For some reason, a correspondent shared the following unsolicited thoughts with me:
Incest, wife swapping and sister sex was common with most tribes across Turtle Island, sorry to say. It was part of everyday life with most tribes, just go to any legitimate native american history library, if the christians and moralists haven't burnt them like everything else the americans did.
Startled, I asked my regular Native correspondents: Is this true? Were Indians a bunch of sexual perverts by "civilized" Western standards?
Natives respond to "Is this true?"
Absolutely not. In fact, the Plains tribes didn't even marry inside their own villages, they usually went outside the village, and arranged marriages were not uncommon. To the tribes (and this is all over) the community was of utmost importance...maintaining the community was the norm, and incest, wife swapping, etc would tear a community apart. I don't know where this person is getting their info, but it's rubbish.
Say what????? Incest and marrying [or breeding] too closely in a family has always been frowned upon by tribes. Inbreeding causes defective children and eventually produces lethal recessives to crop up in the populations.
Just because traditional cultures never bothered with the Western modes of science—that is, to measure and quantify everything in sight—that we don't understand genetics and biology. In fact, I once heard from a co-worker at the science website where I was an intern that the intricate clan/totem/family enumeration system was a "social response to a biological problem."
Inbreeding was ... a facet of European society, not Native societies.
As to 'wife-swapping'—some tribes were [and are] not 'wedded' to the idea of lifelong sexual commitments. Some tribes, such as the Cocopah, didn't have marriage at all...while others were pretty loose as to the formation and dissolution of alliances. Yet another reason for the clan systems, which did keep close track of which children belong to whom, so as to prevent accidential incest.
These facts have all been handed down in tribal oral history, which is far more reliable than the observations of Eurocentric men who looked at Native society from their own Eurocentric perceptions. For instance, Salinan children were considered children of the entire village, not just of their immediate parents. This led to the misstatement of Spanish explorer Portola that some Salinan women had 'up to 11 children,' when in fact it was simply her day to watch the village's children, all of whom she considered as her own per Salinan societal beliefs.
Again, the idea of sexual fidelity is a holdover of the old Judeo-Christian philosophy, where women are considered property of men, with few if any rights and certainly little personal freedom.
Feel free to pass this along to your correspondent.
Incest by white standards, waythehell no—most tribal incest rules are much broader than Euro incest rules as they cover both blood relations and clan relations.
Sister sex, probably as child play without major scandal but not as custom.
Wife swapping, absolutely, as we had no concept connecting sex and morals. I still don't. One should not lie, cheat or steal to get sex but sex itself has no moral content.
The term wife swapping is misleading because it makes sex sound like a purely patriarchal game. In my tribe, the woman was more likely to do the choosing.
But we generally settled into monogamy over the life cycle. Divorce was easy but rare. Sexual jealousy was not unknown but not like Euros have it, not like a disease.
Both polygamy and polyandry were practiced by various tribes.
In many if not most, it was customary to take in your brother's wife and children if he died, and that was common.
This is all a lot more complicated than the quote to which your are asking me to respond admits.
Given the strict taboos involving tribal and clan interpersonal and sexual attitudes, I can't believe this is true anywhere. While sexual practices before and after marriage varied greatly between tribes, no interclan (intraclan?) marriage and sexual contact was strictly enforced in most tribes I am familiar with. It would surprise me very greatly that any of the sexual contact mentioned in your letter EVER happened...and certainly anyone engaging in such practices would suffer severe judgements. I know that from earliest contact, the Europeans were astonished at the control Native men practiced regarding sexual urges.
Eulala [McDowell Pegram]
I don't know about all that he mentions below, but given the great number of cultures in the Americas, anything is possible. How would you distinguish wife swapping from plural marriage or simple hospitality?
As for the incest, it depends on who's defining it. If I remember correctly, for many of the Algonkian speaking tribes, the ideal marriage was between a daughter of a brother and son of a sister and I had a relative that married his aunt. Some would say that explains a lot about me. But cousin marriages are not uncommon in other cultures—preferred in Pakistan for example and despite the opprobrium with which this is greeted by the dominant culture, there is little genetic basis to be concerned about cousin/cousin pairings.
Wife swapping and "sister sex", yep. Incest? It's one of the biggest taboos we have.
This is not to say it didn't happen, ever, I can't speak for tribes as a total entity, nor was I privy to anything that went on back then. People are people.
This (like cannibalism) does go around, I suspect because there isn't anything to disprove it, so—say anything you want.
