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Even if archaeological research shows that the first farming of plants started about 11,000 ago in China, where we have the first evidence for cultivation of plants, new research shows that humans used and processed plants for medicine long before that.
Li Liu of Stanford University studied grinding stones that were found in China and date back about 20,000 years. The residue on the stones shows that they were used to grind grains, millet, beans and roots.
Karen Hardy from the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona reported evidence that Neanderthals used medicinal plants.
It is interesting to see how ancient people knew how to select parts of plants that were good for their health and use them accordingly. But how did they get this knowledge in the first place?
You can read more here.
New evidence may change timeline for when people first arrived in North America
AMES, Iowa &ndash An unexpected discovery by an Iowa State University researcher suggests that the first humans may have arrived in North America more than 30,000 years ago &ndash nearly 20,000 years earlier than originally thought.
Andrew Somerville, an assistant professor of anthropology in world languages and cultures, says he and his colleagues made the discovery while studying the origins of agriculture in the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico. As part of that work, they wanted to establish a date for the earliest human occupation of the Coxcatlan Cave in the valley, so they obtained radiocarbon dates for several rabbit and deer bones that were collected from the cave in the 1960s as part of the Tehuacan Archaeological-Botanical Project. The dates for the bones suddenly took Somerville and his colleagues in a different direction with their work.
The date ranges for the bone samples from the base of the cave ranged from 33,448 to 28,279 years old. The results are published in the academic journal Latin American Antiquity. Somerville says even though previous studies had not dated items from the bottom of the cave, he was not expecting such old ages. The findings add to the debate over a long-standing theory that the first humans crossed the Bering Land Bridge into the Americas 13,000 years ago.
&ldquoWe weren&rsquot trying to weigh in on this debate or even find really old samples. We were just trying to situate our agricultural study with a firmer timeline,&rdquo Somerville said. &ldquoWe were surprised to find these really old dates at the bottom of the cave, and it means that we need to take a closer look at the artifacts recovered from those levels.&rdquo
Somerville says the findings provide researchers with a better understanding of the chronology of the region. Previous studies relied on charcoal and plant samples, but he says the bones were a better material for dating. However, questions still remain. Most importantly, is there a human link to the bottom layer of the cave where the bones were found?
To answer that question, Somerville and Matthew Hill, ISU associate professor of anthropology, plan to take a closer look at the bone samples for evidence of cut marks that indicate the bones were butchered by a stone tool or human, or thermal alternations that suggest the bones were boiled or roasted over fire. He says the possible stone tools from the early levels of the cave may also yield clues.
&ldquoDetermining whether the stone artifacts were products of human manufacture or if they were just naturally chipped stones would be one way to get to the bottom of this,&rdquo Somerville said. &ldquoIf we can find strong evidence that humans did in fact make and use these tools, that&rsquos another way we can move forward.&rdquo
Year-long journey to even find the bones
One of the rabbit bones dated for the study. (Larger image) Photo courtesy of Andrew Somerville
Not only was this discovery unexpected, but the process of tracking down the animal bones to take samples was more than Somerville anticipated. The collection of artifacts from the 1960s Tehuacan Archaeological-Botanical Project was distributed to different museums and labs in Mexico and the United States, and it was unclear where the animal bones were sent.
After a year of emails and cold calls, Somerville and his collaborator, Isabel Casar from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, had a potential lead for a lab in Mexico City. The lab director, Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, agreed to give Somerville and Casar a tour to help search for the missing collection. The tour proved to be beneficial. Among the countless boxes of artifacts, they found what they were looking for.
&ldquoHaving spent months trying to locate the bones, we were excited to find them tucked away on the bottom shelf in a dark corner of the lab,&rdquo Somerville said. &ldquoAt the time, we felt that was a great discovery, we had no idea it would lead to this.&rdquo
Once he located the bones, Somerville got permission from the Mexican government to take small samples &ndash about 3/4 inch in length and 1/4 inch in width &ndash from 17 bones (eight rabbits and nine deer) for radiocarbon dating. If closer examination of the bones provides evidence of a human link, Somerville says it will change what we know about the timing and how the first people came to America.
&ldquoPushing the arrival of humans in North America back to over 30,000 years ago would mean that humans were already in North America prior to the period of the Last Glacial Maximum, when the Ice Age was at its absolute worst,&rdquo Somerville said. &ldquoLarge parts of North America would have been inhospitable to human populations. The glaciers would have completely blocked any passage over land coming from Alaska and Canada, which means people probably would have had to come to the Americas by boats down the Pacific coast.&rdquo
Isabel Casar, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Joaquín Arroyo-Cabrales, a researcher with the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, contributed to this research. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
Geological formations Edit
The following is a summary of geological formations in Colorado:
Precambrian metamorphic rock that forms the core of the North American continent during the Precambrian eon 4.5–1 billion years ago. There is also Precambrian sedimentary argillite, dating back to 1.7 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic, western North America lay underneath a shallow sea, which deposited many kilometers of limestone and dolomite. 
The Paleozoic era and during the Precambrian eon, about 300 million-1 billion years ago, Pikes Peak Granite was formed from mass amounts of molten rock that would amalgamate, flow and combine, to form the continents. In Colorado it is known as the Precambrian Pikes Peak Granite. Over the next 500 million years, sedimentation (sediment deposition) occurred after the granite was produced. At about 500 – 300 million years ago, the region began to sink and lime and mud sediments deposited in the newly formed space. Eroded granite produced sand particles that formed strata, layers of sediment, in the sinking basin. At about 300,000 million years ago the land lifted, creating the ancestral Rocky Mountains.  : 1
Fountain Formation was formed during the Pennsylvanian period of the Paleozoic era, 290-296 million years ago. Over the next 150 million years, during uplift the mountains would continue to erode and cover themselves in their own sediment. Wind, gravity, rainwater, snow, and ice-melt supplied rivers that ultimately carved through the granite mountains and eventually led to their end.  : 6 Fountain Formation is Pennsylvanian bedrock unit consisting primarily of conglomerate, sandstone, or arkose, in Colorado and Wyoming, along the east side of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and along the west edge of the Denver Basin. The characteristic predominant red color and the composition of the Fountain reflect that of the granites and gneisses from which it was eroded. Related sites are: Flatirons, Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks Park, Roxborough State Park
Lyons Sandstone was formed during the Permian period of the Paleozoic era, 250-280 million years ago. At the beginning of the period, sea levels were low and present-day Colorado was part of the super-continent Pangaea. Sand deserts covered most of the area spreading as dunes seen in the rock record, known today as the Lyons Sandstone. These dunes appear to be cross-bedded and show various fossil footprints and leaf imprints in many of the strata making up the section.  : 8 Related sites include: Garden of the Gods, Roxborough State Park, and the Lyons and neighboring Hall Ranch Open Space areas.
