Reconsidering the Connections between Ecological Change and Political Change in Colonial California

Author(s): Lee Panich

Year: 2017


California is geographically separated from the rest of North America by high mountain ranges and extensive deserts, but paradoxically the region's Mediterranean climate may have facilitated the imposition of Euroamerican colonial rule in the late 18th century. In particular, many scholars suggest that ecological changes accelerated political changes in the missionized portion of California's coastal strip. There, the rapid spread of invasive plant and animal species had far-reaching effects on regional ecosystems, which in turn undermined local indigenous subsistence economies. These changes are largely thought to signal the collapse of Native Californian polities and to partly explain the decision of indigenous people to join the socially-restrictive Spanish mission system. Here, I reassess this long-standing interpretation in light of new faunal and botanical data from colonial-era sites as well as emerging approaches to understanding indigenous political and cultural autonomy under colonialism. While there is no doubt that the arrival of Euroamericans on the western coast of North America ushered in dramatic transformations to local ecosystems and indigenous polities, these new data indicate both temporal and spatial variation in the connections between ecological and political change in colonial California.

Cite this Record

Reconsidering the Connections between Ecological Change and Political Change in Colonial California. Lee Panich. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431836)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15024