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Community Conservation, Alternative Economy, and Holistic Landscapes: Ethnicity and Farm Household Decision-Making on the Great Plains

Michael Brydge and Kathleen Pickering Sherman

Federally imposed political boundaries of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation forced the Lakota to end their nomadic lifestyle and consider other modes of subsistence by 1868. Subsequent federal policies confiscated Lakota lands that were not being used for agriculture and opened those lands to non-Indian agricultural operators. Some Lakota adopted agricultural practices, some worked as farm hands to avoid starvation, while others escaped the assimilative agricultural mandates and continued with traditional natural resource subsistence practices. Despite conflicts with non-Indian homesteaders, some Lakota households practice farming and ranching on the reservation to this day. One question that remains is whether ethnicity and cultural identity influence Lakota agricultural households to make decisions that differ from their non-Indian counterparts. Surveys were administered to seventy-one non-Indian and fourteen Lakota agricultural operators from 2005-2008 to assess agricultural practices, motives and attitudes toward the environment, community values and demographics. An analysis of correlated and closely correlated survey answers from the Lakota and non-Indian subsets reveal significant differences in their attitudes about nature, wildlife and the important of agriculture relative to wild resources. Differences between agricultural practices, land use strategies, community conservation and economic motives are discussed in this study. [Lakota agriculture, community conservation, Great Plains agriculture, farm household decision-making, environmental ethics]

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 2, Vol. 29, 2009, pp 113 - 126

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