Some will ask, “How can we know about hunter-gathers? They lived a long time ago before there were written histories?” Actually, learning about authentic hunter-gatherers is not difficult.
What is difficult is overlooking the unauthentic information about them. This includes Hollywood’s erroneous depiction of Native Americans and the mythological “Noble Savage” depiction developed by European “scholars” during the 18th and 19th centuries who never saw a hunter-gatherer. (See
A great deal of information can be gained from reading works of known anthropologists. But nearly all of these works focus on the unique aspects of different people’s culture, which is valuable. What is missing is development of an overall view of commonalities among the different cultures. Common cultural patterns among hunter-gatherer is what will be included later in our website. We can learn a great deal about societies today and historic societies by knowing common social patterns shared by hunter-gatherer people.
Some of the best books to read about hunter-gatherers are those listed in the “Native American Talks” section of our website. For information about people living along the eastern tidewater areas of United States are books by Dr. Helen Roundtree. S. C. Gwynne’s book on Comanche provides insights into our Western history.
But an invaluable source of information comes from an author who was raised from childhood to live as a hunter-gatherer.
Luther Standing Bear’s life bridged the time between his boyhood, living in a native Lakota culture, and the subjugation of Plains tribes in the late 19th century and the reservation era. The only part of his native upbringing he missed was going on the warpath against and killing Pawnee. He grew up the Lakota way and, as a pre-teen, participated in a horseback, buffalo hunt, killing one using bow and arrow. At 11 or 12 he was in the first class at the Carlisle Indian School, a federal effort to make culturally native people to accept and live in an Anglo culture. Later he was a “Hollywood Indian” in the movies and a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
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© Joseph L. Bass, EdD, June 2020