Download the full-sized PDF of A solution to the Crow-Omaha problem and its implications for future research into social organizationDownload the full-sized PDF



Permanent link (DOI):


Export to: EndNote  |  Zotero  |  Mendeley


This file is in the following communities:

Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of


This file is in the following collections:

Theses and Dissertations

A solution to the Crow-Omaha problem and its implications for future research into social organization Open Access


Other title
Crow Indians--Kinship
Omaha Indians--Kinship
Navajo Indians--Kinship
Crow Indians--Social networks
Omaha Indians--Social networks
Navajo Indians--Social networks
Type of item
Degree grantor
Author or creator
Lathrop, Gregory Mark
Supervisor and department
Examining committee member and department
Date accepted
Graduation date
Degree level
This thesis presents a solution to the Crow-Omaha problem as originally defined by Levi-Strauss (1966, 1969). By beginning with a fixed set of demographic conditions and a given form of Crow-Omaha marriage rules, and viewing the clan structure as being in a non-equilibrium state, it is possible to overcome the demographic problems which hampered Levi-Strauss' analysis of the Crow-Omaha systems. In particular, it is shown that in a finite and endogamous population demographic variation under Crow-Omaha exchange causes an imbalance in the size of clans and an actual reduction in clan numbers culminating in the convergence of the exchange system to a minimal structure with mechanical properties determined solely by the marriage rules. This result is independent of the initial pattern of exchange assumed in the analysis, or the particular demographic history of the population, the problems which originally impeded Levi-Strauss. The properties of the minimal structure can be used to explain several other features of Crow-Omaha societies, most importantly patterns of migration and clan fissioning. The results obtained here bear on the general theoretical question of the relationship between demographic and social variables, and suggest a direction for future research into problems of social organization. The analysis presented in this thesis is framed within the context of Navajo ethnography. Navajo social organization is not usually classified as Crow-Omaha because the kinship system is Iroquoian and clans are not corporate units. From the viewpoint of exchange, however, the Navajo system may actually be thought of as an ideal Crow-Omaha type, since the clans function almost exclusively in the regulation of marriage. By using the Navajo example in an initial analysis, any possible deviations from Levi-Strauss' model caused by clan hierarchization can be avoided. The effects of the convergence of the exchange structure within Navajo communities is examined by a comparison between ethnographic data and the results of computer simulations. A statistical tendency for marriage into one of the grandfathers' clans and the pattern of migration into Navajo communities are explained on the basis of the properties of the minimal exchange structure.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication

File Details

Date Uploaded
Date Modified
Audit Status
Audits have not yet been run on this file.
File format: pdf (Portable Document Format)
Mime type: application/pdf
File size: 4489826
Last modified: 2016:08:05 08:23:44-06:00
Filename: lathrop1978.pdf
Original checksum: 090b5b0c07926e90854750a8c7e840c1
Well formed: true
Valid: true
Page count: 126
Activity of users you follow
User Activity Date