Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/563

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Reviews. 527

stationary. They are among the lowest of existing savages. Thus they afford us an object-lesson of the utmost value in the early stages of civilization. The essay before us, by isolating and bringing together in a small compass the facts relating to their political organization, such as it is, enables us to see the manner in vi^hich society began from vague and indeterminate relations of individuals to individuals and of groups to groups, and gradually feeling its way to more and more definite forms. Such an essay is of course one-sided, leaving out of consideration as it does to a great extent the social relations founded upon marriage and descent, and upon the elementary religious ideas and practices. These have been the subject of discussion much more than the political relations, and consequently are already better understood. But there is still room for a monograph that shall gather up from all parts of the island-continent and compare whatever has been ascertained on the subject.

The chief difficulties in Mr. Wheeler's way, and in the way of writers of all monographs on the Australian natives, have been the lack of trustworthy information on nearly the whole of the western half of the country, and the loose terminology of the writers to whom we are indebted for our knowledge. The former may be overcome in time. The latter is partly caused by the loose and inchoate nature of the society described. Tribal consciousness is hardly yet evoked. Although some relationships are defined, others are still vague. But it is also caused by the want of exact terms on the part even of scientific writers. Mr. Wheeler himself has not wholly escaped this stumbling-block. Take for instance the following passage: — "The individual Australian, besides belonging to a local group in a tribe, belongs also to a totem- group. These totem-groups, in general, form the lowest classes in the various systems existing in Australia for the purpose of fixing descent. These lowest classes we may, with Dr. Wester- marck, fittingly call ' clans.' But among the Arunta and certain neighbouring tribes the totem-group and the clan do not coincide, so that the individual belongs both to a totem-group (which is also local) and to a clan" (p. 117). But he has just expressly defined a clan as a totem-group. On p. 123, following Spencer and Giilen, he again equates an Arunta clan with a sub-class in the