Kinship and Social Organization
The Role of Kinship in the Life Cycle
The enactment of ANCSA in 1971 had the effect of creating regional and village corporations and enrolling former village residents as stockholders. With the prospects of funds and jobs, families once located in distant placesâfrom Fairbanks to Clevelandâreturned home and replanted their roots. Contacts had been maintained through letters, telephone calls, and return visits but also through remittances of cash from city dwellers and shipments of "native foods" from the persons who remained at home. In the early 1980s, people were still returning to their natal villages, six persons in the three villages known to me in the 1982-83 period alone. Two had retired from life careers in the Department of Defense.
Before and after 1971, Gambell villagers who had been sent away from home to be educated at BIA or private shools (usually sponsored by a Christian mission) or to serve tours of duty with some branch of the U.S. military usually returned to the village and resumed a subsistence life-style. Gambell residents, it is quite clear, were somewhat more conservative than the residents of Unalakleet and Wainwright. The rich subsistence resources around the Northwest Cape and the obligations to patriclansmen to assist one another in harvesting those resources and maintaining the clan undoubtedly influenced Gam-bell youths to return to their natal villages on completion of their education or military tours. But some Gambell families, too, were residing in Nome, Anchorage, and other places. Most of them returned. Returning families joined their kinspeople and friends who had never left. Since 1971, children and young adults in the three villages have experienced life cycles similar to those of the Inupiaq, Yupik, and Siberian Yupik residents who preceded them in their natal villages over the past century. The differences in those cycles are few and can be pinned to the differences between patrilineal and bilateral descent organizations. I will separate them for convenience, but the similarities far outweigh the differences.
The Gambell Cycle Through Marriage
A child in Gambell enters a family, a clan segment, and a clan whose relations have been maintained by parents and lineal relatives. From their earliest experiences, children can turn for affection, protection, comfort, instruction, and sustenance not only to their parents and older siblings but also to paternal uncles, aunts in the patrician, paternal grandparents, and their patrilateral cousins.
Husbands and wives in Gambell in the majority of cases were reared in Gambell. The wife becomes a member of her husband's clan, so the significant connections for her children will be with her acquired patrician, and it would be odd to maintain strong connections between her children and her natal clan. In at least one clan, a woman who gained membership through marriage is the clan's steward, or leader. Children are not restricted to life in their natal village, however. They are welcome at the homes of friends or at their mother's natal household within the village; and throughout their lives, they are welcome among, and network in many ways with, clansmen in Savoonga and Nome.
The Unalakleet-Wainwright Cycle Through Marriage
Children in Wainwright and Unalakleet are born into wide networks of bilateral kinspeople, which have been established in earlier generations and maintained by their parents, older siblings, and older collateral relatives. Often husbands and wives, more so in Unalakleet than Wainwright, were reared in the same village. In some instances, of course, one of the spouses, usually the wife, moved into the village. Postnuptial residence in the husband's village is common in all three villages.
In Unalakleet and Wainwright, cases of village exogamy reduce the number of contacts that children will have with families of the in-marrying spouse, but an effort is made to keep the connections as strong as possible. Children may spend summers with grandparents, or with uncles and aunts, in their mother's home village; holiday visits are memorable as well. Sometimes, a Unalakleet or Wainwright family will live for a period in the mother's home village, and children have memories of the time spent there.
Major Similarities in the Cycles
As they grow older, children in the three villages develop their own special friendships with certain kinspeople (cousins, favorite uncles, or, in Unalakleet and Wainwright, also favorite older persons). Youths form birds'-egg collecting crews at Gambell, hare-hunting teams in Unalakleet, and groups of associates who practice for subsistence hunting by shooting at lemmings, small birds, and the like, in Wainwright. Inasmuch as grade schools and high schools have been built in all of the villages since 1971, the children also make friends among schoolmates, play on basketball teams together, and wrestle in good-spirited fun at the drop of a hat.
As young adults, they assume increasing responsibilities within their families and within the village; more and more, they are expected to hunt and provide, to help older people, and to become involved in village affairs. The circles of kinspeople are enlarged for Unalakleet and Wainwright people on marriage, and new responsibilities are assumed by married persons in all three villages. After marriage, their focus begins to center on their own growing families and those of their siblings (brothers in Gambell, brothers and sisters in the other villages). They also focus on the needs of their aging parents, aging relatives, and elderly pensions in general.
When they, too, have become elders, they receive the love of their children and grandchildren and the respect of the community. Their well-being is the concern not only of their near kin but also of more distant kin (clansmen in Gambell), neighbors, and young adults, who bring them portions of their subsistence harvests, give them rides, cut wood for them, and dean house for them.
Marriage and Residence
In some particulars, marriage customs being one of them, the patrician system in Gambell is sufficiently different from the bilateral systems in the other villages to require separate treatment.
Marriages in Gambell are arranged by the families of the betrothed, much as they were when observed by Hughes (1960) in the mid-1950s. Strict clan exogamy is no longer observed, however. Indeed, even the prohibition about marrying a first cousin carries only a weak sanction, although that is the sole relationshipâother than that of sibling-siblingâthat is prohibited. Whereas a couple might suggest to their respective parents that they wish to marry, the approval and arrangements are determined by the parents in consultation with their respective clan stewards and, perhaps, clan elders. Gifts are exchanged between the sets of parents-in-law: the groom's family delivers gifts before the wedding,' the bride's family after the ceremony. Ceremonies are either civil or religious (Christian). Reciprocal gifting does not take place if marriages are contracted with persons from villages other than Gambell or Savoonga.
