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The image of the Native American has always consisted of an individual who is at one

with nature and feels mutual respect for the bounties she bestows upon him. Since the discovery
of the Americas by European settlersfirst migrations of European settlers to the Americas, people
had always assumed that the technological inferiority of the Native Americans meant that they
were incapable of altering the landscape as drastically as the Europeans did. Prior to the arrival
of the Europeans, the main method of hunting game was to use the bow and arrow, a weapon
considered "natural" by modern standards due to its extensive usage by primitive peoples.
However as soon as Europeans engaged in trade with Native Americans, the indigenous people
had no qualms relinquishing their natural tool of bow and arrow for a more effective killing
machine, the European musket. The Thus, the American cultural image of image of Native
Americans as nature worshippers living in harmony with the environment a nature worshipping
people is a popular yet inconsiderate overly simplistic and inaccurate misconception in American
pop culture. While nature worship may have comprised a part of the religious beliefs of some
tribes, It was a part of the tradition of some tribes to worship nature in their religions but
nevertheless many Native Americans had no qualms in drastically altering their surroundings to
pursue excessive anthropocentric needs, whether it be draining entire bodies of water for
irrigation, or slaughtering numerous wildlife for luxurious consumption. While Native
Americans may have had a better understanding of their environment and wildlife compared to
the more heavily urbanized, neverthelessCompared to the European settler, the Native American
would obviously have a better understanding of their environment and the wildlife. Nevertheless
had external forces not limited the growththere not been limitations in the growth of the Native
American populations, perhaps they would have indigenous people would have had as much of
an impact in altering the environment as much as the Europeans already did.

Though most Native Americans did not practice a spiritual worship of nature, there were
exceptions which provided Americans with the modern stereotype known today. In his essay
Charles Hudson's "Cherokee Concept of Natural Balance" Charles Hudson detailed specifically
delves into the belief system of the Cherokee people whose values and creation myth derive from
their religious worship of nature. Hudson contrasts both the views of the Cherokee and the
European settlers in the role humans play. Hudson argues that Western colonialist European
culture, which is deriveds from the centuries-long belief that " Christian monotheism is infinitely
superior to the 'pagan' religions of other people", dating back to "the triumph of Christianity over
European paganism in the middle ages" (page number)Christian monotheism, and dictates that
the world is meant for man to rule, therefore it is the responsibility of Christian the European
settlers to spread their Christian faith around the world and manipulate their surroundings for
their own use. This philosophyway of thinking promotes the justification idea that the
Europeans have a god- given right to eliminate any environmental elements or culture considered
pagan. Meanwhile On the other hand, the Cherokee viewed the creation of humans and their
surroundings in a different light. The Cherokee however viewed humankind as just one of many
tribes in the world "tribes" of for their observations of different animal species, modeled after the
tribal system of social organization utilized by Native Americans living among the East Coastis
modeled after the Native American culture of being divided into tribes. According to Cherokee
myth (?) all the animals of the Americas formed an alliance In in response to the threat of the
humanss, all the animals of the Americas formed an alliance. This alliance of e goal of the
animals alliance was that believed that they "must do something to check the increase of the race,
or people will become so numerous that [animals] shall be crowded from off the earth" (Hudson
53). To accomplish this, the animal tribes made humans susceptible to many diseases which

could only be remedied by medicinal plants whose healing powers are. The medicinal properties
of these plants according to the story are attributed to the kindness of the spirits (what
spirits?)providing the power to heal such illnesses, thus serving as the basis for Cherokee
gratitude to nature. Perhaps Hudson may there is some over- romanticize aspectsation of the
details of the Cherokee creation story, but nonetheless his pointthe Hudson states that the goal is
to teach its audiences the "Cherokee concept of natural balance". It is because modern society
views themselves as exempt from nature that they have set themselves on a course of self destruction whereas the Cherokee story promotes the idea that humans should be humble in
nature to ensure that they would survive as a species.

Contrary to the stereotype of the Native American, there is a multitude of evidence that
points to the Native American as far more wasteful than the ecological savior popular culture
makes them out to be. The popular stereotype of the Native American depicts them as the
Popular culture views the Native American as the noble savage, an idealized archetype whose is
ignorancet of the destructive corruptive force of civilizationtechnologies of man and is thus
allows them to coexist in tune with nature as a partner rather than a destroyerincapable of
drastically altering their landscape. Historically However, Shepard Krech argues in his novel,
The Ecological Indian, thathowever, Native Americans were not as ecologically conscious as
Americans made them out to be and were in fact just as wasteful and greedy as the Europeans
and have permanently altered the American landscape with their actions on multiple occasions.
and archaeological evidence shows that Native Americans were actually successful numerous
times at permanently altering the landscape. Krech's novel, The Ecological Indian, provides a
multitude of sources and observations that confirm the idea that Native Americans are just as
wasteful and greedy as Europeans are. The most compelling example Krech provides is the

