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The Great Grain of the Great Basin










Indian rice-grass (Oryzopsis hymenoides) is a perennial bunchgrass found widely in the desert regions of western North America.   This plant provided a major seed crop for the aboriginal populations which inhabited its geographical area of distribution.   This region reaches from British Columbia to northern Mexico, encompassing the Great Basin.   The importance of this food resource was reflected in the position it occupied within the cultural systems which utilized it.   However, like other grasses, this perennial bunchgrass demonstrates high production costs in the gathering and processing of its seeds.   Therefore, the Native Americans attempted to minimize these costs and optimize the returns through various manipulation strategies.   This paper investigates these management policies exercised by the natives to increase this resource's density and return.

Key Words:   Indian rice-grass, Great Basin, Ethnobotany
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