A woman loses her social identity in her natal clan, yet retains her personal name, which belongs to her natal clan. Robbins (Little and Robbins 1984: 86) reports that when he asked a man whether he had visited his daughter and newly born grandson, the man replied, "No! She belongs to them [his son-in-law's clan] now." With the loss of the old social identity is associated a new social identity. And specific, lifelong economic obligations and responsibilities accompany that new social identity.
The woman reduces interactions with her natal clan, yet throughout her life she will probably assist the dependent elders of her father's patrician. She will also assist other dependent villagers, such as young widows and divorcees, but her acquired patriclan. She will receive most of her assistance.
The groom must perform bride service for his father-in-law for about one year before the couple can establish a residence with the groom's patrician. The newlyweds either take up residence in the bride's natal household or they occupy a house adjacent to her father's house. Thereupon, the groom provides labor to his wife's father's clan and to her family. He hunts, hauls water, hauls garbage, distributes subsistence goods, and obeys the requests of the father-in-law and the elders of his wife's natal patrician.
The period of service normally ends when the groom has proved himself worthy or when the couple has a child. The two are not necessarily unrelated. The period can extend beyond one year if a house near the husband's family cannot be located. On return to his patrician, the couple pays deference to the elders of the patrician. The groom resumes his membership in various harvesting crews, and the wife begins to integrate into the routine work conducted by women of the clan.
Unalakleet and Wainwright
Marriages between first cousins are not approved (the children of either the father's siblings or the mother's siblings). Marriages between first cousins have occurred on rare occasions, but they are discouraged before they are consummated and frowned on thereafter. The parents do not arrange marriage, and the groom does not serve the bride's father's family.
Both villages are large enough to accommodate a considerable amount of village endogamy (marriage of partners from within the village). Our marriage data for Wainwright are not as complete as the Unalakleet data, but according to Luton (1985, pers. comm.), at least one of the partners in most Wainwright couples was reared in the village, and their marriages are heavily endogamous.
Restricting our discussion to Unalakleet, there were 119 native couples in the village in 1982 in which either one or both spouses were born and reared in Unalakleet: 56 percent of the marriages were between Unalakleet residents (endogamous), and 44 percent were between a person from Unalakleet and a person from outside the village (exogamous). An informal tally of outmigration yielded the names of 88 women and 33 men. (We asked knowledgeable people to tell us who had left the village and not returned, except to visit, during the past two decades.) Women moved to cities (72) rather than to villages (16). Men did, too, but at the much lower rate of 2:1 (22 to 11), not 4.5:1.
In the event of exogamous marriages, men bring their spouses to reside in Unalakleet more often than Unalakleet women bring their spouses to the village (the ratio is 3:2 in-marrying women to in-marrying men). Unalakleet and Wainwright fit the patrilocal-virilocal mode, in which most couples reside in the village of the husband or the husband's male kinsmen. This is surely analogous to, although more flexible than, the Gambell custom. Given a subsistence life-style in which men hunt, fish, and rely on one another for help and support in a vast terrain that, itself, requires knowledge and experience to comprehend, choosing patrilocality-virilocality is a simple derision. When men move away from Unalakleet or Wainwright, it is usually after they have secured full-time jobs and have given up, at least temporarily, much of the subsistence life-style. Yet if the Wainwrighter moves to Barrow, he will continue to harvest resources in that region, while returning home to harvest others.
Nevertheless, when men move from their home villages, especially when they take up residence in a city, they become dependent on "CARE" packages of native foods from home, or they engage in subsistence activities during vacations. If they live in Bethel, Kotzebue, or Nome, as some do, they engage in more limited subsistence activities in those large villages.
Intervillage marriages are especially revealing, in Unalakleet at least. Here we see very clearly the relation between sex and place: native men marry natives (3:1 over nonnatives) and bring them to Unalakleet. Native women who bring their husbands from another village or place to reside in Unalakleet, or who have married men in Unalakleet who were born and reared in some place other than Unalakleet, more often marry nonnatives than natives (4:3 over natives). With one exception, when Unalakleet women marry native men from elsewhere and establish residence in Unalakleet, those men are from nearby villages in Norton Sound. There are good reasons for this postnuptial residence practice. It is not a simple indicator of patrilocal-virilocal practices on the wane.
Indeed, for those couples residing in Unalakleet in which a local woman was married to a native from some other village, all but one of the marriages were with persons from Norton Sound villages, principally the neighboring communities of Shaktoolik and St. Michael. Residents of these villages have shared some extraction areas with Unalakleet residents for several generations. The in-marrying men bring considerable knowledge of the terrain with them and move easily into the subsistence region, only part of which is new to them.
The couples residing in Unalakleet in which local women married nonnative men in all but one instance met in Unalakleet, where the nonnative was gainfuly employed. Those men were originally drawn to Unalakleet because employment was available. During the period of our inquiry, those men were either full-time employed or serf-employed. They were on the peripheries of a subsistence life-style.
