Site Search



BOYCOTT Yahoo Search Engine and Mac Afee Virus Protection
 For Unfairly Labeling this and another Native American Web Site
as "UNSAFE". 
 Read Details...



The articles/books presented are for their historical value only and are not necessarily the opinions of this website. While these articles/books can provide some insight to ways that have been lost, they are also written within the limitations and restrictions of the time in which they were written.

     An almost universal political and social institution which originally dealt only with persons but later with families, clans or gentes, bands, and tribes. It had its beginnings far back in the history of primitive society and, after passing through many forms and losing much ceremonial garb, appears to-day in the civilized institution of naturalization. In the primitive mind the fundamental motive underlying adoption was to defeat the evil purpose of death to remove a member of the kinship group by actually replacing in person the lost or dead member. In primitive philosophy, birth and death are the results of magic power; birth increases and death decreases the orenda (q. v. ) of the clan or family of the group affected. In order to preserve that magic power intact, society, by the exercise of constructive orenda, resuscitates the dead in the person of another in whom is embodied the blood and person of the dead. As the diminution of the number of the kindred was regarded as having been caused by magic power, by the orenda of some hostile agency, so the prevention or reparation of that loss must be accomplished by a like power, manifested in ritualistic liturgy and ceremonial. Front the view point of the primitive mind adoption serves to change, by a fiction of law, the personality as well as the political status of the adopted person.

      For example, there were captured two white persons (sisters) by the Seneca, and instead of both being adopted into one clan, one was adopted by the Deer and the other by the Heron clan, and thus the blood of the two sisters was changed by the rite of adoption in such wise that their children could intermarry. Furthermore, to satisfy the underlying concept of the rite, the adopted person must be brought into one of the strains of kinship in order to define the standing of such person in the community, and the kinship name which the person receives declares his relation to all other persons in the fancily group; that is to say, should the adopted person be named son rather than uncle by the adopter, his status in the community would differ accordingly.

      Front the political adoption of the Tuscarora by the Five Nations, about 1726, it is evident that tribes, families, clans, and groups of people could be adopted like persons. A fictitious age might be conferred upon the person adopted, since age largely governed the rights, duties, and position of persons in the community. In this wise, by the action of the constituted authorities, the age of an adopted group was fixed and its, social and political importance thereby determined. Owing to the peculiar circumstances of the expulsion of the Tuscarora from North Carolina was deemed best by the Five Nations, in view of their relation to the Colonies at that time, to give an asylum to the Tuscarora simply by means of the institution of adoption rather than by the political recognition of the Tuscarora as a member of the league. Therefore the Oneida made a motion in the federal council of the Five Nations that they adopt the Tuscarora as a nursling still swathed to the cradleboard. This having prevailed, the Five Nations, by the spokesman of the Oneida, said: "We have set up for ourselves a cradle-hoard in the extended house," that is, in the dominions of the League. After due probation the Tuscarora, by separate resolutions of the council, on separate motions of the Oneida, were made successively a boy, a young man, a man, all assistant to the official woman cooks, a warrior, and lastly a peer, having the right of chiefship in the council on an equal footing with the chiefs of the other tribes. From this it is seen that a tribe or other group of people may be adopted upon any one of several planes of political growth, corresponding to the various ages of human growth.

      This seems to explain the problem of the alleged subjugation aid degradation of the Delaware by the Iroquois, which is said to have been enacted in open council. When it is understood that the Five Nations adopted the Delaware tribe as men assistants to the official cooks of the League it becomes clear that no taint of slavery and degradation was designed to be given by the act. It merely made the Delaware probationary heirs to citizenship in the League, and citizenship would he conferred upon them after suitable tutelage. In this they were treated with much greater consideration than were the Tuscarora, who are of the language and lineage of the Five Nations. The Delaware were not adopted as warriors or chiefs, but as assistant cooks; neither were they adopted, like the Tuscarora, is infants, but as men whose duty it was to assist the women whose official function was to cook for the people at public assemblies. Their office was hence well exemplified by the possession of a corn pestle, a hoe, and petticoats.

