Sociology Index


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 follows:
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 and tradition 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 1955:220).

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 (Thomas 1965:75)

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)

My working definition of the term ‘powwow’ is a social gathering of people who are celebrating various aspects of Pan-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." 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. 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, John.
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. -

The Contest Powwow - a cultural expression of Pan-Indianism? - Dr. Rainer Hatoum
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 the other hand, two extreme positions exemplify different theoretical traditions of thought in respect to the concept of pan-Indianism. 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 pan-Indianism.
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.
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 Acculturation of American Indians
Evon Z. Vogt, Harvard University.
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 311, No. 1, 137-146 (1957)
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 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 process.

Hertzberg, Hazel W.
1971 The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Hiribayashi, James, William Willard, and Luis Kemnitzer
1972 Pan-Indianism in the Urban Setting. In: Thomas Weaver and Douglas White (eds.); The Anthropology of Urban Environments. Society for Applied Anthropology, Monograph 11, pp. 77-87.
Howard, James H.
1955 The Pan-Indian Culture of Okalhoma. Southwest Journal of Anthropology 8(5):215-220.
1996 Powwows as Identity Markers: Traditional or Pan-Indian? Human Organization 55(4):390-395.
Newcomb, W. W. Jr.
1955 A Note on Cherokee-Delaware Pan-Indianism. American Anthropologist (57):1041-1045.
1956 The Culture and Acculturation of the Delaware Indians. Papers of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan (10).
1966 Feathers Costume. Powwow Trails 3(7-8):4-14, 19.
1968 Contemporary Oglala Music and Dance: Pan-Indianism Versus Pan-Tetonism. Ethnomusicology 12(3):352-372.
Sanford, Margaret
1971 Pan-Indianism, Acculturation, and the American Ideal. Plains Anthropologist 16(53):222- 227.
Thomas, Robert K.
1965 Pan-Indianism. Midcontinent American Studies Journal 6(2):75-83.
Vogt, Evon Z.
1957 The Acculturation of the American Indians. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (311):137-46.
Wissler, Clark
1916 General Discussion of Shamanistic and Dancing Societies. American Museum of Natural History, Anthropological Papers 11(12):853-876.
Young, Gloria A.

Pan-Indian organizations.