Lykins Formation was formed during the Jurassic and Triassic periods 150-250 million years ago. The sediment deposition of wavy layers of muddy limestone and signs of stromatolites that thrived in a smelly tidal flat at present-day Colorado. The Ancestral Rockies were burying themselves while the shoreline was present during the break-up of Pangaea. This formation began right after Earth's largest extinction 251 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic Boundary. Ninety percent of the planet's marine life was destroyed and a great deal on land as well.  : 10 Related sites: Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks Park, Roxborough State Park
The Morrison Formation was formed during the Cretaceous and Jurassic Period 100-150 million years ago. The Morrison Formation contains some of the best fossils of the Late Jurassic. It is especially known for its sauropod tracks and sauropod bones among other dinosaur fossils. As identified by the fossil record, the environment was filled with various types of vegetation such as ferns and zamites.  : 12 Related site: Dinosaur Ridge, the roadcut at the Interstate 70 Morrison exit
Dakota Sandstone, formed during the Cretaceous period 70-100 million years ago, was deposited 100 million years ago towards Colorado's eastern coast. It shows evidence of ferns, and dinosaur tracks. Sheets of ripple marks can be seen on some of the strata, confirming the shallow-sea environment.  : 14 Related sites are: Dinosaur Ridge, Garden of the Gods, Roxborough State Park, Deer Creek Canyon Park, the roadcut at the Interstate 70 Morrison exit.
Pierre Shale was formed during the Paleogene and Cretaceous periods about 70 million years ago. The region was taken over by a deep sea, the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, and deposited mass amounts of shale over the area known as the Pierre Shale. Both the thick section of shale and the marine life fossils found (ammonites and skeletons of fish and such marine reptiles as mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and extinct species of sea turtles, along with rare dinosaur and bird remains). Colorado eventually drained from being at the bottom of an ocean to land again, giving yield to another fossiliferous rock layer, the Denver Formation. At about 68 million years ago, the Front Range began to rise again due to the Laramide Orogeny in the west.  : 16 Related sites are: Garden of the Gods, Fountain Creek Nature Center, Rooney Road near Dinosaur Ridge, Valmont Dike
Fox Hills Formation was formed during the Paleogene / Cretaceous periods. It is a marginal marine yellow sandstone with shale interbeds  created with the receding Western Interior Seaway in Late Cretaceous time.
Laramie Formation, formed during the Cretaceous periods, is a geologic formation of the Denver Basin that ranges from 400 to 500 feet on the western side of the basin and 200–300 feet thick on the eastern side. The formation can be divided into a lower unnamed member containing bedded sandstone, clay, and coal and an upper unnamed member composed predominately of 90 to 190 m of drab-colored mudstone, some sandstone, and thin coal beds.   
Denver Formation, formed during the Paleogene / Cretaceous periods 55 million years, contains fossils and bones from dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. While the forests of vegetation, dinosaurs, and other organisms thrived, their reign would come to an end at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–T boundary). In an instant, millions of species are obliterated from a meteor impact in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. While this extinction lead to the dinosaurs' and other organisms' demise, some life did prevail to repopulate the earth as it recovered from this tremendous disaster. The uplifted Front Range continued to constantly erode and, by 40 million years ago, the range was once again buried in its own rubble.  : 18 Related sites are: Austin Bluffs Park, Green Mountain, Palmer Park, Pulpit Rock Park, South Table Mountain
Dawson Arkose, formed during the Paleogene period 37-55 million years ago, is up to 20 foot thick, multi-colored layers of clay form in this prehistoric tropical forest. This layer, Paleosol, is a soil of fossils such as petrified wood. An uplift occurred on the Front Range that caused the Pikes Peak granite to become exposed and then erode on the surface, resulting in a white sandstone called Dawson Arkose.  : 24 Related sites are: Castlewood Canyon State Park, Daniel's Park, Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Rock Park
Castle Rock Rhyolite was formed during the Paleogene period 34-37 million years ago. 37 million years ago, a great volcanic eruption took place in the Collegiate Range and covered the landscape in molten hot ash that instantly torched and consumed everything across the landscape. An entire lush environment was capped in a matter of minutes with 20 feet of extremely resistant rock, rhyolite.  : 26 Related sites are: Castlewood Canyon State Park, Molly Brown House Museum, Rocks Park and mesa tops between Castle Rock and Monument Hill
The White River Formation is found in the Northeastern corner of the Colorado, and was deposited between
30.8 Ma, encompassing parts of the late Eocene and early Oligocene. The formation is composed primarily of claystones, mudstones, and siltstones, within which a variety of fossil organisms, collectively referred to as the White River fauna, can be found. The fossil assemblage of the formation includes tortoises, alligators, predatory birds, Perissodactyls such as primitive horses and rhinoceroses, Entelodonts, Nimravids, rodents, Artiodactyls, and other mammals. The paleoenvironment of the formation has been interpreted as being composed of expansive savannah-woodlands and plains, occasionally interrupted by meandering rivers. 
Castel Rock Conglomerate was formed 16,000 - 34 million years ago. However, as seen before, life rebounds, and after a few million years mass floods cut through the rhyolite and eroded much of it as plants and animals began to recolonize the landscape. The mass flooding and erosion of the volcanic rock gave way to the Castle Rock Conglomerate that can be found in the Front Range. About 10 million years ago, the Front Range began to rise up again and the resistant granite in the heart of the mountains thrust upwards and stood tall, while the weaker sediments deposited above it eroded away.  : 28 Related sites: Castlewood Canyon State Park, Rocks Park
Quaternary Sediments were formed during the Pleistocene period, or Ice Age Summer, 11,000-16,000 years ago. As the Front Range rose, streams and recent (16,000 years ago) glaciations during the Quaternary age literally unburied the range by cutting through the weaker sediment, creating mesa tops and alluvial plains, and giving rise to the present Rocky Mountains. The receding glaciers and warming into an Ice Age summer created a climate suitable to camelops, mastodon, mammoth, bison antiquus and other megafauna.  : 30 Related sites: Carson Nature Center, Highlands Ranch Open Space, Sand Creek Drainage, South Platte Park
Paleoclimatology is the study of prehistoric weather. The Eemian interglacial period spanned 130,000–114,000 BP. The Laurentide Ice Sheet covered much of Canada and the northern United States from ca. 95,000 and ca. 20,000 years before present.
