March 20, 2006

Another blow to the "eco-Indian"

The article has a bit of an agri-business bias, but, on the other hand, the archaeological record is there.

When the first white pioneers settled California in the early 1800s, they found the San Francisco Bay area teeming with geese, ducks, shore birds, deer and elk. One early settler said “The wild geese and every species of water fowl darkened the surface of every bay…in flocks of millions.”


A painstaking California archeologist has now blown the Indian conservation legend into tiny fragments. Over seven years, he analyzed 5,700 bird bones from a huge Indian shell/waste mound on the shores of San Francisco Bay. The bones laid out a 1900-year history of the Indians’ bird hunting. They’d hunted dozens of wild bird species to local extinction, starting with the biggest geese and working their way clear down to tiny sandpipers.

To be fair, the "Indian conservation legend" is a co-creation of white conservationists and their Indian interlocutors looking to grab a bit of the moral high ground. This particular piece of noble savagery starts where? With Charles Eastman?

Knowing that our culture is not exactly living in ecological harmony, we want to believe that there is somewhere, a culture that does, or did.

If we see the flaws in that belief, do we lose all hope?

No comments: