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Potter, G. (1929). Freudian Concepts Among Early American Indians. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 10:100-101.

(1929). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 10:100-101

Freudian Concepts Among Early American Indians

Grace Potter

Two volumes entitled The Indians of North America have recently been edited by Edna Kenton. They contain selections from letters written to their superiors in France by Jesuit missionaries who worked among the American Indians from 1610 to 1791. The volumes are a mine of interest for psychologists and anthropologists, but I wish to select here only one of their theories, which is curiously like certain formulations of psycho-analysts.

In the Indian theory of disease quoted below are to be found the concept of the Unconscious as causing illness, and of free associations as a means of access to it, so stated as to remind us strikingly of Freud. The italics throughout are the reviewers. Thus writes Father Joseph Jouvency, in 1610, of the Canadian Indians:

They believe that there are two main sources of disease: one of these is in the mind of the patient himself, which desires something, and will vex the body of the sick man until it possesses the thing required. For they think that there are in every man certain inborn desires, often unknown to themselves, upon which the happiness of the individual depends. For the purpose of ascertaining desires and innate appetites of this character, they summon soothsayers, who, as they think, have a divinely-imparted power to look into the inmost recesses of the mind. These men declare that whatever first occurs to them, or something from which they expect some gain can be derived, is desired by the sick person.

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