Yet not all hunter-gatherers have been egalitarian, and some have been characterized by considerable inequalities in privilege. The distinction made by Alain Testart (1982) between storing and nonstoring hunter-gatherers is relevant here. Using a representative sample of 40 hunter-gatherer societies, Testart has shown that 8 of the 10 that stored food were stratified, whereas only 2 of the 30 nonstoring societies had stratification. There is obviously a pronounced relationship between food storing and the presence of stratification.
By far the best examples of stratified hunter-gatherer societies are those Indian tribes that have inhabited the Northwest Coast of the United States. Although there has been some disagreement as to the actual nature and extent of the inequalities present, a number of anthropologists believe that the Northwest Coast was characterized by an exploitative class system. Anthropologist Eugene Ruyle (1973), for instance, makes a strong claim for the existence of a ruling class, rent or taxation, and slavery. These societies have been famous among social scientists for their elaborate competitive feasts known as potlatches. During these potlatches Northwest Coast chiefs would attempt to shame rival chiefs by giving away large quantities of wealth and by ranting and raving about their own greatness. Among the Kwakiutl, for example, chiefs seemed obsessed with maintaining and enhancing their high status.
There is also strong evidence that a number of hunter-gatherer societies in late pre-Neolithic times (about 12,000-10,000 years ago) had crossed the threshold into stratification, or at least had developed extensive inequalities of social status or rank (Mellars, 1985). Like the Northwest Coast tribes, these societies very likely consisted of dense populations in regions of abundant resources that had adopted the practice