Iroquois Kinship

9 September 2016

This paper is going to introduce the Iroquois kinship. Kinship can best be defined as a system of social relationships, or in simpler terms a system of family. Kinship can be seen in our everyday lives within our own circle of family and friends, and how we classify them in regards to importance and how we treat them based on our classifications of them. Kinship can best be defined as a system of social relationships, or in simpler terms a system of family. Kinship involves how people classify each other, the rules that affect people’s behavior and people’s actual behavior” (Nowak and Laird, 2010). Kinship can be seen in our everyday lives within our circle of family and friends, and how we classify them in regards to importance and how we treat them based on our classifications of them. For example, you may love your best friend and treat them with respect but would you respect your best friend more than you respect your mother? This provides us with an insight of the kinship systems.

The Iroquois are a female dominated group. Unlike most societies, the Iroquois trace their ancestry through the women making them a matrilineal society. It is a culture of responsibility and respect, where each person is valued for their contribution to the group. Women are the main producers of food and owners of the land. Men help by clearing and burning forest areas to prepare for farming and hunting small game. The younger adults are expected to do a greater share of the work due to their youth, strength, and stamina” (Laird and Nowak, 2010).

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The structure of the Iroquois kinship system gives responsibilities of all members regardless of age of their sex. “The males are responsible for hunting and clearing the land. The younger adults are expected to do a greater share of the work due to their youth, strength, and stamina” (Laird and Nowak, 2010). The Iroquois people are known as the “Haudenosaunee” or “The People of the Longhouse”. The Iroquois Indians are a horticultural society located in the Northeast region of North America. Horticultural societies use a atrilineal system of succession because the women have the primary responsibility for provision of food and goods for the family. This includes property, land, hunting and fishing territories, animals, and even knowledge. The likelihood of a society being or remaining a matrilineal society depends upon how much food is obtained from hunting and herding. The more men contribute by gathering food, the greater their importance and roles will become. Because the Iroquois primarily rely on farmed foods for sustenance and trading, the women maintain the power status (Nowak & Laird, 2010).

The Iroquois live in long houses because they have large extended families. In the Iroquois culture, the woman in a marriage holds most of the power. After a marriage the husband lives with the wife’s community. The longhouses provide separate living quarters for each family to occupy. Divorce exists as part of the Iroquois culture. If the wife no longer desires to be married, she simply places her husband’s belongings in front of the house indicating he has been removed from the family. If there are children involved, the children will remain with the mother.

There some similarities between our culture and the Iroquois. The role of the female can be correlated when thinking of providing food for the family. The women gather food at the store as opposed to harvesting in the fields. Men also seem to have a correlation in they work they have responsibility to complete. Many males are involved in hunting for food and preparing an area or situation the female needs to complete a task much as the Iroquois prepare the field for planting. When comparing the Iroquois culture of kinship to personal family situations, many similarities emerged.

The family members care for the elderly members in their homes. Several generations live in each of the homes. One family, living in a daughter’s home, includes the oldest grandmother, the grand-daughter and her husband, and two grand-sons. Another family unit, living in the daughter’s home, includes the second eldest woman and her husband, their daughter, a grand-daughter and two great-grandchildren. The daughters care for the older generation as well as helping the younger generation as they grow.

The elder members of the family often try to run everyone else’s lives by instructing them on what they should and should not do and when they should do it. The Iroquois culture is one of the rare cultures of the world because it practices matrilineal descent. The Iroquois are matrilineal, the women hold most of the power in their tribes. Women are large contributors to the Iroquois food sources and greatly influence decisions made in the tribe. In a Iroquois marriage is where the woman holds most of her power and the children belong to her clan.

If she is not satisfied with her husband, she can simply pack his things for him and send him back to his childhood tribe. The Iroquois used nature and the natural resources around them to meet their needs. The Iroquois is a matrilineal culture. Unlike most societies the Iroquois are a female dominated group and every person in the family has their own responsibilities. Each person is valued for their contribution to the group.

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