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Kasini society : some aspects of the social organization of an Athapaskan culture between 1900-1950 McDonnell, Roger Francis


This study provides a description and analysis of the Kasini, a small group of northern Athapaskan Indians. Though it presents a considerable body of ethnographic material from a previously unstudied area, its main concern is to elucidate a form of organization that prevailed, between 1900-1950, in the southeastern Yukon. Kasini social relations were subject to change and the general character of social organization was not predicated on a fixed normative order. Accordingly, I have focused on individual experience and emphasized the emergent quality of social relations in particular contexts instead of assuming a fixed institutional framework and attempting to understand the order of Kasini social life in its terms. This study seeks to discover the reasons for changes in Kasini relations, the means they had for recognizing changed relations, and the methods used to portray different kinds of relationship. Social relations are examined from the perspective of activities and ideas. Chapters three and four describe resources used by Kasini and outline the annual "sequence of activity resulting from their exploitation. This provides the single most demanding framework governing Kasini behavior and the description reveals that Kasini were subject to frequent group realignment, and that relative ability in the food quest was a critical consideration in the formation of all comestic groups. Chapters five and six discuss certain fundamental Kasini ideas and show how these pervade Kasini culture and provide a base-line for Kasini recognition of relationship in different contexts. The remainder of the study is an attempt to understand certain aspects of Kasini social life in the light of the frameworks of resources and ideas. Chapters seven and eight examine kinship and the social categories used by people who were in frequent contact. Differences in individual ability relate to and determine preferred combinations of people which constitute domestic groups. Evidence is presented, to show how behavior influenced the use of social categories and perception of relationships. For individuals in frequent contact, there was a tendency to employ social categories according to certain rules, which are described. These constitute a sub-class of a broader set of categories including those used between people in infrequent contact. This larger set is described and the institution of marriage is shown to be a pivotal structure, creating crucial bonds within Kasini society at large.

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