Re: tribes

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Mon, 19 Aug 1996 00:23:49 +0000

At 08:54 PM 8/18/96 +0000, Mary Irving wrote:
>Mark Shapiro seems to assume that the animals that provide food and
>warmth are tribe specific. His idea does not consider the reality
>of the situation, namely that a number of human groups, or
>tribes,share the same animal resource, depend on either bison or
>caribou or red deer or reindeer or whatever the most plentiful prey
>happens to be. Therefore they would have to share the totem as
>well. Since they would have to marry outside their totemic
>community, they would be unable to marry any one and wouldn't last
>very long.

I cannot answer your good question authoritatively, but frequently culture
is not allowed to stand in the way of practicality. Totems turn out,
probably by an unsurprising cultural evolution, to be all kinds of things,
like turtles, and plants, and not necessarily the main food supply, perhaps
to accommodate just the problem you mention. Ruth Benedict writes of a
tribe so constricted in their choice of mates that the norm was to elope,
all the while condemning severely anyone who eloped.

Best wishes. R. Snower