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Challenging many sacrosanct notions about the relationship between Native Americans and nature, the author discusses the possible role of Pleistocene-era humans in eradicating the mastodon, over-irrigation of crops among the Hohokam of Arizona, and slash-and-burn farming techniques.
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Shepard Krech is a professor of anthropology at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and in Maine.From Kirkus Reviews:
Iron Eyes Cody, the Weeping Indian, was a fraud, and so, says Krech, is the image of the American Indian as protoecologist. When, in 1971, Keep America Beautiful used Cody (an Italian-American who passed himself off as a Native American) as its antipollution icon, it furthered a then-emerging view of American Indians as somehow better people vis-...-vis the land than the Europeans who supplanted them. That view gained popularity in later years, helped along by advocates like Vine Deloria, a Sioux historian and attorney, who said, The Indian lived with his land. The white destroyed his land. He destroyed the planet Earth. But, writes Brown University anthropologist Krech, there is little historical basis for the notion that Indians were any more responsible caretakers of the land and its nonhuman denizens than were contemporary Europeans. While this image, he writes, may occasionally serve useful polemical or political ends, images of noble . . . indigenousness, including the Ecological Indian, are ultimately dehumanizing. They deny both variation within human groups and commonalities between them. Krech goes on to examine a number of case studies to show that Indians were not the protoecologists of modern environmentalists dreams: several Great Lakes tribes, for example, hunted the beaver nearly to extinction in the region; southern tribes similarly overhunted the white-tailed deer; migratory Great Plains bands regularly exhausted game supplies in their home areas and were thus forced to move on, expanding their historic territories and coming into conflict with other Native groups that claimed the same land; southwestern tribes may have overwatered their fields, ruining them with accumulated salt deposits. These unfortunate actions, Krech suggests, do not mean that the Indians were guilty of a program of wanton despoliation; they mean that the Indians were human, capable of mistakes. Krechs case studies deliver nothing new to the scholarly literature, but general readers may find his historical overview, though academic, to be of interest. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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