Hopi matrilocal households

Hopi Domestic Organization

The Hopi of the southwestern United States are a matrilineal society with matrilocal residence. Households are built upon a core line of women whose husbands regularly reside with them (Egan 1950:29). Women exercise a good deal of domestic authority, since they own the houses, land, and the basic crops that support and feed their families. However, men are allowed to claim ownership of any livestock they raise. They also hold the most important ritual and judicial offices within the settlement. Several contexts require men to participate in matrilineal affairs. The disciplinary role in the household is allocated to motherís brothers rather than fathers, so frequent avuncular visits are required. Brothers regularly undertake joint economic projects. These necessary interactions among men in different households are enabled by the Hopi settlement pattern, which traditionally clusters the population into apartment-house-like "pueblos". These structures form a continuous concatenation of rooms, which can house up to a thousand inhabitants. Thus, although they live may in separate suites of rooms, the men of a single lineage are located close enough to each other to regularly meet on short notice to deal with common concerns.

Taos Pueblo
Photo Credit: G. Donald Bain
University of California at Berkeley
Geo-Images Project

The Hopi case raises a question of how matrilocality affects marriage possibilities. It quite clearly favours village endogamy, since men cannot retain regular lineage contacts if they marry into different locality. It also discourages polygyny, as the possession of several wives would create a considerable problem of maintaining conjugal relations in several separate households. Accordingly, Hopi men are monogamous, although they do divorce and remarry quite frequently. Other matrilocal societies have found ways of allowing men to have more than one wife. Among the Bemba of central Africa men reside matrilocally after their first marriage, but bring subsequent wives into their first partnerís household (Richards 1950:227 ). Among the Manangkabu of Indonesia, who are perhaps more matrifocal than matrilocal, polygynous husbands circulate among their wives' households ( Tanner:1974 143).

© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Created: October 2003