The Wyandot Family

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The family, as the term is here used, is nearly synonymous with the household. It is composed of the persons who occupy one lodge, or, in their permanent wigwams, one section of a communal dwelling. These permanent dwellings are constructed in an oblong form, of poles interwoven with bark. The fire is placed in line along the center, and is usually built for two families, one occupying the place on each side of the fire.

The head of the family is a woman.

The Wyandot Gens

The gens is an organized body of consanguineal kindred in the female line. “The woman carries the gens,” is the formulated statement by which a Wyandot expresses the idea that descent is in the female line. Each gens has the name of some animal, the ancient of such animal being its tutelar god. Up to the time that the tribe left Ohio, eleven gentes were recognized, as follows:

Deer, Bear, Highland Turtle (striped), Highland Turtle (black), Mud Turtle, Smooth Large Turtle, Hawk, Beaver, Wolf, Sea Snake, and Porcupine.

In speaking of an individual he is said to be a wolf, a bear, or a deer, as the case may be, meaning thereby that he belongs to that gens; but in speaking of the body of people comprising a gens, they are said to be relatives of the wolf, the bear, or the deer, as the case may be.

There is a body of names belonging to each gens, so that each person’s name indicates the gens to which he belongs. These names are derived from the characteristics, habits, attitudes, or mythologic stories connected with, the tutelar god.

The following schedule presents the name of a man and a woman in each gens, as illustrating this statement:

Wun-dát English.
Man of Deer gens De-wa-tí-re Lean Deer.
Woman of Deer gens A-ya-jin-ta Spotted Fawn.
Man of Bear gens A-tu-e-tes Long Claws.
Woman of Bear gens Tsá-man-da-ka-é Grunting for her Young.
Man of Striped Turtle gens Ta-há-son-ta-ra-ta-se Going Around the Lake.
Woman of Striped Turtle gens Tso-we-yuñ-kyu Gone from the Water.
Man of Mud Turtle gens Sha-yän-tsu-wat’ Hard Skull.
Woman of Mud Turtle gens Yan-däc-u-räs Finding Sand Beach.
Man of Smooth Large Turtle gens Hun’-du-cu-tá Throwing Sand.
Woman of Smooth Large Turtle gens Tsu-ca-en Slow Walker.
Man of Wolf gens Ha-ró-un-yû One who goes about in the Dark; a Prowler.
Woman of Wolf gens Yan-di-no Always Hungry.
Man of Snake gens Hu-ta-hú-sa Sitting in curled Position.
Woman of Snake gens Di-jé-rons One who Ripples the Water.
Man of Porcupine gens Han-dú-tun The one who puts up Quills.
Woman of Porcupine gens Ké-ya-runs-kwa Good-Sighted.

The Wyandot Phratry

There are four phratries in the tribe, the three gentes Bear, Deer, and Striped Turtle constituting the first; the Highland Turtle, Black Turtle, and Smooth Large Turtle the second; the Hawk, Beaver, and Wolf the third, and the Sea Snake and Porcupine the fourth.

This unit in their organization has a mythologic basis, and is chiefly used for religious purposes, in the preparation of medicines, and in festivals and games.

The eleven gentes, as four phratries, constitute the tribe.

Each gens is a body of consanguineal kindred in the female line, and each gens is allied to other gentes by consanguineal kinship through the male line, and by affinity through marriage.

To be a member of the tribe it is necessary to be a member of a gens; to be a member of a gens it is necessary to belong to some family; and to belong to a family a person must have been born in the family so that his kinship is recognized, or he must be adopted into a family and become a son, brother, or some definite relative; and this artificial relationship gives him the same standing as actual relationship in the family, in the gens, in the phratry, and in the tribe.

Thus a tribe is a body of kindred.

Of the four groups thus described, the gens, the phratry, and the tribe constitute the series of organic units; the family, or household as here described, is not a unit of the gens or phratry, as two gentes are represented in each—the father must belong to one gens, and the mother and, her children to another.



MLA Source Citation:

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. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 31 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-wyandot-family.htm - Last updated on Sep 16th, 2012


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