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02 May, 2009


The last post featured people who gather food from the land. Years ago, as an athropology student, I learned about the hunter-gatherers, and was told that the peoples of the Pacific Northwest were unusual in having developed Chiefdoms and Stratified Societies based on
Hunting and Gathering alone, that their weirdly rich environment enabled Social Complexity without resorting to Agriculture. Textbooks may not have capitalized all of these terms, but you better believe that the Discipline of Anthropology did.

Reality always outstrips Theory where Complexity is concerned, and so it is with the Gatherers. I knew this from Hawai`i days, when I realized that beyond the Agricultural Fields recognized by explorers and anthropologists were surrounded by concentric ripples of Informal cultivation crucial to long-term Survival...Hedges in every sense of the word. And so it is that the Gatherers of the Northwest, far from being passive beneficiaries of kind Nature, had the system wired.

Harvest roots at the time when seeds are ready to produce the next generation, and aerate the soil in the process. Blind luck, or Cultivation?

Pry out individual roots instead of ripping up acres of sod. Savage lassitude, or Sustainable?

Burn prairies to keep the trees at bay, fertilize the soil, and maintain habitat for tasty ungulates. Primitive pyromania, or Clever?

Producing food without massive inputs, dependence on trans-continental transportation, or global corporations. Witless subsitence, or Wise?

Just asking.

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