On Thu, 29 May 1997 10:06:12 +0000 Raimund Karl
<[log in to unmask]> writes:
>> Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 00:15:29 PST
>> From: James J Cain <[log in to unmask]>
>> On Tue, 27 May 1997 16:42:14 -0400 Paula Malone u
><[log in to unmask]> writes:
>> >salutations all...
>> >i've heard that there are lots of parallels between north american
>> >natives and the celts.
>> >however i can't see any parallels at all ... this could be due to
>> >scanty knowledge of n.a. native history, and i've asked my boss
>> >but due to his rather scanty knowledge of the celts he wasn't a big
>> >help :>.
>You probably can't see any parallels because there are only a few
>very, very general ones. More details below.
>> I brought this up before and got at least one negative response.
>Probably from me.
I know you have studied Celtic societies in depth and I've only read
several dozen books, Powell, Hubert and Chadwick among them. But, by
your own admission, you're not well read on American Indian tribal
structures...which are more complex [in general] than usually thought.
Perhaps you are right that a side by side, one on one comparison of
Celtic tribes and all 500 plus American tribes would show nothing but
superficial similarities. Or would we have to go Celtic tribe by Celtic
tribe?...as I recall saying something about them having things in common
and you saying that wasn't so. Do I remember correctly?...because I get
the feel from the missive within which this is placed that you are
implying a single Celtic culture. And, while I do not have degrees in
this discipline, I have read as much or more about American Indians as I
have the Celts and the Celtic Irish and I see similarities.
Just for one..."The Celtic habit of cattle raiding is based on a societal
system that is specific for the Celts." And the North Plains habit of
horse raiding is based on a societal system that is specific to the peoples living there. [Both of those should be 'was'.] And, unless my sources
are wrong, both cattle and horse raiding were done for similar
reasons...damn near, if not, the same reasons...to acquire wealth, to
injure one's enemies, to win personal honors, etc., etc., etc.
And calling the Celts "horse barbarians" says nothing about the
complexities of their society. I mean, you [or your sources, to be fair] class most American Indian societies as being lumped together with
"...a lot of African, Australian and Polynesian Late Stoneage type
societies, or at its best as simple chiefdom societies with some Bronze
or early Iron Age African and Asian societies (Like the Zulu and similar), while the Celtic societies are classed as complex chiefdoms or even
early states." Let's take the Iroquois and their "Great Law of Peace".
The original five member organizations were the Seneca, Oneida,
Onondaga, Cayuga and Mohawk. When they met in League, the Onondaga were
the keepers of the Council Fire, that is Permanent Council President...the Onondaga chief, acting as President of the Council, was known as
The Seneca and Oneida sat on "one side of the fire" and the Mohawk and
Cayuga on the other. The Head of the Mohawk representatives was the
Speaker of the Council and he would bring up topics for discussion.
Discussion would begin on that "side of the fire" until a consensus was reached, at which time the topic was "thrown across the fire", where the
same process took place. If at any point in this process a consensus
could not be agreed upon and a deadlock was reached, then the President
would (You realize that they didn't use President and Speaker, they used
the kind of terms you"d expect from "tribal" societies.) propose a
compromise which would go to the Mohawk Speaker to begin the process
Only men served on the council, but these men were chosen by the Clan
Mothers and only by the Clan Mothers...no man chose a member of Council.
Too, the Clan Mothers had the power of impeachment...of course, there was process...a series of cautions and advisements/warnings based on the
seriousness of the breach. There was a second body, however, called
Honored Men. These were chosen by the Council and could not be
In short...these people had an extremely complex societal structure, one
which led Benjamin Franklin to comment that [and I paraphrase] if these
"savages" could govern themselves in a democratic manner, why could we
do the same. And there is some evidence of some degree of influence
[how much depends on the scholar] on the creation of our system of
government. But...I'm sure that just about everyone who saw these
people painted for war considered them "barbarians"...if they'd had
horses, "horse barbarians". (By the way, the word caucus, so beloved of
politicians these days?????....is an Iroquois word that came from the
process described above.) And we can talk about Lakota societal
complexities if you'd like, since they did have horses. A complex
social structure doesn't necessarily rid you of the "barbarian"
label...as I'm sure anyone, especially the "civilized" Greeks and Romans, felt when they saw a Celtic chariot coming at them with their fellows' heads hanging from the horses' necks.
I can't match you source for source, Ray...so you win this argument by default.
I will, however suggest to Paula that the very fact of this disagreement
is reason for a field of investigation.
