Kinship is a crucial part of any society as it shapes the social and political relations that exist in that particular society. Relying on Alvard (2003), it is evident that kinship ties are part and parcel of hunter and gatherer societies including the Iroquoian societies. The contemporary Iroquoian society comprises of six nations namely; Oneida, Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, and Onondaga (Starna, 2008).
The Iroquois is a matriarchal society where children trace their roots to their mother's side (Engelbrecht, 2003). When a man got married, he moved in with his wife’s family therefore, prompting the children to identify themselves with the mother’s family. Hence, the matriarchal system makes women more powerful than men since they are given the authority to choose and remove clan chiefs from power . In addition, women had the authority to organize community festivals and ceremonies such as the corn-planting, maple and strawberry festival. Furthermore, women were also responsible for ensuring that their clan families had adequate food to survive the winter. This makes them a unique society which is female dominated. For instance, when men made decisions, women had to veto them (Salter, 2002).
Secondly, the Iroquois, considers the clan as their basic unit of organization (Coe, 2003; Searle, 1996). To this effect, members of the same clan live together as a family where intermarriage is forbidden. This has led the clan members to respect each other and consider sexual relations amid them as incest. As a result, they have established a marriage tradition which encourages cross-cultural marriages (Fenton, 1998).
Despite being a matriarchal society, the Iroquois have a Bilateral kinship system where children identify themselves with both sides of their parents (Coe, 2003; Starna, 2008). Consequently, children were valued by every family member of either side (Marlowe, 2004). Men had a responsibility of protecting the society from external invasion; they went to war to protect both their economic and political interests. Resultantly, the community respected warriors as they fought for the community welfare.
On the contrary, my society is quite different from the Iroquois. To begin with, my kinship system is patriarchal where men posses the overall power in decision making (Mace & Clare, 1999). That is; men hold key authoritative positions in the society with women having less power and authority to decide only at the family level. However, women’s decisions have to be vetted by men.
Second, children in my patriarchal society trace their roots to their father's side. This makes the mother's side insignificant in the family tree. When a woman marries, she moves in with her husband and the children are associated with their father (Clare et al. 2003).
Lastly, in the patriarchal society, the nuclear family is the basic unit of organization (Mace & Clare, 1999). This means that, the parents have the ultimate authority to make family decisions without interference from the extended family.
Nevertheless, the similarity between the two systems of kinship is that incest is discouraged. That is, intermarriage among relatives is prohibited and whoever practices it is considered an outcast (Mace & Clare, 1999).
Kinship has played a critical role in shaping my behavior in general. Firstly, kinship ties have taught me that incest is immoral. This has prevented me from having sexual relations with my sisters, cousins and other relatives. Secondly, through kinship ties, I have learned that respect for one’s parents is paramount. Thirdly, I have gathered that my mother’s side is not as important as my father’s side. This means that I am required to identify with my father’s side.
Conclusively, kinship systems play a major role in shaping the social, economic and political behavior of its society members. They outline the roles of both men and women in a society, they define the relations among members of a community, and influence the belief systems especially those dealing with social relations.
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