Eskimos live their lives following the lineal kinship. It is a type of kinship that follows the descent of someone through a common ancestor but Eskimos do not subscribe to either matrilineal or patrilineal ways of reckoning descent, instead, they are bilineal. This means that descent through both the mother and the father side are deemed equally important and they give more importance on the distance in kinship. The Eskimos kinship patterns (lineal kinship) were first identified by Louis Henry Morgan Systems of Consanguinity, and Affinity of the Human Family, 1871 (Eskimo Kinship, n.d.) The Eskimos, because of their emphasis on the bilineal pattern of kinship, also emphasize the nuclear family – that is, they directly identify only the father, the mother, the son/s, and the daughter/s, thus collateral relatives (or those not in the direct line of descent like cousins), are grouped into another category (Kinship and Descent, n.d.)
This type of lineal pattern may actually be more of a strength considering the harsher type of environment that the Eskimos live in. To recognize the weight of a person’s descent based on the strength of both sides of descent (both mother’s and father’s line), makes sure that no offspring are disenfranchised or discriminated against. That is, the inheritance of children are divided equally among them without preference over their sex. This would make sure that none of the siblings would have to rely on the others to live or to survive (think Victorian era wherein unmarried female children would have to be supported by their brothers). This type of kinship patterns reinforces the equality of responsibility of all children, regardless of gender, to make a living and contribute to the household management. Because of such a practice, the nuclear family is strengthened and made independent; the need to rely on collateral relatives is also lessened. Also, when it comes to marriage, the nuclear family may eventually disintegrate given that once married, the offspring tend to move away from their parents and establish their new nuclear family.
Eskimo Kinship. (n.d.) In NationMaster.com. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Eskimo-kinship
Kinship and Descent. (n.d.) In NationMaster.com. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Kinship-and-descent