Friday, February 20, 2009

"The Ecological Indian"

Perhaps I just need some clarification, but I found after reading “The Ecological Indian” that I was extremely angry. My anger stems from Krech’s failure to acknowledge some major details that I view as significant to this debate. Just a brief listing of what I believe slipped his mind:

1. Trying to make the claim that all Native Americans were or were not conservationists is a bold attempt. The situation is not black and white (as he demonstrates). Though he alluded to both arguments I still felt as if he were trying to arrive at a huge generalization. An entire society cannot be generalized in this way. No one would ever dare to say, “All Americans are environmentalists,” because they aren’t. Environmentalists are only a small subset of American culture as a whole, as I believe was similar in years past.

2. Aside from the mentioning that the Natives had vast knowledge on plants and animals there was no concession to the fact that Native Americans simply did not have the technology that we have today, nor did they have the ability to have as accurate of expectations for the future. They simply would have no way of understanding (to the extent that we do today) the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources. Therefore, their “conservation” was merely an act of love for their home. Their lack of conservation was therefore not influenced with knowledge of possible repercussions.

3. Krech mentioned very little regarding the heated debate over why Natives deserve the right to have a control over the land that overpowers the government’s control. Many people argue because they were here first, they deserve that right. Others believe that Americans have worked long and hard for control for a long time now. This information would have strengthen his book and truly given readers a greater ability to take a stance on this issue.

What angered me more was that Krech was clearly trying to persuade readers into believing that Native Americans were not conservationists (despite having explored both sides of the argument, he was constantly coming back to negative aspects of Indian culture); that indigenous is simply not synonymous with conservation, ecology or sustainability .I'm not sure why this made me so upset, but I think it had something to do with Krech pessimistically pressing and criticizing Native Americans, no matter how significant the detail. I guess I am just a little puzzled as to why he believes it is so important to take one stance or another? Have any of you taken a firm stance one way or another?


Jim Tantillo said...

careful . . . this is precisely the point of the second writing assignment. Be sure to fully understand--and accurately represent--an author's arguments before going on to evaluate them. Not sure you're completely capturing Krech's arguments here, but still an interesting blog post nonetheless! We will be talking about some of these issues in class on Monday.

matthew said...

It is important to understand that the purpose of this book was to challenge the dominant romantic paradigm and prove that under many circumstances, it wasn't always true. Why would Native peoples want to hold true to such a perfect image? It disconnects them from the rest of the world. I did not believe that Krech was attacking Indians, rather, he was making them human. Indians did help in the destruction of the buffalo, and they did actively participate in the fur trade for personal gain. I think that Krech was merely pointing out that no native groups are perfect, like all other cultures

Anonymous said...

This appears to be a blog for a university course, correct? I'm currently doing graduate research on some related subjects (which is why/how I found this website in the first place). I certainly don't claim to be any kind of expert but I'll put in my two cents anyway, if I may: to keep this short, I'll address only your 2nd point. I think it's problematic to say that Aboriginal people, because they had less technology than we do, were unable to predict the future - hence unable to comprehend conservation or sustainability as we can understand it. Many writers would argue that it is our technology that separates and removes us from the understanding of these very things! And how about the notion of knowledge as technology? An accumulated mythopoetic wisdom combined with a scientist-level knowledge of landscape and wildlife, over hundereds if not thousands of years, is surely equal to the task?? Anyway I'll leave it at that. Thanks for your comments! I enjoyed reading them. (What school, and what course, by the way??)

Jim Tantillo said...

thanks for reading and for the comment! the course is "Nature and Culture" at Cornell University. Feel free to jump back in at any time.