Sunday, October 06, 2013

Donner Party cannibalism article

The latest issue of WildWest magazine to hit the stands might interest readers of this blog -- it features an article called "Donner Party Cannibalism: Did They or Didn't They?" by some bimbo named Kristin Johnson (that would be Moi). How did that happen? Well... It was work. A lot of hard work. The hardest thing I've had to write so far, because, despite all the revision, it's still much less than satisfactory. There's only so much you can shoehorn into 3,700 words. Special thanks to Greg Lalire at WildWest, who put up with my angst and vaporings while (apparently) remaining relatively sane.

George R. Stewart wrote long ago that, in a sense, cannibalism is actually a minor part of the Donner saga, and he was right. Once you get over the initial horror and look at the larger picture, cannibalism was the culmination of a lengthy series of events and, for almost all of the emigrants compelled to it, lasted a relatively short period of time.

I've downplayed the cannibalism for years because I just don't find it all that interesting; once the shock wears off, there's nothing to sink your teeth into, so to speak. It's the human drama (who were these people? what happened to them afterward?) -- and the historical research (how do we know what we think we know? are there any more sources out there?) that have engrossed me.  However, over the last several years the  notion that Donner Party cannibalism is a myth seems to have gained credence in some segments of the general public, especially the online crowd. It's become such an annoyance that when the opportunity arose to confront it, I did.

Most of the information in the article will be old news to attentive readers of this blog, New Light, or An Archaeology of Desperation; what's different is that it pulls data scattered about in many different sources together in one place to make what I believe is a convincing argument. I haven't had any feedback yet, good or bad, but time will tell. Meanwhile, why don't you take a look and tell me what you think?

[Disclaimer: I get no royalties from sales of the magazine and will derive no financial benefit from your purchases, darn it.]

PS  Don't overlook the "Donner Party connections and intersections" on page 8.