Yuman Tribes of She Gila River


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Both Maricopa and Halchidhoma had chiefs whose position was hereditary and functions vague. It proved difficult to get adequate information about them. Dreamers (shamans and others) were mentioned frequently and voluntarily; specific questioning had to be directed to chieftainship with but unsatisfactory results. It would seem that others were at least equally prominent socially: shamans, song and dance leaders, the directors of funerals and mourning ceremonies, custodians of scalps, war leaders, orators, etc. All or most of them had the prestige that derived from dreaming the powers that entitled them to their positions. In a society that put a premium on dream sanctions, it is intelligible why the chief, whose functions were of little moment, should receive slight attention. . . .

The Maricopa tribal chief was in reality the chief of the strongest village. Other villages lacked chiefs: "they came to that place when they wanted to find out anything." Practically he was chosen by the people of his village: they simply came to him for advice and to have him address them, until he came to be recognized as chief. In native theory, however, he dreamed his position. Last Star was not certain what spirit was the subject of a chief’s dreams, but presumed it must have been the mocking bird, because anyone who desired to become an orator dreamed of this bird.

His successor was his son or other close relative in the patrilineal line. The rule was not absolute but dependent on the competence or willingness of the logical successor. Normally the inheritor was a son (not of necessity the eldest son) because it was assumed that "the son had been instructed by his father, but they would pass over an incompetent son for a close relative on the father’s side." The successor’s competence was taken as a sign that he, in his turn, had had the requisite dreams. In default of a qualified son, the dead chief’s brother or brother’s son was chosen. The transmission was through the chief’s sister only if she had sons while his brother had none. No woman could inherit the position. In the case cited below, the succession was to a filial grandson because the daughter could not hold office. . . .

The functions of a chief seem to have been slight: his authority more admonitory than coercive. He rose early in the morning and called the villagers. Talking to the men first, he admonished them to go out to hunt, to feed their wives and children. He told the women to hasten to prepare a meal so the men could start. (A woman who failed to have breakfast ready by sunrise was scorned.) He looked after the meeting house and called men to the meetings.

There appear to have been no speakers (repeaters) for the chiefs or others.

Councilors were mentioned as chosen by the chief, two or three men. Whether they had special functions or authority is unknown to me. They were called matasinyuk, "those who agree"; more recently matawikik, "helpers."

There were evening meetings which any man might attend as he chose, even young boys, but not women. They took place in a special large house erected in the middle of the sprawling settlement. These were by no means legislative assemblies: decisions were not binding. The opportunity was rather one for the expression of opinion at a convivial gathering. Nevertheless, the proceedings were quite stereotyped.

It was customary for the chief to get the meeting house ready. In midafternoon he started a big fire, which was kept up so that by evening it was intensely hot inside. He would clear it of debris thrown inside by children, for they were not forbidden to play there. The fire was kept blazing during the meeting with the door closed, so that they would sweat. A pile of food was stacked within the doorway on the south side for the convenience of the fire tender, an old man who alone had the duty of feeding the fire.

As evening came on, the chief would stand in the open to call the men to the meeting: "they might have something to discuss." He advised them to bring enough tobacco, so that the unprovided would not lack it. Meetings always began by smoking privately, not passing their lighted cigarettes around. Two or three were selected to do all the talking (whether orators who had dreamed or others is not clear). In the early evening they discussed "things like crops." Toward the middle of the night arrangements would be made for hunting. Warfare was discussed. (Young men were not supposed to go off on unauthorized raids, but if they did, they were nevertheless praised.) Talking would continue until the appearance of the morning star, which was taken as the signal to break up. They did not think it proper to leave early in the night: if topics were exhausted they sang until this star rose. No one was allowed to sleep, because the older men were delivering admonitions and advice to their juniors; telling them not to gamble, to treat their wives well, not to beg even though starving, not to be lazy, and the like. Anyone who slept was sent out. There were no guards at the door.1

1Spier, L.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 154–158, passim (University of Chicago Press. By permission).


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Chicago: "Yuman Tribes of She Gila River," Yuman Tribes of She Gila River 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, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HXDLR36VXYT8EFI.

MLA: . "Yuman Tribes of She Gila River." Yuman Tribes of She Gila River, 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. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HXDLR36VXYT8EFI.

Harvard: , 'Yuman Tribes of She Gila River' in Yuman Tribes of She Gila River. 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 http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HXDLR36VXYT8EFI.