"Whites were frequently confounded by the Indians’ ability to endure severe, protracted hunger with a completely detached air. Rather than betray their anxiety they usually went to the other extreme and assumed a joyful demeanor. The motive behind this peculiar, seemingly contradictory, behavior was, again, deception. For, ‘if nothing was taken in the hunt, it was a sign of death if animals saw the Indian’s spirit in mourning and fled away.’"
"This article explores the possible adaptive features of humor and ponders its evolutionary path through hominid history. Current humor theories and previous evolutionary ideas on humor are reviewed. In addition, scientific fields germane to the evolutionary study of humor are examined: animal models, genetics, children’s humor, humor in pathological conditions, neurobiology, humor in traditional societies and cognitive archeology. Candidate selection pressures and associated evolutionary mechanisms are considered. The authors conclude that several evolutionary-related topics such as the origins of language, cognition underlying spiritual feelings, hominid group size, and primate teasing could have special relevance to the origins of humor."
”Nature, as conceived by the traditional Ojibwa, was a congeries of societies, every animal, fish, and plant species functioned
in a society that was parallel in all respects to mankind’s. Wildlife and plant-life had homes and families, just as man did. Each species had its leaders, reminiscent of the Micmac cosmology, known in recent years as ‘bosses’—an apt expression borrowed from the modern lumber camp. In the old days they were more quaintly termed ‘masters’ or ‘keepers’ of the game, and each local band of a particular species was said to have its own boss. Indians are reluctant to talk about these things today, for fear
of ridicule; nevertheless, these beings were (and in some areas
continue to be) very real to them. Animal, bird, and fish bosses are typically white and larger than the rest of their species. To see one of them is a rare privilege indeed.”
"Man’s niche or, more appropriately, his purpose in the natural order was to live the Good Life: pimadaziwin, in Ojibwa. ‘The central goal of life for the Ojibwa,’ wrote the ethnologist A. Irving Hallowel, ‘is expressed by the term pimadaziwin, life in the fullest sense, life in the sense of longevity, health and freedom from misfortune.’”
"By substituting verbal representations for potentially costly first-hand experience, narrative enables an individual to safely and efficiently acquire information pertinent to the pursuit of fitness in local habitats. If this hypothesis is true, narrative should be rich with information useful to the pursuit of fitness. One class of information integral to the accomplishment of this task is foraging knowledge. In this paper, then, I present evidence that foraging peoples use narrative to transmit subsistence information: specifically, I demonstrate how various narrative devices (e.g., setting, description, mimicry, anthropomorphism) are used to communicate foraging knowledge."
"I’ve spent many a day alone, waiting in ambush from dawn till dusk. If you do this enough times, eventually one of two things happens: Either you go home and turn on the TV and swear off hunting altogether or you learn to cross into the Zen of hunting. Your mind enters an altered state of hyperawareness, and boredom is simply not an issue. Time ceases to have any meaning; you really can’t tell the difference between fifteen minutes and an hour."
"What seems to us a chancy way of life must somehow be understood as an ongoing arrangement in which we participate, though not as masters. To extract material rewards from the world through strategy is necessary, but conniving is less important than being right with the deities. Diffused sacredness, a strong sense of transformation, and unhistorical time constitute the Paleolithic genius. As ideals not one of these is a regression into archaic obsolescence but a forward step to modern philosophical thinking.”
"A large proportion of the health woes beleaguering modern cultures are because of daily physical activity patterns that are profoundly different from those for which we are genetically adapted. The ancestral natural environment in which our current genome was forged via natural selection called for a large amount of daily energy expenditure on a variety of physical movements. Our genes that were selected for in this arduous and demanding natural milieu enabled our ancestors to survive and thrive, leading to a very vigorous lifestyle. This abrupt (by evolutionary time frames) change from a very physically demanding lifestyle in natural outdoor settings to an inactive indoor lifestyle is at the origin of many of the widespread chronic diseases that are endemic in our modern society. The logical answer is to replicate the native human activity pattern to the extent that this is achievable and practical."
