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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

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

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Some Features Of Indian Sociology

As shown by Powell, there are two fundamentally distinct classes or stages
in human society--(1) tribal society and (2) national society. National
society characterizes civilization; primarily it is organized on a
territorial basis, but as enlightenment grows the bases are multiplied.
Tribal society is characteristic of savagery and barbarism; so far as
known, all tribal societies are organized on the basis of kinship. The
transfer from tribal society to national society is often, perhaps always,
through feudalism, in which the territorial motive takes root and in which
the kinship motive withers.

All of the American aborigines north of Mexico and most of those farther
southward were in the stage of tribal society when the continents were
discovered, though feudalism was apparently budding in South America,
Central America, and parts of Mexico. The partly developed transitional
stage may, for the present, be neglected, and American Indian sociology
may be considered as representing tribal society or kinship organization.

The fundamental principles of tribal organization through kinship have
been formulated by Powell; they are as follows:(55)

I. A body of kindred constituting a distinct body politic is divided
into groups, the males into groups of brothers and the females into
groups of sisters, on distinctions of generations, regardless of
degrees of consanguinity; and the kinship terms used express
relative age. In civilized society kinships are classified on
distinctions of sex, distinctions of generations, and distinctions
arising from degrees of consanguinity.
II. When descent is in the female line, the brother-group consists of
natal brothers, together with all the materterate male cousins of
whatever degree. Thus mother's sisters' sons and mother's mother's
sisters' daughters' sons, etc, are included in a group with natal
brothers. In like manner the sister-group is composed of natal
sisters, together with all materterate female cousins of whatever
III. When descent is in the male line, the brother-group is composed of
natal brothers, together with all patruate male cousins of whatever
degree, and the sister-group is composed of natal sisters, together
with all patruate female cousins of whatever degree.
IV. The son of a member of a brother-group calls each one of the group,
father; the father of a member of a brother-group calls each one of
the group, son. Thus a father-group is coextensive with the
brother-group to which the father belongs. A brother-group may also
constitute a father-group and grandfather-group, a son-group and a
grandson-group. It may also be a patruate-group and an avunculate
group. It may also be a patruate cousin-group and an avunculate
cousin-group; and in general, every member of a brother-group has
the same consanguineal relation to persons outside of the group as
that of every other member.

Two postulates concerning primitive society, adopted by various ethnologic
students of other countries, have been erroneously applied to the American
aborigines; at the same time they have been so widely accepted as to
demand consideration.

The first postulate is that primitive men were originally assembled in
chaotic hordes, and that organized society was developed out of the
chaotic mass by the segregation of groups and the differentiation of
functions within each group. Now the American aborigines collectively
represent a wide range in development, extending from a condition about as
primitive as ever observed well toward the verge of feudalism, and thus
offer opportunities for testing the postulate; and it has been found that
when higher and lower stages representing any portion of the developmental
succession are compared, the social organizations of the lower grade are
no less definite, perhaps more definite, than those pertaining to the
higher grade; so that when the history of demotic growth among the
American Indians is traced backward, the organizations are found on the
whole to grow more definite, albeit more simple. When the lines of
development revealed through research are projected still farther toward
their origin, they indicate an initial condition, directly antithetic to
the postulated horde, in which the scant population was segregated in
small discrete bodies, probably family groups; and that in each of these
bodies there was a definite organization, while each group was practically
independent of, and probably inimical to, all other groups. The testimony
of the observed institutions is corroborated by the testimony of language,
which, as clearly shown by Powell,(56) represents progressive combination
rather than continued differentiation, a process of involution rather than
evolution. It would appear that the original definitely organized groups
occasionally met and coalesced, whereby changes in organization were
required; that these compound groups occasionally coalesced with other
groups, both simple and compound, whereby they were elaborated in
structure, always with some loss in definiteness and permanence; and that
gradually the groups enlarged by incorporation, while the composite
organization grew complex and variable to meet the ever-changing
conditions. It would also appear that in some cases the corporeal growth
outran the structural or institutional growth, when the bodies--clans,
gentes, tribes, or confederacies--split into two or more fragments which
continued to grow independently; yet that in general the progress of
institutional developmentwent forward through incorporation of peoples and
differentiation of institutions. The same process was followed as tribal
society passed into national society; and it is the same process which is
today exalting national society into world society, and transforming
simple civilization into enlightenment. Thus the evoluffon of social
organization is from the simple and definite toward the complex and
variable; or from the involuntary to the voluntary; or from the
environment-shaped to the environment-shaping; or from the biotic to the