There is plenty around to prove the Indians were aghast at what they saw among the immigrant colonists, especially among the so called "holy people" (ministers) who fornicated, drank, lied, and had children among the Natives.
The "incest" thing comes up even today. We married cousins a lot. The clan system was established so we wouldn't marry in too close—but it had nothing to do with concern over marrying a relative—it was so the clans had enough relatives to take care of the children. My cousin, Tony, was such an adherent to that one, if I showed up with a Turtle Clan man from Oregon, of no blood tie whatsoever—I'd face wrath and a stone wall—I'm family to all Turtle Clan people.
Incest is one's parents, uncle, aunt, grandparents, siblings—has NOTHING to do with cousinship marriages.
Some tribes did believe in taking to wife/husband the widowed person of a family member, if she/he had no one to look after him/her, the children.
I believe the Christian Bible speaks of this, also?
And, any reading will show how many times the colonials found Natives to be handsome, strong, gentle, well mannered, generous, of fine stature and strength, etc. Even Columbus said that, almost first words out of him mouth.
No webbed toes mentioned, etc. And, we didn't have most diseases, including syphillis—the "disease of kings"—all that kind of stuff.
Hope I've helped.
Nope. On the contrary, the establishment of clans was intended to prevent incest. Incest was a taboo with every tribe. Wife swapping? Actually, many tribes, most notably the Sioux, had a divorce system whereby the wife of one couple and the husband of another couple could marry if the other two spouses agreed to it. However, this was a permanent arrangement. I think the Inuits swapped wives with their guests or something but they're not Indians. Other than that, divorce was possible but not wife swapping. In many tribes, the guy stayed with his family and didn't move in with his wife, who also stayed with her family. This, however, does not imply that there was sex between brothers and sisters. That was a taboo, as I said. The existence of clans negates the notion that incest was condoned.
Where the hell are they getting this?
Incest taboos are incredibly strong among every Native group I'm familiar with. You can't marry within your clan, and your clan includes people who are very distant cousins by Anglo standards and thus potential marriage partners (e.g., Prince Charles and Diana).
A number of tribes have traditional stories about distant cousins who fell in love and committed suicide because they knew the taboo against marrying within the clan could never be overcome.
I know about the Southeastern tribes, and make no sweeping claims to know about others, as this staement does. That is the first problem.
Southestern tribes regarded marriage within one's clan as incest, and a terrible crime. If two people had the same father, but different mothers, I would assume they were considered not related, and marriage could take place. Polygamy was common, and a man often married two sisters.
It seems like a lot of nerve for people who married their cousins to try to make statements like this about Native people.
Dear Robert Schmidt,
Not hardly. Nor were most of those slurs (wife swapping excepted) "accepted" by ANY world population.
NA Tribes had VERY strong incest taboos, which were rigidly enforced. Aside from the typical "nuclear family & grandparent" taboo (parents, grandparents, siblings, children), tribes ALSO forbade basically unrelated individuals who simply belonged to the same clan. (Ex.: Two Cherokee from villages at opposite ends of the nation, with no common ancestors in the last thousand years, but both belonging to the same clan...would be forbidden to marry or have sex. Ditto for other tribes.)
One possible quibble might lie in just how you define incest (it's VERY culturally specific, worldwide)....For example, some but not all Christians (Catholics, not all Protestants) consider first cousin matings "incest". ALL Indian tribes forbade maternal first cousins (as being of the same clan), but some allowed PATERNAL first cousin matings. (And by way of contrast, for a FEE, the Catholic Church gave "dispensions" allowing 1st cousin marriages!). Similarly, SOME tribes allowed sex (but NOT marriage) between a young man and his paternal aunt (as a teaching experiance). This was typically with infertile or post-menopausal & often single/widowed women (otherwise, unrelated but often "socially catagorized as an aunt" women similarly lacking fertility & matrimonial status were involved). Sex with a maternal aunt was strictly forbidden (again, same clan).
Wife swapping was VERY rare, wife SHARING was far more common (again, worldwide as well). At the extreme, Inuit often unilaterally OR bilaterally freely shared their wives' sexual favors, especially with hunting partners or men with the same name (this last being a culturally specific "kinship" thing), & Crow shared sexual favors & literally gave away wives at request. In BOTH groups, it was a solidarity thing (maximized bonding between tribesmen, defused any sources of inter-group jealousy or tension that might endanger lives) among tribes in high stress/danger situations (arctic life among the Inuit, HIGH level of warfare among the Crow...whose custom seems to have arisen ONLY after horses changed Plains existance, crowded them west, etc.). Among some (many?) other tribes, it wasn't uncommon to share a wife's favors with a close friend or an honored visitor.
