Kickapoo - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Traditionally, the Kickapoo were a nonstratified society in which both material wealth and cogent authority were largely nonexistent. A religiously conservative people, individual Kickapoo acquire influence and prestige primarily from skills, accomplishments, and religious devotion and knowledge. Although ritual activities are Primarily organized by and around men, women also have responsibilities through which their devotion and competence can be observed. As religion is an integral part of all aspects of Kickapoo life, carrying out any task in an appropriate and responsible manner constitutes performance of religious duties. This condition is still characterized by the Mexican Kickapoo. Increased stratification, which is due to socioeconomic factors and acculturation, is more obvious among individual members of the Oklahoma and Kansas Kickapoo.

Political Organization. Historically, the Kickapoo had a hereditary chief, who operated through influence rather than power, and a loosely structured council. This civil chief was primarily responsible for establishing hunting territories and deciding alliances. In time of war, control of the village passed to another chief who directed a council of warriors known for their military success. This group also acted as camp police, maintaining order and carrying out punishments. Today, political leadership for both the Kansas and Oklahoma Kickapoo comes from an elected tribal council. There is also a council, much more loosely structured, among the Mexican group. Business decisions notwithstanding, major influence comes from the religious leader.

Social Control. Fear of retribution from supernatural beings has always been a strong deterrent of disapproved behaviors among the Kickapoo. This remains so, particularly in Mexico and Oklahoma, where fear of witchcraft is strong. Fear of gossip and ostracism also plays an indirect role in Social control, but in the case of serious crimes, direct control is now left to local non-Indian authorities, whether in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, or Mexico.

Conflict. The Kickapoo are a remarkably cohesive group despite an almost inherent factionalism that has persisted since contact. The Kickapoo have traditionally been very fluid, with bands breaking away and recombining. This protean pattern has served as a pressure valve to preserve intragroup solidarity. Since contact, there have been two Permanent splits, however, and a third is developing. These divisions are formed between progressives and conservatives. The progressives are characterized by a tendency to settle Permanently and a tolerance for cultural change and intervention by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The conservatives are associated with a tendency to migrate as well as a stringently selective acceptance of outside cultural elements and a rejection of outside interference by non-Kickapoo. On a continuum, the Kansas Kickapoo are at the progressive end, the Mexican Kickapoo at the conservative end, and the Oklahoma Kickapoo in between. It is important to note that the Kickapoo identity is so strong that, except for disputes between Individuals, there is no record of violent discord between factions. Groups of individuals who become sufficiently discordant in their cultural goals simply break away and form a new Community without severing ties with the old.

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