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Monday, February 22, 2016

The Myth of the Ecological Indian

"“You may say to them that the Indians do not eat all the game they take,–that it is not supposed they eat more than four-fifths of the deer they kill. The skins are of great value to them, and having secured these, the bodies are left for the wolves to devour, and it is much the same with the buffalo; they are hunted for their tongues, and skins, of which they manufacture robes, and sell them to the fur traders."

The Indian Americans were so good at destroying forests that a team of Stanford environmental scientists think they caused a mini ice age in Europe. When most of the Indian Americans died in the plague, so many trees grew back that it had a reverse global warming effect. More carbon dioxide was sucked from the air, the Earth’s atmosphere held on to less heat.

Kay documents a strong inverse relationship between Indians and wildlife.  That is, there was little wildlife in the “core areas” of the various tribes, while big game animals were abundant in the “buffer zones” between tribes at war.     Kay found no exceptions to the relationship.  If Indians were resident in an area, wildlife populations were significantly reduced.   That relationship held true, not just for buffalo, but for all of the large animals...elk, antelope, bighorn sheep,  mule and white‐tail deer, moose...even large predators such as wolves, black and grizzly bears.

In Australia and the Americas, where humans arrived comparatively late, the extinctions were the most extreme, Sandom said.

"You've got this very advanced hunter arriving in the system," he said, not unlike the invasive species that cause native extinctions today. The researchers did not find a strong overall relationship between extinctions and climate, except in Eurasia, Sandom said. Climate there might have interacted with human arrival in a complicated way, with temperatures determining where people migrated, he added.

Overall, humans' arrival was responsible for 64 percent of the variation in extinction rates around the globe, while temperature changes explained 20 percent of the variation, mostly in Eurasia.
There is no room for the Ecological Indian here. As Martin himself wrote in 1967, "that business of the noble savage, a child of nature, living in an unspoiled Garden of Eden until the `discovery' of the New World by Europeans is apparently untrue, since the destruction of fauna, if not of habitat, was far greater before Columbus than at any time since." For Martin, that realization is "provocative," "deeply disturbing," and "even revolutionary." To no surprise, Martin's findings fed the conservative press who argued that because of the (supposed) sins of their earliest ancestors, Native North Americans today lack authority to occupy the moral high ground on environmental issues.

1 comment:

Sean W. said...

Ooof. The consistency with which Whig history turns out to be lies is just breathtaking.