Twentieth-century studies of social organization
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The landmark publication, Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, edited by Fred Eggan (1937), developed Morgan’s approach to the study of North American Indians, though it eliminated its evolutionary dimension. Influenced by the British †structuralfunctionalist, *A.R.Radcliffe-Brown, the contributors attend mainly to the social and political organization of a large variety of societies, especially the various Plains Indian societies of the north-central United States (e.g. Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho). The focus is principally on kinship organization, although other types of relationship, such as the *joking relationship famous among many North American Indian peoples, are considered as well. Another strand in this book, representing an important dimension in the anthropology of Native North America, discusses social change, particularly the religious revivalism which may be associated with the appalling relations with Euro-Americans during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus the Plains Indians’ *ghost dance, a *millenarian religion foretelling a general catastrophe which only the Indian will survive, may be understood as a reaction to defeat and confinement to reservations experienced by people who until that time had steadily developed a successful buffalo hunting culture based around horses and firearms secured from European immigrants by trade (Mooney 1896). Further south, among the Navajo of Utah and Arizona, the †peyote religion, focused on the ceremonial use of hallucinogens, served similar functions (Aberle 1966).