Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Krech's shortcomings

Coming from an American Indian Studies background, I found Krech's book a bit hard to swallow. I felt like he may have unfairly singled out American Indian's. I certainly don't mean to dispute the fact that American Indian's treaded more heavily on the land than the stereotype allows, but I don't think that highlighting their "inefficiency" is a productive thesis. Compared to many other societies (mainstream America included), the American Indian's were, without argument, better at managing many of their resources. I don't think we're in any position to chastise somebody for wasting a little bit, when we as a society waste tremendous resources. As for Krech's discussion about the beaver, I think he fails to adequately discuss the beaver overkill as an effect of economic opportunity. Remember, Indian's are people too, and respond to similar stimuli as non-native people. Therefore, criticizing them for hunting beaver, when they were simply acting in response to economic changes is unreasonable. It's necessary to point out that we only criticize them for that because we hold them to such an unfair standard. But then again, I suppose that's Krech's point.

Wouldn't it have been more beneficial for Krech to write about the ingenuity of American Indian modes of political-economics in an attempt to dispute the stereotype that Indian's are simpler and "less civilized" than Euro-American's? I think displacing that stereotype is more important than displacing the ecological indian stereotype, and I think that it could have been done using the exact same research. For example, he could have talked about the Hohokam's irrigation strategies that were far superior to stereotypical images in Native agriculture, rather than discussing how irrigation rendered the soil useless (after many years of continuous use). Hell, that's the development of technology that we've all benefitted from. If the Indian's made some of those mistakes in America, so too did the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, etc. Why single out American Indian's? It seems like more important issues could have been addressed.

1 comment:

Kendra said...

I think you make two good points. I too finished the book wondering how (if) Krech's work could help all of us move toward a more sustainable, culturally respectful world. And second, if we needed any additional evidence to believe that mainstream American culture has had an equally or more disturbing relationship with the natural world, Nature's Metropolis (esp grain, lumber, and meat) provides this quite well. However, I hope that the scholarship presented by Krech, regardless of his conclusions, helps all of us think a bit more critically.