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Cultivation of Salmon and other Marine Resources on the Northwest Coast of North America
Human Ecology (2015)
  • Thomas Thornton, University of Oxford
  • Douglas Deur, Portand State University
  • Herman Kitka, Sr.
We present evidence for cultivation of marine resources among aboriginal peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America. While such evidence has been marshalled for plant cultivation, we argue that similar cultivation techniques developed around salmon and other critical marine resources of which they had intimate knowledge, and that such interventions helped regularize supplies, ameliorate disruptions, accommodate shifts, and even reverse declines in species populations by recreating or strengthening conditions for sustaining species in dynamic ecological systems. The plants, fish, and wildlife of the region were resilient, and often pre-adapted to cyclic or stochastic disturbance regimes, but, like the aboriginal populations themselves, also vulnerable to environmental shocks and scarcities. We suggest that Northwest Coast indigenous people observed the effects of both gradual and rapid environmental change on key species over generations, and adjusted their behavior accordingly. The effects of human enhancement, human over-exploitation, or natural perturbations were often rapidly apprehended, allowing for feedback mechanisms that became integral to the technologies and social mechanisms for resource management. These practices are best conceptualized as cultivation techniques rather than restrictive conservation practices, designed to optimise resource supplies and harvest conditions, thus reducing risk and vulnerability and increasing social-ecological resilience.
Publication Date
October, 2015
Citation Information
Thornton, T., Deur, D., & Kitka, H. (2015). Cultivation of Salmon and other Marine Resources on the Northwest Coast of North America. Human Ecology, 43(2), 189–199.