Gender Related Social Groups

Gender is crosscut by most major social institutions, notably bands, local groups, the totemic system, and kinship and category systems. (Mardu are divided into four named categories, or "sections," used largely as labeling devices, and the major ritual moiety division is also based on these sections.) The bulk of the religious life also cuts across the gender divide and involves men, women, and children in interaction. However, the realm of men's secret-sacred life provides the strongest basis for single-sex groupings of initiated males (with novices sometimes also present) to the absolute exclusion of women and children. This constitutes the strongest and most inviolable social boundary, though women also have rituals exclusive to them. The division of labor also favors single-sex groups, as men hunt, alone or in small groups, while women and children tend to seek food in larger groups that enable them to socialize.

Patrilocality seems to be the culturally preferred mode of "residence," because of an expectation that children should grow up in their father's territory so that sons can assume important religious responsibility for its sites, rituals, and paraphernalia. However, children typically become familiar with sites and accompanying mythology associated with both their parents, and Mardu often express their claims to country via their grandparents on both sides. Local groups tend to have a patrilin-eal core, but multiple affiliative principles allow people connected through other linkages (e.g., birthplace, initiation place, totemic affiliations, prolonged "residence") to become members. There are no matrilineal kin groups. The most important nonkin associations for males or females are groupings associated with secret-sacred aspects of the religious life.

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