Among civilized peoples, institutions are crystallized in statutes about

nuclei of common law or custom; among peoples in the prescriptorial

culture-stage statutes are unborn, and various mnemonic devices are

employed for fixing and perpetuating institutions; and, as is usual in

this stage, the devices involve associations which appear to be

essentially arbitrary at the outset, though they tend to become natural

the survival of the fittest. A favorite device for perpetuating

institutions among the primitive peoples of many districts on different

continents is the taboo, or prohibition, which is commonly fiducial but is

often of general application. This device finds its best development in

the earlier stages in the development of belief, and is normally connected

with totemism. Another device, which is remarkably widespread, as shown by

Morgan, is kinship nomenclature. This device rests on a natural and easily

ascertained basis, though its applications are arbitrary and vary widely

from tribe to tribe and from culture-status to culture-status. A third

device, which found much favor among the American aborigines and among

some other primitive peoples, may be called ordination, or the

arrangement of individuals and groups classified from the prescriptorial

point of view of Self, Here, and Now, with respect to each other or to

some dominant personage or group. This device seems to have grown out of

the kin-name system, in which the Ego is the basis from which relation is

reckoned. It tends to develop into federate organization on the one hand

or into caste on the other hand, according to the attendant

conditions.(48) There are various other devices for fixing and

perpetuating institutions or for expressing the laws embodied therein.

Some of these are connected with thaumaturgy and shamanism, some are

connected with the powers of nature, and the several devices overlap and

interlace in puzzling fashion.

Among the Siouan Indians the devices of taboo, kin-names, and ordination

are found in such relation as to throw some light on the growth of

primitive institutions. While they blend and are measurably involved with

thaumaturgic devices, there are indications that in a general way the

three devices stand for stages in the development of law. Among the

best-known tribes the taboo pertained to the clan, and was used (in a much

more limited way than among some other peoples) to commemorate and

perpetuate the clan organization; kin-names, which were partly natural and

thus normal to the clan organization, and at the same time partly

artificial and thus characteristic of gentile organization, served to

commemorate and perpetuate not only the family relations but the relations

of the constituent elements of the tribe; while the ordination, expressed

in the camping circle, in the phratries, in the ceremonials, and in many

other ways, served to commemorate intertribal as well as intergentile

relations, and thus to promote peace and harmonious action. It is

significant that the taboo was less potent among the Siouan Indians than

among some other stocks, and that among some tribes it has not been found;

and it is especially significant that in some instances the taboo was

apparently inversely related to kin-naming and ordination, as among the

Biloxi, where the taboo is exceptionally weak and kin-naming exceptionally

strong, and among the Dakota, where the system of ordination attained

perhaps its highest American development in domiciliary arrangement, while

the taboo was limited in function; for the relations indicate that the

taboo was archaic or even vestigial. It is noteworthy also that among most

of the Siouan tribes the kin-name system was less elaborate than in many

other stocks, while the system of ordination is so elaborate as to

constitute one of the leading characteristics of the stock.

At the time of the discovery, most of the Siouan tribes had apparently

passed into gentile organization, though vestiges of clan organization

were found--e.g., among the best-known tribes the man was the head of the

family, though the tipi usually belonged to the woman. Thus, as defined by

institutions, the stock was just above savagery and just within the lower

stages of barbarism. Accordingly the governmental functions were

hereditary in the male line, yet the law of heredity was subject to

modification or suspension at the will of the group, commonly at the

instance of rebels or usurpers of marked prowess or shrewdness. The

property regulations were definite and strictly observed; as among other

barbarous peoples, the land was common to the tribe or other group

occupying it, yet was defended against alien invasion; the ownership of

movable property was a combination of communalism and individualism

delicately adjusted to the needs and habits of the several tribes-- in

general, evanescent property, such as food and fuel, was shared in common

(subject to carefully regulated individual claims), while permanent

property, such as tipis, dogs, apparel, weapons, etc, was held by

individuals. As among other tribes, the more strictly personal property

was usually destroyed on the death of the owner, though the real reason

for the custom--the prevention of dispute--was shrouded in a mantle of


Although of primary importance in shaping the career of the Siouan tribes,

the marital institutions of the stock were not specially distinctive.

Marriage was usually effected by negotiation through parents or elders;

among some of the tribes the bride was purchased, while among others there

was an interchange of presents. Polygyny was common; in several of the

tribes the bride's sisters became subordinate wives of the husband. The

regulations concerning divorce and the punishment of infidelity were

somewhat variable among the different tribes, some of whom furnished

temporary wives to distinguished visitors. Generally there were sanctions

for marriage by elopement or individual choice. In every tribe, so far as

known, gentile exogamy prevailed--i.e., marriage in the gens was forbidden,

under pain of ostracism or still heavier penalty, while the gentes

intermarried among one another; in some cases intermarriage between

certain tribes was regarded with special favor. There seems to have been

no system of marriage by capture, though captive women were usually

espoused by the successful tribesmen, and girls were sometimes abducted.

In general it would appear that intergentile and intertribal marriage was

practiced and sanctioned by the sages, and that it tended toward harmony

and federation, and thus contributed much toward the increase and

diffusion of the great Siouan stock.

As set forth in some detail by Dorsey, the ordination of the Siouan tribes

extended beyond the hierarchic organization into families, subgentes,

gentes, tribes, and confederacies; there were also phratries, sometimes

(perhaps typically) arranged in pairs; there were societies or

associations established on social or fiducial bases; there was a general

arrangement or classification of each group on a military basis, as into

soldiers and two or more classes of noncombatants, etc. Among the Siouan

peoples, too, the individual brotherhood of the David-Jonathan or

Damon-Pythias type was characteristically developed. Thus the corporate

institutions were interwoven and superimposed in a manner nearly as

complex as that found in the national, state, municipal, and minor

institutions of civilization; yet the ordination preserved by means of the

camping circle, the kinship system, the simple series of taboos, and the

elaborate symbolism was apparently so complete as to meet every social and

governmental demand.