Comanche Ethnography: Field Notes of E. Adamson Hoebel, Waldo R. Wedel, Gustav G. Carlson, and Robert H. Lowie

Comanche Ethnography: Field Notes of E. Adamson Hoebel, Waldo R. Wedel, Gustav G. Carlson, and Robert H. Lowie

Comanche Ethnography: Field Notes of E. Adamson Hoebel, Waldo R. Wedel, Gustav G. Carlson, and Robert H. Lowie

Comanche Ethnography: Field Notes of E. Adamson Hoebel, Waldo R. Wedel, Gustav G. Carlson, and Robert H. Lowie

Synopsis

In the summer of 1933 in Lawton, Oklahoma, a team of six anthropologists met with eighteen Comanche elders to record the latter's reminiscences of traditional Comanche culture. The depth and breadth of what the elderly Comanches recalled provides an inestimable source of knowledge for generations to come, both within and beyond the Comanche community. This monumental volume makes available for the first time the largest archive of traditional cultural information on Comanches ever gathered by American anthropologists.
Much of the Comanches' earlier world is presented here- religious stories, historical accounts, autobiographical remembrances, cosmology, the practice of war, everyday games, birth rituals, funerals, kinship relations, the organization of camps, material culture, and relations with other tribes.
Thomas W. Kavanagh tracked down all known surviving notes from the Santa Fe Laboratory field party and collated and annotated the records, learning as much as possible about the Comanche elders who spoke with the anthropologists and, when possible, attributing pieces of information to the appropriate elders. In addition, this volume includes Robert H. Lowie's notes from his short 1912 visit to the Comanches. The result stands as a legacy for both Comanches and those interested in learning more about them.

Excerpt

Two sets of unpublished field notes underlie much of the ethnographic understanding of the Comanche Indians. the earliest are Robert Lowie's brief notes of his 1912 Comanche fieldwork, the basis of the Comanche part of his “Dances and Societies of the Plains Shoshone” (1915). the second are the much more extensive and much more influential notes of the 1933 “Field Training Course in Anthropological Field Methods,” also known as the “Field Party,” sponsored by the Santa Fe Laboratory of Anthropology. Those latter notes are the basis of almost a dozen publications on the Comanches by members of the Field Party (Carlson and Jones 1940; Hoebel 1936, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1954; Linton 1935, 1936; Linton in Kardiner 1945; Wallace and Hoebel 1952; Wedel 1977) and countless secondary publications. Both sets of notes are presented here in full.

My interest in these documents began in the early 1980s, when I made a close reading of E. Adamson Hoebel's The Political Organization and Law-Ways of the Comanche Indians (1940) for background material for a dissertation proposal on modern Comanche politics. I had read Law-Ways before, albeit cursorily, but in that later reading I realized that one of my acquaintances at the Smithsonian Institution, Waldo R. Wedel, Curator of North American Archaeology, had been a member of the Field Party (Hoebel 1940:5). in the winter of 1983, while on a Christmas visit back to Maryland, I took the opportunity to meet with Waldo to ask him about his Comanche experiences. During the conversations that followed, he showed me his original notebooks and allowed me to cite them in publications (Kavanagh 1985, 1986).

In 1987 I returned to the Smithsonian on a string of grant- and contract-based projects. in an off hour, I approached Waldo about the possibilities of working up his material culture notes for publication, using the collections of the National Museum as illustrations. He liked the idea; indeed, he had begun to do it himself years before. He allowed me to photocopy all of his original notebooks and his various attempts at “working them up.” He also allowed me to copy

1. For the processing of Wedel's notes, see below, page 18.

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