Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 199 pages of information about Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia.

The Mohegan and Kutchin phratries call for special notice.  The kins of the former are arranged in three groups:  wolf, turtle, and turkey; and the first phratry includes quadrupeds, the second turtles of various kinds and the yellow eel, and the third birds.  We find a parallel to these phratries in the groups of the Kutchin, but in the latter case our lack of knowledge of the tribe precludes us from saying whether totem kins exist among them, and, if so, how far the grouping is systematic; the Kutchin groups, according to one authority, are known by the generic names of birds, beasts, and fish.  As a rule, however, no classification of kins is found, nor are the phratry names specially significant.

Dual grouping of the kins is also found in New Guinea, the Torres Straits Islands, and possibly among the ancient Arabs[5]; but evidence in the latter case has not been systematically dealt with.

Other peoples have a similar dichotomous organisation; but it is either not based on the totem kins or they have fallen into the background.

In various parts of Melanesia we find the people divided into two groups, each associated with a single totem or mythological personage, and sexual intercourse, whether marital or otherwise, is strictly forbidden between those of the same phratry[6].  In India the Todas have a similar organisation[7], and the Wanika in East Africa[8].

Customs of residence and descent affect the distribution of the phratries within the tribe, no less than the composition of the local group.  With patrilineal descent they tend to occupy the tribal territory in such a way that each phratry becomes a local group.  With the disappearance of phratry names this would be transformed into a local exogamous group, which is, however, indistinguishable from the local group of the same nature which is the result of the development of a totem kin under similar conditions.

As a rule kinship organisations descend in a given tribe either in the male line or in the female.  Among the Ova-Herero, however, and other Bantu tribes, there are two kinds of organisation, one—­the eanda—­descending in female line and regulative of marriage, is clearly the totem kin; property remains in the eanda, and consequently descends to the sister’s son.  The other—­the oruzo—­descends in the male line; it is concerned with chieftainship and priesthood, which remain in the same oruzo, and the heir is the brother’s son.[9]

This dual rule of descent brings us face to face with the question of how membership of kinship groups is determined.


[1] Howitt, N.T., p. 225.

[2] Cf.  Owen, Musquakie Indians, p. 122; Lahontan, Voyages, II, 203-4; Morgan, Ancient Society, p. 81.

[3] Two kinds of kinship are recognised in Australian tribes—­(a) totem and (b) phratry or class—­but the precise relationship of one to the other is far from clear.  Nor is there much information as to what terms of kinship are used within the totem kin.  It is certain that neither set of terms includes the other, for the totem kin extends beyond the tribe or may do so, and there is more than one in each phratry.

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Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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