I'm NOT sure what the quote meant by "sister sex". If brother-sister incest, NOPE, strictly forbidden. If sister-sister homosexual incest, I've never heard it specifically discussed but have SIMILARLY never heard it mentioned as having existed, and assume that the taboo against sibling sex would apply there as well.
(Rob, if there is any reason you need to SOLIDLY refute this, I could probably locate anthropological cites without much trouble).
The original correspondent replies (1/30/03)....
>> Thanks for getting back. I am glad to see you are inquisitive and open minded. <<
Yes. Unfortunately for you, the respondents mainly agreed with me. As I thought, the sexual practices you described were not common in Native America.
>> While you are at it, maybe ask them about Cahokia, Hopewell, Poverty Point and Chaco Canyon? These were the pyramids of the plains. The first Aztec nation. Long before the one in Mexico. Some elders don't like talking about it or deny it. <<
Ask them what? It's impossible to tell the sexual behavior of a dead people from their mounds or stones or middens.
>> The Phoencians were doing copper mining in central north america, long before the vikings and cortez or columbus came here. They brought most of the customs, rituals and traditions of most north american tribes in my view. The flute, drum and headdress came from the berbers of Africa. The sweat lodges came from rome and babylon. The pipe came from the high priestesses of Cahokia, they were meant to keep the fires going on the mounds. The sundance also comes from the Natchez indians, formed from the europeans and indians at the time merging. It's written on rocks all over north america. The medicine wheel came from the sunstone. Before the celts, phoenicians and berbers came most ceremonies didnt exist. North america was exploited by christians (jews) that were chased out of egypt in 100 ad. and exploited for copper long before furs etc. So christian influence created the holy wars on the plains 2000 years ago...see how much your elders know about that history, see if they will lie about it or deny it, see how many suppress the truth about their history. <<
Whew. You've got the Vikings, the Phoenicians, and the Lost Tribe of Israel. About the only people you forget were the Hindus and the "ancient astronauts."
You're wandering far afield from your original claims about Native sexuality. Whether Phoenicians or others visited the New World is a separate question. People have already written volumes on the subject, so there's no need for me to ask anyone.
The debate continues (3/3/03)....
>> Whom ever you are consulting with are either liars or in total denial about who they are and where they came from. <<
Wow, that's a mature, intelligent, persuasive answer...not. So much for your alleged openmindedness. Apparently you're only "openminded" if others agree with you. What a surprise.
>> You, along with them, shouldn't be teaching anyone anything or informing anyone of anything if you don't want to research the facts and the truth <<
I did the research. I asked a bunch of Native people who are professors, researchers, writers, and so forth. They've studied their people's histories for decades. They generally disagreed with you.
You haven't cited one source to back up your claims. As far as I know, you invented them out of thin air. I'll take the word of recognized experts over that of a complete stranger any day.
For all I know, you're a wannabe and not a real Indian. What tribe are you enrolled with, anyway? Let me know in case I want to contact your tribe's cultural preservation office about its sexual practices.
>> the truth, you say "dead"? our ancestors are not dead, they are alive in our spirits and in our spirit guides <<
Being alive spiritually isn't the same as being alive physically. And in some cases, tribes died out through natural causes and left no descendants. That's what I was referring to.
>> what total nonsense and you have to the nerve to chastise others on the net <<
Yep. Like most people, you apparently can't back up your claims with facts and evidence. I can. That's why I win so many debates.
>> I called you on it and your knowledge and your teachers...frauds, true bullshitters. <<
I called you on your complete lack of sources for your imaginative opinions. When you provide a single source for your claims, it'll be the first one. Go ahead...provide a source I or anyone can check.
>> you can tell them for me and if anyone of them have to guts to correspond with me they are most welcome. <<
I don't know why I'd want to bother them. I've already asked you the first question they'd ask. Namely, what are the sources for your claims? Until you can provide sources, all you've told me is an entertaining bedtime story. No one, including me, is going to waste time discussing your beliefs until you can document them.
The debate continues (4/18/03)....
>> Dr. Barry Fell, Harvard University. Check it out, lots of his stuff on the internet, also want me to send you the hundreds of websites supporting my claims are you too damn lazy to punch the topics and keys on your computer, you slimey cockroach? <<
Thanks for continuing to prove how openminded you are to new ideas. You're about as open as the KGB was. My expectations were low...but, not surprisingly, you met them.
