JULIAN STEWARD


Julian Steward (1902-1972) became interested in the native people of the Eastern Sierra as a student at Deep Springs College. He spent much of his life studying them and recording this information. By talking to older members of the tribal community and observing their lives, Steward learned what people ate, where they camped, and how they interacted before Europeans arrived. He used this information to reconstruct the traditional lifeway that had disappeared two generations before.

According to Steward, Indian life in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra was different from neighboring places. Populations were bigger and denser because there was more to eat in this rich environment. As a result, people lived in permanent villages with as many as 200 people. Each of these villages controlled a particular part of the valley and the rights to hunt and gather food there. In fact, some pine nut areas may have been “owned” by individual families, like land is today. Some villages also flooded plots of land to increase the growth of seed and nut grass plants. Irrigation and other village activities were managed by a headman, who served a little like a mayor, but inherited the office from his father or other relative.
 

The life that Steward described for Owens Valley is more complex than other parts of the Great Basin and many hunter-gatherer people. Anthropologists have debated the reason for this since Steward wrote it in the 1930s. Archaeological work at Late Prehistoric sites has also provided evidence that some of the things Steward reported happened only in historic times, not before.


 

 


 


WEB SITE DESIGNED BY // BRIAN JAMES // 2011
INFORMATION COMPILED BY// MARK BASGALL : MICHAEL DELACORTE : BRIDGET WALL // 2011