In order to provide some additional depth to an understanding of the complexity of human marriage, I would like to discuss traditional Native American marriage.
First, however, a caution: at the beginning of the European invasion there were several hundred separate and distinct Indian cultures, each with their own view of marriage.
Former Navajo tribal chairman Peter Mac Donald explains Navajo polygyny this way: “A man would marry a woman, then work hard for his family.
If she had a sister who was not married, and if the man proved to be caring, a good provider, and a good husband, he would be gifted with his wife’s sister, marrying her as well.” Among many of the tribes a widow often married her deceased husband’s brother – a practice which anthropologists call the levirate.
The debate over marriage in American society and the fears expressed by some conservatives that allowing diversity will somehow destroy the institution of marriage has been interesting (at some times amusing) to watch.