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Implications of Nutritional Potential of Anadromous Fish Resources of the Western Snake River Plain

  • Author(s): Plew, Mark G.
  • et al.
Abstract

The presence of anadromous fish resources in southwestern Idaho provides a major basis for archaeological interpretations of the prehistory of the western Snake River area (see Butler 1978; Favesic 1978; Swanson 1965). These interpretations are based on ethnographic accounts (e.g.. Steward 1938; Liljeblad 1957; Murphy and Murphy 1960) portraying spring/summer and fall salmon runs as the focal point of an otherwise transhumant pattern emphasizing unspecialized plant resource use. Salmonid resources in southern Idaho in this context have been viewed equal to other regionally important Great Basin resources such as pinon (Favesic 1978). Clearly, as indicated by fish weirs along the Middle Snake River (Meatte 1982, 1983; Butler 1983), native populations invested considerable energy in exploitation of fish resources. This emphasis, however, stands in contrast to ethnohistoric accounts of Snake River Shoshoni (Fremont 1887; Steward 1938) who depended heavily on supplies of stored salmon during the winter months. These accounts describe starving aboriginal groups awaiting the first spring salmon, a situation inconsistent with the magnitude of the resource and its ethnohistorically documented exploitation. This raises questions regarding the nutritional value of the resource. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the food potential of salmon for native populations by examining an historic fisheries harvest, calculating its food potential and assessing variables affecting loss of nutritional value.

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