Marriages between nativesâof either sexâand nonnatives are rare in all three villages. Similar circumstances experienced by some natives in each of the three villages make such marriages possible. Native men, for example, frequently have met their spouses while serving in the armed forces or while working or studying in some place outside the area. They bring them back to Unalakleet. Unalakleet women-also have met their non-native spouses in schools or while working in urban areas. Yet some women met their nonnative husbands from among the U.S. Air Force personnel once stationed near the village. And some, of course, met their nonnative husbands when the latter were gainfully employed in Unalakleet. In practically all instances, Unalakleet women moved from Unalakleet and took up residence at a location chosen by their husbands. Only those Unalakleet women who met their nonnative husbands during the period in which those men were working in Unalakleet, and who still happened to be employed there when we conducted our study, reside in the village. In all likelihood, they will leave when the men's jobs are terminated or when they get better jobs elsewhere.
The patrilocal-virilocal bias is apparent, as are the reasons for it: subsistence pursuits are crucial; they are conducted in large part by men, especially during winter; and coordination and cooperation among extractorsâthe kind that grow throughout a lifetimeâare central to family and village life. The in-marrying native men from nearby villages know some of the terrain, know the customs of extraction, and share parts of a common heritage with the residents of Unalakleet.
There were only four native couples in Unalakleet in which neither spouse was born or reared in the village. All four are from adjacent villages in Norton Sound, and all are closely related to a woman who married a Unalakleet man and took up residence in Unalakleet. She provided the family connection that made it possible for these couples to gain acceptance, hunting partners, and familiarity with the terrain.
Marriage and postnuptial residence practices are important in family organization and in the relations among kinspeople and affines beyond the nuclear family. Even, as in Wainwright, when families appear to be becoming less dependent on naturally occurring resources, more particular in the resources they extract, and less dependent on wider networks of kinspersons, affinal and kinship relations within the village are activated in most social interactions. As conditions become more difficult, those same relations are activated for subsistence activities, sharing, and providing support. And the relations with affines and kinspersons in other villages that may have lain dormant are also activated as may be prompted by exigencies and more protracted conditions.
Demes and Clans
It is clear that households arc not independent in any real sense. They are always connected to larger "families," whether bilateral or patrilineal. Although the families to which we refer remain only vaguely defined and await discussion of kindreds and clan segments for definitions, it should be clear that families extend over geographic space to include kinspeople living even in distant places and over genealogical space to include kinspeople of sometimes distant relationship. This is one point on which the kinship organizations of Unalakleet and Wainwright differ from that of Gambell. Another point on which they differ is the relative firmness of the kinship structures beyond the nuclear family. I will explain this below.
From Family to Kindred to Deme in Unalakleet and Wainwright
The bilaterally organized villages of Unalakleet and Wainwright are homes to families whose members reside in those villages and in more distant places as well. Their loose structures, which encompass all living relatives and memories of deceased ones, appear akin to large, nuclear, family-centered kindreds, yet those in which affines as well as kinsmen are recognized as members.
The natives in Unalakleet and Wainwright employ kinship terminologies that kinship analysts fittingly call "Eskimo" (Murdock 1949; Driver 1956). They are so similar to Anglo-American kinship terminologies that they require little definition. A person uses one term for a male sibling and another for a female sibling. The children of mother's brother, mother's sister, father's brother, and father's sister are all addressed and referred to as "cousin" (English gloss). Parents are distinguished from uncles and aunts, but uncles and aunts are not further distinguished as to whether they are on the mother's side (matrilateral) or father's side (patrilateral). Helpful, close relations obtain among cousins, much as they obtain among siblings, and between uncles and aunts and their nephews and nieces, much as they obtain between parent and child. Parental and sibling bonds, by proximity and duration, are usually, but not always, stronger than uncle/aunt bonds with nephews/ nieces.
Because bilateral descent, in conjunction with marriages, converts relations that are affinal (in-laws) in one generation to kinship (blood) in the next, a child's family kindred includes both relatives (mother's kinspeople) who are his father's affines and relatives (father's kinspeople) who arc his mother's affines. So family flexibility, rather than rigidity of the ordering principles of membership, is the rule. Indeed, when a person marries, his or her affines become family to his or her children, as does his or her personal family of orientation.
Affinesâthat is, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, parents-in-law, and sons-in-law/daughters-in-lawâdevelop and maintain strong bonds through joint activities, whether they reside in the same or in different villages. If they reside in the same village, on occasions, some male affines hunt and fish together; some female affines prepare meals together; and all affines attend community celebrations together, often establish camps dose to one another, and maintain close relations with the children of their sisters or brothers (their nieces and nephews). It is the kinship bond of uncle and aunt to niece and nephew that makes more secure the bonds between siblings-in-law and the kinship bond between grandparent and grandchild that makes more secure the bonds between parent-in-law and son-in-law/daughter-in-law.
If affines reside in different communities, bonds are maintained through visits, the sharing of foods, particularly those that are abundant in one place but scarce in the other, and resource extraction excursions, again often for resources locally abundant in one place but scarce in the other (such as roe-on-kelp, caribou, or berries).
Kindreds: Their Relations to Households and "Families"
Figure 11 is an idealized, schematic representation for Wainwright and Unalakleet of siblings' family kindred of orientation (the one into which brothers and sisters are born and reared) and a male's (ego's) family kindred of procreation, a kindred that is added to his personal kindred of orientation. A woman ego adds her husband's family kindred to her new kindred of procreation.
