Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Donner Party dined, just not on each other

This will disappoint many, many historians and cannibalism enthusiasts.

Apparently the family dog was the only member of the infamous Donner family who got et.
MISSOULA, Mont. - It’s quite likely that Uno, the Donner family dog, became a desperate feast for the starved, ill-fated pioneers when they were trapped by a relentless snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1846.

But Uno may have been the only family member eaten by the Donner Party during the four months they were snowbound in their makeshift mountain camp.
After three years conducting the most comprehensive Donner camp study ever undertaken, a study that included forensic science, DNA testing and collaboration with experts in the field of trauma, psychology and medicine, the researchers’ work led to a startling conclusion.

The Donner Party cannibalism legend may be just legend after all.

Of the thousands of bone fragments uncovered at the Donner family’s cooking hearth, none were human, Dixon said.

There’s plenty of evidence showing the pioneers dined on rabbit, deer, rodents, their horses and cattle - and on Uno - but no evidence of the human bones promised in legend and historical accounts.
Turns out the legend revolved, at least in large part, around a tale (probability a whopper) told by a 16-year-old survivor, a French orphan who acted as teamster for the party. This might also explain why the party didn't move far enough, fast enough.
One of the most sensational tellings came from survivor John Baptiste Trudeau, a 16-year-old French immigrant who was a teamster for the Donner family.

In 1847, Baptiste claimed: “eat baby raw, stewed some of Jake, and roasted his head, not good meat, taste like sheep with the rot; but sir, very hungry, eat anything."
Baptiste later recanted his tale. But like so many corrections throughout history, people only remembered what they saw at the top of Page One, not the correction on Page 12.


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