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From two points of view, a psychological and a biological one,
Schurtz obtained similar conclusions. It is now only necessary, after
we have seen how he established his psychological milieu and his
sequence of norms, to investigate the manner in which he approached
the ethnological data themselves.

Schurtz claims to have reached his interpretation from an inductive
study of the available data. We have seen that there is good reason
to suppose that he approached the data with certain preconceptions,
the most important of which was the necessity of "ascending stages" in
the evolution of society. He had to determine, before everything else,
the initial stage of social evolution, and to look for it or for as close an
approximation to it as might still be found to-day. However, as
soon as we accept what Schurtz thought were the necessary conse-
quences of the two tendencies, — of the instinct for association and of
the sexual instinct, — obviously, then, that organization which conforms
closest to the conditions there imposed would be the most primitive.

He thereupon found himself confronted with the relatively easy
task of finding such an organization. He found it in Australia, and
selected it as the starting-point of his series. In justice to Schurtz
and other theoreticians, it should, however, be said that the Australian

The Ritual of the Winnebago Medicine Dance 175

cultures impressed many then, and continue to impress many now,
as cultures that either had been stunted in their growth, or had
developed only as far as the most primitive stages. From that point
on, the construction of a series was a simple task.

Such, in brief, is the position of Schurtz.

He wished to convey the impression that his theory was based
entirely upon an inductive study of the data; but we have seen that,
by means of two powerful tendencies, he in reality based his interpreta-
tion upon a deductive study. He does, it is true, claim that the exist-
ence of these tendencies was established inductively; but even if we
were to grant this, it is apparent that he subsequently disassociated
the tendencies from the data, and used them as new entities from
which to re-interpret the facts.

It has been pointed out before that Schurtz did not believe that the
absence of any or all of the "symptoms" constituted an argument
against his theory. In the same way, any evidences of convergent
evolution, of the appearance of "symptoms" of higher stages asso-
ciated with those of a lower stage, would not militate against his
position. Such phenomena were to be regarded as purely adventitious.
Dissemination of cultures, he held, was possible; but, although simi-
larities due to such an agency might obscure the normal development,
this normal development could hardly be fundamentally disarranged

The theory of Schurtz might be examined from' two points of
view. One might critically examine the validity of the assumptions
per se, and the justifiability of his inferences; or one might temporarily
lay aside the theory entirely, and examine the data individually.
It is the latter method of approach that I shall here adopt.

With this purpose in view, I have selected for examination and inter-
pretation the data furnished by the Ojibwa-Menominee Midewiwin,
the Winnebago Medicine Dance, and the Omaha Shell and Pebble
Societies. The investigation of specific data will, however, not have
any general validity, unless it can be shown that their specific content
is the result of certain very general psychological tendencies.

The common elements in the ceremonial complexes have led to the
predication of their identity, and it will be best therefore to begin
our study with an analysis of them.

III. The Shooting Ritual. — It might perhaps be expedient,
before discussing the phenomena of "shooting" in general, to analyze
what is supposed to be its precise nature among the various tribes
possessing it in one form or another. Generally speaking, the essential
idea lies in the simulation of being shot by a missile, and re-acting by

176 Journal of American Folk-Lore

simulating muscular contractions until the individual falls prone upon
the ground. The general theory of the Ojibwa-Menominee and of the
Winnebago is, that death must thereupon normally result, but that
certain conditions may change this fatal effect into one of temporary
unconsciousness. Among the Omaha, the simulated death is inter-
preted as the dramatic representation of the death of certain persons
known in the ceremony of the Shell Society as "children." Among
the Santee Dakota, it seems to have had no very definite meaning. 1

The Ojibwa, 2 Menominee, 3 Winnebago, and Dakota are at one in
interpreting the effects of the shooting as the result of the magical
powers inherent in the missile used. Efficiency in shooting, however,
depends not merely upon the missile, but also upon the shaman using
it. According to the esoteric interpretation of the Winnebago, the
specific results could only be obtained by being a member of the
Medicine Dance. There are indications that this specific efficacy was
associated with the general magical power of shamans, — a power that
had been obtained through personal visions, not in any way connected
with this society. For the Ojibwa-Menominee, this latter seems to
have been by far the more important source for efficacy. For example,
the otter-skin bag could be used with the same effect quite apart
from the performances of the Midewiwin. In the Omaha ceremonies
it is not quite clear exactly what renders the shooting efficacious,
and whether the result is inherent in the magical power of the missile.