Colorado has one of the most diverse plant and animal environments of the United States, partially born from the dramatic temperature changes due to elevation changes and topography. The difference in elevation from the lowest ecosystems to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains is 12,000 feet. In dry climates, the average temperature drops 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit with every 1,000 foot increase in elevation (9.8 degrees Celsius per 1,000 meters). The mountains receive the most precipitation, which the lower altitude zones on the eastern and westernmost side of the state are semi-arid, receiving comparatively little precipitation.  : 10–13
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science developed an eight-zone classification of ecosystems, defined primarily by the most present dominant plant life:  : 17
Since the Precambrian eon, the land forms have lifted, receded and have been eroded global temperature has vacillated from tropical to ice age,  : 1–2 which significantly affected the number and type of ecosystems and what animal and plant life flourished during each geological period.  : 6–32
Paleo-Indian period Edit
The period immediately preceding the first humans coming into Colorado was the Ice Age Summer starting about 16,000 years ago. For the next five thousand years the landscape would change dramatically and most of the large animals would become extinct. Receding and melting glaciers created the Plum and Monument Creeks, the Castle Rock mesas and unburied the Rocky Mountains. Large mammals, such as the mastodon, mammoth, camels, giant sloths, cheetah, bison antiquus and horses roamed the land.  : 5
Sites for the early Paleo-Indian period are found on the plains (eastern half of the state), but later in the period, there are sites found in both the mountains and plains of Colorado. 
Pre-Clovis period is defined by Paleo-Indian hunting before the use of Clovis points.  : 53–54 An example is Lamb Spring in Littleton, with mammoth bones dated 14,140 to 12,140 years ago and hunting by use of stone tools other than Clovis points. Other examples include Dutton and Selby in the far eastern edge of Colorado.  : 54–57
There were a few Paleo-Indian cultures, distinctive by the size of the tools they used and the animals they hunted. People in the first Clovis complex period had large tools to hunt the megafauna animals of the early Paleo-Indian period.  : 5 A key Clovis culture site is the Dent Site discovered in 1932 in Weld County, the first site to provide evidence that men and mammoth co-existed, and that man hunted mammoth on the North American continent.  : 58–67
With time, the climate warmed again and lakes and savannas receded. The land became drier, food became less abundant, and as a result many of the giant mammals became extinct. People adapted by hunting bison and smaller mammals and gathering wild plants to supplement their diet.  A new cultural complex was born, the Folsom tradition,  : 30 with smaller projectile points to hunt smaller animals.  : 5 Aside from hunting smaller mammals, people adapted by gathering wild plants to supplement their diet.  Examples of the Folsom tradition in Colorado are the Lindenmeier Site, Olsen-Chubbuck Bison Kill Site and Jones-Miller Bison Kill Sites. Aside from other sites on the Plains, there are also Folsom sites in Middle Park and the San Luis Valley of Colorado.  : 70–78
Plano cultures existed from about 10,000 to 7,000 and are distinguished by their use of long, lanceolate and unfluted blades. Some of the best documented Plano sites are located in Colorado.  : 79 Cody complex is a Plano culture that used unfluted projectile points and other tools like the Folsom and Clovis cultures from about 9,000 to 7,000 B.C.  : 82–83 Olsen-Chubbuck Bison Kill Site, Jurgens Site and Lamb Spring are Cody complex sites. Hell Gap complex, also a Plano culture, from 10,060 to 9,600 before present (roughly 8,050 to 7,590 B.C.) was named for the Hell Gap, Wyoming archaeological site. It is distinguished by its long stemmed, convex and unfluted Hell Gap points. Jones-Miller Bison Kill Site is the only Hell Gap location in Colorado.  : 79
Archaic period Edit
The Archaic period began about 7,000 years ago. The bison antiquus had become extinct, like the other megafauna, and people became reliant on smaller game, such as deer, antelope and rabbits, and gathering wild plants. Their tool kits became larger, with greater reliance on manos and metates to grind food and changes in weapons for hunting, such as notched projectile points. They used plant fibers to make cordage, nets or traps to catch small animals and baskets to gather food.
The people moved seasonally to hunting and gathering sites. They lived in rock shelters, such as south-facing shelters that were warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and open air campsites. Archaic people roamed the plains and the mountains, although hunting and gathering sufficient food to feed the band of people was more difficult in the higher altitude ecological climates. Late in the Archaic period, about 200-500 A.D., corn was introduced into the diet and pottery-making became an occupation for storing and carrying food.  : 95–99 
Apex complex is a cultural tradition of the Middle Archaic period, distinguished by Apex projectile points dated from about 3000 to 500 BC. The type site is the Magic Mountain Site near Apex Creek. The Irwins, archaeologists at Magic Mountain, believe that the artifacts are from ancestors of Puebloan people of the American southwest.  : 33–34
Archaic–Early Basketmaker Era (7000 - 1500 BC) was an cultural period of ancestors to the Ancient Pueblo People. They were distinguished from other Archaic people of the Southwest by their basketry which was used to gather and store food. They became reliant on wild seeds, grasses, nuts and fruit for food and changed their movement patterns and lifestyle by maximizing the edible wild food and small game within a geographical region. Manos and metates began to be used to process seeds and nuts. With the extinction of megafauna, hunters adapted their tools, using spears with smaller projectile points and then atlatl and darts. They lived in simple dwellings made of wood, brush and earth.    
Mount Albion complex was an early Archaic culture (about 4050 to 3050 BC), distinguished by the Mount Albion corner-notched projectile. It is the best known early Archaic culture in Colorado.  : xlvii,11,488  Hungry Whistler Site, a kill and butchering site, at 11,500 feet (3,500 m) is the type site dated from about 3850 to 3060 B.C.  LoDaisKa Site, Magic Mountain Site, Franktown Cave and Mount Albion are examples of the Mount Albion complex. 
