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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Power and its Applications in Native California


This paper presents a general description of supernatural power as it was perceived and used by California Indians prior to European contact. The principal existential postulates relating to the concept of power which were shared by most native California peoples are outlined, and the normative postulates (values) which regulated the use of power are briefly discussed. Specific ways in which power might be acquired, and the conduits or pathways to its acquisition are reviewed. Finally, some of the social implications deriving from the concept of the presence of power and beliefs about its characteristics are suggested. The description of power presented here is cross-cultural, and the author fully recognizes that not every aspect of power described in this paper can be strictly applied to each ethnic group in the state. Beliefs about power varied from group to group, but for the most part the ideas presented here were widely shared.

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