Society and Social Structure

Before the 20th century, there were patrilinear kins (clans), some of which were of Koryak and Yukagir origin. Kinship groups were scattered about the region because of far nomad camps and were divided into groups, known in official documents by their ordinal numbers. An elected leader, a representative of a kin, was the head of each group. His responsibilities included collecting yasak (tax) and obtaining and distributing gunpowder. Some of the coastal groups had no kins. Social differentiation was developed, with some dependent families included in the head's group, often taking his name. Nomadic, hunting, and fishing areas belonged to groups of families of various kins. There was a widespread custom of sharing fish and game with neighbors. Clans were patriarchal, and before their marriage sons were dependent on their father. Grooms paid kalym (bride price) for their fiancées, which was equal to two or three times the bride's dowry. The custom of exogamy (marrying outside the clan) was widespread for local groups while territorial ones were endogamous; that is, by tradition, members of different local groups belonging to the same territorial association could enter into marriage. Polygamy and child marriage were known. After they paid kalym to the bride's family, relatives brought the bride to the husband's house. First, they rode round the tent three times, after which she entered, took up her saucepan, and boiled reindeer meat. They hung the bride's dowry on the outside of the tent for others to observe. At first the young couple lived with the husband's parents; then they built their own tent. With the birth of a child, they were given a part of the clan's reindeer herd as dowry, which was considered as the husband's property.

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