Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental by Theodore Binnema

By Theodore Binnema

Presents a sweeping and cutting edge interpretation of the heritage of the northwestern plains and its humans from prehistoric instances to the Lewis and Clark day trip. Drawing on quite a lot of assets, Binnema examines the effect of know-how at the peoples of the northern plains, starting with the bow-and-arrow and carrying on with throughout the arrival of the pony, eu guns, previous international ailments, and Euroamerican investors.

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20 COMMON AND CONTESTED GROUND As grasses go dormant, however, they can support far fewer animals. On the northern plains the hourglass narrowed during much of the summer and all of the fall and winter, with the narrowest part of the hourglass coming just as the grasses sprouted in early spring. The width of the hourglass at its narrowest, not its widest, was crucial. Bison numbers varied seasonally in much the same way: populations grew rapidly during the peak calving period in spring but began decreasing in the summer and continued to drop until the spring, as predators, disease, natural hazards, and starvation culled the herds.

Immature cows and the bulls gained weight quickly, nursing cows more slowly. The northwestern plains are dry, but May and June are the wettest months: cool northeasterly winds often meet with warmer air or with highlands to the south and west, producing rains in most years. When fed by these rains, the northern mixed prairie tolerated heavy bison grazing, producing new growth continuously as weather allowed. The fescue grasses, which responded poorly to spring and early summer grazing, were relatively undisturbed during their period of most robust growth between early May and early June.

9 I4 COMMON AND CONTESTED GROUND The northern plains were not unique. "ll Where individuals and bands of different ethnic groups frequently mixed, intermarried, and circulated,boundaries between them could become indistinct. Long-term friendships among Algonquian-speaking Cree and Siouan-speaking Assiniboine bands of the northern plains produced a merged identity. 12 Interethnicity was not incidental to life on the northwestern plains; it was essential. Distinct and relatively autonomous communities often camped together temporarily, allowing them to make or renew friendships, trade, hunt, or go to war together.

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