Hunter-gatherer cultures Edit
Apishapa Phase was first identified in the Lower Apishapa canyon and is distinguished by stone or slab constructed structures, cord-wrapped pottery and small projectile points. They were a tradition of hunter gatherers who sometimes farmed and lived in northern New Mexico or southern Colorado in rockshelters, single or multi-room stone or slab structures or in campsites.  : 4 There are at least 68 Apishapa sites on the Chaquaqua Plateau in southeastern Colorado.  : 89 Some sites where Apishapa archaeological evidence has been found include Franktown Cave, Picture Canyon and Trinchera Cave Archeological District.
The Dismal River culture was first seen in the Dismal River area of Nebraska. Dated between 1650 and 1750 A.D., it is different than other prehistoric Central Plains and Woodland traditions of the western Plains. The people were hunter-gatherers who also cultivated food and make their own distinctive Dismal River pottery. Dismal River villages often had 15-20 round dwellings roughly 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter. Plains Apache were linked to the culture.  : 234,236  : 212, 213, 768  Some Colorado sites include Cedar Point Village and Franktown Cave
Panhandle culture (AD 1200-1400) is a culture of the southern High Plains, primarily located in the panhandle and west central Oklahoma and the northern half of the Texas Panhandle. Most of the sites are centered around the Canadian River or its tributaries, primarily Antelope Creek and also Cottonwood Creek, Dixon Creek, Tarbox Creek and also on the Archie King Ranch. Distinguishing characteristics of the Panhandle culture are: great similarity to the Central Plains complexes some evidence of trading or influence of Southwestern pueblo cultures and single or multi-roomed stone structures.  : 87 For Colorado sites, see Trinchera Cave Archeological District as well as the Apishapa culture and Sopris Phase articles.
Sophris Phase (AD 1000-1250) was first found in southeastern Colorado, near the present town of Trinidad. Although the culture appeared to have been greatly influenced by pueblo people, such as the Taos Pueblo and trade in the Upper Rio Grande, the Sopris culture was generally a hunter-gatherer tradition.  : 94–95 See Trinchera Cave Archeological District
The Plains Woodland period, or Ceramic period, began in the Plains about AD 0 with the defining distinction of the creation of cordwrapped pottery, development of settlement areas, and use of smaller projectile points for hunting smaller game and/or bow and arrow technology.  : 41 Sites include Colorado Millennial Site, Franktown Cave, LoDaisKa Site, Magic Mountain Site, Picture Canyon, and Roxborough State Park Archaeological District
Basketmaker and Ancient Puebloan people Edit
The Early Basketmaker II Era (1500 BC - AD 50) was the first Post-Archaic cultural period of Ancient Pueblo People. The era began with the cultivation of maize in the northern American southwest, although there was not a dependence upon agriculture until about 500 BC. 
They were named "Basketmakers" for their skill in making baskets for storing food, covering with pitch to heat water, and using to toast seeds and nuts. They wove bags, sandals, belts out of yucca plants and leaves - and strung beads. They occasionally lived in dry caves where they dug pits and lined with stones to store food.  : 27–30 
During the Late Basketmaker II Era (AD 50 to 500), people living in the Four Corners region were introduced to maize and basketry through Mesoamerican trading. Able to have greater control of their diet through cultivation, the hunter-gatherers lifestyle became more sedentary as small disperse groups began cultivating maize and squash. They also continued to hunt and gather wild plants.  : 27–30
The next era, Basketmaker III Era (AD 500 to 750) resulted in the introduction of pottery which reduced the number of baskets that they made and eliminated the creation of woven bags. The simple, gray pottery allowed them a better tool for cooking and storage. Beans were added to the cultivated diet. Bows and arrows made hunting easier and thus the acquisition of hides for clothing. Turkey feathers were woven into blankets and robes. On the rim of Mesa Verde, small groups built pit houses which were built several feet below the surface with elements suggestive of the introduction of celebration rituals.  : 33–37
Pueblo buildings were built during the Pueblo I Era (AD 750 to 900) with stone, wooden posts, and adobe. The buildings were located more closely together and reflected deepening religious celebration. Towers were built near kivas and likely used for look-outs. Pottery became more versatile, not just for cooking, but now included pitchers, ladles, bowls, jars and dishware for food and drink. White pottery with black designs emerged, the pigments coming from plants. Water management and conservation techniques, including the use of reservoirs and silt-retaining dams also emerged during this period.  : 39–45
During the Pueblo II period (AD 900-1150) there was an increase in population that resulted in creation of more than 10,000 sites in 150 years. Since much of the land was arid, the people supplemented their diet by hunting, foraging and trading pottery for food.  By the end of the period, there were two-story dwellings made primarily of stone masonry, the presence of towers, and family and community kivas.  : 39–45  
Rohn and Ferguson, authors of Puebloan ruins of the Southwest, state that during the Pueblo III period (AD 1150-1300) there was a significant community change. Moving in from dispersed farmsteads into community centers at pueblos canyon heads or cliff dwellings on canyon shelves. Population peaked between 1200 and 1250 to more than 20,000 in the Mesa Verde region.  By 1300 Ancient Pueblo People abandoned their settlements, as the result of climate changes and food shortage, and migrated south to villages in Arizona and New Mexico,  where people lived through the Pueblo IV Era and the Pueblo V Era, with the life of modern Puebloan people.
Late prehistoric Native Americans Edit
After AD 1300 hunter-gatherers, ancestors of the Ute and Navajo, moved into the southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah and came to inhabit the region.  The Ute arrived in Colorado by the 1600s and occupied much of the present state of Colorado. They were followed by the Comanches from the south in the 1700s, and then the Arapaho and Cheyenne from the plains who then dominated the plains of Colorado. The Cheyenne, Arapaho and Comanche were the largest group of indigenous people in Colorado at the time of contact with settlers. 
Native American people Edit
The Apache presence in Colorado includes the Jicarilla Apache and Dismal River cultures. The Jicarilla Apaches are one of the Athabaskan linguistic groups that migrated out of Canada, by 1525 CE,  and lived in what they considered their land bounded by four sacred Rivers in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado: the Rio Grande, Pecos River, Arkansas River, and the Canadian River containing sacred mountain peaks and ranges. They also ranged out into the plains of northwestern Texas and the western portions of Oklahoma and Kansas. The Jicarilla Apache were hunter-gatherers, hunting primarily buffalo through the 17th century and thereafter added smaller game to their diet. Women gathered berries, agave, honey, onions, potatoes, nuts and seeds. Some bands practiced seasonal agriculture along the upper Arkansas River, cultivating squash, beans, pumpkins, melons, peas, wheat, and corn.    
