Dale Walde: Archeologist re-writing accepted Plains Indian history

Historians in the News

CALGARY -- A desperate struggle for survival -- not the white man and his horse -- likely forced Plains Indians to band together in complex communities, at least 1,700 years before what is currently accepted.

And, the way they came together to ward off threats from southern bands from what are now the Dakotas and Minnesota may have resembled a very early form of North American diplomacy.

University of Calgary archeologist Dale Walde has proposed the controversial theory in the prestigious World Archaeology journal, following more than fi ve years of research in the fi eld in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

If accepted, Walde's theory will rewrite history that has accepted the widely held belief Plains aboriginals lived in small bands of between 30 and 40 until the arrival of Europeans and the domesticated horse in the 1600s.

"The idea that people on the northern Plains were living at lower levels of social organization, at a subsistence level, is becoming less and less popular," said Walde.

"There has been a tendency by some to regard them as simple hunter-gatherers with very basic levels of organization, living hand to mouth in small bands, but that really isn't accurate." Walde suggests pressure from horticulturalbased bands from the midwestern United States prompted First Nations living on the Canadian Plains to organize themselves into larger groups to better hunt the massive buffalo herds that roamed the prairies.
The bands realized that by unifying, they could hunt and kill more buffalo, stopping hunters from the south ranging into the northern Prairies and enabling local bands to trade more effectively with their southern neighbours....
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