Economic Practices for Pacific Northwest culture

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In a variety of cases, cultural economic patterns may be adaptive or maladaptive. Accustom habits are daily living skills that a person gains when conforming to their surroundings. Maladaptive habits, on the other hand, are behavioral issues that conflict with everyday lives. Adaptive capacity is described as the ability to deal with unexpected, novel, and evolving circumstances. Various civilizations all over the world depend on modes of consumption, transport, and processing to provide food and other necessities. These economic activities vary depending on how societies use the natural world, how relevant structures affect change, and how humans interact with one another. This paper focuses on why economic practices are adaptive or maladaptive to the Pacific Northwest Native American culture basing on the tribal narrative archives and anthropological fieldwork. The economic practices are adaptive or maladaptive to the Pacific Northwest Native American culture because of the social adaptive capacity, resilience, and complexity.

Restoration and Resilience

The historical narrative of the Grand Ronde provides a base for the discussion of gaining cultural restoration of resilience and sovereignty and adapting to various economic practices through commercial portfolio creation, tribal knowledge, and language revitalization. The Grand Ronde is among the Pacific Northwest Native American culture who made their living as crafts specialists and arts, farm laborers, and mill workers. They were suffering from difficult living conditions, lack of utilities, and poor health (Colombi & Smith, 2014).

Grand Ronde can be called resilient because they could adapt and absorb change or disturbance while maintaining crucial functions. Through the restoration, reservation, and pre-contact periods, the community maintained several sources of economic support as well as collaborations to get political support for new knowledge, learning, and goals. The Grand Ronde merged many diverse cultural identities since the pre-contact period into one culture and then synthesized various cultural elements from multiple groups to form their tribal language and beliefs after restoring sovereignty to adapt to their economic practices. Thus, the Grand Ronde can be described as very adaptive by implementing and convincing different states while maintaining their primary cultural identity. The community faced and made numerous changes from being foraging people to being merged into a common group on a reservation and encouraged to be wage laborers and farmers to their current status as a modern corporate entity and in a money economy (Colombi & Smith, 2014).

Adaptive Capacity

Adaptive capacity relies on economic well-being, communication systems, secure land tenure, infrastructure, and the dependency on natural resources. A culture with the capacity to adapt is more likely to be able to recover from maladaptive behaviors or to be more resistant to impacts. The restoration of sovereignty by the Grand Ronde and the entire Northwest Native American culture represents something more cultural and comprehensive about coping with original and new situations. The adaptive capacity concept is being used by the Northwest Native American culture in many ways such as survival of minority groups to overcome discriminatory situations, business organization, resource restoration and conservation, and climate change (Colombi & Smith, 2014).

Ecological economists stress on various forms of capital that promote adaptation to change. The availability of adaptive capacity is important for effective adaptation strategies to minimize harmful outcomes. Adaptive capacity is affected by governance structure, social factors, and economic development and technology. The Pacific Northwest Native American culture has dismissed stereotypes on the importance of agricultural practices and farming to develop structured complex societies rich in culture. Pacific Northwest Native American with more than 39 different languages, was the most sophisticated hunting and gathering communities across the world (Colombi & Smith, 2014). However, these practices became maladaptive during the arrival of the Europeans who came with the monetary system. Several examples exist where levels of cognition, traditions, customs, perceptions, values, social networks, and social capital affect the ability of Pacific Northwest Native American communities to adapt to risks associated with climate change (Grothmann & Patt, 2005).


Most Pacific Northwest Native American feminists usually refer to various economic practices in explaining the women oppression. Moreover, they treat the cultural, economic practices that cause the oppression of women as practices related to the third world. In the past, some professions were defined regarding gender (Yuval-Davis, 2006). For instance, nursing was regarded as a profession for women during the 1950s, but today most men are practicing nursing as compared to the last five decades ago. Several maladaptive factors contributed to the increase of men in such professions. The main reason is that feminists were advocating for the rights of women to be included in all sectors of the economy and against the perception that most semi-skilled jobs were left for women. Their argument that women are needed in all sectors of the economy to improve the economy of a country. Feminist’s argument made most people to shun the perception that certain jobs are meant for a certain gender and began embracing all careers. It helped in the adaptation of various economic practices (Mammen, & Paxson, 2000).

