General Features Of Organization

In the study of the organization of societies, units of different orders

are discovered. Among the tribes of the Siouan family the primary unit is

the clan or gens, which is composed of a number of consanguinei, claiming

descent from a common ancestor and having common taboos; the term clan

implying descent in the female line, while gens implies descent in the

male line. Among the Dakota, as among the cegiha and other groups, the m

is the head of the family.

Several of the Siouan tribes are divided into two, and one (the Osage) is

divided into three subtribes. Other tribes are composed of phratries, and

each subtribe or phratry comprises a number of gentes. In some tribes each

gens is made up of subgentes, and these in turn of a lower order of

groups, which are provisionally termed sections for want of a better

designation. The existence of these minor groups among the Omaha has been

disputed by some, though other members of the tribe claim that they are

real units of the lowest order. Among the Teton many groups which were

originally sections have become gentes, for the marriage laws do not

affect the original phratries, gentes, and subgentes.

The state, as existing among the Siouan tribes, may be termed a kinship

state, in that the governmental functions are performed by men whose

offices are determined by kinship, and in that the rules relating to

kinship and reproduction constitute the main body of the recognized law.

By this law marriage and the mutual rights and duties of the several

members of each body of kindred are regulated. Individuals are held

responsible, chiefly to their kindred; and certain groups of kindred are

in some cases held responsible to other groups of kindred. When other

conduct, such as the distribution of game taken in the forest or fish from

the waters, is regulated, the rules or laws pertaining thereto involve, to

a certain extent, the considerations of kinship.

The legislative, executive, and judicative functions have not been

differentiated in Indian society as found among the Siouan groups. Two

tendencies or processes of opposite character have been observed among the

tribes, viz, consolidation and segregation. The effects of consolidation

are conspicuous among the Omaha, Kansa, Osage, and Oto, while segregation

has affected the social organization among the Kansa, Ponka, and Teton.

There have been instances of emigration from one tribe to another of the

same linguistic family; and among the Dakota new gentes have been formed

by the adoption into the tribe of foreigners, i.e., those of a different


Two classes of organization are found in the constitution of the state,

viz, (1) major organizations, which relate directly to government, and (2)

minor organizations, which relate only indirectly to government. The

former embraces the state functionaries, the latter comprises


Although the state functionaries are not clearly differentiated, three

classes of such men have been recognized: chiefs, policemen or soldiers,

and young men or the common people. The chiefs are the civil and

religious leaders of the masses; the policemen are the servants of the

chiefs; the young men are such as have not distinguished themselves in war

or in any other way. These last have no voice in the assembly, which is

composed of the chiefs alone. Among the Omaha there is no military class,

yet there is a war element which is regulated by the Elk gens. The cixida

gens and part of the Nika*d*a{~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}na gens of the Ponka tribe are considered to

be the warriors of the tribe, though members of other gentes have

participated in war. In the Kansa tribe two gentes, the Large Hanga and

the Small Hanga, form the phratry connected with war, though warriors did

not necessarily belong to those gentes alone. In the Osage camping circle

all the gentes on the right side are war gentes, but the first and second,

reckoning from the van, are the soldiers or policemen; while all the

gentes camping on the left are associated with peace, though their first

and second gentes, reckoning from the van, are policemen or soldiers.

Among the Omaha both officers and warriors must be taken from the class of

young men, as the chiefs are afraid to act as leaders in war; and among

both the Omaha and the Ponka the chiefs, being the civil and religious

leaders of the people, can not serve as captains, or even as members, of

an ordinary war party, though they may fight when the whole tribe engages

in war. Among the Dakota, however, chiefs have led in time of war.

Corporations among the Siouan tribes are minor organizations, indirectly

related to the government, though they do not constitute a part of it. The

Omaha, for instance, and perhaps other tribes of the family, are organized

into certain societies for religious, industrial, and other ends. There

are two kinds of societies, the brotherhoods and the feasting

organizations. The former are the dancing societies, to some of which the

physicians belong.

Social classes are undifferentiated. Any man can win a name and rank in

the section, gens, phratry, tribe, or nation by bravery in war or by

generosity in the bestowal of presents and the frequent giving of feasts.

While there are no slaves among the Siouan tribes, there are several kinds

of servants in civil, military, and religious affairs.