Environment and Native Subsistence Economies in the Central Great Plains: (With Five Plates)

Environment and Native Subsistence Economies in the Central Great Plains: (With Five Plates)

Environment and Native Subsistence Economies in the Central Great Plains: (With Five Plates)

Environment and Native Subsistence Economies in the Central Great Plains: (With Five Plates)

Excerpt

During the past 10 years an increasing interest has been manifested in the relations of man to environment in the Great Plains. Widespread droughts, spectacular dust storms, and recurrent crop failures are driving home again a fact which had been largely forgotten during the preceding prosperous decades--namely, that the climatic fluctuations to which the region is subject can be of sufficient magnitude to render man's occupation precarious. Numerous farms have been abandoned, and there is a rather general belief that much of the land is wholly unsuited to agriculture. Students of ecology and geography, recalling similar happenings in the past, have been insisting again that a long-range program of land utilization in place of the present haphazard methods would make possible the recovery of much of the supposedly worthless area.

It is not my intention here to suggest a cure for the economic problems arising from the conditions just noted, but rather to examine certain pertinent facts brought out by recent archeological investigations. We know now that long before white explorers ventured into the Great Plains, the region had been exploited in different ways by various native peoples. There is a growing belief that some of these aboriginal groups may have had to cope with adverse climatic conditions similar to those faced by man here today. The evidence is still fragmentary and scattered, because the area involved is enormous and the workers are few. Still, it may be worth while to indicate the directions in which the available data appear to lead.

For present purposes the central Great Plains comprise the area included in the States of Kansas and Nebraska. We shall review briefly the environmental setting as a background for an outline of the historic and prehistoric native subsistence economies. This will be . . .

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