Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Tribal society



According to Oxford Dictionary "A tribe is a group of people in a primitive or barbarious stage of development acknowledging the authority of a chief and usually regarding themselves as having a common ancestor.

D.N Majumdar defines tribe as a social group with territorial affiliation, endogamous with no specialization of functions ruled by tribal officers hereditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect recognizing social distance with other tribes or castes. According to Ralph Linton tribe is a group of bands occupying a contiguous territory or territories and having a feeling of unity deriving from numerous similarities in a culture, frequent contacts and a certain community of interests.

L.M Lewis believes that tribal societies are small in scale are restricted in the spatial and temporal range of their social, legal and political relations and possess a morality, a religion and world view of corresponding dimensions. Characteristically too tribal languages are unwritten and hence the extent of communication both in time and space is inevitably narrow. At the same time tribal societies exhibit a remarkable economy of design and have a compactness and self-sufficiency lacking in modern society.

T.B Naik has given the following features of tribes in Indian context:-

  • A tribe should have least functional interdependence within the community.
  • It should be economically backward (i.e. primitive means of exploiting natural resources, tribal economy should be at an underdeveloped stage and it should have multifarious economic pursuits).
  • There should be a comparative geographical isolation of its people.
  • They should have a common dialect.
  • Tribes should be politically organized and community panchayat should be influential.
  • A tribe should have customary laws.

Naik argues that for a community to be a tribe it should possess all the above mentioned characteristics and a very high level of acculturation with outside society debars it from being a tribe. Thus term usually denotes a social group bound together by kin and duty and associated with a particular territory.

Related Resources


Tribes, Customs, Religion and Folklore Traditions


Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about Native Americans tribes, customers, religion and folklore traditions.

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Native Americans



here were a number of variety of tribes existed during the Native American period. Here are the names of some native tribes: the Seminole, the Cherokee Confederacy, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, the Mohican, the Massachuset, Anasazi, Chinook, and other coast tribes who spoke the Algonquian language. Let us see, if you can spell out some more important Native American names, Tipai-Ipai, Luiseno, Cahuilla, Gabrielino, Chumash, Costanoan, Miwok, Pomo, Yuki, Wintun, Hupa (or Hoopa), Karok, Achomawi, Yurok.


Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka: The Plains' Indians believed in the Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka. The Indians believed that the Great Spirit had power over all things including animals, trees, stones, and clouds. The earth was believed to be the mother of all spirits. The sun also had great power because it gave the Earth light and warmth. The Plains' Indians prayed individually and in groups. They believed that visions in dreams came from the spirits. The 'Medicine Man or Shaman' was trained in healing the sick and interpreting signs and dreams. The Arctic people are closely connected to nature. Their tradition believes that every being has a spirit and must be treated with respect.


The U.S. government has always valued religious freedom. The freedom to worship is a right that is basic to our national life and history. Most adherents to traditional American Indian ways characteristically deny that their people ever engaged in any religion at all. Ironically, however, the colonizers who first came to North America to escape religious persecution routinely violated the religious freedom of the continent's native people. This practice devastated Native American communities, whose strong religious beliefs underlay all aspects of their lives and cultures.

In the past five hundred years, Indians have fought many battles, both to defend their right to worship and to have their religions be accepted by the Christians who live among them. Unfortunately, Indian religions have been actively hindered or only partially protected. Nevertheless, irrespective of this sad history of governmental insensitivity, the struggle for Indian religious freedom continues, fueled by a belief that the defense of religious liberty will ensure the preservation of all ways of life.

Traditions and Art:


Today Native Americans continue to pass down unique traditions to the children, through the role of Native American artists and hunters. Reliance upon the convenience of 20th century ways of getting food does indeed allow more room, more time, for craft specialization. Jewelry was used to show connection with a particular group. Beads validated treaties and were used to remember oral tradition, as well as for exchange and currency.

To interpret Native American art, one must identify who this art is produced for and what messages it conveys. The cultural contexts of art may involve religion, politics, and divisions of labor. Art may express ideas of human creation, authority and prestige, or ideas about acceptable roles in that society. Art is a visual way for people to reflect upon what is going on in their cultural and natural environment, and allows others a way to see how people perceive their natural world. Specialized guilds of pottery, basketry, quill working, metalworking and other Native American artists have developed over the centuries and they exist today, coast to coast, across Turtle Island.

Footwear: Moccasins, (low tailored shoes), are one type of traditional North American footwear Woven sandals, boots, and leggings attached to shoes have also been produced by Native Americans. The origin of Moccasins goes back to the cold, harsh climates of man's past that made it necessary to make protective footwear.


Tribe - groups who share a common ancestry and culture

Custom - a practice followed by people of a particular group or region

Religion - a set of beliefs, values, and practices

Tradition - the passing down of elements of a culture

Spirit - a supernatural being

Worship - the reverent love and devotion accorded to a deity

Pray - address a prayer or prayers to God