"What happened to the Neanderthals? From a combination of old and new evidence, it appears that at last we have a satisfactory answer to the age-old question of ‘What Happened to the Neanderthals?’. If the current reasoning is correct, their descendants are still with us, and we call them the Basques."
"In prehistoric times, the elevated Palos Verdes area was covered with grass on the south facing slopes, with a park landscape on the north facing canyons cutting through the high peninsula. The original cover was sage, with some chaparral including scrub oak, chamise, and sumac. The interior portion of the Los Angeles Basin contained gallery forests with willow, sycamore, and poplar. Marshy vegetation was also found along the streams and marsh fringes. Directly below the site to the east was an estuary with a vast expanse of marsh bordering inland areas of willow thickets and a park land with oaks and grasses."
—In Dr. E Gary Stickel, “Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor Areas Prehistory and Early History” (1978)
"Today a vast cityscape covers former Gabrielino land. Most Angelenos have no accurate view of what the original landscape was like and probably picture it as largely lowland plains with only scattered trees and shrubs. The environmental impacts of the American ranching era produced such a landscape. One early traveler to Los Angeles described the ‘thousands of ground squirrels’ on the plains between San Pedro and Los Angeles: ‘…It looked as though I had landed on another planet.’ But this original landscape was destroyed to create cattle ranches. Prior to the arrival of the ranchers, the land, except for clusters of hills, was forested. Impenetrable thickets were interspersed with pools and swamps that the Spanish called cienegas. For instance, Beverly Hills and most of the area to Santa Monica Bay was one vast swamp. Grizzly bears and other abundant game flourished in the jungles of sycamores, willows, alders, bramble bushes, and wild grape vines. Similar denudation has greatly changed the species of plants and animals on Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands, the Gabrielino’s main islands."
—Dr. E. Gary Stickel, “Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor Areas Prehistory and Early History” (1978)
"The everyday physical activities of an isolated group of forager-farmers in central Bolivia are providing valuable information about how industrialization and its associated modern amenities may impact health and wellness."
"Among foraging people, living as our ancestors most likely did (that is, those hunter-gatherers who did not rely on boats or horses), daughters are about as likely to stay near kin when they first marry than they are to leave. Anthropologists Kim Hill and Magdalena Hurtado report that of twenty-one young foraging women among the Ache women of Paraguay, sixteen continued to hang their hammocks within an easy holler of their parents—at least for her first marriage (the average number of marriages in this society is ten). This means that a young woman pregnant for the first time enjoys the support of kin at a time that will prove critical for her continued survival as well as for her lifetime reproductive success. Furthermore, if the marriage does not work out, as is common, parents are on hand to support her.”
"According to…the ‘vestigial lactational aggression’ hypothesis, postpartum depression is an endocrinological by-product or left-over from an intense intolerance of others that was once adaptive among mothers who might need to protect infants from either predators or conspecific members of their same species. The root of her depression derives not from the mother’s suppressed desire to abandon her infant, but from a fierce compulsion to protect it that fills her with hostility toward others.The worse off she is, or the more potentially threatened the mother feels, the more defensive she should be."
"The Anthropological Studies Center (ASC) at Sonoma State University has prepared a preliminary assessment of the distribution of gray wolf (Canis lupus) in California prior to contact and settlement by European and Euro-American explorers and missionaries."
*I’ve informed the authors that Tongva has words for “dog,” “wolf,” and “coyote.”
"Anyone who has gone camping knows that humans have a built-in alarm clock that gets triggered by multiple factors: brightness, temperature, human chatter, and the smell of breakfast. After a day of hiking, a big meal, growing darkness, and no light but stars and a campfire, it’s not uncommon for people to fall asleep hours before they would in the city. Our bodies operate in close synchronization with the rhythms of nature."
"I still insist on plain living and high thinking. I enjoy chopping wood; I love wood fires; I don’t mind carrying water; I find ecstasy in building a fire. Like Lawrence, I am taken by the primeval charm and fascination of the simple mysteries: fire, fucking, building in mud, rain, sunlight, the smell of greasewood and live oak after a cloudburst, the luxury of a sleeping hound. I require openness, space, economy, natural resistance, red meat, women, fire, water—the essentials of liberty."
"The first thing I had to deal with when I got to the Pirahã was that I hadn’t done my background reading, as any anthropologist would have done. As a missionary, I felt that this was a new story with me and God. Why did I need to read about these people? They were and are monolingual, one of the only groups known in the world that are completely monolingual. So I got off a little Cessna missionary plane and tried to talk to them and they said something like, ‘Xaói xáo hi ahoáisahaxai. Xapaitíiso abaxáígio hi ahoaáti.’ It means ‘Don’t speak to me with a crooked head, speak to me with a straight head.’ What that means is that the Pirahã’s language is ‘Xapaitíiso’ (straight head), and our language, any foreign language, which is ‘Xapagáiso’ (crooked head)."
"Our best guess, then, is that [Paleolithic] string skirts indicated something about the childbearing ability or readiness of the woman, perhaps simply that she was of childbearing age, having reached menarche but not yet menopause, or perhaps that she had reached puberty but was not yet ‘married’ (whatever that might have meant in the particular society: still a virgin, or still without child, or still without a regular mate)—in other words, that she was in some sense ‘available’ as a bride. The notion of marriage, as opposed to mere mating, is so important to the human race that the need to negotiate this problem has been seriously suggested as one of the most powerful drives toward the development of language."