The second postulate, which may be regarded as a corollary of the first,
is that the primary conjugal condition was one of promiscuity, out of
which different forms ot marriage were successively segregated. Now the
wide range in institutional development exemplified by the American
Indians affords unprecedented opportunities for testing this postulate
also. The simplest demotic unit found among the aborigines is the clan or
mother-descent group, in which the normal conjugal relation is essentially
monogamous,(57) in which marriage is more or less strictly regulated by a
system of prohibitions, and in which the chief conjugal regulation is
commonly that of exogamy with respect to the clan; in higher groups, more
deeply affected by contact with neighboring peoples, the simple clan
organization is sometimes found to be modified, (1) by the adoption and
subsequent conjugation of captive men and boys, and, doubtless more
profoundly, (2) by the adoption and polygamous marriage of female
captives; and in still more highly organized groups the mother-descent is
lost and polygamy is regular and limited only by the capacity of the
husband as a provider. The second and third stages are commonly
characterized, like the first, by established prohibitions and by clan
exogamy; though with the advance in organization amicable relations with
certain other groups are usually established, whereby the germ of tribal
organization is implanted and a system of interclan marriage, or tribal
endogamy, is developed. With further advance the mother-descent group is
transformed into a father-descent group, when the clan is replaced by the
gens; and polygamy is a common feature of the gentile organization. In all
of these stages the conjugal and consanguineal regulations are affected by
the militant habits characteristic of primitive groups; more warriors than
women are slain in battle, and there are more female captives than male;
and thus the polygamy is mainly or wholly polygyny. In many cases civil
conditions combine with or partially replace the militant conditions, yet
the tendency of conjugal development is not changed. Among the Seri
Indians, probably the most primitive tribe in North America, in which the
demotic unit is the clan, there is a rigorous marriage custom under which
the would-be groom is required to enter the family of the girl and
demonstrate (1) his capacity as a provider and (2) his strength of
character as a man, by a year's probation, before he is finally
accepted--the conjugal theory ofr the tribe being monogamy, though the
practice, at least during recent years, has, by reason of conditions,
passed into polygyny. Among several other tribes of more provident and
less exclusive habit, the first of the two conditions recognized by the
Seri is met by rich presents (representing accumulated property) from the
groom to the girl's family, the second condition being usually ignored,
the clan organization remaining in force; among still other tribes the
first condition is more or less vaguely recognized, though the voluntary
present is commuted into, or replaced by, a negotiated value exacted by
the girl's family, when the mother-descent is commonly vestigial; and in
the next stage, which is abundantly exemplified, wife-purchase prevails,
and the clan is replaced by the gens. In this succession the development
of wife-purchase and the decadence of mother-descent maybe traced, and it
is significant that there is a tendency first toward partial enslavement
of the wife and later toward the multiplication of wives to the limit of
the husband's means, and toward transforming all, or all but one, of the
wives into menials. Thus the lines of development under militant and civil
conditions are essentially parallel. It is possible to project these lines
some distance backward into the unknown, of the exceedingly primitive,
when they, are found to define small discrete bodies--just such as are
indicated by the institutional and linguistic lines--probably family
groups, which must have been essentially, and were perhaps strictly,
monogamous. It would appear that in these groups mating was either between
distant members (under a law of attraction toward the remote and repulsion
from the near, which is shared by mankind and the higher animals), or the
result of accidental meeting between nubile members of different groups;
that in the second case and sometimes in the first the conjugation
produced a new monogamic family; and that sometimes in the first case (and
possibly in the second) the new group retained a more or less definite
connection with the parent group--this connection constituting the germ of
the clan. In passing, it may be noted merely that this inferential origin
of the lines of institutional development is in accord with the habits of
certain higher and incipiently organized animals. From this hypothetic
beginning, primitive marriage may be traced through the various observed
stages of monogamy and polygamy and concubinage and wife-subordination,
through savagery and barbarism and into civilization, with its curious
combination of exoteric monogamy and esoteric promiscuity. Fortunately the
burden of the proof of this evolution does not now rest wholly on the
evidence obtained among the American aborigines; for Westermarck has
recently reviewed the records of observation among the primitive peoples
of many lands, and has found traces of the same sequence in all.(58) Thus
the evolution of marriage, like that of other human institutions, is from
the simple and definite to the complex and variable; i.e., from
approximate or complete monogamy through polygamy to a mixed status of
undetermined signification; or from the mechanical to the spontaneous; or
from the involuntary to the voluntary; or from the provincial to the