In all the ritualistic complexes there are variations both as to the
manner in which the shooting is done, and as to the portion of the
body aimed at. Excluding the Omaha societies, these variations in all
cases depend upon the status of membership. The Ojibwa-Menominee
shooting is in nature and in interpretation quite similar to that of the
Winnebago; while the Omaha presents a number of variations from
the type.

In the Ojibwa-Menominee ceremonies the shooting ritual is always
associated with the admission of a new member. This includes, of
course, also the initiation of individuals into higher degrees, wherever
such exist. The shooting is done principally by the newly initiated
individual, because he is supposed to be trying his powers. There
occurs, besides this, a general shooting, in which all members indulge,
and which is supposed to increase their shooting powers. The
strengthening of their power is supposed to resist the effects of the
shot. Among the Omaha this general shooting is unassociated with
initiation, while among the Winnebago it is found associated both with
initiation and with the basic ceremony. It is therefore of considerable

1 S. R. Riggs, Dakota Grammar and Texts.

2 Hoffman, in Annual Report of Bureau of American Ethnology, vol. vii.

3 Ibid., vol. xiv.

The Ritual of the Winnebago Medicine Dance 177

importance to understand what relation this general shooting ritual
bears to the specific shooting associated with initiation. Shooting
is either an element primarily associated with initiation, and after-
wards separated, or it is some general element that has become
associated with any of a large number of other cultural elements.
In order to determine this, we have next to examine with what ele-
ments shooting becomes associated.

Among the Kwakiutl l there is a dance in which an individual
(ma'maq'a) throws disease into the people. This disease is repre-
sented by some object, either a stick or a harpoon-head. The shooting
has precisely the same effect as in the Medicine Dance. No associ-
ation of shooting of any kind occurs with initiation into a society.

The Kwakiutl example brings up the real question involved in
the shooting. To what extent is the shooting ritual of the Medicine
Dance of the Winnebago merely one of the forms of disease-throwing
which is so common a practice of sympathetic magic? The Central
Algonkin Midewiwin are really loose associations of men and women,
whose powers are obtained more from individual revelations obtained
outside of the Midewiwin than from the benefits of membership in
that society. Shamanistic practices appear to form an integral part
of this society. But apart from this, the shooting of disease, or of
any malignant power, at an enemy, is an extremely common feature
among the Central Algonkin as it is among all other American shamans.
The question that presents itself is, whether the shooting, as found
in the Ojibwa-Menominee and Winnebago Medicine Societies, is not
one aspect of this same general shamanistic practice.

To judge from the speeches and the songs of these societies, the
main religious function is to obtain the power to resist the influence
of the shot. The muscular contortions and the various movements
the individual shot at goes through, are intended to be symbolical of
this resistance. What the members expect to obtain are powers
sufficiently strong to resist any malignant influences that they might
meet in the general course of a lifetime; that is, we are dealing with a
very general manifestation of shamanism, and we ought therefore not
to be surprised to find it wherever shamanism occurs, either entirely
unassociated, or associated with a large number of different elements.
We find it unassociated in a large number of places scattered over
North America. Among the Kwakiutl it is associated with a certain
dance; among the Central Algonkin and Winnebago, with initiation.
If it can now be shown that among the Omaha, and among the Winne-
bago also, we find it again in a different association, then the association
of shooting with an initiation ritual will have to be regarded as one

1 Boas, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians
(Annual Report of the U. S. National Museum for iSgj, p. 485)-

178 Journal of American Folk-Lore

of a number of complexes into which shooting has entered. Whether,
in a specific case, shooting, or the initiation-shooting complex, is
historically related to a similar ritual among other tribes, is a question
that only direct historical evidence or a strong historical probability
can determine. The presence of shooting in a number of different
ceremonies, however, will not in itself demonstrate any relationship
between these ceremonies.

