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Monday, February 13, 2006

California Not Always Land of Plenty

As a child I was very proud of my Native American heritage. My father's mother's mother was a full blooded Indian. I admired (and still do) a culture that lived in harmony with the world around it and hated the way they were treated. A few really good books to read: Black Elk Speaks, Ishi: The Last of His Tribe, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Even today, I keep my ear and eye out for information pertaining to native Americans. Today, I ran across an interesting article from Science Blog and traced it back to it's source (University of Utah).

Turns out that "University of Utah archaeologist Jack M. Broughton spent seven years – from 1997 to 2004 – painstakingly picking through 5,736 bird bones found in an ancient Native American garbage dump on the shores of San Francisco Bay. He determined the species of every bone, or, when that wasn’t possible, at least the family, and used the bones to reconstruct a portrait of human bird-hunting behavior spanning 1,900 years."

What was the conclusion of this painstaking work? "Broughton concluded that California wasn’t always a lush Eden before settlers arrived. Instead, from 2,600 to at least 700 years ago, native people hunted some species to local extinction, and wildlife returned to “fabulous abundances” only after European diseases decimated Indian populations starting in the 1500s."

I found this information to be very interesting. For the complete article go here.


At 8:57 PM, Blogger B O B said...

That was very interesting. When I lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, there was a way we found ancient Indian encampments. There were very few fresh water creeks. You followed them until you saw a pile of old oyster shells. This was a telltale way of knowing where they stayed.

At 9:57 PM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

Interesting tidbit, Bob! Guess birds and shellfish were both very popular!

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

A fellow homeschooler emailed me and told me that over the years there had been other studies that tried to say Native Americans had been responsible for wiping out species (though I do want to emphasize, this study talks about local extinction, not global). He recommended a book to read written by a respected scholar that debunks this sort of thing so I thought I would pass it on to you: Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Facts by Vine Deloria Jr.

Another thought that I had while perusing the article again this morning is that perhaps instead of a local extinction, the birds moved out of the area to where they weren't being hunted and then moved back in once there were fewer Native Americans left to hunt them. This wouldn't be the same as a local extinction then would it? More like survival of the fittest. I know that my dad has a place in the mountains. All year long deer come to the yard to eat the apples and other goodies. Then in the fall when hunting season comes around, the deer become very scarce! They haven't become extinct, just learned how to survive.

Food for thought:)


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