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The Plains Indians Ecology, Warfare and Gender. Plains Indian warfare has frequently been portrayed as a contest among men to gain prestige rather than.

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Presentation on theme: "The Plains Indians Ecology, Warfare and Gender. Plains Indian warfare has frequently been portrayed as a contest among men to gain prestige rather than."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Plains Indians Ecology, Warfare and Gender

2 Plains Indian warfare has frequently been portrayed as a contest among men to gain prestige rather than as a system of deadly combat in which men were brutally killed and through which groups of people competed over resources.

3 "Plains Indians fought not for territorial aggrandizement, nor for the victor's spoils, but above all because fighting was a game worth while because of the social recognition it brought when played according to the rules.“ --Robert Lowie (1920) "Plains warfare was almost as stylized as a medieval tournament, and was seen by its participants not so much as a way to kill enemies as a means of demonstrating personal skill and bravery…." --J. Donald Hughes (1983)

4 However: 1.Plains Indian warfare evolved as a predictable outcome of increasing population growth and resource competition. 2.The evolution of Plains Indian ecology and warfare constituted a positive-feedback system resulting from the infusion of new subsistence technologies and a new productive relationship between Indians and resources. 3.The changing Population/Resource relationships on the plains also resulted in fundamental changes in gender roles and in gender-related behavior.

5 Native American Culture Areas

6 Principal Natural Communities Prairie vs. Plains * * *

7 Cold Wet Cold Dry Warm DryWarm Wet Climatic Regions on the Great Plains

8 Principal Food Sources

9 Pre-Horse Northwest Plains - ( Blackfoot & Crow) Subsistence economy - hunting and gathering Surround-type hunting (impounding and cliff stampedes) Labor intensive Extensive preparation Required considerable cooperation and organization Hunting was difficult, unpredictable, precarious and required great skill Important role of women in subsistence Patrilineal extended kin groups Egalitarian social structure

10 One method of hunting buffalo in the northwestern plains was to drive a herd of buffalo over a cliff. This method required group cooperation and resulted in the shared distribution of meat.

11 Pre-Horse Northeast Plains - (Sioux & Cheyenne) Horticulture, supplemented by hunting bison and other game Subsistence economy Horticulture more productive and reliable than hunting Principal role of women in horticulture Matrilocal post-marital residence Matrilineal extended kin groups Egalitarian social structure

12 Subsistence Resources Provided by...

13 Early Northeastern Plains Indian Location

14 Ecological Considerations: 1.Impact of the horse and the gun on bison hunting 2.Impact of the hide trade on bison hunting

15 Impact of the Horse on Plains Indian Life: Vastly increased their movement Allowed the accumulation of more property Could build larger tipis Could more easily transport children, the elderly and the sick Horse as a unit of wealth resulted in increasing social distinctions Nomadic hunting populations acquired a distinct military advantage over settled farmers

16 Impact of the Horse and Gun on Bison Hunting: 1.Changed the spatial relationship between Indians and bison 2.Increased size of hunting territory 3.Increased the speed and effectiveness of the buffalo hunt 4.Increased reliability of hunting 5.Reduced per capita labor costs (cost/benefit) 6.Individualized bison hunting 7.Industrialized the hunt

17 Flow of Trade Goods on to the Plains The Buffalo Hide Trade

18 Impact of the Hide Trade on Bison Hunting: 1.Changed Population/Resource (P/R) relationship between Indians and bison 2.Shift from subsistence to commercial economy 3.Individual male Indians became self-employed entrepreneurs 4.Producers on the margins of an expanding global economy

19 Subsistence needs: One Blackfoot family consisting of 2 men, 3 women, and 3 children required 24 bison per year for food. (Ewers 1955) Subsistence plus Hide Trade: 52 bison per lodge per year = 6.5 bison per person per 8 people per lodge. (Jacob Fowler 1821) Per Capita Bison Consumption

20 Reported Buffalo Kills by Indians: 1821:700 Cheyenne lodges were reported to be consuming 100 bison per day or 36,500 per year. 1830:25-30,000 buffalo robes exported per year from the Missouri River region by the American Fur Company 1846: 100,000 buffalo robes traded annually between at Bent’s Fort in Colorado. 1847:75,000 buffalo robes sold at Upper Missouri Agency. 1855:3,150 Cheyenne were killing 40,000 bison per year (44 per man) at Bent’s second Arkansas River Fort.