"Making string as long and as strong as needed by twisting short filaments together… is a necessary prerequisite to making woven cloth. On a far more basic level, string can be used simply to tie things up—to catch, to hold, to carry. From these notions come snares and fishlines, tethers and leashes, carrying nets, handles, and packages, not to mention a way of binding objects together to form more complex tools. (Nets, for example, work so efficiently that nowadays they are mostly illegal for catching fish in fresh water. Sportsmen don’t consider netting sufficiently ‘sporting,’ and furthermore, in no time there would be no fish left to spawn more.) So powerful, in fact, is simple string in taming the world to human will and ingenuity that I suspect it to be the unseen weapon that allowed the human race to conquer the earth, that enabled us to move out into every econiche on the globe during the Upper Paleolithic."
"Familiar though his name may be to us, the storyteller in his living immediacy is by no means a present force. He has already become something remote from us and something that is getting even more distant. To present someone like Leskov as a storyteller does not mean bringing him closer to us but, rather, increasing our distance from him. Viewed from a certain distance, the great, simple outlines which define the storyteller stand out in him, or rather, they become visible in him, just as in a rock a human head or an animal’s body may appear to an observer at the proper distance and angle of vision. This distance and this angle of vision are prescribed for us by an experience which we may have almost every day. It teaches us that the art of storytelling is coming to an end. Less and less frequently do we encounter people with the ability to tell a tale properly. More and more often there is embarrassment all around when the wish to hear a story is expressed. It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences."
"The hybridization of indigenous and western systems at this scale is rare and this is not without reason. The collision between Western European and Indigenous Southern Californian cultures delivered an impact from which we are still reeling. Spanish military and religious administration, Mexican feudal leadership and American profiteers demonstrated little comprehension, much less appreciation for the generously spaced composition of indigenous villages….
This represents the typical local pattern for early growth. For proximity to sources of forced labor, Missions and Pueblo were placed adjacent to Indigenous Villages. Ranchos reoccupied the desolate sites. Boomtowns replaced ranchos. Grids filled in open space and melded with adjacent grids.”
"The placement of settlements and system of roads throughout [Los Angeles] county was based on the original network of indigenous villages and trails. To exploit labor, Missions and Pueblo were located in proximity to these villages. After villages had been depopulated, ranchos were located on these choice and desolate sites. Subsequently, small cities and boom towns were built on top of those. Trails connecting the villages and other significant sites became roads, then highways, then freeways."
"Just getting started with planning a native garden? Want to slim the list of plants down to the most reliable native plants for Southern California?
After thirty years of experience working with California native plants, we have compiled a short-list of the must-haves for the native garden. A great way to get started with knowing the fundamentals.”
“‘In our Native education system, everybody succeeds. You choose what you want to learn and you pick your teacher. If I wanted to learn how to bead, I would know who is best at that and I’d go and do a service for that person. I would say, I wish I knew how. And then they’re free to teach me, or to not teach me. In the school system we have now, everyone takes the same thing, and you succeed or fail. In the system we had there was no failure because you chose your subject and you chose your teacher and you paid your teacher by doing them a service. And there was a place of honor for everybody.’”
"Hayduke schemes and dreams and cannot sleep…. It appears to him that only one obstacle remains between himself and a wilderness autumn and winter down in the Maze, down there where he can lose himself at last, forget himself for good, become pure predator dedicated to nothing but survival, nothing but the clean hard bright pursuit of game. That ultimate world, he thinks, or rather dreams, the final world of meat, blood, fire, water, rock, wood, sun, wind, sky, night, cold, dawn, warmth, life. Those short, blunt and irreducible words which stand for almost everything he thinks he has lost. Or never really had. And loneliness? Loneliness? Is that all he has to fear?"
"In clear-cutting, he said, you clear away the natural forest, or what the industrial forester calls ‘weed trees,’ and plant all one species of tree in neat straight functional rows like corn, sorghum, sugar beets or any other practical farm crop. You then dump on chemical fertilizers to replace the washed-away humus, inject the seedlings with growth-forcing hormones, surround your plot with deer repellants and raise a uniform crop of trees, all identical. When the trees reach a certain prespecified height (not maturity; that takes too long) you send in a fleet of tree-harvesting machines and cut the fuckers down. All of them. Then burn the slash, and harrow, seed, fertilize all over again, round and round and round again, faster and faster and tighter and tighter until, like the fabled Malaysian Concentric Bird which flies in ever-smaller circles, you disappear up your own asshole."
—Abbey, “The Monkey Wrench Gang”
*Or how progress traps create peak oil, peak debt, peak population, peak warming, peak ad nauseam.
"We, the citizens of the United States of America, hold these truths to be self-evident: that a rapid decline in living conditions is taking place all around us; that compromise is no longer an adequate way forward (and perhaps never was); that more drastic measures must be taken immediately in order to preserve a livable planet."
"The most important way to define another Alutiiq is to witness how much that person actually lives the culture. Making one’s home in a village, speaking the Alutiiq language, practicing subsistence… all add credibility to a person’s Alutiiqness, regardless of appearance or blood quantum."
—Crowell et al., “Looking Both Ways”
*Whether you are black, white, red, what matters is your integrity and fidelity to place. That, by definition, makes you “indigenous.”
“‘Corporations were forced on my people [the Alutiiq]—they didn’t understand it when it passed. They still don’t understand it. They understand people telling them they have certain boundaries. My people didn’t need the money. They didn’t need the value of being important. All they needed was a duck or two, or to get a deer, so two or three families could share. The most valuable thing they knew was seal liver. My people were the richest people in the world.’”