The Fate of The Donner Party Essay

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 winter of 1846 and 1847. Originally, the group set out for California in search of new opportunities. Figure 1 shows the path that the party followed to arrive in their set destination. After departing from Springfield, Illinois, the Donner’s first stop was in Independence, Missouri where they joined the rest of their traveling companions. The party had then planned on arriving at Fort Bridger to join another expedition, but they were too late and the expedition left without them (Johnson, 1). They left from Fort Bridger on July 31, 1846 using their own navigation skills in hopes of landing at their destination (Diamond, 2). When an unfortunate snowstorm hit, the group was left stranded. To make matters worse, they were split up between Truckee Lake and Alder Creek. They struggled during this time for they had few supplies and a limited food source. Of the 81 person party, only 45 survived the horrendous conditions (Johnson, 1). That number of casualties may seem fairly typical based on the condit...


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... alone is irrational let alone poor reasoning to enforce the disagreement. They did most likely consume wild animals but were in no way dependent on them. Out of desperation, the Donner Party had to have resorted to cannibalism.
The Donner Party experienced harsh measures and had to come to extremely important decisions regarding survival. Many still deny the possibility that the party resorted to cannibalism in spite of a serious lack of proof and virtually no records of the events stating otherwise. On the other hand, many just “want to tell the story of their life over those final months, not just of cannibalism. [They] wasn’t to restore the humanity to the members of that party – and to their descendants” (Bailey, 1). Despite such controversy, the party has ultimately been linked to cannibalism, and based on the events, that is most obviously what occurred.

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