Outlines of the Philosophy of the North American Indians. NATIVE AMERICANS, J. W. Powell.

Outlines of the Philosophy of the North American Indians

New York: Douglas Taylor, 1877.

19 pp, in original printed wrappers. Two chips missing from front cover, light handling wear; very good. This is the first publication in which Powell describes his understanding of the philosophy and belief systems of the Indians he encountered while exploring the American West. Thomas (254), notes that his thinking is "clearly influenced by the anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan, whose Ancient Society identified three evolutionary stages of human history: savage, barbaric, and civilized." The Indians, who are still in the "savage" phase, represent a form of "ethnic childhood," in which everything that occurs has a simple explanation (e.g., the whims of the gods), while the civilized and scientific man lives in a state of doubt - progressing via exploration, research, and discovery. Following these general thoughts, Powell offers a summary of Native American theology, religious ceremonies, and mythology, concluding that "The whole body of myths current in a tribe is the sum total of their lore--their philosophy, their miraculous history, their authority for their governmental institutions, their social institutions, their habits and customs--it is their unwritten bible."

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