Ethnohistoric Plagiarism (Wrong)

In a recent post I commented on the classic ethnohistory by George Bird Grinnell, The Cheyenne Indians: History and Society (Vol. 1, 1923) and The Cheyenne Indians: War, Ceremonies, and Religion (Vol. 2, 1928). Because the post addressed Cheyenne ethics, I quoted the following from Volume 1:

The Indian child was carefully trained, and from early childhood. Its training began before it walked, and continued through its child life. The training consisted almost wholly of advice and counsel, and the child was told to do, or warned to refrain from doing, certain things, not because they were right or wrong, but because the act or failure to act was for his advantage or disadvantage later in life. He was told that to pursue a certain course would benefit him, and for that reason was advised to follow it. His pride and ambition were appealed to to, and worthy examples among living men in the tribe were pointed out for emulation.

Of abstract principles of right and wrong, as we understand them, the Indian knew nothing. He had never been told of them. The instructor of the Indian child did not attempt to entice him to do right by presenting the hope of heaven, nor to frighten him from evil by the fear of hell; instead, he pointed out that the respect and approbation of one’s fellow men were to be desired, while their condemnation and contempt were to be dreaded.

The Indian lived in public. He was constantly under the eyes of the members of his tribe, and most of his doings were known to them. As he was eager for the approval of his fellows, and greedy of their praise, so public opinion promised the reward he hoped for and threatened the punishment he feared. (pp. 103-04, 1972 Bison edition).

Last night I was reading the classic ethnohistory by Ernest Wallace and E. Adamson Hoebel, The Comanches: Lords of the South Plains (1952). Wallace was a professor of history at Texas Tech and Hoebel was a professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul. As professors, they should not have been plagiarists. Yet it appears they were.

Let’s compare Grinnell’s Cheyenne comments (above) to Wallace and Hoebel’s Comanche comments (below):

The training of children consisted almost entirely of precept, advice, and counsel. A baby soon learned that he would not have his whims gratified by crying. He was told to do, or warned to refrain from doing, certain things, not because they were right or wrong, but because they were to his advantage or disadvantage. He was taught that he would benefit by acting in a certain way. His pride and ambition were appealed to, and worthy examples among living men in the tribe were pointed out for emulation.

Of abstract principles of right or wrong, as we understand them, the Comanches knew little or nothing. The approach to life was pragmatic. The child was not coaxed toward good with the hope of Heaven as a reward or frightened from evil by the fear of Hell as punishment. Instead, he was shown by word and example that the respect and approbation of his fellow tribesmen were to be desired, and their condemnation and contempt were to be dreaded and avoided. He saw that the men who were brave and generous were applauded and respected.

In Comanche society it was impossible to live a secluded life. The members were aware of the conduct of each person. Each was eager for the approval of his fellows and greedy for their praise, and public opinion promised the reward he hoped for and threatened the punishment he feared — lack of esteem among the People. This was their method of control. (pp. 123-24, 1986 Oklahoma edition).

Wallace and Hoebel not only plagiarized — they also failed to cite Grinnell’s book. This omission was surely deliberate, given that the professors knew that what was true of the Cheyenne may not have been true of the Comanche.

This is not good. I know that among Comanche scholars there are questions about the reliability of the Wallace-Hoebel book. This simply adds to those questions.

I find it ironic that Wallace and Hoebel chose to plagiarize a passage discussing right from wrong, or ethics.

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