American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History

American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History

American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History

American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History

Synopsis

These essays discuss the historical and contemporary relationships between Native Americans and the natural world. Topics include: environmental religions, Iroquois villages of the 18th century, Navajo natural resources, and subarctic Native Americans and wildlife.

Excerpt

Christopher Vecsey and Robert W. Venables

In April 1979, hobart and william smith colleges sponsored a twoday symposium, "American Indian Environments," in Geneva, New York, organized by Christopher Vecsey and Robert W. Venables. Indians and non-Indians convened before a large audience of students and scholars to discuss the historical and contemporary relations between native Americans and the natural world. Most of the chapters in this book derive from that symposium, although three of them were written for a panel, "Native Americans as Refugees," at the October 1979 Duquesne University History Forum in Pittsburgh.

The "environments" referred to in the title of this book are the nonhuman surroundings commonly called "nature," or more technically, "ecosystems," the inhabitable biosphere of earth, air, and water upon which all humans depend for survival. the chapters describe and analyze Indian relationships with these environments. the book examines Indians' attitudes toward their world, their subsistence upon it, and their struggles with non-Indians over possession and use of it.

In the Indians' sacred circle of creation, everything -- even a stone -- is equally alive and equally integrated into a balance of life. How different this perception is from that of non-Indians was demonstrated by an otherwise sensitive radio news broadcast in June 1979 over American National Public Radio. After describing the worst forest fire to sweep through an area of Ontario in eighteen years, the white reporter concluded that, fortunately, there was "no loss of life." Thousands of acres of soil, trees, and other life forms lay scorched, but the reporter and probably most of the non-Indians who made up the audience assumed that the word "life" by itself, with no qualifying term such as "animal," meant only human life, other life forms being . . .

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