11,000 Years of Human Adaptation to Climate Change in Wind River Country

Walter, Jordan
Archaeology students participating in the Central Wyoming College Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expeditions have documented extensive human use of the Dinwoody drainage system in the Wind River Mountains beginning with some of the earliest Paleoindian cultures at the end of the Pleistocene to the present. Cold-adapted cultures sought out the harsh, high alpine environment throughout episodes of continental warming or cooling. Andean cultures make annual pilgrimages to worship glaciers as sacred sources of water. The dense concentration of Dinwoody petroglyphs indicates that Native peoples have regarded the Dinwoody as sacred for thousands of years. Ethnographic research conducted for this project with the Eastern Shoshones confirms this interpretation, and reveals that recent discussions have occurred in which some Tribal officials have considered requesting that the US Forest Service close the area to recreation and archaeological research. Wind River Reservation governments, however, have no plans to adapt to the pressing impacts of climate change or imminent extinction of the glaciers. The National Park Service is assisting Tribes in Louisiana and Alaska with evacuation plans as their communities become uninhabitable. This paper poses questions about the future of the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes in the Wind River country.
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