Something to be Learned From Everyone
The Nambikwara tribe has a very different societal structure compared to our own. The leader of the tribe is a chief, who is hand-picked by the chief before him. Once a man is chosen to be chief there is no rule that states that the man must accept, and a lot of times the chosen man will refuse. In this case the acting chief will need to choose another successor. The tribe’s chief is expected to have certain characteristics and has certain responsibilities that he must follow. In return for fulfilling all of his obligations the chief is allowed to have more than one wife. Polygamy and homosexuality are common among the Nambikwara tribe, and although their tolerances of these lifestyles are commendable, I don’t think that they are a reasonable model for our culture to follow.
Although the entire Nambikwara tribe is not polygamist, it is interesting that they seem to be very tolerant of polygamy. The only polygamist in the tribe is the chief. His first wife has the traditional role of a wife, as we would see it in a stereotypical marriage in our own culture. His other wives are chosen from the tribe, and are considered the most attractive and healthy young women in the tribe. Their role in the marriage is not traditional at all, and Levi-Strauss says, “They are, indeed, more mistresses than wives…” (Par.10). The privileges of this type of polygamist relationship are obvious. The chief is able to have a sexual relationship with as many young beautiful women as he wants, but also maintain a “traditional” marriage with his first wife. What has always been interesting to me is in polygamist relationship in our society, the wives have always claimed to never have issues with jealousy. Levi-Strauss reports, “The wives generally live together in harmony, and, although the lot of the first wife may seem thankless, she seems to feel, or at any rate to show, no bitterness as she toils away while her husband and his little...
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