The Apsáalooke

Apsáalooke Social and Family Structure, By Dale D. Old Horn and Tim McCleary, Pages 1-7.

Holistic Definition of Culture

To understand culture and how kinship is part of culture this chapter will present a holistic definition of culture. Culture can be described as being made up of four major aspects or components: Ideology, Social Structure, Communications, and Technology.

The first aspect of culture is ideology. Ideology is comprised of two major components: thought and philosophy. Under philosophy is beliefs, belief systems, morality, and religiosity. Religiosity is the belief that a society or culture is closer to God then another or all others. Philosophy is also comprised of emotionality, intellectualism, and knowledgeability. Under thought are values, ethics, and aesthetics. Values are a society’s shared beliefs about what is right and desirable. When values are acted out through behaviors then this is ethics. Aesthetics are what a society deems appealing; what looks good, what sounds good, and what is acceptable.

The second aspect of culture is social structures. This includes such things as education, military, kinship, government, recreation, entertainment, social and fraternal organizations and so forth. Social structure is only limited by the imagination and creativeness of the society in which it exists. The third aspect of culture is communication. Under communication there is oral, physical, and written communication. An example of physical communication is the sign language used on the Great Plains of North America. In the Great Plains the Native peoples developed a sophisticated sign language that is still used today. This form of communication allowed tribes that spoke widely different languages to converse. Physical language then is posturing, facial expressions, and gesturing. Spoken and written language, like physical communication, is learned from those around us, our society. We learn language from each other, we learn writing from each other, and we learn sign language from each other.

The fourth aspect of culture is technology. Technology is defined as humankind’s ability to adapt to the environment for survival and procreation. So, what we do, what we eat, what we consume for sustenance are important to survival. The first component of technology is food. Humankind is very adaptive when it comes to food; if it flows we will drink it, if it flies, crawls, walks, runs, swims, grows, we will eat it.

Tools are also a component technology. All tools are a technological phenomenon and they are comprised of two types, construction and destruction. Tools are in themselves innocuous but they can be used to construct and destruct. Tools can be used to create shelter or clothing, and in fact, shelter and clothing are also a part of technology that allows humankind to survive. Clothing is predicated by environment, in cold climates humans need more clothing and in warmer climates less clothing is necessary to survive.

The last item under technology is health maintenance. Health maintenance is related to food and healthful drugs. American Indians had a very healthy diet and knowledge of natural drugs. Of the food crops grown today, sixty percent of them originated in the Americas. Over eighty percent of all known pharmacology came from the knowledge of American Indians.

Therefore tools, clothing, shelter, food, and health maintenance comprise technology.

Though there are four parts of culture each part is interactive with the other. Humankind cannot survive without expressing these four aspects of culture. In everyday life we must communicate, invoke ideology, utilize technology, and interact with each other in a set pattern, which is social structure. All aspects of culture are interactive and therefore holistic and can be perceived as a circle with interconnecting arrows, each part relying and influencing the other.

Ethnographic Setting

The Apsáalooke are linguistically of Siouan stock and have a long history of residence in the high Northern Plains of the United States. They were part of the nomadic warrior complex that has come to typify American Indians. The economy of the historic Apsáalooke was based on the products of the hunt. This induced the tribe to be nomadic and organized in a complex set of bands, sub-bands, and lineages. The group was integrated through a myriad of ties that included phratry, clan, matrilineal lineage and patrilocal residence.

In the mid-nineteenth century the Apsáalooke came under increasing Federal pressure to assume life on an ever-decreasing reservation. During the discussions of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty the Apsáalooke leader Sits In The Middle Of The Land described his peoples homeland as being centered under the four base poles of a tipi; the southwest pole in the Wind River Range, the southeast pole in the Black Hills, the northeast pole at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers and the northwest pole at the confluence of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers or Three Forks.

Through later treaties and agreements the Apsáalooke land base was reduced from its original 38 million acres to the present reservation at approximately 2.2 million acres. Today the Apsáalooke have some 15000 enrolled members and the majority still reside on their reservation in southeastern Montana. The present reservation is divided into six districts with five major communities.