It is unclear how and when the Arapaho entered the Great Plains, they most likely lived in Minnesota and North Dakota before entering the Plains. Before European expansion into the area, the Arapahos were living on the plains in South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. They were close allies of the Cheyenne. In winter the tribe split up into camps sheltered in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in present-day Colorado. In late spring they moved out onto the Plains into large camps to hunt buffalo gathering for the birthing season. In mid-summer Arapahos traveled into the Parks region of Colorado to hunt mountain herds, returning onto the Plains in late summer to autumn for ceremonies and for collective hunts of herds gathering for the rutting season.
The Cheyenne arrived in the Colorado area shortly after the Arapaho, spoke both of the Algonquian languages, lived on the plains east of the Rocky Mountains with the Arapaho. The Cheyenne and Arapaho banded together against the Comanche, Kiowa, Shoshone and Ute.  
The Comanche arrived in the Colorado area from the Great Basin and northern plains. They spoke a Shoshone language and by the time of contact with settlers were located in southeastern Colorado, south of the Arkansas River. To the north of the river were the Arapaho and Cheyenne. Allied with the Ute, they fought against the Apache. Their limited archaeological artifacts include a flat-bottomed pottery known as Intermountain Tradition or Shooshonean pottery, like the ceramics found at Graever Cave and Roberts Buffalo Jump.  : 244–248 
The ancestors to the Navajo were one of the tribes of the southern division of the Athabaskan language family that migrated south from Alaska and northwestern Canada, most likely traveling through the Great Basin.  The Navajo ancestors were in the area after AD 1300, but at least by the early 1500s. 
The Pawnee ranged through the Great Plains and were first documented by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado when he met a Pawnee chief from Nebraska in 1541. Regarding Colorado, they hunted bison on plains of eastern Colorado. 
Ute tribal ancestors migrated east from California in the 12th century. Before the 17th century, more of these indigenous people migrated from across both the Great Basin and Utah to occupy most of Colorado more places occupied by the Ute tribe were northern New Mexico, Wyoming and Arizona .      The Ute also stand as the oldest inhabitants of Colorado, who chose a variety of locations for camps and routes such as the Ute trail in the forest of the Grand Mesa.  The language spoken by this tribe is a certain dialect of the Ute-Aztecan language, Shoshonean. it is generally believed that the migration of the Ute was in part an effort to separate themselves from other Shoshonean speaking tribes, such as Shoshone Bannock, Paiute, Comanche, Goshute, and Chemehuevi. 
The “Last Eden?” First Human Culture Lasted 20,000 Years Longer Than Thought
Fieldwork led by Dr. Eleanor Scerri, head of the Pan-African Evolution Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and Dr. Khady Niang of the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal, has documented the youngest known occurrence of the Middle Stone Age. This repertoire of stone flaking methods and the resulting tools includes distinctive ways of producing sharp flakes by carefully preparing nodules of rock, some of which were sometimes further shaped into tool forms known as ‘scrapers’ and ‘points.’ Middle Stone Age finds most commonly occur in the African record between around 300 thousand and 30 thousand years ago, after which point they largely vanish.
It was long thought that these tool types were replaced after 30 thousand years ago by a radically different, miniaturized toolkit better suited to diversified subsistence strategies and patterns of mobility across Africa. In a paper published in Scientific Reports this week, Scerri and colleagues show that groups of hunter-gatherers in what is today Senegal continued to use Middle Stone Age technologies associated with our species’ earliest prehistory as late as 11 thousand years ago. This contrasts with the long-held view that humanity’s major prehistoric cultural phases occurred in a neat and universal sequence.
Lithics from Laminia (A-D) and Saxomununya (E-H). (A) unretouched flake (B) bifacially retouched flake (C) Levallois core evidencing a step fracture (D) side retouched flake/scraper (E, F) Levallois cores (G) bifacial foliate point (H) bifacial foliate. Credit: Jacopo Cerasoni (CC-BY-4.0)
The ‘Last Eden’?
“West Africa is a real frontier for human evolutionary studies — we know almost nothing about what happened here in deep prehistory. Almost everything we know about human origins is extrapolated from discoveries in small parts of eastern and southern Africa,” says Dr. Eleanor Scerri, the lead author of the study.
To redress this gap in the data, Scerri and Niang put together a research program to explore different regions of Senegal. The program ranges from Senegal’s desert edges to its forests and along different stretches of its major river systems: the Senegal and the Gambia, where they found multiple Middle Stone Age sites, all with surprisingly young dates.
“These discoveries demonstrate the importance of investigating the whole of the African continent, if we are to really get a handle on the deep human past,” says Dr. Khady Niang. “Prior to our work, the story from the rest of Africa suggested that well before 11 thousand years ago, the last traces of the Middle Stone Age — and the lifeways it reflects — were long gone.”
Explaining why this region of West Africa was home to such a late persistence of Middle Stone Age culture is not straightforward.
Team fieldwalking along the Gambia River, Senegal. Credit: Eleanor Scerri
“To the north, the region meets the Sahara Desert,” explains Dr. Jimbob Blinkhorn, one of the paper’s authors. “To the east, there are the Central African rainforests, which were often cut off from the West African rainforests during periods of drought and fragmentation. Even the river systems in West Africa form a self-contained and isolated group.”
“It is also possible that this region of Africa was less affected by the extremes of repeated cycles of climate change,” adds Scerri. “If this was the case, the relative isolation and habitat stability may simply have resulted in little need for radical changes in subsistence, as reflected in the successful use of these traditional toolkits.”
“All we can be sure about is that this persistence is not simply about a lack of capacity to invest in the development of new technologies. These people were intelligent, they knew how to select good stone for their tool-making and exploit the landscape they lived in,” says Niang.
An ecological, biological and cultural patchwork
The results fit in with a wider, emerging view that for most of humanity’s deep prehistory, populations were relatively isolated from each other, living in subdivided groups in different regions.
Accompanying this striking finding is the fact that in West Africa, the major cultural shift to more miniaturized toolkits also occurs extremely late compared to the rest of the continent. For a relatively short time, Middle Stone Age using populations lived alongside others using the more recently developed miniaturized tool kits, referred to as the ‘Later Stone Age’.
“This matches genetic studies suggesting that African people living in the last ten thousand years lived in very subdivided populations,” says Dr. Niang. “We aren’t sure why, but apart from physical distance, it may be the case that some cultural boundaries also existed. Perhaps the populations using these different material cultures also lived in slightly different ecological niches.”
