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Plains Societies and Cultures

Indians of the Great Plains, written by Daniel J. Gelo of The University of Texas at San Antonio, is a text that emphasizes that Plains societies and cultures are continuing, living entities.

Through a topical exploration, it provides a contemporary view of recent scholarship on the classic Horse Culture Period while also bringing readers up-to-date with historical and cultural developments of the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, it contains wide and balanced coverage of the many different tribal groups, including Canadian and southern populations.

Teaching & Learning Experience

Personalize Learning - MySearchLab delivers proven results in helping students succeed, provides engaging experiences that personalize learning, and comes from a trusted partner with educational expertise and a deep commitment to helping students and instructors achieve their goals.

Improve Critical Thinking - Indians of the Great Plains provides recent scholarship and up-to-date historical and cultural developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to see the Plains societies and cultures as continuing, living entities – including charts showing tribal organization and kinship systems.

Engage Students – Indians of the Great Plains features excerpts of Native poetry, songs, and ethnographic accounts, as well as Chapter Summaries and End-of-Chapter Review Questions.

0205059880 / 9780205059881 Indians of the Great Plains Plus MySearchLab with eText -- Access Card

Package consists of:

0131773895 / 9780131773899 Indians of the Great Plains

0205239927 / 9780205239924 MySearchLab with Pearson eText -- Valuepack Access Card

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Editorial Reviews

Textbook for undergraduate students treats physical, intellectual, emotional, social, familial, and educational aspects of adolescent behavior. Updated to introduce topics (AIDS, steroids, eating disorders, etc.) of current interest and concern. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205059881
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 8/19/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

In This Section:

I. Author Bio

II. Author Letter

I. Author Bio

Daniel J. Gelo is Professor of Anthropology and Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he has taught and researched since 1988. Gelo holds Ph.D., M.Phil. M.A., and B.A. degrees in anthropology from Rutgers University. His scholarship concerns cognitive anthropology and the symbolic analysis of expressive forms such as myth, ritual, language, music, and visual materials. He is a recognized authority on the culture of the Plains Indians and has conducted fieldwork with the Comanche people of southwest Oklahoma since 1982. Gelo is also the only anthropologist to have conducted fieldwork in all four main Indian communities in Texas: the Tigua, Kickapoo, and Alabama-Coushatta reservations, and the urban Indian enclave in Dallas.

His publications include Comanche Vocabulary (University of Texas Press, 1995), Comanches in the New West, 1896-1908 (with Stanley Noyes, University of Texas Press, 1999), and Texas Indian Trails (with Wayne L. Pate, Republic of Texas Press, 2003). Other publications include articles, commentary, and reviews for the American Indian Quarterly, Journal of American Folklore, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Visual Anthropology Review, Western Folklore, Ethnohistory, Plains Anthropologist, Current Anthropology, Great Plains Research Ethnomusicology, American Anthropologist, and the Journal of American History, as well as the article on Native North Americans in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology and the premier entry on the Comanches in the Human Relations Area Files. Gelo researched and co-wrote three award-winning film documentaries on Texas Indians for public television: Circle of Life: The Alabama-Coushatta Indians (1991); Big City Trail: The Urban Indians of Texas (1992); and People of the Sun: The Tiguas of Ysleta (1992). Gelo is also the only anthropologist to co-author a national elementary textbook series, contributing to six national and state social studies texts for grades 3-6 published by Silver Burdett Ginn in 1997. His work has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Humanities Texas. Professional affiliations include the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, American Folklore Society, American Society for Ethnohistory, and Plains Anthropological Society. Among his recognitions, Gelo was a Henry Rutgers Scholar and was named Ambassador to the Comanche Nation; he has won the UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Creative Activity and the University of Texas System Chancellor's Council Outstanding Teaching Award.

II. Author Letter

Dear Colleague,

If you have been waiting for a complete, up-to-date, and engaging textbook about the Plains Indians I believe that Indians of the Great Plains will meet your needs.

I’m sure you enjoy teaching college courses about Plains Indians as much as I do. The people and their traditions are so vibrant, so colourful, so intrinsically interesting to students. But I’m sure too that you share my frustration when trying to put together a suitably comprehensive and meaningful syllabus about these splendid cultures. There hasn’t been a comprehensive and current text.

At my school, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the upper-division anthropology survey course on Plains Indians draws an enthusiastic but very diverse audience. There are undergraduates of all grade levels and occasionally grad students. Some are anthropology or history majors, but many are business, education, or science students looking for an interesting elective. They all come from a variety of ethnic and regional backgrounds and with varied understanding about culture and Native Americans.

