically every tribe had at least a few three-generation groups of relatives living together at a given time. While we do not have adequate statistical evidence to prove this statement, the abundant reference to grandparents and grandchildren in biography and folklore indicate plenty of three-generation propinquity." (236).

Furthermore, he notes that there were two types of extended families: "On the northern Plains, it is difficult to choose between independent polygynous and patrilocal extended families. Both were present among all tribes, and any difference among them can at best be a matter of emphasis. Probably the larger unit was more typical before the horse, and later gave way to the more individualistic polygynous unit when the fur trade changes many features of the socio-political organization." (Driver 238).

 

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