Iroquois Kinship System
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...
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