These kindred organizations are flexible, allowing for adoptions and for movements of persons from one household to another within the kindreds, as exigencies and interests dictate. The members are quick to specify the nature of their kinship relations to other members, if asked, or to volunteer such information to the fieldworkers ("he's my cousin, my mother's sister's boy"), if a family member's name is mentioned. We were always informed about relations if a person's name came up in reference, say, to a basketball game, a long-distance hunting trip, or participation on the village's dance team. That is to say, family members are proud of their relatedness, share many experiences, and want the uninformed person who mentioned the name, no matter what the context, to know how they are related.
In Unalakleet and Wainwright, family kindred is not mere descent reckoning: kinship relations entail a vast array of joint activities, and descent reckoning is in large part a memory of those activities. During the late 1970s and up through 1983 in Wainwright, some of the activities associated with subsistence, which provide the context for interactions with kinspeople and friends, were engaged in with less frequency than during the previous decades. But as Luton (1985: 141) cautioned, kin ties of great importance still existed within the community and should not be underestimated. They are always asserted in relation to marriage, social events, and task group formation. As conditions worsened in 1984 and 1985, kinship ties were invoked for subsistence pursuits, assistance, and mutual support. Relatives are proud to be relatives, and they enjoy sharing mutual responsibilities and obligations.
Family kindreds in Unalakleet and Wainwright, then, are more or less unbounded, because kindreds of orientation overlap with kindreds of procreation. At marriage, the spouses have more kinspeople, more obligations, and more persons to turn to for assistance than they had before. The side on which most emphasis is placed, husband's or wife's, is determined in largest part by residence. That is, the kindred located in the village in which the couple resides will provide the most daily connections of all kinds. If the marriage is endogamous, both husband's and wife's kindreds are emphasized, but the male hunting-fishing activities will usually swing the weight to the husband's kindred of orientation. Children, however, receive succor, support, and attention from both sides and serve to increase the activities that are shared between them.
The "Family" In Unalakleet and Wainwright
It is here that we can solve the puzzle posed by the ill-defined, unbounded "family" discussed in chapter 8. Family kindreds can, and usually do, occupy several houses and thus comprise several households. An elderly person may have a house and choose to live alone; a young nuclear family may have a separate residence; and a third family, comprising mother, father, unmarried children, a divorced son or daughter, and a couple of grandchildren, may occupy a third house. Yet the three households may well be the core of a family, that is, the set of people who most frequently interact in hunting and fishing activities, food preparation, baby-sitting, meals, and the like.
But residence flexibility is such that some people come and go from one house to another (married couples, students, or divorced men or women may coreside with their parents or grandparents, or with an uncle and aunt, then move onto another house or return to school). Nevertheless, the kinship, nurturance, support, subsistence organization (extraction, distribution, consumption) bonds remain. A family, then, in Unalakleet and Wainwright is not a house or a household. It is an unbounded organization of bilateral kinspersons that expands at marriage. Each child sees his or her family as an ever-widening circle of relations.
Functions of the Family in Unalakleet and Wainwright
Each circle of family, in the wider sense, has its own history, traditions about its place of origin and its ancestors, and stories about memorable events. Wainwright is, however, a more recent village than Unalakleet, so that many of the family histories for persons in that community extend only three or four generations.
Native populations near what is now Wainwright, as we know, had been in contact with, and in the service of, nonnative business operations for about 140 years. Some of the consequences of those contacts were disruptive to the small native communities between Point Hope and Point Barrow. The small villages in about a twenty-five-mile radius of the Kuuk Lagoon were not immune to these disruptions and dislocations. Families splintered away from small villages to serve or to join those operations. Diseases afflicted them, and an unusually high mortality rate reduced their numbers (see Luton 1986).
By the 1890s, several Inupiat communities, comprising mixtures of coastal and inland peoples, had coalescedâintermarrying, extracting resources of land and sea, and serving the nonnative enterprises that operated near Wainwright. In 1904, the Bureau of Education school and a reindeer herd were established there. Wainwright was born, as families in the region relocated there. The settlers came from several communities during the whaling and postwhaling periods. Families continued to immigrate to the village throughout the 1940s. The early settlement was, then, complex, as it was in Unalakleet following the epidemic during the early nineteenth century. The recent history of native emigration and immigration has seen more activity in Wainwright than in Unalakleet.
These historical-demographic caveats aside, each family has land that its members have customarily used as campsitesâat least for three generations but usually for considerably longer periods than thatâfor harvesting native foods. Each family has names that reflect its continuity. Families of today continue the history bequeathed to them. They retell the smiles and traditions and pass on their store of knowledge to younger members. Every year they have set up camp on land recognized as theirs, either through allotment (a special act for Alaska natives, now rescinded by ANCSA) or through traditional practice or subsistence use. Some of those parcels have been claimed by families through ANCSA's provisions for conveyance. When Eskimo children are born, they receive Eskimo names in remembrance of past members of the family; sometimes the English names (first and/or middle) given to a baby also recall the memory of family members who have died.
