Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Violence/Warfare in the Plains
Bamforth, Douglas B.
Mar. 1994 Indigenous People, Indigenous Violence: Precontact Warfare on the North American Great Plains
Man , New Series, Vol. 29, No. 1 pp. 95-115
In this article, the author discusses how, while colonialism does seem to cause an increase in intertribal warfare in the Americas, there still was a fairly high rate of war and violence between tribes well before European contact. This article provides evidence of warfare in various pre-contact tribal locations throughout the Plains area including evidence of fortification of villages, severe skeletal trauma indicating violent death, evidence of whole village-community massacre, and even post-massacre village burning. The question that this article raises is why these communities would have reason to fight before the stress of European contact and influence? One theory presented is the expansion of Eastern tribes, such as the Cahokian, into the Plains area. This seems to be more evident in the Eastern Plains. In the Northern plains, however, the more likely reasoning behind intertribal warfare seems to be shortage of supplies. These shortages appear to have been periodic and unpredictable as evidenced by the variability in defensive constructions in these villages, such as Crow Creek as well as skeletal evidence of periodic malnutrition in these areas. This shows that violence and subsistence stress were fairly highly linked in these areas. However, there really is no single ‘cause’ to the presence of warfare and violence in the Plains area. There are many factors that can play a role such as societal structure, what constitutes the earning of honor, presence of supply, invading foreign people, both Native American and European and the intertribal relations and trading system. So as much as it would be nice to simplify the reasoning behind tribal warfare to “It’s all the European’s fault for interfering,” there is evidence backing pre-contact warfare among Plains tribes that have very complex roots in their reasoning.
Zimmerman, Larry J. and Bradley, Lawrence E.
1993 THE CROW CREEK MASSACRE: INITIAL COALESCENT WARFARE AND SPECULATIONS ABOUT THE GENESIS OF EXTENDED COALESCENT
The Plains Anthropologist , Vol. 38, No. 145, MEMOIR 27: pp. 215-226
In this paper, Zimmerman and Lawrence discuss the various hypotheses describing possible motivators for the Crow Creek Massacre. These hypotheses seem to revolve mostly around likely food shortages in the area due to severe drought and lack of availability of arable land. One interesting factor that they bring in Is the immigration of other Native American groups from nearby areas coming in due to food shortages or displacement in their own areas. These groups would be relatively unaccustomed to the climate of the Middle Missouri area that they had moved to. This left them at a severe disadvantage as the fortifications that they would have built would not be very effective at warding off attack. Even in Crow Creek, the site shows that the fortifications obviously did not effectively defend its people from attack when food became short and a neighboring village came to kill and raid the site. Lack of planning in fortifications is also shown by an initial fortification, built around an inner part of the village assumed to be the village from the initial people of the site, which is then surrounded by other residential dwellings that are not very well protected. This seems to show that population growth was not really taken into account upon the building of the initial fortifications. The reason that food shortage and increasing population seems to be the most likely theory with the Crow Creek Massacre as well as for similar sites of extreme violence is due to simulations that are discussed in the paper as well. These simulations show that even with small groups of other Native Americans moving to the Middle Missouri area, with population growth in combination with arable land availability, the point of environmental stress would be easily reached by the time this massacre took place. With the environment being stressed to the point where it cannot sustain the population, it seems likely that the stressed populations would try to eliminate the stress on the environment by getting rid of some of the people causing the stress by killing them. Unfortunately, due to the inaccuracies and missing data that inherently come with trying to “predict” the past, it is difficult to determine if this hypothesis is true, but hypotheses are only meant to find the most likely scenario when it comes to the past.