Indians of the Great Plains: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Indians of the Great Plains

1st Edition

By Daniel J. Gelo


400 pages

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Paperback: 9780131773899
pub: 2011-06-29
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Plains Societies and Cultures

Indians of the Great Plains, written by Daniel J. Gelo of The University of Texas at San Antonio, is a text that emphasizes that Plains societies and cultures are continuing, living entities.

Through a topical exploration, it provides a contemporary view of recent scholarship on the classic Horse Culture Period while also bringing readers up-to-date with historical and cultural developments of the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, it contains wide and balanced coverage of the many different tribal groups, including Canadian and southern populations.

Teaching & Learning Experience:

  • Improve Critical Thinking - Indians of the Great Plains provides recent scholarship and up-to-date historical and cultural developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to see the Plains societies and cultures as continuing, living entities — including charts showing tribal organization and kinship systems.
  • Engage Students — Indians of the Great Plains features excerpts of Native poetry, songs, and ethnographic accounts, as well as Chapter Summaries and End-of-Chapter Review Questions.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Great Plains

The Plains Landscape

The Plains Culture Area


Chapter Summary

Chapter 2: Plains Prehistory

The Archaeological Record

The Paleoindians

Origins and Antiquity

The Archaic

The Late Prehistoric

The Historic Period

The Historic Tribes and their Origins


Chapter Summary

Chapter 3: Bison, Horse, and Hoe

The Bison

Extermination of the Buffalo

Other Game Animals

The Horse

Indian Horsemanship

The Horse as an Influence on Culture

Wild and Domestic Plants


Chapter Summary

Chapter 4: Tribal Organization

Tribes, Bands, and Clans

The Notion of Tribe


Descent Groups: Lineages and Clans

Phratries and Moieties

Native Naming


Men’s Associations

Women’s Associations

Religious Societies




Crime, Law, and Dispute Settlement

Examples of Organization: The Crows and Comanches

The Crows

The Comanches


Chapter Summary

Chapter 5: Family and Social Life


Kin Terms

Kin Term Systems


The Life Cycle

Birth, Infancy, and Childhood


Courtship and Marriage

Absconding and Divorce


Old Age

Death and Burial

Gender and Sexuality


Gender Roles and Relations




Chapter Summary

Chapter 6: Material Culture and Decorative Arts


The Tipi

The Earth Lodge

The Grass Lodge

The Wigwam

Other Structures

Tools and Weapons

Garden Tools

Basketry and Pottery


Boats and Rafts

War and Hunting Gear


Personal Adornment


Decorative Arts

Quillwork and Beadwork

Carving in Wood and Stone

Painting and Drawing


Chapter Summary

Chapter 7: Music and Dance


Chapter Summary

Chapter 8: Oral Traditions


Chapter Summary

Chapter 9: Religious Fundamentals


Spiritual Beings


Water Monsters

Giants and Dwarves


Animal Spirits

Transcendent Spirits


The Great Spirit

Sacred Symbols

The Vision Quest

Medicine Men and Women


Chapter Summary

Chapter 10: Group Rituals

The Massaum

The Okipa

Medicine Bundle Renewals

The Skidi Pawnee Morning Star Ceremony

Sacred Arrow and Pipe Ceremonies

The Sun Dance

The Study of Sun Dance Diffusion

Sun Dance Survival and Revival

The Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance and the Origins of Religion



Origins of Plains Peyotism

The Peyote Ritual

Peyote Symbolism

Peyote Politics and Law

The Native American Church

The Peyote Trade

Indian Christianity

Dual Religious Participation

Religion and Native Identity


Chapter Summary

Chapter 11: External Relations


Scouting and Trailing

Signals and Signs

The Face of Indian Battle

Coup and Scalping



Trade and Diplomacy

The Calumet Ceremony

Trade Languages

Sign Language

Indian Diplomats

Intertribal Marriage


Chapter Summary

Chapter 12: Life through the Twentieth Century

Conquest of the Plains

War in the South

War in the North

Early Reservation Life


Boarding Schools

Period of Reform

Indian Reorganization Act

Period of Termination

Period of Self-Determination


Chapter Summary

Chapter 13: Contemporary Plains Indian Life

Life in Indian Country


Work and Play

Social Relations

The Economic Picture

Contemporary Issues

Tribal Sovereignty



Land Claims and Natural Resources

Religious Freedom

Sacred Sites

Graves Protection and Repatriation


Media Imagery and Cultural Florescence



Chapter Summary



About the Author

Daniel J. Gelo is Professor of Anthropology and Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he has taught and researched since 1988. Gelo holds Ph.D., M.Phil. M.A., and B.A. degrees in anthropology from Rutgers University. His scholarship concerns cognitive anthropology and the symbolic analysis of expressive forms such as myth, ritual, language, music, and visual materials. He is a recognized authority on the culture of the Plains Indians and has conducted fieldwork with the Comanche people of southwest Oklahoma since 1982. Gelo is also the only anthropologist to have conducted fieldwork in all four main Indian communities in Texas: the Tigua, Kickapoo, and Alabama-Coushatta reservations, and the urban Indian enclave in Dallas.

His publications include Comanche Vocabulary (University of Texas Press, 1995), Comanches in the New West, 1896-1908 (with Stanley Noyes, University of Texas Press, 1999), and Texas Indian Trails (with Wayne L. Pate, Republic of Texas Press, 2003). Other publications include articles, commentary, and reviews for the American Indian Quarterly, Journal of American Folklore, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Visual Anthropology Review, Western Folklore, Ethnohistory, Plains Anthropologist, Current Anthropology, Great Plains Research Ethnomusicology, American Anthropologist, and the Journal of American History, as well as the article on Native North Americans in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology and the premier entry on the Comanches in the Human Relations Area Files. Gelo researched and co-wrote three award-winning film documentaries on Texas Indians for public television: Circle of Life: The Alabama-Coushatta Indians (1991); Big City Trail: The Urban Indians of Texas (1992); and People of the Sun: The Tiguas of Ysleta (1992). Gelo is also the only anthropologist to co-author a national elementary textbook series, contributing to six national and state social studies texts for grades 3-6 published by Silver Burdett Ginn in 1997. His work has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Humanities Texas. Professional affiliations include the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, American Folklore Society, American Society for Ethnohistory, and Plains Anthropological Society. Among his recognitions, Gelo was a Henry Rutgers Scholar and was named Ambassador to the Comanche Nation; he has won the UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Creative Activity and the University of Texas System Chancellor's Council Outstanding Teaching Award.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural