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Atsugewi

Subsistence

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Atsugewi foragers seasonally exploited the over 100 different plants and animals, which were indigenous to their territory (Garth, Atsugewi 242, Moratto 534), and activities related to obtaining food were their highest priorities (Garth, Industriousness 349).

The practice of sexual division of labor meant that women handled plant materials, and men were in charge of animal products. Women were responsible for gathering and cooking vegetable foods, and the weaving of baskets and mats. Men did the hunting, fishing and cooking of meat. Men also made clothing of skin.

Among the most important food resources were acorns and salmon; however, venison was considered a prestige food and was associated with wealth (Garth, Atsugewi 243). Deer and antelope were hunted during summers in the highlands (Kniffen 316). Deer hunting was done both by individuals and by communal hunts. Hunters sometimes wore deer-head disguises during hunting expeditions. Deer were shot from behind blinds made of brush, snared and caught in dead-fall traps dug along trails to watering places. Venison was consumed fresh or smoked, and it was also dried and stored for winter consumption (Garth, Atsugewi 243). Large game animals (deer and antelope) were divided among all members of the village. The Atsugewi also hunted a variety of small game, birds and waterfowl (Kniffen 316). Animals not consumed by the Atsugewi included: eagle, crow, frog, coyote, martin, mink, and gray fox. Some of these animals were taboo for religious reasons, while others were not considered palatable (Garth, Atsugewi 242).

Fish were a significant component of the Atsugewi diet and the Atsugé took a variety of fish including salmon, pike, trout and suckers (Kniffen 315) using basket traps, dip and gill nets, and spears. Nighttime fishing was conducted by spearing fish from canoes. Fish were eaten fresh or dried and stored for winter use (Garth, Atsugewi 242). Important vegetable foods included acorns, epos and camas roots, and five kinds of sunflower seeds. Seeds and nuts were pounded into meal in hopper baskets, then made into mush or cakes, and stored for winter (Garth, Atsugewi 243).

Atsugewi hopper basket from the National Park Service
Atsugewi Hopper Basket
Photograph from the National Park Service
 

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