Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Keith M. Prufer
Totemism is often described as a kinship system linking humans ancestrally to powerful symbols present in the natural world. Totemic systems are said to be built around totems, which are fundamental signs of “kinship” running between human societies or individuals and the surrounding world. The term “totem” comes from “ ototeman” in Algonquian (the largest family of languages native to North America) and the tribe of the Ojibwa who were found in the Great Lakes region of the eastern North American woodlands. Its original meaning was “his brother-sister kin.” The grammatical root, ote , identifies an exogamous relationship between brothers and sisters born to the same mother. The classical definition was made by James Frazer that totemism “is an intimate relation which is supposed to exist between a group of kindred people on the one side and a species of natural or artificial objects on the other side, which objects ...