An interesting trait of Pacific Northwest Native American culture knowledge and racial ideology is how it guides the adaptive capacity of their economic practices. For instance, the Columbia Basin cultural values have directed modern non-tribal science with certain alternatives to salmon restoration practices. In 1994, the Columbian river tribes planned and formed an organization for restoring steelhead runs and Columbia River salmon that had been listed as endangered and threatened (Colombi & Smith, 2014). These tribes employed their knowledge to develop management and resource restoration strategies. The tribes have challenged the dominant cultural practices of using hatcheries in augmenting salmon stocks. After a century salmon stocks had reduced to a level of approximately seven percent of the normal historical levels. In addressing the hatchery problem, the culture emphasized that hatchery practices needed reforms. The tribes employed their cultural knowledge and suggested creating supplementation facilities. The supplementation idea was to form artificial propagation to the lifeways of salmon. The culture supported the use of supplementation facilities in the restoration of the lost salmon populations. When scientists debated on the advantages of supplementation, no artificial propagation, and hatcheries, the tribes produced evidence indicating that supplementation works more effective as compared to hatcheries to re-establish runs and increase abundance (Engle, 2011).

In the process of establishing the hatcheries, the tribal fisheries program argues that their hatcheries are different from those that operate by industrial logic. The main variation between the standard hatcheries and the cultural hatcheries is the difference in the hatcheries’ functions. While the standard industrial hatcheries are meant to increase production of fisheries, cultural fishery programs view hatcheries as a way of restoring the naturally reproducing populations. In their efforts to reverse the long-time decline, the culture argues that it draw upon its local knowledge of salmon and the past knowledge derived from other economic activities such as past resource management practices and their horse breeding activities, developed before the European American settlement. For instance, to avoid lack of genetic suitability and inbreeding to a certain river environment, cultural hatcheries usually incorporate wild fish as broodstock in their hatchery programs. Furthermore, cultural hatcheries aspire to behave like a salmon to indicate the cultural hatchery design incorporates a rearing pond in their hatcheries which is a cultural idea. The supplemental hatchery designs use local knowledge to emulate healthy riparian areas. Therefore, replacing the conventional hatchery designs with natural ponds can minimize the genetic effect of captivity over generations (Colombi & Smith, 2014).


Cultural adaptation and maladaptation is about system adaptive capacity, resilience, and complexity. This paper emphasizes elements of adaptive capacity in the Pacific Northwest Native American culture. The economy and ecology encompass the ideas of financial relations and resilience that various cultures practice in their association with ecological processes and resources. Cultures create economic platforms that allow shifting and substitution between economic activities to deal with variability. Sovereignty is important in controlling of resources or establishing policies to engage in an activity restricted to sovereigns such as social economic and gaming platforms that can be created from these revenues. Polity and culture include the vision and leadership to adjust to no-analog and novel features. Those leaders with vision create new opportunities and engender trust. Moreover, these directors form partnerships with other heads to achieve their goals. Knowledge and ideology are about the education people gain, the learning they engage in, and the values people have. Knowledge at the contextual, ecological, and cultural level was vital for the tribes to establish supplementation facilities, casino gaming, and to fight for their legal rights. Being concerned about a place is also important, particularly when sovereignty is usually connected to a land base (Engle, 2011).

Further improvement requires new synthesis, discussion, and study of cultural processes and concepts. Cultural narratives can provide insights into the most significant relations and variable to use in explaining adaptive capacity. Moreover, cultural narratives can be used in identifying the processes and variables necessary to adapt to predict no-analog and novel futures. Adaptive capacity is an ideological, socio-political, economic, and ecological dimension of culture which enables various cultures to be knowledgeable, adaptive, and flexible in the face of unknown futures.


Colombi, B. J. & Smith L. (2014). Insights on Adaptive Capacity: Three Indigenous Pacific Northwest Historical Narratives. Journal of Northwest Anthropology, 48(2): 189-201.

Engle, N. L. (2011). Adaptive capacity and its assessment. Global Environmental Change, 21(2), 647-656.

Grothmann, T., & Patt, A. (2005). Adaptive capacity and human cognition: the process of individual adaptation to climate change. Global Environmental Change, 15(3), 199-213.

Mammen, K., & Paxson, C. (2000). Women's work and economic development. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 14(4), 141-164.

Yuval-Davis, N. (2006). Human/women’s rights and feminist transversal politics. Global feminism: Transnational women’s activism, organizing, and human rights, 275-95.

November 23, 2022

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