Biology Magazine

Weiners and War Chiefs

By Cris

By most accounts, Anthony Weiner thinks highly of himself. Filled with bravado, Weiner considers himself to be a political warrior. Regaling one 17 year old girl with stories about congressional battles, he likened himself to Superman: “I came back strong. Large. In charge. Tights and cape shit.” Weiner even took cape-less photos of his pecs to prove it:

Weiners and War Chiefs

Weiner’s imaginary heroics aside, one thing is clear: he never would have made it as a Cheyenne war chief. Among the Cheyenne, one did not mix war with women. You either did one or the other but not both.

As anthropologist and ethnohistorian John H. Moore explains in “The Reproductive Success of Cheyenne War Chiefs,” warriors harnessed and directed their spiritual (or sexual) energies:

Another war institution that had the potential for influencing a warrior’s number of progeny was the practice of celibacy.

In Cheyenne belief the power or energy to live and to accomplish any task (exhastoz) comes from the high god through his various agents-birds, animals, and sacred objects. It is the individual man’s task to convert this generalized power into specific power for his chosen activities — securing food, making war, or procreation.

If the power is used for one purpose, it cannot be used for others, and so vows of celibacy are taken, publicly and openly, whenever a serious task is undertaken.

Indeed, truly awe inspiring warriors such as the resplendent Roman Nose were lifelong celibates, eschewing women and sex altogether.

Weiner and Roman Nose did, however, have one thing in common. Both were born into modest circumstances, a fact which fueled their considerable ambitions. As Moore observes, “war chiefs tended to come from small or fragmented families or to be orphans. Such social isolates have a prominent role in Cheyenne oral literature as sources of supernatural power.”

While Weiner squandered his power on Twitter and teenagers, Cheyenne war chiefs conserved theirs. The photographic results speak to profound differences in dignity and purpose:

Weiners and War Chiefs


Moore, J. (1990). The Reproductive Success of Cheyenne War Chiefs: A Contrary Case to Chagnon’s Yanomamo. Current Anthropology, 31 (3) DOI: 10.1086/203846

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