July 19, 2007

Unecological Indians?

Were American Indians Really Environmentalists?Environmentalists who have cultivated the myth of the environmental Indian who left his surroundings in exquisitely pristine condition out of a deeply spiritual devotion to the natural world have done so not out of any particular interest in American Indians, the variations between them, or their real record of interaction with the environment. Instead, the intent is to showcase the environmentalist Indian for propaganda purposes and to use him as a foil against industrial society.

The Indians' real record on the environment was actually mixed, and I give the details in my new book, 33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask. Among other things, they engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture, destroyed forests and grasslands, and wiped out entire animal populations (on the assumption that animals felled in a hunt would be reanimated in even larger numbers).

On the other hand, the Indians often succeeded in being good stewards of the environment—but not in the way people generally suppose.

In other words, the American Indians were human beings who responded to the incentives they faced, not cardboard cutouts to be exploited on behalf of environmentalism or any other political program.
Comment:  No need to buy the book. You can learn about the Indians' environmental record at Dennis Prager and The Ecological Indian.

The short version is that yes, the Indian record was mixed. But it's far superior to the Euro-American record, which has been atrocious.


Anonymous said...

I lov the video on that it real got minding to it

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Sure, the Native Americans lived on these continents as humans would. Nature, after all, is not a cathedral. But consider two matters: 1., Natives have been here for more than 30,000 years (topmost figure science will allow) and EuroMan has been here just over 500 years. Guess which of the two destroyed the balance of nature completely?
And, 2., Natives once numbered 110 millions on the North American continent and EuroMan took from 1492 to 1917 to reach that high a population. But EuroMan claims he found a pristine wilderness. Since 1492, in less than 500 years, that pristine wilderness has gone. Whodunnit?
As far as ostensibly wiping out whole catalogs of animal species, the appearance of humans in the New World only is coincidental to the vanishing of the giant mammals. The last ice age was ending, trapping humans here and causing the devastation of the animals that had adapted to the cold.
If there might exist a possible tie-in between Natives and species disappearance, it would be that Native human populations grew fast enough to need those animals as food. But that would mean science would have to admit to larger Native populations and a much longer presence in the New World, something EuroMan's science (or history) does not want to do.
As to the article writer's stupid remark that animals were slaughtered by Natives in the belief such would be reincarnated, surely ALL NATIVES had that belief, just like ALL NATIVES have 'papoose' and 'squaw' in their languages.
Shoot him, Rob, or I will!
All Best
Russ Bates