Emergence of persistent institutionalized inequality at the Bridge River site, British Columbia: The roles of managerial mutualism and coercion

Anna Marie Prentiss, Thomas A. Foor, Ashley Hampton, Matthew J. Walsh, Megan Denis, Alysha Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Persistent institutionalized inequality (PII) emerged at the Bridge River site by ca 1200-1300 years ago. Research confirms that PII developed at a time of population packing associated with unstable fluctuations in a critical food resource (anadromous salmon) and persisted across multiple generations. While we understand the demographic and ecological conditions under which this history unfolded, we have yet to address details of the underlying social process. In this paper, we draw on Bridge River's Housepit 54 to examine two alternative hypotheses. Hypothesis 1, mutualism, suggests that household heads signalled to maintain and attract new members as a means of supporting the demographic viability of the house. Inequality is indicated by variation in prestige markers but less obviously in economic fundamentals. Hypothesis 2, coercion, asserts that the more successful households developed control over access to critical food resources, forcing others into the choice between emigration and subjugation. Inequality is indicated by inter-family differences in prestige markers and economic fundamentals. Results suggest that inequality emerged under a mutualism scenario but persisted for subsequent generations under more coercive conditions. This article is part of the theme issue 'Evolutionary ecology of inequality'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220304
Pages (from-to)20220304
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume378
Issue number1883
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 14 2023

Keywords

  • Bridge River site
  • coercion
  • managerial mutualism
  • Pacific northwest region
  • wealth-based inequality
  • Symbiosis
  • Biological Evolution
  • British Columbia
  • Rivers
  • Coercion

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