As implied in several foregoing paragraphs, and as clearly set forth in
various publications by Powell, tribal society falls into two classes or
stages--(1) clan organization and (2) gentile organization, these stages
corresponding respectively to savagery and barbarism, strictly defined.

At the time of discovery, most of the American Indians were in the upper
stages of savagery and the lower stages of barbarism, as defined by
organization; among some tribes descent was reckoned in the female line,
though definite matriarchies have not been discovered; among several
tribes descent was and still is reckoned in the male line, and among all
of the tribes thus far investigated the patriarchal system is found.

In tribal society, both clan and gentile, the entire social structure is
based on real or assumed kinship, and a large part of the demotic devices
are designed to establish, perpetuate, and advertise kinship relations. As
already indicated, the conspicuous devices in order of development are the
taboo with the prohibitions growing out of it, kinship nomenclature and
regulations, and a system of ordination by which incongruous things are
brought into association.

Among the American Indians the taboo and derivative prohibitions are used
chiefly in connection with marriage and clan or gentile organization.
Marriage in the clan or gens is prohibited; among many tribes a vestige of
the inferential primitive condition is found in the curious prohibition of
communications between children-in-law and parents-in-law; the clan taboos
are commonly connected with the tutelar beast-god, perhaps represented by
a totem.

The essential feature of the kinship terminology is the reckoning from
ego, whereby each individual remembers his own relation to every other
member of the clan or tribe; and commonly the kinship terms are classific
rather than descriptive (i.e., a single term expresses the relation which
in English is expressed by the phrase My elder brother's second son's
wife). The system is curiously complex and elaborate. It was not
discovered by the earlier and more superficial observers of the Indians,
and was brought out chiefly by Morgan, who detected numerous striking
examples among different tribes; but it would appear that the system is
not equally complete among all of the tribes, probably because of immature
development in some cases and because of decadence in others.

The system of ordination, like that of kinship, is characterized by
reckoning from the ego and by adventitious associations. It may have been
developed from the kinship system through the need for recognition and
assignment of adopted captives, collective property, and other things
pertaining to the group; yet it bears traces of influence by the taboo
system. Its ramifications are wide: In some cases it emphasizes kinship by
assigning members of the family group to fixed positions about the
camp-fire or in the house; this function develops into the placement of
family groups in fixed order, as exemplified in the Iroquoian long-house
and the Siouan camping circle; or it develops into a curiously exaggerated
direction-concept culminating in the cult of the Four Quarters and the
Here, and this prepares the way for a quinary, decimal, and vigesimal
numeration; this last branch sends off another in which the cult of the
Six Quarters and the Here arises to prepare the way for the mystical
numbers 7, 13, and 7x7, whose vestiges come down to civilization; both the
four-quarter and the six-quarter associations are sometimes bound up with
colors; and there are numberless other ramifications. Sometimes the
function and development of these curious concepts, which constitute
perhaps the most striking characteristic of prescriptorial culture, are
obscure at first glance, and hardly to be discovered even through
prolonged research; yet, so far as they have been detected and
interpreted, they are especially adapted to fixing demotic relations; and
through them the manifold relations of individuals and groups are
crystallized and kept in mind.

Thus the American Indians, including the Siouan stock, are made up of
families organized into clans or gentes, and combined in tribes, sometimes
united in confederacies, all on a basis of kinship, real or assumed; and
the organization is shaped and perpetuated by a series of devices
pertaining to the plane of prescriptorial culture, whereby each member of
the organization is constantly reminded of his position in the group.

Previous: The Eastern And Southern Tribes

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