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Adapting to a changing world: An environmental history of the Eastern Shoshone, 1000-1868

Adam R Hodge, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Using the Eastern Shoshone Tribe as a case study, this dissertation argues that the physical environment must be considered integral to processes of ethnogenesis. It traces the environmental history of the people who became known as the Eastern Shoshone over the course of several centuries, exploring how those Natives migrated throughout and adapted to a significant portion of the North American West—the Great Basin, Rocky Mountains, Columbia Plateau, and Great Plains—prior to the reservation era. In examining that history, this project treats Shoshones, other Natives, and Euro-Americans not as people who simply used the environment, but as major parts of ecosystems. It also critiques existing scholarship on Native American and Western history by asserting that instead of producing narratives that emphasize "post-contact" environmental degradation and the destruction of indigenous lifeways, historians should devote more attention to the dynamic and often catastrophic history of "pre-contact" Native America to reveal how the ramifications of that deeper past persisted into the "post-contact" era. Utilizing the analytical lens of environmental history requires this study to employ a highly interdisciplinary methodology. Drawing information from historical documents, historical scholarship, archaeological studies, anthropological reports, and works in the natural sciences (including climatology, epidemiology, biology, and ecology), it throws light on the relationship between the environment and everyday life. This includes Shoshone resource procurement and use, their dynamic gendered divisions of labor, their adoption of new technologies, their involvement in an expanding global market economy, how "Old World" infectious disease epidemics affected them, how they responded to climate change and the depletion of resources, and the relationship between the physical environment and intercultural relations. So, instead of presenting a human story in which the natural world functioned as a setting that only occasionally influenced the storyline, this dissertation offers a narrative in which humans interacted with one another and the world around them to make history.

Subject Area

American history

Recommended Citation

Hodge, Adam R, "Adapting to a changing world: An environmental history of the Eastern Shoshone, 1000-1868" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3557986.