"Art should return to its roots, to cosmology, to rite, and to ceremony. The religious nature of art is its true meaning. Modern art’s commitment to ‘emotion’ and ‘feeling’ or to abstract principles of design is, by Pleistocene standards, a sacrilegious act, just as narcotics belong not in a recreational but in a religious setting. In most small-scale societies there is regular dialogue on divinatory and dream experience that gets translated into art.”
"The game of comity of life and death, which the hunter/gatherers entered in the great savannas, accepting the nature of nature, was altered by agrarian thought: from a core process of chance to one of manipulation, from reading one’s state of grace in terms of the success of the hunt to bartering for it, from finding to making, from sacrament received to negotiations with human-like deities."
"The depth and power of perceptual habits that shape people’s lives are described by anthropologist Walter Ong, who distinguishes between an ‘acoustical event world’ and the modern ‘hypervisual culture.’ He describes the former as giving primordial design to experience, in which the sound world is more fundamental than the mind’s eye. The phonetic alphabet, pictorial space, and euclidean geometry are not just ideas and formulas; they are representations supporting a linear view of the world that in turn shapes our experience of the nonlinear natural world and its creatures. Information based on the reflection of light from surfaces—instead of on messages emanating from the inner life of organisms as is implicit with sound—alters our sense of a living world into a surface world with life sucked out of it.”
"While central Europe has an abundance of evidence of the activities of our early modern ancestors, the Aurignacians, opinion until very recently has been that sites in southern Italy as old as 40,000 BP represented earlier Neanderthal populations and that Aurignacians did not penetrate until 30,000-35,000 BP into southern Italy."
"Throughout New England were names telling where plants could be gathered, shellfish collected, mammals hunted, and fish caught. Abessah, in Bar Harbor, Maine, was the ‘clam bake place.’ Wabaquasset, in Providence, Rhode Island, was where Indian women could find ‘flags or rushes for making mats.’ Azoiquoneset, also in the Narragansett Bay area, was the ‘the small island where we get pitch,’ used to make torches for hunting sturgeon at night. The purpose of such names was to turn the landscape into a map which, if studied carefully, literally gave a village’s inhabitants the information they needed to sustain themselves. Place-names were used to keep track of beaver dams, the rapids in rivers, oyster banks, egg-gathering spots, cranberry bogs, canoe-repairing places, and so on. Some were explicitly seasonal in their references, just as the Indian use of them was. Seconchqut Village in Dukes County, Massachusetts, was ‘the late spring or summer place.’ The Eackhonk River in Rhode Island was named to mark ‘the end of the fishing place,’ meaning the inland limit of the spring spawning runs. Unlike the English, who most frequently created arbitrary place-names which either recalled localities in their homeland or gave a place the name of its owner, the Indians used ecological labels to describe how the land could be used."
"Although in former years there was some verbal instruction of youths by older men, there seems to have been a greater emphasis upon practical ‘on the job’ training. This sort of training still persists today. The young hunter accompanies older men on their hunting trips and learns by observing them. If he succeeds in duplicating their actions properly, he is rewarded by silent acceptance. If he should make an error, he is chastised and teased. This ridicule continues beyond that which takes place at the time. The other men are also told of his failings so that they can join in…. The system is very effective and makes the youth even more determined to succeed under conditions of normal cultural stability."
"There is the familiar thrust of the right arm shifting from second gear to third, the release of the clutch, the flip of the audiocassette into the player—actions begotten of the union of person with machine, standardized, and then stylized into ‘cool moves.’ There is the characteristic aim of the TV remote control. When we drive, traffic lights command us to stop every two blocks whether we need to or not. All these are actions we learn and repeat, like the assembly line worker, again and again and again…. We mold ourselves to a narrow range of standardized motions according to the dictates of the machines around us, and when we do, we deny a host of essential physical experiences. We become numb.
Likewise, our sense of time is molded into predictable segments by the capabilities of machines. As Marshall McLuhan describes, ‘Electric light abolished the divisions of night and day, of inner and outer, of the subterranean and the terrestrial,’ making it possible for people to transcend natural boundaries and stay up all night. We divide time into arbitrary weeks with people working five days and resting two, irregardless of their biological rhythms or needs. Moments become exact replicas of each other, differing only by what digit identifies them, and our life-styles, from when we eat lunch to how we make love, become a reiteration of the American Airlines slogan: ‘The On-Time Machine.’”
