Presentation explores hunting practices of Native Americans |

Presentation explores hunting practices of Native Americans

Courtesy of Grand County Historical Association
Courtesy photo
Staff Photo |

In support of the Winds of Change: Utes of the High Country exhibit at Cozens Ranch Museum, Dr. Jason LaBelle, a leading archaeologist on Grand County prehistory, lectures on early native peoples of this area.

Dr. LaBelle runs an archaeological field school along the Continental Divide of Grand County. He and his students document and excavate amazing archaeological finds. This is a special opportunity to learn and understand about the earliest peoples of Middle Park, from a vibrant young scholar.

Dr. LaBelle’s talk is: The Mountains as Wilderness and as Home: The Ancient Practice of Communal Hunting along the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, Colorado.

The Southern Rocky Mountains of western North America are known for their jagged peaks, frigid lakes, and abundant wildlife. While many modern residents view the alpine country as wilderness and untrammeled by humanity, archaeological research provides a different narrative. More than 2,200 prehistoric Native American sites are known from Colorado at elevations greater than 10,000 feet.

Rather than conceptualizing the mountains as a barrier, research demonstrates that the highlands played a significant role within ancient Native American lives. For instance, communal hunting of large game such as bighorn sheep and elk was a major pursuit in the fall of the year, reflected in 96-plus documented “game drives” and with many containing v-shaped rock walls that once funneled prey toward waiting hunters in shooting blinds.

In this presentation, the presenter provides an overview of the alpine archaeology of Colorado, focusing on these hunting sites at Rollins Pass, proposing reasons for their construction and continued use over several millennia, and arguing for their importance to the peoples of the past in the conceptualization of “home.”

Dr. LaBelle is associate professor, Department of Anthropology, Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins. His research interests include grassland and mountain ecology, hunter-gatherer site structure, communal hunting, hearth cooking, and the history of archaeology. His current fieldwork focuses on the foothills and mountains of Northern Colorado, but past fieldwork has taken him across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains spanning from New Mexico to Montana.

He is past President of the Colorado Archaeological Society and has actively worked with avocational archaeologists throughout the Plains in documenting collections. His research efforts are supported in part by the Jim and Audrey Benedict Fund for Mountain Archaeology, an endowment established in 2011 to support alpine archaeology in the Southern Rocky Mountains.

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