Collection: The Siouan Indians

The Development of Mythology

As explained by Powell, philosophies and beliefs may be seriated in four stages: The first stage is hecastotheism; in this stage extranatural or mysterious potencies are imputed to objects both animate and inanimate. The second stage is zootheism; within it the powers of animate forms are exaggerated and amplified into the realm of the supernal, and certain animals are deified. The third stage is that of physitheism, in which the agencies of nature are personified and exalted unto omnipotence. The fourth stage is that of psychotheism, which includes the domain of spiritual concept. In general the development of belief coincides with the growth of abstraction; yet it is to be remembered that this growth represents increase in definiteness of the abstract concepts rather than augmentation in numbers and kinds of subjective impressions, i.e., the advance is in quality rather than in quantity; indeed, it would almost appear that the vague and indefinite abstraction of hecastotheism is more pervasive and prevalent than the clearer abstraction of higher stages. Appreciation of the fundamental characteristics of belief is essential to even the most general understanding of the Indian mythology and philosophy, and even after careful study it is difficult for thinkers trained in the higher methods of thought to understand the crude and confused ideation of the primitive thinker. In hecastotheism the believer finds mysterious properties and potencies everywhere. To his mind...

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Siouan Migration

On reviewing the records of explorers and pioneers and the few traditions which have been preserved, the course of Siouan migration and development becomes clear. In general the movements were westward and northwestward. The Dakota tribes have not been traced far, though several of them, like the Yanktonnai, migrated hundreds of miles from the period of first observation to the end of the eighteenth century; then came the Mandan, according to their tradition, and as they ascended the Missouri left traces of their occupancy scattered over 1,000 miles of migration; next the ȼegiha descended the Ohio and passed from the cis-Mississippi forests over the trans-Mississippi plains-the stronger branch following the Mandan, while the lesser at first descended the great river and then worked up the Arkansas into the buffalo country until checked and diverted by antagonistic tribes. So also the Ɉɔiwe’re, first recorded near the Mississippi, pushed 300 miles westward; while the Winnebago gradually emigrated from the region of the Great Lakes into the trans-Mississippi country even before their movements were affected by contact with white men. In like manner the Hidatsa are known to have flowed northwestward many scores of miles; and the Asiniboin swept more rapidly across the plains from the place of their rebellion against the Yanktonnai, on the Mississippi, before they found final resting place on the Saskatchewan plains 500 or 800 miles away. All...

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The Siouan Indians

Out of some sixty aboriginal stocks or families found in North America above the Tropic of Cancer, about five-sixths were confined to the tenth of the territory bordering Pacific ocean; the remaining nine-tenths of the land was occupied by a few strong stocks, comprising the Algonquian, Athapascan, Iroquoian, Shoshonean, Siouan, and others of more limited extent. The Indians of the Siouan stock occupied the central portion of the continent. They were preeminently plains Indians, ranging from Lake Michigan to the Rocky mountains, and from the Arkansas to the Saskatchewan, while an outlying body stretched to the shores of the Atlantic.

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