Somatology





The vigorous avocations of the chase and war were reflected in fine

stature, broad and deep chests, strong and clean limbs, and sound

constitution among the Siouan tribesmen and their consorts. The skin was

of the usual coppery cast characteristic of the native American; the teeth

were strong, indicating and befitting a largely carnivorous diet, little

worn by sandy foods, and seldom mutilated; the hands and feet were

commonly large and sinewy. The Siouan Indians were among those who

impressed white pioneers by the parallel placing of the feet; for, as

among other walkers and runners, who rest sitting and lying, the feet

assumed the pedestrian attitude of approximate parallelism rather than the

standing attitude of divergence forward. The hair was luxuriant, stiff,

straight, and more uniformly jet black than that of the southerly stocks;

it was worn long by the women and most of the men, though partly clipped

or shaved in some tribes by the warriors as well as the worthless dandies,

who, according to Catlin, spent more time over their toilets than ever did

the grande dame of Paris. The women were beardless and the men more or

less nearly so; commonly the men plucked out by the roots the scanty hair

springing on their faces, as did both sexes that on other parts of the

body. The crania were seldom deformed artificially save through cradle

accident, and while varying considerably in capacity and in the ratio of

length to width were usually mesocephalic. The facial features were

strong, yet in no way distinctly unlike those found among neighboring

peoples.



Since the advent of white men the characteristics of the Siouan Indians,

like those of other tribes, have been somewhat modified, partly through

infusion of Caucasian blood but chiefly through acculturation. With the

abandonment of hunting and war and the tardy adoption of a slothful,

semidependent agriculture, the frame has lost something of its stalwart

vigor; with the adaptation of the white man's costume and the incomplete

assimilation of his hygiene, various weaknesses and disorders have been

developed; and through imitation the erstwhile luxuriant hair is cropped,

and the beard, made scanty through generations of extirpation, is commonly

cultivated. Although the accultural condition of the Siouan survivors

ranges from the essentially primitive status of the Asiniboin to the

practical civilization of the representatives of several tribes, it is

fair to consider the stock in a state of transition from barbarism to

civilization; and many of the tribesmen are losing the characteristics of

activity and somatic development normal to primitive life, while they have

not yet assimilated the activities and acquired the somatic

characteristics normal to peaceful sedentary life.



Briefly, certain somatic features of the Siouan Indians, past and present,

may be traced to their causes in custom and exercise of function; yet by

far the greater number of the features are common to the American people

or to all mankind, and are of ill-understood significance. The few

features of known cause indicate that special somatic characteristics are

determined largely or wholly by industrial and other arts, which are

primarily shaped by environment.





Phonetic And Graphic Arts Some Features Of Indian Sociology facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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