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First, it protected its members from other groups; in this it was like the nation today. Second, it controlled its members and made them do what the group as a whole thought right. Today this control is divided up among several groups. Parents are responsible for young children; schools for children during part of the day; cities for the way houses are built, waste disposed of, and streets kept safe; the state looks after most of the regulations of business, and decides questions about contracts; the United States controls our railroads, our post offices, and a few other affairs. In early life the one group, the clan, had all the responsibility.
In particular the clan decided some such things as What the the following:
clan (1) It decided where its members should live. decided Nowadays a man goes to live where he can find work. Very likely he does not choose to remain with his family. In early society every one had to stay with his clan unless in the case of the woman who might go to her husband's clan. But even then the young people could not go off and set up a house where they pleased. It must be either with the husband's clan or the wife's clan. If a man were to decide to live by himself apart from his clan he would have no protection and might be killed by any one.
(2) The clan decided almost entirely what each of its members would do and what they would have to eat. For when a clan wanted large game all must join in the chase. It would not do for an Indian to stay at home or go off by himself if it was time for the great buffalo hunt. If the clan was a clan of shepherds, then every one must herd sheep. Many of the crafts, , such as that of the smiths or metal workers, were fol
lowed by a whole clan. And when game was captured or wild rice gathered by the clan, the product was shared by the clan.
(3) It decided very largely what every member must wear and what his or her ornaments or decorations should be. Nearly every savage tribe today has some characteristic manner of decoration or, as some might prefer to call it, of mutilation. Some wear scars of a certain pattern; others tattoo in a certain way; others knock out a particular tooth; others have a definite style for wearing the hair; the Thlinkeet Indian women on the Pacific coast wear a large block of wood inserted in the lower lip. Fashion among civilized people is strict, but it changes more or less from year to year, and is fixed by certain classes in certain cities for those who wish to be in style. Costume and decoration among savage people are largely fixed by the clan and are unchanged from generation to generation.
(4) It decided one's religion. For whatever the religion might be, the whole clan had the same belief, observed the same rites at birth, marriage, death, kept the same sacred days and festivals.
(5) It decided who would be one's friends or foes. If any member of a clan were killed or wronged by some one of another clan, then it would be the duty of every member of the first clan to help revenge the injury upon the second.
How did the clan control its members? Today the city, state, and nation control and protect us by laws. The early clan had no written laws prescribed by a king, or passed by a legislature, or enforced by a special body called a court. Instead it had customs. Custom was king. The old men of the clan might have a good
deal to do with making customs, but every one in the clan helped to enforce them.
Custom is of course very strong today in certain Present parts of our lives. Why do men wear one kind of day clothes and women another? There is a law on the
customs matter, but we seldom if ever think of it, and perhaps many do not know of it: we simply want to wear what other men or other women wear. Why do Americans today eat chiefly with a fork, whereas not long ago the knife was more used, and among other peoples the fingers are the main reliance? It is the custom in our set. Why do we call it incorrect to say, " There isn't no such person"? The Greeks, who were very keenminded people, used to put in two negatives into a statement to make it emphatic. It was the custom in Greece, but among us good speakers and writers do not do it, and we follow their practice. A great deal of our life is thus ruled by custom
But if we consider such illustrations as we have just given we note that in some of them there is no strong motive to act in a way which is different from the way the group acts, for example, shaking hands, while in others a violation might offend taste but would not really harm any one else, for example, eating with a knife. When we deal with matters where there may be a strong motive to do differently from the group, for example, in breaking a promise to pay back borrowed money, and where as in this case the failure would harm another, we do not trust to custom. Early man could get along better with custom because in small groups every one would know every one else and it would be almost unendurable to live in a small group if one got all the others down on him.
Notice some of the customs of clans. If we should
go into a house among many peoples who now have
the clan system we should be likely to find a group House sitting in a fixed order—the father, the mother, the customs in children, the guest have their definite places and would the clan
not think of sitting anywhere else: This is a very effective way of teaching every one to think of others, and to respect the elders. It is carrying farther our custom of giving a seat to an older person, or allowing him to go first through a door. It is a first step in
manners and morals both. Initiation The initiation ceremonies are highly interesting cus
toms. They are practised among many primitive peoples to make boys full members of the group. Like the initiations in many secret societies, they are intended to impress the new member with his own helplessness and with the superior knowledge and power of the group. Among the Australians the ceremonies occupy weeks, and even months. A boy is kept much of the time hidden behind a screen of bushes, forbidden to speak except in answer to questions; decorated with various totem emblems; charged to obey every command and never to tell any woman or younger boy what he may see.
At intervals he is brought out and watches performances by the men decorated to represent animals who are supposed to be the ancestors of the clan. He hears mysterious sounds which are supposed to be due to spirits. He is finally told the important traditions about the ancestors of the tribe and is shown some of the sacred objects in which the ancestral spirits are supposed to live. All these customs are well adapted to inculcate great respect for the tradi
tions of the tribe. Marriage All such clan groups have very strong customs about
marriage. A Sioux Indian would not marry until he
had done some brave or difficult deed to show that he
Other important customs prescribe how to deal with Settling quarrels, for a group of people must have some way disputes to settle disputes. One way is to have a sort of regulated duel—the parties try to get the better of each other, but without actually aiming to kill. Among the Australians, if one man steals from another he sometimes settles with the man who is wronged, in a duel with wooden swords and a shield. The old men or chiefs stand by and see fair play. This is a sort of lawsuit with weapons instead of words—or we might put the matter the other way and say that a modern lawsuit is a contest with tongues instead of with fists.
But the most striking custom of all is the custom of Blood blood revenge. If a man in one tribe or clan injures revenge or kills a man in another, every kinsman of the victim is bound to revenge the wrong. If he cannot kill the murderer he kills some one else in the murderer's clan. Sometimes a payment of money is made to satisfy the relatives of the man who was killed. In this case every member of the kin is bound to contribute. This cus