Within an immediate family, nuclear or extended (the smallest circle of kinspeople), each member holds responsibilities toward the others. Parents want the best for their children and work hard to provide for them. In Unalakleet, parents put food on the table largely by subsistence harvesting of the native resources. In Wainwright in 1982, parents put about half the food on the table from subsistence pursuits. In Unalakleet, most families obtain at least a portion, and in about one-third of the families most, of the cash needed to house, clothe, and otherwise provide for their children (e.g., to meet school-related expenses) by commercially harvesting the natural resources (fishing and trapping). As we know, Wainwright families in 1982 gained most of the cash they needed from earned and unearned income ultimately made available by the oil operations at Prudhoe Bay.
Yet in both Wainwright and Unalakleet, children are reared very similarly. Part of the instruction given to children and the knowledge handed down to them are the techniques of harvesting and processing native foods. When out in the country, upriver, or on the ocean, and involved in subsistence pursuits together, parents feel that they are giving their sons and daughters the same memorable childhood experiences that they fondly look back on.
Sons and daughters, as they grow older, take on increasing responsibilities within the family. As they become more adept at hunting, setting and checking nets, cutting fish, piloting boats on the river or ocean, and other aspects of subsistence, they take on more of the work and contribute more to the family's food supply. Their contribution increases in other areas of daily family life, tooâtaking care of younger sisters and brothers, cleaning the house and yard, making repairs, feeding the dogs (Unalakleet), and taking part-time or seasonal jobs. They care about their parents' approval, and they feel distress if they let them down in some way.
Brothers and sisters look after one another when they are children, giving protection and comfort. When older, they continue to watch after one another's welfare and will personally sacrifice to help in a pinch. They often provide each other with native foods and meals; but especially when one is having a hard time and without a hunter, or unable to go into the country, they make it a point to bring food.
Brothers and sisters are among each other's best friends. Brothers pal around together when young; when older, they hunt together, and they talk over troubles and plans. Sisters are the same; they pick berries and cut fish and meat together; they care for each other's children; they talk over their hopes and cares, and in other ways, they give each other emotional comfort and support.
When brothers and sisters have families of their own, these families join in activities together. They visit and have meals together; they harvest subsistence foods together; they give each other, and their younger siblings, a place to stay. They often form joint families when one is divorced or becomes a widow or widower. Together, they sometimes join their parents to harvest foods, and they go to their parents' house to help with repairs and construction.
When siblings grow older and become grandparents, they are looked after by their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews. As spouses die, or as couples age, more distant relatives and friends in the village join in looking after these people. Yet even with advancing age, most of the older people maintain considerable physical activity and continue to give from their end. They hunt, fish, and pick berries and greens. They give part of what they harvest and part of what has been brought to them to their children and grandchildren as well as to relatives and friends their own age. They also help to give their adult children and grandchildren a start in life and help to ease any difficulties they may be experiencing. Their houses are always open, they have their adult children and grandchildren stay with them, they take their young grandchildren to raise, and they give financial help when they can manage.
Collateral kinspersons are very frequently as close as lineal kinspersons. Indeed, a special enduring closeness almost always develops between cousins and often between second cousins. This same degree of closeness links uncles and aunts with their nephews and nieces. These kin come to one another's aid and generally look after one another. They hunt, fish, and cut fish together; they explore and travel the country together. The older teach the younger about subsistence techniques and a host of other subjects. If they are fairly close in age, these relatives are close friends who spend a lot of time in each other's company, who joke, who share good times and troubles, who know they can count on one another, who give each other gifts and in a multitude of ways express their friendship. They usually form same-sex bonds, that is, male collaterals with male collaterals, females with females.
The Demelike Organizations of Unalakleet and Wainwright
As we have observed, the Inupiat settlements of the North Slope historically were kinship-based units. In both Unalakleet and Wainwright today, kinspersons, no matter how distant, feel a measure of responsibility to each other. In fact, the common, local observation in Unalakleet is that practically everyone in the village is related in some way, either by blood or by marriage or by both. An agamous bilateral, localized descent group of this nature is called a deme, and the village of Unalakleet more or less fits such a description. Its core members surely comprise a deme. The fact that only four native couples are from villages other than Unalakleet is strong evidence for Unalakleet being a demelike organization.
The evidence for Wainwright is less conclusive. Given its brief history and its population fluctuations over the past half-century, it may not comprise a large, localized descent group. Kinship ties, however, are everywhere important in the community, and Luton (1985) argues that those ties are accompanied by ideological and emotional features that make the community distinct.
The recognition of kinship, combined with a sense of belonging through the generations, is one of the unifying forces among people in the village. This recognition translates into people putting differences aside and joining together in common action when circumstances require. It also translates into a general concern for one another and an immediate willingness to help when circumstances, either small (such as running out of gas on the river or being on foot and needing to get to the other end of the village) or large (such as death, an accident, or a fire), render someone or a whole family in need of assistance.
Clan Segments and Clans in Gambell
Each of the eleven St. Lawrence Island patricians has members in both Gambell and Savoonga, and many have segments in Nome as well. Clan segments are extended families, although they should not be confused with the "extended households" discussed in chapter 8. Clan segments almost always occupy several houses. Robbins (pers. comm.) reports that both Gambell and Savoonga clan segments normally consist of three to six nuclear families or some mix of nuclear, denuded nuclear, and single-men family households. The segments of a clan may or may not share the same surname, but surnames are irrelevant to demonstrating genealogical relationships among segments of a clan or to stipulating such relations when actual demonstration of biological kinsmen cannot be specified.