We will now examine the nature of the complex with which shooting
is associated in the night division of the general ceremony of the
Winnebago Medicine Dance and in the Omaha Pebble and Shell

A large number of the societies among the Winnebago and Omaha
are based on the common possession of revelations from the same
animal. We may have a society "of those who have had communica-
tion with the Thunders," or with the Nights, or with the Grizzly Bear,
or what not. The bond of such a society is generally expressed out-
wardly, by the possession of some "gift" which is intimately connected
with the animal, be it a head-dress, a tail, facial decorations, or the
right to the use of a certain drum, etc. The only society among
the Winnebago where no revelation is required for admission is the
Medicine Dance. There are, however, a number of elements which
connect the Medicine Dance with the other type of society so common
among the Winnebago. For instance, there is an outward mark of mem-
bership; namely, the otter-skin and the " migis." l On the warpath the
Winnebago wraps the otter-skin around his shoulder to signify that, as a
member of the Medicine Dance, he is protected from the attacks of
his enemies. In the shooting ritual of the night division of the general
ceremony of the Medicine Dance, and in the Medicine Feast, there
are a number of features similar to those of the Winnebago Buffalo,
Grizzly Bear, Night, etc., Societies. From the point of view of organi-
zation, the only difference would seem to be, that, instead of a common
bond lying in a supernatural communication, it lies here in the mutual
shooting. If we wished to describe the Medicine Dance in terms of
Winnebago society norms, we might call it a "society of those who
shoot one another." The shooting forms an integral part of the
ritualistic complex, much in the same way as do the set songs and the
set speeches. In the basic ritual of the day ceremony, the shooting
occurs in two combinations, — on the one hand, as an initiation-shoot-
ing-complex, set off more or less from the general ceremony; and, on
the other hand, in a complex that is a repetition of one which occurs
at night, and which forms unquestionably the basic portion of the

1 Migis is the Ojibwa term for the shell used in the Midewiwin. It is employed here
as a convenient term to designate the objects used by the Winnebago and Omaha in shoot-

The Ritual of the Winnebago Medicine Dance 179

entire Medicine Dance. We will return to a discussion of this sub-

Shooting in the Omaha Pebble and Shell Societies is associated
precisely in the same manner as in the basic ritual of the Medicine
Dance. In the Pebble Society we have, as a matter of fact, exactly
the condition which we assumed might perhaps be the correct inter-
pretation of the Medicine Dance. The society is named "Those who
shoot the Pebble." In the Shell Society the bond of union is simi-
larly the shooting, the society being called "Those who shoot with
a Shell."

It therefore seems quite probable, taking into account the fact that
three Siouan (one Winnebago and two Omaha) societies present a
shooting feature in their basic rituals, that this ritualistic complex is
a general characteristic of this area. To sum up, a shooting ritual
has entered into a complex quite different from that existing among the
Kwakiutl, Central Algonkin Midewiwin, and in one part of the day
ceremony of the Winnebago Medicine Dance. We must therefore
conclude that the association of shooting with initiation is merely
one of many possible associations, and that the shooting found in
the basic complex must be regarded as historically different from the
shooting found in the initiation complex.

Returning to the question of shooting as associated with an initia-
tion ritual, it must be granted that it is somewhat improbable that
this particular association should have arisen independently among
two tribes living in closely contiguous geographical areas. We may
therefore assume that the Winnebago either borrowed from the Central
Algonkin, or vice versa. All indications point to the former as having
been the case.

