of food storing. And, also like the Northwest Coast tribes, these prehistoric societies were uncharacteristic of hunter-gatherer societies the world over. Their uniqueness should not be allowed to detract from what is most commonly found at the hunting and gathering stage of social life – pervasive social and economic equality.
It might be suspected that the striking egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers is a “natural” phenomenon, or one that results from the absence of motivations toward status seeking and wealth acquisition at this stage of social life. Such motivations, it might be presumed, develop only at later evolutionary stages. But this would be an incorrect inference. As Elizabeth Cashdan (1980) and James Woodburn (1982) have pointed out, social and economic equality is always threatened by individuals who seek to attain more than others, and it takes constant vigilance to maintain it. The equality that results from pervasive reciprocity and sharing seems to be an essential condition for human survival and well-being among most hunter-gatherers because it is a necessary means of overcoming temporal and spatial variations in the food supply. But since there is nothing natural about strict equality, powerful techniques of socialization must be used to bring it about and maintain it (Cashdan, 1980; Lee, 1978). The emergence of significant inequalities, then, results from the lifting of restrictions once placed on human motivations (Cashdan, 1980). It is among food-storing hunter-
gatherers and, more significantly, horticultural and agrarian societies that these restrictions come to be lifted.
Political leadership in most hunter-gatherer societies rests on informal influence and typically lacks any sort of real power (Fried, 1967). In addition, leadership tends to be displayed in transient fashion, frequently shifting from one person to another.