Courtship and Marriage

Formerly, Navajo marriages were arranged between families on the basis of clan exogamy and efforts to maximize familial-pooled talents and resources as well as to affiliate clans and build social and economic relationships (Reichard, 1928, pp. 58-73). The mother's brother had the final say on a niece's partner, as did a father or paternal grandfather on a young man's bride (Reichard, 1928, p. 139). Bridewealth—livestock and other gifts from the groom's family to the parents of the bride—was and is an integral part of solidifying reciprocal relations between extended families. The wedding ceremony involves washing of the groom's hands by the bride, the bride's hands by the groom, consumption of cornmeal mush from the east, south, west, and north quadrants of a ceremonial basket by first the groom and then the bride, and the giving of advice by elders to the couple, followed by a feast for all in attendance. Polygamy was common through the 1940s, with a preference for a man to marry sisters simultaneously or a wife's daughter from a previous marriage upon her maturity. Cowives live in separate homes in close proximity to each other. To maintain affine ties between families and clans, a widower was expected to marry one of his deceased wife's sisters. Today, marriages result from courtship and personal affection. Elders continually caution members of the younger generation against having relations with clan relatives.

Spousal relationships are generally characterized by deep affection and close companionship. Spouses eat and sleep together and spend time in each other's company on a regular basis. Formerly, Navajo practiced polyandry; the fact that cowives were frequently sisters aided maintenance of harmony within the family. No stigma is associated with divorce. Either spouse can and does initiate separation. Children stay with the mother or her female relatives.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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