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Native Americans and the Environment

Perspectives on the Ecological Indian

Michael E. Harkin

Publication Year: 2007

Native Americans and the Environment brings together an interdisciplinary group of prominent scholars whose works continue and complicate the conversations that Shepard Krech started in The Ecological Indian. Hailed as a masterful synthesis and yet assailed as a problematic political tract, Shepard Krech’s work prompted significant discussions in scholarly communities and among Native Americans.
Rather than provide an explicit assessment of Krech’s thesis, the contributors to this volume explore related historical and contemporary themes and subjects involving Native Americans and the environment, reflecting their own research and experience. At the same time, they also assess the larger issue of representation. The essays examine topics as divergent as Pleistocene extinctions and the problem of storing nuclear waste on modern reservations. They also address the image of the “ecological Indian” and its use in natural history displays alongside a consideration of the utility and consequences of employing such a powerful stereotype for political purposes. The nature and evolution of traditional ecological knowledge is examined, as is the divergence between belief and practice in Native resource management. Geographically, the focus extends from the eastern Subarctic to the Northwest Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Great Plains to the Great Basin.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-x

When Michael Harkin, Brian Hosmer, and I discussed proposing the "Refiguring the Ecological Indian" conference to the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center for its tenth annual symposium (2002), we believed the topic of Native peoples and their relationships with the environment to be important for many reasons and deserving of serious ...

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pp. xi-xv

From where I now sit, fortified by distances of time and geography, "Re-figuring the Ecological Indian," the tenth annual (2002) symposium of the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center (AHC), seems an inspired event, not the least because it initiated conversations that inspired this volume, so expertly organized by Michael E. Harkin and David Rich Lewis. ...

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pp. xvii

Many people and organizations have helped make this book appear. To begin with are all those who made the Laramie conference possible: Rick Ewig and Sally Sutherland of the American Heritage Center, and planning committee members John Dorst, Bill Gribb, Brian Hosmer, Judith Antell (Anishinaabe), Veronica Gambler (Northern Arapaho), and Frieda Knobloch. ...

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pp. xix

This is not a book conceived primarily to assess Shepard Krech's The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (1999), but it is inevitable that it deals with Krech's book and its remarkable reception: remarkable for the penetration into the general media of an academic book, and remarkable for the strength of feeling associated with both positive and negative readings of it. ...

Part 1: Shepard Krech and His Critics

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1. Beyond The Ecological Indian

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pp. 3-31

At the heart of The Ecological Indian is the question of the fit between a noble image of American Indians and American Indian behavior. Since the early 1970s, a cherished received wisdom has been that North American Indians were original ecologists and conservationists.1 But were they in actions as well as in image and ideals? Images, of course, have specific intellectual and ...

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2. The Ecological Indian and the Politics of Representation: Critiquing The Ecological Indian in the Age of Ecocide

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pp. 32-51

While claiming to open new fields of debate and research, Shepard Krech's The Ecological Indian (1999) is fairly typical in its analysis of the ecological Indian among scholars who argue against the notion that Indians have, or ever did have, an ecological awareness. Like others who have emphasized historical and current environmental practices, Krech concludes that we should ...

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3. Myths of the Ecological Whitemen: Histories, Science, and RIghts in North American-Native American Relations

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pp. 52-92

In the final chapter of The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (1999), Shepard Krech sets out an argument about how the Northern Algonquian peoples came to be conservationists by learning from Europeans during the course of the commercial fur trade.1 This argument synthesizes his review of the ethnohistories of beaver conservation in the subarctic and concludes his main ...

Part 2: (Over)hunting Large Game

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4. Did the Ancestors of Native Americans Cause Animal Extinctions in Late-Pleistocene North America? And Does It Matter If They Did?

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pp. 95-159

The relationship between the animal and human life of the New World has long been the subject of debate. As early as 1749 the French naturalist George-Louis Leclerc hypothesized that both humans&$151;Native Americans—and the animals they fed upon had degenerated from their superior European forms because nature was less "active" and "energetic" on one ...

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5. Rationality and Resource Use among Hunters: Some Eskimo Examples

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pp. 123-152

It is axiomatic among anthropologists and an article of faith among Natives that indigenous North Americans lived in harmony with their environments prior to European contact. To the extent that this proposition is correct, it suggests that Native American peoples used highly rational approaches to, and held remarkably long-term perspectives in, their ...

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6. Wars over Buffalo: Stories versus Stories on the Northern Plains

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pp. 153-170

The historical events enfolding the Bozeman Trail and Red Cloud's War—the only war against the U.S. military on the plains that Indians actually won, it is often said—are rich with possibilities for understanding the role of buffalo as a fulcrum in the history of the nineteenth-century plains. From the perspective of environmental history the war was not actually a war over ...

Part 3: Representations of Indians and Animals

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7. Watch for Falling Bison: The Buffalo Hunt as Museum Trope and Ecological Allegory

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pp. 173-191

Among the national icons we have minted from animate nature, the American bison yields pride of place only to the bald eagle. And even at that, the bison alone occupies the role of protagonist in a grand natural history narrative, perhaps the grandest in our national collection of master narratives. The disaster of the bison's sudden, all-but-complete eradication stands as the ...

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8. Ecological and Un-ecological Indians: The (Non)portrayal of Plains Indians in the Buffalo Commons Literature

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pp. 192-208

A definition of others, or an essentialization, in general either paints a positive or a negative picture; but in either case, the picture painted is only a mirror reflection of the painter. In The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, Shepard Krech (1999) shows how this holds true for the ways in which diverse interest groups depict North American Indians and their relations to ...

Part 4: Traditional Ecological Knowledge

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9. Swallowing Wealth: Northwest Coast Beliefs and Ecological Practices

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pp. 211-232

Shepard Krech's book The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (1999) created a stir in American academic and cultural circles. Its thesis—that North American Indians had, at various points in the past and in various places, despoiled the environment, driven game species to extinction, and generally made a mess of things, which was ameliorated only by their small ...

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

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pp. 233-274

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 ...

Part 5: Contemporary Resource Management Issues

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11. The Politics of Cultural Revitalization and Intertribal Resource Management: The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and the States of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota

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pp. 277-303

In multiplying current examples of putatively anti-ecological practice among American Indian peoples in The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, Shepard Krech (1999, 216) included the Wisconsin Ojibwes, who "reportedly let thousands of fish spoil in warm weather," a cryptic reference to a legal, social, and political conflict between the bands of Lake Superior Ojibwe Indians ...

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12. Skull Valley Goshutes and the Politics of Nuclear Waste: Environment, Identity, and Sovereignty

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pp. 304-342

Normally, every committed environmentalist in Utah and the Intermountain West would have lined up to accommodate the Republican governor's challenge. But this time, there was a resounding silence, even an endorsement of the governor's stand. At issue was an agreement between the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians and Private Fuel Storage ...

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pp. 343-354

Before commenting on the insightful, constructive, and at times challenging essays in this volume, I wish to thank Michael Harkin and his colleagues at the University of Wyoming, in the departments of anthropology, history, and American Indian studies, and at the American Heritage Center, for having courageously invited me to be the George A. Rentschler Distinguished ...


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pp. 355-358


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pp. 359-367

E-ISBN-13: 9780803205666
E-ISBN-10: 080320566X

Page Count: 500
Publication Year: 2007