The demotic organization of the Siouan peoples, so far as known, is set

forth in considerable detail in Mr Dorsey's treatises(52) and in the

foregoing enumeration of tribes, confederacies, and other linguistic


Like the other aborigines north of Mexico, the Siouan Indians were

organized on the basis of kinship, and were thus in the stage of tribal

society. All of the best-known tribes had reached t
at plane in

organization characterized by descent in the male line, though many

vestiges and some relatively unimportant examples of descent in the female

line have been discovered. Thus the clan system was obsolescent and the

gentile system fairly developed; i. e., the people were practically out of

the stage of savagery and well advanced in the stage of barbarism.

Confederation for defense and offense was fairly defined and was

strengthened by intermarriage between tribes and gentes and the

prohibition of marriage within the gens; yet the organization was such as

to maintain tribal autonomy in considerable degree; i.e., the social

structure was such as to facilitate union in time of war and division into

small groups adapted to hunting in times of peace. No indication of

feudalism has been found in the stock.

The government was autocratic, largely by military leaders sometimes

(particularly in peace) advised by the elders and priests; the leadership

was determined primarily by ability--prowess in war and the chase and

wisdom in the council,--and was thus hereditary only a little further than

characteristics were inherited; indeed, excepting slight recognition of

the divinity that doth hedge about a king, the leaders were practically

self-chosen, arising gradually to the level determined by their abilities.

The germ of theocracy was fairly developed, and apparently burgeoned

vigorously during each period of peace, only to be checked and withered

during the ensuing war when the shamans and their craft were forced into

the background.

During recent years, since the tribes began to yield to the domination of

the peace-loving whites, the government and election are determined

chiefly by kinship, as appears from Dorsey's researches; yet definite

traces of the militant organization appear, and any man can win name and

rank in his gens, tribe, or confederacy by bravery or generosity.

The institutional connection between the Siouan tribes of the plains and

those of the Atlantic slope and the Gulf coast is completely lost, and it

is doubtful whether the several branches have ever been united in a single

confederation (or nation, in the language of the pioneers), at least

since the division in the Appalachian region perhaps five or ten centuries

ago. Since this division the tribes have separated widely, and some of the

bloodiest wars of the region in the historic period have been between

Siouan tribes; the most extensive union possessing the slightest claim to

federal organization was the great Dakota confederacy, which was grown

into instability and partial disruption; and most of the tribal unions and

coalitions were of temporary character.

Although highly elaborate (perhaps because of this character), the Siouan

organization was highly unstable; with every shock of conflict, whether

intestine or external, some autocrats were displaced or slain; and after

each important event--great battle, epidemic, emigration, or destructive

flood--new combinations were formed. The undoubtedly rapid development of

the stock, especially after the passage of the Mississippi, indicates

growth by conquest and assimilation as well as by direct propagation (it

is known that the Dakota and perhaps other groups adopted aliens

regularly); and, doubtless for this reason in part, there was a strong

tendency toward differentiation and dichotomy in the demotic growth. In

some groups the history is too vague to indicate this tendency with

certainty; in others the tendency is clear. Perhaps the best example is

found in the Cegiha, which divided into two great branches, the stronger

of which threw off minor branches in the Osage and Kansa, and afterward

separated into the Omaha and Ponka, while the feebler branch also ramified

widely; and only less notable is the example of the Winnebago trunk, with

its three great branches in the Iowa, Oto, and Missouri. This strong

divergent tendency in itself suggests rapid, perhaps abnormally rapid,

growth in the stock; for it outran and partially concealed the tendency

toward convergence and ultimate coalescence which characterizes demotic


The half-dozen eastern stocks occupying by far the greater part of North

America contrast strongly with the half-hundred local stocks covering the

Pacific coast; and none of the strong Atlantic stocks is more

characteristic, more sharply contrasted with the limited groups of the

western coast, or better understood as regards organization and

development, than the great Siouan stock of the northern interior. There

is promise that, as the demology of aboriginal America is pushed forward,

the records relating to the Siouan Indians and especially to their

structure and institutions will aid in explaining why some stocks are

limited and others extensive, why large stocks in general characterize the

interior and small stocks the coasts, and why the dominant peoples of the

fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were successful in displacing the

preexistent and probably more primitive peoples of the Mississippi valley.

While the time is not yet ripe for making final answer to these inquiries,

it is not premature to suggest a relation between a peculiar development

of the aboriginal stocks and a peculiar geographic conformation: In

general the coastward stocks are small, indicating a provincial shoreland

habit, yet their population and area commonly increase toward those shores

indented by deep bays, along which maritime and inland industries

naturally blend; so (confining attention to eastern United States) the

extensive Muskhogean stock stretches inland from the deep-bayed eastern

Gulf coast; and so, too, three of the largest stocks on the continent

(Algonquian, Iroquoian, Siouan) stretch far into the interior from the

still more deeply indented Atlantic coast. In two of these cases

(Iroquoian and Siouan) history and tradition indicate expansion and

migration from the land of bays between Cape Lookout and Cape May, while

in the third there are similar (though perhaps less definite) indications

of an inland drift from the northern Atlantic bays and along the

Laurentian river and lakes.