restricted access Chapter 8. Biological and Cultural Diversity
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153 Chapter 8 Biological and Cultural Diversity In 1983 Dwight Dion Sr. was arrested for hunting and killing four bald eagles in South Dakota. At the time eagles were a severely threatened species, protected not only by the Endangered Species Act but also by the Bald Eagle Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1940. The earlier act, designed to protect the nation’s symbolic animal long before the extinction of other species was a widespread concern, makes it illegal to take “any bald eagle . . . or any part, nest, or egg thereof.”1 The protection of eagles is therefore one of the longest-standing conservation commitments in the United States. However, Dwight Dion argued that the Endangered Species Act and the Bald Eagle Protection Act did not apply to him. A Yankton Sioux, Dion was hunting on his tribe’s reservation, an area declared sovereign at its establishment in an 1858 treaty with the U.S. government . In that treaty the Sioux were explicitly guaranteed the right to hunt on their land undisturbed. Dion did not dispute that he had taken eagles in violation of the law; instead, he claimed that these laws did not bind him. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which finally upheld Dion’s conviction. The justices determined based on a close reading of the Eagle Protection Act that the 1940 legislation “abrogated the rights of members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe under the 1858 treaty.”2 At issue in Dion’s case was not just the conservation of a species but also the sovereignty of minority communities in the face of federal conservation laws. In 1996 representatives from tribes and tribal organizations across the country gathered in Seattle to discuss this broader issue, focusing particularly on the implications of the Endangered Species Act for their sovereignty. They forcefully argued that this law “does not and should not apply to Indian Tribes,” asserting that “tribal rights to manage their resources in accordance with their own beliefs and values must be protected.”3 While this group did not dispute the goal of conservation, they did object to the U.S. government’s claim that it can enforce conservation on Indian lands. Indeed, many tribal 154 social justice and the conservation of biodiversity participants were committed to going further than the ESA requires, and another consensus at the Seattle meeting was that traditional practices would conserve biodiversity at a broader and better scale of attention: “the ESA is too narrow; its emphasis on single-species management fares poorly in comparison with the tribes’ holistic management approach.”4 The case of Dwight Dion and the issue of tribal sovereignty are complicated because they represent an encounter between two vital and important moral interests. On the one hand, the people of the United States and our federal government have a legitimate interest in protecting endangered species and so must enforce conservation laws. On the other hand, native communities in this country have a legitimate claim to sovereignty on their lands and good reasons not to trust the federal government to manage their lives or their relationship to the natural world. This is an issue where conservation meets another valid moral interest, where an ethics of biodiversity must recognize the problems it causes and the possibility that it should be limited in the face of other moral concerns. The work of this book so far has been to make an ethics of biodiversity more possible: to offer definitions of the idea and explanations of its value, introduce the importance of scale in our approaches to it, and advocate both political and morally formative approaches to its conservation. The work remaining is somewhat different because this chapter and the next seek to make an ethics of biodiversity more complicated , to bring it into dialogue with an ethics of cultural diversity and then analyze the issues of social justice raised by and relevant to conservation efforts. This chapter expands the conversation outward from the conservation of biodiversity to a related but nevertheless distinct contemporary problem: the degradation of cultural diversity. The destruction of Native American communities is one important example of this degradation , as it is increasingly difficult for these communities to preserve their languages, practices, and traditions. However, the problem also extends globally because many traditional and indigenous cultures are threatened by homogenization from the overpowering influence of dominant, industrialized cultures. To analyze this broad and important problem, it is necessary to move beyond the ecologists...


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