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Author Topic: FIRST NATIONS  (Read 2847 times)
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« Reply #60 on: June 01, 2009, 03:45:50 pm »

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    Subsistence in the Great Plains of North America 10,000 Years Ago
« on: September 13, 2007, 10:54:27 pm » Quote 


Native Americans and Subsistence in the Great Plains of North America 10,000 Years Ago

Peter N. Jones

I'm a native of Colorado, having been born in the state and lived there for most of my life. My parents were of Welsh, Norweigen, and Choctow ancestry. I have worked with various American Indian tribes, indigenous peoples from the Dominican Republic, and Hispanic minorities as a social scientist. Currently I am director of the Bauu Institute located in Boulder, Colorado. My books include: Respect for the Ancestors and American Indian Genetics

September 12, 2007

When the ancestors of today’s Native American, Alaskan Natives, and First Nation peoples migrated to the North American continent, the variety and types of animals encountered were very different than those of northeast Asia. In North America these early migrants had to learn how to hunt and subsist not only in a new land, but also on new plants and animals. Yet, as is well established, these early Native Americans were excellent innovators, and shortly after migrating to North America had learned how to flourish in their new land. What these early Native Americans hunted, how they moved across the land, and what their general lifeway pattern looked like has always been of interest to archaeologists, anthropologists, and others researching the peopling of the Americas. To investigate these questions, researchers have come up with several ingenious methods, one of which is called “prey choice.” Prey choice is the examination and analysis of the animals found in archaeological sites (the prey) in order to gain insights into the diet, subsistence technologies, and general lifeway patterns (the choice) of these early Native Americans.

Recent research using this method has provided some key insights into the peopling of the Americas and the subsistence patterns of early Native Americans who lived during what is called by archaeologists as the Paleoindian period (13,500-8,000 years before present). During the Paleoindian period it has long been argued that Native American foragers’ diets were quite narrow; groups using Clovis tool technology were thought to subsist almost entirely on mammoths, while later groups using Folsom and subsequent technologies were thought to have mainly hunted bison. This concept of early Native Americans as specialized big-game hunters persisted through the 1960s and 1970s, despite discovery of a few sites demonstrating evidence of small game use. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, the view of early Native Americans as large mammal hunting specialists began to be questioned for several reasons. First, studies of modern hunter-gatherers suggested that specialized large mammal hunting strategies were economically unfeasible and possibly even dangerous to the hunters. Second, models proposing a big-game emphasis on a continental scale ignored regions, such as eastern North America and the Great Basin, where there was little evidence for the exploitation of large game throughout the historic record. Third, early research was influenced by biases in the type of sites (mostly kill and carcass processing sites) and the location where research occurred (primarily in the Great Plains), all of which erroneously pointed toward a specialized hunting model of subsistence. Finally, large-game hunting is more archaeologically visible than other subsistence activities because the preservation of the bones of large-bodied animals is significantly greater than the remains of small game, thus leading archaeologists to initially conclude that early Native Americans hunted large mammals almost exclusively.

Despite these facts arguing for a new understanding, a number of researchers continued to maintain into the late 1980s and early 1990s that large mammal hunting was not only a critical component of early Native American daily subsistence, but also greatly contributed to their technology, mobility, and land use strategies. Some even pointed to large-game hunting as a primary causal factor in the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna.

These conclusions, however, can no longer reasonably be supported, and there is now overwhelming evidence arguing that early Native Americans, like their modern-day relatives, utilized a wide variety of floral and faunal resources as part of their subsistence pattern. For example, research by Matthew E. Hill, Jr., at the University of Iowa indicates that different site types provide different perspectives on early Native American faunal use. Using data from 60 sites, Hill concluded that early Native Americans hunted not only bison and mammoth, but also rabbits, turtles, pronghorn, deer, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, beavers, snakes, canids, fish, badgers, bears, raccoon, muskrat, and many other species.

What this evidence reveals is that early Native American diets were highly environmentally contextualized. For example, when early Native Americans were in the low diversity grasslands of the High Plains and Rolling Hills of the Great Plains, they hunted almost exclusively large fauna, especially bison, for the entire 5,000 years of the Paleoindian period. This strategy was possible because grassland environments maintained large herds of bison despite drastic environmental change through the Late Quaternary. However, when early Native Americans were in more diverse environments such as alluvial valleys and foothill/mountain environments, a higher diversity of fauna were used. Although large game continued to be of importance in these environments, other species were also hunted when available.

The empirical evidence overwhelmingly argues that early Native Americans relied on a broad, general subsistence pattern during the Paleoindian period. This overall subsistence pattern continued as other components of these early Native American lifeway patterns evolved into the Archaic period (8,000-1,000 years before present) and as subsequent generations built upon their ancestors traditions.
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