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Strangers to Relatives

The Adoption and Naming of Anthropologists in Native North America

Sergei A. Kan

Publication Year: 2001

Strangers to Relatives is an intimate and illuminating look at a typical but misunderstood part of anthropological fieldwork in North America: the adoption and naming of anthropologists by Native families and communities. Adoption and naming have long been a common way for Native peoples in Canada and the United States to deal with strangers who are not enemies. For over a century, adoption and naming have also served as an important means for many Native American and First Nation communities to become connected to the anthropologists visiting and writing about them.
In this outstanding volume, leading anthropologists in the United States and Canada discuss this issue by focusing on the cases of such prominent earlier scholars as Lewis Henry Morgan and Franz Boas. They also share personal experiences of adoption and naming and offer a range of stimulating perspectives on the significance of these practices in the past and today. The contributors explore the impact of adoption and naming upon the relationship between scholar and Native community, considering in particular two key issues: How does adoption affect the fieldwork and subsequent interpretations by anthropologists, and in turn, how are Native individuals and communities themselves affected by adopting an outside scholar whose aim is to learn and write about them?
Strangers to Relatives not only sheds valuable light on how anthropology fieldwork is conducted but also makes a seminal contribution to our understanding of the ongoing, often troubled relationship between the academy and Native communities.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. v-vi

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. 1-28

The idea of this volume grew out of my own experience as an anthropologist who has been engaged since 1979 in ethnographic fieldwork among the Tlingits of southeastern Alaska and whose research has benefited greatly frommyhaving been adopted by two Native...

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1 Lewis H. Morgan and the Senecas

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pp. 29-56

In 1851, Lewis H. Morgan published League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois, an account of the culture and society of the six tribes of the Iroquois confederacy: Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas...

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2 Ethnographic Deep Play: Boas, McIlwraith, and Fictive Adoption on the Northwest Coast

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pp. 57-80

Adoption of anthropologists by aboriginal groups is a phenomenon as old as North American anthropology itself, dating back to our apical ancestor, Lewis Henry Morgan (see chapter 1). It has been seen as a valuable token of important things: rapport, solidarity, familiarity,...

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3 He-Lost-a-Bet (Howan?neyao) of the Seneca Hawk Clan

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pp. 81-98

The Iroquois have a long history of adoption. Indeed, adoption was public policy of the Iroquois Confederacy from earliest times. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Confederacy took in whole populations to replace losses from epidemics and warfare...

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4 Effects of Adoption on the Round Lake Study

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pp. 99-118

When I was asked to write about how my adoption influenced my research, it seemed appealing, partly because this is a pleasant memory, partly because I'd never explored the idea directly, either in the field...

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5 All My Relations: The Significance of Adoption in Anthropological Research

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pp. 119-140

Today, modern Lakota orators begin their speeches by saying, "Matuwe kin he slolwaye lo. Mataku kin he slolwaye lo. Tokiyaematanhan kin slowaye lo" [I know who I am. I know what I am. I know where I come from]. In keeping with this Lakota conceit,...

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6 Naming as Humanizing

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pp. 141-158

Before the age of ten, I had lived among Native peoples of the Northeast and Southwest, fascinated by their differences and outlooks. Bolstered by family ancestry among the Lenapes (Delawares), I decided on a career in anthropology. By conscious choice ...

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7 Adopting Outsiders on the Lower Klamath River

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pp. 159-174

TheYuroks and their close Indian neighbors (Karuks, Hupas,Tolowas, and others) do not practice the elaborate public adoptions and namegivings of the farther Northwest Coast. There are neither clans nor lineages in the formal, structural senses usually intended by anthropologists...

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8 Tell Your Sister to Come Eat

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pp. 175-184

Making relatives is a common, creative activity in American Indian communities. It is important work because one's family is one's foundation, one's wealth, one's power, and a person without relatives has no "home," no secure place in the community. Marriage and childbirth...

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9 Friendship, Family, and Fieldwork: One Anthropologist’s Adoption by Two Tlingit Families

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pp. 185-218

In the late 18th century, when the Tlingits first came in contact with Europeans, their social and ideational life was already ordered by the fundamental principles of moiety exogamy and the solidarity of matrilineal descent groups (clan, lineage, house). Among the various tangible...

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10 What’s in a Name? Becoming a Real Person in a Yup’ik Community

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pp. 219-242

Adoption was historically, and continues today to be, widespread in southwestern Alaska.1 During the year I spent in Toksook Bay on Nelson Island in 1976 and 1977, 10 percent of the population had been adopted out of their families of generation, 62 percent of these...

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pp. 243-256

Over three years ago, the dean of social sciences at the University of Chicago asked me to serve on a committee for research on human subjects. I wrote him a rhetorical letter declining the invitation. I explained that in anthropology we didn't have human subjects (or, for that matter, human objects); if anything we were the subjects, or...

List of Contributors

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pp. 257-262


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pp. 263-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780803201323
E-ISBN-10: 080320132X

Page Count: 270
Illustrations: Map
Publication Year: 2001