Gender Related Social Groups

The Canela sociocultural system involves male versus female oppositions. The male place is in the central plaza, while the female one is the ring of houses which line the outer side of the village's circular boulevard.

The Canela are not lineal; they reckon kinship bilaterally with a matrilateral emphasis, and they are matrilocal.

The principal social structure in the circle of houses is that of matrilines descending from a single female ancestor. An arc of houses on the village circle that is formed by such matrilines is called a longhouse. Longhouses have no names. In 1971, the village of Escalvado was composed of 13 longhouses ranging from 12 houses in length to one house. While brothers and mothers' brothers of the women of these houses visit them each day to govern certain activities, the women largely control most activities in their houses.

In contrast, the men dominate the activities that take place in the plaza. The elders, composed only of men, hold meetings there twice a day, led by the first chief of the tribe, a man. Decisions of many sorts emanate from the plaza. Judicial settlements of disputes between extended families take place there or in the house of the plaintiff or the defendant along the village circle of houses. In either location, men dominate the resolution of such problems. Thus the genders structure the principal social institutions to a very considerable extent.

Upon marriage, a young man moves in with his wife's family, with her mother and a number of her female kin and their spouses and children. Since divorce was almost impossible before 1975, the young man most likely stayed in this house past grandfatherhood until death.

The Canela are outstanding for their number of male societies. They maintain two daily active age-set moieties that are formed according to the age of their male members, not through their kinship. They also have three festival moieties that are formed through male nametransmission, the names passing from naming uncles to their named-nephews (from MBs to their ZSs). In addition, they maintain a high-honor society, which passes membership through male name-transmission, and a low-honor society, which acquires membership through its members' reputation for individualism and joking behavior.

Women do not form daily active societies or ceremonial societies that are occasionally active. They maintain female memberships—two young women—in almost all of the men's societies. The two men's societies that are of highest ceremonial honor have no women or only one female member.

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