Forum: Lloyd Burton's Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion, and Law in Public Lands Management

By Constable, Marianne | Law & Society Review, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Forum: Lloyd Burton's Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion, and Law in Public Lands Management


Constable, Marianne, Law & Society Review


Forum: Lloyd Burton's Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion., and Law in Public Lands Management Lloyd Burton, Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion, and Law in Public Lands Management. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002. 312 pages. $55.00 cloth; $24.95 paper.

Introduction

In Worship and Wilderness, Lloyd Burton draws attention to an important and interesting constellation of law and society issues. Those issues involve the different ways in which European Americans, Native Americans, and formal U. S. governmental or institutional actors have treated land. A broad-ranging and thoughtprovoking study, as well as a controversial one, Worship and Wilderness takes on the question of "how culture, spirituality and law have combined to affect the management of public lands within the United States and how they may also affect the future" (p. 1). The following brief description of the work serves as background to the contributions of scholars-from law, anthropology, and theology-that follow.

While accepting seemingly standard accounts of the deplorable treatment of Native Americans by mainstream American institutions in the past, Worship and Wilderness holds out an unusual optimism toward the future. Burton claims that

the renewed appreciation for the divine in nature among the major religious traditions in the West - along with rediscovery of pre-Christian European Earthen spiritual traditions and growing respect for diverse religious traditions embodying those teachings - represents yet another historic shift in Americans' relationship to their natural environment. (p. 160)

Burton's cautious yet notable appreciation for the possibilities of what he calls "the diverse spiritual practices of Euro-American society" (p. 255) and their potential political and legal expression give him hope that management of public lands and monuments could happen in ways that would respect Native American ways and help heal some of the harms inflicted on their cultures.

Burton comes to this view by drawing on at least four disparate sources, which he integrates in this work: his own Buddhist practice, his work experiences and personal contacts with land managers and Native Americans, his knowledge of American legal history, and his concern for relations between doctrine and practice, law on the books, and law in action. Seeking to combine experience, observation, and insight with scholarship, Burton approaches the vexed matter of culture and cultural conflict. The book's 12 chapters center loosely around the case of what Native Americans call Bear's Lodge and whites call Devil's Tower. The creation myths around Bear's Lodge/Devil's Tower open the book; the eleventh chapter and the conclusion come back to them. …

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