VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
    Home - Siouan Articles - Sioux Myths

Most Viewed

The Siouan Mythology
The Mdewakantonwan
Tribal Nomenclature
The Sisitonwan Or Sisseton
The Oohe-nonpa Or Two Kettles
Designation And Mode Of Camping
The Siha-sapa Or Blackfeet
Phonetic And Graphic Arts

Least Viewed

The Waqpe-kute
The Tutelo
The Ni-u'-t'a-tci Or Missouri
3 _{~latin Small Letter Turned T~}{~latin Small Letter Open O~}iwe´re_ (_people Of This Place_)
The Quapaw Or Kwapa
General Features Of Organization
9 _catawba Or Ni-ya (people)_
The Eastern And Southern Tribes

Random Siouan Articles

The Biloxi
Extent Of The Stock
3 _{~latin Small Letter Turned T~}{~latin Small Letter Open O~}iwe´re_ (_people Of This Place_)
General Features Of Organization
Designation And Mode Of Camping
The Osage
Tribal Nomenclature
The Oglala


Among civilized peoples, institutions are crystallized in statutes about
nuclei of common law or custom; among peoples in the prescriptorial
culture-stage statutes are unborn, and various mnemonic devices are
employed for fixing and perpetuating institutions; and, as is usual in
this stage, the devices involve associations which appear to be
essentially arbitrary at the outset, though they tend to become natural
through the survival of the fittest. A favorite device for perpetuating
institutions among the primitive peoples of many districts on different
continents is the taboo, or prohibition, which is commonly fiducial but is
often of general application. This device finds its best development in
the earlier stages in the development of belief, and is normally connected
with totemism. Another device, which is remarkably widespread, as shown by
Morgan, is kinship nomenclature. This device rests on a natural and easily
ascertained basis, though its applications are arbitrary and vary widely
from tribe to tribe and from culture-status to culture-status. A third
device, which found much favor among the American aborigines and among
some other primitive peoples, may be called ordination, or the
arrangement of individuals and groups classified from the prescriptorial
point of view of Self, Here, and Now, with respect to each other or to
some dominant personage or group. This device seems to have grown out of
the kin-name system, in which the Ego is the basis from which relation is
reckoned. It tends to develop into federate organization on the one hand
or into caste on the other hand, according to the attendant
conditions.(48) There are various other devices for fixing and
perpetuating institutions or for expressing the laws embodied therein.
Some of these are connected with thaumaturgy and shamanism, some are
connected with the powers of nature, and the several devices overlap and
interlace in puzzling fashion.

Among the Siouan Indians the devices of taboo, kin-names, and ordination
are found in such relation as to throw some light on the growth of
primitive institutions. While they blend and are measurably involved with
thaumaturgic devices, there are indications that in a general way the
three devices stand for stages in the development of law. Among the
best-known tribes the taboo pertained to the clan, and was used (in a much
more limited way than among some other peoples) to commemorate and
perpetuate the clan organization; kin-names, which were partly natural and
thus normal to the clan organization, and at the same time partly
artificial and thus characteristic of gentile organization, served to
commemorate and perpetuate not only the family relations but the relations
of the constituent elements of the tribe; while the ordination, expressed
in the camping circle, in the phratries, in the ceremonials, and in many
other ways, served to commemorate intertribal as well as intergentile
relations, and thus to promote peace and harmonious action. It is
significant that the taboo was less potent among the Siouan Indians than
among some other stocks, and that among some tribes it has not been found;
and it is especially significant that in some instances the taboo was
apparently inversely related to kin-naming and ordination, as among the
Biloxi, where the taboo is exceptionally weak and kin-naming exceptionally
strong, and among the Dakota, where the system of ordination attained
perhaps its highest American development in domiciliary arrangement, while
the taboo was limited in function; for the relations indicate that the
taboo was archaic or even vestigial. It is noteworthy also that among most
of the Siouan tribes the kin-name system was less elaborate than in many
other stocks, while the system of ordination is so elaborate as to
constitute one of the leading characteristics of the stock.

At the time of the discovery, most of the Siouan tribes had apparently
passed into gentile organization, though vestiges of clan organization
were found--e.g., among the best-known tribes the man was the head of the
family, though the tipi usually belonged to the woman. Thus, as defined by
institutions, the stock was just above savagery and just within the lower
stages of barbarism. Accordingly the governmental functions were
hereditary in the male line, yet the law of heredity was subject to
modification or suspension at the will of the group, commonly at the
instance of rebels or usurpers of marked prowess or shrewdness. The
property regulations were definite and strictly observed; as among other
barbarous peoples, the land was common to the tribe or other group
occupying it, yet was defended against alien invasion; the ownership of
movable property was a combination of communalism and individualism
delicately adjusted to the needs and habits of the several tribes-- in
general, evanescent property, such as food and fuel, was shared in common
(subject to carefully regulated individual claims), while permanent
property, such as tipis, dogs, apparel, weapons, etc, was held by
individuals. As among other tribes, the more strictly personal property
was usually destroyed on the death of the owner, though the real reason
for the custom--the prevention of dispute--was shrouded in a mantle of

Although of primary importance in shaping the career of the Siouan tribes,
the marital institutions of the stock were not specially distinctive.
Marriage was usually effected by negotiation through parents or elders;
among some of the tribes the bride was purchased, while among others there
was an interchange of presents. Polygyny was common; in several of the
tribes the bride's sisters became subordinate wives of the husband. The
regulations concerning divorce and the punishment of infidelity were
somewhat variable among the different tribes, some of whom furnished
temporary wives to distinguished visitors. Generally there were sanctions
for marriage by elopement or individual choice. In every tribe, so far as
known, gentile exogamy prevailed--i.e., marriage in the gens was forbidden,
under pain of ostracism or still heavier penalty, while the gentes
intermarried among one another; in some cases intermarriage between
certain tribes was regarded with special favor. There seems to have been
no system of marriage by capture, though captive women were usually
espoused by the successful tribesmen, and girls were sometimes abducted.
In general it would appear that intergentile and intertribal marriage was
practiced and sanctioned by the sages, and that it tended toward harmony
and federation, and thus contributed much toward the increase and
diffusion of the great Siouan stock.

As set forth in some detail by Dorsey, the ordination of the Siouan tribes
extended beyond the hierarchic organization into families, subgentes,
gentes, tribes, and confederacies; there were also phratries, sometimes
(perhaps typically) arranged in pairs; there were societies or
associations established on social or fiducial bases; there was a general
arrangement or classification of each group on a military basis, as into
soldiers and two or more classes of noncombatants, etc. Among the Siouan
peoples, too, the individual brotherhood of the David-Jonathan or
Damon-Pythias type was characteristically developed. Thus the corporate
institutions were interwoven and superimposed in a manner nearly as
complex as that found in the national, state, municipal, and minor
institutions of civilization; yet the ordination preserved by means of the
camping circle, the kinship system, the simple series of taboos, and the
elaborate symbolism was apparently so complete as to meet every social and
governmental demand.

Next: The Development Of Mythology

Previous: Industrial And Esthetic Arts

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 3821