Native Americans and the Environment: Perspectives on the Ecological Indian

By Michael E. Harkin; David Rich Lewis | Go to book overview

10. Sustaining a Relationship
Inquiry into the Emergence of a Logic of
Engagement with Salmon among the Southern Tlingits

Stephen J. Langdon

Unpacking the complex interactions among concepts, technologies, behaviors, landscapes, climates, and ecosystems over the past twelve thousand years has recently become an important intersection for scholars from entirely different disciplinary and intellectual backgrounds. Erickson (2000) has claimed that there are four perspectives through which scholars view the relationship between humans and environment: the nature-centric perspective, the human adaptation perspective, the environmental determinism perspective, and the human-centric perspective. Research conducted from the human-centric perspective often utilizes the concept of “landscape” to advance at least a partially constructionist frame termed “historical ecology” for examining specific human-environment intersections and outcomes as they unfold through time (Balee 1998; Crumley 1994; Bender 1993; Lentz 2000). An extension of this approach is to investigate how human perceptions and cognitive constructions have been at work in these developments. Programmatic assertions about the need to explore how human actors consciously and unconsciously modified and created environmental surroundings for various purposes, while advancing a key insight, are extremely difficult to operationalize. Despite the problems in demonstrating how such a perspective can effectively be deployed, Tainter has argued that “historical research should be considered in policy decisions as routinely as are the findings of climatologists and biologists” (2000, 331).

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