In researching for my short story “Bridge in Adelphia” for Echoes of Liberty, I did some extensive study on Indian land use in the 1800s. Because I am a tribal card holder who occasionally visits my relatives on the Rez, I knew that the environmental movement has been promoting myths about my mother’s people for decades.
According to former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall “The Indians were, in truth, the pioneer ecologists of this country.”
According to Herb Hammond in the Sierra Club book Clearcut “For many thousands of years, most of the indigenous nations on this continent practiced a philosophy of protection (first) and use (second) of the forest. … In scientific terms, we recognize that their use of the forest was ecologically responsible—meaning that it kept all the parts.”
That is an INaccurate image of a Native American environmental ethics that might scratch an ego or two, but doesn’t really mesh with history. The supposed spiritual connection attributed to Native Americans frequently is made up of whole cloth because it ignores the history of Indian laws, traditions, rules, and habits that guided Indian societies. This environmental reinterpretation of history deprives us all of a full understanding of how we can conserve our natural heritage.