In 1925 Leslie Spier published his typology of American Indian kinship systems.* His typology takes the form of eight classes, viz.
- Mackenzie Basin.
In his big 1949 book George Peter Murdock used Spier’s classification as the basis for a typology based upon cousin terminology.† Murdock subsumed the Salish, Acoma, Yuman, and Mackenzie Basin classes as his Hawaiian class. Murdock also added a Sudanese class. Murdock’s typology is listed below, along with his own description of the terms used for cousins by male Ego in each.
- Omaha. Parallel cousins are called ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’ Maternal cross-cousins are called ‘mother’ or ‘uncle.’ Paternal cross-cousins are called ‘nephew’ or ‘niece.’
- Crow. Parallel cousins are called ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’ Maternal cross-cousins are called ‘son’ or ‘daughter.’ Paternal cross-cousins are called ‘father’ or ‘aunt.’
- Hawaiian. All cousins are called ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’
- Iroquois. Parallel cousins are called ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’ Cross-cousins are called ‘cousin.’
- Eskimo. All cousins are called ‘cousin.’
- Sudanese. Maternal and paternal parallel cousins are called by distinct terms, as are maternal and paternal cross-cousins.
Murdock’s typology has become received wisdom despite two not so small issues. Namely, that it foists a typology constructed from and for North American data upon the world at large and that it ignores the fact that Spier took details beyond cousin terminology into account in creating his eight classes.‡
*“The distribution of kinship systems in North America.” University of Washington Publications in Anthropology 1, no. 2 (August 1925): 69–88, maps 1–9.
†Social structure (New York: MacMillan, 1949) 223–25.
‡Désveaux, Emmanuel. “Some current kinship paradigms in the light of true Crow Indian ethnography.” In Anthropology, by comparison, edited by Andre Gingrich and Richard G. Fox (London; New York: Routledge, 2002), 124–25; 139, n.1.