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The Ecological Indian: Myth and History

The Ecological Indian: Myth and History
Author: Shepard Krech III
ISBN 13: 9780393321005
ISBN 10: 393321002
Edition: N/A
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 2000-09-17
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
List Price: $17.95

"A good story and first-rate social science."—New York Times Book Review


When in 1971 a "Keep America Beautiful" campaign featured an anti-pollution poster with a picture of a crying Indian, the longstanding image of the Indian as ecologically sensitive was reinforced for all who saw it. This book takes a longitudinal view of actual Indian behavior vis-à-vis the environment, using historical records that tell what their actual behaviors were. The author's thorough research revealed uses (and abuses) of both plants and animals. He notes unexplained extinctions during the Pleistocene era, long-ago human population patterns, records of diseases, treatment of deer and beaver, and the influence of Indian-set fires on the formation of the plains. There is a striking account of the destruction of the buffalo, a process in which both whites and Indians participated. "In Indian Country as in the larger society," he says, "conservation is often sacrificed for economic security." Krech's conclusion is that Indians, as others, were often tough on the environment, especially when human population burgeoned. When disease, etc. reduced the population, the land recovered, a fact that gave European settlers the impression that there was more virgin land than actually existed. "Indian people have had a mixed relationship to the environment." Archeological evidence shows they often killed more animals than they needed, used just choice parts of the animal, and hunted along with the whites at the time of final extinction of the great herds of buffalo. The author also makes clear that the Indians felt a spiritual, mystical connection to the animals they killed in ways foreign to European thinking. With regard to several animals, Indians did not appear to believe thatkilling animals had anything to do with the size of the population because they believed in reanimation or reincarnation. The author believes the Indians may have absorbed some European ideas about the environment as their own. This book is not sentimental or simplistic. It is very readable and suspenseful for a highly researched work, and the introduction and epilogue are especially useful. There are 87 pages of notes and index, and the bibliography is incorporated within the end notes. "...many non-Indians expect indigenous people to walk softly in their moccasins as conservationists and even (in Muir's sense) preservationists. When they have not, they have at times eagerly been condemned, accused of not acting as Indians should, and held to standards that they and their accusers have seldom met." Excellent choice for collections on Native Americans and on ecology. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Norton, 318p, notes, bibliog, index, 21cm, 99-19425, $14.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Edna M. Boardman; former Lib. Media Spec., Magic City Campus, Minot, ND, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)