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Erikson, E.H. (1945). Childhood and Tradition in Two American Indian Tribes—A Comparative Abstract, with Conclusions. Psychoanal. St. Child, 1:319-350.

(1945). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1:319-350


Childhood and Tradition in Two American Indian Tribes—A Comparative Abstract, with Conclusions

Erik Homburger Erikson


Some years ago the writer, a psychoanalyst then studying infantile neuroses, had the double good fortune of accompanying the anthropologist H. Scudder Mekeel to a Sioux reservation on the Plains, and of visiting with A. L. Kroeber some Yurok Indians on the Pacific coast.

The original conditions and cultural systems of these two tribes differed strikingly. The Sioux were belligerent nomads, roaming the North Central plains in loosely organized groups, pursuing "dark masses of buffalo". Their economic life was dominated by the conviction that "you can't take it with you"—either here or there. Their possessions were few and changed hands readily. Generosity and fortitude were their cardinal virtues. The Yurok, on the other hand, lived in a narrow, densely wooded river valley which steeply descends into the Pacific. They were peaceful and sedentary, gathering acorns, fishing, and preparing themselves spiritually for the annual miracle of the salmon run, when an abundance of fish enters and ascends their river, coming like a gift from nowhere beyond the ocean. They owned real estate along the river, considered that to be virtuous which led to the storage of wealth, and gave monetary value to every named item in their small world.

A. L. Kroeber has written of the anthropology of the Yurok, H. S. Mekeel and others, that of the Sioux.

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