Husband Wife Relationship

Men and women lived very separate lives. Women farmed, cared for children, cooked, made household goods, and performed other domestic chores, while the men hunted and participated in warfare. Men at times helped in the fields but this was usually the responsibility of women. Since the society was matrilocal, the husband lived with his wife's extended family. The fields belonged to the matrilineage that used them, and they were inherited through maternal kin to succeeding generations of women.

Marriage of men to more than one woman (polygyny) of the same lineage, often sisters, was common and practical. In this case, the man did not have to divide his time between two households. Sororal polygyny was primarily practiced by Cherokees, which strengthen bonds among women and added to the status of women. No evidence of multiple husbands existed. If a marriage proved to be unsuccessful, the couple parted (divorced). This was preferred to not living in harmony. The man had no right to the property of his wife. If a spouse died, their partner had to observe a mourning period of no more than a year of seclusion before remarrying. Missionaries discouraged polygyny and the Cherokee National Council outlawed it in the 1800s (Perdue, 1998).

In Cherokee society, if a husband and wife divorced, the husband moved. The children always stayed with the mother because they were not related to their father. Yet, the children did know and respect their father. The man left his wife's house and returned to his mother's home. No stigma was attached to Cherokees who dissolved their marriages and later remarried.

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