The Fate of The Donner Party Essay

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Desperate times call for desperate measures. This advice has been used as a way to justify questionable actions in times of despair for many years. Following the advice, the Donner Party did whatever they could to survive. Stuck in a snowstorm, the group is believed to have reverted back to animalistic ways, and devoured each other to survive. While no one knows the truth of that fateful winter, many agree that cannibalism was their main form of survival. Though the Donner Party’s travels were not well documented and many details remain controversial, it is evident that they resorted to cannibalism to survive. During their western voyage, the group notoriously known as the “Donner Party” inevitably became trapped in a snowstorm in the …show more content…
Records at this time were practically nonexistent and because of that, the Donner Party has gone into history as not just a tragic tale, but “the Great American Dream gone awry” (Diamond, 1). Still today, it is unclear whether the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism as a means of survival. The events have been associated with cannibalism by so many and for so long that the undeclared verdict of the Donner Party is that they did in fact resort to cannibalism. Certainly there are arguments that disagree with this, but it is quite apparent that the party is guilty of anthropophagy. The most common argument against the cannibalism theory is that the party used their basic survival skills; they ate small game rather than each other to stay alive. Despite being a valid point, there are weaknesses with that belief. Early on in their excursion the party quickly exhausted their food supply. Fearing they were in for the worst, the group sent 15 group members out for help and sure enough a snow storm trapped them on November 1, 1846. Any available animals were eaten first and when that food source became scarce, they turned to eating their pets like the family dog. They were enduring extreme starvation after just nine days which lead to important decisions regarding their survival. In other words, a discussion regarding cannibalism had begun (Diamond, 2). This is where the “eating small game” belief exposes said

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