"An overview of mass technological society shows that the kinds of technologies in place are those that serve the perpetuation of mass technological society. For instance, the telephone and computer may look like ‘people’s technologies,’ and they do help individuals stay in communication and collect, sort, and manage information. Yet both were consciously developed to enhance systems of centralized political power. According to a manual written by early telephone entrepeneurs, the telephone was consciously disseminated to increase corporate command of information, resources, communications, and time. The computer was originally developed during World War II to decode intercepted radio messages and later to boost military power through guided missilery. Today these technologies make global exploitation of nature, urban centralization, and high-tech military domination not only possible, but seemingly necessary. In a decentralized, communal society, telephones and computers would be neither politically necessary nor individually attractive."
"To a European sensibility, it made no sense to go hungry if one knew in advance that there would be little food in winter. Colonists who starved did so because they learned too late how ill informed they had been about the New World’s perpetual abundance. Although the myth died hard, those who survived it were reasonably quick to revise their expectations. When Europeans inquired why nonagricultural Indians did not do the same, the Indians replied, ‘It is all the same to us, we shall stand it well enough; we spend seven and eight days, even ten sometimes, without eating anything, yet we do not die.’ What they said was true: Indians died from starvation much less frequently than did early colonists, so there was a certain irony in European criticisms of Indians on this score. Whatever the contradictions of their own position, however, the colonists could not understand Indian attitudes toward winter food shortages. Consciously choosing hunger, rather than working harder in the leisurely times of summer, seemed a fool’s decison.”
"The ecological principle known as Liebig’s Law states that biological populations are limited not by the total annual resources available to them but by the minimum amount that can be found at the scarcest time of the year. Different species meet this restriction in different ways and the mechanism—conscious or unconscious—whereby northern Indians restrained their fertility is not clear. However they accomplished this feat, its effects were self-evident the low Indian populations of the precolonial northern forests had relatively little impact on the ecosystems they inhabited. The very abundance which so impressed the Europeans was testimony to this fact. By keeping population densities low, the food scarcities of winter guaranteed the abundance of spring, and contributed to the overall stability of human relationships to the ecosystem. In this, northern New England Indians were typical of hunting and gathering peoples around the world.”
"Rather than render nighttime more accessible, we are instead risking its gradual elimination. Already, the heavens, our age-old source of awe and wonder, have been obscured by the glare of outdoor lighting. Only in remote spots can one still glimpse the grandeur of the Milky Way. Entire constellations have disappeared from sight, replaced by a blank sky. Conversely, the fanciful world of our dreams has grown more distant with the loss of segmented sleep and, with it, a better understanding of our inner selves. Certainly, it is not difficult to imagine a time when night, for all practical purposes, will have become day—truly a twenty-four/seven society in which traditional phases of time, from morning to midnight, have lost their original identities."
"There is every reason to believe that segmented sleep, such many wild animals exhibit, had long been the natural pattern of our slumber before the modern age, with a provenance as old as humankind. As suggested by recent experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, the explanation likely rests in the darkness that enveloped premodern families. In attempting to recreate conditions of ‘prehistoric’ sleep, Dr. Thomas Wehr and his colleagues found that human subjects, deprived of artificial light at night over a span of several weeks, eventually exhibited a pattern of broken slumber—one practically identical to that of preindustrial households. Without artificial light for up to fourteen hours each night, Wehr’s subjects first lay awake in bed for two hours, slept for four, awakened again for two or three hours of quiet rest and reflection, and fell back asleep for four hours before finally awakening for good. Significantly, the intervening period of ‘non-anxious wakefulness’ possessed ‘an endocrinology all its own,’ with visibly heightened levels of prolactin, a pituitary hormone best known for stimulating lactation in nursing mothers and for permitting chickens to brood contentedly atop eggs for long stretches of time. In fact, Wehr has likened this period of wakefulness to something approaching an altered state of consciousness not unlike meditation."
