Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians

Synopsis

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians, originally published in 1908 by the American Museum of Natural History, introduces such figures as Old Man, Scar-Face, Blood-Clot, and the Seven Brothers. Included are tales with ritualistic origins emphasizing the prototypical Beaver-Medicine and the roles played by Elk-Woman and Otter-Woman, and a presentation of Star Myths, which reveal the astronomical knowledge of the Blackfoot Indians. Narratives about Raven, Grasshopper, and Whirlwind-Boy account for conditions in humanity and nature. Many of the stories in the concluding group-like "The Lost Children" and "The Ghost-Woman"-were tales told to Blackfoot children.Clark Wissler notes that these narratives were collected very early in the twentieth century from the Piegans in Montana and from the North Piegans, Bloods, and Northern Blackfoot in Canada. Most were translated by D. C. Duvall and revised for Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians by Wissler.Wissler (1870-1947) was curator at the American Museum of Natural History and chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University. Among his major works are North American Indians of the Plains and Man and Culture.Introducing this Bison Book edition is Alice B. Kehoe, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Marquette University and the author of North American Indians: A Comprehensive Account.

Excerpt

"Why a reservation, what was it that urged the writer to visit and revisit these out-of-the-way-places?" Clark Wissler (1971:9) realized it seemed strange that an educated man from Muncie, Indiana, should choose to spend so many months, again and again, in the log cabins of dusty Plains hamlets. Why a reservation? "The Indian is perpetuated in memory as the most original and conspicuous feature of our romantic history" (Wissler 1971:10). Wissler had seen boys "playing Indian" even in Australia. Were the Indians wilderness savages? Deeply fascinated by human behavior, Clark Wissler (1870-1947) felt drawn to the reservations, where he could find men and women who had lived in societies radically different from the agricultural states of his own heritage. A boyhood tramping fields collecting Indian artifacts, a youth teaching in rural schools, and formal education in the new field of psychology led Wissler into anthropology in 1902. James McKeen Cattell, director of Wissler's doctoral dissertation in psychology, headed a Columbia University joint department of psychology and anthropology until 1902. Cattell and Franz Boas, who took over the newly separated department of anthropology, enjoyed adjoining offices. Wissler took courses from Boas and the other anthropologist, Livingston Farrand. Wissler's fellow graduate student Alfred L. Kroeber claimed the shift from psychology to anthropology as a profession was a practical choice -- in 1902, the jobs for young doctorates were in anthropology.

Also in 1902 the American Museum of Natural History separated its archaeology program from ethnology, naming Franz Boas the curator of ethnology (simultaneous with his teaching position at Columbia) and authorizing him to hire an assistant. Boas selected Clark Wissler, whom he sent in the summer to the northern plains to conduct fieldwork and retained in the winter to carry out museum duties. Boas left the American Museum in 1905 after . . .

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