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Westerners who first met the Shoshonean bands of Indians in the Great Basin Desert typically described them as being "wretched and lazy". Many observers remarked that they lived in a total wasteland and yet seemed to do nothing to improve their situation. They built no houses or villages; they had few tools or possessions, almost no art, and they stored little food. It seemed that all they did was sit around and do nothing...
...We often expect that such primitive cultures as the Shoshone must have worked all the time just to stay alive, but in actuality these were generally very leisured peoples.
The Shoshone had a lot of time on their hands only because they produced almost no material culture. They were not being lazy; they were just being economical. Sitting around doing nothing for hours on end helped them to conserve precious calories of energy, so they would not have to harvest so many calories each day to feed themselves.
Understanding the art of nothing is a somewhat challenging concept for us westerners. When we go on a "primitive" camping trip, we take our western preconceptions with us. We find a level spot in a meadow to build our shelters, and if a site is not level then we make it so. Then we gather materials and start from scratch, building the walls and roof of a shelter. We do what we are accustomed to; we build a frame house on a surveyed plot in the meadow. Then we gather materials and shingle our shelter, regardless of whether or not there is a cloud in the sky, or whether or not it has rained at all in a month.
Part of the reason we act this way stems from our cultural upbringing. Another part of it is simply because it is easier for those of us who are instructors to teach something rather than to teach nothing. It is much easier to teach how to make something than to teach how not to need to make anything. The do-something approach to primitive skills is to make everything you need, while the do-nothing method is to find everything.