Around 15 thousand years ago, there was a major increase in humidity and forest growth in central and western Africa, that perhaps linked different areas and provided corridors for dispersal. This may have spelled the final end for humanity’s first and earliest cultural repertoire and initiated a new period of genetic and cultural mixing.
“These findings do not fit a simple unilinear model of cultural change towards ‘modernity’,” explains Scerri. ” Groups of hunter-gatherers embedded in radically different technological traditions occupied neighboring regions of Africa for thousands of years, and sometimes shared the same regions. Long isolated regions, on the other hand, may have been important reservoirs of cultural and genetic diversity,” she adds. “This may have been a defining factor in the success of our species.”
Reference: “Continuity of the Middle Stone Age into the Holocene” by Eleanor M. L. Scerri, Khady Niang, Ian Candy, James Blinkhorn, William Mills, Jacopo N. Cerasoni, Mark D. Bateman, Alison Crowther and Huw S. Groucutt, 11 January 2021, Scientific Reports.
Entrepreneurship and the Beginnings of the Marketplace in the Medieval Period
Starting in the medieval period, markets became more and more popular. Larger populations required larger marketplaces where they could purchase food, clothing, services, and other important things.
The population spurt starting around 1470 solidified the market’s connection with entrepreneurship. Here are some of the important developments that took place in entrepreneurship during this period:
- Banking grew to new heights and complexities as small business owners had greater financing needs.
- The guild system expanded, giving skilled craftsmen and other entrepreneurs a way to organize their business together, regulate the quality of the goods produced, and develop reputations for certain goods in towns across medieval Europe.
- Entrepreneurs were able to purchase goods from abroad, turn those goods into finished products, and then sell those goods for a profit at a wider scale than ever before.
The Unexpected Stifling of Innovation
It wasn’t all good news for entrepreneurs during this period. Many entrepreneurs had their inventions and innovations stifled.
Prior to the advance of merchants and explorers, many people frowned upon the accumulation of capital. Innovation was often – perplexingly – blocked around the world. There are even examples were visionary entrepreneurs had their inventions stifled because they weren’t seen as beneficial for society.
“Early on in the history of capitalism, the idea of monetary gain was shunned and shamed by many. The practice of usury, charging interest on loans, was banned by the Christian Church. Jobs were assigned by tradition and caste. Innovation was stifled and efficiency was forcefully put down, sometimes punishable by death. In sixteenth-century England, when mass production in the weaving industry first came about, the guildsmen protested. An efficient workshop containing two hundred looms and butchers and bakers for the workers was outlawed by the King under the pretense that such efficiency reduced the number of available jobs.”
Nevertheless, this period still gave rise to some of the world’s most influential technologies, including the windmill, paper mill, mechanical clock, the map, and the printing press, among many others.
It paved the way for future entrepreneurs to use innovation to capitalize on growing trends.
Human Characteristics: Humans Change the World
For millions of years all humans, early and modern alike, had to find their own food. They spent a large part of each day gathering plants and hunting or scavenging animals. Then, within just the past 12,000 years, our species, Homo sapiens, made the transition to producing food and changing our surroundings. We have been so successful that we have inadvertently created a turning point in the history of life on Earth.
Modern Humans Evolve in Africa
During a time of dramatic climate change, modern humans (Homo sapiens) evolved in Africa. Like early humans, modern humans gathered and hunted food. They evolved behaviors that helped them respond to the challenges of survival.
The first modern humans shared the planet with at least three species of early humans. Over time, as modern humans spread around the world, the other three species became extinct. We became the sole survivors in thehuman family tree.
Modern humans collect and cook shellfish
Modern humans exchange resources over long distances
Modern humans make special tools for fishing
Between 80,000 and 60,000 years ago
Modern humans spread to Asia
Modern humans record information on objects
Modern humans almost become extinct as a result of extreme climate changes, the population may have been reduced to about 10,000 adults of reproductive age.
Homo erectus becomes extinct
Modern humans create permanent drawings
Modern humans reach Australia
Modern humans reach Europe
Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) become extinct
Homo floresiensis becomes extinct, leavingmodern humans (Homo sapiens) as the sole survivor in the once diverse human family tree
Modern humans reach the Americas
The Turning Point
Eventually, humans found they could control the growth and breeding of certain plants and animals. This discovery led to farming and herding animals, activities that transformed Earth’s natural landscapes—first locally, then globally.
As humans invested more time in producing food, they settled down. Villages became towns, and towns became cities. With more food available, the human population began to increase dramatically.
Figs cultivated in Lower Jordan Valley, Middle East
Jericho, West Bank, begins to grow into a city
Cows domesticated in Africa and Middle East
Squash cultivated in Central America
Wheat cultivated in Middle East
Çatalhöyük, Turkey, begins to grow into a city
Sheep domesticated in Middle East
Corn cultivated in North America
8,000 years ago
Chickens domesticated in Southeast Asia
Potatoes cultivated in South America
Bananas cultivated in Southeast Asia
Horses domesticated in Eurasia
Caral, Peru, begins to grow into a city
Cacao (chocolate) cultivated in Central America
Athens, Greece, begins to grow into a city
Xi’an, China, begins to grow into a city
Rome, Italy, begins to grow into a city
Smallpox kills millions of citizens in ancient Rome
Coffee cultivated in Africa
Bubonic plague kills up to 10,000 people a day in Europe, North Africa, and the Near East
Bubonic plague (“The Plague”) kills at least a third of Europe’s population
Influenza kills up to 40 million people worldwide, about 5% of the entire human population.
Humans Change the World: Today
Modern humans have spread to every continent and grown to huge numbers. Producing our own food, rather than tracking it down daily, has freed us to enrich our lives in many ways—to become artists, inventors, scientists, politicians, and more.
We have altered the world in ways that benefit us greatly. But this transformation has unintended consequences for other species as well as for ourselves, creating new survival challenges.
By 1995, at least 83% of Earth’s land surface had been directly affected by humans.
In 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported that current bird, mammal, and amphibian extinction rates were at least 48 times greater than natural extinction rates—possibly 1,024 times higher.
As of 2005, humans had built so many dams that nearly six times as much water was held in storage as flowed freely in rivers.
Benefits and Costs of Our Success
By settling down and producing our own food, we created:
●enough food to feed billions of people and respond to catastrophes
●buildings that protect us from extreme weather
●technologies that enable us to extend our lives, communicate worldwide, and venture into space
●time to think, create, play, socialize, and much more.
