HomeCultureThe Native Americans and the Environment

There are few nations who have had such a close relationship with the physical environment.   Before settlers changed their lives, they all lived in relatively small units living very close to the earth.  In fact native Americans were defined by the land, a small selection of sacred places shaping their world.  To them there is definitely a unity in the physical and spiritual universes.

There’s one thing for certain if we all lived the same sort of natural existence as sites like this portray as the Native Americans, then the world would not be facing the environmental issues it does today.  Everything nature provided was treated with respect, animals were ritually prepared for slaughter, thank was given for harvests and the vegetable and minerals that were used.

However Native American culture changed dramatically when the first European settlers arrived.  They brought with them pathogens and diseases, domesticated animals and plants.  All of these had a huge impact on the native flora and fauna of the continent.   The whole landscape changed both in a physical way and possibly more importantly in a cultural way.

There are some fascinating documentaries and information on this period available on the BBC website.  If you look at the schools and education sections called Bitesize there’s lot of useful information.  For those who cannot view the BBC and the IPlayer try this site which should make it available outside the UK – http://www.anonymous-proxies.org/2009/02/using-iplayer-abroad-viewing-bbc-via.html

The Native Americans were of course allocated reservation lands however these were usually unwanted or remote locations.  Certainly no land with any obvious economic benefit at the time was allocated.  From the time of the Dawes Act in 1887 territory was withdrawn from the reservations gradually. Forests, reservoir sites and land which had been identified as rich in minerals were all transferred back to Non Indian hands.

Helen Argylle

Source : Smart DNS