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Field Division of Education
Ethnology of Rocky Mountain National Park: The Ute and Arapaho
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An important feature of Arapaho social organization, which likewise had significant ceremonial and religious associations, was the series of age-graded societies. These were so important and had so much distinctive paraphernalia that they must be considered.

There were six men's societies among the Arapaho. As they grew older, men progressed from one society to another in a group. That is, all the men belonging to the lowest society would simultaneously become members of the next society by performing the ceremony of the next highest society. Two societies of young men may be included, bringing the number to eight, but they had less distinctive dances and are sometimes not included in the scheme by native informants. Within each society are distinctive grades awarded for such qualities as bravery in war, etc. Some of the societies had further functions, such as policing the camp on certain occasions. The details of this system are too elaborate to include in this paper but are admirably summarized by Kroeber, who also gives illustrations and descriptions of the regalia worn. (Kroeber, 1904, 153-229; see Ibid. 227-229, for tables summarizing organization and an index of illustrations; also Mooney, 1896, 987).

(Except a few incidental references in Kroeber, 1902-7,) there are no specific Arapaho data on social organization other than that referring to societies. Grinnell, 1923, has material on the Cheyenne, but in this category of culture, Cheyenne analogies may be used with less safety.


Only a few features of general interest can be touched upon. The navel cord of a newborn child is buried in an ant hill or tied to the cradle in buckskin wrapping. If it is lost, the child will grow up a "foolish" person. The couvade in modified form is practiced, in that the father of the child has to observe restrictions in conduct. He cannot eat meat or drink cold water for four days (a month in the case of the mother). He must run around in the hills all day but cannot hunt. Neither parent may rub his eyes or scratch himself with his fingers, but use a stick instead.

Names are given early in life by the Ute and usually have some meaning. Nicknames are readily acquired through some unusual action and may be better known or even completely supersede the original name. (Lowie, 1924a, 265; 270-1).

The Ute always buried their dead, usually some distance from the camping place. Tipis and property of the deceased were burned, and dogs and horses belonging to the dead were killed as well. (Lowie, 1924a, 279. For further details and other social customs, see Ibid., 272; 275; 282).

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