University Studies of the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



UNIVERSITY STUDIES, Vol. XXIV, Nos. 1-2. Lincoln, Nebraska, 1925




Next to sociological field work, ... there are within this branch of study no other investigations so urgently needed as monographs on some definite class of social phenomena or institutions among a certain group of related tribes. A comparative treatment of some social institution as it exists throughout the uncivilized races of the world undoubtedly has value .... But at the same time a comparative study suffers from defects which seem wellnigh inseparable from the prosecution of so great a task. A social institution is not an isolated phenomenon, but is closely connected with a variety of facts. It is largely influenced by local conditions, by the physical environment, by the circumstances in which the people in question' live, by its habits and mental characteristics. All these facts can be properly taken into account when the investigation is confined to a single people or one ethnic unity.- Edward Westermarck, in a Prefatory Note to G. C. Wheeler's, "The Tribe and Intertribal Relations in Australia."

The purpose of this essay 1 is to summarize the material available for a study of the political organization of the Plains Indians, with special reference to the council The sources were meager, since early explorers as well as many field anthropologists slighted or overlooked this phase of the life of the aborigines.