UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Structure, economy and residence: a re-examination of North American patterns of residence Corrigan, Samuel W.


This paper is basically a re-examination of the existing ethnographic literature concerning Indian tribes in four subsistence areas of North America. The purpose is twofold: to outline the principles governing the size and composition of local groups, and to draw distinctions among rules and patterns of residence. I suggest initially that patterns of residence are a key factor in the analysis of local group composition; that such patterns are at least partially rooted in ecological factors; that residence patterns will be similar in their effects on local group composition within given subsistence areas; and that major differences among residence patterns and the composition of local groups will be found only among residence patterns and local groups of different subsistence areas. The tribes of the Northwest coast region were found to have corporate local groups and definite cultural preferences for permanent residence by adult males in those local groups in which they enjoyed the greatest advantage, in terms both of material wealth and prestige. This was termed a preferred rule of residence. Because of the preferred patterns of patrilateral and matrilateral cross cousin marriage, and the elaborate complex of status and rank, this was often the local group of ego's mother's brother, that is, avunculocal residence. More commonly, however, this would be the local group of ego's wife, that is, matrilocal residence. The Sub-arctic region was divided into two areas. In the east, the local groups were corporate and residence was ideally patrilocal, i.e. with the local group of a man's father or brothers. This was based largely on status considerations and was termed a prescribed rule of residence. The ideal pattern was not always possible due to ecological factors however. In the west, local groups were not corporate. There was no ideal pattern of residence, although there was what was termed a statistical regularity of patrilocal residence. Local groups were not corporate on the Plains. Statistical regularities of both patrilocal and matrilocal residence were found, but these did not normally affect local group composition to any significant degree. The only ideal of residence was that of affiliation with a local group in which one had some kin. In the Great Basin region, local groups were not corporate. Only statistical irregularities in residence pattern were found, due to ecological factors. Several common elements were noted in the study. Descent systems had little effect on local group composition, other than by establishing a dichotomy of kin and non-kin. Local groups tended to be bilateral groups of kin, on the Northwest coast due largely to sociological factors, and in the Sub-arctic and Great Basin regions because of situational factors. The local groups of the Plains region were clusters of bilateral groups of kin. Local groups were found to be limited in size, both maximum and minimum, by such factors as ecology. Within those limits precise patterns were based both on sociological factors and on such aspects of ecology as demography. The final chapter of the thesis is a general discussion of the various factors affecting both local groups and residence patterns.

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