Prehistoric Salmon Fishing in the Northern Great Basin: Ecological Dynamics, Trade-Offs, and Foraging Strategies

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Since the publication of Julian Steward's (1938) Basin-Plateau Aboriginal Sociopolitical Groups, anthropologists' discussions of Southern Idaho hunter-gatherers have largely emphasized anadromous fish exploitation (e.g. Liljeblad 1957:33-39; Murphy and Murphy 1960:319-322, 1986). Specifically, summer and fall runs of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are seen to form the critical subsistence base for Northern Shoshone and Bannock groups overwintering along the Snake River (e.g., Liljeblad 1957:33-34; Meatte 1990:17; Pavesic 1978: passim; Pavesic and Meatte 1980:19-23). However, the view that salmon fishing and storage provided the only subsistence focus worthy of discussion is based on a narrow reading of how the Middle Snake River was used by historic period groups. Ethnographic and ethnohistoric documents clearly point out that different groups pursuing different subsistence strategies occasionally moved into the area, and that there is greater variability in the behavior of Snake River groups than frequently is acknowledged. Delimiting the scope and cause of this variability is central to understanding how conditions in the past affected tactics of resource use.


Chapter Title from Table of Contents: Late Archaic Fishing Along the Middle Snake River, Southwestern Idaho