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Eskimo kinship

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Title: Eskimo kinship  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kinship, Family, Marriage, Parallel and cross cousins, Iroquois kinship
Collection: Inuit Culture, Kinship and Descent, Kinship Terminology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Eskimo kinship

Eskimo kinship is a category of Hawaiian, Iroquois, Crow, Omaha, and Sudanese).


  • Joint family 1
  • Occurrence 2
  • Terminology 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Sources & external links 6

Joint family

The joint family system places no distinction between patrilineal and matrilineal relatives, instead, it focuses on differences in kinship distance (the closer the relative is, the more distinctions are made). The system emphasizes the nuclear family, identifying directly only the mother, father, brother, and sister. All other relatives are grouped together into categories. It uses both classificatory and descriptive terms, differentiating between gender, generation, lineal relatives (relatives in the direct line of descent), and collateral relatives (blood relatives not in the direct line of descent). The Eskimo system is defined by its "cognatic" or "bilateral" emphasis - no distinction is made between patrilineal and matrilineal relatives.

Parental siblings are distinguished only by their sex (Aunt, Uncle). All children of these individuals are lumped together regardless of sex (Cousins). Unlike the Hawaiian system, Ego's parents are clearly distinguished from their siblings.

Graphic of the Eskimo kinship system


The Eskimo system is relatively common among the world's kinship systems, at about 10% of the world's societies.[1] It is common among most Western societies (such as those of modern-day Europe or North America.) In addition, it is found among a small number of food-foraging peoples (such as the !Kung tribe of Africa and the Eskimos/Inuit after whom the kinship category is named.

The system is widely used in non-unilineal societies, where the dominant relatives are the immediate family. In most Western societies, the nuclear family represents an independent social and economic group, which has caused the emphasis on the immediate kinship. The tendency of families in Western societies to live apart also reinforces this.


Eskimo is not an accepted term used by Alaska Natives today.

See also


  1. ^ Nature of Kinship

Sources & external links

  • William Haviland, Cultural Anthropology, Wadsworth Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-534-27479-X
  • The nature of kinship
  • The Encyclopedia of North American Indians
  • [2]
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