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Indiana University Bloomington
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Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields


Raymond J. DeMallie

Chancellors' Professor, Anthropology Department
Adjunct Professor, Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Director, American Indian Studies Research Institute
Curator of North American Ethnology, Mathers Museum

  • Ph.D., University of Chicago (1971)
  • M.A. (1970)
  • B.A. (1968)

Geographical Areas of Specialization: North America, with an emphasis on Plains Indians

Topical Interests: kinship and social organization, ritual and belief systems, oral traditions, and material culture


My education in anthropology at the University of Chicago emphasized two complementary perspectives: British social anthropology in the tradition of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown as exemplified by Fred Eggan, my dissertation advisor, and American cultural anthropology in the model of the symbolic or interpretive anthropology developed by David M. Schneider and Clifford Geertz. The geographical area of my studies is North America, with an emphasis on Plains Indians; the topical areas of my studies include kinship and social organization, ritual and belief systems, oral traditions, and material culture; the methods of my studies include ethnohistory, linguistic and textual analysis, and symbolism.

I began my graduate studies with an investigation of Sioux Indian kinship, a topic that has been central to my interests throughout my career. Kinship led inevitably to the structures of social life and the ideologies that support them, which in turn led to the study of religion broadly--the fundamental concepts, beliefs, and traditions that underlie the practice of everyday life. A symbolic approach offers an effective means by which to understand the relationship between social (behavioral) and cultural (ideological) patterns. Because American Indian life has changed so dramatically during the last two hundred years, bringing the Sioux from independent buffalo hunters on the Great Plains to reservation-dwellers dependent on federal and state economies, a historical approach is essential in order to understand the changes in Sioux society and culture over time. I use the ethnohistorical method, attempting to accomplish in my study of the past--through the use of written documents--exactly what anthropologists do in the field in the present.

Anthropological theories and methods are brought to bear on the documentary sources (not only written ones, but photographs and objects as well) in order to understand the lived realities of previous time periods. This serves to reconstruct historical ethnographies of the past as well as to provide the historical background essential to the understanding of the present.

Since 1970 I have done fieldwork on reservations in the Dakotas, Montana, and Saskatchewan, where Sioux and the closely related Assiniboine peoples live. Much of my field study has been linguistic, recording texts of historical traditions, myths, and tales. My field studies are paralleled by archival, library, and museum studies to discover, edit, and publish major sources on the Sioux and Assiniboine past. Responding to needs expressed by Indian people themselves, I have undertaken studies for legal cases in support of treaty rights. More recently, in collaboration with Professor Douglas R. Parks, I have become involved in projects to teach the Sioux and Assiniboine languages, both on reservations and at IU.

My classes reflect the areas of my studies and frequently are focused around my current work. I offer undergraduate classes on North American Indians, as well as graduate seminars on ethnohistory, kinship, symbolic anthropology, history of anthropology, and a variety of American Indian topics. With Professor Parks, I teach Lakota language at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Through the American Indian Studies Research Institute, graduate students and occasional undergraduates with strong commitment to American Indian studies become directly involved in my research projects, and those of other institute members.

Selected Publications

2008. (Annotator.)  Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks: being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. Premier Edition. Albany: State University of New York Press.

2006. The Sioux at the Time of European Contact: An Ethnohistorical Problem. In New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations, ed. Sergei Kan and Polly Strong, 239-60. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

2005. Introduction to the New Edition. R. H. Barnes, Two Crows Denies It: A History of Controversy in Omaha Sociology, v-xv. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

2004. Tutelo. In Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 14, Southeast, ed. Raymond D. Fogelson, 286-300. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.