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Ogden Gladesmen

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Gladesmen and alligators
Laura A. Ogden’s Swamplife focuses on ethnographic examination of the gladesmen and their relationship with mangroves and alligators in Everglades. Gladesmen are settlers of everglades who are poor and depend on agriculture, hunting, fishing, and selling hides. Ogden’s main concern was how the gladesmen coexisted with the gators and how their relationship was intervened by the law enforcement. According, to Matthew C. Godfrey, Ogden wrote swamp life in order to understand how gladesmen dealt with the gators, and how their experiences became illegal. She used a model, specifically rhizome to discuss the interaction of gladesmen with the environment and non human beings.

Likewise, Ogden’s emphasis is on Ashley gangs whose main operations took place in the Everglades. The Ashley gang used the everglades as hid out and as a hunting ground. The everglades landscape was a protection and a shelter for gladesmen who later became outlawed by The Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission that regulated hunting and people in the region transformed hunters to poachers. Emerge of the law was a constraint to hunters and their businesses. Moreover, the alligators turned into commodities to such an extent that it attracted other people to join the business due to high return. What made out of alligator hide were shopping bags, belts, shoes and so on. While there was a high demand for alligators, the law did little to prevent hunting. Besides, Criminalization of alligator hunting changed gladesmen’s economic hunting practices to criminal behavior. Consequently, upon arrival of the hunting regulation, new tactics of subversion emerged by hunters (p. 3). The law transformed hunters to poachers and this restriction on hunters realigned their relationship with non humans which resulted further in damaging of the landscape which Ogden calls the subversive landscape (p. 9).

Moreover, alligators hide helped boost the economy of southern rural areas not only in Florida but also the swamps of Louisiana and southern Georgia where small markets located. The demand for alligator’s hide enormously increased upon arrival of local war when there was shortage of cow hides. Even after the war the leather from alligator was still in high demand in markets because what was made from leather was footwear, traveling bags and so on. Only in 1891, based on FGFC estimate 2.5 million alligators were killed by commercial hunters that made Florida the chief supplier of alligator hides. Hide buyers traveled across the state and acted as agents, on the other hand, in some small communities, hunters themselves acted as buyers in order to maximize their profits (p. 4). Gladesmen's income depended on alligator catching and hunting while their seasonal income depended on farming, fishing, and turtle hunt. The income they received from hunting and selling hides helped them survive and sustain throughout the years.

Furthermore, Ogden adds that the market intervened in organizing practices of the landscape and how the alligators bone, teeth and skin were prepared for sale in the market. Aside the market there was the law that intervened gladesmen's relation with their non humans. The state law represented as a constraint to hunters and transformed their customary practices into illegal practices which Ogden calls poaching. The FGFC was the main body of the law that set law enforcement and anti hunting regulations throughout the state. The agency hired game wardens to oversight the counties. The agency was established to create hunting and fishing regulations and issue hunting license (p. 5). While the alligators were economically significant, hunting regulation ruined gladesmen’s business. While the law enforcement was still present to avoid danger to alligators, the hunters decided to disobey the law by taking some strategies based on which they can proceed with their hunting. In like manner, they resisted to the law enforcement by evading, firing shots at game wardens’ cars and homes, at the same time some officers were shot dead. Hunters didn’t expose their secrets to anybody except friends and family members. They remained invisible in landscape to avoid notice. Hunters worked at night skinned their hide in the morning and slept under their boat. An increase in law enforcement and patrolling made hunting difficult for gladesmen. Additionally, the reason game wardens were hired by FGFC because they knew hunters pretty well because the wardens were from the same area and had close relationship with the hunters whom they fished once with. Ogden gives us a picture of how the law enforcement displaced the gladesmen and consequently cut them off from gators and swamps (p. 10).

When the game warden’s signaled their existence, hunters concealed their hides under water and left a bag of trash float on water so that they get them back. Ogden describes other people who lived alongside the gladesmen. She emphasis on West coast hunters who are also called homestead boys who hunted with a 10 thousand island around the Everglades while the glades haunted in the Everglades. They slept under tarpaulin with ropes tied to trees. They prepared hides and shared food with each other. Groups of hunters had their own hunting territory but they still allowed other hunters to use their camp. Avoiding the law made hunters to move from one location to another and intrude on others territories, which was done usually by commercial hunters, on the other hand gladesmen didn’t know anything in terms of ownership of camps and knew little about wardens which left customary understanding of the landscape in place. With law enforcement some hunters decided to use the ambiguity of landscapes in order to benefit from them (p. 12). Consequently, by the end of 1940 conservationist and FGFC found out that law enforcement is not working even though the state enacted a ban on hunting, during their spring matting season and over hunting can be threatening to extinction. What happened next was the government realized the market value of hides, allowed specific class to hunt and let the government have 30 percent of the share, and the rest of 70 percent could go to commercial hunter’s budget.

Ogden brings politics, economics, and ecology to her book. By looking at the condition of gladesmen, and the swamps in the Everglades, she convinced me how the gladesmen were displaced by the law as well as the drainage to promote agriculture and industry. Everglades’s economy suffered, and gladesmen’s relationship with the gators and swamps was cut off. I found her book digestible by historians who may have sufficient knowledge of the Everglades. In addition, she argues that government set a policy to further the progress of drainage in order to transfer land to industrial concerns and farmers, but she fails to give a meaningful explanation of the effect of drainage on gladesmen. She talked about the impacts of corps and flood control project on population of alligators, but she still fails to convince me what the gladesmen felt about drainage and water management, and what their interests were and whether the water management in south Florida did have any impact on their daily routines in the Everglades. She didn’t say whether the gladesmen contributed to the water management policies leaves part of Everglades history missing from her work (Matthew C, Paragraph 4). I also believe, she skips or avoids explaining her argument in detail when she talked about the transition of wetland to other uses or other purposes on massive scale which was supported by Florida southern and central projects. I found her argument uncertain because it lacks details of how wetland used after transition.

In the final analysis, Ogden added how criminals would have been prosecuted if they committed a crime. According to Ogden on page 9, anti hunting legislation one time increased in severity in 1970, hunters were charged a hundred dollars or a 3 months jail, comparatively, on page 7, She argues that in 1939 alligator hunters would be jailed for up 6 months or fined from a hundred to 500 dollars if caught hunting illegally. I believe it has become less sever in 1970 because the charges in 1939 were higher than the charges in 1970 which is what I found that her argument is confusing. It should have been severe in 1930 and less severe in 1970. On page 12, She discussed hunter’s resistance to the law, she argues that James Scott offered important insights into the politics and practices of resistance and following Scott, we must understand the behavior of hunters towards states policy as resistance, which I found unclear because I don’t know what James Scott’s insights were about resistance. Ogden also shows no evidence as to the impact of alligators, snakes and other animals on human beings. Likewise, I am presented with hunters’ practices of hunting and selling the hides but I don’t get the feeling that the hunters live there. She is incomplete in regards to the way hunters lived in Everglades. However, Ogden approached the book from anthropological point view and examined the coexistence of humans with non humans which made it really interesting for the reader to have a better picture of the Everglades.


Ogden, Laura A. Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades

Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Print
Matthew C. Godfrey. Review of Ogden, Laura A., Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. H-Environment, H-Net Reviews. October, 2011.
Contessa, Damien. Review of Ogden, Laura A., Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. Journal of ecological anthropology, 2013…...

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