The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1975, Volume 21, Number 3
James E. Moss, Editor

Book Reviews

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

?ANTAP: California Indian Political and Economic Organization. Edited by Lowell John Bean and Thomas F. King. Ramona, CA: Ballena Press, 1974. Bibliography. Charts. Maps. 177 pages. Softbound. $5.50.

Reviewed by John W. Steiner, instructor in history, Mesa College, San Diego. Mr. Steiger held a National Endowment for the Humanities Study Fellowship in 1973-74, doing research in American Indian history. He is currently preparing an anthology on Indian-White relations in North America.

History buffs will wish to consult their anthropology notes or a dictionary while reading this anthology. This is not written in disparagement but to emphasize the book’s technical structure and wording. The second publication in a series entitled the Ballena Press Anthropological Papers, and edited by Lowell John Bean, this edition is presented in the dispassionate style of the objective scientist.

In the words of the editors, the intention of the work “is to show something of the diversity of current California anthropological research, and to demonstrate (at least implicitly) how the varied studies now being undertaken contribute to a general view of California aboriginal societies as complex, hierarchical. interacting systems.”

Perhaps most interesting and useful to historians are papers written by Lowell Bean, Chris White, and Gary Coombs and Fred Plog. Bean does a fine job in an article entitled “Social Organization in Native California” in showing how important social institutions were in influencing the development of complex Indian societies in California. It is revisionist in the sense of expanding causal factors beyond earlier accepted interpretations of a fortunate environment and an efficient technology.

Equally suggestive and useful is Chris White’s article entitled “Lower Colorado River Area Aboriginal Warfare and Alliance Dynamics.” As the editors remind us, White’s analysis of warfare is contrary to previous explanations which have emphasized the importance of value systems (such as social-ideological-psychological determinants) in creating a war-like pattern of behavior. As he notes in a summary statement: “Such variables are not argued to be unimportant in explaining this warfare, but it is suggested that they represent adaptive behavioral responses to ecological conditions that made warfare a necessary strategy for survival, rather than causal factors in themselves.” Included in this article are charts and tabulations “Amity-Enmity Alliances”, maps of aboriginal population and land use zones and charts of seasonal variations in rainfall and Colorado River flow.

The article by Gary Coombs and Fred Plog, “Chumash Baptism: An Ecological Perspective,” is a good beginning for what hopefully will become a pattern for a historical-anthropological reassessment of the Spanish missionization period. The stress here is on the interrelationship of two cultures in a “symbiotic” sense. The authors emphasize “the social strategies employed by both groups in dealing with one another.” Maps and flow charts help add pictorial validity to their hypothesis.

In a simplistic sense the other four articles in this book can be organized around two classifications: sociological and archaeological. Thomas Blackburn’s “Ceremonial Integration and Social Interaction in Aboriginal California” should have special appeal to readers with a sociological bent. He emphasizes the economic significance of ritual congregations and secret societies among the Yokuts, Chumash, Gabrielino and Luiseño.

The other three articles, Thomas King’s “The Evolution of Status Ascription Around San Francisco Bay,” David A. Frederickson’s “Social Change in Prehistory: A Central California Example,” and Chester D. King’s “The Explanation of Differences and Similarities Among Beads Used in Prehistoric and Early Historic California” will appeal more to archaeologists than to historians. David Frederickson’s and Chester King’s articles appear most technical in format and in methodology. The editors note the importance to cultural theory implicit in Frederickson’s investigations and emphasize how, in King’s study, shell beads played important roles as “indicators of changes in socio-economic subsystems.” Thomas King’s remarks about population pressures in the San Francisco Bay area, prior to disruption by Spanish penetration, suggest the need to reassess earlier concepts of a balanced ecosystem in that region. There is no index for this book, but the editors and contributors have compiled a twenty-three page, non-annotated bibliography.