Hohokam culture, a Native American civilization that resided i ofn the American Southwest
deserts. Archaeological evidence shows that the Hohokam for a while were able to support a
thriving and strong population in a desert environment through the use of irrigation, an
agricultural technique far more advanced than the European settlers would have assumed of the
"noble savage" [is there evidence for this or is this an assumption of the Europeans?]. The
Hohokam were able to construct tens of miles of irrigation to sustain water for all of their crops.
Unfortunately these alterations irrigation came at a price, for the Hohokam had little
understanding of the ecological consequences of irrigation and paid the price for it with the
collapse of their society after generations (years? decades?) of irrigation lead to increased
salinity in the soil which prevented additional crops from growing. In fact, as Krech points out,
the activities of the Hohokam resulted in their land becoming a "'sterile plain'" with "saline
springs and cakes of pure salt" (Krech 59). The Hohokam were hardly the first to make this
mistake, as it brought Similar to what the Sumerians, the world's first known civilization,
experienced after their soil had a high concentration of salinity, to a similar end, the Hohokam
had little understanding of the ecological consequences of irrigation and paid the price for it with
the collapse of their society. Eventually the irrigation activities of the Hohokam resulted in the
desert becoming a "'sterile plain'" with "saline springs and cakes of pure salt"(Krech 59). Though
there is evidence of other ways that Native Americans are wasteful, the Hohokam serves to show
that there were Native Americans who were not at all the "noble savage" but rather a civilized
culture that had extensive knowledge of agricultural techniques on par with that of the European
There exist far more recent examples of Native Americans altering their environment to
satisfy their own greed and survival. For centuries, European settlers viewed the Native

Americans' use of campfirehad different interpretations of the use of fire by Native Americans
for the camp fire was initially considered as barbaric, before [changing to see] . Eventually
Europeans saw the use of camp fires in Native American communities as more noble and natural,
unaware of the actual fire techniques employed by the Native Americans. Krech includes several
accounts of European settlers who have seen the use of fire by Native Americans to drastically
alter the environment to shape their own needs. Such Krech points out that they "observations
include the account that "Indians often set fire to grasslands to improve grazing
conditionsroutinely burned lands so that animals cold not use them" or and "hunters evidently set
fires in meadows, then waited to ambush the deer lured to the flames" (Krech 105). In fact,
"[t]hroughout the East, Indians cleared hundreds and, at times, thousands of acres of ground for
their crops" (Krech 107). Krech has a multitude of contemporary sources that observe extensive
use of fire by Native Americans to satisfy their own needs for survival. These slash and burn
tactics are identical very similar to to the slash and burn techniques in European settlementss
used for agriculture. In addition, "[t]hroughout the East, Indians cleared hundreds and, at times,
thousands of acres of ground for their crops" (Krech 107). These Widewide-scale burnings of
grasslands and forests demonstrate that Native Americans have no issue with the destruction of
the local ecosystem at rates which would be unsustainable in the long runs to ensure their shortterm survival via and satisfy their greed for excess food supplyexcessive and inefficient
consumption of local resources.
The myth idea that all Native Americans as a whole are non-materialistic and will use
every piece of game they killed is another myth based on overreaching stereotypesneeds to be
dispelled. There are recorded occasions in which Native Americans squandered their game
simply for luxurious demands or profit as seen with their approach towards the buffalo and the

beavers. Anecdotal accounts of frontiersmen in the The Ecological Indian demonstrate supposed
waste of buffalo kills for many buffalo are killed but only specific parts of the buffalo are
consumed by the Sioux. In These these accounts detail of the Natives Sioux natives
slaughtereding herds "only for the toungestongues, and took only 'the best parts' home, leaving
the rest [of the buffalo] 'to rot in the field'"(Krech 135). While Some some of these accounts of
wastefulness by the Sioux may either be exaggerated or uncommon, the sheer number of
accounts themof wastefulness by the Sioux helps dispel the popular myth that Native Americans
always seek to use every bit of their catch. However wWhen it came to the beavers, the Native
Americans were far even more wasteful towards with their game. While they originally hunted
beavers for food,Native Americans utilized the buffalo for their own consumption, Native
Americans, upon their encountering with the Europeans they quickly, began huntinged the
beavers to near extinctionfor pure material gain, trading the furs for European guns and
manufactured goods. According to Krech, at the time of "In the 1790s, beavers were so plentiful
that Indians continued to throw small pelts away. Ten, moose, caribou, and beaver (in the wake
of competition) declined in numbers" (Krech 192); Eventually they hunted the beavers to near
extinction, and this ecological balance led toforced the Native Americans to relying on other
animals such as fish and rabbits for food since they eliminated most of their primary food
sources. Such widespread engagement of by Native Americans in the fur trade demonstrates that
even Native Americansthey are were capable of wasteful behavior and are also responsibilityle
for the loss of biodiversity in the Northeastern forests. Though it was through the prospect of
European trade that initiated the buffalo and beaver slaughters, exposed the Native Americans
acted upon their own green, to such greed, all debunking the of the beavers wasted by the Native
Americans disconfirms the popular perception of Native Americans as ecological saviors.