"Unlike the Ba’Aka’s music, Western song hasn’t been inspired by the biophony for thousands of years. Rather, like many of our art forms, our music is self-referential—we continuously draw on what has already been done, traversing a never-ending closed loop that turns in on itself like a snake devouring its own tail. We have thrown everything at the medium—electronics, mathematically structured scales and composition, logic, emotion, religious constraints, combinations of instruments, indiscriminate source materials (such as sound samples of birds, mammals, vacuums, cannons, city ambience, and banging trash cans)—and yet true holistic connections to the soundscapes of the wild have hardly been tapped as sources of inspiration."
"Some industries deliberately manipulate the acoustic environments in order to trigger human stress levels. Until very recently—before a passing groundswell movement to quiet things down occurred at the end of the last century—it was an open secret that some restaurant architects and interior designers, for example, consciously planned certain eating establishments to be more or less stressful with noise being the main ingredient. Anytime you walk into a restaurant that has hard, reverberant surfaces built into its architecture—walls, floors, and ceilings that reflect and amplify the slightest sound—you are choosing an environment likely designed to put you on edge. To complete the architectural intention, owners might add loud, intrusive, kick-ass music, or lots of TV monitors featuring sports programs, at both the same time. While the noise coming from the venue may provide the momentary illusion of ‘action,’ the effect is a carefully calculated one; for those of us looking for more intimate settings in which to enjoy a quiet meal and another’s company, the noise quickly triggers tension and fatigue responses that encourage quick patron turnover, resulting in higher profits for the restaurateur."
"Eskimos are famous for the cleverness of their technology—kayaks, harpoons, skin clothing, snow houses, dog teams. But I believe their greatest genius, and the basis of their success, lies in the less tangible realm of the intellect—the nexus of mind and nature. For what repeatedly struck me above all else was their profound knowledge of the environment."
"His friends all testify to cheerfulness as a trait basic to Ishi’s temperament—a cheerfulness which passed, given half a chance, into a gentle hilarity. His way was the way of contentment, the Middle Way, to be pursued quietly, working a little, playing a little, and surrounded by friends."
"Ishi the hunter, and modern man the hunter, shared neither weapons, techniques, nor attitudes. Modern man hunts for sport, and he is wasteful of the game he takes, his need being not for the animal which he has killed, but to engage briefly and violently in the act of killing. Ishi hunted to live, used each hock and hair of the animal he killed, and he lived in proximity to, and knowledge of, all animal life. American Indian mythology which has it that people were animals before they were people recognizes, in however literalistic a fashion, man’s biological continuity with all animal life, a system of belief which precludes the taking of life except with respect for it in the taking."
"Agriculture and pastoralism have been practiced for only about 10,000 years, and most extensively in the past 5,000 years. The genus Homo has existed for about 2 million years, and humans have lived as hunter-gatherers for the vast majority of their evolutionary history. While some important genetic changes may have occurred in populations after the advent of agriculture, the major distinctive features of our species (Wang et al. 2006), such as large brains, long lives, marriage and male investment in offspring, long child dependency on parents, and grandparental support of grandchildren, appear to have evolved during our preagricultural history (see Kaplan 1997 for reviews; Kaplan et al. 2000, 2001). Despite recent improvements in human survivorship, it is likely that the age-specific mortality pattern and the timing and pace of development and senescence evolved during our hunter-gatherer past as well."
"Ishi felt quite sure that he knew the chief causes for men’s sickening in civilization. They were, briefly, the excessive amount of time men spent cooped up in automobiles, in offices, and in their own houses. It is not a man’s nature to be too much indoors, and especially within his own house with women constantly about. The white man seemed to him to have become excessively a victim to the ever present evil spirit, the Coyote doctor, as he called it. This could be due, in Ishi’s opinion, to the white man’s carelessness in failing to protect himself from the unwilled malignity and danger of the sake mahale: the woman whose moon period is upon her. The touch, the mere presence in the family house, of a woman during those days is a peril to any man. A woman should have her own separate house for her periods. Any blood is suspect of evil, but a woman’s is positively known to bear a deadly power."
"By and large, no one voluntarily left his own and familiar world for a strange one. It was terrifying and dangerous to enter a community as a stranger. You were properly suspect, the inference being that your own people had put pressure on you to leave because of some crime you were guilty of. At best you would be without family or friends or influence or status, and forced to learn to speak a foregin language, if you were allowed to remain at all. There was always the chance that you would be killed, or ordered to move on."