The emphasis on patrikinsmen in the social organization of St. Lawrence Island is evident in marriage, residence, kinship terminologies, extraction crews, distribution networks, and dance teams. The clans sit at the center of these customs. Hughes (1950, 1984) analyzes the kinship terminologies that are employed on St. Lawrence Island as a type commonly associated with unilineal descent systems and called an "Iroquoian" variant (Murdock 1949; Driver 1956; Jorgensen 1980). In this system, the cross-cousins (mother's brother's children and father's sister's children) are addressed by the same term. Mild joking relations obtain between cross-cousins. None of the helpful relations that obtain among siblings and cousins in Unalakleet and Wainwright obtain between cross-cousins in Gambell.
Distinctive terms are used for each set of parallel cousins (one term for father's brother's children and another term for mother's sister's children). Both of these relations are helpful, similar to the relations among siblings and cousins (cross- and/or parallel) in Unalakleet and Wainwright. But one of the parallel relations is important over all othersâthe connection between a male and his father's brother's children. It is on this relationship, in conjunction with sibling bonds, that walrus crews, sealing crews, whaling crews, egg-collecting crews, young-bird-collecting crews, and other crucial subsistence activities are built. As Hughes (1984: 268) says, this relationship "is the cornerstone of the patrilineal descent group." Collective terms for an entire group of patrilateral parallel cousins are employed, which gloss to "those that have the same flesh" (Hughes 1984: 268). And when patrilateral parallel cousins address or refer to one another, they often use sibling terms rather than cousin terms.
Separate terms are used for each of the following: mother's brother, father's brother, mother's sister, and father's sister. Separate terms are also used for brother's children and sister's children. Terminologies of this type are classified as "bifurcate collateral" and correlate strongly and positively with unilineal descent systems (Murdock 1949; Driver 1956; Jorgensen 1980). Persons who stand in patrilineal relationships are marked by more terms with which more explicit behaviors are associated than is true, say, for maternal relatives. The latter enter a person's life less regularly than do paternal relatives.
Although Gambell families, clan segments, and clans are patrilineal, there are obvious similarities to Unalakleet and Wainwright kindreds and larger social groupings. For any Gambell person, there are wider and wider circles of social groupingsâthe household (domestic family), the extended family or clan segment (several cooperating households of brothers, their wives and unmarried children, and their married sons with their wives and children), and the patrician. The clan is a definite social group, whose members stipulate their descent to a common apical ancestor. Whether clansmen reside in Gambell, Savoonga, or Nomeâor anywhere else, for that matterâthey are part of a corporate, unilineal descent group. In addition, each person has a kindred of dose relatives on the father's side as well as on the mother's side. These relatives vary for everyone but siblings, and they demand neither joint liability nor strict allegiance.
When families repair to camp, brothers, patrilateral parallel cousins, or both, establish themselves near to one another to provide assistance or simply to enjoy the company of persons whom they can rely on. The larger kinship network that can be drawn on in the clan can provide money, equipment, labor, subsistence items, and other goods, especially during the camp season but throughout the year as well.
Patriclans have definite memberships, definite membership criteria (a person belongs to his or her father's clan; at marriage, a woman joins her husband's clan), definite forms of leadership, and definite criteria for leadership (the eldest male member of a clan is the steward, although the oldest male's widow may serve if she is the oldest member of the clan). Perhaps the criteria for leadership, more dearly than any other factor, show how completely a woman is integrated into her husband's clan. If she survives her steward-husband and if she is the oldest member of the clan, then she becomes the new steward.
Hunting prowess is crucial on St. Lawrence Island, and it is an attribute that all hunters seek to develop, but the fact that a steward is a great hunter is not the reason that he is steward. Clan leadership succeeds to the oldest male. Thus, the point is simply made, age (the eldest) and sex (male first, female second) are the significant criteria for stewardship. A woman is the steward only under the conditions specified above.
It is commonly understood among the villagers that wisdom and experience accumulate with age and that men have more experiences and more responsibility than women. Authority and decision-making powers remain with elderly men. Those factors are seldom challenged, according to Little and Robbins (1984: 90).
Clan stewards are perceived, and talked about, as persons with great integrity as well as great wisdom. They have internalized the values of the group, and they represent those values in a laudatory way, a way that gives pride to the clanspersons. They teach patience in subsistence pursuits by precept and by verbal instruction. They also teach respect for the environmentâanimals, humans, plants, and the sea. They exhibit and teach courage. And while teaching subsistence skills, they convey respect for the quarry as well. "They are, in fact, stewards of the clan's material wealth and social welfare" (Little and Robbins 1984: 90).
Clan stewards pull together the resources, the capital and equipment, that are required to hunt whales, walrus, seals, and the like. They advise the captains in their clans about the most propitious time to undertake a hunting venture and when to replace equipment. And when conditions are extreme, and families within the clan are low on food or resources, the steward will seek resources from the clan segments that have surpluses. It is possibleâand it has happened in the very recent pastâfor a clan steward in Nome to send members of the clan from Savoonga who had been unsuccessful in the walrus hunt to Gambell to collect food, ivory, and all else of importance from members of the clan in that community.
In the past fifteen years, stewards have lost some of their authority to manage hostility within and between clans, as federal and state jurisdictions have been established over them. Yet in matters of subsistence, marriage, family disputes within the clan, names for newborn children, and the like, stewards exercise final authority. Stewards behave like board chairmen, presiding over their clan segments and over entire clans with authority but usually taking advice from respected elders if such is deemed necessary (ibid., 91).
