Re: Budgets as cultural documents <debate>; Comanches, long

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Sun, 18 Feb 1996 18:43:36 -0500

On Sun, 18 Feb 1996, Michael Cahill wrote:

> Moreover, as John points out,
> budgeting doesn't go on in boardrooms and or the halls of congress only.
> Budgets are important topics in small communities and in homes.

If you will pardon an extended extract, the following is from the
conclusion of Comanche Political History, an Ethnohistorical Perspective.

Political organizations exist in multidimensional sociopolitical
space. First, they are the on-the-ground manifestations of cultural
structures by people in groups. Comanche political culture allowed for
several structural poses--family groups, hunting parties, war parties,
religious gatherings, small-scale medicine groups, large-scale military
societies, diplomatic missions, and divisional political gatherings--on
four levels of sociopolitical integration: the nuclear family, the
extended family (numunahkahni), the residential local band, and the
political division.

Second, political organizations are the on-the-ground
manifestations of cultural structures by people in groups exploiting
particular resources. Comanche political organizations were based on
four kinds of resources: (1) the exploitation of the buffalo by
horse-mounted hunters, (2) warfare and raiding, (3) trade, and (4)
political relations with others, including Euroamericans.

Conceptualized as axial coordinates, those two dimensions--levels
of integration and types of resources--present a paradigm of Comanche
political organization. As a source of food, hunting supported nuclear
families and n#m#nahkahnis, but it was usually not a direct element in the
political economy of local bands or divisions. [Only when that resource
was threatened from the outside--in 1874--did it become a divisional
political issue]. That is, although chiefs and military societies may have
organized and controlled pre-hunt activities, they did not organize or
control the distribution of the products of the hunt. On the other hand,
leaders of war expeditions controlled the distribution of war booty to
members of the expedition, and successful warriors made further
distributions of booty in such ceremonies as the Horse Dance. On the next
higher level, by controlling the context of Comanchero trade, local band
chiefs controlled the transformation of buffalo products and war booty
into trade items. Local band chiefs and principal chiefs acting as local
band chiefs controlled the distribution of subsistence gifts received
during visits to Euroamerican towns, but prestige gifts of canes, flags,
medals, and uniforms went exclusively to divisional principal chiefs.

Finally, political organizations, the on-the-ground manifestations
of cultural structures by people in groups exploiting particular
resources, are fluid and dynamic. They constantly form and dissolve in
step with changes in their wider natural and social environments. That is,
as the Comanches resources varied, so did their political organizations.
Some of that resource variation resulted from normal seasonal rounds, as
populations organized and reorgan ized to exploit seasonally available
resources; other variation resulted from longer-scaled fluctuations in the
general climatic conditions. Still other variation was geographic, based
on the localization of resources. Finally, some resource variation was
political-economic, based on human political and economic decisions. Since
different Comanches had differential contacts with Euroamericans
--Spaniards, Frenchmen, Mexicans, Englishmen, Anglo-Americans, Yankees,
and Confederates--there were corresponding variations in the political
resources available to the various Comanche groups, with corresponding
variations in their political histories.

The relation between political resource and resultant
organization is not deterministic, leading unimpeded from resource
variation to organization or disorganization. Rather, there are efforts,
more or less successful, to manipulate and control that relation. For
Comanches, those manipulations ranged from the Shakedown Danc--young women
shaming their heros into redistributing the spoils of war--through the
various magical efforts to draw the antelope and buffalo or to avoid
arrows and bullets, to the pragmatic skills of the diplomatic negotiator
trying to maintain a flow of political resources. The temporal expression
of those processes is political history.

just some thoughts...