Snake River Plain is a region of cultural and natural edges.
Ethnographically, it forms the northeastern fringe of the
Great Basin, but its aboriginal inhabitants were in many ways
distinct from their cousins in the Great Basin proper, at least
during the past 4,500 years.
The Plain is adjacent to the northern Plateau area of
deeply incised mountain ranges and relatively more abundant
map of cultural areas adjacent to the Snake River Plain).
The Rocky Mountains to the east formed a psychological
barrier, if not a physical one, between the Basin-Plateau and
the Plains cultures.
flora of the INEEL and immediate vicinity includes much of the
diversity of plant species adapted to the environmental extremes
found within the region. Nearly
500 plant species have been identified on the INEEL itself,
one-third of which have potential uses for humankind.
Many more are relied upon by over 200 seasonal and
resident species of vertebrates (Ringe 1995) and hundreds of
insect species (Stafford
et al. 1986, Stafford 1987, Youtie et al. 1987).
Information on known and potential uses of some of the
regionís ethnobotanically or ethnoecologically important
plants (those that have features or inhabit places that are
especially attractive to humans) can be found in tabular
form at the end of this section.
The remainder of this section will be devoted to
assessing the ecological and environmental determinants of human
occupation or use of the eastern Snake River Plain through a
brief summary of the regionís prehistory and history.
The INEEL itself is central to the area of study and is
representative of many, though not all, aspects of the
regionís ecology as it pertains to human use.
Desertís Past, archaeologist Donald Grayson (1993)
refers to four separate definitions of the Great Basin:
the hydrographic, the physiographic, the floristic,
and the ethnographic. The
floristic and ethnographic Great Basins include all of the
Snake River Plain. The
hydrographic and physiographic Great Basins only flank the
southeastern edge of this region along the Idaho-Utah and