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Wyandot Government: A Short Study of Tribal Society Bureau of American Ethnology   By: (1834-1902)

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[Transcriber's Note: This text uses several diacritical marks: [)e] represents "e with breve," [n] represents "superscript n," ' at the end of syllables is a prime mark, [u.] represents "u with dot below."]







In the social organization of the Wyandots four groups are recognized the family, the gens, the phratry, and the tribe.


The family, as the term is here used, is nearly synonymous with the household. It is composed of the persons who occupy one lodge, or, in their permanent wigwams, one section of a communal dwelling. These permanent dwellings are constructed in an oblong form, of poles interwoven with bark. The fire is placed in line along the center, and is usually built for two families, one occupying the place on each side of the fire.

The head of the family is a woman.


The gens is an organized body of consanguineal kindred in the female line. "The woman carries the gens," is the formulated statement by which a Wyandot expresses the idea that descent is in the female line. Each gens has the name of some animal, the ancient of such animal being its tutelar god. Up to the time that the tribe left Ohio, eleven gentes were recognized, as follows:

Deer, Bear, Highland Turtle (striped), Highland Turtle (black), Mud Turtle, Smooth Large Turtle, Hawk, Beaver, Wolf, Sea Snake, and Porcupine.

In speaking of an individual he is said to be a wolf, a bear, or a deer, as the case may be, meaning thereby that he belongs to that gens; but in speaking of the body of people comprising a gens, they are said to be relatives of the wolf, the bear, or the deer, as the case may be.

There is a body of names belonging to each gens, so that each person's name indicates the gens to which he belongs. These names are derived from the characteristics, habits, attitudes, or mythologic stories connected with, the tutelar god.

The following schedule presents the name of a man and a woman in each gens, as illustrating this statement:

Wun dát English.

Man of Deer gens De wa tí re Lean Deer. Woman of Deer gens A ya jin ta Spotted Fawn. Man of Bear gens A tu e t[)e]s Long Claws. Woman of Bear gens Tsá ma[n] da ka é Grunting for her Young. Man of Striped Turtle Ta há so[n] ta ra ta se Going Around the gens Lake. Woman of Striped Tso we yuñ kyu Gone from the Water. Turtle gens Man of Mud Turtle gens Sha yän tsu wat' Hard Skull. Woman of Mud Ya[n] däc u räs Finding Sand Beach. Turtle gens Man of Smooth Large Hu[n]' du cu tá Throwing Sand. Turtle gens Woman of Smooth Tsu ca e[n] Slow Walker. Large Turtle gens Man of Wolf gens Ha ró u[n] yû One who goes about in the Dark; a Prowler. Woman of Wolf gens Ya[n] di no Always Hungry. Man of Snake gens Hu ta hú sa Sitting in curled Position. Woman of Snake gens Di jé rons One who Ripples the Water. Man of Porcupine gens Ha[n] dú tu[n] The one who puts up Quills. Woman of Porcupine Ké ya runs kwa Good Sighted. gens


There are four phratries in the tribe, the three gentes Bear, Deer, and Striped Turtle constituting the first; the Highland Turtle, Black Turtle, and Smooth Large Turtle the second; the Hawk, Beaver, and Wolf the third, and the Sea Snake and Porcupine the fourth... Continue reading book >>

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