Lesson 14: Cahuilla, Chumash, and Tolowa

Yesterday in class we discussed three separate California societies. This discussion had a very ecological tone to it because anthropologists often discuss the cultural diversity in California as being heavily influenced by the diverse environments. We also read and discussed Richard Gould’s article that uses the Tolowa as a case study for developing theory on why some hunter-gatherer societies share while others aggrandize. Like many of the Behavioral Ecology theories of the 70s and 80s, the explanation is elegant… but is it a little too elegant? Are social hierarchies among hunter-gatherers truly the result of living in an area where resources can be obtained individually. Thus, allowing individual families to accumulate wealth, which is assumed to be the natural state of things? It’s interesting to plug other hunter-gatherer groups into this model and see if it holds true.

We came up a bit short on time, so on Thursday we’ll be discussing the variable treatment of different groups in California. That area was the site of some of the most heinous examples of genocide, but also has created some of the most affluent Native American societies today. It is an interesting area to explore the interaction of geography, environment, history, and economics in the role of Native American-U.S. relations.

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