Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan


Show Summary

One of the most interesting features of the Hidatsa kinship system is the fact that the same individuals may stand to each other in two or more relationships. The concrete cases are too few to permit generalization as to the preferential use of one of the possible terms in actual practice, and I must accordingly content myself with describing the facts.

Hairy-coat is Buffalo-bird-woman’s "grandchild." But he is also a member of the same clan as Buffalo-bird-woman’s father, hence he is her "father." According to my informants, both appellations might have been used, but as a matter of fact Buffalo-bird-woman and her brother Wolf-chief only called Hairy-coat "father" when they received a sacred bundle object from him.

Still more instructive are the relations between Packs-wolf and Goodbird. From diagram 2, it appears that Packs-wolf is Goodbird’s mother’s father’s sister’s son’s daughter’s husband = mother’s father’s daughter’s husband = mother’s sister’s husband = father. On the other hand, Packs-wolf’s father was a member of Goodbird’s clan, whence the relationship would be reversed, Goodbird becoming Packs-wolf’s father. But this is not all. Mrs. Goodbird’s sister adopted Packs-wolf’s brother, Crow-not-knowing, as her brother, whence Mrs. Goodbird likewise became sister to Crow-not-knowing, all his brothers simultaneously becoming her brothers as well. Thus, Packs-wolf is a brother of Goodbird’s wife and accordingly Goodbird’s brother-in-law. As a matter of fact, Goodbird never called Packs-wolf tare but batse ec or batse ecia because of the clan relationship, which thus took precedence here but for some reasons not in the case of Hairy-coat. Packs-wolf called Goodbird tate, but they might treat each other as brothers-in-law and Mrs. Packs-wolf in speaking to Goodbird about her husband would say, . . . "Your father your brother-in-law my spouse."

Son-of-star was Goodbird’s own father. On the other hand, Goodbird was Son-of-star’s father because Goodbird is of the Prairie-chicken clan to which Son-of-star’s own father belonged. Goodbird never actually called his father "son"; he was, however, entitled to his share when Son-of-star gave presents to his clan fathers.

Poor-wolf belonged to the same clan as Buffalo-bird-woman’s father, and she belongs to Poor-wolf’s father’s clan. Accordingly, he was both her clan father and also her clan son. Actually, she only called him "father." This may have been due either to his age or to his functioning as a ceremonial father towards her. . . .

Buffalo-bird-woman looked upon Cherry-necklace as her brother-in-law because her brother, Painted-yellow, was his brother-in-law. But when another brother, Bear’s necklace, married Cherry-necklace’s daughter, Buffalo-bird-woman henceforth regarded him as her father-in-law. In such cases, my informant explained, the relationship of father-in-law takes precedence and thereafter she would not joke with Cherry-necklace any more.1

1Lowie, R.H.n/an/an/an/a, "Notes on the Social Organization and Customs of he Mandan, Hidatsa, and Crow Indians," Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Pap., 21: 37–38.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan

Select an option:

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

Email Options

Title: Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan

Select an option:

Email addres:

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

Chicago: "Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan," Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan 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 5, 2023,

MLA: . "Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan." Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan, Vol. 21, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 5 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan' in Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 5 December 2023, from