The Question...ID: 407
posted: 19 May 1999
updated: 02 Apr 2002
I am currently researching the evolution of various hunter gathers to the point of sedentarisation, where agriculture becomes the predominant method of subsistence. I was wondering if you knew of any hunter gatherer groups that have evolved past the "leaver" philosophy into an agrarian culture and then did a complete 180 back into their indigenous lifestyle. Also, do you think the recent whaling situation of the Makah people in the Northwest coast is representative of this move "backwards" or is it more likely these people are generating a pseudo-hunter-gatherer society?
Ishmael repeatedly points out that "Leaver" does NOT equal "hunter gatherer." Almost all remaining Leaver peoples are sedentary agriculturalists to a greater or lesser extent. As I point out in MY Ishmael, agriculture is nothing more than fostering the regrowth of favored foods, which is something hunter gatherers do as well as (but not to the same extent as) sedentary agriculturalists. A famous example of a people who abandoned a sedentary agricultural lifestyle for a return to the hunting-gathering style were the Plains Indians of North America (see Peter Farb's MAN'S RISE TO CIVILIZATION). I'm not in a position to assess the meaning of the Makah people's return to the whale hunt.
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