Congrès International Des Américanistes, Quinzièeme Session

Show Summary

The practice of the adoption rests in the belief that the soul will be denied a life of happy existence in the spirit world unless its mortal remains have received the full funeral rites within a period of four years, therefore its special object is to liberate the soul and send it on its joyful way to the spirit world. And the prominent feature of the ceremony is that the family of the bereaved adopts an individual to take the place left vacant by death. If the dead had been a son, then the adopted one is a son; in like manner run other relationships. There are two requirements lived up to in making the adoptions: one is that the adopted shall be of the same sex as the dead; and the other is that both must have been companions in life. A boon companion always takes precedence. Hence it is that a child is adopted for a child, a girl for a girl, a boy for a boy, a maiden for a maiden, a youth for a youth, and so on with the older people.

The adoption of the individual into another family carries with it both advantages and disadvantages. To give a general idea of the status of a person let, for example, the adopted be a youth who takes the place of a son. He enters the new family as a son and he addresses the parents as father and mother, and the children of the pair are his brothers and sisters; and his relation to other branches of the family are the same as were those of the dead. He comes into possession of property rights as if he were really a son. He enters the lodge at will and leaves when he pleases. In the affections and mental attitude of the pair he is a beloved son. Yet all this while he has not forsaken his own family, and he has lost no rights or privileges there. And if his adoption carries him into a family of another clan, then he is prevented from marrying any woman who may be related to him by adoption. So far as his own clan is concerned, he is still a member of it, and no other, and is subject to its rules and commands.

Awhile after the last rites of the adoption have been performed, the adopted gathers together some food, clothing, blankets, tobacco, and other objects of use and takes them in person as a gift to the sponsor. Some of these things the adopted has obtained at great expense and some have been donated by the relatives nearest related by blood. And from that time starts an intimate intercourse between the sponsor and the adopted and between the near blood relatives of both. And in the visit of one to the other there is generally the giving of a present, either from the guest or from the host, and sometimes from each on both sides. When the sponsor obtains a kind of food especially delectable, such as fresh game, corn newly ripened, corn pleasingly flavored in the process of drying, berries that have just been gathered, then a quiet little feast is made ready for the dead. Word is sent to the adopted to be present. The fire of the lodge is left to die down before sunset, and while the sun is yet up the old ashes are taken out and the hearth made clean. By the hearth is then placed the food. Then the lodge is put in order and the cover over the entrance let down closing the place; everything is hushed, and there is an atmosphere of seclusion about the lodge. Then as darkness gathers out goes the adopted to fetch in the few that have been invited. Silently enter the guests who seat themselves about the food, the adopted being in their midst to share the feast with them. When the last has come the sponsor then drops a small bit of the food upon the hearth, and then retires to a dark corner of the lodge, there to say in an undertone to the manes:

"O my grandfather, and my grandmothers, come, I beseech you.

O my father, and my mother, come eat the food which I have prepared for you.

O my brothers, and my sisters, come and eat together.

All you, my kindred, come gather about this food and eat.

Now, for myself and for all of us here I beg for wealth and long life. We beg of you to pity us."

And then to the guests is said: "Now then." Whereupon they reply in chorus, "All right." Then they go to eating. They eat till they have eaten up all the food. For none of it shall be left. And at the end they depart as silently as they came. Though in reality it is the guests who have eaten the food, yet it is the souls that are said to have satisfied themselves.1

1Jones, W.n/an/an/an/an/a, "Mortuary Observances and the Adoption Rites of the Algonkin Foxes of Iowa," , 1: 269–270, 276–277.

Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Congrès International Des Américanistes, Quinzièeme Session

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Congrès International Des Américanistes, Quinzièeme Session

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Congrès International Des Américanistes, Quinzièeme Session in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024,

MLA: . Congrès International Des Américanistes, Quinzièeme Session, Vol. 1, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: , Congrès International Des Américanistes, Quinzièeme Session. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from