By settling down and producing our own food, we created:
●piles of waste that form natural breeding grounds for contagious diseases
●large concentrations of people, enabling diseases to spread and become epidemics
●domesticated landscapes that displace wild habitats
●loss of wild species that depend on natural habitats.
Changing the World:
Great Moments in Food Technology
63 BCE - Water-powered grist mill
9500 BCE - Grain storehouse
Changing the World:
FACT: From 1961 to 2004, the population of cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats increased from 2.7 to 4.1 billion. The number of domesticated fowl grew from 3 to 16 billion.
FACT: Of the estimated 15,000 species of mammals and birds, only about 30–40 have been used for food.
FACT: Fewer than 14 species of animals account for 90% of global livestock production today.
Changing the World:
FACT: About a quarter of Earth’s surface is used to grow crops.
FACT: Fewer than 20 plant species produce most of the world’s food.
FACT: Most of the world’s population is dependent on 4 main crops: wheat, corn, rice, and potatoes.
Changing the World:
Growing Numbers of People
FACT: Between 1959 and 1999, just 40 years, the human population doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion people.
FACT: Today the population continues to grow by over 90 million people a year.
FACT: By 2042, the world population may reach 9 billion, an increase of 50% in 43 years.
Changing the World:
FACT: A cholera pandemic that began in 1961 is still ongoing in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The number of cases reported in 2006 was 79% more than in 2005.
FACT: Every year between 3 and 5 million people get “the flu,” and between 250,000 and 500,000 people die from it.
FACT: A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. About 40% of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.
FACT: Every second someone in the world is infected with tuberculosis. One-third of the world’s population is infected.
How Long Have Humans Been On Earth?
While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s. While we’ve accomplished much in that short time, it also shows our responsibility as caretakers for the only planet we live on right now.
The effects of humans on Earth cannot be understated. We’ve been able to survive in environments all over the world, even harsh ones such as Antarctica. Every year, we fell forests and destroy other natural areas, driving species into smaller areas or into endangerment, because of our need to build more housing to contain our growing population.
With seven billion people on Earth, pollution from industry and cars is a growing element in climate change — which affects our planet in ways we can’t predict. But we’re already seeing the effects in melting glaciers and rising global temperatures.
The first tangible link to humanity started around six million years ago with a primate group called Ardipithecus, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Based in Africa, this group began the path of walking upright. This is traditionally considered important because it allowed for more free use of the hands for toolmaking, weaponry and other survival needs.
The Australopithecus group, the museum added, took hold between about two million and four million years ago, with the abilities to walk upright and climb trees. Next came Paranthropus, which existed between about one million and three million years ago. The group is distinguished by its larger teeth, giving a wider diet.
The Homo group — including our own species, Homo sapiens — began arising more than two million years ago, the museum said. It’s distinguished by bigger brains, more tool-making and the ability to reach far beyond Africa. Our species was distinguished about 200,000 years ago and managed to survive and thrive despite climate change at the time. While we started in temperate climates, about 60,000 to 80,000 years ago the first humans began straying outside of the continent in which our species was born.
“This great migration brought our species to a position of world dominance that it has never relinquished,” reads a 2008 article in Smithsonian Magazine, pointing out that eventually we obviated the competition (most prominently including Neanderthals and Homo erectus). When the migration was complete,” the article continues, “Homo sapiens was the last—and only—man standing.”
Using genetic markers and an understanding of ancient geography, scientists have partially reconstructed how humans could have made the journey. It’s believed that the first explorers of Eurasia went there using the Bab-al-Mandab Strait that now divides Yemen and Djibouti, according to National Geographic. These people made it to India, then by 50,000 years ago, southeast Asia and Australia.
A little after this time, another group began an inland journey across the Middle East and south-central Asia, positioning them to later go to Europe and Asia, the magazine added. This proved important for North America, as about 20,000 years ago, some of these people crossed over to that continent using a land bridge created by glaciation. From there, colonies have been found in Asia dating as far back as 14,000 years ago.
A teensy-tiny Neil Armstrong is visible in the helmet of Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 landing in July 1969. Credit: NASA
Since this is a space website, it’s also worth noting when humans began leaving Earth. The first human mission to space took place April 12, 1961 when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made a single orbit of Earth in his spacecraft, Vostok 1. Humanity first set foot on another world on July 20, 1969, when Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.
Since then, our colonization efforts in space have focused mostly on space stations. The first space station was the Soviet Salyut 1, which launched from Earth April 19, 1971 and was first occupied by Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Vokov, and Viktor Patsayev on June 6. The men died during re-entry June 29 due to spacecraft decompression, meaning no further flights went to that station.
If the stones are tools, though, does that cinch the case for humans?
Not necessarily. The human line doesn’t have a monopoly on tool use, after all. For at least 4,000 years, chimpanzees in Côte d'Ivoire have been cracking nuts with stone hammers. And in Brazil, bearded capuchin monkeys have smashed cashews with rocks for at least a hundred generations.
However, the fossil record of the Americas lacks a marrow-munching, non-human primate at 130,000 years ago. One of the site’s rocks is also nearly 30 pounds—far heavier than the rocks Brazil’s capuchins wield. In addition, “capuchins are too small to generate the kinetic force needed to crack a mastodon bone,” says the University of Georgia’s Dorothy Fragaszy, a National Geographic Explorer who studies capuchin tool use. “I agree with the authors that, if these are hammer stones, humans used them.”
Michael Haslam, an Oxford archaeologist who studies tool use in non-human primates, agrees. “I think that the evidence presented in this paper backs up the authors’ claim that a mastodon has been broken apart using stone tools,” he says. “Overall, I think that we need to consider humans as the starting hypothesis for this site, and go from there.”
Plants are central to our well-being, not only as food, but also as key components of our cultures, religions, and medicines. This can be seen in way that the beautiful curve of a tendril inspires art, or in the fact that indigenous forest peoples collect plant materials for medicinal use or for religious practices. We do not just get nourishment from plants, they are central to our societies.
We can see the importance of our relationship with plants in ancient art. Ancient petroglyphs carved by the Pueblo Native Americans depict maize (Zea mays), illustrating how important this particular plant is to their culture. Paintings from the Minoan civilization (2600–1100 BC) portray papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), while lychees (Litchi chinensis) are often represented in the exquisite art of China. Plants have inspired humans for a long time.
Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States
Coerced sterilization is a shameful part of America’s history, and one doesn’t have to go too far back to find examples of it. Used as a means of controlling “undesirable” populations – immigrants, people of color, poor people, unmarried mothers, the disabled, the mentally ill – federally-funded sterilization programs took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century. Driven by prejudiced notions of science and social control, these programs informed policies on immigration and segregation.
As historian William Deverell explains in a piece discussing the “Asexualization Acts” that led to the sterilization of more than 20,000 California men and women, “If you are sterilizing someone, you are saying, if not to them directly, ‘Your possible progeny are inassimilable, and we choose not to deal with that.’”
According to Andrea Estrada at UC Santa Barbara , forced sterilization was particularly rampant in California (the state’s eugenics program even inspired the Nazis ):
Beginning in 1909 and continuing for 70 years, California led the country in the number of sterilization procedures performed on men and women, often without their full knowledge and consent. Approximately 20,000 sterilizations took place in state institutions, comprising one-third of the total number performed in the 32 states where such action was legal. (from The UC Santa Barbara Current)
“There is today one state,” wrote Hitler, “in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of citizenship] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.” (from The L.A. Times)
Researcher Alex Stern, author of the new book Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in America, adds:
“In the early 20th century across the country, medical superintendents, legislators, and social reformers affiliated with an emerging eugenics movement joined forces to put sterilization laws on the books. Such legislation was motivated by crude theories of human heredity that posited the wholesale inheritance of traits associated with a panoply of feared conditions such as criminality, feeblemindedness, and sexual deviance. Many sterilization advocates viewed reproductive surgery as a necessary public health intervention that would protect society from deleterious genes and the social and economic costs of managing ‘degenerate stock’.”
Eugenics was a commonly accepted means of protecting society from the offspring (and therefore equally suspect) of those individuals deemed inferior or dangerous – the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, criminals, and people of color.
Eugenical Sterilization Map of the United States, 1935 from The Harry H. Laughlin Papers, Truman State University
More recently, California prisons are said to have authorized sterilizations of nearly 150 female inmates between 2006 and 2010 . This article from the Center for Investigative reporting reveals how the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform tubal ligations that former inmates say were done under coercion.
But California is far from being the only state with such troubled practices. For a disturbing history lesson, check out this comprehensive database for your state’s eugenics history. You can find out more information on state-by-state sterilization policies, the number of victims, institutions where sterilizations were performed, and leading opponents and proponents .
While California’s eugenics programs were driven in part by anti-Asian and anti-Mexican prejudice, Southern states also employed sterilization as a means of controlling African American populations. “Mississippi appendectomies” was another name for unnecessary hysterectomies performed at teaching hospitals in the South on women of color as practice for medical students. This NBC news article discusses North Carolina’s eugenics program, including stories from victims of forced sterilization like Elaine Riddick . A third of the sterilizations were done on girls under 18, even as young as 9. The state also targeted individuals seen as “delinquent” or “unwholesome.”
For a closer look, see Belle Bogg’s “ For the Public Good ,” with original video by Olympia Stone that features Willis Lynch, who was sterilized at the age of 14 while living in a North Carolina juvenile detention facility.
Gregory W. Rutecki, MD writes about the forced sterilization of Native Americans , which persisted into the 1970s and 1980s, with examples of young women receiving tubal ligations when they were getting appendectomies. It’s estimated that as many as 25-50 percent of Native American women were sterilized between 1970 and 1976. Forced sterilization programs are also a part of history in Puerto Rico, where sterilization rates are said to be the highest in the world .
The film No Más Bebés follows the story of Mexican American women who were sterilized under duress while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in the 1960s and 1970s. Madrigal v. Quilligan , the case portrayed in the film, is one of several landmark cases that’s affected the reproductive rights of underserved populations, for better or for worse.
Here are some other important cases:
Buck v. Bell : In 1927, Carrie Buck, a poor white woman, was the first person to be sterilized in Virginia under a new law. Carrie’s mother had been involuntarily institutionalized for being “feebleminded” and “promiscuous.” Carrie was assumed to have inherited these traits, and was sterilized after giving birth. This Supreme Court case led to the sterilization of 65,000 Americans with mental illness or developmental disabilities from the 1920s to the s. (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in reference to Carrie: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”) The court ruling still stands today . [Note: This story was also the subject of a 1994 made-for-TV movie starring Marlee Matlin.]
Excerpt from the documentary Fixed to Fail: Buck vs. Bell:
Relf v. Weinberger : Mary Alice and Minnie Relf, poor African American sisters from Alabama, were sterilized at the ages of 14 and 12. Their mother, who was illiterate, had signed an “X” on a piece of paper she believed gave permission for her daughters, who were both mentally disabled, to receive birth control shots. In 1974, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Relf sisters, revealing that 100,000 to 150,000 poor people were being sterilized each year under federally-funded programs.
Reproductive Justice Today
Anti-sterilization abuse protest photo by Alva Nelms
While the case in No Más Bebés occurred forty years ago, issues of reproductive justice are still relevant today, as state laws continue to restrict access to abortion and birth control. Deborah Reid of the National Health Law program writes :
“T he concept of reproductive justice , which is firmly rooted in a human rights framework that supports the ability of all women to make and direct their own reproductive decisions. These decisions could include obtaining contraception, abortion, sterilization, and/or maternity care. Accompanying that right is the obligation of the government and larger society to create laws, policies, and systems conducive to supporting those decisions.”
For organizations such as the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health , reproductive justice involves not only access to affordable birth control, abortion, and health care, but also providing access to women who are being held in immigration detention centers .
It’s work that connects the dots between power inequities and bodily self-determination – something the eugenics movement sought to limit. As No Más Bebés director Renee Tajima-Peña says in an interview with Colorlines : “The reproductive justice framework is to make sure that people listen to the needs and the voices of poor women, women of color and immigrant women who’ve been marginalized.”
Popular Science magazine, 1923.
The documentary Belly of the Beast tackles a more recent, equally shocking story of forced sterilizations — in this case in women’s prisons. As the women who investigate these cases discover, despite it being nearly forty years after being banned— forced sterilization continued for decades in women’s prisons, shielded by prison officials and doctors inside the correctional system. And may even still be happening. Read the interview with Belly of the Beast filmmaker Erika Cohn to learn more.
And as Cohn references in that interview, 2020 saw the revelation that there were forced sterilizations performed in an ICE detention center in Georgia. Learn more in this NPR piece, “ICE, A Whistleblower and Forced Sterilization.”