Functional differentiation among Native Americans

I found the following passage from The Indian World of George Washington interesting because it suggests a kind of functional differentiation among the Shawnees, who lived primarily in Ohio Valley in the 17th-18th centuries. It’s not the kind of functional differentiation we observe in contemporary global society, but it is interesting nonetheless:

The Shawnees traditionally comprised five divisions, or societal clans, each with its own area of responsibility for the welfare of the tribe. The Chillicothe and Thawekila divisions took care of political matters and generally supplied tribal political leaders; the Mekoches were concerned with health and medicine and provided healers and counselors; the Pekowis were responsible for religion and ritual; the Kispokos generally took the lead in preparing and training for war and supplying war chiefs. These divisions were semiautonomous, had their own chiefs, occupied particular towns (often named after the division), and sometimes conducted their own foreign policies with other tribes.

Calloway, C. (2018). The Indian world of George Washington  The first President, the first Americans, and the birth of the nation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

So we have politics, healthcare, religion, and war as autopoeitic function systems.

Much earlier (about 200-1000 A.D.), the Indians known as the Hopewellian people, the mound builders who lived along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, had three leadership positions or offices: the sacred office, which was “responsible for spiritual mediation between this and the spirit world. . . . the chief (second office), whose roles included such corporate projects as mound building and food sharing, and diplomatic or warlike relations with neighboring chieftainships. The third office was that of the war leader.” (Jake Page, 2003, p. 69)


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