      This fact, misunderstood, perhaps intentionally misrepresented, seems to explain the mystery concerning the "making women" of the Delaware. This kind of adoption was virtually a state of probation, which could he made long or short.

      The adoption of a chief's son by a follow chief, customary in some of the tribes of the northwest coast, differs in motive and effect from that defined above, which concerns persons alien to the tribe, upon whom it confers citizenship in the clan, gens, and tribe, as this deals only with intra-tribal persons for the purpose of conferring some degree of honor upon them rather than citizenship and political authority.

      The Iroquois, in order to recruit the great losses incurred in their many wars, put into systematic practice, the adoption not only of individuals but also of entire clans and tribes. The Tutelo, the Saponi, the Nanticoke, and other tribes and portions of tribes were forced to incorporate with the several tribes of the Iroquois confederation by formal adoption.

      After the Pequot war the Narraganset adopted a large body of the Pequot. The Chickasaw adopted a section of the Natchez, and the Uchee were incorporated with the Creeks. In the various accounts of the American Indian tribes references to formal adoption and incorporation of one people by another are abundant. It is natural that formal adoption as a definite institution was most in vogue wherever the clan and gentile systems were more or less fully developed.

Handbook of American Indians, Frederick W. Hodge,1906

BACK TO ARTICLE/CHAPTER LIST                                          NEXT >>

The articles/books presented are for their historical value only and are not necessarily the opinions of this website. While these articles/books can provide some insight to ways that have been lost, they are also written within the limitations and restrictions of the time in which they were written. For example Carl Moon (1879-1948) wrote "About the only thing we have thus far overlooked taking from the Indian is his right to perform his religious rites with their accompanying dances in his own way." When in fact that right was also taken from them in 1890 and was only restored with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978. Carl Moon saw himself as a visual historian belonging to both the scientific and artistic communities. This just shows that he was not aware of the "ban", because in his time information was not shared like it is today. ~ Spotted Wolf   (Read more about Carl Moon...)

Below are Links to American Indian Handbook Articles- [ Indian Adoption ] Indian Women ]

Below are Links to Wolf's Corner Articles- Contents---Register and Vote! ] Remembering The Great Chiefs ] Native American Legends & Stories ] Anglos Once Were Immigrants ] Handbook of American Indians, 1906 -Contents ] Native American Indians and the Eagle ] NA Names & Meanings ] Past Notable Native Americans-Pg 1 ] Past Notable Native Americans- Pg 2 ] Hill & Holler Thanksgiving Column ] A Thanksgiving Teaching ] On Being an Indian ] Where is Goyathlay's (Geronimo) Skull? ] Cochise ] Goyathlay (Geronimo) ] Mangas Coloradas ] Nana ]

Below are Links to the Main Pages which are also on the Side Menu
[ Home ] [ Contents of SnowwOwl's Website ] [ Flash News!-NA Current Issues ]
[ Music Options ] [ NA Information Contents Page ]
[ Native American People/Tribes-Contents ] [ Native American History-Contents ]
[ Powwow Information Contents Page ] [ Native American Life Living Art-Contents ] [ Native American-Leaders ] [ Hear the Voices of the People-Native American Testimony ] [ The Natural World ] [Native American-Recipes ]
[ SnowwOwl's Writings-Contents ] [ The Outraged Owl ] [ Spotted Wolf's Corner ]
[ Hill & Holler Column ] [ Wotanging Ikche ] [ So Says, Spirit Hawk ^i^ ]
[ Student Projects ] [ Guest Contributions Contents ] [ Dedicated People Contents ]
[ SnowwOwl-A Few SnowwOwl Feathers ] [ Featured Websites Contents ]
[ Featured Artists Contents Page ] [ Guest Log Archives Contents Page ]
[ Credits and Links ] [ Email Information ] [ Snowwowl's Website Awards ]



Created December 23, 2006