>> My readings indicate there are similarities, parallels if you
>> even some samenesses. In the first place, all of these people were
>No. Even though I think the terms are not so important (although
>they seem to be very important to some American scholars working in
>that field, see Bettina Arnold and D.Blair Gibson (ed.), "Celtic
>chiefdom, Celtic state", New Directions in Archaeology, ISBN
>0-521-46469-2), the Celtic societies were complex chiefdoms or
>even early states (depending on what Celtic people we are talking
>about specifically). Even the Celts of Caesar's times were much more
>similar to an early medieal society than to an American Indian one.
>> Let me also hasten to add that the parallels/similarities are
>> going to be greater with some First American groups than with
>Definitly right. However, the similarities are very general with all
>First American groups.
>> For instance, both the Celts and the Lakota [Cheyenne, Blackfoot,
>> Arapahoe, Shoshoni, Crow, Pawnee, Comanche] were "horse barbarians".
>> The Lakota raided for horses, the Celtic Irish for cattle.[The great
>> work of Celtic literature is "An Ta/in Bo Cuilgne" - The Cattle Raid
>But this does in no way make the Celts a "horse barbarian" society.
>The Celtic habit of cattle raiding is based in a societal system
>that is specific for the Celts.
>> The primary Lakota organizational grouping was the tiospaye - the
>> clan or a grouping under one chief...the Celts primary grouping was
>> tu/ath - the tribe led by a ri/ or the lands of the tribe.
>Well, I don't know much about the Lakota organisation, but with the
>same reason I could say that a monarchy resembles this Lakota
>organisational group. A tuath is a very complex system of
>interaction, so I'm not sure if those things are compareable. For
>instance, there are a lot of "magistrates" in a tuath that are
>important for it's function.
>> I don't know that anyone has done anything on this and you'd
>> really have to research both extensively to nail down, to a
>> position, the likenesses.
>Comparisons like this have frequently made by Sociologists, usually
>with the result that there are some surface similarities but no
>substantial parallels. Basically, most American Indian societies are
>nowadays grouped together as "tribal" societies with a lot of
>African, Australian and Polynesian late Stoneage type societies, or
>at its best as simple chiefdom societies with some Bronze or early
>Iron Age type African and Asian societies (like the Zulu and
>similar), while the Celtic societies are classified as complex
>or even early states. While I personally find this classifications
>erratic, the general picture is quite fitting.
>> >are there just spiritual parallels or was their way of life similar
>> >some aspects too?
>I doubt that there really were big spiritual parallels. But I know
>little about Celtic Spirituality, and even less about Native
>American, so maybe there are.
>> >celtic people were agriculturalized and i know that
>> >the huron and iroquois (to name tribes that i can actually spell)
>> >so that's a big difference. also when the huron would attack a
>> >they wouldn't burn down the village or destroy anything .. did the
>> >celts do this too? does anyone know if all celtic villages were
>The Celts were an agropastural society. They destroyed at least some
>of the settlements they attacked (as can be said from destruction
>horizons in which lots of weapons are found in the archaeological
>evidence). And what do you mean with palisaded? In Celtic law it is a
>legal requirement that a farm is properly fenced. There are some
>differing types of fences allowed, including a solid palisade. So all
>were surrounded by a visible border. As villages were nothing more
>than agglomerations of farms, these villages would also be fenced by
>the fences of the farms.
>> >having spent the last 8 months working on a huron palisade i know a
>> >n.a. palisades and they were mostly to keep the livestock and kids
>> >etc. in and wild animals out ... not for defence. is this like
>More or less. However, there probably ends the similarity. Fencing
>one's "property" has a practical reason, and you can find it in many
>societies all over the planet. Up until today.
>> The Iroquois and their cousins the Huron both hunted and raised
>> crops...particularly the "three sisters" - corn, beans and squash.
>> difference is that the Celts had domesticated animals for some of
>> meat. But they also hunted and fished, so that's not too big a
>The question is, is this type of sustenance economy really a
>similarity that is of any importance? Agropastural sustenance economy
>is one of three or four possible systems of sustenance economy on
>> is there any correlation between tribal structures and tribal
>> and beliefs...parallel development, similar spiritualities
>> arising to meet similar demands...and the significant differences.
>> if folks get tired, we can chat about it off list...to the extent I
>> something to chat about/offer.
>I'm interested, and it has to do with Celts so it is appropriate for
>RAY (Raimund Karl,University of Vienna,Dep.of Prehistory)
>email: [log in to unmask] (or [log in to unmask])
> The CELTIC-L Resources: