The Cheyenne Way: Conflict and Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence
The Cheyenne Indians are one of the most famous tribes of the Great American Plains. While they lived a nomadic, semi-pastoral, hunting existence, the Cheyenne still abided by a clear and well-organized legal and social system. In an effort to examine the way of the Cheyenne more closely, authors Karl N. Llewellyn (a specialist in law) and E. Adamson Hoebel (an anthropologist) decided to perform a field investigation in the summer of 1936. The result of their work was The Cheyenne Way, an illuminating study of the guidance of group conduct without violence in a primitive society having no organized government. It presents 53 cases recorded in the words of Cheyenne informants, ranging from the crime of murder to breaches upon domestic relations. The authors adopted the inductive case-method of American law schools as an exploratory technique to probe Cheyenne jurisprudence. Because the tribe had a non-literate culture, it was necessary to resort to extensive field work to find the case histories recorded only in the memories of tribal storytellers. Prior to delving into the cases, Llewellyn and Hoebel detail the historical background, origin, and development of the Council of Forty-four, the tribal council of civil chiefs that was not only the supreme policy-making body, but which also possessed many judicial functions. After discussing the cases dealing with the Council, the volume explores other elements of the Cheyenne legal system as they related to the military societies, homicide and the supernatural, marriage and sex, property and inheritance, and informal pressures and the integration of the individual. The Cheyenne Way created an abundance of discussion in the legal, academic, and North American Indian communities when it was originally published in 1941, and the relevance of this exceptional work endures for members of these communities today
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