Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak on Marriage

September 9th, 2009 · No Comments

BlackHawkOne of our big hobby horses ’round here is the natural rate of divorce—that is, the theory that a certain percentage of marriages are invariably doomed, and that policymakers should realize this when crafting divorce laws. If those laws are too strict, you just get a lot of miserable couples who become a drag on the economy; conversely, if divorce is too easy, society is roiled by more instability than it really needs to endure.

We bring this concept up again in light of a passage a reader sent us last week. It’s from the autobiography of Black Hawk, the full text of which is available via Northern Illinois University. Most of the passage describes the courtship rituals of the Sauk, which are wonderfully elaborate. (The girl’s yea or nay, for example, is delivered via the blowing out of matches.) But what really struck us was this snippet regarding the Sauk’s rather liberal divorce practices:

During the first year they ascertain whether they can agree with each other, and can be happy – if not, they part, and each looks out again. If we were to live together and disagree, we should be as foolish as the whites! No indiscretion can banish a woman from her parental lodge – no difference how many children she may bring home, she is always welcome – the kettle is over the fire to feed them.

This system obviously places a large burden on parents, as they must be prepared to re-host divorced adult children. But what’s more damaging to a society’s well-being—compelling older citizens to act as safety nets for their kids, or forcing couples to stick together despite irreconcilable differences?

(Image via the Wisconsin Academy Review)


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