The shooting, then, as found in the societies discussed, is merely
one phase of sympathetic magic. A cultural element common to a
very large area has become associated with a special significance and
with special ceremonies. For the cultural areas discussed, this as-
sociation seems to have developed into two types of complexes, —
the shooting-initiation complex of the Central Algonkin, and the basic
complex of the Omaha and Winnebago.

IV. The Initiation Ritual. — The elements common to the Central
Algonkin Midewiwin and to the Winnebago Medicine Dance consist
of two parts, — an initiation and a shooting. Of these, the shooting
was shown to have been a more or less free element, capable among
other tribes of entering into an indefinite number of associations; that,
indeed, in the Medicine Dance itself, it had become associated with
two different ritualistic complexes. We have already examined the
shooting ritual; and we will therefore proceed to examine the initiation

180 Journal of American Folk-Lore

ritual, in order to understand its precise significance and its position
in the general ceremony and in the complete ceremonial complex of
the Medicine Dance.

i . Ojibwa-Menominee. — The simplicity of the organization of the
Ojibwa-Menominee Midewiwin impresses one at a glance. Only a small
number of individuals take active part. It is similarly impossible
to discern any elaborate ritual. A few ritualistic myths are told,
some songs sung, speeches delivered, and then preparations are
made for the shooting of the novice. The ceremony practically ends
as soon as the shooting terminates. In this semi-public performance
there is practically only one ritualistic complex, that of the shooting-
initiation. The only purpose of this complex seems likewise to be
the initiation of an individual into the Midewiwin.

This initiation ritual, we know, is only the terminal element in a
long course of instruction which the novice must go through. It is
during this instruction that the specific teachings and practices of the
Midewiwin are elucidated, and it is then that the symbolism used in
the bark records is explained.

These teachings and practices, apart from some ethical teachings
of the most general nature, vary with each mide. In each case the
novice is taught the mide's individual songs, his particular tricks and
practices, his specific herbs, and the uses to which he puts them.
The bond connecting the teaching of the mides is of the loosest nature.

When the instruction is over (and it is over as soon as the novice
has exhausted the wealth he expects to spend in each particular case),
the novice is ready for initiation. But into what is he really being
initiated? It would seem purely into the powers purchased from a
certain mide. If this particular mide did not chance to be a member
of the Midewiwin, the same or an extremely similar method of trans-
ference of personal powers would be gone through. In other words,
the novice is being initiated into the status of a mide. If one may
speak of any formal initiation here, it consists in giving to the new
mide some object which is generally regarded as a symbol of the pre-
ceptor's power. It may be a medicine-pouch, or herbs, or anything,
in fact. But is this not precisely what takes place at the initiation
into the Midewiwin? There, a person is presented with the "migis"
and otter-skin bag, which is symbolical of the powers of a certain
type of shaman, the mide.

The Midewiwin, from this point of view, is hardly a society at all.
It does, nevertheless, possess some of the essential characteristics of a
society: a number of individuals form a rather definite unit, owing to
their possessing in common a number of ritualistic myths, a symbol
and common status, in the eyes of outsiders.

As a society, the Midewiwin presents no such unit as does the

The Ritual of the Winnebago Medicine Dance


definite organization of the Winnebago Medicine Dance or the Omaha
Shell and Pebble Societies. The bond of unity in the Midewiwin lies
in the fact that all members are mide. An individual is a mide,
however, not by reason of membership in the Midewiwin. The
powers that make him a mide have nothing to do with the Midewiwin
at all. They are purely personal. The Midewiwin is primarily, then,
an association of mide; not of individuals who have become mide
because they belong to that society. It is because of this fact that
the individuality of the members is so potent a factor, and it is because
of this fact that no strong ceremonial unit exists. It is for the same
reason that initiation into the society presents, in all its essentials,
the picture of a normal transference of individual mide power.

Historically I do not doubt that it really is such a transference.
As the idea of the Midewiwin as a ceremonial unit developed more
definitely, the individual transference of the individual mide power
may have become associated with initiation into the Midewiwin itself.
It is perfectly natural, when all the mide became members of the Mide-
wiwin, that the transference of power should not have been thought
of apart from the society to which the mide belonged. It thus fol-
lowed that obtaining knowledge from a mide would be synonymous
with joining the Midewiwin.

