Rites of conflict among North American Indians
Zumwalt, Frank Edgar
Norbeck, D. Edward
Master of Arts
This paper argues that customary values are regularly and dramatically challenged in certain traditional societies by rites of conflict, North American Indian tribes, mostly within the United States, are studied herein as traditional societies of cultural and ecological diversity, The life of the Indian was rich in ceremony. Pueblo males were estimated to have spent almost half of their time in ritual observance, This emphasis on ceremony, while probably most pronounced among the Pueblos, was generally characteristic of North American Indian tribes, There were cycles of ritual ordained by the seasons -- planting, first fruits, harvest, the buffalo or antelope hunt, salmon run, the solstices and rain-making. The inevitable crises of life such as puberty and death provided another cadence of ritual. Mingled in these ceremonies were rites of conflict between formally defined social or political groups, between the sexes, between superiors and inferiors and sometimes between individuals. There were ritual departures from everyday norms in ritual clowning or jesting, transvestism, scatology, and defiance of pain. At times, many or all of these expressions of conflict were included in a single extended ceremony. These ceremonies blended the sacred and profane, the serious and humorous. There was procession, drama, dancing, and sport. In most ceremonies the entire society participated. Children were not shielded from the raw elements of life -- sex, bloodshed, pain, aggression and death. Often the ritual came to focus on such socially disruptive elements in a climactic peak of excitement. Yet, with the last drum beat or given signal, the ritual was ended and the group returned to its norms. It is for this patterned ambivalence in attitude toward custom that the material is searched. Until the white man's way became dominant, these societies evidenced remarkable repetitiveness and internal stability for centuries. These ritual patterns of challenging and accepting the social structure, as reflected in its values, should interest behavioral science.