PhD Dissertations: Laurie A. Milne, 1994

Coping With Uncertainty: Cultural Responses to Resource Fluctuations in the Northern Plains

This dissertation examines hunting and gathering subsistence systems as they cope with food supplies which fluctuated between extreme abundance and scarcity. The focus the aboriginal and European-derived cultures which occupied the Northern Plains in the late 17th through late 19th centuries. The study was directed towards the development of middle range theory to be used in archaeological interpretation.

The study began with a cross-cultural overview of research on hunger, famine, seasonal resource stress and related phenomena. Then it moved to a survey of resource stress in hunting and gathering subsistence systems at which time a model explicating adjustments in the economic, social, political and ideological realms was developed. This model was initially applied to a sample of 38 hunting and gathering subsistence systems living in different environmental regions and described in the Human Relations Area Files. Then it was applied to the aboriginal and European social systems which provisioned themselves through hunting and gathering in the Northern Plains in the Early Historic Period. The archaeological utility of the model was evaluated through examination of empirical indicators of resource stress which appear in the archaeological record of the Mid-Holocene Climatic Optimum.