As the Midewiwin grew in popularity, and as all the mide and a
majority of the other members of the tribe joined it, there came to
be associated with it certain specific benefits, that had in themselves
nothing at all to do with the mide, but which were generally charac-
teristic of Central Algonkin culture. The association of these specific
benefits played necessarily an important part in the history of the
society, because it meant that an individual, in joining the society,
obtained much more than certain mide pow T ers. He obtained, in fact,
all the mide powers, plus those specific benefits which membership
in the Midewiwin now brought with it. Through the transference of
the objects symbolical of the mide's power, — "the migis" and the
otter-skin bag, — shooting now initiated him not only into the status
of a mide, but also into that of a member of a society with an esoteric
ritual. The shooting itself no longer bore the impress of a general
shamanistic practice, but stood as a symbol of initiation into a society.
At the transference of individual shamanistic power, shooting did
not occur. It must consequently have become associated with initia-
tion when the loose union of the mide developed into a more or less
definite society.

Summing up briefly, we may be justified in saying that the initiation
ritual of the Ojibwa-Menominee Midewiwin is a transference of indi-
vidual power as found among the individual mide, modified by the
addition of another element, the shooting-incident. The initiation

VOL. XXIV. NO. 92. 13

1 82 Journal of American Folk-Lore

can in no way be regarded as necessarily associated with shooting,
but this association will have to be regarded as simply a characteristic
of the Central Algonkin Midewiwin. In other words, just as "shoot-
ing" may enter into an indefinite number of associations, conditioned
by the cultural individuality of an area, so initiation may similarly
enter into an indefinite number of combinations.

2. Shell Society. — In the Shell Society of the Omaha there is no
specific initiation ceremony. According to the origin legend, an
animal appears to a family consisting of father, mother, and four
children, and helps them to obtain food. They, in order to show their
gratitude, offer him their children. The children are subsequently
shot and killed. As they lie on the shore of a lake, four tremendous
waves sweep them away. They afterwards emerge from the midst
of the lake, and assure their parents that, although they are dead,
they are quite content, and they would advise them to put off their
mourning, return to their own tribe, and form a society. They could
obtain new members by selling to other people the powers they had
obtained. The shooting that occurs in the ceremony proper, and
which is interpreted by the Omaha as a dramatic representation of the
shooting of the four children, has nothing to do with initiation into
the society. Initiation consists entirely in the transference of certain
knowledge and symbols by one of the owners of the society to any
individual who is considered eligible, and who has paid the requisite

As a matter of fact, only members are shot. The shooting, what-
ever may have been its original significance, is here but one element
in an intricate ritualistic complex similar to the basic ritual of the
Winnebago Medicine Dance. Its purpose seems to be exclusively that
of "strengthening" the powers of the members.

Anything approaching the dramatic initiation into the Midewiwin
does not exist. Admission into the society is in no way connected
with the shooting ritual, although the shooting ritual is actually found
in the society.

3. Pebble Society. — The nature of initiation into the Pebble Society
is not definitely known. As membership, however, depends upon
supernatural communications from the same animal, it probably is the
same as that found among other Omaha societies of the same kind.
Initiation would thus consist in the obtaining of the supernatural
communication itself. Every person who has had a supernatural
communication with a spirit — in this particular case, the water spirit
— is eligible for membership into the society. Shooting is found, but
it is in no way connected with admission or initiation into the society.
It has, it would seem, practically the same significance as in the Shell

The Ritual of the Winnebago Medicine Dance 183

4. Medicine Dance. — In the Winnebago Medicine Dance, member-
ship does not depend upon supernatural communication of any kind,
but must be purchased from the leader of one of the five bands. A
long preparation is necessary, lasting in olden times as long as four
years. The individual is then initiated into certain of the teachings

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