Winnebago Indian Social Organization

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Social Organization.-The Winnebago social organization is based on two phratries, known, respectively, as the Upper or Air, and the Lower or Earth, divisions. The Upper division contains four clans:
Thunderbird,
War People,
Eagle, and
Pigeon (extinct), and the
Lower division eight clans: the
Bear,
Wolf,
Water-spirit,
Deer,
Elk,
Buffalo,
Fish, and
Snake.
     An Upper individual must marry a Lower individual, and vice versa. While there is no law restricting marriage between the clans of the two phratries, there is some evidence showing a tendency of certain clans to intermarry. The Thunderbird and Bear clans are regarded as the leading clans of their respective phratries. Both have definite functions. The lodge of the former is the peace lodge, over which the chief of the tribe presides, and in which disputes between Indians are adjudicated. No person could be killed in the lodge, and an offender or prisoner escaping to it was protected as long as he was within its precincts. The lodge of the Bear clan was the war or disciplinary lodge: prisoners were killed, and offenders punished in its precincts.
     Besides these functions, the Bear clan possessed the right of “soldier killing,” and was in charge of both ends of the camping circle during the hunt. Each clan has a large number of individual customs, relating to birth, the naming feast, death, and the funeral wake. The chief item of interest in this connection is the fact that a member of one clan cannot be buried by the members of another clan of the same phratry. (For details of the social organization, see Radin in Am. Anthr., xii, no. 2, 1910.)

     The gentes as given by Dorsey are as follows:
1. Shungikikarachada (‘Wolf’)
2. Honchikikarachada (‘Black Bear’)
3. Huwanikikarachada (‘Elk’)
4. Wakanikikarachada(‘Snake’)
5. Waninkikikarachada (‘Bird’)
   (a) Hichakhshepara (‘Eagle’)
   (b) Ruchke ( ‘Pigeon’)
   (c) Kerechun (‘Hawk’)
   (d) Wakanchara (‘Thunderbird’)
6. Cheikikarachada (‘Buffalo’)
7. Chaikikarachada (‘Deer’)
8. Wakchekhiikikarachada (‘Water-monster’)

The books presented are for their historical value only and are not the opinions of the Webmasters of the site.   Handbook of American Indians, 1906

Index of Tribes or Nations



MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 22 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/winnebago-indian-social-organization.htm - Last updated on Oct 15th, 2013


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