Moiety – Word of the Day
There are over 500 Australian Indigenous Nations, as you can see from the map, they have particular areas with distinct boundaries. The nations are formed from clan groups which have their own language and kinship system which is either patrilineal (descent is related to and traced through the father/male line) or matrilineal (descent is related to and traced through the mother/female line). Clan groups are formed from family groups.
There are three levels of kinship in indigenous society: moiety, totem, and skin names.
The term moiety comes from the Latin, meaning half. In moiety systems everything in the universe is in two halves, each a mirror of the other, and the universe only makes sense if these two halves come together. Moieties are patrilineal or matrilineal, so determined by either your father or mother, these are the two halves. People of the same moiety are siblings and cannot marry, they must marry people from the other moiety, and thus the two halves are brought together.
That, of course, is a simplistic outline of what the word means, but it belies a complexity of culture that is rich in every way in real life. Whereas white culture has negatively impacted indigenous culture, it is not true in reverse. In fact, we have only just begun to learn from our First Nation people’s how we might better treat each other and the land, given that ecological relationships are so fragile here.
In indigenous culture they have retained something very precious, something we have almost completely lost, the ability of moiety systems to be support systems. If you have a row with mum or dad, you can go to another significant relative within the clan group and debrief, chill out, stay awhile till the heat dissipates and the possibility of return arises. My experience of working with young white people in family conflict is they either go it alone, maybe with a few friends, or sadly, on the streets. Indigenous youth generally look for family. What is important in this is that while we revere the independence of white youth, we miss the wisdom of healing and wholeness as the moiety or halves work together for unity. No system is perfect, but some have stronger, lasting principles that have lasted thousands of years, like our indigenous peoples. It has now become critical in youth work to build resilience for our youth in trouble, but I think the foundation of resilience is clearly the clan, though, for me, that doesn’t equate to family per se, but rather to those relationships important to our vitality and flourishing. We should never be in survival, but two halves always meeting and making the universe right.