Send me one website, if you're not too lazy. So far you've sent me one name. For starters, a name isn't a source. Also, one scholar or pseudo-scholar doesn't prove anything on any topic. And coming from a stranger who may or may not be an Indian himself, I can't tell you how worthless it is to me.
I've never heard of Barry Fell—perhaps because he's so far outside the mainstream. But now that you've given me something other than hot air, let's go to Google:
The Case of Barry Fell
A Linguistic Analysis of Some West Virginia Petroglyphs
Hmm. A retired professor of marine biology, who has zero expertise in anthropology or linguistics and whose claims have been thoroughly discredited. And in case you've forgotten, this debate is about Native sexual practices, not about the diffusion of ancient cultures to the Western Hemisphere.
What exactly did you expect me to search on Google: "Indian sex"? Apparently you know little about search techniques—unlike me, who has a master's degree in library science. A search like that would return hundreds of thousands of hits (1,020,000, actually), 99.999% of them irrelevant to our discussion. So give me a search to do or a site to visit that documents Native sexual practices.
I did the research you apparently haven't done. The following Google search:
"barry fell" harvard incest
>> I asked you to send me some so called informed Indians or elders or medicine people who support your hate propaganda campaign...nothing. <<
Kinky Indian Sex
Thanks for helping me demolish another stereotype on my website. And keep up the good work. Your continuing contributions to this page are welcome.
>> What a lame fucking excuse. If you were for real you would have sent their email addresses but you didn't so just as you claim, it's all crap until you can send me verification of whom you have spoken too <<
Let me know which of these people you want to contact first. When you successfully dispute the first Native testimony on this page, we'll go on to the second testimony, and so forth. Good luck.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for your first documentation from Natives of their ancestral sexual practices. Fell isn't a Native elder, in case you're more obtuse than you seem. I think you'll go crying to your mommy before you document your first claim with testimony from an Indian.
>> the bible was written by the white man for the white man. <<
Actually, it was written by the Semitic ethnic group for the Semitic ethnic group. I'm not sure they're considered "white men" these days.
>> Also if what you claim is true why didnt you send me what they had said at least?? <<
I wanted to find out if you had a shred of evidence to back up your claims on Native sexual practices first. Now I'm confident you don't.
>> where did they tell you we came from, the bering strait brainwashing? Atlantis? Mars? or the real braintwister, that we were always here?? <<
Focus, man, focus. I didn't ask anyone where Native people came from because it's irrelevant to what their sexual practices were. That and only that is the subject we're debating.
Correspondent confuses ceremonies with sexual practices
>> what a load of cowdung. And just where and how did they tell you we received our ceremonies and tools, from far fetched legends? <<
Again, that has nothing to do with Native sexual practices.
>> You never talked to anyone except yourself when you had your head up you ass. No true leader who hide his tribe or heritage. <<
You stand corrected. No need to apologize for your ignorance. I'm always glad to educate people.
>> You yourself claim you are no Indian nor have Indian blood <<
>> and you seem to spout some Jehovah or Seven Day Adventist diarrhea. <<
>> So who the hell asked you to take the side of any redman?? <<
Who the hell says I need permission to take the side of Natives (not "redmen," another stereotype)?
>> you are obviously the wannabee claiming to champion native rights? <<
Many people think I'm already championing Native rights. In fact, I work for Victor Rocha, an enrolled Pechanga Indian, at PECHANGA.net. Not only am I championing Native rights on my own, an Indian employs me to help him champion Native rights.
>> I am a member of AIM...american indian movement. Clyde Bellecourt knows me. One of the founders? I am a south dakota sioux from wounded knee, remember that battle? <<
Thanks. I know about AIM, Bellecourt, and Wounded Knee.
You were born or raised at Wounded Knee? I didn't know there was any housing on that site. I thought it was more a cemetery/memorial than a residential area.
>> You can contact him anytime...you are welcome to visit my reservation. <<
Does Bellecourt have any evidence about ancient sexual practices? Because that's the only subject we're debating.
So you claim to be a member of the Rosebud Sioux reservation? Give me the name, phone number, and address of whoever's in charge of your cultural preservation efforts. I want to ask him or her if the Sioux traditionally engaged in incest and the other practices you mentioned. Once I learn about the Sioux, we can move on to the other 1,000+ tribes in the Americas. You know, the ones you claimed you know all about?
>> Got the guts, pig? didn't think so. <<
Oooh, you're scaring me. Let me know when you feel brave enough to challenge any Native person listed above. Then we'll proceed.
As for visiting a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, I may do that this year or next as part of my work for Pechanga.Net.
