Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:2 (Fall 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


This well-researched and deeply warm series of essays is intended to acquaint readers with twentieth-century Indian grandmothers as familial bridges between past cultural embeddedness and an increasingly dismembered culture stretched from its roots in myth and practice. The essays range from sociological monographs replete with statistics to intimate first-hand interpretive accounts from the grandmothers themselves. The historical, geographic, and psychological breadth of the vignettes assures their appeal to a wide range of scholars and ethno-elderphiles.

Schweitzer emphasizes that even when biology is the triggering event for becoming a grandmother, the context of Indian grandmotherhood is culturally construed. Kinship patterns determine who is called Grandmother and how the grandmother relates distinctively to her grandchildren. Further variations on the role and conceptualization of Grandmother come from mythical portrayals, cultural ideologies, status, individual disposition, family connections, clan distinctions, and gender-related worldviews. All differentiations pale, however, before the ultimate common denominator of grandmothers-childcare and child-rearing, a relationship lasting from first motherhood to death.