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

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

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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’.
TidsskriftRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
Udgave nummer1883
Sider (fra-til)1-10
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 26 jun. 2023