In Gambell, the eleven clans are represented by thirty-three clan segments (there are 24 segments in Savoonga). The clan segments are not evenly divided among the clans, nor are the 110 households evenly divided among the thirty-three segments. Some segments have as many as six households, some as few as two. The patricians supply cohesion among the clan segments. Each clan segment has a leader, and he organizes the households. The patrician steward must coordinate the segments in the several villages. Clan networks encompass residents of both communities, so intercommunity activities frequently follow clan protocols (ibid., 92).
Robbins (ibid., 93-99) used the patriclan diagrammed in figure 12 as an example of a multilocal St. Lawrence Island clan that had fifty-eight living members in 1982. These fifty-eight people were organized into fourteen nuclear or denuded nuclear families, occupying twelve households. The clan segment in Gambell included eighteen people in four households.
The clan's steward resides in Savoonga. He is linked to the Gambell segment through the wife of his deceased brother. The Gambell widow is the second-oldest member of the clan, and she will assume the stewardship should she outlive her brother-in-law. In 1981, when a crew from the Gambell segment of the clan landed a bowhead whale, the clan's steward journeyed from Savoonga to claim half of the whale for the people of Savoonga (equal sharing of the whales between the villages is the norm, but the clan that bags the animal receives the accolades and shares in the pride). In 1982, when walrus hunts in Savoonga were poor, Gambell members of the same patrician "rushed to the aid of their Savoonga kinsmen with supplies of meat, tusks, and hides" (ibid., 96).
Patricians provide the pool of cooperating men and women, organized on the basis of tradition as well as on the specific requests of clansmen, for help, sundry tasks, and mutual aid. The clan is a formalized, unilineal descent group, which functions in all of the ways that families in Unalakleet and Wainwright function. But the added dimension of corporate liability and corporate responsibility, accompanied by a steward and segment leaders, enables clans to respond to problems and bring a wider network of persons to bear on the solutions to those problems with considerable speed, if necessary. Certainly, clans can respond with greater speed and a more specific commitment from distantly located kinsmen than can the bilaterally organized and inherently more diffuse families.
Within the clan, children are cared for, supplies and equipment are shared, household labor is contributed, equipment is repaired, and assistance is provided in constructing rooms,
sheds, and buildings. In addition, commodities and cash are transferred, and clansmen cooperate to celebrate holidays, rejoice in the whale and walrus harvests, and sponsor dance teams.
The patriclans are pegged to the extraction, distribution, and consumption of the naturally occurring resources on and around St. Lawrence Island. These organizationsâpregnant with symbols as well as numerous everyday acts as mundane as greeting a cousin with the term for brotherâmobilize in times of need, counsel about issues facing the island, and select the most competent and wisest among them to run for positions in the local governments, so as to lend their voices in the critical decisions that affect the island as a whole.
Because so many of the critical situations that face them pertain to their island and to the resources that they cherish and on which they rely, the clan members encourage their most proficient members to take the lead in Alaskawide and regional organizations, including the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Eskimo Whaling Commission, and Kawerak (the Bering Strait regional nonprofit corporation). St. Lawrence Island residents from both villages have ascended to the top of all of those organizations.
A network of interacting people may be connected by any one of several different kinds of ties. They may be kinspeople (by blood or marriage), friends, co-workers, members of the same organization or group, or schoolmates. While we are concerned with networks of kinspeople, other kinds of networks also exist in the three villages. People who form a network of kinspersons usually will, at the same time, stand in other relationships to one another. They may work together; they probably attend the same church (Presbyterian, Covenant, Adventist); very likely, they attended the same high school (for the middle-aged generation in all of the villages, Mount Edgecombe; also Covenant, in Unalakleet); and they may belong to one or two of the same social organizations or sodalities (Search and Rescue, Sewing Circle, Covenant's Young Marrieds Group, Wainwright Dancers, Gambell Dancers, etc.).
A network can be described as a constellation of interactive people who pass information, goods, and services among themselves. The people within a kin network visit one another, work on tasks with and for each other, and give or lend items to each other. While they do not relate exclusively to others, they may spend considerable time together, repeatedly joining to accomplish certain tasks and to enjoy each other's company. They think of each other when they have something to give, and, of course, one gives to the other(s) at those times.
In Gambell, a woman's family is often connected to her clan of marriage through giving and sharing on minor occasions. And networks also link friends beyond the more durable, formalized structures of clans. In Wainwright and Unalakleet, kinship networks generally consist of one or more core groups of closely related people: parents, children, and children's families; siblings (brothers and sisters) and their families; first cousins and their families; or a mix of these and other more distant kin.
The spread of a kin network usually reaches far past the boundaries of either Unalakleet or Wainwright. It includes kin-persons who are next-door neighbors and kinspersons who live in distant villages and cities. Information and goods flow to the farthest reaches of a network. Information includes family news and word on subsistence resource availability, and goods include native foods and other gifts. Joint activities (such as resource harvesting and processing) generally take place among kinspersons who are resident within the village. Depending on the season, however, visiting relatives will be available to take part and are included in the endeavors. Sometimes, kinspeople living elsewhere are invited to visit for the specific purpose of hunting birds, fishing, or picking berries. Invitations like these may serve to incorporate kin into an activity network for the first time or else strengthen preexisting network ties.
