Jour. Anth, Inst.


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One of the features of the purchase . . . is the ceremonial surrender of the purchasers’ wives to the sellers. This was carried so far that if a young man chanced to be single, he would make a long journey to some friend in another village in order to borrow his wife for the purpose. The friend would then take his wife with him, accompany the buyer, and make the surrender in his stead. Sometimes three or more wives were offered to the same father. My best Hidatsa authority, Hairy-coat, confirms these statements for his own tribe. A single man, according to him, would borrow a fellow clansman’s wife, as it was customary for members of one clan to help one another in the purchase of an organization by gifts of horses and what not. Hairy-coat also said on another occasion that the Stone Hammers, not being as yet married, would borrow the wives of their older "friends," but this view remains unconfirmed. From various statements I get the impression that while the buyers of an age society were expected to offer their wives to the sellers, the latter, for fear of bad luck, rarely exercised the privilege thus granted them. . . . One Hidatsa informant, however, thought that [clan] fathers did in most cases avail themselves of the offer except when the wife was a relative of his, in which case he would refuse to go outside with her and would pray for both his son and his son’s wife in the lodge.

This surrender of wives in the purchase of age societies seems to be merely a special application of an established custom. Lewis and Clark, as well as Maximilian, refer to this surrender as a feature in a tribal buffalo ceremony. According to Maximilian, a woman covered only by her robe would approach one of the most eminent tribesmen, stroke his arms from the shoulder downward, and thus invite him to accompany her to a secluded spot. He might avoid intercourse by presenting her with a gift, which, however, was rarely done. Elsewhere Maximilian says that on other occasions individual Indians eager to obtain the blessing of another man before some undertaking would offer their wives in essentially the same manner. Hairy-coat said that sometimes clan fathers were invited to a feast by their clan sons apart from any purchase, and the latter would then offer their wives to them. Clan fathers who had no special powers to pray as a result of a vision would not go with the women. If a father refused four times, his son would say, "I’ll consider you an old enemy," thus making it necessary for the father to yield.1

1Lowie, R.H.n/an/an/an/a, "Societies of the Hidatsa and Mandan Indians," Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Pap., 11: 225–228.


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Chicago: "Jour. Anth, Inst.," Jour. Anth, Inst. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 10, 2023,

MLA: . "Jour. Anth, Inst." Jour. Anth, Inst., Vol. 11, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 10 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Jour. Anth, Inst.' in Jour. Anth, Inst.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 10 December 2023, from