Neither Wolf nor Dog: American Indians, Environment, and Agrarian Change

By David Rich Lewis | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

At the heart of the federal government's American Indian policy was the idea that Native Americans could be civilized and assimilated into the mainstream of American society as yeoman farmers and farm families. Government officials and assorted "friends of the Indians" believed that by turning Indians into farmers they could end their dependence on the vagaries of the chase and the starvation cycle of native subsistence systems and, at the same time, open more land for an expanding American populous. They saw reservation agriculture and allotment policies as the best first steps in accomplishing those goals.

On the early contact periphery, native groups like the Northern Utes, Hupas, and Tohono O'odham maintained productive subsistence economies geared towards subsistence security rather than the productive maximization of their environments. Each group utilized a diverse range of resources rather than concentrating on any single commodity or mode of production. This safety net approach insured against the periodic failure or scarcity of resources due to biological cycles or environmental phenomena beyond immediate human control.

This is not to say that natives did not experience periods of starvation or subsistence shortfall. Nor did they simply conform their strategies to the constraints of their physical environments or technologies. Each of these Indian groups actively altered its environments. They controlled fire and water to change the land, they encouraged useful plant and animal species, and they ordered their metaphysical world through stories and ritual speech. Cultural explanations were interwoven in their subsistence systems, regulating not only the amounts but the kinds of potential resources utilized. Likewise, these values encouraged a balance

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Neither Wolf nor Dog: American Indians, Environment, and Agrarian Change
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Agriculture, Civilization, and American Indian Policy 7
  • Conclusion 20
  • 2 - NêC + ̆iu, the Northern Ute People 22
  • 3 - Agriculture and the Northern Utes 34
  • 4 - Hupa, the People of Natinook 71
  • 5 - Farming and the Changing Harvest Economy in Hoopa Valley 84
  • 6 - Tohono O'Odham, the Desert People 118
  • 7 - The Tohono O'Odham and Agricultural Change 133
  • Conclusion 168
  • Abbreviations 177
  • Notes 179
  • Index 231
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