Affinal networks, or in-law relationships, can serve to expand networks far beyond Unalakleet, Wainwright, or Gambell. One partner of a union is frequently from another village or even from an urban area. In Unalakleet, for example, one of the native spouses in thirty-three marriages is from outside the village. In another twenty couples, one of the spouses is a nonnative from Anchorage or another city in the United States. Of the thirty-three native-native marriages, most of the spouses are either from Norton Sound or from Yukon-Kuskokwim villages, and a few are from St. Lawrence Island, the North Slope, or the Aleutians.
Subsistence foods usually flow directly between a couple and the kinspeople of the in-marrying spouse. Women who have married into Unalakleet from the North Slope, for example, send their families dried and smoked salmon, dried or frozen moose, and berries. Women who have married into Unalakleet from Yukon villages send their parents caribou, moose, seal, seal oil, saffron cod, smelt, and berries. In neither instance do the women in Unalakleet expect anything in return, although they may receive subsistence foods that are harder to obtain or foods that are considered genuine treats around Unalak-leet. North Slope families send caribou, maktak, and geese, while Yukon families send pike, shellfish, blackfish, cisco, and whitefish.
In Wainwright, Unalakleet, and Gambell, the flow of subsistence foods throughout affinal networks is on a regular basis, but sometimes it also operates on an emergency basis. A poor harvest of berries, a disastrous flood, or violent winds pushing shore ice onto a village will all necessitate that subsistence foods be given to help meet particular needs.
In all the villages as well, the flow of subsistence foods between villages may pass through several affinal links in a network and even result in the formation of food-trading friendships. I and my research associates and several employees of Wien and Ryan Air were all enlisted at one time or another during 1982 to carry packages of maktak, smoked king salmon strips, jars of jelly, baleen, or some other treasured native food or animal by-product to someone in Village A from someone in Village B. One Unalakleet man struck up a friendship with a Gambell man while visiting St. Lawrence Island, looking to buy some ancient ivory. They now exchange gifts of locally favored food. Another person, the mother of a Unalakleet man whose wife is from a Yukon village, struck up a friendship with another elderly person related to her daughter-in-law and now receives berries from her friend, to whom she sends gifts of local food delights.
Affinal networks also link family networks within villages. The networking of gifts often expands, joining people in many common activities. In the bilateral-descent villages, affines may join a hunting or seining task group that has formed around a core of kinsmen. Certainly, men or women who have married into a village take part in the activity networks of their wives or husbands.
The flow of goods through kin networks points to the ramifying nature of these networks. Many more villages are connected by interacting kinspeople than may be supposed at first glance. Focusing attention on only those exchanges between spouses and their immediate families in affinal networks, for instance, underestimates the extent to which goods, once put into a network through giving, find their way through acts of further giving to people far beyond the initial recipient.
For example, a couple in Unalakleet, the wife of whom is from a Yukon village, regularly sends gifts of foodâlarge amounts, in emergenciesâto the wife's parents on the Yukon. A network of her parents' kinspeople will often distribute among themselves the goods she may send to her parents. The Unalakleet woman may send by plane a box of frozen caribou and moose meat to her home village. Her parents, in turn, will give some of this meat to their children living there. Perhaps one of their daughters, the original giver's sister, is visiting from another Yukon village, into which she has married. She will be given some of the meat, which she will take home; and people in her husband's village will partake in a meal of moose or caribou from Unalakleet.
The same phenomenon occurs when parents in Wainwright send "CARE packages" of maktak, seal oil, and berries by jet to their married children in Anchorage. The receipt of native food is eagerly anticipated by all Eskimo people living in the urban areas of Alaska and elsewhere. The children who receive their parents' gifts will give some of it away, in portions or in meals, to cousins or other friends and relatives who also live in the city and would delight in a taste of native food.
Earlier, I cited the example of one Gambell household that was engaged in sharing with seventy other households representing about 315 people in 1982, the period during which the network was measured. Figure 13 is a graphic representation of the sharing network (all sharing links are not shown).
The woman in ego's household ensures that persons in the six households to which she is related through her father's patrician receive a steady supply of food. All are headed by elderly women or by widowers. Some contain grandchildren or spouseless daughters with their children. These dependent households, some in Nome and some in Gambell, are indigent and require food and emotional support, which they are given. Food (walrus, seal, maktak, fish, and fowl) is sent to Nome by air. The six dependent families in the woman's father's patriclan make up only a small portion of her larger network, which is predominantly through her patrician by marriage. Yet the woman maintains other connections to her former patrikinsmen (paternal aunt, brother). Neither males nor their spouses hesitate to help the indigent, whether related to them or not (Little and Robbins 1984: 117).
Robbins and Little (following Hughes 1960) think that twenty-five years ago sharing patterns existed almost exclusively within patricians. It is likely that the changes following ANCSAâespecially various government transfers, the increase
in women-headed households, and the modest reduction in the contribution made by naturally occurring resources to native diets (80%)âhave stimulated sharing across old patrician social and economic boundaries. The sharing network in which the family depicted in figure 9 is engagedâand this network is common rather than exceptionalâdemonstrates the wide geographic distribution of participating households and the continuing strength of kinship and affinal links that join the St. Lawrence Islanders, even those residing in Nome, into a single community.