The term 'Pan-Indianism' has been applied to social movements among both Asian Indians and
North American First Nations peoples. In both contexts Pan-Indianism refers to a
social movement and a political philosophy that asserts a peoples' common identity and
unity across political or state boundaries and tribal divisions.
Howard defined the concept of pan-Indianism as
By pan-Indianism is meant the process by which sociocultural entities such as the Seneca,
Delaware, Creek, Yuchi, Ponca, and Comanche are losing their tribal distinctiveness and in
its place are developing a nontribal Indian culture. Some of the elements in
this culture are modifications of old tribal customs. Others seem to be innovations
peculiar to pan-Indianism. (Howard 1955:214)
Pan-Indianism is, in my opinion, one of the final stages of
progressive acculturation, just prior to complete
assimilation. It may best be explained as a final attempt to preserve aboriginal culture
patterns through intertribal unity. How long this pan-Indian culture will continue is
dependent on a number of largely unpredictable factors, such as economic conditions,
population shifts, and future miscegenation. (Howard
Robert Thomas (1965) summarizes the essential new
ideas with regard to the concept pan-Indianism as follows:
One can legitimately define Pan-Indianism as the expression of a
new identity and the institutions and symbols which are both an expression of that new
identity and a fostering of it. It is the attempt to create a new ethnic group, the
American Indian; it is also a vital social movement which is forever changing and growing
Pan-Indian institutions such as Indian centers in cities, Pow Wow
committees and so forth are institutions through which Indians can have some productive
relationship to the general society. (Thomas 1965:81)
Pan-Indianism is the creation of a new identity, a new ethnic group, if you will, a new
nationality in America. (Thomas 1965:82)
I guess to a lot of people powwow means celebration, bringing
people together, enjoying the festivities that are there. Today the powwow system has
changed. It´s more competitive. ...Now, there is another situation there too, where the
Crees on the northern plains treat the powwow almost as a spiritual atmosphere. - Wade
Baker, a Hidatsa Grass Dancer and singer.
My working definition of the term powwow is a social gathering of people who
are celebrating various aspects of Indian culture, be they religious, social, or, in many
cases, both. (Lita Mathews)
Pan-Indianism and Indigenous Organizations in Ecuador
Prepared for delivery at Indigenous Peoples: An International Symposium, University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, April 8-9, 1997.
Abstract: As in the rest of Latin America, Ecuadorians have viewed the aboriginal
inhabitants of their country as simply "Indians." The presence of ten distinct
ethnic groups which remain in Ecuador and the fact that the sense of place has been local
rather than regional or national, however, challenges this label. Nevertheless, recent
organizational actions in Ecuador have relied on a sense of group identity that
transcended narrow tribal categories. There has been, however, little study of the
historical development of this pan-Indian consciousness. Pan-Indian organizations, such as
the early twentieth-century Society of American Indians, emerged out of urban, elite
Indian professionals who had largely become separated from their tribal roots. Arguably,
similar factors are also at work in Ecuador. Often pan-Indian organizations in Ecuador are
directed by people who went to Quito to study or otherwise had extensive contact with the
dominant Spanish culture. Understanding these roots of inter-tribal contacts and a
pan-ethnic identity is important because it indicates whether Indian nationalism is a
function of contact with western notions of state formation, or whether it grows out of
Indigenous forms of social organization.
Early Pan-Indianism: Tecumseh's Tour of the Indian Country, 1811-1812. - Sugden,
Abstract: Tecumseh's tour of 1811-1812 was a remarkable effort involving 3,000 miles and
contacts with 8-12 of the present American Indian tribes. Tecumseh's success owed much to
standing grievances of the Indians and the disposition of the British, but depended also
upon timely occurrences such as Harrison's engagement on the Tippecanoe. - eric.ed.gov
The Contest Powwow - a cultural expression of Pan-Indianism? - Dr.
Abstract: As will be demonstrated, the terms powwow and
pan-Indianism and their meanings are a disadvantageous starting point to
answer the central question stated in heading.
On one hand, we have the term powwow. Because of the historical evolution of
this term, and its plethora of everyday connotations, the term is in and of itself
nondescript. Thus, I have limited my interests to the more concrete notion of
contest powwow to be used as a prototype concept of powwow in this
On the other hand, two extreme positions exemplify different theoretical traditions of
thought in respect to the concept of pan-Indianism. The concept went through a
parallel theoretical reorientation as it was taking place in the general American
anthropology at that time. With a changing interest from acculturation and assimilation
processes towards topics related to and centered around the term ethnic
identity, not only the general meaning of the concept pan-Indianism
changed. Both theoretical traditions left, even beyond the academic context, basic
assumptions concerning the general relations between the two phenomena contest
powwow and pan-Indianism. At both of their cores is the thought that the
phenomenon powwow represents a cultural expression of
Starting point of the assumptions centering around the term ethnic identity
was the implication that the phenomenon powwow is an expression of a new
identity as Native Americans. This notion is caught in the characterization of the
powwow as a vehicle of pan-Indianism. I will argue that the
phenomenon powwow is not so much an expression of a new ethnic
identity, even though it is definitely producing a new quality of an existing
identity as Native Americans. Rather, I will stress the point that powwows as
a field of action and interaction as well as a stage offer the opportunity to meet new
needs in a state of drastically changing social conditions.
The question whether one can consider the powwow as a cultural expression of
pan-Indianism or not, relates therefore to a discourse in anthropology based
on theoretical grounds, which goes beyond specific examples. The discussion on the
concepts and phenomena pan-Indianism and powwow demonstrate,
therefore, results of anthropological work on a regional basis. In this context it is
interesting to note that the specific theoretical foundations of the concept
pan-Indianism were laid mainly in the course of a period of about twenty
years. The 60s and early 70s witnessed in this respect the most intensive period of
theoretical discussion on this concept.
The Acculturation of American Indians
Evon Z. Vogt, Harvard University
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 311, No. 1,
Despite all the pressures for changing the ways of American Indians into those of the
white man, there are still basically Indian systems of social structure and culture
persisting with variable vigor within conservative nuclei of Indian population. The author
outlines a conceptual framework for the analysis of American Indian acculturation in
different areas of the United States, provides a brief synoptic review of the degree of
acculturation in such areas, and discusses the limiting factors to full acculturation by
comparing the situation of the United States with that of Mexico, and considers the
development of "Pan- Indianism" as an emerging stage in the acculturation
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