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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Historical Shifts in Native American Subsistence Strategies: An Examination of Store Ledgers from Owens Valley

  • Author(s): Wall, Bridget R.
  • et al.

Issues of resource intensi cation and subsistence change have long been important topics in archaeology, especially in the Owens Valley and the broader Great Basin. However, shifts in historical diets have been largely neglected as a potential source of data that can inform models of subsistence change. This paper explores dietary preferences and shifting economic patterns among native populations during the early history of the Owens Valley (ca. 1870 –1920), using a number of unpublished archival materials, including store ledgers, newspapers, and population records. Information from these documents reveals that Native Americans were selective consumers of Euroamerican foods and purchased only a limited suite of items. These purchases largely conformed to predictions derived from the diet breadth model, and primarily centered on highly-ranked foods such as our, sugar, bacon, and lard. Regularly purchased store-bought foods generally ranked higher than traditional plant resources, most of which were rapidly abandoned during the historic period.

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