21 Infrastructural Changes: 1.Dramatic immigration onto the Plains 2.Sharp increase in the size of the Plains Indian Population 3. Precipitous decline in the size of the bison population.  P opulation /R esources 

22 Immigration on to the Plains

23 Decline in Bison Population Bison Year Population ,000, ,000, ,000, ,000, , ,091

24 1850: Comanche reported eating their horses and raiding New Mexico settlements for food. 1853: Cheyenne and Arapaho reported spending half the year in a state of starvation. Early Reports of Indian Food Shortages:

25 Size of Herd Sightings Increased with Time

26 Increasing hunting pressure on bison led to a greater “massing” of bison herds and to increased local variation in bison availability. This resulted in reduced access to bison for some Plains Indian groups.

27 1.Overhunting (especially of cows) 2.Grazing competition with Indian horses 3.Diseases (transmitted by Indian horses) 4.Predation (mostly wolves) 5.Climate (several major droughts after 1846) Causes of Decline in Bison Numbers:

28 Mandan Buffalo Dance Plains Indians generally believed that buffalo were supernatural in origin and existed in limitless numbers underground. A Bison Calling Ceremony was performed each year to coax them from their underground shelters.

29 In 1881, representatives of many tribes assembled on the North Fork of the Red River for the Kiowa Sun Dance where a Kiowa shaman named Buffalo Coming out vowed to call on the herds to re- emerge from the ground. The Kiowa believed the bison had gone into hiding in the earth, and they still call a peak in the Wichita Mountains "Hiding Mountain."

30 Structural Changes: 1.Evolution of independent family 2.Emerging class differentiation 3.Increase in polygyny 4.Brideprice inflation 5.Increasing warfare 6.Evolution of political-military alliances 7.Increasing importance of military societies

31 Polygamy was a result of increasing social stratification Polygamous families were wealthier and more prosperous “ Polygyny was confined largely to chiefs and rich men, some of whom had as many as 6-8 wives.” --George Catlin (on the Mandan) “While only 10% of Kiowa men living around 1870 were polygamous, 50% of the 25 most famous men in the tribe at the time were polygamous.” –Mishkin (1940) Among the Cheyenne, 16.5 % polygamous families contained 26.5 % of the population.

32 Male: more children more relatives more labor increased wealth more status in the community Polygamy Benefited Husband and Wife: Female: Co-wives (usually sisters) Daily help with chores Increased probability of keeping their mother in the household

33 "A Plains Indian with only one wife would always be poor, but it is a fine sight to see one of those big men among the Blackfeet, who has two or three lodges, five or six wives, twenty or thirty children, and fifty to a hundred head of horses; for his trade amounts to upward of $2,000 a year, and I assure you such a man has a great deal of dignity about him." --Charles Larpenteur (1872)

34 Berdache (Two Spirits) Warrior Women It is in association with increased warfare that we see the increasing prominence of Third Genders. The incidence of both Berdache and Warrior Women was greater in those groups that were more heavily involved in warfare.

35 Sioux Plains Indian Alliances: 1.Blackfoot 2.Assiniboine- Cree 3. Mandan- Hidatsa 4. Sioux

36 "A man could not even court a girl unless he had proved his courage. That is one reason why so many were so anxious to win good war records. They were all afraid of what people, and especially the women, would say if they were cowardly. The women even had a song they would sing about a man whose courage had failed him. 'If you are afraid when you charge, turn back. The desert women will eat you.' It was hard to go into a fight, and they were often afraid, but it was worse to turn back and face the women." --John Stands-in-Timber Enculturation of Martial Values:

37 "In contrast to an ondei son, …(a lower rank son)… has had to think first of economic returns and secondarily of brave deeds, of coup counts.... Given a situation in which an enemy has fallen from (his) horse, the young …(lower rank)… warrior is torn between counting coup and riding after the enemy's horse. The rich man's decision is much simpler; he counts coup." --Mishkin (1940) Emerging Class Differentiation:

38 "There were many brave and successful warriors of the Cheyenne who never went on …(scalping expeditions)…, who on their war journeys tried to a void coming in close contact with enemies. Such men went to war for the sole purpose of increasing their possessions by capturing horses: that is, they carried on war as a business--for profit. Some of these men who possessed high reputation for courage, success, and general well-doing-- made it their boast that they never killed a man, and perhaps never counted coup. --George Grinnell

39 finis !


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