The geographic Pacific Northwest region (PNW, Cascadia) is situated in the western part of North America and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Geographers and other scientists have different points of view on the definition of its boundaries; however, it is commonly accepted that the Pacific Northwest includes the Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. The large variety of marine and terrestrial resources made agriculture the secondary food source and allowed for the development of storage-based subsistence economy in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Oregon.
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At early stages, the Pacific Northwest dwellers did not develop agriculture because of abundant natural resources. Hunting, fishery, and gathering were enough to procure food (“Northwest Coastal People” par. 2). The Pacific Northwest dwellers benefited from the fact that the Northwest Coast was abundant in Pacific salmon. In their continuous learning of how to exploit this, they developed a system of fishing tools and used it for procuring other marine species such as shellfish, whales, oysters, etc. In summer, the Pacific Northwest dwellers gathered berries and roots and hunted for elks, bears, mountain goats, and deer. With such a variety of food sources and relatively low mean minimum temperatures, the Pacific Northwest dwellers were not particularly interested in agricultural development (Olen et al. 8).
Scientists often study the importance of aquatic and terrestrial resources in the evolution of the Pacific Northwest peoples. Ames samples five sites where archeologists found the evidence that marine mammals, large and medium land mammals, such fish species as salmon, smelt, sturgeon, mollusks, and plant foods were the significant part of the Pacific Northwest societies’ economy (216). The list includes the Five Mile Rapids site that is situated near the Dalles, Oregon. The economy of Oregon may be defined as a storage-based subsistence economy, in which salmon industry took the predominant part. According to Ames, “deposits at Five Mile Rapids at the upstream end of the Columbia River Gorge dating ca 7600-9800 B.P., produced 150,000-200,000 salmon vertebrae”, which makes it possible to conclude that storage played an important role in the development of Oregon subsistence economy (216).
There are six pieces of evidence that suggest the salmon storage-based economy in Oregon: rectangular surface dwellings and villages (major food processing and storage facilities); use of wooden boxes as coffins “indicates that the technology and skill needed to make storage boxes was present”; “use of mass-harvesting techniques, including nets and weirs”; “large numbers of smelt and salmon remains”; tools that might be a part of a “gear for processing fish for storage”; and “head element/vertebrae ratios are currently viewed as the definitive indicator of salmon storage on the coast” (Ames 217). Moreover, Oregon hunter-gatherers’ way of life may be characterized by a concept of sedentism, which means living in one place for a long period of time. All these factors make it possible to define the Oregon economy as a storage based subsistence economy.
The U.S. states of Washington and Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia are often defined as the Pacific Northwest territory. At the early stages of their development, they widely used the natural marine and terrestrial resources to procure food. Archeologists found many shreds of evidence that the abundance of the Northwest Coast in food resources contributed to the development of the storage-based subsistence economy in those regions.
Ames, Kenneth M. “The Northwest Coast: Complex Hunter-Gatherers, Ecology, And Social Evolution.” Annual Review of Anthropology, 1994, pp. 209-229.
Olen, Beau, et al. “What are the Major Climate Risks for Agriculture in the U.S. Pacific Northwest?” Oregon State University, Web.