Socialization of Boys and Girls

In households, older children exert control over their younger siblings whether it be to demand their younger siblings' pieces of chewing gum or to pass on a chore that has been assigned to them by an elder. Elders seldom interfere with this process. As children grow older, male children assert dominance over female children, with fewer household tasks required of them and greater freedom given them. As boys become men, they have continuous alliance with their own male relatives, especially their brothers, parallel cousins, fathers, and fathers' brothers. These men usually work together as boat crew members. A senior man is captain of the walrus-hide hunting boat (angyapik) used for spring whaling. Women, who usually marry outside of their own patriclan unit, do not continue the close working relationships they once had with their mother, grandmother, sisters, and aunts.

The Socialization of Boys as Hunters.

Boys learn hunting tasks and equipment preparation from their older male kin. Instruction begins within the household when a boy is 6 or 7 years old or even younger. In contemporary communities (c. 2002), instruction by a boy's male family members competes with hours of attendance required in the local school, but public schools in Alaska make special allowances for male hunting tasks and allow school boys to take "subsistence leave" in order to help out their families with spring whaling or other hunting needs.

The Socialization of Girls as Food Managers.

Theoretically, girls could take subsistence leave also, but this is much less common. Girls, in contrast with boys, are unlikely to have mastered the subsistence-related sewing and food-preparation tasks once considered the hallmark activities and achievements of females until after they leave home to join their husband's family. For this reason, they are less likely to have the skills needed by their families in conjunction with subsistence work and less likely to ask for subsistence leave.

Recognition of Boys' Hunting Achievements.

When a boy takes his first marine mammal, usually a seal, his achievement is celebrated within the family in much the same way it would have been celebrated in the past. His mother or another female relative divides up his catch once he brings it home and carefully distributes all of it to senior elders, being careful not to keep any for the immediate family. The skin is carefully cured by his mother or another senior woman from his family and it, too, is distributed to an elder.

Recognition of Girls' Sewing and Gathering Achievements. Because of the shift in learning traditional subsistence tasks among girls, a girl's sewing achievements or food-gathering and/or preparation achievements are less likely to be celebrated at home, since these will most likely take place after she has married or in the context of instruction in a "culture" class in the local high school. In the past, these tasks would have been mastered at home under the instruction of a grandmother or an elderly aunt (one of her father's or grandfather's unmarried sisters, or one of her father's brother's wives) and celebrated within the home. A girl's first sewing accomplishment would have been given to a senior elder. Her first collection of greens or berries would have been given to a senior woman outside her immediate family or to a respected widower.

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