When a boy reached puberty, his mother’s brother’s wife would take charge of him and initiate him into sex.He would continue having sex with her until he married.While sex was a part of traditional Native American marriage, marriage was not about sex.
There was a recognition of the feminine and masculine in all people.
There was not an either/or concept of being heterosexual or homosexual.
Yet, in American Indian cultures people did not make this an either/or situation. Many modern Indians talk about a third sex/gender often called a berdache or two-spirit.
Yet in traditional cultures, it wasn’t quite that simple.
For a period of four or five years the young man, and perhaps his brothers as well, would be a junior husband for this woman, creating a temporary state of polyandry.
Polyandry also occurred as a form of an anticipatory levirate.
One man might become infatuated with the wife of another and propose an exchange.
If this was agreeable, the two men would exchange wives from time to time.
This practice was often not recognized by Europeans, including many ethnographers, as it seemed so alien to them.
The Pawnee, for example, practiced a form of temporary polyandry.
When a man’s wife died, he would often marry one of her sisters – a practice which anthropologists call the sororate.