I needed a single text that speaks to all of these students in plain language about the kinds of questions they bring to class: How old are the Plains tribes? How did the Indians defeat Custer? What is it like to live on a reservation today? Who is really an Indian? I wrote Indians of the Great Plains to fill this need. Concurrently, the book tackles key concepts in theory, method, and ethics, from kinship terms to archaeological revolutions and graves protection law; and there is also plenty of history about the contributions of leading Indian and non-Indian authorities–all so the social science and Native American Studies majors can pursue further the ideas they have been exploring in prior classes.

Students have needed a book in which they can hear the people they are learning about. In Indians of the Great Plains, direct quotations, song texts, and stories continually reintroduce the Native voice. Native language words are frequently included and explained, inviting readers to venture into the cognitive world of the Native Plains. In class I am keen on emphasizing that Indian cultures are alive today–not frozen in time–and persistent in addressing common assumptions and stereotypes, and you will see this approach throughout the book.

Also, I like my course organization to be smooth and simple, so I needed a text that was designed practically. Nowadays it is difficult to ask students to buy several books for one class. Indians of the Great Plains is thorough enough to work without supplementary readings if you desire. And the chapter structure lends itself to one topic per week over a long semester.

If you don’t teach a Plains Indian survey, but perhaps other Native American courses, or just sometimes need information on these fascinating societies, you will find Indians of the Great Plains to be a handy and reliable reference to keep on your office bookshelf. It is meant to contribute to your success as a teacher and scholar. If you ever have questions or suggestions about the book I would be delighted to hear from you at


Dan Gelo

University of Texas–San Antonio

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Great Plains

The Plains Landscape

The Plains Culture Area


Chapter Summary

Chapter 2: Plains Prehistory

The Archaeological Record

The Paleoindians

Origins and Antiquity

The Archaic

The Late Prehistoric

The Historic Period

The Historic Tribes and their Origins


Chapter Summary

Chapter 3: Bison, Horse, and Hoe

The Bison

Extermination of the Buffalo

Other Game Animals

The Horse

Indian Horsemanship

The Horse as an Influence on Culture

Wild and Domestic Plants


Chapter Summary

Chapter 4: Tribal Organization

Tribes, Bands, and Clans

The Notion of Tribe


Descent Groups: Lineages and Clans

Phratries and Moieties

Native Naming


Men’s Associations

Women’s Associations

Religious Societies




Crime, Law, and Dispute Settlement

Examples of Organization: The Crows and Comanches

The Crows

The Comanches


Chapter Summary

Chapter 5: Family and Social Life


Kin Terms

Kin Term Systems


The Life Cycle

Birth, Infancy, and Childhood


Courtship and Marriage

Absconding and Divorce


Old Age

Death and Burial

Gender and Sexuality


Gender Roles and Relations




Chapter Summary

Chapter 6: Material Culture and Decorative Arts


The Tipi

The Earth Lodge

The Grass Lodge

The Wigwam

Other Structures

Tools and Weapons

Garden Tools

Basketry and Pottery


Boats and Rafts

War and Hunting Gear


Personal Adornment


Decorative Arts

Quillwork and Beadwork

Carving in Wood and Stone

Painting and Drawing


Chapter Summary

Chapter 7: Music and Dance


Chapter Summary

Chapter 8: Oral Traditions


Chapter Summary

Chapter 9: Religious Fundamentals


Spiritual Beings


Water Monsters

Giants and Dwarves


Animal Spirits

Transcendent Spirits


The Great Spirit

Sacred Symbols

The Vision Quest

Medicine Men and Women


Chapter Summary

Chapter 10: Group Rituals

The Massaum

The Okipa

Medicine Bundle Renewals

The Skidi Pawnee Morning Star Ceremony

Sacred Arrow and Pipe Ceremonies

The Sun Dance

The Study of Sun Dance Diffusion

Sun Dance Survival and Revival

The Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance and the Origins of Religion



Origins of Plains Peyotism

The Peyote Ritual

Peyote Symbolism

Peyote Politics and Law

The Native American Church

The Peyote Trade

Indian Christianity

Dual Religious Participation

Religion and Native Identity


Chapter Summary

Chapter 11: External Relations


Scouting and Trailing

Signals and Signs

The Face of Indian Battle

Coup and Scalping



Trade and Diplomacy

The Calumet Ceremony

Trade Languages

Sign Language

Indian Diplomats

Intertribal Marriage


Chapter Summary

Chapter 12: Life through the Twentieth Century

Conquest of the Plains

War in the South

War in the North

Early Reservation Life


Boarding Schools

Period of Reform

Indian Reorganization Act

Period of Termination

Period of Self-Determination


Chapter Summary

Chapter 13: Contemporary Plains Indian Life

Life in Indian Country


Work and Play

Social Relations

The Economic Picture

Contemporary Issues

Tribal Sovereignty



Land Claims and Natural Resources

Religious Freedom

Sacred Sites

Graves Protection and Repatriation


Media Imagery and Cultural Florescence



Chapter Summary



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