Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:1 (Spring 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


The twenty-five essays in this volume enhance our understanding and appreciation of the Americanist tradition of anthropological theory and practice. The Americanist tradition, as several authors point out, has been concerned historically with Native-language texts and the knowledge they encode about the culture of Native communities and the individuals who compose them. The Americanists' concern with texts was manifested in the efforts of Albert Gatschet, George Dorsey, James Dorsey, Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, and others in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to document and preserve the oral knowledge of cultures that were being rapidly transformed or erased altogether. Theoretically, the Americanists believe in the inseparability of language, thought, and reality; they see culture as a mutable, historically contingent system of symbols. Practically, the texts-which are the products of long-term fieldwork and involvement with single communities-continue to serve as the bases for both ethnographic and linguistic studies.