January 15, 2006

Cannibals of the West

A long post and comment threat at Querencia deals with cannibalism, or lack thereof, by the 1846 Donner Party in California and with "Alferd" Packer, Colorado's 1873 counterpart.

New archaeological research suggests that at least one group of the snowed-in Donner Party did not commit cannibalism, although they ate their horses, their dog, and whatever wild game they could kill.

The whole sad situation occurred because their wagon train opted for a shorter cut-off route that ended up wearing out their livestock in the Nevada desert and costing them more time than the conventional emigrant route would have done. James Clyman, mountain man turned guide (and more literate than most), tried to talk sense into them at Fort Bridger, but failed.

In Packer's case, the cannibalism is confirmed; the open question is who killed whom and in what sequence.

But the Old West is gone. No more opportunities for "survival cannibalism;" Search and Rescue always arrives. Today, we are reduced to eating HuFu around a crackling campfire and pretending that it is "long pork" instead. Is it served at the University of Colorado-Boulder's Alferd Packer Grill? I don't know. And who did the product testing?

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