>> We are tired of your white supremecy jargon. <<
Which jargon is that? You're the only one claiming Indians didn't originate in the Americas and didn't come over the Bering Strait. What other jargon does that leave?
Apparently you think Native nations are primarily descended from Phoenicians, Israelites, Celts, Muslims, Vikings, and the like. Yet you think I'm a white supremacist? Are you sure you know what the term means?!
If so, define it for us. And give us one example of anything I've said that claims non-Indians are superior to Indians.
Correspondent doesn't understand "hypocrite" any more than "supremacist"
>> Bring your teachings and teachers...now where are you from, you hypocrite...Schmuck! <<
"Hypocrite" must be another word you don't know. If you think I've said something hypocritical, prove it. Put up or shut up.
As for where I come from, I was born in Long Beach, California, and raised in the Los Angeles area. I still live there. Does that help any?
>> As I said you are welcome at my Rosebud Reservation anytime...here's a few scholars for you...they are pale faces like you, so you should believe them... <<
You may want to get checked for Alzheimer's at your doctor's. Apparently you've totally forgotten that you're allegedly imparting the wisdom of "Native elders." With your stereotypical "pale face" comment, are you admitting you haven't spoken to a single Native about Native sexual practices? Or what, exactly?
>> many are more educated and experienced than you will ever be... <<
Many are more educated and experienced, and many are less educated and experienced. What a crushing comment...not.
I'll live with the knowledge that many people are more educated and experienced than I am, since I've never claimed to be an expert. In fact, my lack of expertise is exactly why I queried more expert people on this subject. It's something I recommend highly to you. Again, as far as I can tell, you haven't talked to a single Native, elder or otherwise, on this subject.
Clyde Bellecourt is the only Native name you've mentioned so far. So a member of AIM doesn't think Indians originated in the Americas and doesn't think they crossed over the Bering Strait? Okay, I give up. Where does your good friend Bellecourt think the First Americans came from? Be as geographically precise as possible with your answer, and good luck.
>> SEX AS A SACRAMENT, Gordon R. Taylor, INDIANS AND SEX, Info@hakomagazine.net, SEX EDUCATION LINKS, Education@hotmail.com, SPIRITUALSEXUALITY, Ina Laughing Winds, works out of Phoenix. THE LEGENDS OF KOKOPELLI, Dr. Lamay, 909-941-2162, THE CIRCUMCISION OF MAN AND WOMAN, Felix Bryk, NATIVE OLMEC INDIANS, Erin Cridlin, CAHOKIA MOUNDS, Troy Taylor, THE GREAT MIGRATION OF THE AZTECS, (14 contributing editors) can be found on the Net. THE NATCHEZ INDIANS, George Sabo III, THE LENAPE STONE, many contributing editors, also can be found on the NET. <<
Oh, good. Here are some sources, finally. It took a month or so, but you proved you understand the word "source." Congratulations.
I'm not real impressed with any source that has an e-mail address as an author. Nor am I impressed with the complete lack of quotations in this roundup. A source is better than a name, but a quote is better than a source. Get off your butt and provide actual testimony (i.e., quotes), preferably from Native people, if you don't want to lose this debate too badly.
A reminder: This is about ancient sexual practices, not ancient cultural diffusion. Since it's not clear you even understand the subject you raised, why don't you prove that first? I'm not wasting a second of anyone's time debating the origins of Indians when you proclaimed their sexual practices, a different subject.
As you suggested, I tried Google for the two sources you claimed were online. I used the following searches:
"great migration of the aztecs" sex
"lenape stone" sex
"great migration of the aztecs" incest
"lenape stone" incest
The first search returned zero hits and the second returned three, all irrelevant. The third and fourth searches returned nothing.
Oops. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So far, your documentation is nonexistent.
>> I could go on and on, now I will await your sources and names and addresses or phone numbers or email addresses? have a feeling you will squirm out of this one to you slimy bastard. <<
Wrong again. I hope you'll be right about something soon. I wouldn't want to bruise your ego.
I'm not giving out people's e-mail addresses until I feel comfortable you aren't going to stalk them or something. They can respond to this message, if they choose, and I'll post the responses. If necessary, I'll give you one person's address to start with, and we'll proceed from there.
Meanwhile, prove you can dispute and disprove any of the Native testimony above. Use exact citations (URLs) or quotations, if possible, because I'm not searching 1,020,000 Web pages for a few random pages on Native sexual practices. You made the incredible claim, now you document it.
Indian women as sex objects
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