Re: revitalization movements; S. Arapahos; Long

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Wed, 24 Jan 1996 09:07:37 -0500

Mike Salovesh has provided some interesting data on the political aspects
of "revitalization", and there are parallels with the S. Arapaho case
(more below). If I grasp Mike's suggestion correctly, acceptance of the
"new pattern" is politics in the guise of traditionality, exploiting a new
resource in order to attain "traditional" goals. But I am not sure I see
"revitalization" there. During the 175 years 1706-1875, various Comanches
exploited various Euroamericans in various ways in order to attain
traditional Comanche goals, resulting in new political organizations
(tribes). But I don't think I would call any of those new resources and
organizations "revitalization movements" [see Kavanagh, Comanche Political
History (U Neb. Press, 1996)--a shameless plug--:-)].

Thus I wonder whether it it is proper to call either his Mexican example
or the modern US Neo-conservatism a "revitalization movement", at least as
classically defined (although not necessarily by Wallace): that is, via
the Deprivation Hypothesis.

Indeed, it is that feature that has bothered me about the specific S.
Arapaho ethnohistorical data: in what ways were those people--including
the apparently establishment people--"deprived" such that they would latch
on to alien patterns in hopes of a return to the old days. (Indeed, I also
wonder about the specifics of the Sioux examples: Mooney suggested that it
was problems with the rations which lead to acceptance of the GD. But he
also noted that those problems had existed since 1888, mostly since 1889:
that is, at most only the previous 2 years. Moreover, "Reservation Period"
Sioux art is noted for its extravagence: bead everything, including the
soles of the moccasins. Is that "deprivation", or is the real operative
word, "relative"?

At the same time, the traditional explanation is that the Ghost Dance was
a totally new (i.e Southern Paiute) cultural pattern diffused widely in
the West in the face of Deprivation conditions. But one dimension of the
cultural diffusion hypothesis--a more general hypthesis covering the Ghost
Dance Revitalization--is that when people accept a "new" pattern, they do
so according to their existing culture patterns.

Therefore, since the S. Arapaho had an age grade system--comparable to
Mexican cargos?--one could hypothesize that either:

(1) S. Arapahos viewed the GD in age grade terms,

or, following Mike's hypothesis,

(2) some GD leaders used the GD to break out of the constraints of the age
grade system while maintaining the outward appearance of traditionality.

It may be noted that the S. Arapaho age system apparently ceased to be
used at about this time, or at most by the next generation.

Can we then fit in the pieces that

(a) by 1902, i.e. a decade later, several of the GD leaders--including the
previously mentioned chief of the Agency police--were listed as "pupils"
of the "traditional" Sun Dance leaders (see G. Dorsey, Arap. Sun Dance).

b) While there are hundreds of Sioux "Ghost Dance garments" in museum
collections, there are probably less than 2 dozen S. Arapaho
examples--although they are among the most spectacular art pieces, and are
often illustrated in generic GD contexts--including multiple sets of one
pattern (the so-called Star Dress/Shirt), all attributed to a small number
of people, at most seven dresses, and seven shirts (interesting number!),
including the aforementioned chief of police and his wife. Furthermore,
several of those shirt-owners are said by modern S. Arapahos, to have been
ritual brothers.

[Note: the only GDs that Mooney saw were S. Arapaho, in Jan-Mar 1891. All
of the illustrations of dances in his book are paintings based on his
photographs of S. Arapaho ceremonies. [another shameless plug:see
Visualizing the Ghost Dance, soon to be available on a Web site near you:

As you can tell, this is a work in progress. More later.