Functions of Wyandot Civil Government

Functions of Civil Government
It is the function of government to preserve rights and enforce the performance of duties. Rights and duties are co-relative. Rights imply duties, and duties imply rights. The right inhering in the party of the first part imposes a duty on the party of the second part. The right and its co-relative duty are inseparable parts of a relation that must be maintained by government; and the relations which governments are established to maintain may be treated under the general head of rights.

In Wyandot government these rights may be classed as follows:

First—Rights of marriage.
Second—Rights to names.
Third—Rights to personal adornments.
Fourth—Rights of order in encampments and migrations.
Fifth—Rights of property.
Sixth—Rights of person.
Seventh—Rights of community.
Eighth—Rights of religion.
To maintain rights, rules of conduct are established, not by formal enactment, but by regulated usage. Such custom-made laws may be called regulations.

Marriage Regulations
Marriage between members of the same gens is forbidden, but consanguineal marriages between persons of different gentes are permitted. For example, a man may not marry his mother’s sister’s daughter, as she belongs to the same gens with himself; but he can marry his father’s sister’s daughter, because she belongs to a different gens.

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Husbands retain all their rights and privileges in their own gentes, though they live with the gentes of their wives. Children, irrespective of sex, belong to the gens of the mother. Men and women must marry within the tribe. A woman taken to wife from without the tribe must first be adopted into some family of a gens other than that to which the man belongs. That a woman may take for a husband a man without the tribe he must also be adopted into the family of some gens other than that of the woman. What has been called by some ethnologists endogamy and exogamy are correlative parts of one regulation, and the Wyandot, like all other tribes of which we have any knowledge in North America, are both endogamous and exogamous.

Polygamy is permitted, but the wives must belong to different gentes. The first wife remains the head of the household. Polyandry is prohibited.

A man seeking a wife consults her mother, sometimes direct, and sometimes through his own mother. The mother of the girl advises with the women councilors to obtain their consent, and the young people usually submit quietly to their decision. Sometimes the women councilors consult with the men.

When a girl is betrothed, the man makes such presents to the mother as he can. It is customary to consummate the marriage before the end of the moon in which the betrothal is made. Bridegroom and bride make promises of faithfulness to the parents and women councilors of both parties. It is customary to give a marriage feast, in which the gentes of both parties take part. For a short time at least, bride and groom live with the bride’s mother, or rather in the original household of the bride.

The time when they will set up housekeeping for themselves is usually arranged before marriage.

In the event of the death of the mother, the children belong to her sister or to her nearest female kin, the matter being settled by the council women of the gens. As the children belong to the mother, on the death of the father the mother and children are cared for by her nearest male relative until subsequent marriage.

Huron, Wyandot,

Powell, J. W. Wyandot Government: A short study of tribal society First Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1879-1880, p. 57-69. Washington Government Printing Office. 1881.

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