Sunday, July 10, 2011

Substistance Farming and the Man

As a complement to my map of village densities in 11th century England, I have been working on a map of village densities in the Old Northwest territory (which Ohio were I live happens to be part of) during the 18th century. I have nice map of village locations in 1759 courtesy of the Atlas of Great Lake Indian History, Helen Hornbeck Tanner ed. University of Oklahoma press 1987. However, I have run into to issues. First, the Old Northwest territory is too big to map comfortably with five mile hexes. Second, after over 200 years of warfare and smallpox, village densities are measured in hexes per village rather than villages per hex. As such I had set this project aside for a bit.

My recent posts on the Aztecs have let me back to thinking about Native Americans once again. While researching Aztec farming techniques at the library, I peaked over at the Native North American section right next door and obtained The Miami Indians of Indiana, Stewart Rafert, Indiana Historical Society. The Miami, a small tribe, feature prominently in Atlas of Great Lake Indian History for their control of the portage (now Fort Wayne, IN) between Lake Erie and the Wabash River (a substantial short cut to the Mississippi River if you are traveling by Canoe). Since Miami Indians of Indiana was an easy read and allowed me to procrastinate further on the turgid but important sounding Cultivated Landscapes of Middle America on the Eve of Conquest I read it cover to cover. One of the most fascinating parts of it is the tribe continuing to live its lifestyle of the men hunting and fishing, and the women growing a little corn and a little squash on a mere 10 square mile reservation IN INDIANA  from 1847-1872 (a population of roughly 148-250 people over the time period). I am a bit surprised since 10 square miles (6,400 acres) is only a little bigger than one our modern factory farm which will have 10 people living on it if the farmer has a big family (not sure how many people it feeds I'll have to look that up). The legal manoeuvrings which allow them to stay in Indiana while the rest of the Native Americans forced west at gun point are also quite interesting (a lot of it has to do with the local non-native American tavern owners and lawyers liking the tap into the yearly U.S. Government hard currency (silver dollars) payment the tribe collected as a treaty settlement. It unfortunately also lead to only the Miami who moved to Oklahoma being recognised as a "tribe" by the U.S. Government. In 1873 the reservation was broken up into 63 farms and divided amongst the residents. Many Miami being brave soles prompt tried their hand more conventional farming. Unfortunately this involved borrowing the $1,000 from the bank to equip a conventional farm and selling the farm to the bank when the inevitable "bad year" hit and bank could not be paid. The 1994 U.S Government wrangling that the guy who ruled in 1895 that Indiana Miami were no longer a tribe was wrong, but since it had been too long (mostly because the Bureau of Indian Affairs ruled in the several lawsuits since the ruling that because the Miami were not a tribe no lawsuit could be brought) is also a prime example of why people of my generation have a great distrust of government (also known as "the Man). There is an interesting corollary between the treatment of Native Americans and the "screw job" conducted by the enclosure of 16th century England, as well as the Oklahoma farmers during the dust bowl, but this post is long enough already.

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