The underlying primary reason as to why Native Americans did could not drastically alter
the environment to the same degree that as much as the European settlers did is has less to do
with cultural values and more to do with simply due to differences in population growth and
distribution. In some regions, the While Native Americans in some regions were scattered into so
many communities that massive population growth simply wasn't feasible, preventing
overconsumption of environmental resources by the inhabitants. In other instances, Native
Americans faced active depopulation as a result of the influx of Old World pathogensthe other
main causes for lack of population growth attribute to the collapse of previous Native American
civilizations and the exposure to Old World diseases. Similar to the Hohokam, there were also
the Cahokians and Anasazi who also developed massive sprawling civilizations. According to
Krech's sources, these civilizations should have continued thriving since their populations were
large however the most plausible cause for the decline of these civilizations was due to the
depletion of essential resources such as wood and water, which made it impossible to support
large populations. As a result, these large communities dispersed centuries before the arrival of
Europeans, thus restoring all the nutrients and resources in the time between and creating the
impression for Europeans that the land was undeveloped to begin with. Krech cites statistics
from includes several controversial studies that debate over the estimated number of Native
Americans that die: David Stannard's American Holocausti puts estimating the Native American
death toll from Old World diseases to be at around forth an estimate of "eight to eighteen
million" victims of Old World diseases (Krech 84). While these the precise numbers may perhaps
be uncertainseverely exaggerated, these diseases nevertheless did have profound dramatic effects
on the Native American depopulations as it was they recorded to spread widely throughout the
Americas thus causing casualties in the majority of these communities which ultimately inhibits

growth. While the Native American populations struggled to recover from such large population
losses, European populations continued to thrive in the Americas, and their growthsuch high
populations required more and more would demand more room resources for to sustain their
expansion and expansion and to feed their growing numbers. Long before the Europeans were
Similar to the Hohokam, there were also the Cahokians and Anasazi who, like the Hohokam, also
who also developed massive sprawling civilizations. According to Krech's sources, these
civilizations should have continued thriving since their populations were large to maintain
density. hHoweverowever, they collapsed centuries before the Europeans arrived. Krech
speculates that the most plausible cause for the decline of these civilizations was due to the
depletion of essential resources such as wood and water, which made it impossible to continue
supporting such a large populations. As a result, these large communities dispersed centuries
before the arrival of the Europeans, creating the false impression among them that the land was
undeveloped to begin with. The rise and fall of these civilizations due to overconsumption of
resources is perhaps the most salient point against the view of Native Americans as
environmentally conscious nature loversthus restoring all the nutrients and resources in the time
between and creating the impression for Europeans that the land was undeveloped to begin with..
As elaborated above, the idea prevalent in the general consciousness that Native
Americans as nature lovers is little more than stereotyping based on a shallow and superficial
understanding of the actuality of Native American history and culture. For centuries Native
Americans have been collectively caricatured as either bloodthirsty barbarians or as overly
idealized "noble savages" with little thought given to the idea of them as individual human
beings with human wants and needs. This need to establish stereotypes for various minority
groups is becoming an unhealthy practice in modern society, especially when it derives from

popular culture and media. Today various minorities have their values misunderstood and
misrepresented in media due to the precedents set by earlier examples which are incorrect
depictions of the actual practices of those cultures. As Daniel Quinn's most famous creation
Ishmael would suggest, it is perhaps the Taker culture that makes humans perceive these
stereotypes. While some tribes such as the Cherokee cultures famously did incorporate respect
for nature as part of their beliefs, it is an overgeneralization to consider it a universal aspect of
Native American belief systems. The continued portrayal of them in the media as overly
idealized and two-dimensional nature lovers does disrespect to their long and diverse history.
Since the images depicted by these stereotypes are a part of everyday culture, it is far more
convenient to simply agree with these false generalizations than to give deep thought to truths
that may not necessarily be comfortable for us to accept.