(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.
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
Irrigation and other village
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
Anthropologists have debated the reason for this
since Steward wrote it in the 1930s. Archaeological work at
sites has also provided evidence that some of the things
Steward reported happened only in historic times, not